Category — Small Business Advice
Every small business owner looks for ways to do two things on a regular basis: drive-up sales and cut costs. Cutting costs is a never ending pursuit and can only be done to a certain degree before the company itself begins to suffer. That leaves increasing cash flow to lead generation and salesmanship. The question then becomes how to do so without going over advertising budget or even how to do so with little or no advertising budget.
The increasing answer is to get a business presence online, taking advantage of the ubiquity and cost-friendly management of e-commerce and brand promotion.
Publish a Website
This can be done by even an Internet novice, someone unfamiliar with HTML, CSS and SEO or Search Engine Optimization. There are many “push-button” website publishers available online which provide user-friendly, intuitive website creation. A business owner need only select a theme, an industry, enter some text and arrange the appearance of images. Within minutes, a business owner can design and publish a website. Changes–when needed–are typically nearly effortless.
Use Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is the practice of placing text, links and/or images on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Unation, Pinteres and LinkedIn. Social media marketing, often abbreviated SMM, is a great way to get a brand out to the public without having to pay a publicist or hire an advertising agency. Social media profiles are free to create and use. But there worth can be priceless.
Create a Blog
In addition to a website and social media profiles, businesses will find blogs to be a great way to connect with customers. Think of a blog as a virtual newsletter featuring the best aspects of your company, most used services and products with the added benefit of no design, printing and mailing costs. Each post is a chance to reach new customers as well as cater to existing customers. The trick is to make every post SEO and LSI keyword friendly–that is, using specific words or phrases and synonyms to get your blog indexed by search engines. An example of keywords and LSI keyworks for a dog grooming service would be “dog grooming”, “pet grooming”, “pet care”, “grooming services” and “master pet stylist”.
Make Yourself Available to Traditional Media
Being online doesn’t mean ignoring traditional media. If you want more traffic to your website, generating more sales, then make yourself available to print, radio and television media. Granting interviews and commenting on news items related to your business will only bolster your online presence.
Don’t Forget about Old-Fashioned Networking
There’s a reason local Better Business Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce still have brick-and-mortar locations. They support local businesses, help companies to get there name out among area residents. Just because a company has a website doesn’t mean people living a few blocks over will visit the business online.
In addition, being involved with local volunteer groups, sports groups, schools and churches will increase your business’ overall image and up the patronage to your brick-and-mortar.
January 11, 2012 No Comments
The resume is a quick snapshot of a potential employee. It will list simple data, such as a person’s date of birth, work experience and education. If this basic data is missing, it’s a good idea to reject that applicant.
There are other warning signs business owners should look for in a resume.
For example, if a resume is written in all capital letters or on pink confetti paper, that’s a sign that an applicant has been too lazy to study and understand basic resume formats. That laziness could carry over into that applicant’s work habits. This resume goes on the reject pile.
Any resume with poor grammar is a red flag. An applicant should know the difference between the words “its” and “it’s.” An applicant should capitalize the word “I” when speaking of himself. Resumes are not tweets to a buddy.
Is the company’s name misspelled? Misspellings are another reason for a business owner to reject a resume.
A resume with perfect grammar and spelling is a cause for joy to business owners. This resume shows that an applicant is a professional who cares about himself. He wants to impress upon a potential employer that he pays attention to details. This applicant deserves a second look.
The fact that an applicant took the time to learn a business owner’s name and spells it correctly is an indication that the applicant is meticulous and serious. This resume is also a keeper.
The cover letter deserves special attention because several key facts about an applicant can be found immediately.
A cover letter filled with phrases like “works well with others” or “I’m a team player” is an indication that the applicant is grinding out sausage cover letters. This cover letter is probably duplicated and sent to hundreds of employers.
Each cover letter must be unique and targeted to each individual business owner. It must be thoughtful and indicate that the applicant spent some time researching the company.
The best applicants will tell a business owner what their value is to a company.
Here’s one example: I mastered several techniques in Dreamweaver that create web pages 25 percent faster than the industry average.
When business owners see this on a cover letter, they know that this applicant is capable of producing a critical product quickly. Processing information faster than a competitor affects the bottom line and makes a company money. Business owners realize that this applicant has measurable value to a company.
No business can be profitable without topnotch employees. Good employees must be professional, skilled and show value that will help a company earn a profit. Knowing how to pick the right employee from a resume is a critical skill that every small business owner must master.
January 11, 2012 No Comments
As a small business you are catering to a niche market in your area. Whether you’re selling plastic bags or vacuum cleaners, there is one thing that your business needs: customers. Customers can be the reason that your business succeeds or fails. But if you don’t have any customers, you will fall into the later. Getting exposure for your small business is a necessity. Exposure and promotion doesn’t have to involve hiring a PR company or getting TV ads. There are several things that you can do on your own to start generating leads online. Here are some tips to help you along the way.
The first thing that you need to do to market your small business in your location is to get a Google Places account. Google Places is a great way to establish your business in your local area because it allows you to list your phone number, address, website and products for local searches. Google Places also gives you a PR 8 backlink, which is great for search engine optimization. Once you have registered for a Google Places account, you will have to verify your address through a post card.
Optimize your website for local searches. Local search optimization is much different than online optimization. Your business is going to focus on a small niche of the online market. This makes it easier to get ranked for searches in your area. Make sure that your keywords are optimized for local searches. For instance, if you are a Chicago plumber, make sure that “Chicago plumber,” “Chicago plumbing” and other variations of this are present on your website.
Use Social Networking Site
Social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin have gained a lot of traction online over the last couple of years. If you do not have a Facebook or Linkedin account, sign up for one immediately. You can post pictures of your business and staff on the accounts and also offer tips to your potential clients. Linkedin is great because you can get connected with other businesses in your area. This works well with lead generation and referrals.
Update Your Website Regularly
Updating your website keeps it fresh in the search results pages. Make sure that you are frequently updating with promotions and tips for your customers so the search engines keep you ranked at the top. This will also help with getting subscribers to your site. Consider updating the template every year or so to keep the design fresh. There is nothing more unappealing than a stale website for any business.
Organize Your Website
Keep your website organized. Make it easy for a customer to get in touch with you. Implement an email form and keep the contact information current. The last thing that you want is for a customer to click the “Back” button because they couldn’t find any of your contact information. Make sure that your services information is clear and unambiguous so there is no confusion about what your small business actually does.
January 5, 2012 No Comments
Social Media marketing is a great platform for marketing because it’s absolutely free. It doesn’t cost you anything except for your time. Channels, such as Digg, Facebook, and Twitter have millions of users every day. This provides you with a virtually unlimited audience to promote to. It is a powerful and economical tool for increasing your business.
The benefits of social media marketing are measured in terms of what it can do for your business. A huge advantage is that it provides you with links to your website. This helps increase both primary and secondary traffic, which in turn improves your search engine ranking. Increased traffic leads to greater popularity, which leads to more sales.
Why is social media such a well-liked platform? The principle behind this is simple. Consumers are influenced by the purchasing decisions of their peers. The more “friends” you have on your page, the more that you boost your influence over buying decisions. IModerate Research Technologies (http://www.imoderate.com/) did a study about this and found that consumers are much more likely to buy from brands that they follow on these sites.
Now that you understand what it is and why you should do it, let’s talk about how you should promote a small business using social media. The primary goal is to market your brand, advertise your specials and deals, and to build a solid reputation. If that seems like a tall order, it is. However, it is probably easier than you think.
Promote Your Brand- An advantage to the social media platform is that it makes your small business approachable. Stay in touch with your followers and encourage them to comment on posts. Share important facts, tips, and advice that your customers will relate to.
Advertise- Posting your deals and sales is effective, especially if you include a short informational blurb or link to the product or service you want to sell. You should consider offering coupons that are exclusive to your social media followers to reward them.
Build your Reputation- By demonstrating your knowledge about your product or service, you establish yourself as an expert. This builds credibility in the eyes of your followers. Postings should be informational in nature, and along the lines of helping the consumer solve a problem.
Social media allows you to establish a personal relationship with your customer. When you write, be authentic. Give them content that they will be interested in and use casual language. Never educate them just about what you are selling- outline a story so that you are showing them how it benefits them.
Comment on your followers pages. You may want to lurk for a few day to be sure that you understand what they are talking about, and then offer valuable information. Above all, be responsive to questions and contributions. Check out DollarDays in Facebook.
December 13, 2011 No Comments
Before anyone starts a small business, they must make a list of all goals they have and every way they can reach those goals. Making a long list of goals, concerns, finances, and more is the only way to start on the right track. Starting a business is all about paying attention to detail and researching every aspect of business. Also, many tips that business people should learn are available so they have a better chance at success.
Many entrepreneurs want to succeed so badly that they seek second opinions whenever they can. They decide to use the services of business consultants and research a certain professional’s licenses, experience, references, testimonials, and other details. Businesspeople also look into the consultant’s personality so the interaction will be easier. For some, a consultant that has a long line of diverse networks and can provide referrals is important.
With or without a business coach to lead the way, every prospective business owner must have a sensible and detailed sense of finances. There are a range of expenses that are related to business from investments to profits. Studying sales and revenues allows people to gain a better understanding of the potential earnings for a business in a specific amount of time. This detailed analysis will lead to an optimal outline of goals and budgets. A realistic overview of expenses will show how expensive business can be and how much steady investment is required to keep the business from sinking. It is a good idea for people to look over every level of financing every month. This is the best way to know where to spend and save.
The process of starting a business goes well beyond finances and into areas that are very different but still important. Web design companies are made for the benefit of businesses and provide a long list of services that vary from a simple page layout to complicated search engine optimization (SEO). Web design is a technical process that many businesspeople do not want to deal with, so they must hire web designers. At least, it is important to know the basics of web design for business. Some websites are designed to promote certain products or services and have a great deal of content and visually appealing, flash-based designs. There are ecommerce sites that are designed to sell products. Sites that have more to look at will be more expensive. Knowing what to include on every web page will lead to greater control and success.
Businesses should also know the type of advertising methods that are available for small businesses. One option is to choose advertising that is cost-effective and another is to choose advertising that is targeted to a specific audience. Businesses that serve a local market will want to focus mostly on local advertising that may include passing out flyers, putting up ads on the radio, and more. Another popular option nowadays is to advertise using social media sites. There are plenty of marketing methods that companies use every day to reach a target market or every consumer sector in the world.
Starting a business involves a good amount of risk and pressure. There are many business courses, consultants, and methods that are available to offer help to those who need it most. However, the most important tip is to take a tried-and-tested route and take risks only if the best judgment has been made.
December 2, 2011 No Comments
Keeping track of small business finances can be a daunting task. Come tax time, many small business owners feel overwhelmed by their business taxes. Many business owners enlist the help of certified public accountants to get their taxes done correctly. These professionals can be of immense help. Even if a small business owner selects to hire a CPA, there are still some general points that he or she needs to understand about business taxes.
It is important to realize that different business structures are taxed differently. Sole proprietorships, corporations, and various partnership structures each have their own particular rules and regulations. For example, partnership entities in the US do not directly pay income taxes. Instead, the income made by a partnership is taxed once it has been passed through to the owners. A traditional C corporation, on the other hand, does have to pay direct taxes on income. Additionally, the owners of said corporation are still taxed on their individual earnings from the business. In a very real sense then, business owners who keep a C corporation structure instead of choosing an S corporation structure are taxed twice, which is not usually the best situation for small businesses.
Since different structures can result in drastically different tax levels, entrepreneurs should think very carefully about which structure to pick when first setting up their businesses. Entrepreneurs should familiarize themselves with the basic taxation differences between each type of business organization. A qualified attorney or accountant can then advise business owners on their final decisions.
Smart business owners should become familiar with the required local, state, and federal tax filing schedules for their businesses. Depending on how much income a business is bringing in or paying out, withholding taxes or sales and use taxes might be due biweekly, monthly, or just once per quarter. Although accountants usually take care of these documents themselves or at least remind their clients when forms are due, it still makes good business sense for owners to have the general tax timelines in their minds.
Perhaps the most important tax tip for a small business is to keep meticulous records. Entrepreneurs should record every expense and keep copies of every receipt. Business owners should also develop a logical filing system for all of this information. There are many computer software packages available that help small businesses keep track of their finances. Such programs are also usually capable of automatically generating tax forms, which can save businesses time and money.
Setting up a dedicated business bank account is also highly advisable to avoid any potential tax issues. Personal and business finances should never be mixed. Although it might be more convenient to put this week’s groceries on the company credit card, such an action can severely complicate an organization’s record keeping. Mistakes on tax forms are much more likely to occur if it ever becomes unclear which expenses are business ones and which are personal ones. In the case of an audit, such confusion can be very detrimental.
November 24, 2011 No Comments
Opening and running a small business is an exciting new venture with many opportunities for those who are entrepreneurial or business-minded. Although it’s important for them to invest in the business, small business owners should also be careful how and where they spend. Start-up costs can add up fast and it may take a few months to start turning a profit. The savvy small business owner incorporates money-strategies into every area of the business, whenever possible. Doing so allows them to manage cash flow and cost in order to prevent financial problems from occurring early in the business.
Only Buy What You Need
Purchases and expenditures should be carefully planned. In order to grow, small businesses need to advertise and this can get costly. Instead of paying to have a commercial made and aired throughout the metropolitan area, small business owners can have signage made and posted for much less money. Office supplies are another area where small business owners can save money. Rather than buying a desktop computer for each employee, they should buy only the amount needed for the employees who truly require a computer to complete their work.
Owners of small businesses can benefit by shopping creatively. Retail office supply stores have to turn a profit, too. Business owners can save money by shopping at discount or outlet stores, as well as from auctions. Discount stores often carry discontinued products that are completely functional but have been replaced by the latest, greatest design. These types of shopping alternatives can save money by cutting costs or by getting small business owners a larger amount of product for the normal price.
Barter and Negotiate
Small businesses open all the time. By working together, small business owners can save each other money through bartering and negotiating. A small business that makes signage and another one that sells office supplies can barter to take care of business needs without adding cost. Additionally, the small business owner should always negotiate price when possible. Although retail chains aren’t likely to negotiate, there’s a lot of room for negotiation in auction-based business and with other small business owners.
Reuse and Recycle
When other businesses upgrade supplies and equipment, or go out of business, they usually liquidate in order to bring in some cash. Liquidation sales are an effective way for small business owners to obtain the supplies and equipment they need for their businesses without buying them brand new. These sales can be found in newspapers and are advertised on the businesses themselves.
Buy or Ship in Bulk
Bulk purchases save the small business owner money because the high number of items being purchased brings the total price down. Bulk rates can be taken advantage of for buying things such as office supplies or when shipping packages and mailing items to customers.
Business owners might not think that saving a few dollars here and there is a big deal. But over the course of the year, these savings can add up and have a positive impact on their bottom line.
November 21, 2011 No Comments
Small Business owners must consider the advantages of including video on their websites and posting them on YouTube and other forums. Videos are more compelling than simple type and draw viewers’ attention. Potential customers are 50 percent more likely to click on a video when perusing search results. If the video is informative or humorous and engages the viewer, they are much more likely to follow through by reading your content or clicking on a link to your website. That point is the first thing to consider when creating a video. The commercial must have a call to action. That action could be accessing a company’s website, filling out an online form for further information, or contacting a company directly. Successful videos always include a call to action on the part of viewers.
Videos either call for immediate action or encourage the desire for a particular product or service. Videos are more memorable than print alone, so viewers of videos are more likely to remember a particular company when they are ready to make a purchasing decision. There are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure that consumers discover a video. The video may not receive a cult following, but it may reach the necessary demographic and achieve its goals without necessarily going viral.
Clear resolution is a necessity. Video has evolved from the grainy out-of-focus offerings of years past. High definition videos make a good impression on viewers. Content is important, but first the video must be clear. Videos should be shot in wide screen HD quality with 16:9 aspect ratio. They should be posted in MP4 video format with H264 file compression. Keep videos very short unless the subject matter is particularly complex and technical and targeted to an audience that understands the discussion. How-to videos may also be a bit longer since they must include all necessary steps to complete the assembly or process being taught.
Videos are accessed by the same process as other online services through the use of keywords. The keywords should be included in the video if there is audio. These keywords must also be included in the title, in the first few descriptive words about the video and in the tags. Try to keep titles within 65 characters including spaces. Longer titles may be clipped in search results. The first 140 words of any video description are what searchers see, so these should be engaging enough to draw viewer interest. A 5000-word description is allowed and marketers should take advantage of the space to connect with important keywords, always remembering to refrain from the kind of keyword stuffing that can cause search engines to downgrade a listing in search results.
Captioning is another tool that can be employed to promote a video through clever use of keywords and descriptive tags. YouTube allows customers to create their own captions or will provide the service for video postings. As soon as a video is released, employ YouTube’s share option, so it is available on a company’s Facebook page. The video can be embedded in a blog, mentioned in tweets and generally promoted in any way possible to increase viewer traffic.
November 17, 2011 No Comments
Marc Joesph, founder of DollarDays Int. has a new article out on the International Business Times website.
Below is an excerpt from the article:
What has America gotten itself into? Just about every state and every city is cutting back funding to services needed by those who need it most.
In Chicago, the headline read “Temperatures Dropping. Will the State Restore Funding for Homeless Shelters?” It goes on to report that the 2012 budget was cut 52 percent for homeless prevention services. This cut is on top of the fact that more people were turned away from homeless shelters in Chicago last year than were taken in.
Read the full article HERE and make a comment!
November 16, 2011 No Comments
When you are getting your small business off the ground, there are several avenues that you should consider when doing your initial planning. You need to start out by sitting down and setting out a series of goals for your business, both long and short term. Ask yourself where you would like your business to be, who is interested in your product or service and how you plan to market your business.
One of your primary concerns will be with keeping your overhead, or business expenses, low. Supplies are one spot that can often eat into profits, so keep close track of them and use them wisely. One way to save money here is to recycle your file folders. When you need to change one, simply put a new tab over the old one and it can easily be used again. If you will be using a large amount of one particular item, consider buying in bulk. This often costs less than buying them in smaller packages.
Keeping close track of your business expenses is also important. Track your mileage for business trips, going to get supplies and related work activities. You need to keep a running tally of expenses for supplies, utilities and related costs. These can be used as deductions on your taxes at the end of the year. The easiest way to do this is to keep a vehicle expense record, which has organized slots to keep track of mileage and costs. This makes it simple to add things up at the end of the year.
If you plan to take your business online, you can save a lot of money on your overhead versus running a traditional type of store. Your primary cost with an online store will be with marketing, primarily in the use of advertisements that are displayed on other websites. Marketing online also involves activities such as blogging, making links and adding informational articles to your store. These activities help to keep customers informed about your business, any sales that you may be having and new products you may be featuring.
Your blogging efforts should start out small, beginning with a free membership on a blogging site. Updating it frequently with helpful tips, informational posts and hard hitting news will keep your customers in touch with your business. You will also get to know a lot about the types of services and products they are interested in, which helps you to target your business in the right direction.
Your business can also grow online by having a strong social presence on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. These sites are great places to get in touch with your customers and conduct market research. You can see what is exciting your section of the market and adjust your plan accordingly. By paying attention to your marketing, costs and plan, your small business will have a better chance of being successful and profitable.
November 14, 2011 No Comments