Online Marketing Without Breaking the Bank

For a small business owner, having a big marketing budget is out of the question. Having to meet payroll every month and, and having the cash necessary to cover accounts payable, is already a feat in itself.

For many small business owners, their ability to do their online marketing is closely tied to the amount of money they can spend. It also plays an important role in its execution.  Online marketing can be done well without breaking your finances.

Here are some of the best options you have to list and promote your business and start building that relationship you need to keep and attract customers.

  1. Website – Start by having a website that shows what your business does.  Simplicity is a good thing when you start with a website that will promote your business, upcoming events or news in the future.
  2. Google My Business – can allow you to post what’s new in your business, add photos and lets you start building a relationship with your new and existing customers. It’s a free Google listing that will show your business to people searching for your business or business related to yours.
  3. Social Media – There are many social media platforms that you can use to promote your business for free. Try to do it free but if you are able to afford it, pay to advertise locally first and see how the experiment goes.  You can always take the advertising nationally if that’s what you need later on.
  4. Content – Quality, tailored content that speaks about and for your business is a great way to promote it.  Keep the content relevant, and fresh.  Articles that have been posted two or three years ago and are still showing on your website is a sure way to lose prospective customers.
  5. Word of Mouth and Customer Service – Businesses that are local and rely on local customers to prosper, can take advantage of their location by providing excellent customer service to their customers. Word of mouth is a powerful advertising component that many businesses can use to advertise without spending a penny.
  6. Consistency – Consistency is not something you can buy, but if you don’t have the consistency to do your marketing on a regular basis, it doesn’t matter how much you are spending on advertising or other venues to promote your business.  The marketing has to start with you, be constant.

A good business with a good product still needs to advertise.  Perhaps the product will sell itself — eventually — but the business has to promote it to introduce it to their customers or prospective customers.

A marketing strategy that works for a business does not necessarily mean it will work for you. Marketing can be a very specific strategy for a specific industry. Trying a strategic marketing idea to gauge the ROI for your business can be a very first good step, but remember your business does not be married to it. Explore other ideas or other strategies and choose the one that you think is the best solution.


When Hiring An Employee

The challenges small business owners face are a bit different from the challenges the big guys deal on a daily basis. 

The small business owner has the capability and the luxury to meet and know the employees that work for them.  Some of the challenges a small business owner faces when dealing with employees are whether he/she is challenging their employees and keeping them interested in remaining with the company. 

A bored employee that is not being challenged, or is not utilized well looks for a company that will challenge him.  Research has found that Millennials are one of the groups that expect to be challenged and is not afraid to voice their discontent with the status quo if their skills are not being used. If an employee is happy working for your company, don’t be afraid to ask them for any input as to improvements you can make to the internal culture of the business even though he is happy working there.  If an employee is leaving the company, make it your job to find out why and whether there was anything you could have done differently.

Many companies have great salaries and incentives to lure top talent to their business, and although a great salary is one of the incentives you can use to attract them to your company,  it’s not enough to keep them.

There is a lot of research out there that mention the idea of group collaboration and state the fact that many employees prefer and enjoy the challenge of being part of a team.  While this may be true for many startups, every company is different and the goals they want to achieve are not those of a startup.  As a small business owner, the possibility of change is easier for you.  You can implement change in the company and see it through without looking for approval from the top guys, or even input if the changes are working.

As a business student, you learn that company culture is one of the hardest changes to make, and one of the things hardest to monitor.

Having the right company culture begins by hiring the right people.  It is no longer enough to have the computer skills needed for a job, good interpersonal skills have become a prerequisite for many companies for any position within the organization.

As a small business owner, there are many challenges when hiring employees.  Fortunately for you, the power and control are yours.


What is Important to small businesses across the United States now?

Marketing is probably one of the most important aspects of having a successful business nowadays, especially if you are a business selling directly to the customer.

Depending on what type of business you have, the need to market it can vary considerably.  Not long ago, the prospect of having a website to market your business was a daunting experience, especially if you wanted it professionally done and serviceable.  Now, with the advances in technology, the prospect of NOT having a website means you are losing business or are not getting any business through a medium that can be very profitable for you.

What are then some of the best ways to market your business, get more customers, and establish a web presence for you and your business?

  1. Social Media – Whether you want to advertise using Facebook, Google Ads or any other type of social media, go ahead and do it, but why not try using social media without spending too much in the beginning. Test the waters first, then dive in if you think it may be more beneficial to pay for advertising. Make sure you measure the benefits.  If you are spending too much and getting too little, perhaps that is not the best use of your marketing budget.
  2. Website – If you don’t have one, then you are not taking advantage of one of the most beneficial ways to market your business.  You do not need to know how to code to have a professional looking website, and you do not need to be a giant business to market your business online. There are many websites dedicated to helping you have a website that will market your business.  Even your Local Chamber of Commerce office can have a suggestion or two about managing your website .  Give them a call.
  3. Local Advertising – If your customers are local, it makes sense to advertise in your community first and expand to other places later on. This will also give you an idea about the best way to maximize your marketing budget.

One of the most important factors that as small business owners we tend to forget, is the consistency required to market your business. Having a website, in the beginning, might be monumental for you, but leaving it sitting there with no constant effort on your part is worthless, and relying solely on having a website to market the business is not going to be very beneficial for you.  Marketing your business well requires more than having a website and a Facebook page.  We recommend you invest some time reading about marketing trends that do not require a huge budget.


Small Business Owners Challenges

According to the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), a small business is defined as an independent business with less than 500 employees, and according to them 99.7% of the United States economy is comprised by small business.

Every year, there are thousands of new business in this country in every industry, but there are many others that go under as well. Whole industries are being created thanks to the innovations and smart decisions many entrepreneurs make every single day, and the capacity of many of these entrepreneurs to think smartly and make decisions that impact their business favorably is outstanding.

But, as with everything else, small business owners make mistakes that can impact their business and profits and can leave them with many unanswerable questions. Sometimes, they can catch those mistakes and move forward with their business, but other times those mistakes can be too costly and cannot be solved quickly enough.

One of the biggest mistakes 90% of owners make is not knowing or understanding the importance of their numbers.  They don’t know if or which of their customers generate a profit, nor do they know how much a profit it is.  They don’t understand a fundamental concept — if you don’t have a profit margin, you can’t sustain a business.

The margin is simply how much out of every dollar a business earns it actually gets to keep.  For example: $1.00 (earned) minus $.90 (expenses) equals $.10 (profit).  The profit margin is 10%.  Many owners keep investing money, not understanding this straightforward tenet, hoping to “get the company on its feet”.  However, there’s no reasonable, mathematical way for that to happen if there’s no profit (margins can be either positive or negative). 

Owners should always know their margins if they’re positive or negative at the very least because the volume of a business doesn’t give an accurate picture of its financial health.  A company with $5 million in revenue can actually be losing money if it has a negative margin.

Another of those mistakes that small business owners do not take into consideration, is their competition.  Every business in the country and around the world has a competitor. Not thinking about the competition can leave a small business owner wondering where it went wrong while leaving their competitor reaping the benefits of their mistakes.

As a small business owner, you do many of the tasks your company or small business needs doing, and the responsibility to have them done come to rest at your desk.  Knowing when you need to hire extra help, and hiring the right people for the job can become an invaluable asset for your business.

It is never too late to start the business of your dream.  Knowing ahead of time that it will be extremely difficult and stressful, but giving you the rewards you always wanted.


Small Business Issues for 2018

What are some of the issues, small business owners have to be aware of this 2018?

Business Optimism: According to many analysts, business owner’s optimism should stay steady this year, following the high level carry over from 2017.  If the economy and stock market remain as robust as it has been, business owners are bound to stay optimistic.  And although their optimism about the economy has not translated in an increase in hiring, with the new tax laws breaks many analysts believe this can change.

Taxes and Accounting: The new tax bill should benefit many businesses across different sectors of the economy.  Whether you are a small business owner, have a partnership or a corporation, there are bound to be many tax breaks that you can take and that can alleviate the tax burden this year.

For these tax breaks, you need a tax accountant that has an understanding of your business, your financial situation, and an understanding of the new tax laws in order to take all the tax credits that your business is allowed.

Having a knowledgeable accountant can help your business lift or ameliorate the tax burden your business faces while helping you create a path to a healthier one. Accountants can possibly help you save thousands of dollars in fines from the state or federal government if you are not filing the right forms at the right time.

Sexual harassment: A movement that needed to happen long ago, has taken flight and it does not seem to stop. For many businesses across all areas of commerce, sexual harassment has become an issue owners and management cannot ignore anymore.  Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace has been around businesses for many years now, but doing something about it it’s what’s different now.  Training, informing and having an open conversation with all employees in your organization is too important to ignore, and if you haven’t  done anything about it yet, you must prioritize and make it happen now.

Health Care: Many organizations begin the year by reviewing the health care coverage and retirement plans the business has.  Is it important to do it now?  Health care coverage premiums can skyrocket from year to year, and if your business is not shopping around for better rates and coverage for its employees, then you might be paying more for less coverage this year.

Retirement plans are also an important part of the incentives many organizations employ to retain and to attract talent in their business.  The retirement incentives can make a great employee choose to work in your business because of those extra perks they are getting apart from their salaries. 


Small Business Tools For Business

In today’s global market, the small business owner wants and is able to compete with the big companies around the world. By effectively using the marketing tools and management software available to them, they can reach customers across the globe to provide the goods and services that make their business a success.

Marketing and business tools that enable the small business owner to compete in a global market are available to them as well as the big guys.  The difference is the scale and availability of the talent around them.

If you have talented tech people around you, the business dealings you need to do will not be postponed because you need to deal with computers, marketing or software that you may not know anything about.  The talented people you hire to do the technical jobs  are there to make that part of your job a bit easier and hopefully a bit more enjoyable.

Some of the business tools small business owners can use to make their job a bit more enjoyable are internet marketing software that allows you to produce;

  • Email software that allow you to monitor the recipients opening rates, and personalized the emails to reach your intended target.
  • Blogging tools that allow you to produce content in an easy to use manner while keeping the quality to a high standard.
  • Lead generation tools that enable you to reach more customers while keeping in contact with the existing customers you have.
  • A CRM that allows you to keep your customers and the relationships you have formed active while keeping their data centralized.

Nowadays, the relationships the small business forms can be the difference between a successful business or one that is barely making it. Yes, there are many businesses out there offering the same  goods and services your business is offering, sometimes cheaper and some times better, but unless the difference is pronounced, the relationship you have formed with that client will keep their business with you because they have come to trust you and perhaps like you.

The small business tools you need are out there  to help you and make your business a bit easier to manage, choosing the most expensive ones is not always the solution, you just need to know what you need and research it a bit to see if that is what you need.


 

 

Small Business Optimism and Security

Many small businesses and big corporations are at risk of cyber attacks daily.  Companies like Target that spend millions of dollars on cyber insurance and other security measures, do not spend enough to make the cybersecurity risks less probable.

For small businesses that do not have the finances to spend protecting themselves against cyber attacks, the risks are always present.  And although cyber attacks may not be directed against them quite as often, protecting the personal and financial information of their clients should be one of the primary priorities of any business.

For more about this and other topics, follow the links below.


A Decline In Small Business Optimism

On Tuesday, NFIB reported the September Small Business Optimism Index results, and they showed the Index fell 2.3 points to 103, which was below the lowest consensus forecast. In spite of the decline, the index remains at a high level, as can be seen in the below chart.

A larger percentage of the index components declined in September as the report noted:

“Six of the 10 Index components dropped in September. Three improved, and one remained unchanged. The bright spot last month was inventory plans, which gained five points as more business owners anticipate a strong 4th quarter.”

Below is a table showing the component changes from August.


Half of All Small Businesses Use WiFi Technology Almost a Decade Old

Small businesses are using older WiFi that doesn’t fit their needs on several fronts. A new Linksys sponsored survey says half of the small businesses polled are using WiFi technology that’s over eight years old. Beyond not being able to keep up with mobile expansion, business owners are concerned over the lags in security and speed.

Problems with Small Businesses Using Old WiFi Tech

These findings are important to small businesses still using older WiFi technology. Smaller enterprises that work online need to be both flexible and fast to respond to changing client needs. Your download and upload speeds are the flux to beat the competition to sales. Beyond that, they make for quicker networking with everyone from visitors to mobile employees.


House approves bill to bolster small business cybersecurity

The House on Wednesday approved legislation that would require the federal government to produce and disseminate guidance to help small businesses with cybersecurity.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, passed by a voice vote.

The legislation would require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a nonregulatory standards laboratory housed in the Commerce Department, to produce cybersecurity resources for small businesses.

NIST produces and updates cybersecurity guidance for the public and private sectors that businesses can choose to use. President Trump signed an executive order on cybersecurity earlier this year ordering federal agencies to abide by the NIST framework.


 

Customer Service and Your Business

Customer service has been an important part in the success of any business in the United States and around the world.  An increase in technological advances has made it possible for companies  to do business not only across states , but across the globe as well.

Unless you are a local mom and pop shop servicing a small town or city, globalization for you doesn’t mean much, but for many businesses, expansion seems like an obtainable goal they are trying to achieve.

Doctors, dentists, optometrists and other types of small business rely very much on customer service.  They are facilities that are specialized and serviced their communities, and rely on giving excellent customer service. But are they?

The front of your practice or the front of your retail store are the first welcoming sights customers see as soon as they enter the premises.  Great customer service begins there and then.  Many small businesses forget how important those first moments are when customers enter the store or  their private business. 

In the retail industry, research has shown how important customer service is for the prevention of shoplifting.  For many other industries where services are provided, great customer service means keeping your current customers and adding some more.  As a doctor, optometrist, dentist or other health care provider, the front office is as important as the service the health care professional is providing.

Do you have a private practice? Have you checked lately how the people in the front office greet and interact with your customers? Is that something that as the owner you find acceptable?

The front office of your private practice is a small window into the care customers might be expecting when they visit your practice.  Loud, obnoxious, and tactless front office personnel cannot be an acceptable choice for your practice even if they are great at paperwork.  If you find yourself questioning whether the way the front office employees behave while doing their job is appropriate, it might be time to relegate them to the behind the scenes office.  You might find that even though,  you as a doctor are providing excellent care, customers are unwilling to come back to your practice.

Adding new customers to your current list means good business.  Are you adding them or loosing them?  Do you know the reason why you are losing them?

Providing excellent customer care every single day, and not only providing good service but making sure you go beyond what is expected, is one of the ways some businesses across the globe are thriving while the competition is shrinking.


   

Happiness and Company Culture

Small businesses have many positive things going on for them.  The owners have total control of what’s going on in their business and take care of things personally and quickly.  Many of them do not look for ways to pass the blame onto others, they are the owners after all. The business succeeds or fails because of them.  If they plan carefully and consider the advantages of having a team around them, then the chances of success increases.

The beginning of any business is hard.  Lots of hard work, and maybe loss of income can become quite a strain for many small owners.  That is some of the reasons a third of the small businesses that start do not make it past the first two years according to the Small business administration.  And half of those businesses do not make it past the 5th. year.

A business plan before starting a business, and a financial plan to weather the first years should be a necessity for many small owners.  The difficulties that you will encounter the first years of the business are always unexpected. You know you will have difficulties but don’t know what they are.  Later on, the good and bad experiences you encounter will give you the experience and the forbearance to weather the storms.

There are millions of small businesses across the United States.  Some grow to become great, powerful companies, and a lot of them do not.  What is it then that makes some companies thrived while others go under?  For many people great companies show a handful of characteristics that makes them great, but as always great or good means something entirely different for people.

But for  companies to succeed, the first thing to remember is that employees play a crucial part in the success of any business.  Employees that understand that they are working for a company , and that they are supposed to be a team, not sole individuals with different purposes, make a better company.  They as a team, have a more happy, positive company culture, and research has shown time and again that employee’s happiness plays an important role in the success of the company.  Happy individuals that know the company’s philosophy, and are on board, will make the company a better place all around.


Productivity In The Workplace

Small and big businesses regardless of what industry they are in, try to boost productivity in the workplace to achieve their goals.  Whether they are offering financial incentives, recognition across the company, or extra vacation days, companies will go to extra lengths to reach or boost workplace productivity.

Every company has employees that are super stars and their productivity is unparalleled.  But, as every company have super stars, they have the super “duds” in it as well.  When looking into improving the productivity in your company, you have to take into account that all your employees have to be accountable for the work they do or are supposed to do.  The superstars can only take the team up to a point. Dragging the employees that are falling way below their potential is exhausting and mentally exhausting for everyone else.

Metrics that help you measure the productivity of your employees and yourself are widely available for businesses.  Every employee believes he is productive, but remember that productivity is a very subjective concept for many of us. We do not measure time or productivity equally.  Reading and answering all emails in your inbox may seem like you are productive, even if you do nothing else.  For other people answering all those emails is only the beginning of their day.

When measuring the productivity of your employees-and yourself-take into consideration that employees respond differently to what management or they owner tells them.  For many employees a job performance review and an unsatisfactory review at that, can be more harmful that no review at all.  You have to get to know your employees before handing out advice.  Sometimes a pat on the back, or a nice word at the beginning of the day are for many employees enough to continue working hard for you.  Recognition that they are doing a good job and that you are aware of it, can increase the productivity of many of your employees.

Most workers across the United States have a life outside work. Families, other jobs, elderly parents, financial problems and a myriad of other issues, are a constant reminder that we are humans and have a limited time of hours every day.  Expecting the employee to be a happy and responsive human being every single day is expecting too much.  When asking an employee for X, Y and Z, think before and ask yourself if it is too much.  I do not believe that you have to hire a slacker and let it be, just think that a happy employee will be a more productive employee for you and your company.