Category Archives: Entrepreneur

How Should You Improve Your Web Presence in 2009?

globe-and-laptop.jpgStatic websites are out.  Make sure your website is interactive to keep visitors coming back.  Small businesses need to improve their online marketing efforts to ensure their websites meet visitors’ needs and expectations.

Add customer reviews, feedback and testimonials. If you are selling products online, provide customers the ability to provide product ratings and reviews. It enhances the user experience and gives prospective buyers the confidence to buy as well as leads to customer loyalty. So, if a customer was happy with their purchase from your online store, make sure you add feedback to your website.

E-newsletter: An e-newsletter is a must-have tool that makes it easy and cost effective to communicate with a mass audience. First, make sure you have a content rich e-newsletter. Make sure you are promoting it. Add an e-newsletter sign-up form to your home page and give visitors proper incentive to subscribe. If you don’t have a large email list yet, no worries. Add a forwarding feature to the newsletter so your subscribers can forward your newsletter to their friends, and colleagues.

RSS feeds: Forrester Research, in its “RSS 101 for Marketers” report, said, “RSS is a powerful tool  that marketers should test and deploy to proactively maintain relationships with their customers.”

RSS is a technology that enables users to “subscribe” to content from websites without providing an email address. When the content is updated, users automatically get notified and their “RSS Reader” pulls this content directly from the source. Since the content is pulled instead of “pushed”, marketers don’t have to worry about their message being caught in spam filters.

Have a blog on your website? Integrating multiple RSS feeds into your website allows visitors to read the content that’s most important to them.

SEO is making its way into marketing plans and budgets. By focusing on SEO, businesses have the potential to increase their position in search engines, increase traffic to their websites, and as a result, drive revenue. Begin your SEO efforts by ensuring that all of your web site content is optimized with the keywords your prospective customers will use to find you. Relevant content is the key to achieving higher rankings in search engines. Don’t know which key words are right for your business or how to begin optimizing your content. Use Wordtracker.

Consistent message throughout your web content: Websites need to be updated with new content regularly to keep customers coming back. Focus on message consistency. Make the message in your email campaign cohesive with the message on your website. All forms of communication including your website, e-newsletter, collateral and advertising should consistently deliver the same message in order to maximize the potential of your marketing efforts.

What Can Small Business Owners Learn From Obama

1. Leadership skills – he put together a great team for his campaign and motivated his people all the way. 

2. Never give up, believe in yourself, even if you have no reason to do so, polls did not always predict Obama as a winner.

3. Presentation skills – Obama is one of the most eloquent and self-confident speakers I have ever seen. Practice!

4. Social media marketing – get away from ads to building online communities, just like Obama did.

5. Viral marketing – get everyone talking and singing about you. Where are you now, Obama girl?

6. If you can’t get to young consumers otherwise, send them a text message or an email- speak their “love language”.

7. Go to gym and play some ball – relieve your stress, basketball plays big part in Obama’s life.

8. Buy some nice clothes and look sharp – I loved Obama’s suit on election night!

9. Supportive spouse or partner is always a blessing – keep your spouse and partner happy.  Have you noticed the smile on Michelle Obama’s face?

10. Humble beginnings don’t always mean humble lives – with hard work, passion and dedication small business owners can beat the odds, just like Obama did.

Father of Accounting

pacioli.jpgWell, bookkeeping can be inspiring…..Let’s talk about numbers before 2008 ends…

Henry Ford is often looked up to as the father of mass production; doctors have their Hippocrates, and philosophers have Plato. But who is the father of accounting?For a long time, accountants did not recognize the name of Luca Pacioli although about the same time Columbus was discovering America, Luca was writing the directions for double-entry bookkeeping. Pacioli was the first person to describe double-entry accounting, also known as the Venetian method. This new system was then state of the art, it revolutionized economy and business.  Pacioli’s directions became the most widely read mathematical work in all of Italy, and his work was one of the first books published on the Gutenberg press.

The fact that his book “Summa de Arithmetic, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita” was illustrated by Leonardo da Vinci, added needed credibility. (Where is Leonardo now when I am planning to write a book?)

Small Business Lessons Learned in 2008

1.    Not very profitable, but time – consuming demanding customers tend to refer prospects and customers who reflect their style and values.

2.    Customers who value you and what you do are the best referral sources.

3.    Set boundaries for your customers from the outset, tell them “This is how we work…”, otherwise they will create their own boundaries.

4.    Pay attention when your prospect complains about being treated badly by the rest of the world including partners, vendors, consultants and former customers – you may become the next entrepreneur they will complain about.      

 5.    If you are a coach or consultant, try to avoid customers who have never worked with a consultant, unless they show sure signs of their willingness to learn and implement new things.      

6.    Social networking is important, but prioritize – plan your activities and their frequency, otherwise social networking becomes a burden.       

7.    Get to know your associates, subcontractors and business partners before you commit to long-term projects – mavericks may be crucial to changing this world, but they may not always contribute to helping you achieve your goals.      

8.    Become a frequently improving, always up-to-date resource for other small business owners and your customers.      

9.    Reward your best customers, subcontractors and business partners.     

10.    If you are very driven, results oriented, nimble and forward looking – don’t take on customers who are not.I am sure that 2009 will be a year of re-evaluation, reinvention, recycling and repurposing as we all try to find smarter cost-effective ways of living and conducting business.  Will small business owners see a light in the end of a tunnel in 2009? 

Small Business Advice, Found at Barnes and Noble

differentiate.JPGOur family likes to hang out at Barnes and Noble.  I am happy my kids still prefer books to video games. Today we stopped at our favorite hangout again.  While my husband and kids enjoyed delicious hot chocolate and cookies, I checked out some business books I had not seen before, including Small Business Bible: Second Edition by Steven D. Strauss.

Marketing to small business owners differs from marketing to non-profit organizations, but here it was, black on white, the list of suggestions to keep in mind when dealing with small business owners:

Small business owners buy when the pains get too great to bear.

You have to put your product or services in front of the owner again and again – when the time of pain comes – you will be the one he/she remembers.

Small business owners don’t want to be bothered – so get down to business and benefits.

Small busineess owners don’t want to be sold, therefore your job is to educate them, without a heavy hand.  Lead them to the water – when they are ready, they will drink form your well.

Time and money are huge considerations – explain how your product and service saves time and money as well as makes your prospect’s life easier.

Small business owners dream of reducing the risk. Show them that your product or service carries little risk.

Small Business is Always In a Marketing Wheel

loop.jpgwheel.jpgI was recently asked to explain the concept of “marketing wheel”.  I had to stop and think.  For a moment, I thought of a steering wheel that helps entrepreneurs stay on course, but then remembered that there was no need to “reinvent the wheel”, there is a term like “marketing wheel”.  I prefer to call it a “marketing loop” instead as it seems to be a never-ending process.

First, discover and get to know your ideal customer and your marketing environment.

Secondly, customize your product or service to address your ideal customer’s needs without forgetting your marketing environment. Don’t forget to observe and learn from your competition!

Then you create marketing messages that grab attention, motivate and move your ideal prospects towards making a purchase. This phase can be longer than expected and some “fish” that take your bait need to be thrown back into the water…

Close the sale, but don’t stop there.  Customer service starts at this point. If you do it right, the initial sale may lead into repeat business and referrals.

Talk to your customers to find out what they need and want. Use your findings to improve your products and services as well as marketing messages.

Then do the same thing over and over…..Welcome to the Small Business Marketing Loop!

Dont’ become a victim of Wheel of Marketing Misfortune.

Improve Your Sales and Marketing Skills

In tough economic times, customers may be feeling more pain than you know. They want to feel better, and you can help. Show how your product or service can solve a problem or improve their bottom line.

* Making more money for yourself should not be your goal. Making yourself the best you can be is a better choice.

* Be happy even when you can’t get an appointment or close the sale. Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille, consultant to 50 of the top Fortune 100 companies, says rejection allows the game to continue. Send a gift to the one who turned you down and you will be remembered.

* Prepare. Know what your prospect will say and what your response will be. Study your prospects and their operation so you know the answers.

* Speak in a natural conversational way. If you memorize a script, you may come across as dull. Be prepared, and you will be able to improvise on the spot.

* Make a connection if there is an opportunity. Master small talk.

* Know that sales are not entirely based on the logic and intelligence of the prospect.

* Believe in the benefits your product or service will provide. Think of what the product or service will do and love it.

Best salespeople I know are all good communicators, they love people and know how to handle rejection.

Powered By Dell Laptop Perfect For Small Business

michael_dell.jpgI have owned several laptops – COMPAQ, HPs and couple of TOSHIBAs.  Although I have always admired Michael Dell’s entrepreneurial spirit, I considered Dell to be a brand for Cubicle Nation, corporate offices and call centers. So when I received an email with a message that I have won a DELL laptop, I did not know what to think.

A couple of weeks later I received my Dell Latitude™ E6400 Laptop Computer signed by Michael Dell.

Here are the full details of the configuration:
Intel® Core™ 2 Duo P8600 (2.4GHz) processor,
Windows Vista®  Business,
14.1″ WXGA+ LED Backlit display,
Integrated webcam,
120GB1 7200rpm HDD with Free Fall Sensor (actually upgraded to a 160GB1 7200 RPM HDD)
Nvidia 265MB Dedicated Graphics2,
Intel 5100 a/g/n wireless,
Backlit keyboard,
Dell Wireless 370 Bluetooth®
I have grown to really like my new system.  The battery lasts about 11 hours without recharging for me on days when I primarily write and do email, this is way more than I have experienced before. I have never had a laptop with a backlit keyboard, but now I am spoiled and would never consider one without.  My Dell definitely increases my productivity. Since I travel quite a bit, I prefer sturdy systems rather than thin, fragile computers – the Dell is just the right size and weight. The keyboard is nice and the webcam is a great bonus feature.

I would recommend this well performing system to any small business owner.

Tax Saving Tips for You and Your Small Business

tax-time.jpgThe last thing you want to think about right now is taxes. But by acting before the end of the year, you or your business could get some significant tax relief.

* Income and expense. The most fundamental steps include deferring income and accelerating deductible expenses. If you can delay taxable income until January 1 and pay for invoices and expenses not usually handled until the following month or 2, you will save on your income tax.

* Contributions. Year-end planning also involves maximizing contributions to qualified retirement plans such as a 401(k). They must be made before the end of each year. (IRAs have a later date.)

* Portfolio. If you have planned to sell your losers, do it before January 1. Losses in excess of gains can be used to offset up to $3,000 in ordinary income, or $1,500 for a married couple filing separately.

One tax break available in 2008 through 2010: Couples with incomes of $65,000 or less ($32,000 for singles) are exempt from capital gains tax. Example: If you are single and after deductions and exemptions have $22,000 in income from wages and interest, you would pay no tax on up to $10,550 in capital gains, which would bring your income to the $32,550 limit.

This break is very helpful for investments that have been held for some years while their value has risen.

* Gifts. You can transfer $12,000 per person as gifts and reduce your income by that amount. A couple can reduce their income by $24,000. (The person who receives it doesn’t have to pay income tax on the money.)

* Learning credits. People with adjusted gross incomes between $7,000 and $57,000 may be able to claim a lifetime learning credit of up to $2,000 for qualified education expenses paid for all of their students who are enrolled in eligible educational institutions.

Should Small Business Owners Call or Email Their Customers and Prospects?

Getting through the maze of choices on a big company’s phone system can be aggravating.  Sometimes you keep going in circles without an opportunity to  speak to a human being.

Small business people can have a problem handling phones during busy business hours, too. But, for small business owners, the initial telephone contact can be crucial to making a sale.

Customers and prospects usually don’t call to chat. They want information and they want it now. They want to speak with someone who can help them.  If the person who “just answers the phone” is the lowest-paid, least knowledgeable person in the building, customers can get frustrated.

One idea for small businesses: Put your best people on the phone and if necessary, share the duty. If that is impossible, then the receptionist should know the company terrain and staff and should not seem rushed or upset on the phone.

I often find it to be more effient to communicate with customers via email. Will email and Twitter replace phone calls in the future? Is Microblogging the future of communications?