Category — Small Business Advice
Small business owners are often simply people who have left unsatisfying career paths to fulfill their dreams of owning their own business. Owning and running a small business is a challenge that never seems to end, and it places many demands on the business owner. The first five years the business is open often determines whether the business will develop into a successful and stable company, or whether it will join millions of other unsuccessful small businesses and close its doors permanently.
Though many new small business owners are operating on a strict budget, it is imperative not to skimp on advertising. Getting the word spread about the opening of the business, as well as the products and services the business offers is important to the immediate success of the company. Advertising can be accomplished on a budget, thanks to the Internet. Internet advertising has leveled the field between large companies and small businesses by providing both with an affordable venue to reach out to millions of potential customers across the globe.
Creating a company website should be one of the first goals a business owner addresses. Website development and creation can be done on a budget and can help to inform local shoppers in the community of the small business, as well as to inform shoppers across the nation of the business. Website content for the business should be informative, creative, and should hold an element of intrigue that will encourage browsers to make a purchase. Offering new customer discounts and Internet ordering promotions will help to entice new customers to make a purchase and will encourage customer loyalty.
In addition to making advertising a priority, joining vending markets and festivals to offer free product samples and coupons will also help to increase awareness of the company in the local community of the business. When a business combines a great product or service with superior customer service and a willingness to work hard to spread awareness of the company, it becomes intriguing to the local community it is in. Word of mouth amongst consumers is the best possible type of advertising for a business.
When consumers try samples of a product and love it, they are often quick to tell their family and friends about the product and the business. This encourages others to try out the goods offered by the business. Providing gift baskets available for sale, as well as making gift cards and certificates a possible purchase will also be another helpful service small business owners can offer to the public.
Email newsletters and local mailers will increase interaction with customers and is an affordable way to inform the public about new sales and promotions that the business is running. Creating a social media page through Facebook and Twitter is also another great way to increase customer interaction and this will help to secure a relationship with potential customers in the community, as well as Internet customers.
November 2, 2011 1 Comment
Organization is an aspect of running a small business that often goes neglected. Some people do not naturally keep things organized; others do not have the proper tools to stay organized. Among entrepreneurs, very few have time devoted specifically to maintaining order.
However, organization is a vital aspect of running a small business. When people speak of organization, they often picture a desk, closet or storage area. But, there are multiple aspects of organization within a small business. First, the business must physically be organized. Second, it must electronically be organized. Becoming orderly in these key areas will increase productivity, use resources more efficiently and boost profits.
People often picture a desk or storage area when they think of organization, because these are the places where becoming organized begins. The physical organization of a business acts as the foundation for all other aspects of the business. Building a business upon a messy system of organization is like building an office on a pile of stones. The supporting structures must be strategically placed.
Depending upon the nature of business, the organization will vary. A doctor’s office will need quick access to patient files, whereas a warehouse distribution center will need to be able to ship large equipment. While the specific method of organization will vary, there are a couple of principles to keep in mind.
The system must be planned. The haphazard placement of items somewhere, whether they are papers or refrigerators, does not work. Rather, strategic planning is required. The most used items should be the most accessible. A few minutes spent planning will save many hours over the course of a year.
After a system is planned, it must be implemented and followed. Having an idea and not implementing it is useless, as many small business owners know. However, the more difficult aspect of organization is maintaining it. Running an orderly business is an ongoing effort. The Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to business as well as science. Essentially, it takes effort and energy to maintain order. Without work, order becomes disorganized. Whatever the organizational system is, people must put in the effort to follow it.
Electronic organization has become just as important as physical organization. The principles are the same when organizing electronic files as when putting physical objects in order. There must be a system, and it must be planned, and it must be followed.
The system for electronic storage is slightly different than for physical storage. With electronic files, there are many programs that organize the data already. The most generic of these is the file system that all operating systems have. These can hold folders and files, and they will sort them or search through them. Yet, many businesses can benefit from specially designed software. This will vary from industry to industry, but there is a program for every need.
Becoming organized is an important aspect of running a small business. This includes both physical and electronic organization.
October 27, 2011 No Comments
As a business owner, you may have heard the term “search engine optimization,” or SEO, thrown around, but you may be unsure as to what it is or why it’s important. Essentially, SEO is the process of helping your business’ web site to rank higher in search engine results. By ranking higher, you have a better chance of being found by potential customers, and thus, receiving more business. If you don’t know much about SEO, the process can seem complicated, but in reality, it’s fairly simple.
Think of your web ranking as a popularity contest. Search engines incorporate a number of factors to determine where your site ranks when someone searches for a keyword, and the more popular your site is, the higher up you will rank. However, it should be noted that this type of popularity doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it does. In fact, your site’s popularity is not determined by how many visitors it receives, but instead by how many links it has pointing to it.
Incoming links, sometimes referred to as backlinks, are one of the most important parts of SEO. By having many backlinks pointing to your site, search engines then view you as more popular. The key to using backlinks to your advantage is to link keywords. For example, if your site sells shoes and you’re located in New York City, you would want keywords such as “shoes New York City” or “New York City shoes” to be linked back to your site. This can be achieved by writing blog articles and then linking keywords, or having news stories link keywords back to your site.
Another important part of SEO is optimizing the metadata on your page. Metadata is data that is used specifically by search engine robots that index pages on the web. These robots take a snapshot of you business’ site, and then this snapshot is stored on a search engine’s server. This snapshot contains information such as page titles, page content, and descriptions of individual pages. You can use this to your advantage to rank higher by ensuring that all of your metadata is optimized to deliver the most accurate information about your business and your site. Using the above example again, you could title your pages, “XYZ Corp. – New York Shoes and More” and add a description to each page that says, “XYZ Corp. sells the finest shoes in New York.” When search engine robots index your pages, they will know that when someone searches for “shoes New York,” your site should be included in those results. When you combine your optimized metadata with the strategy of using backlinks, your site ranks higher.
If you’re unsure of how to properly optimize your site for search engines, you might consider hiring a professional to help. An SEO professional can evaluate your site, explain the process in details and then set to work optimizing your site to achieve a higher search engine ranking.
October 26, 2011 No Comments
Running a small business is a challenge no matter the industry or circumstances. Often, as a small business owner, you wear many hats, from Chief Financial Officer to Janitor and everything in between. One of the largest tasks you have is marketing your business. Marketing is different from sales, although they are related. Marketing is getting your company name and product out in front of potential customers and clients. Sales is when you actually close the deal and make the sale.
Hopefully, you are passionate about your business and your products or services. Take every opportunity to talk to others about what you do and your business. You might be surprised at how often you will pick up new business simply by talking about it to others.
Take advantage of any professional business organizations you belong to, including professional women’s associations, small business community organizations and any other local organizations that are related to your industry or might have potential customers as members
Networking does not mean you have to be pushy about talking about your business. It simply means that you are happy to talk about what you do and what services or products you offer. Your excitement and passion will shine through and will inspire others to be comfortable doing business with you in the future.
Another area of marketing that many small business owners are just beginning to discover is the power of social media outlets, like Twitter and Facebook. These social media outlets cost nothing to use and can direct a great deal of business your way simply by generating interest in your goods and services.
For example, if you have an ecommerce store or a traditional bricks and mortar store, you can send out Tweets a week in advance of a big sale you might be having. You can include a special discount code in the Tweet and all of your followers will be notified of the sale. They, in turn, may also send out the Tweet to their followers, which may result in more customers taking advantage of the sale.
Using social media can also be a boon to generating more internet traffic to your website. The more people that visit your website, the more you increase your opportunities to make sales. It also helps boost your search engine ranking.
Make Marketing a Priority
Although running a small business can be a daunting task at times, it can also be extremely rewarding. If you make marketing a priority, you will see a dramatic difference in your sales over the long term. Experts say that you should devote at least half of your time every day to marketing your business. This means that every activity that you engage in during that time period should be devoted to somehow generating new customers and increasing sales. Marketing includes a wide range of activities. Everything from writing new product descriptions on your website to giving a talk at your local Chamber of Commerce can be marketing activities. Think about the activities that you enjoy doing that promote your business and do at least one of them every day. Over the long run, you will see rewards in increased sales and new customers.
October 10, 2011 No Comments
There are numerous things that must be considered when creating a small business. At first, it can be very hard to keep track of all of the things that go into running a small business. Some of these can include small details that can be ironed out later one while others can be substantial and impact how the business itself is run. Any business owner wants to be sure that their money is being used in the most effective manner.
One of the first things that should be done is buying office items in bulk. Even if you do not plan on selling these items through your business, you will end up coming out on top if you simply pay for bulk office materials. While it may be more expensive in the beginning, office supplies are something that are continually used and need to be replenished. The truth is that business owners will end up spending more if they buy these products only when needed. Things like paper and pens are always in need, so take the extra step of buying them in bulk so that they are always there when needed.
There is one more way to protect a business and also save a substantial amount of money. Business insurance is a crucial component that many owners seem to forget. Even though monthly payments must be made, having basic insurance is absolutely necessary in order to protect the company as well as any assets. If any incident occurs on the property of the business, it can be held liable for the incident, and not having insurance can quickly lead to fees and expenses that cannot be paid instantly. Given the current position of the economy, many people are filing accident claims since they do not have insurance themselves and want to ensure they do not have to pay for any bills. Instead of taking a risk and not paying for insurance, make sure that every asset is covered and that no incidents will lead to financial stress.
Remember, advertising can be expensive, but at times it pays to take risks. If you are considering advertising your small business, do not be afraid to take some risks. While you may pay a little more for a different advertisement method, it will grab people’s attention and make them more interested in what the business does. In fact, it is much more likely that a business is simply passed by if it follows the common methods of advertising. Customers want to know which businesses are taking risks and which ones want their business. Again, while it may cost more in the beginning, original marketing tactics will bring in more revenue.
Lastly, advertising online can have outstanding results; however, it can also be quite costly due to the power and reach of the Internet. Consulting an Online Marketing Manager is suggested and then proceeding with caution is best
These tips are only a few ways that spending a little can end up saving a lot of money in the long run. It is crucial to look at the big picture and see how certain decisions can impact the business in the future so that the most money is saved.
October 6, 2011 No Comments
A lot of people are getting involved in online business for the first time, as they want to take advantage of all of the benefits of working from home. The majority of them will find the whole process is a lot more difficult than they thought it would be. The fact is that Internet business can be tough, especially if you lack experience in marketing. The following are some online marketing tips that each new marketer will benefit from:
A big mistake that is made by most beginning marketers is failing to educate themselves on how the Internet works and how the search engines come up with website rankings. If you are going to operate a successful online business, you have to understand what it will take to get a high search engine ranking. Researching how to use search engine optimization and targeted keywords is the only way that you can be sure that your site will show up quickly in a search.
As each strategy that is used in online marketing will require the business owner to keep track of many details, they should be careful not bite off more than they can actually chew. It is important that new marketers start out with just one or two strategies. Over time, the tasks involved will become easier as they become an expert. Once they feel comfortable with them, they can then add more strategies into the mix.
It is also important that the new marketer not rely on just one or two strategies to generate their website traffic. Most successful businesses utilize as many as five or six strategies at a time. Once the marketer becomes accustomed to the strategies, they have to be sure they utilize as many as possible, as it is the only thing that will successfully help them to build their business.
With traffic generation as the main goal, it is important that the business owner utilize a good tracking system in their business, as well. A tracking software program will report to the owner on which marketing strategies are generating the most traffic. Without utilizing this type of system in an online business, the new marketer may be expending their efforts on strategies that are not sending website visitors.
The new marketer has one opportunity to get off to a great start with their new business. If they do not understand the inner workings of the Internet, it can be very difficult to understand the ins and outs of online marketing. They have to study and apply in their business what they learn about the various strategies. Anything less than a full commitment to all of the tasks is only going to increase the new marketer’s risk of failure.
October 3, 2011 1 Comment
The National Retail Foundation conducted a survey last year that found Americans planned to spend almost $6 billion on Halloween. Does your small business have a plan to capture some of that revenue? You may think it is early to be talking about trick-or-treat with the kids barely back in school. However, you should order printed supplies or costumes now if you want to cash in on Halloween spending.
Halloween costumes are big business, with 40% of adults surveyed planning to dress up. If you want your employees to wear costumes, they will need plenty of notice so they have time to create and purchase their disguises.
If you sell costumes, look to the year’s hit movies and television shows to see what will be most popular. Of course, there are standards (vampires and witches) that never go out of style and will sell to last minute shoppers.
More and more Americans are celebrating the holiday with parties, and these celebrations have helped drive up Halloween spending. If your business sells hospitality items, food or drink, now is a great time to start planning displays or webpages that feature these items with a holiday theme. You can even promote glassware and punch bowls to be used throughout the holiday season.
Even if your business is not a retail store, Halloween themed decorations encourage festive feelings in your clients and employees. Consider decorating your business or website to encourage holiday spending in visitors.
Trick or Treat
There are two ways to cash in on trick or treat for your business.
1. If you have a bricks and mortar business, consider inviting trick-or-treaters to visit your location. If you can offer a safe, well-lit option, you will have a moment to talk to parents while tempting the kids with treats. If you are located in a plaza or business park, talk to other businesses and see if you can arrange a secure “neighborhood” for the kids that gives everyone a chance to promote their goods and services.
2. Include a business card or flyer with the goodies you hand out from your home. This will get your promotion into the homes of your neighbors. Consider a coupon or discount that only applies to your neighbors to foster goodwill and get people in your town talking about your business.
If you will be using Halloween-themed flyers or coupons in your holiday promotion, you should order them well in advance so you have everything on hand in time. Halloween items will look dated and serve no purpose on November 1, so plan to begin circulating printed goods early in October so you run through all your stock.
Think about a bounce back offer that brings customers back for Thanksgiving and Christmas promotions as well. The best Halloween events set in motion a chain of events that keep your brand foremost in the customers’ minds right through the first of the year.
Holidays encourage spending in consumers, and you should start now to be sure you should have a plan in place to cash in on Halloween spending.
September 19, 2011 No Comments
A five year plan for opening a small business or even a home based business is necessary for measuring growth. Time management and stress management is every bit as important to a business owner. Perhaps what should be discussed, however, is patience. Obtaining licensing, insurance coverage, payroll services, tax services and a myriad of other basic needs for a small business to open will take up quite some time. Buying stock or perfecting the service the small business owner or home based business owner will sell will take still more time. Once that is done, though, marketing the product or service and gaining a website and blog needs to be accomplished. All this takes time, so the small business owner or home based business owner will need patience to see it all through.
Buying your own stock until profits can be used to restock will be part of that five year plan. A website might not be a reality until profits can restock, pay for the business-related aspects like insurance and such. A small business loan might be handy for beginning a website, but repaying the loan might not be so handy until profits allow. Patience will be necessary until things fall into place.
Now that profits are enough to pay for everything business-related, a website can now be a reality. The webmaster will have to pay for a domain name, space on the web and a dozen other things. He will cover legalities, insurance and copyrights. This takes time, so patience will be needed until the site goes live. Before it does, however, the small business owner or the home based business owner will need to dig deep to discover what he wants the website to ultimately accomplish. Shall it be strictly business, such as wholesale items, or shall there be franchise information, or perhaps affiliate information. A blog is necessary, of course, but the owner will need to design a site using many facets to accomplish what he wants.
Now that the website is live, the business owner will need patience. There will be a couple hits each day, but no one is clicking through. After several months, there are more visitors to the site, with several clicking through. A small profit is being seen. The business owner will need patience while he writes smashing blogs and devises irresistible sales so the click-throughs increase. Finally, at long last, the profit is showing clearly and the business owner had the patience to wait until things unfolded naturally in their logical order.
It’s not something people discuss much, but patience is needed in almost every facet of life, but most especially is it needed in business. When people rush a conclusion, things almost always go wrong and someone is out of business. Taking it slowly and surely, one day at a time, that five year plan will pay off, because the small business owner understood the need for patience and the natural flow of things.
September 15, 2011 No Comments
If you want to earn more money from your online marketing efforts, try increasing the value of individual sales. Easier said than done you say? Perhaps, but there are many ways to encourage bigger purchases and increase your Internet sales revenue.
Offer Bigger Ticket Items
Do you know the amount of your average sale? Using that figure as a baseline, offer more expensive options. Just seeing big ticket prices will anchor the higher numbers in your prospect’s mind, driving up the amount of money he will be willing to spend.
For example, let’s say your average sale is $40. Make sure every customer sees a $100 offering in the course of visiting your homepage or completing a purchase. This will put prospects in a mood to spend more, and with bigger options available, makes it more likely you’ll sell these big ticket items.
Offer Volume Discounts
Usually it won’t cost you much more to process and ship multiples of the same item, so take advantage of every opportunity to present a volume discount and drive up the total value of an order.
If your customer is buying a box of pens, see if she will buy five boxes with a 15% discount. If she thinks that pink t-shirt is a great deal at $8, maybe she would like the blue and yellow ones too when you can combine them all for $20.
Extend Your Contracts
If you sell a product or service that customers use on a recurring basis, create long term contracts that lock in a great price for your customer. You have probably seen many of these contracts which offer a monthly price, a quarterly price, and a deeply discounted annual price.
Long term contracts paid up front can help you raise money fast for new endeavors. And they ensure you will have future volume that gives you leverage with your suppliers.
Just be sure that you aren’t promising what you cannot deliver. Be careful about locking yourself into low-profit pricing in markets where the pricing can change quickly.
Bundle Products and Services
Perhaps the best way to super size your sales revenue is to combine complementary purchases into bundles. Someone buying dog food may also need treats and flea collars. That new purse may coordinate well with a pair of shoes. Look at your stock and consider ways to bundle small purchases into a package that drives up the total purchase.
Making the sale is a challenge in any economy, but these days making the most of every sale seems more important than ever. Every little bit you can add to each transaction matters. Take a look at your website and see where you can apply these tips to increase your Internet sales revenue.
September 13, 2011 No Comments
How efficient is your business? What profits are you making? Chances are your cluttered business is cluttering (literally choking) your efficiency. Think your business is not cluttered? Think again. Review the 6 steps to de-cluttering your business below to see where you lie. Practice these tips ever-cutting down on unnecessary clutter and ever-increasing efficiency.
1) Rationalize. Think about what’s essential. Get rid of excess. Whatever form that may be: boxes; excessive calculators; a monitor tucked in the corner that no longer functions; or a milieu of pens that never work but were never thrown away. Get rid of it all. Cleanliness and precision is the key to efficiency.
2) Specialize. Think about the theme and decor that expresses who you are and helps you focus without being too gaudy. Toys area a clever expression of your playfulness, but too many toys on your desk will lead to a lack of focus. These “toys” will rob you of your most-precious time. Do you want time in playing or time on what matters most?
3) Organize. Go through your paper stack at the end of the day. Commit to it. Start your new day in a clean office. Too often we forget what paperwork was important when coming in the next day from a big project, why we have it, and where it came from. If you don’t immediately deal with it, you will forget why it was important to begin with. Get rid of old paperwork that you don’t need a file of. File away what you do need. Always, leave notes with details of all of your steps and why the information is important.
4) Visualize. Conveniently place furniture so that the office has a flow to it. Nothing gives you rest and relaxation (and thus, clarity of the mind) like an office that appeases the soul. A huge bookshelf stuffed end-to-end with books that you never read is not really resourceful. Get it out of there. Give yourself space to walk and space to think.
5) Prioritize. Think about what matters most and cut out that extra fat. Numerous hours of time are wasted on frivolous pursuits. Is that music really helping you work or do you find you’ve expended 5 key strokes per 5 lines of lyrics? Turn it off. Focus now and fully enjoy it later.
6) Materialize. Get rid of that chicken-scratched, scribbled, doodle-bearing piece of whatever paper you tore out of that stack of trash bearing your “to do” list. Get a wet-erase desk calendar with large boxes outlining each day to list down and properly layout your priorities. If you don’t prefer to get a wet-erase board, get one in which you can change your list of priorities easily and efficiently at a moment’s notice.
After you have committed completely and perfectly to these practices, say to yourself: “I will never clutter again.”
September 9, 2011 No Comments