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Category — Small Business Advice

Methods to Save for your Small Business

Every penny counts for owners of small businesses. Saving money is a never-ending quest, because any savings can lead to growth by the company and even higher revenue. Owners can get more out of their small businesses by following these four practical-yet-effective tips.

Utilize Social Media
When most people think of social media as a marketing tool, they think of widespread viral campaigns. While a lot of viral campaigns have enjoyed nationwide or even global popularity, the truth is that a social media campaign doesn’t need to be huge. Small businesses can utilize social networks effectively, and they can even do it faster than most large companies.

Twitter is a great example of a way to quickly market through social media. On days where sales might be slow, business owners can offer a sale or other discount and then tweet about it. By retweeting form a personal account, the company will reach its followers and the owners friends. All it takes is a few followers retweeting a deal, and suddenly a short Twitter message will have generated a boost in revenues. Getting the word out locally is the goal.

Save on Office Supplies by Buying For the Long Term
Owners of small businesses tend to go day-by-day when business is sluggish, but this can backfire. The cost of minor expenses for a business, such as pens or paper towels, can add up quickly when they’re bought in small quantities on an infrequent basis. By joining a warehouse club or buying in bulk, owners can save a good deal of money. Since the supplies will be used eventually, there’s no real drawback associated with buying in bulk.

Owners Need to Know Margins
This is common sense, but the number of business owners who don’t know their costs is staggering. Margins fluctuate in every industry, they are rarely a static figure. Owners need to be aware of the margins on the products or services they’re selling so that they can adjust prices properly. Companies that aren’t paying close attention to their margins are companies that aren’t maximizing their revenues, and in some cases they’re also companies that are going out of business.

Contractors Are a Cheap Way to Get Online
A website is a critical component of a small business. Just giving customers a landing point to learn more about the company can lead to increased sales, and web hosting for small companies is more affordable than it’s ever been. Hiring a web designer is usually the cost that stops a lot of businesses from launching sites.

Fortunately, there are cheap ways to have a site designed. A large firm isn’t necessary to get a great website built. Small business owners can look to independent contractors in classified ads to get quality work. Another great option is to recruit from nearby college campuses. Students who have significant progress in their degree program can offer professional-grade results at a fraction of the cost of larger design companies.

February 21, 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.

February 10, 2012   No Comments

Small Business Web Design Mistakes To Avoid

1. Ensure That Grammar and Spelling Is Correct
Many small businesses believe that they should not concern themselves too much with spelling and grammar. The most important part, to them, is that word gets out about their products and services. No matter how passionate and professional they may be about what they do, it does not matter to the customer if they have poor spelling and grammar on their website. It is important to check every bit of writing for mistakes before it goes public.

2. Do Not Create a Confusing Layout
When a business wishes for people to get around their site with little problems, they should make sure that their layout is not confusing. If a person has to guess where a link is, the business is not doing a good job with their design. It should be very clear where everything is, and everything should work properly. It is never a good idea to try to be too creative; going for something artistic usually means that nothing is where it should be. People expect to navigate a website flawlessly.

3. Choose a Color Scheme That Makes Sense
Any and all colors used on the website should complement each other in some way. No matter how perfect the text on the website may be, it does not matter if the reader cannot make out anything. It is vital that people be able to read anything they come across, as otherwise they could miss out on important information. If they become frustrated a small business can suffer for it. It is not advisable, for example, to put yellow text on a black background, or green text on a red background. If the business is not sure about what to do, they should consult a professional.

4. Provide Contact Information in a Visible Place
Visitors may not go to a website simply because they wish to look at some text and images for awhile; they may also come to a small business website because they have a question. For this reason, the business should make sure that contact information is provided. The information should also be in an obvious and visible place, as otherwise people could become frustrated. If a business cannot communicate with their clients and customers, little can get done. The information should consist of a phone number, email address or both.

5. Do Not Use Large Images or Embed a Media Player
Not everybody has a fast Internet connection. While it may only take a few seconds for a picture to load for one person, another person may have to wait several minutes or longer. Because of this fact, a small business should make sure that everybody has a chance to load and enjoy the website. They should not use large images, and nothing should be too complicated. They should also avoid the use of a media player. Some people go online while they sit in class or ride the bus; should music or a video start playing without warning, the customer could become embarrassed and abandon the site.

February 3, 2012   No Comments

Settling Difficult Decisions for Your Small Business

Starting a small business is a big challenge and a big step. One of the first things you need to do is really get into a win/loss mindset. You can’t run a business based on your feelings, based on emotions, you have to run it on cold, hard logic. Maybe you’d like to hire your unemployed cousin, for instance, but if you don’t really have the budget for another employee then you don’t really have the budget for another employee.

Other decisions will be more difficult. For instance, if you see an opening in the market that will allow you to expand, you need to stop and consider whether or not expanding is actually worth it. At the end of the day maybe both choices are equally valid in their own way but you can only choose one. Here are three tips to making those decisions a little easier.

Someone Needs to Have Final Say

A beast with two heads will always be bickering with itself. Even if you’re running a business with your wife or husband or your twin brother, somebody needs to have final say and everyone else needs to be willing to go along with it if they want to stay with the business.

Obviously, a good leader will take into account suggestions made by their staff, but they need to have total authority over their business goals if they are to stay focused and driven towards those ends. It does no good to have three or four managers all with different visions for the company.

Writing a Pros and Cons List

When you sit down to settle a difficult decision such as whether to sell the company or whether to expand, it helps to write down a list of pros on one side and cons on the other. Keep at it and sooner or later you might come to the pro or con that settles everything and makes the whole decision a lot easier.

For instance, if your business has fallen on hard times, selling is an easy way out that frees you of debt and stress, and that alone is worth selling for. On the other hand, if it’s doing very well and the price you were offered is half what you think you could make in a year, then you might want to hold onto it. Many decisions become very easy once you lay out the facts.

Understanding Loss Avoidance and Instinctive, Gut Feelings

A lot of small business owners are afraid of losing what they’ve built. So afraid, in fact, that they never make any decisions that would improve their income or expand their business or see them becoming more successful. This instinct for loss avoidance is vital to survival, but detrimental to long term success. It’s important to understand that your trepidation about some things is not realistic or logical but an instinctive want to avoid any sort of loss whatsoever. Sometimes the safe choice is the smart choice, but understand that your intuition can be your downfall.

January 18, 2012   No Comments

Getting Your Business Online and Driving-Up Sales

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

Small Business Owners Must Look For Value in a Resume

To find good employees, many business owners rely on resumes to find employees. What exactly, though, should a business look for in a resume to separate good applicants from bad applicants?

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

Small Business Website Tips

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.

Google Places
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.

Local Searches
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

Chat your Way to Success: Social Media Marketing

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

The Many Parts That Make Up a Successful Small Business

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.

Business consultant
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.

Web Design
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

Small Business Tax Tips

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