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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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Posts Tagged ‘Erica Knoch’

Creative Networking: The Owner Who Gets Out, Grows

February 1st, 2010 :: Erica Knoch

Photo by Getty Images

To even start, let alone grow a business, you need to get out of your workplace and meet the right people.  With all the time constraints I am under, this post is very close to my heart!  I am a working mother living outside of the city,  who is trying to balance two active kids, a home, husband, four dogs and have the time to grow my business.  Because of this, I end up missing out on many networking functions that could help me get new clients, education, and grow my business.

Do you have challenges that keep you from getting to the functions you need to attend?  How do you stay “connected” and meet the people who will help you grow in your field when so much is keeping you from that valuable networking time?  You have to be selective, be creative and get out!

A Few Ideas: (please comment to share yours!)

  • Be “on” in your everyday life: Since you have to run around in your daily life anyway, combine it with an opportunity to network.  Print and bring business cards too!  Keep in tune with the conversations around you, you might just overhear someone say they are looking for what you can deliver.  I was talking to my yoga instructor who found out I market small businesses in the area, and she connected me to a potential client!
  • Use your expertise to network with an audience: Instead of going to events as an audience member and vying for the attention of the speaker, why not be the speaker and have the audience want to get to know you?  You could start with the association in your field of business.  Find the event planner and ask if they need a speaker with your speciality and offer your services.  A non-paid speaking engagement can turn into valuable contacts in the future! (not to mention possible paid speaking engagements down the road).
  • Throw an event:  Don’t you hate wasting time going to events that, for whatever reason, weren’t what you thought they would be? (didn’t have the contacts that could help you grow, lessons were too below your level or parking was horrific)  Organize your own event and be in control.  It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but can be as easy as meeting with a targeted group of people for a drink to discuss similar projects they are working on, learn and partner with each other.  Using social networking tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can help you find those people, or you can use some of the other resources below.

Resources to Start You on Your Way:

  • Local Chamber of Commerce: Find your local Chamber of Commerce and find out where you can offer to speak or attend an event. Tons of great resources at the US Chamber of Commerce page as well.
  • Association Involvement – ASAE:  Sign up to speak, volunteer, search for your association, and use other resources to help you to grow your business skills and network.
  • MeetUp: This is such a great site to find or lead a local group/event.  Start an account now.  Try a search on “Small business” and you can see all the groups in your chosen zip code.  I joined a DC Blogger group where I meet with fellow bloggers who exchange experience and inspiration.
  • Twitter : I can’t say enough about the value of Twitter. (check out my past blog).  You need to sign up for Twitter for your business to not only market it, but also to network for its growth!  Use Twitter to find fellow small business owners to exchange information, find out about local meetings, and meet for business.  With Twitter search, you can narrow down folks in your field and area by using the hash tag symbol (#).  I found someone who does graphics work that I admired, she was in my area, and we are discussing upcoming projects!
  • Twellowhood and Yelp: These are sites where you need to get listed, find other local listed businesses, resources and people that list themselves.  Follow them, network and eventually partner to grow your business.

Have any other networking ideas for business owners with limited time?  Please share below.  I wish you much success in growing your network and business!

Recession-Era Marketing: Learn from the Experts for FREE

December 18th, 2009 :: Erica Knoch
Online Experts

Photo by Monashee Frantz/OJO Images/Getty Images

Now that you have made that leap into being a small business owner, it’s time to let others know you exist.  So how can you pitch your product, show where your store is, or let anyone know of your services when you have a zero marketing budget? Learn from the experts!

The online space is full of experts – experienced professionals who give free advice, write articles, post on social networks, and link to tools to help you learn, promote, and retain your customers.  Assuming you have already set up your website/blog, here are a few FREE ways to learn from the experts and market your business:

1.  Basic Social Media Accounts: Facebook, LinkedIn, & Twitter.

  • On Facebook, open a personal account, then from that, create a page for your small business. (example: Aeroka Media and Network Solutions)  Start uploading photos, links to your services, and promote to get “fans”.  Post new content and links to your blog/site often.  Become a fan of experts in your field, read their posts for advice.
  • On Twitter, sign up for an account for your business. Post about your Facebook fan page, links to different parts of your blog/site, and do a search in Twitter to see what your customers say about you. Follow experts in your field of business and learn from their links and posts.
  • On LinkedIn, sign up for an account for you, which you can then add a link to your business. Start a group, answer questions, and connect with others in your field.  Ask questions as well, and connect to experts.

Note: There are a lot of applications in each of these to crosss promote (Twitter-to-Facebook, etc) so try to automate, or use sites like Ping to post once and automate to all the above  social networks and more!

2. “Marketing 101″ for FREE:
Educate yourself, all at no cost.  Some examples are:

  • Attend conferences and events of your choice via Twitter! No need to pay for travel, tickets or registration!   Just sign in to your Twitter account, use this symbol # (hashtag) in front of the name of a conference in the search box.  There are Tweets about who might be there, cool factoids on speakers, sponsors, and inside information from attendees and speakers AT the event.   Example:  I wanted to attend the 140 Character Conference in New York last Spring.  I typed in #140Conf in the search box, and received a lot of facts about the panel speakers and links to their advice.  When the live streaming from the event website went down, I found an attendee there on Twitter who was streaming from his personal webcam, and he shared a link to his video feed with me!
  • Visit and Subscribe: To be on top of  the latest news in marketing your business, trends and updates on the competition, find the right sites and  subscribe to feeds/newsletters!  I like to keep on top of marketing, media, tech and small business news, so I visit and subscribe to Mediapost, Variety, Mashable, PaidContent and Grow Smart Business.  I also like to use Alltop to customize and aggregate all of my favorite news feeds from marketing experts such as Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki and many others.
  • View Marketing Presentations: Check out Slideshare, do a search on any subject, and I’m sure there is a presentation for it.  I just searched on “Small Business Marketing” and came up with this list of presentations.  Here is a presentation on Social Media Marketing for Small Business.  Sign up and try doing specific searches to your needs.  They just might help you with a presentation to a new client!
  • Take a course: There are a ton of webinars you can take from your couch!  I like to expand my knowledge of  website optimization, so I Googled “free webinars for SEO” and found free Hubspot webinars taught by SEO experts.  Do a search on free webinars in your area of business, you’d be amazed at what courses you can take at no cost!

3.  Join Niche Communities of Experts:

  • Join Meetup: Meetup is a great place to join and target your exact niche to the actual area you live, so that you can connect, not only online, but with folks in your group in real life!  Also, type in “small business” and your zip code, and you can find other small business owners you can meet  in person!
  • PartnerUp!:  Seriously if you have a job that is just too big for your business, and you need help with a part of it, PartnerUp is a community is the place to get the help you need!
  • Associations:  If you haven’t already joined an association related to your field, do.  There will be a fee, so if you can’t pay, there are FREE resources too.  In my case, the American Marketing Association site has a blog, list of events, and other items that I have utilized for free.  Try your association!

These are just a few ways to get you started in marketing your business, for free, but without having to go it alone.  A marketing expert is just a few keystrokes away.  Please tell me if you have any success with these ideas, or share with me where you are finding expert advice for FREE by commenting below.

Wishing you much success. :-)

Promote Your Business and Brand: BE the Change You Want to See

October 22nd, 2009 :: Erica Knoch
Black Dog Coffee's Brian Bircher

Black Dog Coffee's, Brian Bircher (photo by Aeroka Media Marketing)

Do you have a passion for a certain charitable cause, wished you had more time to help others, but were too busy running your business?  Well why not make it your business to give back?  Today is the day to be the change you want to see, and hey, it’s a great promotional tool as well!

Include in your business plan a giving mission.  Not only will giving back in the name of your business help you work with a purpose, but by doing so, you are marketing  your business, raising the bar on your brand reputation and growing a client base.  Personally, I would rather do business with a company that gives back, especially to my community.

Here are a few small business examples that might inspire you:

Black Dog Coffee:  Brian Bircher is the Roast Master of Black Dog Coffee.  Based in Summit Point, WV, he roasts and sells his coffee beans online, in retail establishments, and delivers locally.  His passion is helping the Charlestown Rotary Club.  This club helps local charities, such as arranging a Day of Caring, as well as help the larger Rotary‘s worldwide mission to end Polio.  Also, Brian volunteers with Shannondale & Beyond, an historical and nature preservation entity. By donating his coffee, serving it at fundraising events, and being hands-on in charity projects, he has found purpose.  His added bonus: a great reputation and a growing client base.  In his social media efforts, he is able to spread word of his works and products, and is currently planning the expansion of his business. 

DISHLast weekend, Doug Vaira just celebrated his first year in business by giving a tour of the local farms from which he purchases his menu ingredients. He is the owner of Dish, a new American bistro in Charlestown, WV.  Along with fresh local meats and vegetables in his menu, Doug also sells Mountaineer beer, and brews Black Dog coffee.  On October 22nd, he will sponsor a dinner/open mic night that will raise funds for Community Alternatives to Violence.  He also volunteers as a soccer coach for a local JCYSL girls team.  His customers are loyal, and, besides his tasty menu, much of that is due to his enthusiasm and breathing new life and economic development into his town.

Green Hill Farm:  Nick Frobouck’s farm is Located in Sharpsburg, MD, right near the famous Antietam Battlefield.  This year he started the Annual Springfest and Fall Festival, both events to showcase great local music, food and small businesses.  All money goes to support Loggers and Farmers Inc, a 501c3 organization formed to help in the financial support of families of loggers or farmers where there has been injury or loss of life.  In early October, the two-day Fall Festival brought hundreds of folks from the area to see some excellent rock, reggae and blues bands such as Jah Works and the famous Nighthawks.

How you can start:

  • Find a local charity:  Check out Network for Good.  You can do a location search by zip code and review the list of local charities to inspire you with ideas on how your business can give back.
  • Throw recession-era events:  Raising money to feed hungry, gather blankets, gift donations, and throwing Pink Slip parties.
  • Volunteer in your community:  Local schools, support local teams, animal shelters…the list is endless.

Tell us how is your business is already giving back. If not, are you planning to soon?  Helping your community should be part of your business plan.  The benefits of raising your brand, getting new and loyal customers who share your passion, plus free marketing – priceless!

Introducing the Grow Smart Business Small Business Expert Network

August 10th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

Over the last month we have been reaching out to some very talented experts in small business many of them owners of their own small business. We began with leveraging our network on Facebook through the Grow Smart Business Club and asking some very smart people to contribute once a month and impart their expertise to you our Grow Smart Business blog.

We have about 20 contributors writing about topics such as capital access, small business marketing, technology and small business, marketing, pr, social media, customer service, accounting, taxes, business writing etiquette, health and wellness, generational marketing, business coaching and human resources to start. All of these contributors are experts have volunteered their time once a month to impart their wisdom and experience so you can build the best small business possible.

Starting today we will be publishing these guest contributors in addition to our staff writers and we would like to give you a preview of the upcoming week and future contributors.

Contributors for the Upcoming Week

Email Marketing and You: So Happy Together by Monika Jansen
Social Media: 10 Tips on Jumping In Feet-First Without Drowning by Michelle Riggen-Ransom
Evian babies in your face. Just like their GenX parents by Jessie Newburn
What to do if you are downsized by Lorne Epstein
The apple pie bakery that could teach you a thing or two about making a sale and loyal fans by Mayra Ruiz

Contributors Coming to the Blog in the Coming Weeks

Barry Moltz – Small Business Technology

Carla Briceno – Marketing to the Hispanic Markeplace

Carlos Diggs – Selling for Small Businesses

David McGillivray – Small Business Coach – “Coaches Corner”

Debbie Weil – Corporate Blogging

Toby Bray – Small Business Sales and Marketing

Jimmy Gardner – Small Business Technology

Erica Knoch – Small Business Marketing

Gary Honig – Raising Capital for Small Businesses

Harry Lalor – Small Business Strategy

Kristin King – Effective Business Communications

Liz Strauss – Social Media for Small Business

Pamela O’Hara – Small Business CRM

Would you like to be a contributor?

If you would like to be considered as a contributor, we would love to see if there is a fit so reach out to [email protected] and point us to your blog or send a few samples of your writing and your bio.