Category — Small Business Advice
Marc Joseph, Author; CEO/President and Founder, DollarDays International, Inc has created a new article for The Huffington Post.
This is the slogan used by the non-profit, volunteer-led organization Soldiers Angels that has been assisting families of veterans and veterans deployed, wounded and moving back into society. These volunteers are mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of soldiers, as well as regular Americans who know the sacrifices our military makes to keep all of us safe.
For most Americans, we really are not affected by the sacrifices our military makes for their country, and as important, the sacrifices their families make. Sure when we see them in uniform at the airport, we feel proud, but then the moment passes as we move on with our lives.
Military.com reported earlier this month that 12.4 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets are unemployed, 3 percent higher than the national average. CBS MoneyWatch.com reported that vets’ unemployment in Michigan is at 29.4 percent, in Indiana at 23.6 percent and in Minnesota at 22.9 percent. Why is this not headlining news?
September 2, 2011 No Comments
A wholesaler is a company that acts as a go between between businesses and customers. In recent years, some companies have chosen to act as a wholesaler in a traditional retail setting. In other words, companies like BJ’s and Sam’s Club combine a wholesale warehouse within a conventional retail space. The process might seem straightforward, but it still has its quirks.
1: The Gallon Size Apparently Is Too Small
Unless you happen to be Undercover Brother, you probably won’t be eating enough mayo to justify buying it in tub size. People assume that just because you are getting a cheaper price per unit that you are getting the best value. However, if you don’t use the product, you are not getting a deal at all. Keep the wholesale purchases to tube socks and hope the grocery store hasn’t run out of mayo.
2: Some People Don’t Understand That A Wholesaler Is A Warehouse
Yes, and this means that there is nothing in the back room. If you go to a wholesale store and ask an employee if they have more ketchup in the back, you are doing something wrong. As Bill Engvall would say, “Here’s your sign.” There is a reason why the product goes straight from a truck to the sales floor. It is for your convenience and to make the employee’s life as easy as possible.
3: Novelty Items Are Overrated
Sure, nothing is cooler than having that light up pen, or the gun that unrolls a sheet of paper with the word BANG on it. The funny thing about novelty wholesaling is that there is actually a market for it. Google “Funny Novelty Items” and you will end up with thousands of hits. On second thought, have you ever used a Bongo Flasher? Those things are fun.
4. Marketing Can Sell Anything
Why is there such a novelty market? Good PR and advertising. A Silly Band wasn’t just a piece of rubber, it was a dinosaur shaped piece of rubber! A pet rock wasn’t just any rock, it was a rock that kept you company and was almost as good as a dog. Ten dollars for a rock may seem like a lot, but at least it doesn’t need trips to the vet.
5. You Need To Bring Friends To Buy From A Wholesaler
You can’t buy from a wholesaler if it is just you. It is the law in all 50 United States. To buy goods from a wholesaler you have to have 39 kids, or be attempting to set a Guiness World Record for most rolls of paper towels bought in one package. Hopefully you have given up trying to find a normal size jar of mayo by now.
September 1, 2011 No Comments
If you are trying to make it in the current economy, then you understand the importance of online marketing. A blog is one of the best ways to build visibility for your website. Here are six reasons your small business needs a blog.
1. Blogging Is Good for Search Engine Optimization
When you write about your business in blog posts, you will use common keywords and phrases. The search engines will see these keywords and send searchers to your site. The more posts you have, the more chances you have that the search engines will show one of your posts to a searcher using your business keywords.
2. A Business Blog Tells Your Story
People respond well to stories, and in your blog you will be able to tell the story of your business. Over time, readers will see how your business has grown and how you have responded to the challenges you face. Long time readers will become invested in your success and will find it hard to imagine doing business with anyone but you.
3. Your Blog Shows You Are an Expert
As you write about your customers’ challenges, you will be showing readers that you are an expert in your field. Readers will turn to you when they have questions because they trust you to give good answers. You can then use those answers to write new blog posts that continue the cycle.
4. You Can Test New Ideas on Your Business Blog
Sometimes businesses have great ideas, but after they spend the money on development and they bring new products or services to market, their customers fail to respond as these companies expected. On your business blog you can test your ideas to see if what you are considering will actually appeal to your customers. You will save a lot of money when you take the time to learn in advance what your readers think will be a hit. Sometimes, the feedback you receive will make your good idea even better.
5. Blogging Creates Interest
Of course, when you have a great idea, your blog will help you get the word out and make your customers hungry to buy. Because they will have had a part in advising you, these customers will be eager to become your advance promoters.
6. Blogs Make It Easy to Add Fresh Content
Content is king on the Internet, but not everyone has the coding skills to create a website from scratch. Fortunately, with a blog on your site that has a visual editor, you can add new posts as easily as writing a letter in a word processor. Even if you only add one post each week, at the end of the year your site will have 52 pages of content that keeps your website fresh and searchable.
Every small business needs a blog to compete in this economy because blogs increase online visibility while communicating with customers. Plus, once published, each post remains a permanent advertisement for you and your business.
August 31, 2011 No Comments
Email marketing remains one of the strongest ways to ensure small business success. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 92% of online Americans use email, with 61% checking their email every day. If you can build a strong email list, you will have an audience you can market to for years to come.
Email Success Versus Spam
One thing every email list struggles with is the perception of spam. You can overcome this perception by controlling your list with an opt-in requirement. By using an auto-responder, you can ensure that every subscriber has chosen your list and confirmed his subscription. In addition, every email received will contain a simple unsubscribe link.
Once subscribers sign up to your list, you should monitor your unsubscribes to get a feel for when your emails are too frequent or promotional for the taste of the audience. If you overdo the promotion, some people will mark you as spam rather than merely unsubscribing.
How to Get People to Opt In
You can encourage email sign ups by offering a freebie that entices prospects to give up their email address and take a chance on letting you into their inbox’s. Popular freebies include:
* White Papers
Once you have a desirable gift to offer, a good sales page will ensure the highest conversion rate. Also known as a squeeze page, this page emphasizes the benefits of your offering and overcomes any objections to subscribing. You will not want to lose interested prospects to poor sales copy, so this page deserves the best copywriting you can afford.
Keeping Your Email List Active
Look for ways to offer good information on a periodic basis to your subscribers. This will:
* Overcome their perception of your emails as spam;
* Increase the chance that they will open your emails;
* Keep them aware of your brand.
One thing you should not do is let your list go quiet for several months and then suddenly spring a bunch of promotional emails on the list. This can do more harm than good if people have forgotten your brand and think you are spam.
Useful Email Information
If you want to keep them reading your emails, offer information that helps them succeed. Of course, the best information sells your products while helping them succeed. You might give them tips about:
* Seasonal activity (gathering info for taxes);
* Maintenance schedules (how often they should rotate tires);
* Troubleshooting common problems.
Any information you can provide that benefits the reader will raise the value of the emails in the minds of subscribers, and you can always include a promotional message at the bottom of the email.
Rinse and Repeat
Once you have a list of email subscribers and have found the mix of information and promotion that works for your list, you will have a money machine you can keep reusing. Email marketing costs very little more whether you send to 10 or 10,000 subscribers, so your costs actually go down while your revenues increase.
August 29, 2011 No Comments
When your business is small, you look for ways to manage costs. Some small business owners settle for website solutions that have them renting space on someone else’s domain. Even when the space offered is free, you should proceed with caution. Your long-term business plan should involve a domain you own for the following reasons.
#1 – No Shortcuts
It can take up to a year for a small business website to gain traction with the search engines and routinely rank for competitive keywords. You cannot abbreviate this process by building a site on someone else’s domain. You may see traffic on their site to your space, but at some point when you decide to make the switch you will be starting from day one on your domain. All the content and referrals you have already amassed on another’s domain cannot transfer to the new site and grow your influence any faster.
#2 – Terms of Service Change
If you read the terms of service for a site that offers free or low cost hosting (like an online storefront, for example) you will see that the provider has reserved the right to change their rules without notice. It’s their way or the highway, a daunting proposition once you have come to rely on their traffic or have built up significant content on their domain.
#3 – Landlords Control the Pricing
You may sign up for a great deal today, but what prevents your landlords from changing their pricing at a later date? Nothing really, according to the terms of service. Maybe you can lock in a low price by buying years in advance, but still you risk a day when the old terms or pricing no longer apply. At that point, the more deeply invested you are in their site, the harder and more expensive it will be to extract yourself and start over.
#4 – Landlords Control the Content
YouTube famously cancelled the account of Problogger, Darrin Rowse, when they decided they didn’t want to carry video content in the “make money online” niche anymore. While you may agree that much of the content in this category was useless or misleading, the thing is, one day this content met YouTubes standards, the next it did not. Online landlords have the right to make these reversals at will.
#5 – Landlords Sell Out
Finally, websites and platforms change hands all the time. New landlords bring new rules and new pricing. These new stakeholders have no loyalty to long-term customers or co-creators, which makes them even more likely to exercise their rights to change policy at will.
Your best defense against the changing whims of online landlords is an offense that includes a domain you own with website content you control. You will start gaining credibility with the search engines from day one, and over time, your online real estate will increase in value. Use free or low cost sites to help send traffic to your site, but do not put all your eggs in one of their baskets.
August 24, 2011 No Comments
This post was written by guest blogger Michael Dolen.
You’ve probably heard the quote “take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves”. This especially holds true in business. Sometimes the difference between a failing business and one that’s wildly successful is just a few percentage points of profit. Walmart is an example of this, with a net profit margin of only 3.77%.
Obviously though, none of us have a Walmart-sized company. Not even close. However the lesson still holds true whether you are a one-member LLC (like I currently have) or a corporation with hundreds of employees. If you don’t seek out the absolute best deals on your inventory and supplies, even the slightest differences can add up to real money over time the difference between being in the red of not.
Are you buying enough online?
One simple way that just about any business can reduce their expenses is to buy online. Of course, the impact that will have on your bottom line will depend on your industry, but here are 5 examples to demonstrate how this approach is something all of us must consider.
Toilet papers, seat covers, paper towels; they’re not the most pleasant items to think about, but you should because you’re probably overpaying big time if you buy them from a brick and mortar store. Take these wholesale Health Gard seat covers. At the time of writing, DollarDays is selling them for only $78.87 per case (that’s 5,000 covers total) to Platinum Members. Compare that to the retail price of $219.80! Doctors’ offices, restaurants, and just about any business with a heavily-trafficked bathroom will save a lot of money here.
#2. Shipping/Packaging Supplies
Years ago I used to run an eBay business and as you can imagine, I was buying quite a bit of packing supplies (my Staple’s credit card bill each month was quite high!). Doing that was a big mistake, because I can buy envelopes, bubble wrap and more for only a fraction of the price online. Compare DollarDays wholesale envelopes to what the office supply stores charge and you will be amazed at the difference!
It may be 2011, but fax machines are still a vital accessory for many businesses. When I started my website for credit card reviews, I assumed a fax machine would never be needed since it was an online business. However the credit card companies I work with like Chase, American Express, and Discover often ask for the advertising agreements to be signed and faxed back. All those trips to Fedex Office where I had to pay $1-2 per page for faxes really added up. Eventually I caved in and bought a cheap fax machine, but after checking out the ones on DollarDays it looks like I could have gotten it a lot cheaper. As I write this there are good, name brand wholesale fax machines for less than a hundred bucks.
We all know how expensive coffee has gotten over the past couple years. If you provide free coffee to your employees, that increased cost really adds up. Of course, the solution is to not to do away with it, because that coffee can help invigorate employees (boosting productivity). A better solution would be to buy it online. Not only will you find it’s a lot cheaper than the stores, but you can also snag additional savings with the closeouts found in DollarDays wholesale coffee and tea section.
A good friend of mine is a property manager for a fairly large complex of 80 or so apartments. Whenever light bulbs, tools, etc. are needed, the higher-ups at corporate tell him to go to Home Depot and charge it to the business credit card they provided him. This is a huge waste of money considering that many of the same items can be bought online for much, much less. Check out the wholesale hardware section and you will see just how significant the savings can be.
Michael Dolen is the founder of Category Media LLC, which is the parent company of CreditCardForum.com. He started this forum/blog in 2008 as a place for consumers and business to ask questions and get answers. Speaking of credit cards, he uses the Chase Ink and AmEx Business Gold for his company, but stresses that there’s not a “one size fits all” answer when it comes credit cards.
August 18, 2011 No Comments
Marc Joseph, Author; CEO/President and Founder, DollarDays International, Inc. has created a new article on the Huffington Post. Below is a quick sample. Head over to the Huffington Post to read the full article.
I don’t need to rehash what has been going on in Washington. The moves that were made with the most recent agreements, we are told, were made to protect our children and their future. I am more worried about protecting our children of today to make sure we don’t have a lost generation gliding through our school system.
Where is our country’s moral standard when we read the article in the Huffington Post on August 8th “Schools Caught Cheating in Atlanta and Around the Country“? This is not our kids’ fault; it is our society’s fault. Where is Washington when the Wichita Kansas Eagle reports this week: “Board approves heavy budget cuts” and goes on to say they are doing away with librarians and stringed instrument classes; or when the Corsicana, Texas Daily Sun reports “Mildred cutting budget” and talks about the band not being able to go to football games?
August 17, 2011 No Comments
This post was written by guest blogger Michael Dolen.
Building credit for your small business can seem like the ultimate catch-22. You can’t get credit without first having a credit history. So what are supposed to do? Well, here are 5 strategies you can use to establish and build credit for your new LLC or corporation.
Strategy #1: Open a business bank account
While this in and of itself won’t build your credit, it is an important requirement for obtaining credit down the road. In order to apply for an unsecured business loan, typically you must have a bank account that has been open for 2+ years. However, if you demonstrate a strong history of deposits/cash flow into this account, then your bank may make an exception to the typical 2 year requirement.
Strategy #2: Obtain a secured loan
Even if your business has absolutely zero credit history, it still may be possible to get a loan. How so? By putting up your cash as collateral. For example, your bank may allow you to borrow $5k if you sign away a $5k CD for collateral. Since essentially you are borrowing your own money, obviously a loan secured by cash is useless for financing purposes. However what it does accomplish is kick-starting your credit history, now your business will have an installment loan on its record.
Strategy #3: Establish trade lines
Even with no credit history, it may be possible to obtain a trade line with some local suppliers, such as construction and lumber companies. These usually operate on a net-30 basis, which means your balance must be paid in full within 30 days. Because these are unsecured, the amount of credit you start out with will almost always be low. However if you use it responsibly over time, your credit limit should go up. The only drawback with trade lines is that in order to have these show up on your D&B credit profile, you may have to pay Dunn & Bradstreet for their “Credit Builder” program, unfortunately.
Strategy #4: Piggyback on your personal credit
In order to apply for a business credit card and get approved solely under your company’s credit, your business typically must have 2+ years of solid cash flow (with solid bookkeeping to back it up) and often the requirements are quite high; $2M to $5M annually. Obviously that’s an impossible feat for a new business! However you can apply for small business credit cards under your personal credit. If you do so, please note that AmEx business cards(as great as they are) will not be reported to your business credit file. However Chase and some other issuers will report, assuming you provide them with your business tax ID number.
Strategy #5: Keep Your Personal Credit In-Check
Even after you do all of the above, don’t be surprised if down the road a lender asks to see your personal credit when you apply for a loan (typically this goes for anyone owning 20% or more of the business). Some people feel this is not appropriate, but it makes common sense when you think about it, a person good at managing their own credit will probably be a lower risk in managing business credit, right? Depending on the size and type of loan, the lender may also ask you to co-sign for it under your personal credit. Conclusion? As a small business owner, having good personal credit can be very useful, both now and in the future.
Michael Dolen is a small business owner himself, the founder of Category Media, LLC, which is the parent company of CreditCardForum.com (a website which he built to offer the best credit card deals, or at least that’s what he strives for it to be). On the site he has a section featuring credit Q&Aís for small businesses.
August 12, 2011 No Comments
Many small businesses struggle with the idea of putting together a website. It might be for creative reasons, or perhaps they simply do not have the money to spend on something elaborate. However, no matter how big or small the budget, it is possible to create a good, working website.
1. Go with Less Storage
Some businesses, regardless of their reach and size, believe they should have as much space as possible from their website host, as far as digital storage goes. However, if the business does not believe their site will have a lot of pages, images and so on – at least right away – there is no point in paying for what will not be used. Going with something simpler can lead to saving money that can be used in more important and pressing areas. It can always be changed, so few people should feel stuck.
2. Hire Somebody Close To Design the Site
In order to have a nice site, it is not required that the business hire the most expensive web designer on the market. Just because they charge a lot for their services, that does not mean that their work is suitable or the best out there. Instead of paying more than what is necessary, it is acceptable to simply hire a person close to a member of the business. They may be willing to work for significantly less, either to get their name out there or simply earn a few dollars. However, they should be satisfactory at what they do, or else the site will look amateur.
3. Do Not Invest In Accessories and Services
There are business websites out there that claim a small business website cannot hope to succeed unless they hire them to consult, add features to pages, and so on. The people that run service sites are very good at convincing others of their skill and necessity. However, they tend to demand a high price for what could be easy enough for the small business to figure out alone. A smart small business should never spend money on unnecessary things, such as SEO consultation, even if the seller tries to make it out to be crucial.
Running a small business can feel overwhelming, especially if it deals with a certain county or state specifically. Putting together a website can help the business reach out to the rest of the world, spreading brand awareness and increasing sales. However, the business should keep in mind that they do not have to spend a lot of money in order to do so. By keeping the tips above in mind, it is possible to scale back on costs and focus on other things.
July 29, 2011 No Comments
It’s no longer satisfactory to simply have your business represented online by a lone website. In the age of social networking and quickly-spreading online trends, every business needs to be considering a presence on site like Twitter and Facebook. These websites present great opportunities for brand awareness, promotion and even hype. So, how is it done and what do you need to know before you experiment with social media?
As the worldwide leader in so called “microblogging,” Twitter is a must-have social networking account for any small business that is trying to reach out to a wider audience. That’s because the site allows these simple, 140-character messages to go viral simply by the act of “retweeting.” When someone retweets, your original message is displayed on their profile page. Their friends can then read your tweet and spread it themselves.
Twitter is an excellent way to promote things like sales or special offers. And if you’ve got a new product, Twitter offers a way to talk about it that is short, to the point, and draws attention. You can even do a series of tweets that focus on each unique aspect of a new or existing product, encouraging users to retweet if they agree.
Furthermore, Twitter encourages customer interaction with your brand. If they have a question about your business or product offerings, they can simply address it to you in a tweet. When you respond, they’ll feel as if they got the kind of personal attention that they deserve, and they’ll spread the world with a favorable tweet about your business. Twitter is increasingly the method of choice for small businesses that wish to reach a larger audience in an interactive and fun way.
Small business owners who desire a more robust set of communication tools need look no further than Facebook, which offers businesses the ability to create “pages” in its social networking ecosystem. The advantage to these business or fan pages, over traditional profile pages, is that they are uniquely and deeply customizable. Rather than have a simple list of sections like “wall” or “info” or “photos,” brands can set up product pages that detail their offerings. They can make a promotions page that lists their ongoing special deals. And just about any other type of page is relatively easy to construct.
Facebook also gives businesses more robust communication options. Each of these business pages comes standard with the Facebook “wall.” That means users can posts questions or comments, interact with business owners and employees, and engage with the product.
It also means that the Facebook page owner can post status updates that appear on everyone of their fans’ walls. Because these status updates have a much higher character limit than those on Twitter, the information can be more robust and include videos, photos, and links to your website or other places that relate to your offerings.
Social networking is an indispensable tool for small business owners that can help them grow their business and engage with their customers in exciting new ways. The massive popularity of these sites makes it nearly a requirement for a serious business to have a serious — but fun and engaging — online social media presence.
July 26, 2011 No Comments