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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...

Monday, December 31, 2012

Tips On Marketing A Small Business Using Pinterest

For a small business - - especially one with a limited marketing budget and manpower - - the allure of Pinterest should be taken with a grain of salt. It's best used...

- as a promotional tool (NOT as a substitute for the meat-and-potatoes of your marketing strategy)

- for small businesses with a creative slant (fashion, beauty, crafts, photography, wedding, etc.)

- for small businesses with strong graphic identity and visually appealing products

- for anyone who is especially interested in connecting with a female market

Assuming the business is a good fit with Pinterest, the most effective promotions are those that force consumers to closely examine the brand/products and reinterpret them in a highly personal way.

I like the idea of Pinterest contests because they create a sense of community--users feel more closely linked with your brand and enjoy the idea of publicly championing its values. For example, Victoria's Secret recently sponsored a Pinterest promotion for its PINK line. Fans were challenged to create and share boards that embodied the PINK aesthetic/lifestyle for the chance to win merchandise. All of a sudden the target market is flocking to the VS website to scrutinize anything and everything PINK. Even now that the contest has ended, the boards remain. It's perfect. (Of course, VS could hardly be called a small business but the idea works for companies of all sizes).

Another option is to create boards that highlight images and links that are most appealing to your target market. For example, you might create a location-specific board with items of interest to that area (events, visuals, blogs). The key here is to avoid pinning anything that reeks of marketing or might direct users to your competitors' products and services.

If you have the time/manpower to closely monitor all social media activities, you might consider hosting a board for your company's followers. On your blog or website, direct customers to the board and encourage them to request permission to post to that board. Your typical Pinterest junkie loves to be seen as an influencer, making them more likely to promote the board (and thus your company).

Again, I can't overemphasize the importance of investing in Pinterest marketing ONLY if it's a viable fit for your client's specific line of business.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

More Threats to Retirement Savings

And the threats to our 401(k) system just keep coming. The latest news comes from IBM which beginning in 2013, will delay 401(k) matching contributions until Dec. 31. That way workers leaving the company before that date will get no match – unless they have formally retired. The move is expected to translate into big savings for IBM which is good for the company and shareholders but potentially bad news for some workers’ retirement accounts. Experts say it’s likely more companies will follow suit.
News like this should give us all a wake-up call – that we alone are responsible for our retirement. If we don’t take charge of our financial future and take steps to guarantee a secure retirement, who will? If we’re fortunate enough to have a workplace retirement program, we need to take full advantage of it. And we need to start early so we have the benefit of compound interest working for us over the long term.
Finally, we need to work to protect the 401(k) system. Congress has begun working on tax reform – and the outcome could affect our 401(k) plans. The last time Congress passed tax reform in 1986 it cut the 401(k) contribution limit by 70% resulting in a mass termination of plans. And guess what? Proposals are already being considered by lawmakers to cut the 401(k) contribution limit again. If that happens, the retirement security for millions of Americans will be jeopardized and the results would be disastrous. Visit www.savemy401k.com to learn more.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How To Use Pinterest To Market And Brand Your Small Business

Pinterest is a great way to use compelling visuals to get potential subscribers/clients to notice your brand and associate it with their interests if you can use it correctly. The key is to deliver quality content on a fairly regular basis. It only takes a second to look at a picture and decide if it's appealing or not, so you're going to want to pin things that your target market segment would be interested. You need to keep it current because Pinterest's own categories are constantly updated and you don't want to fall behind of the latest trends.

Pinterest is excellent for deciphering what trends are most popular in a particular topic/category. You can use this to your advantage and view it as a guide for the types of things you should pin.

Organization is vital as well. Keep boards topic specific and spend the same amount of time updating each one. You can create boards centered on your product/service, but make sure to have some integration in how you choose to utilize the description boxes. For instance, blank out all the description boxes to keep the emphasis on the picture and clicking through to the link.

Unlike other social media sites, Pinterest is all about visuals. It provides users tools to create online billboards (or “pinboards”) where they can share photos and images of products and group them into specific, targeted categories. It’s an engagement method that keeps people interested and brings a bit of aesthetics to a sharing-focused site.

With everyone having such short attention spans now a day, catching someones eye with an appealing image can mean the difference between glossing over some text and real engagement with your brand. Definitely focus on visuals and make sure to link to your landing page as well. And as always, a constant flow of new content is invaluable.

There are also some tools out there that help identify influencers. PinReach and PinPuff are two that come to mind. Also, for developing content check out Pinstamatic or Snapito.

You'll want to figure out where the best visuals are around your business - think about your products, your location, your employees' interests, your industry, your history...the possibilities are endless. Build your boards around those and use Pinterest search to find others who have similar boards or are pinning images you might be interested in. Then share and re-pin and comment...don't just focus on putting your own images out there, but also engage with the community and get into conversations.

Offer exclusive Pinterest deals to build up some following and be sure to get involved with other pins as well.

Once you have some sort of relationship going with fellow pinners your can take the conversation over to Twitter or Facebook where extra interaction can take place but most importantly you will have a follower who will repin your pictures.

Ensure its a simple process to go from picture to purchase, or to your website otherwise people are put off.

Make sure the link between your website/store and Pinterest is an obvious one, so buttons on the website or adverts in store with Pinterest branding.

Be ahead of the game and use keywords (much like everything these days) to get your pin's around. Treat it like a blog and offer your audience something other then your own products and marketing.

I think how you engage, best practices, what you pin and who you target depends greatly on your ideal customer. If you know your customer, then any social sharing becomes easier.

Pinterest can be a great platform for brand engagement if it’s correctly used. Like every social media platform, it needs a strategy, a work plan and a defined goal. Once you have all these, everything is easier. In my opinion, Pinterest is a great way to express your brand visually and let your clients know about the company’s interests, especially if you are a small business. I don’t think you should just pin some images with your logo and your services, instead, create boards that support your brand’s mission and your audience's passion. Be sure to follow other “taste-makers” in your industry to learn what your customers like on Pinterest, what they want to find out more about, and what they need to know about your business to become fans.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Biggest Challenges Faced By Black Entrepreneurs

The challenges faced by black entrepreneurs can be many and varied....and are wholly unique in themselves compared to the general entrepreneurial demographic.

A good friend pulled no punches and put it very bluntly....

"I personally believe it's a lack of confidence. We believe that we won't get a fair chance so we don't even try. We are way to dependent on the government or other people when we should be more self-sufficent. We make too many excuses, i.e. our circumstances, income."

That staement may touch a nerve with a few people....but the point should be well taken anbd at least get one to think.

To further the discussion (please feel free to leave a comment with your own views) ... here's a list of challenges Black Entrepreneurs should also consider and hopefully overcome - -

"The Crab In The Barrel Mentality!"

1. The lack of education, qualifications or know how.
2. No family, friends, co-workers or local community support.
3. Poor Marketing, Networking and Social Media Branding skills.
4. Too focused on one particular crowd or just "Black Business".
5. Making too many excuses why something won't work, self-sabotaging.
6. Lack of funding or access to that funding. No assets or lack thereof.
7. The lack of interest within the African-American communities in starting ones own business.
8. Having the consumer mind-set and getting into debt (Bad Credit!)
9. Societies stereotypes of African-Americans.
10. The fear of investing and the false dreams of quick success that most African-Americans take strong beliefs in.
11. Having the "Fast Money" mentality for example, immediately wanting to be a Rapper/Singer/Entertainer, NBA Basketball Player, NFL Football player instead of focusing on a core competency in the workforce.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How Your Small Business Can Compete With The Big Boys

Industry partners, customer service, and best value are three areas where a small business can shine when competing with the big boys.

Keep in mind that your brand will become known for the highest quality your customer is willing to accept for the lowest price.

Small businesses should try to differentiate themselves on other aspects of their products or services, e.g., more unique selection or extensive of products, longer or better-suited hours, more personalized service, less staff turnover (and therefore more continuity of service), ability to respond much more quickly to whatever is going on in the local scene/market, other added value bits and pieces to tack on, etc.

The small local IT support company will better get to know your business or home computer network than a large chain. A small clothing store (mortar and brick or online) might source more interesting manufacturers of unique blouses. A local bakery might reach out to local charities about donating leftovers, which could lead to nice press.

Since you cannot necessarily compete on price, find a niche. That niche would be an area of specialty products or services the big guys do not offer.

Not only do I have little interest in the boring apples the supermarkets always carry, I have less interest in taking up space in my garden to grow those same apples. Offer me a young apple tree that does not produce the same kinds of fruit I already find easily at the market.

Excellent customer support with human touch will help you, the big guys always work on a number basis. At the end of the day only numbers matter to them. But, for small businesses like you and me, customer satisfaction is very important.

How many big companies make a post sale call to customer? After you sell something, just call the customer and ask whether they are satisfied with the product/service. If not, discuss the problem and sort it out. If you offer any free services, do not wait for the customer to give you a call and ask you to visit for a service. Many forget to use their free services and if you follow up and do it, I am sure your customers will be very happy with your company. There are small things like this which will make them happy. And they will recommend you to others and price will rarely matter to them.

Bottom line...don't compete on price. Ever!! It's a loosing proposition. A client can always find someone to undercut your price. So just drop the idea all together.

Consider a few things...

USP - what is your Unique Selling Proposition? In other words, what makes your business unique? What combination of skills and service can you bring to a client's project? They're there if you look.

Benefits. Always focus on the benefits of working with you. And have answers to the questions about 'the other guy.' Doesn't matter who they are, you should be able to say, 'most people in my industry operate this way. but not us, we do it that way and here's why.' This goes back to USP.

Results. If you're selling B2B then have projects where you've helped your clients get real-world, bottom line, measurable results. Nothing says it louder than 'the new website we designed increased traffic 100%, signups 300% and customer conversions 120% 90 days after launch.' If you can highlight the results of working with you, then price most of the time goes out the window.

Support. Provide the best possible customer experience they could ever have. Make it public. Use social media to display your customer service - not by bragging - but by having service conversations in public. And encourage your customers to share their experiences.

Referrals. The cornerstone of any business. There will never be a better marketing approach then having your past clients send their friends and colleagues to work with you.

References. Take a few past clients who loved your work and ask them to be references for future prospects. Ask up front, get their best contact details and coach them a bit on what they should say. Draw out the benefits and results from them so they're thinking about it when your prospects get in touch. And, help them highlight those intangible experiences they really loved in working with you. Stuff you don't know about until you have that conversation. But it's the stuff that makes your USP even stronger.

I could go on but that's probably enough. As you can see, there's lots of tactics to use that have nothing to do with price.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What To Look For In A Small Business Mentor

Before deciding what to look for in a mentor for your small business....you should first understand what a mentor really is.

A mentor is someone who's been around the block and genuinely wants others to learn from both their successes and failures with the hopes of this mentee having a new advantage. He or she is a different breed of individual, one who may be a fierce competitor in one aspect, but a sincere confidant and caretaker in another. Essentially, a mentor is someone who is usually a great people person, a dedicated learner, and a role model for success (however one may define it).

Looking for a mentor should not be that hard of a task is you are a person who can generally collaborate well with near anyone. These are the people who put in the extra work and offer up their services/ideas/advice in a selfless manner. They have learned a great deal in the past and wish to impart some of that to the next generation. However, a great disparity in age isn't necessary when considering to pursue a mentor. They may simply be someone from a different walk of life that you are passionate about pursuing.

The bottom line is a mentor should be someone whose opinion you value, whose advice you trust, and whose plaudits you take to heart. These are the people that make our society great because they leave more than they take and they create much more even after their time is up.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How To Market Your Business With Webinars

If you’ve ever been to a webinars, you’ve seen how useful they can be when it comes to delivering content to an audience. The word “webinar” is an amalgamation of the words “web” and “seminar” — basically a presentation you give to an audience over the web.

With clear instructions and educational webinars, people are more likely to sign up for your information, buy your product and/or stay with your business.

What Webinars Can Do For You

And webinars work great for a variety of situations. Have a service based business where people have to set up an account and work through your site? Conduct a webinar detailing how that is used.

Have a new product that you’re launching? Set up a demonstration of that product and how people can benefit from it.

Want to educate your audience on a particular topic that is important in your industry? Run a session that covers that topic, as well as solicits feedback from your audience to spark conversation.

Setting up and running a webinar is easy, so long as you are willing to put forth the effort and follow a few simple steps, outlined below....

How To Market Your Business With Webinars

Monday, December 10, 2012

5 Ways Startups Can Create More Email Leads

Email is a fantastic way to build goodwill with current and prospective customers.

With more people using email than any social network, it is essential for all new startups to take list building very seriously.

The question is this... how can startups create more email leads without becoming overly aggressive (a big turnoff) in their tactics?

Read on for a discussion of 5 tested (and proven!) ways that startups can capture more emails without losing customer goodwill.

5 Ways Startups Can Create More Email Leads

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Facebook....A Small Business Marketer’s Dream

Facebook has about 955 million active users. With those numbers, as a small business owner it’s likely you have a Facebook Page for your business and use it to post updates and interact with your customers.

(Need a quick tutorial on how to do this? Check out Facebook’s guide for businesses.)

Recently, Facebook rolled out some new features designed to make your life even easier as a small business marketer. Here’s the scoop on what those tools are, and how to use them for your business.

Facebook Marketing Tools

Monday, December 3, 2012

Small Business Marketing...The Email Design Strategy That Gets 215% More Clicks

Your small business smartly uses email marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy. But, how do you know your emails are performing optimally? Are you happy with the amount of open and click-throughs you are getting?

Truth is, you won’t know if you’re getting the most you can out of your email marketing unless you do some tests. And you might find all you need is a new look that’s more appealing to your audience.

Read more about an email marketing strategy that will get you results ....

The Email Design Strategy That Gets 215% More Clicks