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Category — Small Business Advice

Five Things Not To Overlook When Setting Up A Website

Web hosting problems can result from doing inadequate research during the host selection process, but you’ll need these services if you hope to successfully market your business online. Some useful tips in choosing a web host can set you on the right track in your choice of provider. If you don’t do the appropriate research, however, you can end up wasting months of time and thousands of dollars and you may even damage the reputation of your business. Before starting on a search for the best web hosting available, analyze your business requirements.

Ask Yourself:

  • Is there any software you require to be run on your host server?

  • What kind of a load do you anticipate for your site?

  • What are your predictions about growth?

  • What kind of technical support will be needed?

  • What if anything will be required to interface your company’s software with your hosted applications?

  • What kind of security is required to protect your business? There may be legal requirements as well as general security standards that need to be met.

The answers to your questions will guide you to find the right kind of hosting service.

Five Things to Consider in Web Host Selection

All your security, technical, operational and support requirements as well as the reputation of potential providers need to be considered. Here are some resources that will help you decide whether your prospective web hosting service is right for you.

  • Reputation

Consumer Rankings has published a recent top 10 report for hosting services. Their reports are based on direct product analysis as well as product reviews. In depth information is provided about each site including awards received, services provided and pricing. Links to each company’s site provide a convenient way to do further investigation.

  • Security

Security is important for maintaining the confidentiality of company information and the integrity of company assets, and is often a legal responsibility, especially when data is financial or patient related. Many web hosts offer security services and secure email at a reasonable cost. Services like web hosting with Yahoo Small Business will provide you with many of the basics you need to run your company along with business-grade security features. Desirable security features include SSL for secure encryption, Firewalls, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), DDos prevention to protect against the ever more common denial of service attacks by hackers, which prevent online services from operating. A secure PoP3 server, antivirus and antispam are important as well.

  • Scalability and Availability

As a business grows, its information needs and associated bandwidth grow as well. There may very well be an increase in traffic to the site. A good web hosting service will be able to accommodate an increase in resources and should be able to do this in a transparent fashion. In addition, a hosting service should operate 24/7 with excellent response time.

  • Technically Requirements

Technical requirements may include specific server side software such as PHP, Perl, MYSQL and Python. Some businesses may need software for eCommerce or rapid website development. Database administration tools such as PhpMyAdmin may be required.

  • Support Services Adequacy

When there are questions or problems it’s important to know that you can talk to support, because your web host controls the web server infrastructure and you don’t.

Choosing the Provider

Having defined your company’s requirements and examined how selected host services can meet your company’s needs, it should be easy to narrow things down to some excellent candidates. Campanies like Yahoo have impressive track records and should give small business managers peace of mind with regards to their hosted operations. Other hosts may be more appropriate for other websites. Small scale startup businesses with Linux hosting in mind may be able to get excellent low cost or even free hosting services to meet their needs.

July 11, 2012   No Comments

Invest in the Right Business Technology to Save Money

During the course of running a business, there are many expenses that may pop up which entrepreneurs didn’t expect. If a business owner is looking for ways to save money on the expenses that they incur on a regular basis, investing in the right technology might make a difference. There are several new technologies that a company could put its money into in order to save over the long-term. Here are a few examples of technologies to consider.

VoIP

VoIP or voice over Internet protocol is one technology that businesses may want to look at. With VoIP, businesses can set up a complete phone system that runs over the Internet instead of through phone lines. Businesses can get a complete PBX system just like a regular company has. The big difference with VoIP is that it usually much cheaper than other comparable systems. With VoIP, users typically pay one low monthly fee for all of their inbound and outbound calls across the country. Users can choose their area code or get a toll-free number as well. If users are paying too much for their current phone service, they may want to check out VoIP.

Internet Fax

Another technology that could potentially save a business money is an Internet fax service. With Internet fax service, a company can avoid having to print out faxes that come in. Instead of printing them out, the company can simply receive them online through email. If the message is important, it can be printed out. If not, it can be deleted. This also has the potential to save the company quite a bit of money in toner and other expenses. It also eliminates the need to pay for a separate phone line for the fax machine. In fact, it can eliminate the need for a fax machine all together.

Alternative Energy

One of the biggest expenses that most businesses incur is paying for their electricity costs every month. With the way that electricity costs are rising, many businesses are looking for ways to save money on these expenses. With advancements in technology, there are now several ways that a company could get electricity without paying for it from the grid. Many businesses are switching over to solar power or wind power as a way to save money. While these technologies do come with a large initial cost, they will usually pay for themselves pretty quickly.

Online Communication

Many businesses spend a lot of money making sure that every employee has a phone with an intercom system installed on their desks. While this is a common way to communicate with other people in the building, it is expensive. A cheaper alternative is typically to just use instant messaging software. Everyone already need a computer on their desk to do most jobs. If they will simply install instant messaging software on the computer, employees can communicate with each other for free. Not everyone needs a phone in order to do their jobs effectively in today’s business landscape.

How are you saving with technology?

July 9, 2012   No Comments

Planning To Market Your Business

Marketing could improve your company’s local identity. Using several low-cost marketing ideas, you might increase your company’s revenue too. Small business owners who realize a higher sales volume may notice greater profitability as well. You can take a methodical approach toward growing your small business.

Target Marketing
Identifying your prospective customer base could enable you to spend your marketing dollars in the proper places. Using data from your existing client base, you may be able to determine demographics such as whether most of your customers are consumers or business owners. Target marketing can position you to concentrate your resources toward growth opportunities.

Research
Studying information about customers who buys your products or services could enable you to perform some market research. An analysis of your client base within certain zip codes may enhance your ability to distribute a sufficient amount of marketing pieces. Your research might suggest the need for greater circulations in some areas such as direct mail or printed advertisements.

Budgeting
A marketing budget can limit the amount of money that you spend on advertising campaigns or promotional activities. Staying within your allotted marketing budget could enable you to keep your small business finances in order. You might be able to implement a strategy that utilizes a portion of your sales revenue toward marketing initiatives.

Plan
Using a well-written plan, you can focus on the advertising objectives for your company. Your plan might include activities for building your company’s brand recognition or corporate identity. Planning to grow a small business could entail online or retail strategies.

Internet Marketing
An Internet presence frequently provides ideal options for most small businesses. Typically, you can advertise more cost efficiently, showcase your products for less money and you can create items such as an online newsletter or customer surveys. Using an inexpensive website, you can market your products and your services on the Internet.

Printed Advertising Materials
Whether you advertise in local newspapers or with specialty promotional items, you may be able to grow your small business with printed materials. Using newspaper ads, postcards and flyers, you may be able to create compelling buying incentives. Small retail business can design banner ads and other types of display advertisements to attract more customers into local stores. You can locate an assortment of printed promotional items for your small business.

Discounted Promotional Items
Low-cost promotional materials could enable you to buy items in larger quantities or you might realize a greater profit potential. Local office supply stores or local printing companies may provide discounted promotional items. Shopping for promotional items online could help you save more money.

Summary
Incremental steps may be taken toward building your small business. Some governmental agencies provide financial assistance and small business marketing ideas for newly formed businesses. You can obtain help toward growing an existing business too.

June 20, 2012   No Comments

Inexpensive Ways to Market Your Small Business Online

Thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier for a small business to engage in efficient marketing on a shoestring budget. In many cases, you can even compete with much larger businesses by being smart and utilizing cost effective advertising. With that being said, let’s talk about some marketing methods that are either free or inexpensive for small business owners.

Starting a blog is something that has become commonplace and is great for staying connected with existing customers and acquiring new customers. The process is pretty straightforward and involves routinely posting promotions, new products or services, special offers and general industry information. Blogging tends to be effective because it’s a great way to interact with your demographic on a personal level and helps establish trust. It’s also extremely convenient and allows you to reach numerous people with ease.

If you already have a website for you business, you can simply incorporate a blog into it. Otherwise, you can purchase a domain and a start a blog with your own dot com. If you aren’t concerned with having a domain, you can create a blog completely for free on websites like WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and Typepad.

Another technique that’s free to use is social media. By creating pages on some top visited websites like Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, you can interact with relevant people within your industry all around the world. After creating a page and filling out the profile with your business information, you can update your page with helpful content that makes people want to follow you. You can also streamline the process by following other people within your niche and networking with them.

You can also sync up your different social media accounts so that followers on one website will follow you on another. In time, you can expect to build a significant following of people all over the world who are interested in your business. After you achieve a following, you will have a loyal group of individuals who will make purchases as well as recommend your business to their followers, friend and family. For this reason, other people sometimes end up doing your marketing for you with social media. If you have products or services that are truly great, they may end up going viral in some cases where they reach a massive audience overnight.

If you have a website, setting up an email campaign with a company like Aweber can also be effective. While this service costs around $20 per month, it’s a great way to leverage your website to increase sales. It works by creating an opt in form for your website where people can sign up to receive your newsletter in their email. Once you create a list of people, you can simply send out bulk emails that features things like new products or special promotions. This technique tends to work well because of the genuine interest that most people will have when receiving emails. As a result, you can often expect a high conversion rate.

June 13, 2012   No Comments

Saving Money While Running a Small Business

Small business owners are constantly keeping an eye on the company bottom line and doing everything possible to generate a profit. Developing ways to generate new business is the lifeblood of any organization. But keeping operating costs low is also a method for creating profit for the bottom line.

The difficult part that most business owners run into when it comes to saving money on operations is maintaining product and service quality. There are techniques a small business owner can use that will keep operating costs low while allowing the entrepreneur to retain the quality of his offerings.

Independent Contractors
As a business grows, it becomes inevitable that the company will need to bring in people to accommodate the increase in activity. The problem is that employees become expensive with the need for payroll services, office space, office equipment and overhead costs such as utilities. Employees also get paid sick days, vacation time and weekends off. Independent contractors eliminate all of those extra costs.

When a company utilizes independent contractors, it does not have to supply any office space, office equipment or do any payroll work. The independent contractor is brought in to do a specific task by a deadline utilizing its own resources. All the company pays for is results.

Marketing
A small business does not want to skimp on its marketing budget, but the costs of doing large-scale advertising can get expensive. That is where the Internet comes into play. The Internet is a way for a small business to reach millions of potential customers simultaneously and for almost no cost.

Social networking is a small business marketing resource that should be maximized as much as possible. There are marketing companies that specialize in social networking for businesses that would be worth looking into. The return on that investment could be significant.

Videos on the Internet are becoming popular, and that is why a small business should utilize the free video hosting websites to its advantage. A small business owner can create inexpensive product or company videos and then promote them across the social networks. As long as the videos are entertaining, they will gain an audience.

Facilities Costs
Many small business owners save money by running their businesses from home. But there are other businesses that cannot run their businesses from home and need to rent facilities. One of the ways a company could save money on facilities costs is to share costs with another company. For example, an accounting professional can share an office with an attorney and the two can split all of the costs of running the office.

Another way to save money on facilities costs is to utilize free public resources. For example, rather than renting an office space with a large conference room for presentations, a company could rent a smaller office space that shares a conference room with the other tenants in the building. The company still gets the office space it needs and it also has access to a free conference room.

Running a small business means watching out for expenses. With some creativity, a good entrepreneur can find creative ways to keep operating costs low and profits high.

June 1, 2012   No Comments

Save Money By Hiring Independent Contractors

Small businesses need to save as much money as possible. Smaller companies simply do not have the same financial resources that a larger company will have. Controlling how much money is spent on payroll can be a way for a small business to stay competitive. Hiring independent contractors offers a cost-effective solution when a business needs to hire extra help.

Save On Payroll Taxes
All workers must devote 15.3 percent of their salaries to payroll taxes. Employees only have to pay half that amount while employers pay the other half. Independent contractors must pay the full amount of payroll tax themselves. Employers are also responsible for unemployment taxes as well for their employees. Independent contractors do not get those benefits in most cases.

Negotiate A Price Per Project
Independent contractors will be used only for specific projects. All payments are negotiated ahead of time meaning you know what your labor cost will be per project. Employees paid by the hour must be paid for each hour they are on the clock. A project that takes longer than expected would cost more if a small business relied heavily on hourly employees. Any increase in payment for an outside contractor must be negotiated and approved by the company.

Terminate The Relationship Whenever You Want
It can be very hard to terminate an employee. There are many laws that dictate how you must fire an employee. It takes a long period of time documenting behavior before you have enough protection against a wrongful termination claim. Court costs and legal fees also could potentially add to the cost of terminating an employee. Independent contractors may be let go after the completion of a project. You may even be able to end your relationship even sooner than that depending on your contract with that contractor.

Contractors Cover Their Own Costs
Employers generally will cover travel and other expenses racked up during the course of business. Contractors must provide the funds to cover their expenses. A small business can now afford to send a contractor out to Arizona from New York for a sales meeting without footing the bill. This allows the company to expand its marketing reach without spending too much money. Not having to cover these costs can be a winning scenario for a company that is just starting out with limited funds.

Small businesses need to use every advantage available to save money on operating expenses. Using independent contractors to save on payroll costs can be one advantage to large to overlook. Contractors will usually perform at a high level while offering increased flexibility to the company. Small businesses can operate more like a large company without having to spend like them as well.

April 12, 2012   1 Comment

Small Business 411

Opening a small business is a daunting enterprise these days. There’s a lot to remember, but most small business tips fall into four broad categories: plan, specialize, advertise and save.

Plan
Small business owners may be tempted to start right away, but without a plan, they’re going nowhere. An owner needs to take the time to sit down and write out a business plan. A business plan is simply a road map that lists business goals, how the owner means to achieve them, and in what time frame. Owners who plan to borrow money should always have a business plan. Potential lenders will demand to see this document, because a detailed plan shows them that the business owner is serious about his venture. It also tells them exactly how he proposes to pay back the loan.

Specialize
A small business owner won’t be able to undercut large competitors on price – at least, not for long. The best small business strategy is to offer unique, value-added products or services that customers will be willing to pay more to get. An owner should find a unique niche and do his best to provide products or services that others don’t have.

Market research is also essential for a small business owner. He needs to identify not just a unique product or service, but who he’ll be selling it to. A business owner should ask if there’s a demand for his product or service, and if so, how much? He needs to determine if he will have many competitors, or few, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Advertise
Once a business owner has chosen a product and identified his market, he must get his business out there, and these days, that means going online. While it’s possible to be up and running within hours with free or nearly-free websites, it may be wiser for a business owner to spend a little money for a professional website, since the look of a business website influences customer perceptions about the company. It’s also important for the website to be glitch-free and easy for customers to use. A business website should offer customers many payment options, and every page should have a link to the checkout.

A business website needs to rank high in online searches to be found by online customers. Ranking high requires an understanding of search engine optimization, or SEO. If, for example, the owner of a small spa wants his business to rank well in online searches, he might sprinkle phrases like “spa services” or “spa facial” many times throughout his website. When potential customers search for those terms, websites with heavy concentrations of those terms get called up.

An owner should also consider establishing a Facebook and Twitter account for his business. Social media are increasingly important marketing tools and can provide a fledgling business many new customers.

Save
It’s important for a business owner to resist the temptation to max out that new business card. It usually isn’t necessary for a new business to have brand-new furniture or office equipment. Owners should buy used equipment whenever possible to save money, and purchase non-perishable supplies in bulk. An owner should work out of his home for as long as possible to save on rent. Banks, libraries, conference centers and many apartment complexes and resorts offer rooms that can be reserved for business meetings–sometimes for free.

April 9, 2012   No Comments

Debt settlement – Wipe Away Your Debt Problems

Debt settlement is a suitable debt relief option that helps you reduce your outstanding debts to some extent when you find it difficult to repay the entire debt amount in full. This situation happens mainly when your financial condition is not strong and you cannot manage your outstanding debts on your own. You may settle your debts either on your own or seek professional help so that you can free yourself from its clutches at the earliest time possible.

5 Advantages of a debt settlement program

Have a look at the 5 advantages of a debt settlement program.

1. Outstanding balance gets reduced – The main advantage of enrolling with a debt settlement program is that your outstanding balance gets reduced by 40-60% of what you actually owe. This can be done when your debt expert negotiates with your creditors and makes them understand about your financial condition due to which you cannot afford to make the debt payments in full.

2. One time payment – This is another advantage of a debt settlement program. You pay the settlement amount to the company and when the entire amount gets accumulated, the company distributes it amongst your creditors. Thus, you do not have to face the trouble of paying your creditors individually.

3. Professional experts guide you – If you are a debtor who finds debt unmanageable, you decide to enroll with a debt settlement program. In this program, the debt expert assesses your financial condition thoroughly and then fixes upon a payment that you have to pay to the company. With the proper guidance of the professional experts, you find it much easier to repay your outstanding dues within a specific time period.

4. May get rid of harassing calls – As you enroll with a debt settlement program, you make your debt payments through them. The company then informs your creditors about it so that they may stop giving you harassing calls for payments. Thus, you may get rid of the harassing calls of the creditors.

5. Quick way to get rid of debt problems – Debt settlement is an easy and quick way to get rid of your unnecessary debt problems. When you find it difficult to repay your entire debt amount, you opt for this debt relief option so that you can manage to make your debt payments and, at the same time, free yourself from the clutches of debt burden.

If you are a debtor who has fallen into excessive credit card debt problems, it is advisable that you do proper research and get in touch with an authentic debt settlement company. Debt settlement is the right option to wipe away your debt problems even when you face financial problem so that you may be able to live a debt free life.

March 19, 2012   No Comments

Start Something New Every Morning

Here’s an idea to put to work with your small business, one you can apply to your work no matter what you do whether you’re a real estate developer, a baker, an artist, a copy writer or an inventor: Every morning, you probably hop on your computer and check your emails. Tomorrow when you wake up, don’t do that. Instead, use those early minutes of the day to create something new.

Put together a new banner ad, write a new article, make a new contact and start a new business relationship, but take the first hour of the day and use it to focus on what new things you’re going to experience in your immediate future. Don’t waste that hour reading up on how everyone responded to what you did yesterday, use it to make people respond to something you’re going to do today.

The approach that people have to communication and business on the internet is quite often totally backwards. They’re more focused in studying past successes than pursuing new ones. Don’t fall into that trap. It’s true that you can learn from your mistakes, but dwelling on them suggests a timidity about making new ones, and making new mistakes is how you learn from them, not by focusing on ones you made yesterday or a week ago.

Say you put in a proposal at your favorite freelancing website yesterday. You’re probably eager to see if any of those proposals got a response. Why not put in five more proposals before checking? The sting of disappointment when your proposals are turned down hurts a little less because you’re not focusing on your past mistakes, you’re focusing on future opportunities.

Many bloggers do their best work in the morning for this very reason. At 7 AM, there’s no telling how the day is going to turn out and anything is possible. It’s exciting to start a new day full of possibility, and the easiest way to squander that excitement is to immediately start worrying about whether the client replied to that email, whether that banner ad you designed yesterday is drawing in hits, whether you have any positive comments on the new video you posted and on and on.

Use lunchtime to focus on the past if you like, but use the morning to create something new, to do something exciting. As fun as it might be to look and see if you’re getting any extra hits from that new blog directory you just submitted to or whether your new ad campaign is working, the bottom line is that it’s not getting you anywhere to obsess over those factoids early in the morning. Start something new every time you get out of bed and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish in a day.

March 6, 2012   No Comments

Make your Work Available

If you run a business in a service or private contracting field, if you’re a freelance graphic designer or a broker for article writers, the most important thing you can do to get more work is to make your past accomplishments visible and available.

A cartoonist, for instance, who draws a graphic novel one year and charges $20 a download might earn some modest returns on his investment, but he’s not winning any new clients by hiding his crowning achievement behind a twenty dollar price tag.

If you have an impressive resume, if you can ace an interview, that’s great, but all of that is complimentary to having a powerful body of work behind you, and making all of that work as visible and as accessible as possible is absolutely going to help you earn new clients, new business and make more sales.

There are a few things that you can do to make your work a little easier for clients and customers to see.

1. Start a Hub

A hub of some sort is really a requisite. Not a traditional website or blog necessarily but a one-stop shop for people to find all of your past work. It could include a link to some Youtube videos you’ve done, articles you’ve written, eBooks you’ve published or your webcomic. Occasionally you’ll want to link a prospective client specifically to your blog or your eBook or a certain video, but in general, you’ll do well to have a place where people can go to look at everything you’ve done that’s worth looking at.

2. Produce More and Better Work

When you take all of your accomplishments, all of your output and lay it out end to end, you may be a little disappointed. Some of it perhaps isn’t as good as you remember and maybe there’s not all that much of it. The only solution to this is to keep trying. You might wind up with nine articles you’re not very proud of for every one that you are, but you’ll only get the good stuff by taking the risk that you might make something crummy, too.

3. Keep it Simple

Any more than a dozen or so links and you’re really overwhelming people. If you have a lot of stuff to show off, keep it under subcategories so that they don’t get overwhelmed. A video section, an art section and a writing section, for instance, can be a big help in providing a greater depth of content without throwing too much at browsers at once. Another option is to simply keep it down to a greatest hits collection of sorts. If you want to turn a friend on to a favorite band, you play them a few of your favorite songs, you don’t just start them off on their debut album and tell them to listen to everything they’ve ever produced.

Focus, productivity and being brutally honest with yourself are three things that will help you to produce a great timeline of your work and win more clients and more sales.

February 28, 2012   No Comments