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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...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Five Wise Tips to Get Cash For Your Small Business (Without A Bank)

Five Wise Tips to Get Cash For Your Small Business (Without A Bank)
By N. S. Jenks

Rhetoric about the importance of small business to the U.S. economy abounds. Yet our politicians continue to create policies and programs that make life difficult for those who run, or are trying to start, such a venture. Raising capital and maintaining profitability rank among their most frustrating - and debilitating - challenges.

Help is out there! It just takes some creative thinking and willingness to look beyond traditional methods of financing. Following are 5 Wise Tips to stimulate your thinking and produce lucrative leads:

  1. Use the SBA to best advantage (which isn't cash): No - the SBA is not going to give you a loan. And it does not award government business grants to entrepreneurs. It does provide valuable information, assistance and direction -- often at the local level. Learn more about their site and their services to use your time well.

  2. Take advantage of free services for small business owners: To be competitive as a small business you must have a website. It doesn't have to be fancy but it does need to exist. Lots of organizations, including major companies like Google, are offering free resources to small business to accomplish that goal. You don't have to be technical -- just take the time to see what's out there and get online!

  3. Enter Local Competitions: All over the country there are examples of local corporations and other organizations like libraries that are offering serious cash awards to entrepreneurs. Do regular internet searches for such opportunities, watch for small business competitions in your area, and visit websites that offer current information about these opportunities. Even more importantly, keep an open mind about new ways to raise money

  4. Consider Crowd-funding: Why not turn to the public to help fund your good idea? Recent legislation has added to the awareness and availability of this type of funding. If you have a good story to tell you can raise considerable amounts of money on crowd-funding sites. There are a variety of sites to choose from depending on what sort of business or project you are promoting.

  5. Hire Wisely: Taking on employees is a great thing to do but it can also be a financial and paperwork burden. By hiring qualified veterans you can take advantage of recently extended programs providing tax incentives to employers who hire veterans. And President Obama's goal in the 2014 budget is to make these tax credits permanent so you may be able to budget with a higher degree of certainty about the future.

Get more Wise Tips on new ways to start and maintain your small business. Included are strategies for funding a start-up, small business financing opportunities, news about microfinancing and news regarding crowdfunding. Find tips for entrepreneurs of all types as well as specific resources for minority business owners and veterans.

Discover more now at http://www.gofreegovernmentmoney.com/ N. S. Jenks, Partner.

We provide fast, free, clear and factual information about public and private grants, scholarships, and alternative funding sources.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=N._S._Jenks

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How to Create a Customer Experience That Drives Referrals and Repeat Business

How to Create a Customer Experience That Drives Referrals and Repeat Business
By Joan Nowak

Most businesses focus resources on the stuff that gets the phone to ring or produces traffic to their location or website - building awareness and leads. But what happens next can be the difference between a one-time sale or a lifetime customer. It's all about the total customer experience.

The term 'customer experience' is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company over the duration of their relationship. In other words it covers all the steps or building blocks on the loyalty ladder: awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.

You have a lot of chances to create a customer experience that gets people talking - good or bad - about your company. Do it right, you get more repeat business and referrals. Mess it up, you get none. Sales and profit suffer, along with your reputation. Don't leave it to chance.

Why It's Important?

Most of us recognize that customer loyalty drives referrals and repeat business, so this alone is a good reason to focus on improving the customer experience. But here's another reason worth considering. With products and services becoming commoditized and price differentiation not sustainable, delivering a superior customer experience really does provide a competitive advantage - because others can't quickly replicate what you are doing.

3 Steps to Superior Customer Experience

First, map out what you want the total customer experience to look like - from start to finish. Here's a few things to consider:

  • How knowledgeable are your people as it relates to your company's core values, products and services AND your customers needs and expectations? Interactions with potential customers is not limited to your marketing and sales staff. Your entire team encounters opportunities inside and outside the business. Make everyone a customer advocate and give them the knowledge to pull it off.
  • What should your sales process look like from initial contact to ultimate sale? What are the touch points along the way? Building relationships takes time - and often more than one contact.
  • How should your product or service delivery work to insure quality and efficiency? Is the handoff from sales seamless to the customer or do they feel abandoned after they purchase or sign a contract?
  • What about billing? Is it convenient, timely and accurate? Are you taking advantage of technology to customize methods based on customer preferences?
  • What are you doing after the sale to continue to build the relationship? Phone follow-up calls and surveys are a great way to say thanks, get feedback and ask for referrals. Do you have a system to insure after sales activities get done consistently?

You probably already have an idea of how you would like the customer experience to work. So decide what you want, document it and implement consistently.

Next, build in a few measures to track and share. What you select may vary based on your type of business and objectives. You don't need a lot of measures, but you do need a few that have an impact on customer retention, satisfaction and loyalty. Here's a few examples: overall customer satisfaction based on phone survey, quality % (done right the first time), renewal %, service level % (on time delivery), A/R past due %, referral business %, etc.

Finally, look for ways to make it even better. Get your team, customers and even vendors involved. Here's two questions to consider:

  • What can we do to make it easier for prospects and customers to do business with us?
  • What can we do to wow or inspire them, to make them smile or surprise them?

Make your total customer experience a real asset for your business. You'll be rewarded with raving fans who buy again and gladly tells others - while your competitor's try to play catch-up.

Joan Nowak is a results-oriented business coach, consultant, trainer and creator of the Hybrid Business Coaching System. Working with small business owners and professionals, she helps them create the changes needed in business to achieve the income and lifestyle they want. For additional resources, business tools and ideas to grow revenue, increase profit and get back control, visit http://HybridBizAdvisors.com. While you are there, subscribe to her monthly eNewsletter for new articles, tools and special offers -- plus a free copy of her eBook, Mastering the 7 Elements of Business Success.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Joan_Nowak

Saturday, December 21, 2013

An Integrity Assessment - Would Your Business Pass?

An Integrity Assessment - Would Your Business Pass?
By Sandra Martini

At first glance, it seems as if it'd be tough to provide an assessment on one's integrity. After all, how do we measure it?

Thinking back to my days of internal auditing with the Federal Government, I was looking for the measurement.

Then an email arrived from someone indicating that she owed us an apology as she hasn't written her newsletter or provided informative content in quite a while, but it's okay because she's been behind-the-scenes revamping her business and would now like us to invest in her new programs.

And that's when I realized that we can measure integrity -- both our own and others -- by asking and answering the simple question "Did I/they do what I/they said I/they would?"

That's the measurement. It is that simple. Not a number, but proof that we did what we said we'd do and when we didn't do it (as will happen for any number of reasons), we own up to it. We mess up, we're human. That's okay as long as we acknowledge it and do our best to fix it our customers and clients will continue to trust and have confidence in us.

Here are some recent instances where I've seen proof of a lack of integrity and no attempt to either own up or fix:

• Affiliate payments -- this one is rampant in the online-focused world. Biz owners who ask for help in sharing/promoting something and when the affiliate payments are due to go out either don't pay, push payments out a ridiculous amount of time or tell you they've "spent it" meanwhile showcasing their latest vacation on social media.
• Consistency -- simply not doing what they committed to as in the example of the business owner above. Had she sent out a simple email stating that she was taking a brief sabbatical and would be back soon, all would be well.
• Client Service -- this one really gets me. Biz owners who work hard to get new clients and then lost them because they don't take care of them/don't deliver on their commitment to provide "X". I want to yell, "Seriously?!?!", after all, they're hurting their reputation, credibility, etc.
• The Half-Assed Attempt -- sadly, I'm seeing this one more and more and while it could definitely be combined with "Client Service" above, I feel the need to break it out. Rather than doing a good job, doing the least amount possible to "get by". This comes from either not asking clarifying questions, making assumptions or plain doing a "just barely satisfactory" job of something (think a "C-/D" in grade) so one can move on to the next thing. Augh!

My recommendation:

• Check and see where your business may be out of integrity with your standards and values. Many times this is happening and we're totally unaware of it. An example in my business was when I discovered that a nurturing sequence wasn't tied to a product so here I am thinking the clients are receiving this great "add-on" info to what they invested in and they were receiving nothing. I only learned after asking a client how they were liking the info.
• Ask your clients how you're doing. Keep this anonymous to ensure you receive totally honest info that you need to hear -- not always what you may want to hear. It's more important that your business, not your ego, benefit from the responses.
• For those who you're doing business with and you feel they're out of integrity, address it. Take the approach that they're not aware of it and ask/let them know nicely. As the saying goes, you'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar and they may truly not realize what's happening/not happening. Make your decision about future interactions based on their response.

We're not perfect, likely never will be and that's totally okay. We're not "out of integrity" because something was missed or a mistake was made -- it's when we fail to address it that the issues arise.

As an inspiring and in-demand mentor, trainer and speaker, Sandy has helped hundreds of small business owners across the globe create sustainable businesses which make a positive impact. Sandy is also the founder of Escalator Marketing™, creating client engagement and raving fans by design. Sandy's Done 4 You services, programs, products and presentations on Escalator Marketing™ and creating lifetime clients through Extreme Client Care™ have made her an in-demand and innovative expert. Meet her at http://www.sandramartini.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Sandra_Martini

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mission Statements Are Out, Passion Statements Are In

Mission Statements Are Out, Passion Statements Are In
By Nikki Corbett

Bye-bye mission statement.

It's time to get personal: what's your passion statement?

Physical location + word of mouth + mission statement = business success. Right?

But the modern business era has brought us the internet, phone apps, and social media. People are connected in so many different ways that distance is no longer a hurdle. Without even speaking to our friends, we can stay on top of what is going on in their lives. Staying in touch keeps us in the know, and the more we know, the more we want to know more.

Following suit, many business transactions now take place online-without ever meeting face to face. Businesses have since found themselves facing the conundrum of how to make the connection (i.e., close the deal) without a handshake and a smile.

The solution is simple. Now, more than ever before, customers want to know much more about who they're dealing with. Customers want to know what makes you motivated, what makes you tick, and when it comes right down to it... what your passion is. Maybe that's getting a little personal, but that's just what social media has accomplished-blurring the lines between business and personal.

And if you're doing something you love, why not shout it from the rooftop?

Truth: Mission statements have suddenly gone the way of Jennifer Aniston hairdos, non-LED Christmas lights, and oh... the rotary phone. A stalwart ingredient of yesterday's business recipe, mission statements now carry all the weight of dry, boring, and impersonal. And in a world of keyboards, wires, and downloads, who wants more impersonal?

So, now onto YOU. Let's get personal.

How to Craft Your Passion Statement

Ask yourself the following five questions:

1. What makes you get up and go to work each morning?
2. What, in life or work, do you find exciting?
3. What gives you the greatest satisfaction in your work life?
4. What motivates you?
5. What do you really want to do, and why do you really want to do it?

OK, I fudged and combined two questions, but the last two go hand in hand.

Record your answers to these questions and lock away that internal editor. Put every thought on paper-just get it down. Then put it away for a day. Add some more thoughts tomorrow, then really start playing with the words. Put it away again for a day or even a week. Then come back with a fresh mind, and you'll certainly hone in on your own passion statement.

Nikki Corbett is a U.S.-based copywriter, proofreader, and copy editor, and is the owner of Precise Proofing. Precise Proofing offers a range of B2B and B2C services reaching small businesses, nonprofits, students, and writers. Services include copy writing, press releases, blog editing, marketing copy, manuscript critiques, thesis paper editing/proofreading, article writing, and more. For more great articles, visit http://www.PreciseProofing.com.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Nikki_Corbett

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Cost of Getting Your Advertising and Marketing Wrong

The Cost of Getting Your Advertising and Marketing Wrong
By Nikki Corbett

The cost of getting it right vs. getting it wrong.

Here's why we'll always need editing and proofreading.

Imagine-paying for printing, mailing, etc. only to discover that a single misplaced punctuation mark completely changed the intent of your message! Or an embarrassing spelling error wasn't caught and makes it to your entire client list! Or your ad reads, "5% off" instead of 50%! A proofreader could have saved you. But more importantly...

Will your clients be hesitant to trust you with their work, time, money-their business-in the future? Will you make enough profit from this campaign to cover the next?

Take the following scenario:

Say you've invested $2,500 on your first large-scale marketing campaign. It's a big risk, but the investment is worth it. You project sales of $6000 or more. Your ad has been written, designed, and printer ready. You click the send button to your printer, who forwards you a final proof and direct mails your postcard, brochure, or other mailing to your entire client base. (To be fair, the printer's staff performed a quick review and ran spell-check.) It's time to sit back in your chair and wait for the phone calls to start rolling in.

To your dismay, the first day only nets a few phone calls, but no sales-the same on the second and third days. The trend continues for several days; you do close a few sales, though not as much as you had anticipated. Out of frustration, you grab a postcard and start reading.

You find an embarrassing typo within the ad, plus an incorrect digit in the area code.

How could this happen? You trusted two office staff members to proofread the campaign material in addition to yourself. How did three sets of eyes miss both of these glaring errors?

The sad truth is, it happens all the time. We are all too close to our own work, our own business, our own industry to proofread or edit what we create and send on to our clients, staff, or investors. In fact, even proofreaders need proofreaders-it's true.

In the end, our company president spends $2500 and earns $2250 in business, resulting in a $250 financial loss. But remember the sales projections? In addition to the $250 loss in funding, tack on $3750 in lost sales revenues for a total loss of a whopping $4000!

What would it have cost to have an outside source review the campaign material? Less than $250? Surely, a worthwhile investment.

Remember, once it's in print you can't edit those mistakes-they're permanent.

Nikki Corbett is a U.S.-based copywriter, proofreader, and copy editor, and is the owner of Precise Proofing. Precise Proofing offers a range of B2B and B2C services reaching small businesses, nonprofits, students, and writers. Services include copy writing, press releases, blog editing, marketing copy, manuscript critiques, thesis paper editing/proofreading, article writing, and more. For more great articles, visit http://www.PreciseProofing.com.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Nikki_Corbett

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Small Business Marketing and Advertising In the 21st Century

Small Business Marketing and Advertising In the 21st Century
By P T Laury

As a small business owner, keeping up with the competition can be extremely challenging. The race to get the next dollar from your customer base sometimes requires squeezing your prices so low that the margins are barely keeping your doors open. If you have found yourself in this dilemma don't despair. There is hope.

While looking at your business sales results have you noticed that sales are stagnating or decreasing? Are you beating your head against the wall considering your available options to increase the traffic coming into your business thereby increasing your sales? If all of the solutions that you are coming up with are 20th century solutions, you are actually losing the battle of business survival.

Media like television, radio and print are costly and slow in growing a business in the "right now" 21st century.

Everyone knows that television is great in establishing name recognition when advertising is repetitive enough to become accepted in the minds of its' viewers. The problem with television is that it is extremely expensive to create, produce and put on the air.

Radio on the other hand is less expensive than television but again too expensive for most small businesses to maintain over an extended period of time. Additionally, radio is not nearly as effective in building name recognition because consumers are not listening to radio as much in the 21st century.

Finally there is the great-grandfather of all advertising media, print. Print media has been around since businesses began advertising their wares and services. Print media, i.e., coupons, news print, post cards etc., are practically ineffective today. Consumers are bombarded with every form of print media advertising available. As such, most print media advertising die a quick death in the trash receptacles of consumers.

So there you have it. Expensive television advertising, less expensive and less effective radio advertising and finally print media where your hard earned dollars rush to the consumers trash receptacle. What is a business owner to do to keep the numbers up in their business?

There are the mediums of email marketing and text message marketing. Email marketing has become the assumed medium to reach consumers. Email marketing is inexpensive and when done according to the CAN-SPAM laws email marketing can be reasonably effective. The real downside to email marketing is that even when consumers opt-in they generally don't check their email when received thus the risk of your marketing piece going stale resulting in minimal positive responses.

Finally to get immediate measurable results with full control over your marketing and advertising campaigns there is the 21st century new media, "text message marketing." Text message marketing puts your advertisement in the hands of your target market within seconds of sending it. The message is delivered to the smartphones of your opt-in customer base. Text message marketing is extremely affordable, measurable and flexible. If you have a campaign to increase traffic, you can do it within minutes with text message marketing. Statistics show that on average text messages are read within 4 minutes of being received. Another great benefit of text message marketing is that you can choose to do it yourself or have a text message marketing company handle the marketing campaigns for you. You simply submit your campaign to the text message marketing company and they handle the setup and transmission of your campaign based upon your directions, even to the minute of transmission.

So if you want immediate measurable results for your marketing and advertising campaigns, text message marketing is the 21st century solution.

The author has over 30 years experience as an owner of multiple businesses. Having purchased thousands of dollars in advertising over the years with varying degrees of success, text message marketing has proven to be the most effective media. To have your text message marketing campaigns handled by yourself or a company visit Affordable Phone Apps also known as MY $49.95 AD AGENCY.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=P_T_Laury

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Why Small Businesses Give Up On Social Media

Why Small Businesses Give Up On Social Media
By John Debar

I am learning that many small business owners have the wrong idea about social media. Some have bought into the "promised land" idea--expecting that they would have access to millions of people once they published their Facebook page. Others view social media marketing as a circulation or direct marketing advertisement; hence, after they establish themselves on the top two or three platforms they wait for results without any further effort.

One problem is that we are fed bogus ideas, snake oil apps, clever short-copy, and misguided blogs everyday -- or at least when we surf the net for a digital media miracle. Perhaps that is why I witness many business owners wasting time on counterproductive efforts -- later giving up on their digital front altogether.

Another problem is that small business owners are sold on 'strategy' by 'experts' who are merely trying to snatch-a-buck for setting up social media accounts. Some of these so-called experts paint a boisterous picture of an unending stream of revenue flowing through a business' front doors. Their selling point might be based on the connection that your business will be part of a network that has 500 million+ members -- hinting that you can grab your share. The truth is... it is not that simple.

Don't turn back now! Social media works! It just doesn't work in the ways previously mentioned.

Posting things to your Facebook page every morning over coffee or posting a special deal every now and then is a very small part of the game; so small, that this alone will never yield large enough results. The idea behind social media is to create a community, get involved, and stay in touch.

In traditional methods of doing business, relationships and perceptions of a company is the key to success. It's no different in the digital world except that the digital world has made it easier for companies to maintain relationships and perceptions about their brand. Concisely, social networks are not a traditional means of advertising where you carefully place an advertisement in a targeted circulation and hope for success. It's more than that -- it's an ongoing, interactive, relationship based method of acquiring business.

The ROI for social media efforts can be huge if managed right. For starters, once you have a foundation of fans or followers, much of your advertising communication efforts are free of charge. Furthermore, promotions can extend beyond your fan base if your product and communications are worth sharing. Another reason why social media is worth the trouble is that your target market is in one location-waiting for your input.

Imagine 'X number' of people who "liked" your page, because they like your brand... waiting for you to communicate with them.

... just say'n.

If people like you, they will give you a chance. If they get to know you, they will become customers. If they trust you, they will become loyal. If they become loyal, they will bring you more business.

Managing your business' digital front requires patience. The idea is to build relationships, loyalty, trust, and community! These things take time. The best part about it is that using social networks as a marketing tool is virtually free if you have the time to manage activities yourself.

If you, as a small business owner, made changes in your priorities, adopt a long-term view with social media, and use social media for more than a coupon scheme or self-promoting megaphone then you might discover a new window for success. Don't take my word for it! "Google" it! There are many companies embracing social media and succeeding. Read about what they do, how they do it, and repeat the process.

Thanks for reading!

~ John Debar

Learn more about social media marketing here.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=John_Debar

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Social Media for Small Business - Is It Too Much?

Social Media for Small Business - Is It Too Much?
By John Debar

While preparing to write this article, concerning whether or not a company needs to participate in every social media site available, I received an update about an emerging social website. After spending five minutes evaluating the site, I found myself in a trance as I contemplated the reality of our digital age and social media.

Is it too much? Even with a fabulous social management tool such as Hootsuite, small business owners might find themselves overwhelmed. The ambitious PR person in me says that you should participate and listen to every social network -- if you are a large conglomerate or you can afford a social management team. The small business owner in me says that you should focus only on the most popular and relevant social sites.

There are many decisions to be made for a small business's social media front. When choosing your online channels it is best to start with the 'no-brainers', such as Facebook and Twitter then work your way down the Top 10 list -- that is, if you want to go beyond Facebook and Twitter.

There are things to consider such as your investment of time, equipment, and software. YouTube is a great example. YouTube goes head to head with Facebook on traffic. It seems as though every company should have a YouTube account, but producing original and engaging content on YouTube takes an investment of time, equipment, and software.

YouTube is more of a frustration for me than anything else. It is loaded with low quality videos that have terrible sound, strange electrical feedback, and poor narration -- all of which have to do with time, equipment, and software. What kind of image do you think your company will project if you produce subpar 'how to' videos?

Then there is the social media overload factor. Have you ever visited a company website that displays their social media links... all 10 of them? There is nothing more amusing to me than following those links to find that the only platforms the company is engaged in are the top two or three. It's great that a company offers many channels by which a visitor can stay in touch, but if the company is not communicating on those social media channels, it becomes a useless icon on their website. This, in turn, might send your followers the wrong impression about your company.

My advice to all small business owners is to choose Facebook and Twitter, then ask the following questions concerning other channels:

- Is your target audience using that channel?

- Is the social media site relevant to your business' industry?

- Does the social media channel match your company's image?

- Can your business effectively engage an audience with that channel?

- Do you have the resources and skills to create quality content?

- Can you devote time to all the channels you choose?

Once you have chosen the most valuable and relevant channels, stay current and engage your audience regularly. There are many tools and services that can help your business manage its online communications. To do it yourself, you might want to consider Hootsuite and Tweet Deck. If you are too busy to wear the social media hat then you might want to consider hiring someone to do that for you.

Social media is worth the effort and it will provide a return on your investment! Just choose wisely and stick to it.

Thanks for reading!

~ John Debar

Learn more about social media for small business here.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=John_Debar