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Small Business Success Index 4

Index Score*   Grade
73 marginal
Capital Access 67
Marketing & Innovation 65
Workforce 76
Customer Service 88
Computer Technology 73
Compliance 92
*Index score is calculated on a 1-100 scale.

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Small Biz Resource Tip: Constant Contact

November 23rd, 2010 :: mhaubrich

Contemplating creating an e-mail marketing program, an e-newsletter or a social marketing campaign? Constant Contact is one of the leading online marketing solution companies and for a very low monthly cost allows you to create e-mail newsletters and updates, online surveys and more. You can even send marketing e-mails from your smartphone. Try Constant Contact’s free 60-day trial offer and create an e-newsletter for your customers from one of the many templates. E-mail address can be stored directly at Constant Contact. Want to discuss your needs with someone in person? The company has representatives all over the country.

Promotional Ideas To Help You Get a Head Start on the Holiday Shopping Season

November 22nd, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

As a small business with a marketing budget that is miniscule compared to huge, global companies, how can you stand out this week, the official beginning of the frenetic holiday shopping season?

People are shopping online before and after Thanksgiving dinner now, and because so many people have access to high speed Internet connections, they’re not waiting til Cyber Monday to hit the keyboard, fill up their shopping cart, and click “check out.”  The focus, therefore, is on this entire week, not just Friday, and on doing something a little different.

It’s not too late to put together a special Thanksgiving Weekend Promotion Plan-or tweak the one you already have in place!  Decide on what you want to promote (see my list below for some ideas that are a little different).  Schedule several messages to go out all weekend long, beginning on Wednesday, at different times each day.

This goes without saying, but be sure to put your promotional messages where your customers will see them, whether it’s on Facebook, in an e-mail, and/or on Twitter.  And don’t forget to update your website’s home page to include your special promotions!

Here are some different promotional ideas beyond the usual discounts and coupons:

  • Promote small items as ideal stocking stuffers.
  • Offer gift certificates, even if you typically don’t, as the ideal gift for the hard-to-buy-for person we all have in our lives.
  • Remind your customers to buy something for themselves when they’re done buying for everyone else!
  • Donate a percentage of all sales made during the holiday shopping season (or just for a specified period) to a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or other worthy charity, whether it’s local or global.
  • Put together a special holiday giveaway, such as a stocking filled with products, for one lucky winner chosen at random from all customers who shop during a specific time period.
  • Bundle products or services in a special holiday package.
  • Offer daily specials.

Image by Flickr user notenoughbricks (Creative Commons)

How Are Your Customers Using the Web?

October 28th, 2010 :: Rieva_L

By Rieva Lesonsky

Do you know what your customers are doing online? With the Internet so crucial to marketing today, a clear picture of how your target customers use the Web is essential to success. A recent study by Nielsen, What Americans Do Online, offers some insights.

According to the survey, U.S. Internet users spend more than one-third (36 percent) of their time online communicating and networking, whether it’s by e-mail, instant messaging, social media or blogs.

Use of blogs and social media has increased 43 percent from the same time last year, and now takes up 22.7 percent of time spent online. The second most popular online activity was playing games, which accounted for 10.2 percent of users’ time—a 10 percent increase compared to last year.

E-mail was the third most popular activity, accounting for 8.3 percent of users’ online time—although this represents a 28 percent drop compared to last year. Showing a strong rise? Videos and movies, although they only make up 3.9 percent of users’ online time, grew by 12 percent compared to 2009.

How can these statistics help your online marketing efforts? Here are three tips.

1. Start socializing. If you weren’t already convinced of the value of social media, I hope that “43 percent” increase changed your mind. No small business today can afford to ignore social media—a no-cost way to get the word out about your company, interact with customers from around the country (or the world), and build relationships that lead to sales. Whether you try Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or all three, I urge you to get out there and give social media a shot.

2. E-mail still matters. In fact, while use of e-mail on desktops and laptops declined, use of e-mail on mobile devices increased. E-mail accounts for 41.6 percent of time on mobile devices, compared to 37.4 percent last year. So keep your e-mail marketing efforts going, but integrate them with your newer activities by using e-mail to drive traffic to your social media presence. Also make sure your e-mail newsletters and other marketing messages are optimized for mobile viewing.

3. Think video. It’s still somewhat under the radar, but video can make a big difference in your business. For one thing, including video on your website, blog and/or Facebook page helps you rank higher on search engines. For another, some consumers simply prefer video viewing to reading. And for a third, videos can be a great way to “go viral.” If your video is interesting, funny or useful enough, users will forward it on. Posting video to your website can be as simple as grabbing a Flip video camera and talking about your product, your services or an upcoming event at your business. Now’s the time to start experimenting, so when video really takes off, you’ll be ahead of the pack.

Image by Flickr user Rob Pearce (Creative Commons)

Small Biz Resource Tip:

October 12th, 2010 :: Rieva_L

Want to drum up local business and get your community talking about your company? Then you’ll want to get your business highlighted on the daily deal site Groupon. Consumers who join Groupon get daily e-mails promoting one business in their area and offering them a deal such as two-for-one specials or 50 percent off your products or services. It costs you nothing to participate, but Groupon does take 50 percent of the amount the consumer pays. The plusses outweigh the minuses, though, as this site is wildly popular and gets new customers in your front door. Then it’s up to you to get them to come back.