Best Resources for Small Businesses

Being a successful small business is not easy. The five core challenges most small business face are time management, pricing, cash flow, managing growth and marketing / client acquisition. In order to succeed, you must arm yourself against these challenges. The good news is that there are a number of fabulous resources to help you with these issues.

Actively seek out the right small business information.
Many small business owners are so over-extended that they neglect staying informed about business trends. This is a fatal error. In today’s modern marketplace, you simply cannot succeed if you run your business on intuition alone. You may stay afloat in the short run, but you will eventually lose out to better informed competitors.

There are a number of incredible online resources that are both free and invaluable. Sites like Inc.com and Entrepreneur.com provide tips on just about everything from starting your business to navigating advanced legal issues. They feature in depth information on running your business, leadership / management techniques, sales & marketing tips, small business technology and finances.

Helpful Tip: Set aside at least 1 hour each week to review these sites. If you find that you prefer to read in bed, consider subscribing to a few of these magazines. This information will make you and your business stronger.

Know your industry and target market in real time.
In our modern age, trends shift at break-neck speed. It is important to stay abreast of developments in both your industry and your target market’s microcosm. After all, more often than not, what concerned your target market 3 months ago is now ancient history.

Subscribe to industry related publications and consume the same media as your target market. If you sell jewelry for eco-friendly women in their thirties and forties, spend an hour each week reading news and publications that are relevant to that market. Likewise, be sure to check industry news every week. For example, using the same eco-friendly jewelry analogy, you might read up on green product developments, new fashion trends or even ecological political issues.

Helpful Tip: Set two separate Google Alerts – one on your industry and one for your target market – to send you period updates on relevant news. Google will send these news stories to you automatically, making it easy to skim over the headlines and read through the meaningful stories.

Find the right on-line partnerships.
The proliferation of online office supply stores makes economically and efficiently stocking your office a lot easier than it was 10 years ago. Buying office supplies online takes less time and makes price comparison easy. Because of online competition, online suppliers are eager to earn your business. The good ones will provide a wealth of free information on their site and happily take your calls to field questions and offer advice. For example, if you are looking for discounted printer ink cartridges but are a little confused about toner versus regular stores like compandsave not only provide free yet invaluable printer cartridge information resource center but they also eagerly accept calls and offer advice on how to save on office supplies.

Helpful Tip: When you find a supplier with great prices and customer service, hold onto them for the long-haul. A good supplier relationship can save you thousands, streamline your operations and free up your time so you can focus on growing your business.

7 Steps to Creating a Successful Small Business Marketing Plan

Small business marketing is all about determining the needs of your target market and then providing solutions to meet those needs.

These 7 steps are aimed at entrepreneurs starting a small business and those who want to create a successful small business marketing plan for an existing business.
Most small business promotions focus on how great their products and services are. Instead, you should educate your target market consistently and start building a relationship that will establish your credibility and trust. It is important to develop a marketing mindset. “Think Marketing” your products and services all of the time. It is very important to consistently market your products and services. Don’t fall into the trap of stop and go marketing. Some small business owners only market when sales are down.

You can’t have a successful small business without having a successful small business marketing plan. Effective small business marketing is the way to growth and profits

If you’re a small business owner or you want to know how to start a small business in the future, this simple 7-step plan will help you understand your business and your target market.

How to Start a Small Business Marketing Plan: 7 Steps
Begin the process by answering these questions:

1) Who — Who specifically is your target market? Who is your ideal client? What research can you do to find out more about your target market?

2) What — What products and services do your ideal clients want and need? What does your product and service do for your ideal client? What problems does your product solve for your customer? What are the solutions that your ideal client is looking for? What is your area of specialty that will differentiate you in the marketplace? What are the industry trends? What type of message will your ideal client likely respond to? What are you ultimately selling? For example: Are you selling eye glasses or are you selling vision? What is your unique mix of products and services? What is your pricing strategy?

3) Where — Where is your ideal client? Where is your customer located geographically? Where will you position yourself so they can easily find you? Where are the best places to get your marketing message to them? Will you speak to groups, hold seminars, or write a blog, newsletters or articles?
4) When — How frequently does your target market need to hear your marketing message? When are they most likely to buy your products and services?

5) Why — Why are you in business? Why do customers or clients buy from you? Why should they choose your product or service over your competition?

6) How — How does your customer buy your product or service? How are you going to reach potential buyers for your services and products? How will you communicate your marketing message? How will you provide customers or clients with the information they need to make their buying decision?

7) Marketing Mindset – Practice mastering a Marketing Mindset and you will be on the path to a profitable small business.

With these 7 steps, you can take action towards starting a small business marketing plan that targets new customers. “Marketing is about testing and evaluating your return on investment. But it’s primarily about helping people get what they want.” Master these small business marketing steps and you will be on the path to more profit and success as a business owner.

Online Video For Business – 3 Reasons Your Company Should Implement in 2010

The Internet started as a text-only medium of communication with largely bulletin boards and eventually e-mail. It progressed to be a more interactive experience and expanded into millions of homes, beyond college campuses and technology institutes. Websites started including pictures, navigation, music, and other enhancements to appeal to viewers. By the end of the 1990s, Internet sites still relied mostly on pictures and sleek navigation to appeal to users. As YouTube skyrocketed in popularity, the integration of online video to professional Websites started to become more common place. Now, offering a Website with only pictures is like running a rental store with only silent movies; Web users and customers expect a more interactive experience, complete with videos of products, services, or people. Websites that include videos offer users more detailed information about products and services, give businesses an opportunity to control the way information is delivered, and increase the conversion rate of visitors to customers.

Captivate Your Audience and Capture Your Customer

One of the great advantages as a Web user to Websites with videos is the ability to see in more detail what one is buying before the purchase, or to learn more about a service before inquiring further. Before purchasing a movie ticket, viewers usually watch a trailer for the movie, showing them more about what they are paying to see. With an apartment complex or hotel, rather than just see lifeless still photos, videos allow people to see the community closer to the way they would actually see it if they were to visit in person, though inevitably somewhat idealized. Seeing people enjoying amenities through a web video is a lot more interesting than seeing pictures, though, because pictures are less capable of capturing the human element or evoking emotion. Another great benefit is seeing a product demonstration video about how a technology product actually works, step by step, so that the potential customer can see how easy it is to use, allaying fears about it being overly complicated or too technical to setup properly. A long, detailed text page with a few pictures about how the product works is a nice addition to video, but not a substitute. Unlike a site with just numerous navigational sections, pictures, and text, a video allows a business to control the way information is given to potential customers.

Better Control of Your Message

On an old Website, the only way to display information was in a logical fashion where the business hopes that visitors click around the site in some sort of sequential order. If a person clicks through the pricing section first, without seeing what the product does, or what services are offered, they may just close the site and go elsewhere. But if they have a video they can see on the home page about what a great product or service the business is offering, they will be less surprised when they see the price. Whereas with a standard Website, the visitor clicks around at will without having much direction, a prominent video on the home page gives them a starting point before looking for more information. It allows the business to control the way the information in the web video is displayed and how it is presented, giving back some control while at the same time giving the site visitor a lot more information that is helpful for their decision-making process as well, which makes them more likely to purchase a product or service from the business.

Improve Sales Conversions

While tracking of such statistics across a broad swath of the Internet is difficult, numerous sites have attested to Web videos converting visitors to clients at a much greater rate than sites with just text and pictures. One of the more well-published studies, by FindLaw (LawyerMarketing.com), indicated that visitors go to an average of 4.8 Websites to find an attorney, but when lawyers added video to their sites, the number dropped to 1.8. In other words, the presence of online video made visitors likely to select a lawyer much more quickly. The Discovery Channel Store did an independent study when the company added video to their e-commerce store and experienced an increase of 78% in sales when customers viewed the product video. A company called iAds integrated their video ads for Tandberg Video Systems, which had a conversion rate of 0.75 to 1.00 percent, but with videos the conversion increased to between 1.5 and 3.0 percent. Numerous such stories are available and there is no doubt that offering video on Websites helps businesses compete more effectively and gain more customers.

With the advance in broadband Internet connections and the high penetration such technology has seen in recent years, most customers have access either at home or at work to high-speed Internet, allowing them to view online videos that give them more information about products and services, help them make decisions with greater confidence, and give businesses greater tools to demonstrate what they offer. In the years to come, companies from all industries and across the Internet will be adding videos to compete more effectively and market themselves with greater confidence. The companies that adopt last will be losing business to companies that have cutting edge videos and quality products or services to offer. Ultimately, the reputation of a company and the products or services they offer will still remain the long-term key to success, but marketing remains an important part of any company’s ability to attract new customers. The professionalism and class of the videos offered online will be the key to competing effectively for years to come.

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