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30 Do’s And 20 Don’ts In Starting A Small Business

Small scale businesses are easier to set up compared to the middle or large scale businesses that require more time, feasibility reports, ad...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Small Business Tips For Running A Direct Mail Marketing Campaign

Although direct mail marketing in the age of the internet is less productive than it used to be ... there are still times when such an approach can be productive for small business. That said ... here's a few tips for those small businesses using this approach ....

* Get a good mailing list. You can buy lists, but by the time you get it they're usually old and stale. Rather invest time in list building - using google, yellow pages, linked in and networking. Yes it takes longer but you can target your list better.

* You need a name. Any letter addressed to the Managing Director and starting "Dear Sir" will go straight into the bin at reception and not make it as far as the target executive's desk.

* A well crafted and presented letter. If you are going to spend out on direct mail then don't waste your money by having a bad letter. If you can't afford a copywriter, get someone with an English degree to proof read it. Get your staff and partners to read it and comment on it. Think short sentances, short words, no Jargon and interesting for the reader. It should have a hook that engages the readers attention. and write something that is simple, dont use jargon. Read it out loud to yourself and check it makes sense. Maybe use a graphic designer, definitely use good quality headed paper or glossy paper if its a leaflet.

* Follow up. If you can follow up your letter with a phone call then do. If you can follow up by meeting them at a networking event then do that.

* Persistance. You might need to send as many as 7 or 8 letters - different letters! Before you get a result. But each letter needs to be of interest, so send newsletters, special offers, top tips, special invitations, etc.

* Patience. There isn't a silver bullet or magic wand that will make your marketing work. Expect your marketing campaign to take 6 months to show results.

Feel free to comment on the tips as presented ... or contribute your own.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Balancing Investment Goals vs. Constraints

In our previous blog, your new business is successfully off the ground. Sales, profits and cashflow are growing. You are reinvesting in your business to support future growth. You have decided to invest some of your cash outside of your successful business, diversifying your family’s wealth.

This process can be viewed as “opportunity management” because its goal is to maximize your positive alternatives if your company experiences a serious challenge.

Your investment possibilities are almost limitless. I suggest judging each one against your goals and constraints. Draw up a list of your goals and constraints, change them as your experience and learning grows. Decide on what you want because you know what is best for you and your family.

Expected investment term
Unrelated to current business
Personal time involvement
Limited investment funds

Return vs. Safety
Your successful business should be generating your highest return on investment (ROI) because it is your operating business. It can be 15% to 50%, depending on its age and size. This investment’s expected ROI is lower because its goal is to add a safety element to your investment holdings.

Safety should be a primary concern. What is the point of this exercise if the investment is lost?

Some investments (CDs, stocks and bonds) can be sold and converted to cash in a matter of days, while others (real estate) can take months to market and sell. Having liquid assets on hand for unexpected expenses is recommended. If this has been met, investments that are illiquid can make sense.

Expected investment term
Matching your time frame with an investment’s expected term is crucial to a positive experience. Real estate investments may require 5 to 20 years to reach full maturity. Stock and bond portfolios should be allowed to experience a full economic cycle, 5 to 10 years.

Unrelated to current business
The investment should not be correlated to your current business. If your business declines, hopefully this investment will be growing.

Personal time involvement
Your time is your most precious commodity; your new business succeeded because you added the value. How much of your time will the new investment require? If it is substantial, will it impact your current business?

IRAs and taxable accounts impact tax efficiency. IRAs and other tax deferred accounts lend themselves to capital appreciation opportunities. Tax-exempt investments may be ideal for taxable accounts.

Limited investment funds
Investment offerings may have high minimum investment amounts. Consider the planned investment amount against your net worth. You may not want a large percentage of your net worth in any one investment, aside from your first business.

Many issues should be considered before any investment decision. Ask your investment adviser to help you look at the issues related to each investment. Have him/her to describe the conditions in which the investment can do well and the conditions in which they might fail.

This investment’s purpose is to benefit you and your family. Knowing its possible profit and loss conditions can help you make a better investment decision.

We have not covered all possible viewpoints. We invite you to comment and add to the discussion.

We’ll discuss possible investment alternatives and their pros and cons.

The Future Of Mobile Marketing

The rapid growth of smartphone adoption is changing every aspect of our lives. From Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, to thousands of mobile applications that amuse and educate us, we have become an always-connected society.

Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that smartphones have now surpassed basic phone users. Gartner predicts that mobile phones will overtake PC’s as the most common web access devices worldwide. WiFi is so widely available in major metropolitan areas that most tablet users don’t even need wireless data plans. Finally, tablet sales grew 264% in 2011 over the previous year, and this year, Yankee Group predicts the sale of almost 25 million tablets in the U.S. alone.

What does this data mean for companies and organizations looking to engage with a connected audience?

Consumers are now demanding communication with their providers, on their terms, which in most cases, means through their connected devices.

What does this mean for businesses? Well, it will cease to be the primary interaction channel between companies and their customers. The smartphone will become the contact center of the future.

It won’t happen all at once, and certainly not everyone will prefer this channel. However, both consumers and businesses will benefit significantly, leading to a major communication shift by the end of 2012.

The bottom line .... as a small business it is well worth the effort exploring how you can reach potential new customers ... and stay in touch with your existing clientele ... using mobile marketing applications.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Am I alone, or do I expect too much from Facebook!

As part of embracing the social network for spreading the word about your small business and advertising you have to expect to use Facebook. You will want to set up a page for your business or convert a personal page to a business page. Be sure to follow all of the rules required by Facebook for setting up and operating your page. There are additional rules and costs when or if you decide to actually advertise.
Now, with that being said I guess I should explain the obvious…Facebook exists as, basically, an idea. It is nothing tangible and is not an asset you can hold or touch that is unless you have bought stock. But what I am getting at is it is what you put into it and only that, nothing more. Your Facebook business page is no more than a billboard you design, install and maintain on the side of the internet highway.
The main thing to remember is this “billboard” can be seen by everyone and represents who you are and what your business is about. This includes who you like and what others may post for the entire world to see, depending on how you configure your settings. People being who they are can and some will form an opinion of you and your business based solely on who has posted on your site and who you have liked…you should always remember this. They may, also, form an opinion based on the design of your Facebook page, or how well it is done and then decide how good your products or services are based on how well they like your design or how professional it may appear.
If you are new to Facebook it is probably due to you wanting to conform to the many suggestions of how to improve your internet presence for your business. I, for example, never had a personal Facebook page, my wife did, but I worked too many hours. What was left for me was time to handle the typical chores of home ownership, eating and sleeping. I did not have time to sit and spend a lot of time with the typical Facebook parade of games and social networking for friends and long lost acquaintances. But then we started our own business and like I said I wanted to try and use all of the available tools to promote our services. Anyway, I soon learned Facebook is essentially a game where as there is a blank playing board and no description of how to play.
To play the game you have to figure out everything for yourself other than the limited plug and play tools provided. In order for you to achieve ultimate success and “win” you have to be a Developer or enlist the services of one much as you would do to set up your website. I say Facebook is a game because of the limited amount of help and guidelines provided. And the problems start immediately when trying to upload a photo or worst yet your business logo. Some may be lucky and the upload is already the correct size to fit the box. For most it will start the first search for an answer as to how to make it fit properly. You would think this would be found in the rules section…Not! You will find many answers in the forums…people helping people, not the designer helping you and this, I assume, is all part of the “game.” One of the most difficult answers to come by, for me, was why when I went to someone else’s page I could not see their “like” button. I soon found that submitting a question directly to the “helpers” at Facebook resulted in only dead silence. The forums were of little help and I eventually found the answer through an internet search. Eventually I was happy with my page design and started inviting people to “like” my page so I could reach the first milestone of 30 “likes” so it would open “insights”…ooooh! But like the game of life you have to put into Facebook what you get out and you will not get anything unless you try and then continually try to improve. I am sorry if I expected too much help from the creators of Facebook as I was trying to not have to spend so much time on this one small piece of what I needed to do to promote our business. Oh and by the way, I alluded to the answer to my invisible “like” button problem in paragraph four!
Next time: Why small businesses are so essential to our economy or “I have join what?”