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make-sure-your-seo-is-wearing-a-white-hat.jpgThe New York Times piled some fairly harmful media attention on JC Penney over the weekend by questioning how the behemoth U.S. retailer was able to consistently turn up first in line on Google’s search results for a large number of seemingly unrelated keywords. From “bedding” to “blue jeans,” the JC Penney name popped up as the top spot inGoogle, which prompted the Times investigation.

What the newspaper suggested was that Penney’s was employing “black hat” search engine optimization techniques, which I and others — including Google — consider cheating.

I’d be willing to wager that one red flag prompting closer inspection was a Times Google search for the term “Samsonite carry-on luggage” which ranked Penney’s website ahead of Samsonite’s own home page. How on earth is that possible? The newspaper’s research also turned up links to Penney’s women’s dresses on sites that primarily focused on dogs, disease, diamond-bit drills, online games, travel and snoring.

So how did Penney’s accomplish such prime search engine results? In the case of Google, its search engines judge the importance of a website partially by the number of links that come into the site, as well as the quality of those links. In other words, if your motorcycle repair shop has six links coming into it and your competition has 60, the competing business should — quite logically — rank higher in Google’s search results for the search word “motorcycle.” Read the rest of this entry »

subway1.jpgEverybody knows Subway is a successful franchise chain. But did you know last year it cracked 33,000 units and should shortly hit 34,000? The fresh-sandwich chain passed McDonald’s to take the top fast-food franchise crown — the Golden Arches have just 32,000 restaurants. This may seem like a big-business story at first, but Subway and McDonald’s have made their brand one locally owned franchisee at a time. The chains are essentially huge conglomerations of mom-and-pop restaurants.

The tale of how Subway overtook the longstanding leader in their sector has many lessons for small business owners everywhere. Here are some of the factors that let Subway move ahead:

1. Tell a great story. When Subway found the original Biggest Loser, then-student Jared, the company had the sense to jump on the story and keep it growing. Subway could have just had a motto along the lines of “our food is lower fat and healthier than our competitors,” but it wouldn’t have been nearly as compelling as ”Hey, look at me — I ate exclusively at Subway and lost tons of weight!”

This could have been a one-season marketing arc, but instead Subway kept it growing and fed Jared fans a steady stream of new information for many years. The corporate website still has a whole tab about Jared that goes back to his very first commercial. Read the rest of this entry »

three-tips-for-entrepreneurs.jpgEvery time a grocery bagger said paper or plastic, Margaret Moss would cringe, envisioning the stashes of used bags in her car or kitchen.

Her yearning to go green eventually led to a business idea: a set of reusable bags that fit into a handy pouch. In 2009, after investigating consumer camping gear and experimenting with an old sewing kit, the mother of triplets launched Repax Bags LLC with partners Sammie Bohn and Valerie Fischer.

The Metairie, La.-based company is still tiny, bringing in annual revenue of about $30,000 in 2010. But it has succeeded in winning shelf space in Whole Foods Markets, Louisiana supermarket-chain Rouses and other U.S. grocery stories. Sets retail for about $20 and include four machine-washable bags, which can each hold up to 20 pounds.

As with many new entrepreneurs, every day is an adventure and brings new learning experiences, Moss says. Here are three lessons from her journey she shares with other new business owners.


1. Don’t look too far ahead.

It’s important to let your inspiration for the idea keep you motivated toward successfully creating the final product. For Repax, each new step brought big challenges but also brought creative solutions. If you look too far ahead, it can be overwhelming, so stick to the task at hand and find the best solutions for now.  Read the rest of this entry »

facebook-like.jpgThere you are, busily marketing your business or brand through social networking and suddenly you’re experiencing a rash of unsubscribes, unfans, unlikes or unfollows on your email, Facebook or Twitter accounts. What’s going on here? It’s like that old Righteous Brothers hit, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Only this time around it’s not a mid-60s teenager who’s hurting — it’s you!

ExactTarget, an Indianapolis-based interactive marketing services provider, has released “The Social Break-up,” a report exploring why consumers terminate their relationship with businesses and brands through these three major social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and email marketing. Much like a romantic relationship, social network bonding begins with an initial attraction, whereby the consumer becomes a subscriber, fan or follower. But what is it that prompts that same enamored person to unsubscribe, eliminate their “Like” status or just ignore communications from your business completely?

In the case of email marketing, the trigger that prompts 54 percent of consumers to unsubscribe is when the offending company bombards a subscriber’s email with too many marketing messages. Another 49 percent opt out when your content is boring. Becoming overwhelmed by email in general accounts for 47 percent, and those who say the content was never relevant from the beginning makes up 25 percent of unsubscribers. Read the rest of this entry »

as posted here:

Words are powerful things and Facebook status updates can prove to be equally powerful tools for those of us who use social media to promote our businesses. Because a major focus of social media-related marketing is on creating content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share with their own networks, our choice of words becomes paramount.

A couple of months ago I wrote an article based on a white paper entitled, “The Anatomy of a Facebook Post: Study on Post Performance by Type, Day of Week, and Time of Day.” That 18-page report, published by Vitrue, an Atlanta-based social management company, outlined the best ways to reach an audience on a social media site, the best time of day to post an item on Facebook and the best day of the week to be most effective with your Facebook audience.

Among other things, that study claims marketers have three content options on Facebook — text, image and video. And, it says, photos trump video and both trump text. The white paper also found that Friday is the best day to post and Sunday is the worst; and that morning posts get more traffic than evening posts. Read the rest of this entry »

The following is a really good example from a social media marketing test that Entrepreneur.com did for a local BBQ joint.  Moral of the story, get your social media cranking or lose a valuable marketing avenue:

It’s been just over 30 days since we began our Social Media Challenge for Big Papa’s BBQ in Denver. Turns out, “challenge” was the perfect word for it. There was no online barbecue conversation to speak of in this city when we started. There were no followers for Big Papa’s. They had no brand, voice or marketing plan. The winter was bearing down — hardly BBQ season. And as for Big Papa’s experience in social media? Nonexistent.

But, in Denver’s Best BBQ Battle — the social media campaignLeeReedy/Xylem Digital created, we’ve built a brand, a following and, most importantly for those who doubt social media’s value, an increase in revenue for the restaurant.

To our reporting detriment, it took three weeks for Big Papa’s BBQ to institute proper tracking mechanisms in its three restaurant locations. But we have two significant successes to share: the number of people walking into their restaurants who heard about us through our social media efforts and year over year revenue for December.

In one week: Read the rest of this entry »

as posted on Entrepreneurs.com:

Google AdWords has been around for more than 10 years, but it remains a mystery to many online business owners.

AdWords offers pay-per-click advertising and site-targeted advertising for text, banner, and rich-media ads. For many users, the results can be more measurable and economical than other forms of advertising, according to Perry Marshall, co-author of Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords(Entrepreneur Press, 2006) and owner of Chicago-based consulting firm Perry S. Marshall & Associates. Marshall will be talking about Google AdWords at Entrepreneur‘s 2011 Growth Conference Jan. 20 in Atlanta.

He says despite the ease with which one can set up a Google AdWords account, the service isn’t always intuitive. We asked Marshall to share his top three secrets for getting the most from Google AdWords:

1. Narrow your focus. If you sell mens’ clothing, for example, don’t bid on the keywords for every single item you sell and then send people to your home page. Choose specific items you want to advertise, write ads for them, and send visitors straight to a webpage built for that specific item.

2. Test your ads. Try out ads using different words and then measure and compare the results. The difference in how Google users may respond to even individual words in one ad can be amazing.

3. Offer visitors something to act on. As soon as customers land on your site, make a sale offer, give out a coupon, ask them to register for a white paper or fill in a quote request. This is marketing-speak for a “call to action.” Use Google’s conversion tracker to measure the results.

Using a call to action switches your mindset from “buying clicks” to “buying results,” Marshall says. “If you want more sales leads, this will guide you to more leads for less money.”

 

as posted here:

Just like trying to lose those last five pounds or promising to get to the gym more often in the coming year, the best 2011 New Year’s resolution for small-business technology is much same as it was in 2010: Take the security of your business seriously. Here is a list of simple steps small businesses can take — but often don’t — that can make their firms safer in the new year.

1. Change your passwords — all of them.
Now is the prime time to systematically go through your business accounts, cash cards, debit cards, online bank statement, accounting software and other business tools and update the passwords associated with each account. The trick is to make a consistent a high quality password with at least eight letters that is a mix of capital and lower-case symbols, punctuation marks and numbers. Then, step by step, go through your work day, updating each password so it the same. You should find, slowly but surely, all your passwords will be newly secured with a single phrase you can remember. It’s simpler and safer. And that is a good thing.

2. Close down dud emails, business software and social networks.
Do you have your business Twitter feed on your mobile phone but never look at it? Or do you keep old Yahoo account from college but never use it? Or do you have a debit card with $13 on it? Read the rest of this entry »

Entrepreneur.com posted this list recently.  Definitely read about the Cloud and Next-generation Marketing, then let us know what your 2011 predictions are:

The holidays are a time of hope and joy. They’re also a time when my email inbox fills with an avalanche of small-business predictions, best-practice tips, and success-strategy recommendations. Here’s a collection of some of the more interesting forecasts for small businesses in 2011: 

1. Financial savvy: More companies will use direct deposit to save money and help the environment, according to thePayItGreen Survey 2010. Calculate how much you could save by switching to direct deposit with this calculator.

2. Venture capital and IPO markets: This year saw a big thaw in the public markets — the volume of IPOs more than doubled, PricewaterhouseCoopers reported. The value of fourth-quarter IPOs this year is more than we saw in the same period of 2007. This should translate into more venture capitalists seeing payouts…which means more venture capitalists with money to reinvest next year.

3. Leadership success skills: Humor will be a secret weapon of smart CEOs next year, says Francie Dalton, host of the new blog talk radio show Overcoming Business Nightmares. Enough with the gloom already!  Read the rest of this entry »

Since we have relied quite heavily on Facebook as a tool for our growth,we thought it might be valuable to pass on some info that might help your small business.  In case you haven’t seen, we have a decent following on Facebook.  Facebook can be quite the valuable tool when trying to attract customers to your small business, blog, organization, etc., but understanding the value of Facebook is what is going to help you turn those “likes” into $’s.  Read the article below for more info:

David Hartstein is a partner at JG Visual, an Internet strategy company that works with organizations to develop and implement their online presence. You can connect with David on the JG Visual Facebook Page.

You’re a small business owner and you’ve decided to create aFacebookFacebook Page for your company. Or you’re an employee in an organization and, since you are the only one who “gets” social media, you’ve been charged with running a Facebook Page.

You set it up and make it look nice. You put up some photos and videos that you think represent the organization well. You e-mail a bunch of your friends and the page has almost 100 “Likes.” But one day, your boss comes in and asks you the question that you have been dreading: “Is this Facebook Page helping us or just eating away most of your time?”. . . Read the rest of the article here.

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