Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Small Business Saturday is coming. Now, you may be saying, "Isn't EVERYday a small business day?" You'd be right as far as we're concerned. Once a year however, a major initiative seeks to drive traffic and action to small businesses in the US.

Kicked off by American Express, we applaud any and all efforts to bring focus to small business. November 26th is the day you are urged to "Shop Small." As a small business owner, we challenge you to take a look at your own purchasing patterns. Do you support your local merchants or do you gravitate to big box stores? Do you check out up and coming sites or head right to the online giants?

Check out Small Business Saturday for ways you can help your fellow entrepreneurs!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cloud Computing: Why You Should Be Do It recently ran an article regarding cloud based computing for small business. You may think of the cloud as just another tech trend, but the reality is that this emerging and evolving option can save you headaches, space, AND MONEY.

Here are the savings detailed in the post originally published 10/19/2011. Pretty impressive!

1. Save on Infrastructure

Rather than buying new servers, operating systems, and applications to provide IT services in-house, you simply pay a monthly fee to a cloud provider. Considering that the cost of a single server with OS and applications can be a couple of thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, this can be a huge benefit, especially if you want to test a new service before a full implementation.

2. Save on Setup and ManagementIf your IT staff is unfamiliar with a new OS or application, it can be a long, arduous process to implement a new function. Cloud providers have experienced administrators who do nothing but support specific applications. This is one of the reasons for the popularity of cloud-based ERP services--which are notoriously difficult to implement, both in getting hardware and software modules to work together and in configuring the software properly. Likewise, for third-party cloud providers with enough experienced staff, routine chores like monitoring, setting up new accounts, or applying patches are no problem.

3. Save on UtilitiesBecause cloud providers use large, modern data centers with green features and share infrastructure among multiple companies, their costs to run the small part of the center you're using is much smaller than your costs would be for a server that's likely under-utilized in your own data center.

4. Get Better Performance, More Features
Since cloud providers are providing services to many different companies, they buy large, high-performance systems that offer performance levels much higher than a small company can afford to run internally. They typically have the most capable versions of software and site licenses, so they'll also have access to features at much lower costs than you'd be able to get in-house. Their experienced administrators are more likely to know how to optimize performance than your company is--especially if your IT department consists of one person who also doubles as the art department.
5. Increased Company Agility
Cloud providers can add servers or services quickly and easily, and make them available not only to your internal corporate users but to external contractors, partners and customers as well. That means you can achieve degrees of flexibility that would be difficult or impossible internally, allowing you to respond more quickly to your customers' needs or changes in your core business.
6. Enjoy More Fault Tolerance
Cloud providers can afford to have multiple data centers, multiple Internet connections at each data center, as well as replication of data between data centers. Plus, they can offer levels of data protection far beyond simple nightly backups, such as continuous data protection, generators to handle power outages, and high-end servers that can keep running even one component fails.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Advertising - Head Lines and Tag Lines

Truly great brands are far more than just labels for products; they are symbols that encapsulate the desires of consumers; they are standards held aloft under which the masses congregate. - Tony O'Reilly (b. 1936), Irish entrepreneur.

Many people use boring or unappealing head or tag lines for their ads.

These unappealing head or tag lines do not communicate precise, immediate, and direct benefits. While some ads may seem "nice" or "catchy," some do not generate the response nor the business for which they were intended.

A head or tag line is not meant to advertise the business, the product, the service, or the sale (or event). It's meant to advertise the advertisement. It's the ad for the ad.

A head or tag line is meant to land the reader's attention. In essence, the true role of a head or tag line is to grab the reader's attention in order to keep them reading. Once they read the ad, then -- and only then -- interest should be developed.

Your head or tag line must be packed with benefits. Not only that, it must communicate direct, specific, and immediate benefits (i.e., the benefits of reading the ad in the first place). Here are 2 tips on how to increase the attention-factor in your head or tag lines:

Usually, there is a gap between the prospect's problem and its solution. However, many prospects do not know that there is a problem to begin with. A head or tag line that communicates the presence of such a gap (or the widening of one) will most likely appeal to those who can immediately relate to such an idea. In other words, those who are attracted by the head or tag line always had the "gap" in the back of their minds, but the head or tag line merely brings it back to the top and causes them to read on. Hence, they want to know how, by reading your ad, they can close that gap.

Again, it's all a matter of perception. To use a head or tag line that conveys a problem is to simply make the reader aware that there is one (or, at least, reinforce it) and then to demonstrate that the solution exists further in the ad.

Many studies have shown that the greatest technique in advertising that can double -- and sometimes even triple -- the readership of an ad is the use of a simple, single, four-letter word... The word "FREE." People are astonishingly attracted to freebies. Freebies, in an ad, can create a lot of response, but in a head or tag line a freebie can multiply the response rate exponentially.

Ideally, offer a free sample, a free product, or a free service of some kind. However, being in the information age, the "free report" or "free info kit" is a favorite. People love to soak up new information since learned experience is more cost-effective and less time-consuming than that which has been learned *from* experience.

Remember this simple axiom: The head or tag line is the ad for the ad. It is not meant to "show off" or to sell the reader on your business, Web site, product, or service. It is simply an attention grabber. Once you've developed attention, you can then create interest and then increase desire... But hey, that's a whole new article.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Competition Questions

Competition Questions

Getting to know your competitors in a way that will benefit your business means knowing the answers to the following questions.

1.Who are your direct and indirect competitors?
2.What are their products and services, and what makes them different from each other?
3.Are they successful? What is their market share and is it increasing or decreasing?
4.Do they offer a broad or narrow range of products and services?
5.Do they target a specific segment of the market?
6.Is their profit based on quality or volume of sales?
7.What is their average selling price and profit margin?
8.Do consumers think their prices are low, high, or just right?
9.How often do they offer discounts and what kind?
10.How much do they spend on advertising?
11.Where and when do they advertise?
12.What types of special promotions do they use?
13.Is their product or service known by its brand name?
14.How large is their sales force?
15.Where are they located?
16.What is their distribution method? (Do they use brokers, agents, wholesalers, salespeople, direct marketing?)
17.What are their overall strengths?
18.What are their overall weaknesses?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Buying Motives - BENEFITS

Emotions may be regarded as the elements of personality - "As a man thinks, so is he''.

Attitudes and behavior are the results of emotions. No two sets of emotions are the same for no two people are the same.

The business owner must recognize that their business contacts and customers are humans, with the natural emotions of people. Whether they be manufacturers, merchants, or home owners, their emotions, their motivations, their behavioral reactions represent the varied wants of people.

Does all this mean that there is no way to “zero” in on emotional needs that will lead to buying decisions? Absolutely No! There are several central benefits (“What’s in it for me?”) that appeal almost universally.

Here are a few examples.

Profit. No business is run as a recreational diversion - it must pay off, or else. "You'll make more money through increased sales at a higher margin," is an example.

Economy. All of us like to get more for our money - so we can have more things. Example: "It will save you money by cutting your expenses."

Security. We don't like to worry about what might happen to us or to our possessions. Example: "There is no chance of losing your investment."

Health. We want a long life without aches and pains, without doctor bills, loss of work. Example: "Ventilation will be improved 50 percent improving your respiration."

Family welfare. We protect our own and our property against the dangers, and always will. Example: "Your family will have greater peace of mind, and so will you."

Possession of beauty. We simply like to own things that we and others can admire. Example: "The whole appearance of your shop will be improved and be more efficient."

Comfort. We prefer a cushion to a hard rock, pleasure to pain, why be uncomfortable? Example: "Productivity will increase because your people can work more comfortably and efficiently. "

Convenience. The faster, simpler, "less work" way is preferred; there's usually an easier better way. Example: "Time is saved because you simply remove this set-screw to change it."

Prestige. We are proud of our achievements, our possessions we want them seen. Example: "You'll have the area's most modern equipment."

Self expression. We like to do things our way and sometimes to be "different." Example: "It will be yours exclusively."

Social. We like to "belong," to be one of the gang, to be "in" on things.. Example: "The better architects are all using them so should yours."

If a company advertises and markets to the real benefits of their product or service the customer will WANT to buy because they will be convinced that there is REASON to buy and that they will be better off from the purchase.

Marketing Tip:

There has to be a meaningful, visible difference in your features and benefits from those of your competitors AND this difference has to be important enough and compelling enough to your prospects to influence them in their decision process that leads them to doing business with you.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Actions Speak Loudest in Keeping Customers Satisfied

“First we will be the best, and then we will be the first.” – Grant Tinker – American TV executive

The key to customer satisfaction is service, and there is no limit to the best customer service.

Take the example of a software copying company that had worked over the weekend to meet the deadline of an established customer. After the company finished the duplicating and packaging on Sunday, it received a call from the customer complaining that the prototype copy of the software was bad. Never mind that the customer had previously verified the prototype.

The company immediately sent a new prototype and worked literally around the clock to finish the order only one day late. Moreover, the company declined payment for the extra work. At the customer's insistence, the company agreed to bill for $2,500 labor only. A check soon arrived, but for $5,000 instead of the requested $2,500. A case of champagne accompanied the check. The goodwill created by this special service was incalculable.

Making it happen. Here are some suggestions for keeping customers happy over the long term:

1. Top service starts at the top. The most important way for a CEO to signal support for a service orientation is by his or her actions, not words.

2. Don't neglect maintenance and repairs. Even if you only break even, don't turn customers off by failing to offer maintenance and repair work or doing it poorly.

3. Monitor your customers. Try to contact all customers, either by phone or letter, at least once a year to check with them as to how well you are serving their needs. This survey can be as simple as asking customers to rate your performance on a scale of 1 to 10.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


"Breakthroughs come from an instinctive judgement of what customers might want if they knew to think about it." --Andrew Grove, Intel

"Advertising is salesmanship. The only purpose of advertising is to make sales." -- Claude C. Hopkins

A retinue of dependable customers has always been a firm's greatest asset. The sage observation, "It is better to own a market than a plant," was once only a catch phrase to many businesses - more preached than practiced or understood. Except in times of serious depression, it was always possible to sell harder, improve performance, or cut price. Management's word to salesmen and distributors was, "We'll make It - you sell it." Today the successful business leader says, "What does the market want that we can make and market? How can we best please them with both product and service? How can we get that market to be ours - at least a share of it?"

Marketing is something that every business owner does, even if he or she doesn’t call it that. Many people consider marketing to be promotion, advertising and all the selling techniques used to get someone to buy a product. However marketing is much more.

It’s important to understand that marketing is not the same thing as advertising, selling or promoting. Those are separate tasks. Advertising, selling and promoting are essentially the implementation of your marketing plan. That is, once you have identified your customer prospects and determined how best to reach and serve them, you then have to go out and make it happen.

A marketing approach to business begins with the customer’s needs and involves designing the entire business around fulfilling those needs.

One great need of small business managers is to understand and develop marketing programs for their products and services. Long term small business success depends on the ability to maintain a strong body of satisfied customers while continually increasing this body with new customers. Modern marketing programs build around the marketing concept, which directs managers to focus their efforts on identifying, satisfying, and following up the customer's needs - all at a profit.

One mistake many new business make is slowing up on their marketing efforts each time they get busy with work. While getting new business is exciting and stressful for all of us, it is especially so for new business owners. One thing you don't want to do is neglect your marketing. Before you know it, your current business will slow down, and you'll be left with no incoming business.

So, in the midst of being busy with work, how do you fit in time for marketing? Be sure to set aside some time to market your business everyday. From making a sales call, to passing out your business card, to sending out direct mail - every little thing helps, but you must set aside the time to do it. It may be hard, because your mind may wander to the business at hand, but you'll thank yourself later!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Small Business Tech: Managining Mobile & Talking Tablets

The explosion of mobile devices have been a god-send to many small businesses. Employees acn stay in touch when working off site. Telecommuting gets a boost leading to space savings for many firms. Improving efficiency serving clients can readily turn into a sale you may have missed or an upsell simply due to having more info available on the fly.

What this boom of technology lacks in wiring to workstations is often made up in strings for small business owners. Employees may use the devices in ways you did not intend. (Are they keeping connected or Angry Birds leaders?) There also can be a slew of headaches trying to find someone to manage all connectvity so these items actually interface with your current network the first time and then every time there after. Any one who's ever learned of a Windows patch or iPhone software upgrade 1/2 thru a last minute synch knows the things are constantly receiving updates. Multiply that by 2-3 devices per user (smartphone, tablet and/or laptop) and the number of users and you see the time drain.

There is some excellent advice over on for mobile strategies. They cover some great policy guidelines and plain language buying guides for hardware AND apps. Check it out!

For more small business ideas and articles, visit the OED Community.