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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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Events Articles


From the GrowSmartBiz Conference: Proven Strategies to Convert Web Visitors into Customers

November 17th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

One of my favorite sessions at the GrowSmartBiz Conference on November 5 was a Technology Track panel discussion that offered valuable, no-nonsense ways to convert Web visitors into customers.  Thanks to Jennifer Shaheen, President of the Technology Therapy Group, Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady, and Walt Rivenbank, VP of the Mobility Applications Consulting group at AT&T for such great information!

Their strategies are fairly easy to implement, but they will require some time.  Here’s what to do:

1. Check Google Analytics to find out whether your Web visitors are staying.

If you don’t have an account yet, get sign up for one today (it’s free, natch).  One of the things Google Analytics looks at is your website’s bounce rate.  If people are visiting your website but not staying long and not moving from one page to the next, it’s not good.  It means you are probably not supplying them with the information they are looking for and you are definitely not converting them into leads, let alone customers.   It also means you need to update your website.

2. Have a clear call-to-action (CTA).

Update your website by offering a consultation, white paper, how-to guide—anything that is both educational and valuable.  As Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady, said, “Give away your best stuff.”  But you’re not giving away anything for free!  Before they get that free consultation or white paper, ask them for their name and e-mail address.  Your web designer/programmer can help you set this up.

3. Be sure your CTA is easy to find.

Don’t hide your CTAs!  Add them to every page in the form of a big button that is hard to miss (it need not be a garish eyesore, just prominent).  If you have a shopping cart, make it a really big button that is easy to click on.

4. You have 7 seconds to convince your Web visitors to stay.

Your website is your home base and most visible online presence.  Because you only have 7 seconds to grab the attention of your Web visitors, your home page must be especially well-written.  As you are writing—or re-writing—your website content, also keep in mind that your website is not a book—people do not read it from beginning to end.

5. No handouts.

When you give a presentation or workshop, do not hand out information that elaborates on your topic.  Instead, ask attendees to visit you online at your website, Facebook page, or Twitter account to receive some great information that they will find useful (really sell it!).  You can, however, give them a one-sheet (a one-page brochure) that acts as a CTA.  It should only include some information to pique their interest.  Your goal is to get them onto your website or connected to you via social media so you can continue to engage with them and convert them into customers.

Photo Courtesy Shashi Bellamkonda

GrowSmartBiz Conference: How to Multiply the Effects of SEO With Great Content

November 15th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

One of the Marketing Track sessions I attended at the GrowSmartBiz Conference had a great title-Stories, Content, and the Search Engine Sword Over Your Head-and delivered useful information in spades.  No matter how new or established your business, this session was a great way to learn exactly how to improve your search engine optimization efforts and results.

Ben Cook, the SEO Manager at Network Solutions, moderated the panel of 4 pros, including Tinu Abayomi-Paul, principal of Leveraged Promotion, Dr. Alan Glazier, founder and owner of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care, Deborah Ager, principal of ClickWisdom, LLC, and Liana Evans, CEO of LiBeck Integrated Marketing.    (You might be curious as to why there’s an optometrist on the panel.  Dr. Grazier has successfully implemented SEO at Shady Grove Eye and become a prolific blogger in the process.)

Here are their tips on using great content to boost your website’s search engine optimization:

Write for your audience! To produce great content specific to your audience, you need to understand what they search for when online.  Use Market Samurai, a keyword analysis tool, to help you figure what people are searching for.  Then you will be able to write content that addresses their needs.

Use long-tail search terms in your content. Long-tail search terms are the descriptive keywords people enter in the search box when they’re conducting research online.  For instance, “children’s navy blue cotton jacket” rather than “children’s jackets”.  The more pages your website has, the more content you’ll have, and the more chances you’ll have at being found for long-tail terms.

Content type is important. Blogs, videos, and podcasts are great for search engine optimization, thanks to plenty of chances for back linking (aka, links from other sites).  All search engines, including Google and Bing, measure how often content is linked and how many views it gets, so the more varied your content, the better.

Make it easy to share content. Twitter makes sharing content and getting links easy as your content is spread from one person to the next.  On your blog, make sure you add “tweet this” and “like” buttons.  Google rewards websites that have links back to it from both new and established websites.

Optimize video and podcasts. Because search engines cannot read videos or podcasts, add a transcript.

The importance of the URL. You can create custom URL shorteners for branding purposes (I had no idea!).  Awe.sm is the first company I found in search results that does this.  Also be sure that your blog’s URLs contain the title of the blog post rather than numbers.

Photo Courtesy Shashi Bellamkonda

From the GrowSmartBiz Conference: Customer Service as a Differentiator for Small Businesses

November 12th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

‘There is a general cultural of bad customer service in this country.”

Barry Moltz began his presentation, Customer Service Is the New Marketing, at the GrowSmartBusiness Conference on November 5 with the above statement.  As a prolific author and sought-after speaker on entrepreneurship (he has started three companies and founded an angel investing fund), Barry focused on the incredibly important role customer service now plays in a company’s growth and success.  (His engaging and entertaining presentation was based on his newest book, BAM! Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World.)

As he alluded to in his presentation, small business owners have a competitive advantage over large companies because we consistently deliver exceptional customer service to our clients.  I can only name three large companies that have built their cultures around customer service: Apple, Zappos, and Nordstrom.  (Maybe this is a trick question, but are there any others you can add to the list?)

Following are excerpts from Barry’s presentation, per my furiously scribbled notes:

“In a world with no boundaries, the only sustainable competitive advantage is excellent customer service.

‘There are a lot of myths associated with customer service.  These myths have to be busted, because the customer is not always right.  Under-promising and over-delivering is not a customer service strategy.  Unhappy customers are not part of doing business.  Customers do not only care about low price….

“Good customer service is whatever a customer says it is in a particular instant on a particular day.  Instead of asking, ‘How can I help you?’, ask ‘How can I make your day better?’

“To ensure your customer service is as good as it can be, put together a customer service manifesto to clearly explain what your customers can expect from you. It should include the following:

  • Deliver on what you promise
  • Listen to your customers
  • When things go wrong, be reachable
  • Resolve issues in a reasonable amount of time
  • Admit mistakes
  • Empower employees to resolve issues
  • Make it easy to stop doing business with you (in direct contrast to cell phone and cable companies, as Barry pointed out)
  • Don’t charge nuisance fees or surcharges
  • Treat your customers with respect and dignity
  • Don’t change the rules without prior notification (cough—credit card companies—cough)

“To get useful feedback from your customers, ask the following four questions:

  1. Why did you choose to do business with us?
  2. Did anyone do a good or bad job servicing you?
  3. Do you plan to use us in the future?
  4. Can you tell any friends, colleagues, or business partners about our business?”

There’s Something for Every Entrepreneur at the GrowSmartBusiness Conference Nov. 5

November 2nd, 2010 :: Rieva_L

By Rieva Lesonsky

Being a small business owner is hard work. There’s lots to know, even more to do, and never enough time to accomplish it all. That’s why it’s essential to get as much information as you can from other entrepreneurs and industry experts.

If you’re in the Washington, DC, area you can do just that on Friday, November 5, by coming to the GrowSmartBusiness Conference hosted by the Washington Business Journal and Network Solutions.

There’s something for every business owner (including nonprofits), no matter the size or stage of your business. You can attend sessions in any one of four tracks and find out how to (among other things):

  • Use social media to grow your business
  • Get funding
  • Attract and keep customers
  • Be innovative
  • Navigate the “mobile world”
  • Get started in business today
  • Hire smart

We all know most entrepreneurs don’t like to follow the rules, but I think you’ll want to know about the 6 rules for tech success, and the 10 rules of business cards. I can’t wait to share 3 big trends that you can start cashing in on almost immediately. One of our speakers is even going to share the “5 minutes that can change your business—forever.”

I know you’re busy; all of us business owners are. But getting away from the office, meeting new people, and hearing different perspectives is as important to growing your business as almost anything else you do.

Come join me Friday, November 5th at the Renaissance Hotel. I promise, you won’t regret it.

10 Reasons to Attend the GrowSmartBiz Conference on November 5

October 19th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

If you didn’t make it to last year’s GrowSmartBiz Conference, you absolutely must make it a priority to go to this year’s conference, which will be co-hosted by the Washington Business Journal and Network Solutions on November 5.  The conference was expanded to include a trade show, and it will take place once again at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC.

Based on my experience at last year’s conference, here are 10 reasons to attend this year’s conference:

10. Great networking opportunities. Last year, I got to meet a lot of interesting people (here’s one), as this event attracts hundreds of executives from various industries throughout the region.

9. You will learn a lot from small business owners. All of the small business owners and executives who spoke last year shared their knowledge and experience on issues that affect us as we try to grow our businesses.  And some of them are very funny (especially Ramon Ray of SmallBizTechnology, who said he thought Shashi was Network Solutions for the longest time).

8. Meet the vendors you’ve been meaning to contact. The trade show aspect is a really great opportunity to meet product and service providers who can help you grow your small business.

7. Pick a conference track. Last year, all attendees heard great presentations on a handful of topics, but with only an hour for each session, the surface was barely scratched.  This year, you get to immerse yourself in one of four topics to gain a much deeper understanding of that area. Choose from Marketing & Innovation; Government, Small Business Finance, and Non-Profit; Technology as a Tool for Your Business, or Entrepreneur Bootcamp.

6. Breakfast and lunch. The food was really good last year.

5. Meet the NetSol bloggers! All of us bloggers (yes, including Shashi) will be at the event.  Because I work remotely, I loved meeting everyone last year, including some of NetSol’s marketing people. 

4. It’s not expensive. The cost to attend is only $79 per person this year, way down from last year’s rate.

3. You get out of the office for the day! Last year’s conference was on a Tuesday, and because of the simple fact that this year’s conference takes place on a Friday, it’ll be more fun.

2.  This year’s event is bigger. More vendors, more speakers, and more topics.

And the number one reason to attend this year:

1. You will leave inspired. Sounds a little too Oprah Winfrey, I know, but when I left last year, I had learned a lot, and I was honestly excited not only about being a small business owner, but confident that I could grow my small business (and I have!).

Tweetchat on “The State of U.S. Small Business” Wednesday, Sept 15th, from 1-2:30 pm EST

September 9th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

Are you a small business owner feeling burned out and struggling to find new ideas to grow your business? Come join us for a Network Solutions hosted tweet chat (#NetSol) to understand the current state of the U.S. Small Business, key challenges facing them in terms of marketing and innovation, access to capital and, more importantly, leave with some simple tips on how to overcome those challenges.

Steve King

Our guest tweeter, Steve King, eminent small business researcher and President of Emergent Research, a small business consulting company will unveil the top ten findings from the recent Network Solutions’ Small Business Success Index, Wave-4 and offer some simple steps to overcome roadblocks that stop you from being innovative. Join us for the Network Solutions tweet chat to understand:

  • The current status of U.S. Small Business across six key dimensions (capital access, marketing & innovation, workforce, customer service, computer technology and compliance).
  • Top ten findings from Network Solutions’ Small Business Success Index that affect your future growth.
  • What technology investments are deemed a priority for small businesses in the next two years?
  • How social media usage among small businesses has changed in the last year?
  • How to continue to be the innovation engine despite the current economic conditions?

Event Details:

When: Wednesday September 15th 1-2:30pm EST

Where: http://tweetchat.com/room/netsol

Register:  http://netsol.eventbrite.com/

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GrowSmartBiz 2010 Conference is on Nov 5 so Save the Date!

August 11th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

Coming this fall is the second annual GrowSmartBiz Conference being held on November 5, 2010 at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC. Last year Network Solutions launched this conference and it was MC’d by Alex Orfinger of the Washington Business Journal. This year the Washington Business Journal is partnering with Network Solutions to make this a bigger and even better event than last year.

We listened to your feedback and this year we also plan to have multiple content tracks to really take this event up a notch. If you are interested in reserving your booth space before August 27, call 703-258-0800.

Register Now!

Our GrowSmartBiz registration site is up and running! Tickets are $79 per person and if you want to bring a group of 10 the cost $69 per person or $690 for the group. You can register at

http://washington.bizjournals.com/washington/events/2010/growsmartbiz/

If you are curious as to the quality of content, here are some videos from the 2009 GrowSmartBiz Conference.

This is an event not to be missed. We will be announcing more in the weeks ahead so fill out the form below and we will let you know the details as they are announced.

If you are curious as to the quality of content, here are some videos from the 2009 GrowSmartBiz Conference.

Have You Made Your .CO Pitch? Deadline for the .CO PItch Contest is 6/14

June 10th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

So, have you pitched your idea for a new business, blog or website yet? The deadline is approaching and the contest winners will be announced soon. You still have time to get in your entry by June 14, 2010 and you could win $50,000 and the ideal .CO web address* to make it a reality.

Recently, we announced the global launch of the .CO domain and this .CO pitch contest.  As a quick refresher, the site Pitch.CO has a contest asking for your best business idea pitch and you can win $50,000. Here are the details:

Pitch it

Whether you’ve got a full plan ready to launch or just a few half-baked ideas drawn on the back of a napkin, it’s time to make your pitch! Clear your calendar for 30 minutes, get ready to focus and put your best pitch forward. Don’t worry about making it perfect – just have fun and make it happen. You’ll need the following details:

  • A 60-second video or an image that will inspire

    Nothing gets people inspired like hearing a great new idea directly from you.

  • A catchy title for your idea

    Half the battle in any contest is getting people to pay attention. How will you do it?

  • A little plan

    This is where the rubber meets the road. How does your idea come to life (in 1,000 characters or less)?

  • Your ideal .CO web address

    This is your chance to get the .CO web address you really want – choose wisely.

  • Tell us about you

    Charm the voters and judges with a little story about yourself and your background.

Promote It

Once you enter the contest, use our easy promotional tools to start marketing it everywhere. Share it with your friends, update your status, tweet about it, call your relatives, tell a stranger, whatever it takes to get people to vote for your entry on Pitch.co! The top 30 vote-getters will be advanced to the finals where they will join a maximum of 8 pitches selected by the judges. You can learn more about the great panel of .CO pitch judges on the .CO Pitch Site. Voting ends on June 14, 2010 at 11:59pm EST.

Win It

Grand Prize (1)

$25,000 in cash
$25,000 in web design/development services
1 ideal .CO web address to build it on*

Runner Ups (5)

$500 in cash
1 ideal .CO web address to build it on
*Subject to the .CO Launch and Registration Rules

Enter to Win!

So let’s get started! Go to http://pitch.co/submit or click on the button below. Good luck!

Disclaimer: Any .co domain including those mentioned in your contest entry may be registered by any member of the public after the sunrise period ending on June 10, 2010.

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Get Your Biz On! First Ever Women Grow Business Bootcamp this June in DC

May 21st, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

I am happy to share the news that Shonali Burke, Editor of Women Grow Business has put together the first-ever Women Grow Business Boot Camp for women entrepreneurs in the DC metro area.

The goal according to Shonali is to “bring the smarts of our online community offline – to help you grow – or start – your business”.

Did you know that according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s last report (2006), the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. grew 20 percent between 1997 and 2002. In fact:

  • Women owned nearly 30 percent of “nonfarm” businesses in the U.S.;
  • Fourteen percent of women-owned firms employed more than 7.1 million people; and
  • Wholesale and retail trade accounted for 38.3 percent of women-owned business revenue.

One thing’s for sure from this data: we women are bent on rocking business!

Event Details!!!

The first-ever Women Grow Business Boot Camp, which will be held from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, in downtown DC.

If you’re a woman entrepreneur in the DC area (or want to be one), I hope you’ll attend this half-day, FREE workshop where you’ll hear from women business owners, many of whom contribute to and/or have supported Women Grow Business since its inception.

I mean, it’s not every day you get a chance to meet Kathy Korman Frey aka @ChiefHotMomma and our keynote speaker (W00T!), as well as powerhouses like Marissa LevinPatricia FrameShana Glickfield and many, many more.

What you’ll learn

Speakers will share their experiences in growing their businesses, and after the keynote, you’ll split into four breakout groups to learn more about four key areas of growing your business:

  • Money, Honey: the financial and infrastructural side to your business
  • Legal Eagle: the legal, IP and related issues we need to be aware of
  • What’s the Buzz?: marketing your business, including using PR and social media
  • Are You Being Served?: defining, reaching and retaining your ideal customer

We’re going to repeat these tracks after a short break, so that you can move to another group and learn about another area (and the speakers will change as well).

So by the end of the workshop, you should come away feeling empowered, armed with practical tips, and have done a ton of networking… at least, that’s what we hope you’ll come away with.

It’s on a Saturday, so hopefully that will make it easy for you to carve the time out of your busy schedules. And did I mention it’s FREE? Thank you, sponsors Network Solutions and the Intellectual Property Group and Diversity Committee of Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

Sign up!

You can register here, and do share the word with those you think would be interested… and maybe we can even come up with a flash mob of our own. Whadja say?

About Women Grow Business

Network Solutions-hosted blog community, Forbes named Women Grow Business one of the 20 Best Marketing and Social Media Blogs By Women earlier this year. Rather than rest on our laurels, we hope the Women Grow Business Bootcamp will provide a rich learning environment for women business owners… and those who want to join their ranks.

Tech, Business and Magic – Small Business Technology Summit 2010 Recap

March 30th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

This month Shashi and I were asked to speak at the Small Business Tech Summit in New York City. There were many great speakers as you can see from the agenda. I have had a small business for 10 years and I learned a few new things which is why I like Ramon’s event so much. They keep it relevant, have good content and with Ramon’s trademark delivery never let it get dull. The summit had over 500 folks registered and you can see the details of the conference at http://www.smallbiztechsummit.com. You can follow the conversation on Twitter by searching the conference hashtag #smallbizsummit

Highlight: Seth Godin Keynote

Seth Godin

Image via Wikipedia

This year they had Seth Godin keynote in the afternoon and I have to tell you that for never having seen him speak I can see why people pay lots of money to have him at their event and why he sells tons of books. He is that good. Granted, all of his books I haven’t liked or they just didn’t speak to me personally but I have to admit his one hour delivery that centered around his new book Linchpin (which we just reviewed yesterday) it was really informative and entertaining.

He took the audience through an informative set of info graphics and distilled being a linchpin when he described Marissa Mayer at Google. From his book “If you could write Marissa’s duties into a manual, you wouldn’t need her. But the minute you wrote it down, it wouldn’t be accurate anyway. That’s the key. She solves problems that people haven’t predicate, see things people haven’t seen and connects people who need to be connected. She is a linchpin.”

For more on his book, check out our book review of Seth’s Godin’s Lichpin.

Highlight: Small Business Tech Hot Demos

This year they had something new to fill the space between speakers and that was the Small Business Tech Hot Demos. These were new or existing companies that had a really hot technology that would benefit any small business owner. The winners were:

Broadlook Mobile Profiler
http://www.broadlook.com/products/profilerx/

Automatically acquire accurate and more information about your contacts from the Internet, in particular social networks.

Ez Texting
http://www.eztexting.com

Send SMS (text) messages to customers (clients). Send to 10 clients or 500 clients. Send to all or a segmented groups.

Lexmark Pinnacle Pro901
http://www.lexmark.com

One of the first printers with customizable applications

SugarSync for Business
http://www.sugarsync.com

Synchronize files or folders, instantly, across computers or mobile devices

ReTargeter
http://www.retargeter.com

Display online advertising in front of customers when they visit other popular web sites, after they’ve left your web site.

Pixability Business Video
http://pixability.com

Take video footage of your business. Send it to Pixability for creation of a professional video about your business.

Highlight: Meeting Awesome People

This year there were about 500 people and it was bigger than last year with great small business owners and those who work with small business

We met some great folks at the event  and here is a list of some of them:

Highlight: The Swami Presents his Great Social Media Presentation

Here is the presentation Shashi Bellamkonda gave at the Small Business Tech Summit New York March 16th 2010.

I had the opportunity to present my 2010 edition of the 10 Rules for Killer Business Cards. Here it is, from Slideshare, below for your viewing and amusement. Would love to hear your feedback and thoughts on the do’s and don’ts of business cards.

10 Rules for Killer Business Cards 2010 EditionView more presentations from Steven Fisher.

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