Small Business – SEO Basics – Where Do You Begin Promoting Your Business Online?

Many small business make the mistake of beginning with their website when they want to begin promoting their business online. For those who are inexperienced, this would seem the logical place to start. Unfortunately, just having a website is not enough. You must be able to get traffic to the website in order to do business online.

Ideally, you would have consulted with an SEO specialist before having your site built. For most, that is not the case. There is a great deal to learn when it comes to how search engines work and how to get buying traffic to your website. You do not have that kind of time to spend. The logical solution is to hire someone with experience to help you along the way. It does not have to cost a great deal but you do need to spend money on your website to get the full potential from it and to bring your website in front of your prospective buyers.

One of the first things your web consultant will want to do is define who your target market is. This is done through keyword research and market analysis. Once your market is clearly defined and the choice keywords selected, you will be able to make the little changes to your website and all of your promotion materials that will bring traffic to your website. More traffic means more sales.

In a few months, once your website begins to build traffic, your consultant will be able to help you monitor the progress of your success. She will take the time to put together a monthly report so you will be able to see what is working and what is not. Once you see trends of success, you can then tailor your efforts and streamline them into spending more time on what is working and less time on what is not.

Because search engines and traffic trends are ever changing, your SEO consultant will be a valuable asset to your business. Their business depends on staying on top of these trends so you can be sure your website promotion campaigns are as current and effective today as they were in the past. You are busy running your business. You do not have time to spend staying on top of another industry, namely SEO.

Your SEO consultant will take the time to work with you to find a solution within your budget. Even small business, or should I say, especially small business, can benefit from a helping hand when it comes to SEO. This service is not reserved for big businesses. Who knows, when you start getting enough traffic to your website, your small business may just turn into a big business.

Divorce By Social Media (Facebook, Classmates)

A recent client of mine told me about how his wife had reconnected with an old boyfriend from high school through Facebook. They hadn’t seen each other in 38 years and considered each other their “first love”. As we all know, a “first love” is a tough bond to break especially when there was physical intimacy involved.

He told me that her old boyfriend found her on Facebook and sent her a contact note. She responded back by telling him she was married and had 4 children. He wanted to hear more about her life and what she had been doing all those 38 years. Unbeknownst to her, he had been divorced and was thinking about her. Eventually, her marriage seemed unfulfilling to her too and unfortunately, she shared that with her exboyfriend. He was an engineer and had been divorced for 3 years. He wanted to reconnect with her and she thought it would be nice to see him too.So she traveled to Ohio to meet him and never told her husband where she was going. She just packed her bags for a “weekend getaway”.

When she returned she told her husband of 30+ years that she was divorcing him. She wanted out and had talked to a lawyer about putting the divorce together. She told their grown children that she was divorcing their father and told all kinds of lies about him. She also told the children that he was unfaithful and abusive towards her. The lies got even worse the more time she spent with her old flame talking on the phone and chatting on Facebook. With her lies, she turned her children and family against him.

The lies were so destructive and painful he nearly had a nervous breakdown. He begged, pleaded, groveled, wept and cried to get her back. She destroyed this man’s life because of an affair she wanted and tried to justify it with her own lies. This woman was very deceitful and filled with hate.

When I met with this man at my office, he was beside himself. He had nowhere to turn and his children wanted nothing to do with him. His wife hated him and was bent on taking him down. He asked me, “Dr. Mike, where do I go from here? I have done nothing that she has accused me of. I have been faithful to her and loved her, but she always seemed unhappy.I’ve tried talking with her, planning vacations, etc., but it just never worked out. I even asked her to go to marriage counseling, which she refused. I know I wasn’t a perfect husband, but I tried everything possible to make her happy. “

He told me that he found out who the guy was, what kind of job he had and the type of people he was involved with.He also knew how many times he was divorced and even current relationships the man was involved in. He had all the emails they sent each other with the time and date stamps on them.He wanted to know why another man would take his wife away, knowing full-well she was still married. That was a fair question. Relationships can be so complex!They are hard to understand at times. “Who should get the blame,” he asked? I told him, “They both should. He shares in equal blame.The reason you feel it’s more your wife’s fault is because she is the focal point of your pain.”

If you suspect that your spouse/partner is reconnecting with a former girlfriend, boyfriend, lover, etc., you need to confront them immediately. The longer you delay the more damage there will be and the possibility of your marriage will come to an end is likely. Confronting your spouse is not a bad thing – doing absolutely nothing is. You need a game plan when you talk to your spouse/partner. If you accuse them without knowing what you’re going to say, you’re headed for trouble so plan on that! More and more relationships have ended from social websites than ever before. If you are tempted to look up an old boyfriend or girlfriend, don’t. There is no reason to risk hurting your relationship with your spouse/partner by looking for past loves. Protect that relationship you’re in, guard it and enjoy it! Trying to rekindle a relationship with an old flame never works, especially if you’re in a committed relationship.

Do you suspect that your spouse has been cheating on you by using Facebook or Classmates.com? Have you seen the signs of them spending time texting excessively or on the computer? Then deal with the problem right away, don’t wait!

Barrier Busters of the Top 6 Most Common Misperceptions of Mobile Small Business Apps

The trends are very telling – mobile small business apps is the smart way to reach your audience.

The latest research shows that the primary reason small business continues to place traditional advertising such as their annual yellow page listing is because everyone else does.

With the sharp downward trends of traditional advertising it’s time to go where your audience already is. Let’s examine closer where you can improve a much higher promotional ROI with your mobile apps for small business investment.

First Steps Toward Mobile Apps for Small Business

1. Know your current ROI.

What is your yellow pages (or other print) actual ROI?

How many new customers came to you through your print listing?

What was their average purchase amount?

Does your incremental sales margins cover the cost of your print ad?

2. Start small. Take just say 10-15% of what you are already spending and pilot some of the mobile small business apps.

3. Leverage both. For example, use your yellow page listing to include a promotion that drives traffic to free Facebook business page such as opting in for a discount coupon.

The Most Commonly Perceived Barriers for Mobile Small Business Apps

Anything new and different always has initial barriers.

Let’s explore whether they are fact or fiction so that you can decide if this exciting and fast growing medium is right to consider for your business.

We’ll start with the most common perceptions.

  • Time – Overwhelmed business owners have little time to research new technology for mobile small business apps and consumer tastes.

Fact- Customizable templates offer turnkey solutions for even the most non-technical business owner.

  • Cost – Normal development costs for mobile apps can be costly. Typically $4,000 to $15,000. Don’t forget multiple technology formats and future software changes create additional costs.

Fact – Affordable options are now available for the smallest promotional budget.

  • Branding and Customization – Mobile app templates don’t allow me to express my unique brand, benefits and features for my business.

Fact – Menu driven templates allow you to choose which small business apps functions will engage your target audience the most. You can even choose your own logo, color, look and feel that mirrors your web site and print collateral. This custom menu approach saves you thousands of development dollars.

  • Technology – How could I ever keep up to be sure my mobile small business apps can be viewed on Android, Apple iOS, Blackberry and Windows smartphones. How about all the different tablets?

Fact – Exciting cloud based solutions mean all that back office technology stuff is done for you so your business apps are always easily accessible to your customers, no matter what device is in their hand. More importantly your information is secure.

  • ROI Tracking and Control – How do I keep up with a repeatable tracking system for my mobile apps?

Fact – You select the measurable traffic and customer conversion indicators you want to track and the system does it for you. Once you decide what you want you can maintain your system in less than 15 minutes a day.

  • Type of Business – My business isn’t about connecting with local mobile shoppers like restaurants and Realtors. I don’t see how mobile business apps would work for me.

Fact – If you have a product or service that provides additional value to help people with solutions they need there are mobile business apps waiting for you to connect to. Because of the widespread use of smart phones across all demographic groups (1 billion by 2016 globally!) every business has a sizable audience to reach.

Think outside your local market. With mobile apps it’s time to consider regional, national and even a global reach.

While this article emphasized smart phones don’t forget to include tablet users, another exploding mobile platform many small to mid-size businesses are not effectively connecting with.

With a world gone mobile the time is now to rid all the barriers in helping your mobile small business apps connect with growing your business.

Writing an Effective Business Plan For Your Small Business

Plans are Useless; Planning is Indispensable

“Plans are useless; planning is indispensable,” according to Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during WWII. Now, you may be in total agreement with the first part of that statement, but you are really not convinced of the truth of the second part.

At this point, you may be tempted to skip writing a business plan altogether, viewing it as an unnecessary exercise in jumping-through-the-hoops, suggested by some old business professor who probably never held down a “real” job anyway. Maybe it’s okay as an assignment for an MBA class, but it would be just too confining and irrelevant for today’s fast-paced business environment. Anyway, you’re ready! You’ve thought about this business venture for a long time and talked it over with friends and everybody agrees it’s a great idea. Best to strike while the iron is hot!

Press for Success

Far be it from me to dampen your enthusiasm, but you should give yourself every opportunity for success. That’s what the planning part of the process of creating your business plan will do. By the time you have pressed your way through it, you will not merely have some neatly arranged document to keep on file, you will have a working tool that addresses the essential factors that influence your future.

Besides, your friends may be 100% behind you in your new venture, but, in case you are hoping to involve others who have actual money to invest, you may need to be able to make a convincing case. Wouldn’t it be nice to have anticipated possible questions and be ready with plausible answers? If you are risking your own money, that is perhaps even a stronger reason to do some indispensable planning.

Easy Writer

If you are one who is intimidated by the blank page, never fear! There are several good software packages that will guide you through the process, such as Business Plan Pro Complete from PaloAltoSoftware. Business Plan Pro Complete walks you through the entire planning process and generates a complete, professional and ready to distribute plan with a proven formula for success. The planning wizard makes it a snap to get started since you simply answer yes or no questions to create your custom business plan framework. Bplans.com offers free business plan samples and how-to articles as well as a wealth of other information. It is definitely worth taking the time to checkout. Microsoft Office Online Templates also has a variety of free templates to use with their products. The wizard indicates the information you need and you fill it in as you go.

You may find that the easiest part is the actual writing of the plan. The real work comes in the data-gathering, which may take you a hundred hours or more, depending on what you already know or have researched. If your new venture is in an area where you’ve been working, you may already know about your customers, your suppliers, your marketing plan, your organizational structure, your financial and cash flow needs, equipment, inventory, and so on. If you know all of these except for Marketing, say, then this is where you will need to invest some time and effort. You can find a wealth of information by utilizing the traditional data sources such as chambers of commerce, major cities’ websites, trade associations, the US Census Bureau, trade journals, magazine and online articles and advertising, etc. Performing keyword searches on Google, or Ask will bring up websites to check out. Following are some places to start:

  • James J. Hill Reference Library (jjhill.org): One of the nation’s premier business libraries to bring you FREE and affordably priced tools and resources you can use to create a better business plan based on relevant and credible data.
  • U.S. Census Bureau (census.gov): A source for a variety of useful statistics, especially the Economic Census that comes out every 5 years.
  • American Demographics (adage.com/americandemographics): Just as the title suggests, numerous free reports about consumer demographics in the U.S. nationally and by statistical area.
  • Internet Public Library – The Census Data and Demographics (ipl.org)/: An especially useful site that has links to information about countries other than the U.S.
  • Corporate Information (corporateinformation.com): Features information summaries on over 350,000 companies in the U.S. and abroad for competitive analysis.

You can find a variety of companies online to help you with your market research. For example: Sundale Research’s (sundaleresearch.com) primary goal is to provide new and mature businesses with objective, accurate industry data and market analysis on a wide range of topics. Their market research is intended to save you time and money while keeping up with industry trends.

But your idea may be so new that you may also need to talk to potential customers, host some focus groups, talk to an ad agency, or maybe even make a prototype and float it past some people. Be prepared to spend the time. Remember, it’s not about the Plan but the Planning.

Build It on Paper First

Whether you decide to use business plan writing software or to just follow this guide and create your plan with your word processor, here are the sections of a good plan and the questions that need to be addressed:

  • Cover Page – Show the name of the company, your name, and the date.
  • Introduction – What is the name and address of the business? Who are the principals, their titles, and their addresses? What is the nature or purpose of the business? What is your launch date? How much start-up and/or operating capital is needed?
  • Executive Summary – One to three pages that summarize all the information to follow; come back and write this last.
  • Industry Analysis – How does your product or service compare with what is currently on the market? What is the trend in the overall industry? What have been the total sales in this industry over the previous 3 to 5 years? What new products or technologies have had the biggest impact on this industry recently? What is the future outlook for these and what trends are emerging? Who are the competitors, where are they located, and how are they doing? What advantage do you offer over them? Who is buying this product or service now? Describe the typical customer for this product or service. Are there emerging markets or market segments? Where does this product or service currently perform best? Possible Data Sources: trade associations; trade journals; attorneys & accountants dealing with the industry; industry salespeople; state business websites; focus groups.
  • Description – What product(s) or service(s) are you offering specifically? Are any patents, copyrights, or trademarks needed? Have they been acquired/filed? What is the size of your business? Where will it be located? Will this require purchasing or building a facility? Will this require leasing a facility? At what cost? Has a lease been negotiated? What personnel will you need? Where will you find suitable employees? What equipment do you need? Will it be purchased or leased? What are the qualifications of your principals? How do their backgrounds promote the success of this venture? Why do they think this will be a successful venture? Possible Data Sources: local Chamber of Commerce; community colleges & local universities; local employee leasing company; real estate agents; US Patent & Trademark Office; US Copyright Office.
  • Production Operation – If a product must be manufactured, what is the process? Will the work be done on-site or subcontracted? Who are the subcontractor(s)? If on-site, what space, equipment, machinery, production employees are needed? What suppliers are needed? Who are they? How will quality be assured? What is the anticipated production output? What established credit lines do you have? Possible Data Sources: local Chamber of Commerce; yellow pages; trade associations.
  • Service Operation – If a service is offered, describe it. Will the work be done by company personnel or subcontracted? Who are the subcontractor(s)? If on-site or in cyberspace, what employee qualifications, equipment, and technologies are needed? How will quality be assured? What performance levels are anticipated per employee? Possible Data Sources: local Chamber of Commerce; yellow pages; trade associations.
  • Marketing – How is the product or service priced? How will it be distributed? How will it be promoted? Will it be promoted by the venture or an outside agency? What agency? How have you determined what amount to set aside for marketing? How have you determined product or service forecasts? Possible Data Sources: on-line searches; Amazon; local outlets; trade journals; industry attorneys & accountants; salespeople.
  • Organization
  • How is the business structured? Who are the principals and the principal shareholders? What authority does each principal have in the venture? What are management’s qualifications? What is the job description for each position? What does the organizational chart look like? Possible Data Sources: on-line templates for job descriptions & organizational chart.
  • Risk Assessment – What weaknesses are inherent in this venture? What vulnerabilities face this type of venture? What impact will these have? What new technologies may affect this venture over the next 1 to 3 years? What contingency plans are in place? What level of liability insurance is required? What does it cost? Who is the carrier? Possible Data Sources: trade associations; trade journals; Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE); industry salespeople; customers; focus groups.
  • Financial Plan – What is the anticipated income? What are the cash flow projections? What is the anticipated budget over the next 3 years? What is the break even point? When is it anticipated to be met? What funding is needed and where will it come from? What funding is currently available? What collateral is available? What is the net worth of the principals, if applicable? Possible Data Sources: accountant; accounting software; Small Business Administration; Small Business Development Center; SCORE; banks; venture capitalists.
  • Appendix – Resumes of principals/management; letters of recommendation from current business associates/customers/suppliers; marketing research data; demographic data; leases or contracts in place or as promised; business licenses; price lists from suppliers; trade or industry articles or data; floor plans; information on subcontractors; liability insurance policies.

Impress for Success – Now you have to admit, this is going to make an impressive package! Put it in a binder and you have built something to be proud of – the first of your many business accomplishments. Your potential investors will appreciate the depth of your analysis, but this tool will prove helpful in describing your venture to your employees, customers, and suppliers, as well. After you have been up and running for a few months, you will find that the planning that you have done will sensitize your inner “business compass” and allow you to flexibly adjust to contingencies. And that is indispensable!

In Summary

Planning out your business on paper first gives you long-term benefits with potential investors, employees, vendors, and suppliers. The business plan becomes your roadmap to success, with pertinent data that shapes the course of your business start-up and lets you adjust your journey as contingencies arise. Business planning templates are readily available and data sources abound at your fingertips. You will achieve a solid understanding of your business as you work through each section of your plan.

IMPress Action Checklist:

Below is a list of the steps that will help you put together your business plan. Check off each step as you complete it to keep track of your progress.

  1. Purchase business plan software or download a template
  2. Read over the business plan sections to decide what data you have, what data you need
  3. Gather data via the internet, phone interviews, print material
  4. Fill in the plan’s sections
  5. Write the Executive Summary
  6. Print and Bind Your Plan