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Category — Small Business Advice

Cashing in on Halloween Spending

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
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.

Halloween Decor
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.

Printed goods
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

No Doubt Things Are Unfolding As They Should

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.

Getting Started
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.

The Middle
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.

The End
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

Super Size Your Internet Sales Revenue

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

What’s Your Efficiency Quota?

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

May No Soldier Go Unloved

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?

Head over to The Huffington Post to read the entire article.

September 2, 2011   No Comments

5 Quirks About Selling And Storing Wholesale Goods

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

6 Reasons Your Small Business Needs a Blog

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 for Small Business Success

Small Business Email MarketingEmail 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:

* E-books
* White Papers
* E-courses
* Podcasts
* Webinars

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

Small Business Websites: Owning Your Online Real Estate

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

5 Things Business Owners Should Be Buying, But Aren’t

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.

#1. Toiletries

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!

#3. Electronics

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.

#4. Food/Beverage

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.

#5. Hardware

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