Category — Small Business Advice
As a small business owner, you’re no doubt acquainted with the marketing principle of using a “loss leader” to draw additional potential customers to your business. Companies have continued to use this strategy of offering a free or extremely discounted item in order to entice shoppers, who will hopefully continue shopping at your establishment or on your website. The resulting increase in sales will, in most cases, not only make up for the “loss” you took on the initial offer, but also gain new customers and the potential for future sales.
This principle can be easily applied to online marketing and used to build a base of loyal customers for your website. Some initial effort will be required to set the campaign in motion, but the results will be well worth it.
For our purposes, we are going to apply the loss leader strategy to help you build or increase your email list.
You may have heard the often repeated Internet marketing chant, “The money is in the list.” That’s true because email can be one of your best marketing tools, but only if you have a substantial amount of subscribers. (What that amount is will depend on your own business goals and how many online customers per month you need to be successful.) And the best way to gain a quality list of subscribers is not by purchasing one, but by building it via your own website and social media marketing sites like Facebook and Twitter.
First you will need to decide what your offer will be. Free ebooks relevant to your market are very popular. If your industry is one in which potential customers typically do research before making a purchase, create an ebook (even a relatively brief one) or white paper with useful tips and information to help them make their decision. You can easily outsource this work by searching for qualified writers on sites like Elance.
If your product or service is relatively simple, you can offer a free trial or discount coupon to introduce them to your company. Set it up so that once they’ve opted in to your email newsletter and confirmed their email address, they will instantly receive the download link or coupon code. Welcome them to your newsletter and remind them to check their in-box weekly (or however often you plan to send emails) for future discounts and/or valuable tips.
Once you have built your list, keep your subscribers interested. Make sure your headlines catch the reader’s attention and make them want to open your email. And always provide something of value within.
Continue to engage with your customers through occasional surveys. Just remember to keep it brief and offer a coupon or other reward for participating. Your surveys will help you get to know your customers and better meet the needs of your target market.
Successful email marketing does take some time and effort, but it can also prove to be one of your company’s best marketing tools.
February 16, 2011 No Comments
Launching a new business entails comprehensive planning, unwavering ambition and implementing appropriate financial strategies. With determination and persistence, the aspiring entrepreneur will certainly succeed, however; maintaining and managing the small business can be a daunting task. Many small businesses, especially new businesses, will encounter monetary difficulties such as inadequate working capital and inability to pay vendors. A steady cash flow and obtainable funding is imperative to keep a business afloat and ensure its continuous growth. There are many financing options available for the small business when additional funding is essential. Since most small businesses will experience complications when trying to obtain funding through the conventional bank loan, many will opt for alternative funding options such as the Merchant Cash Advance, Invoice Discounting and Accounts Receivable Factoring.
In contrast to the traditional bank loan, alternate funding is generally an uncomplicated and effortless process. Whereas a bank loan approval will only be given for a business with superior credit history and prior lending experience, alternate funding providers will base their approval on other applicable factors. Authorization is provided promptly, which is imperative when immediate funding is necessary for the business to succeed.
Merchant Cash Advance
The Merchant Cash Advance Company will supply the firm with a one time loan to invest in the business. In return, the business authorizes the MCA company to withhold an agreed upon percentage amount of future credit card and/or debit card sales directly from the processor. Once the loan’s obligation is met, the automatic monthly retrievals cease. Small businesses benefit from the process of reimbursement as the payments go according to the business flow. If the business is advancing and sales are increasing, the retrieval rate will be expedited. If business is rather slack and there is a decline in sales, the rate of return will take longer. This flexibility gives the business the ability to focus on fortifying and improving, as opposed to being occupied with the demands of repaying a loan.
Accounts Receivable Factoring
Accounts Receivable Factoring enables the small business to obtain immediate cash to stabilize and further invest. The factoring provider will purchase the outstanding invoices from the business at a discounted rate, by this means taking full responsibility of payment collections. The business, in exchange, will acquire instant funds to increase its cash flow and facilitate expansion. The business will also be benefiting of having less time spent on accounts receivable handling and more effort put towards the firm’s development and growth.
The Invoice Discounting Facility will lend the business funds against issued invoices awaiting payment. This option bridges the gap of when the invoices are initially issued and when payment is actually received. Unlike the factoring option, where the business will relinquish its accountability of payment collections, invoice discounting will allow the business to maintain constant interaction with clients and strengthen customer relations.
Many businesses rely on alternative funding options when financial assistance is crucial, especially during tough economic times. The accessibility and convenience of acquiring funds to increase its working capital and pursue new venues, motivates the small business to choose alternative funding when short-term loans are essential.
February 1, 2011 1 Comment
Establishing a web presence is a vitally important marketing tool for most businesses, but it’s just the first step. Potential customers have to be able to find your site. That’s where SEO (Search Engine Optimization) comes into play. SEO is the process of giving search engines the right type of information to help them rank your site above the others jockeying for the top spot. These tips will give you a head start in becoming a strong contender.
SEO is based on keywords, the terms an individual enters into a search box when looking for information. So you’ll need to create a list of keywords or phrases that someone might use to find the services or products your business promotes. Be as specific as possible and keep in mind that you will need a separate set of keywords for every page in your website. It can be helpful to check out the sites of competitors who rank highly with the search engines and learn what keywords they use.
When you register a domain name for your business, consider including the most important keyword or phrase in the name. Selecting unique widgets.com is more likely to bring you targeted traffic than xyzmanufacturing.com. However, if people will look for your business by name, use it in the domain.
Page titles should also include keywords. If you already have a domain name that doesn’t include your key phrases, don’t despair. Descriptive, keyword-rich page titles can give any domain a boost. Your main page will display only your domain, but select meaningful titles for each subpage. Instead of www.yourbusiness.com/catalog.html, choose www.yourbusiness.com/buyblueitems.html.
Tucked away in the HTML code for any website are several more opportunities to add keywords. Visitors won’t see them, but the search engines will. Add key words to the alt tags for all images, making sure the entries are informative. The description and keyword metatags, while not carrying as much weight as they once did, provide additional spots for key phrases.
Content is arguably the most important component of any website. Great information is what visitors hope to find when they visit. So write content with your ideal customer in mind, but also write for the search engines. Include several instances of the relevant key phrases for each page and include them as headers and sub headers, as well. Don’t overdo it. Keep the flow natural and use keywords where they make sense within the flow.
If you plan to create your own site, it will all be up to you. But even if you hire a web designer, you should do your own keyword research. Then go a step further and provide your webmaster with optimized page titles, content, and image alt tags. While additional online marketing strategies may be needed to claim a first-page spot in the search results, a well optimized site is likely to reach that goal more quickly.
January 31, 2011 3 Comments
Small business owners spend a lot of time and effort looking for ways to cut corners and find ways to add a few dollars onto the profit margin. What they overlook is their most valuable assets: their employees. If employees aren’t happy working for you it really doesn’t matter how much money you’re making or how much work you’re generating. Disgruntled employees can sink the best of ships with waste, poor attitudes, and discourteous customer service. Though you can’t fix everyone, here are a few tips on how to make your good employees even better. After all, happy employees are what makes your business a success.
The first thing to remember when relating to your employees is that respect is a two-way street. If you expect someone who is working for you to respect you as the boss you’re going to have to give it back. Mutual respect invites your employees to be loyal to you as opposed to just giving the job lip service when you happen to be looking. Respect begins with how you view your employees. Each one is an important person, a valued part of your organization, and someone you never talk down to.
Ask anyone what he or she expects from the boss and the answer is almost always “be fair”. This means that everyone is treated the same, the rules apply to all employees equally, and favorite employees aren’t allowed to soak up the advantages of a good relationship with the boss through manipulation or dishonesty. Other employees may not say anything but rest assured, when the workplace isn’t fair and the rules don’t apply to everybody, they all know it. Fairness also means disciplining rules violations or even firing when appropriate.
The best wages and benefits packages possible are great motivators. Not all small businesses can pay well and even fewer can afford to provide insurance for health, dental, and vision. Employees know what you can afford to give them for an honest day’s work without seeing the books. They might not be on the dollar but it doesn’t take a genius to know when he’s only scraping by on what he takes home and the boss is off vacationing in Europe or living in a mansion. A big discrepancy between your benefits as the business owner and what you pay your employees is a sure-fire disaster waiting to happen. Pay as much as you can. You’ll be loved for it.
Everyone wants to know what’s going on. Trust your people enough to be honest about the financial status of the business and where the business is heading. Good employees will help make things happen that you want to see.
Last but not least, go the extra mile. Give an office party once in awhile. Touch base with the janitor to see what he or she might be needing. And it doesn’t hurt to smile.
The overall principle of employee/boss relationships is simple. Treat your employees the way you want to be treated.
January 25, 2011 No Comments
Too often businesses open their doors fully expecting a large customer base to suddenly appear. In reality, it is up to the business owner to draw the customers in. The key to growing and maintaining a profitable small business is developing an effective marketing plan, complete with the following components.
Product or Service Development and Design
Development and design includes deciding what products or services your business will provide, what purpose they will serve, and at what cost. Details such as product color, size and packaging are selected during this process. Development and design turns an idea into a reality.
Research the Competition
Find out how long your closest competitors have been in business, what products or services they offer and how much they charge for them. Learn your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses to help improve your advertising plan.
Research Your Target Customers
Knowing details about the customers you are trying to reach helps you create an effective advertising plan. Age, gender and location are common factors when determining your target customers.
Although there are many avenues available, generally the most valuable method of advertising is word of mouth. Ask your satisfied customers to share their experiences with their friends and family. Networking groups can also help increase your customer base. Many business owners will display your business cards or brochures at their location if you agree to place their materials at yours.
Another useful tool is your website. Several companies offer free or low cost sites with easy, do-it-yourself instructions. When preparing text for your website be mindful of search engine optimization, or SEO. Using commonly searched for keywords and creating links to and from your site are ways to become more visible to search engines. Be warned that designing a website can be a daunting task If you are unfamiliar with the proper website setup procedures, it might be advisable to consult a professional.
Printed material like newspapers, magazine and direct marketing materials can reach a larger audience. Other media such as radio and television also get your information out to the masses. Make sure your printed material is being sent to people in your target demographics.
Your brand is the image you want your customers to have of your business. Being known as faster, cheaper or friendlier than the competition are a few of the endless possibilities. Decide how you want your business to be perceived and then take the appropriate actions to make that perception a reality. Create a slogan or motto for your company to support your brand. Make sure your slogan is catchy, compact and easy to remember. A memorable slogan goes a long way toward reinforcing your brand.
Marketing strategies should be reviewed at regular intervals to assure your plan remains effective and keeps up with current market trends and services or product lines offered. Whether you are opening a new business or you have been in business for years, making a marketing plan can be both beneficial and financially rewarding.
January 24, 2011 No Comments
First, be sure to save as much money as possible before beginning a small business. A good plan is to save as much money as possible for this investment and also include your expenses for day to day living for at least a year. Once your business gets going, you will want to put back most of that money into your business so that you can pay for such things as operating space, advertising, insurance needs and equipment.
Then, begin your small business on a “small basis.” For instance, if you can work somewhere else and not have to rent a place, that will help. And, if you don’t need to hire employees right away, do what you can by yourself or with a family member or friend.
Another tip when considering a small business is to create a business plan. It is important to understand the need to know your profit numbers and creating a break-even analysis. A profit-an-loss forecast and a cash flow projection are also helpful. When you create a business plan you will also be able to project your start up costs and what marketing strategies you will need.
It is also vital to keep a competitive edge—knowing more than your competitors—and that can happen by creating a product that is difficult to duplicate, establishing your business in a great location, be effective in making and distributing your product, and giving excellent customer service. And, make sure to put all agreements in writing. It is also advised to seek legal counsel to ensure that your business begins and stays, in the up-and-up.
In addition, to keep your small business going and highly productive, hire good and competent people. A competent employee, who is motivated and positive, can be extremely valuable to your business. Of course, to hold on to such an employee, you will need to treat your employees fairly, professionally and with respect. It is a known fact that employees who are treated fairly and in a decent manner, will be more productive and attractive many more customers.
When it comes to advertising your small business keep your advertising focused on producing sales. Some successful businesses include offers in their advertising. And, when advertising, offer a lesser version of your product at a lower price. Many customers are not willing or unable to pay the asking price for a service or product. On the other hand, some customers are looking to buy a high quality product. Therefore, you can increase your revenue by also offering a more high quality, comprehensive product or service.
January 6, 2011 1 Comment
Dropship Tips: A Beginner’s Guide to SEO for Ecommerce
For those new to dropshipping, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and, in short, allows search engines to find a specific website. Keywords are essential for SEO, and it is recommended that good keywords that point directly to a product or type of product being sold be used in the title, URL, and 5-7% of the content of a retail site.
Google is modifying the way retailers appear on searches. In the past, retailers appeared based on relevance; however, Google is now taking into account customer reviews, with those businesses receiving negative reviews falling to the bottom of the list. Google claims that they will monitor reviews to be sure that authentic comments are being made. This should be a reminder to all e-retailers to place an emphasis on good customer service.
Online sales are up 12% from this time last year. This is most largely attributed to free shipping offers. There was a 20.8% increase on free shipping orders the last week of November from the same week in 2009. Retailers continue to have success offering free shipping as the average order with free shipping is 30% higher than an order that does not include free shipping.
In a survey asking consumers to consider fraud protection, product search availability, and a website’s ease of use, 30% stated that fraud protection is the most important attribute. The three sites consumers were to focus on included eBay, Overstock.com, and Zappos.com. 78% of those surveyed considered eBay to have the best fraud protection as well as the most attractive site layout and least amount of glitches.
Google Instant shows search results as the searcher is typing. Online retailers need to adapt SEO in order to be seen with this new search enhancement, and the following four suggestions are offered to assist with this adaptation. Make sure the website is up-to-date and will catch a viewer’s attention, include well-written meta-descriptions, write descriptive alt tags, and compose enticing header tags.
December 17, 2010 No Comments
Many small business owners are wondering how they can spread holiday cheer this year. As a business owner, you’ll need to choose activities that help you develop and maintain good interpersonal relationships with employees and business contacts. You’ll also want to use the holiday activities to help establish a positive public profile for your business. Moreover, you’ll want to project a professional image and use your resources wisely while you’re spreading Christmas cheer.
Here are some activities small business owners can easily use to spread holiday cheer:
- Invite various community groups of different belief systems to hold their holiday celebration events at your place of business. This promotes goodwill in several ways, while saving your own resources.
- “Adopt” someone: You can set up a donation campaign to help out a needy cause, local family, or local institute. Collect warm clothes, blankets, food, toys, or money throughout the days leading up to the holiday. Then either host a giveaway yourself or give the donations to specific charities to be distributed to the needy. However, if you collect food for the homeless, remember they have no way of cooking it. Most of all, remember to give out press releases before, during, and after the special events occur. This not only promotes your community image, it makes everyone involved feel extra special to see their names in print.
- Give away practical, yet inexpensive gifts to everyone: Combine promoting your business with gift giving. Give out nice pen sets and other practical promotional items that are engraved with the company’s logo. Make sure the gift is something that can be used all year round, or that may easily be shared with others. For employees and special business contacts, engrave the item with something that will have personal meaning to them instead of your company logo. This will make each feel special, yet not cost a small fortune.
- Cut decorating expenses by encouraging employees to decorate their own work spaces with items brought from home. Or increase your community goodwill by letting a local elementary school or your customers submit decorations for public display.
- Save time, fuel, and energy: Combine tasks as much as possible. Arrange errands so they are all in the same area. Do your shopping online whenever you can. While you’re online, send out e-greeting cards and holiday newsletters, to both, personal and business contacts. Be sure to include your seasonal sales information in those business holiday newsletters! You can also save resources by turning your office party into an employee potluck buffet.
These are just a few of the numerous ways you, as a small business owner, can spread holiday cheer. If you put your mind to it, you’ll probably come up with some creative ideas too. If you get stuck for ideas, then try polling your employees for their opinions. After all, no one knows better than you and your employees just what you are or are not willing to do to spread holiday cheer.
December 15, 2010 No Comments
The small business competes with some heavy hitters in the national mega stores. The personal touch, though, is lacking in the mega stores and here is where the small business can make Christmas a little merrier. By adding personal touches like small cards with Christmas figures and signed by the owner for each customer in their shopping bag or a Christmasy gift like a candle or a scented sachet, the small business can create a memory that will bring their customers back for more.
The mega stores have professional decorators "do" their stores for the holidays or they buy great amounts of stock decorations and keep them in the stockroom all year. It looks professional and is geared toward leading the customer’s eye to large ticket items. Decorations like these have no warmth, though, and seem ordinary to most people. The small business owner can’t match that but in that lies his strength. Decorations are decorations no matter how you arrange them but the personal touch is where the small business owner can create a market that will return throughout the year. Handmade garlands made of a few items sold in the business make a unique Christmas tree decoration and endears the customer to the imaginative decorator. This would work well with tiny cupcakes in a bakery, for example, or in a handicrafts shop.
Every small business owner makes an effort to learn his customers’ names. Asking about the customer’s baby’s cold or his wife’s sister in Seattle lets the customer know he’s not just another ch-ching on the cash register. At Christmas this can stand the owner in good stead when he decorates. Bells cut out of construction paper and outlined along the edges with customers’ names and hung throughout the store gives everyone a sense of belonging sadly needed in these days. Personal notes on personal stationery concerning upcoming sales mailed to customers instead of a cold email no one pays attention to anyway go far toward creating or retaining a market long after the holidays have passed.
Christmas is about more than just Santa madly dancing with Mrs. Claus in the window. It’s about more than just the lights. It’s about how the lights make you feel when you look at them in the store. If the lights showcase a nativity scene, for example, that creates a hush and a feeling of awe. If the lights form angels they make people look around them to find the angels dressed up as humans. If the lights form a sleigh, people think of playing in the snow with their children and they resolve to go home and throw a snowball at their kids. So lighten up, dude!
The small business owner has an opportunity to create here and reach out personally and that is one thing mega stores don’t do. In a world where technology rules and digital is king, the personal touch is slowly coming back through people who care about other people and light up their lives.
December 7, 2010 No Comments
If you’re looking to tighten up this holiday season and save a little money on your holiday greetings without skimping on style then we’ve got a few tips for you. The holiday season is also a busy time for every business and you want to make sure that you work as efficiently but cheaply while maintaining the high quality appearance of your business. Our gift for you this holiday season is a list of three things you can do to save money over the holidays.
Every business has a list of emails these days and you can send an email for free instead of paying for postage through US mail. You can knock up a stylish email greeting card or even use one of the greeting card websites to make your own stylish greeting card with your companies name on it. One big advantage to online cards is you can use them to link to your website as well, something you can’t do with a traditional greeting card. You can also use it to promote any holiday specials and get a more direct return on your investment than you can with a traditional holiday greeting card.
Buy Cards in Bulk
Get some bulk business cards to help get your business started right. If you have connections in the local business industry you might also be able to find some cards from a local printer who is overstocked. Talk to some friends in the local business community and see what they have on offer and you might find a cheap gem. If you can’t find someone to help you out with some overstock cards then take the time to figure out how many cards you need in advance and then buy them all in one go and get the largest bulk discount you can. Here’s a bonus tip for next year too – if you shop for holiday cards right after the holidays you can get some killer deals even at the big box stores. It’s the perfect way to stock up on some high-quality holiday cards for next year without breaking the bank.
Send a Generic Card
If you’re looking to save some time, and time is money, then you should be sending out generic cards to everyone except your biggest clients. While it would be nice to send out something really personal to all of your clients from the year, keep your personal cards to those people who really kept you going and shoot a generic one out to the rest. You have better things to do with your time than write hundreds of different messages in cards. So that’s a few things that will help you save money over the holiday season. If you’re still looking for more ways to cut back then you can try offering employees a little more holiday vacation time, or shutting down for an extra day or so over the holiday. The holiday season is always going to be expensive on the personal side but with a little imagination it can be a lot less expensive on the business side.
December 6, 2010 No Comments