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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 ‘Small Business Success Index’


Marketing, the Small Business Success Index, and You

March 19th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business released the findings of their Small Business Success Index survey on February 16.  The index is designed to track the competitive health of the small business sector over time, and the results are always interesting.  Scores in 6 categories are graded; marketing and innovation got a C-.  Let’s see why: 

From celestehodges on Flickr[S]mall businesses perceive themselves at a disadvantage in marketing and innovation.

That statement surprised me, because one of the key findings of the survey was that small business owners have embraced social media: social media usage has increased from 12% to 24% in just 12 months.  Since social media is widely seen as an excellent tool to level the playing field between big, multi-national companies and small, me-myself-and-I businesses, it would seem to me that the small business owners who are using Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (the most popular social media sites) are doing something right with their marketing strategy. 

But then I read this: 

Common marketing methods for reaching potential customers include print advertising (37%), email marketing (24%), social media marketing (19%), telephone sales (18%), direct mail (17%) and broadcast advertising (14%).

I honestly do not understand why so many small businesses still use print and broadcast advertising.  I considered advertising in a local magazine for business women last year.  But then I realized how tiny the chance was that potential customers would not only see my ad but remember it, too.  I’d have to invest a lot of money to run that ad every month. Think about it: what if your potential customers don’t have time to read that newspaper issue, or listen to the radio that week because they’re on vacation, or watch TV because they lost cable during a big snowstorm?   You just spent all that money, and what kind of leads did it generate?  If you’re getting a great ROI using traditional advertising methods, good for you, but if you’re not, time to talk to a marketing strategist, who will save you time and money (in the long run).

Back to social media:

The majority of small business owners who use social media (58%) feel the medium has so far ‘met expectations.’  Another 12% feel it has ‘exceeded expectations’ but twice as many, 26%, feel it has ‘fallen short of expectations.’ 

The fact that 70% of small businesses are finding new customers, engaging with current customers, and generating awareness with social media is encouraging, as it proves that integrating social media into your marketing efforts is worthwhile.   

Half of users, though, said social media has used up more time than expected.  Yes, it does take time, but it is time well-spent.  Being able to so easily connect with people who want, need, and/or use your company’s product or service is an amazing opportunity that was not possible just a few years ago.  Embrace technology, don’t run from it.     

I am active on Facebook (professionally only—I do not use it for my “regular” life), Twitter, and LinkedIn, and I write blog posts for Grow Smart Business.  You need not be active on a handful of sites, though.  Pick one or two and stick with them.  There are lots of guides, white papers, and articles online that contain valuable information on how to use social media effectively.  Spend an hour or two on research, and either put together a new marketing strategy yourself or, like I said above, hire an expert to help you.

Small Business Tweet Chat on Tuesday Feb 23

February 22nd, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

Small business owners interested in finding out how to start using social media should join the Tweet Chat #sbbuzz on Feb 23rd, 8-10PM (EST).

Tweet Chat on Small Business Success

Anita Campbell, Editor of Small Business Trends, will moderate the discussion to provide additional insight on how to effectively use social networks to generate results.

SBBuzz is a Twitter Chat that allows people to follow a group conversation across Twitter using the hashtag #sbbuzz for search filtering and adding their comments using the hashtag to create a stream of conversation.

For instructions on how to participate in the SBBuzz Tweet Chat, you can go to http://sbbuzz.wordpress.com/instructions/

Pre-tweet Radio Show with Anita Campbell

Prior to the Tweet Chat, Anita will be interviewing Shashi Bellamkonda, “Social Media Swami” (Director of Social Media) here at Network Solutions and Founder of Happenings, Advice and Technology Thoughts, and small business owner, Dr. Alan Glazier, join Anita Campbell for an in-depth discussion on the results of the Small Business Success Index. This special episode will be followed up with a TweetChat at 8:00PM EST including @ShashiB and @smallbiztrends using the hashtag #SBBuzz@SBBuzz.

If you haven’t heard of the Small Business Success Index or SBSI, the SBSI Index measures how they are doing in six key areas of business: capital access, marketing and innovation, workforce, customer service, computer technology and compliance.

To download a copy of the Small Business Success Index and also find out how your business scores on the six key dimensions of small business success, visit www.growsmartbusiness.com.

And of course, don’t forget to join us and Anita on the #sbbuzz chat on Tuesday, Feb 23 from 8-10pm EST!

Just take the black eye with a smile…

August 25th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

I just got out of a “social media” round table discussion with several individuals whose companies are still either new to or on the verge of starting with social media. What I found the most interesting was that they were still trying to fit the square peg of traditional marketing into the round hole of social media. Now don’t get me wrong, the two work hand in hand, but you can’t force one to be the other.

Where does getting a black eye come into all of this?

The biggest concern I heard was “If we open our organization up to these tools then we’ll see all the negative things people say about us.”

Well…duh.

I’ve also got some other really bad news for you if that’s your primary concern for not getting involved in social media…people are going to speak negatively about your
company/organization/product/service whether you like it/want them to or not. Social media doesn’t stop that, but gives the world a more transparent environment to air their grievances. I am strictly going to focus on the social media side of things, but I believe this can translate to the real world as well.

You’ll be surprised to know that most people I have talked to who complain on social media do so in hopes that the person/company/service they are complaining about will actually hear them. Imagine what you could do when the biggest advocate of an issue with your service, becomes your biggest advocate to your solution.

How you handle/react to those negative comments, both in the real world and in the realm of social media, will separate you from the others in your industry, and earn some valued respect and appreciation from clients.

Kermit Pattison, over at nytimes.com, put out an article called “Managing an Online Reputation“* in which he goes over some great advice, but I would like to offer a few of my own.

1) P.T Barnum is famously quoted as saying, “You can’t please all the people all the time.” Recognize that no matter what you do you’re going to get bad comments from someone. Probably for reasons well beyond your control, maybe for something you didn’t even realize would be a cause of pain for someone, but it will happen. I believe it is what you do with that information that will set you apart from your competition.

2) Know this isn’t your time to attack back, but your time to listen. If you can source those people/complaints out, source out the reason for their unhappiness, and do your best to resolve it…I believe you are more likely to see an unhappy client/vendor/etc. become someone who looks at your company/services/etc. with a bit more understanding. Just don’t go killing yourself trying to find them. Don’t become so obsessed on trying to find that black eye that you end up giving yourself one by neglecting other areas of your business.

3) Smile. Black eyes hurt, but they aren’t the end of the world. I look at them as learning experiences and sometimes even badges of honor. Don’t live in fear of when or where the black eye is going to come from, but be prepared, when it does, to take it like a champ. Don’t fall back and whine. Get out there and take the next one with an even bigger grin. You are here to server your customers good AND bad. One should not get attention over the other, but one should make you work harder to make sure you/your company/your services are doing everything you can to make sure that misstep won’t happen again.

4) Learn from it damn it! You got the black eye for one reason or another. The worst thing you can do is ignore the reason you got it and act just as surprised the second time around when you get one for the same reason. For Pete’s sake (who says that these days anyway…well…me), take away some knowledge from the experience.

In closing, dear reader, black eyes are going to happen. I’ve had my fair share and probably have more in store in the future.  Some we deserve, some we’re unsure if we earned, and some we know should be someone else’s. In the end, black eyes fade and tomorrow is another day.

Until next time, as always, thank you for reading and stay wicked.

Are Your Marketing Pieces Collecting Dust Or Momentum?

August 20th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

I have to be honest; a pet peeve of mine is walking into someone’s marketing closet and seeing boxes of brochures, t-shirts, and various items of marketing intent collecting in boxes, months, if not years, after they were printed with the intention of promoting the company.

I have seen this scenario happen so often it’s become a mission of mine to be nosey and ask why. Here is just a few of the answers I’ve gotten:

“Well, it cost so much money we only give it out at special occasions. Then we forgot they were there.”

“We figured they’d end up in someone’s trash anyway.”

“What?! Those things? We over ordered.”

“We just made those to shut [insert department] up and they never used them.”

I am honestly floored each time. I want to grab these knuckleheads and ask how their owners of their company feel about them bludgeoning their marketing budget to death with stupidity. If they are the owner I want to smack them with their own ledger.

I am frustrated with the lack of use of these pieces. I am annoyed at the lack of hustle on the part of the company to get these pieces of hard earned marketing dollars in the hands of as many people as possible. I am upset for the loss of marketing dollars that could have gone into something they would have more heart to promote with greater gusto.

I want to rescue these pieces of marketing budget waste discarded to the island of forgotten marketing ideas. They could be in the hands of hopeful clients or advocates for your company instead of in boxes. They could be on display in their front lobby or part of every sales persons pitch. True these pieces could end up in the trashcan at someone else’s shop, but the money has been spent. I’d rather they be somewhere other than the closet of the company that ordered them.

Take stock of your marketing pieces around your office. Does the above describe the state of the marketing pieces in your closet? If so, dust them off, make sure they are relevant, and put them in as many hands as you can. Make it the Fire Sale of your marketing pieces. Everything Must Go.

If your marketing pieces are out of date, or no longer relevant, take them out and give them a proper burial in your trashcan. Always keep one piece for yourself as a reminder of things you’ve done, right and wrong, but it’s time to let those wasted marketing dollars go. It’s also time to look at what was the reason they were created in the fist place.

Before you create your next, what seems like, brilliant marketing piece I want you to think of these questions:

  • Do you honestly intend on putting every single piece of material in the hands of every prospect or client once they are created?
  • Do you know how you are going to make $1 back on ever dollar you spend on your marketing pieces?
  • Why are you creating these marketing pieces to begin with?
  • Do you have the money to waste if you never move a single item?

IF you can answer these questions honestly and with the intent of success then who am I to stop you. What I do want from you is that the minute you open that box of whatever marketing goodness you ordered and PAID FOR that you set the first aside for yourself and then get those pieces out as quickly as possible.

Put them out so many places, and in so many hands, people wonder what is motivating you. After all of your hard work of getting them out the first time you hear “Oh…I saw that [insert location]” I assure you that you will feel proud. Then I fully expect you to take that opportunity and get closer to the sale.

Don’t get me wrong, these pieces are just the gatekeepers for you. They are your little PR machines at work. It will be up to you to leverage their awareness into the next sale, but please, for the love of Pete don’t let these little gems of your marketing budget go to waste in a closet left to be forgotten.

So, dear reader, take stock of your marketing pieces and ask yourself this… are your marketing pieces collecting dust or momentum?

Until next time, as always, thank you for reading and stay wicked.

10 Ways To Get More Followers Using Social Media

August 19th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

In one of my previous posts, I made the confession that I am a late adapter to using social media tools, let me confess something else…I severely dislike “Top Ten” or “5 Things You Can Do To…” list blogs. I, on occasion, go out of my way to avoid them. I find them overly simple and appear, in my opinion, to be mildly targeted to those in the “know” of using these tools.

There are a few exceptions. I kind of like Jeffrey Gitomer’s lists, but that’s mainly due to the tone and attitude of his writing. There are a few others that manage to pull this off with some class, but most come off with barely a personality.

Maybe that is what I truly don’t like about them. Information without a sense of personal connection, as if the person actually lived the list and is speaking from experience and not regurgitating, and often rewording, other successful blog posts content?

Maybe that is what attracts me to social media and its varied tools?

Maybe I am just ranting and should get on with the post.

What brought me to writing my first “10 Ways” list was really based solely on a conversation I had at work today where I honestly gave a rough version of this “10 Ways” to several people who have no idea what social media tools are let alone how to interact with them successfully. I was asked to explain, in the simplest terms, how we could use these tools in a way that would “build the army”.

What I said was pretty simple and straight forward. Some of these ideas are common sense, and have been written about by others, but I think every person has their own view and experiences. So here are my “10 Ways to Get More Followers Using Social Media”:

  1. Truly understand what it is you aim to accomplish by using these tools. Just because everyone else is isn’t a valid reason. Jumping on board the Trend Wagon may not be what you’re company should be focusing on. Then again if you begin using social media with a clear understanding of your goals, you’ll be happy to know you will be far more successful.
  2. Decide which social media tools you are going to use and take some time to really understand what it is they do. You may find in this first step that some tools aren’t used by your core audience. You may find that this is exactly where your core audience is talking and waiting to be heard.
  3. Once you start using these tools understand that it will take time to grow your list of followers. Social media isn’t the silver bullet to great number, but it is a great set of tools for connecting to people who want to hear you.
  4. Remember that your first follower, unless it’s yourself, is just as important as your 1,000. This isn’t a numbers game where you’re stacking followers like trophies. This is a group of people who have decided that you have said, or are saying, something they feel is worth listening to. You should respect that.
  5. Listen to what others are saying. At first, the best thing you can do is listen more than you talk. Your future audience will tell you the things that are important to them. This is an opportunity to make conversations about what you do a two way street rather than you standing on a digital soap box.
  6. Be part of the conversation. If you fully intend to use social media tools to spew out your information without expecting to listen then you will fail. Remember, social media is a two way street. Unless you are a news source, and that is all you provide, then you really need to be in the trenches with your people asking them questions, providing them answers, and letting them know you are a human being not a news bot.
  7. Be a human being. I know your representing your company, but people like dealing with a person…not a sales pitch. Let people know when you find something funny, when you disagree, and generally have a personality. Just like in sales, people are buying from you…in social media they are listening to you.
  8. Remember you are building trust in your audience. Abusing that trust with over hyping your whatever it is you do is a sure fire way to start losing your audience. You can tactfully announce what it is that you are doing, tactfully make people aware of your specials, and answer questions about what it is that you do, but remember…turning these long term relationships off early could costs you greater advocates later down the road.
  9. Remember it’s not all about you…so share other peoples content. In Twitter it’s called ReTweeting, in Facebook you share it to your profile, you can Digg someone’s blog, and a ton of other things you can do to help spread the word about someone else’s content you feel is relevant.
  10. Monitor your time. Check back in with yourself from time to time. Remember your goals, check how your followers are reacting to your information, and keep a pulse on social media, but not a vice grip. You have other day to day things that you need to do to keep your job running.

These are the 10 Ways I have operated in social media and gained the followers that I have in the media I choose to interact in the most. My goals were pretty clear, my choice in tools had more to do with the amount of time I was able to give, and I have given you advice that I live by myself today.

Until next time, as always, thank you for reading and stay wicked.

Announcing the Second Edition of the Small Business Success Index (SBSI)

August 7th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

downloadEarlier this year Network Solutions in partnership with the Smith School at the University of Maryland, College Park surveyed 1000 small businesses the good old fashioned way – they talked to them. The survey covered many data points and its goal was to get a baseline on how small businesses rated themselves in six key areas – capital access, marketing & innovation, workforce (HR), customer service, computer technology and compliance (accounting and tax). The results were surprising in some areas and expected in others.

With the economic crisis in full swing, access to capital scored a ‘D’ which was not very surprising, customer service and compliance rated B+ and A respectively. This showed that people felt they did an excellent job keeping records and serving their customers which was the key to managing their cash flow and retaining their customers.

Marketing, Technology and Workforce was in the surprising ‘C’ range. This showed people were still trying to find ways to effectively use their technology, working hard to innovate and market effectively and hire good people.

The Second Edition is in and the results surprise again

The second wave was collected in June 2009 from 500 small business owners. Small businesses included in the study are privately owned, for-profit, have fewer than 100 employees, and have a payroll and/or contributed to at least 50% of the owner’s household income. The data are weighted to ensure representativeness to the entire population of small businesses in the U.S. The survey is longitudinal in nature, tracking small business trends over time; the completion of the second wave provides a six month trend line.

Released on August 1, the second edition of the Small Business Success Index, which you can download here, was released and after reviewing it I have to agree with the sentiment of the report. As a small business owner myself, I can attest to the fact of how hard it is to get funding from banks. Aside from the SBA loan rescue program implemented from the TARP program over the last few months, the credit markets have really tightened up but they are improving which might account for the slight uptick

The other area where things ticked up is customer service and that reflects the focus that small business are working hard to keep the customers they have happy and impress them to get referrals which are the lifeblood of many small businesses.

Where things went down is on the “Marketing Innovation” section and that according to the report “Surprisingly, the June 2009 wave revealed that relationship to be weaker than originally thought; businesses with minimal technology were nearly as competitive as the tech-poweredones. This is likely due to falling demand in the current economic climate, which has restricted the effectiveness of companies’ marketing efforts. Internet business solutions have their greatest impact on success in the Marketing and Innovation area of the SBSI, but in an environment with declining sales, the weak economy blunts the benefits of these technologies”.

There are a few negative quotes from the report:

“More small businesses think the economic climate for their business is worsening (38%) rather than improving (25%)”.

But there are some uplifting sentiments from small business owners:

“More small business owners expect the economy to improve in the next 12 months (38%), than decline (28%).”

“As many small businesses believe their 2009 revenues will be higher than in 2008 (29%) as think it will be lower (30%), with 38% expecting revenues to be the same.”

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT and leave a comment

Download the Report at this link and take a read. We would love to hear your thoughts and if you are experiencing the same thing.

Event Recap: 4/30 Webinar: Rock Star Entrepreneurs and Your Business

May 2nd, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

Yesterday we had a great event and the first of its kind on our small business blog, GrowSmartBusiness.com

This event was moderated by Network Solutions CEO, Roy Dunbar and included a stellar panel of small business owners and experts to discuss a range of topics covering current small business trends, the challenges and success stories of these entrepreneurs and some sage advice for those currently in business or thinking of starting one.

Our panelists included:

Kristina Bouweiri, CEO of Reston Limo, the largest independent limousine service in the Washington D.C. area

Anita Campbell, Editor of Small Business Trends

Tom Heath, Columnist, The Washington Post’s Value Added

Kelly Muccio, Founder of Lost Boys, a fashionable clothing store recently featured on Good Morning America

Surfy Rahman, Co-owner of Indique, a popular DC-area restaurant chain.

If you want to watch the event, you can watch below on-demand or see it on our Mogulus channel, http://www.mogulus.com/networksolutions

ADDITIONAL COOL STUFF: To embed the player on your site:

1.) The video above has a cool little button next to the power button called “EMBED” – CLICK IT.

2.) Select the size of the player that works for your web page/blog page

3.) Click the copy button that applies to your site

4.) Paste it on your site

5.) Tell EVERYONE!

Reminder: 4/30 Webinar: Rock Star Entrepreneurs and Your Business

April 30th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

If you haven’t heard already we have a webcast at 2pm EST on Mogulus at http://www.mogulus.com/networksolutions

Here are the details:

Some talented business thinkers, leaders, movers-and-shakers are headed to the Internet near you!

Ideas will soar at this event (and you’re invited).

(image by Jody Art, Creative Commons)

Small business success, brainstorms, and you

At the end of this month, Grow Smart Business – a new Network Solutions blog, resource hub, and home to the Small Business Success Index – hosts its first webinar.

The What:
In the new economy, U.S. small businesses continue to struggle with the most significant aspects of operations: Capital access and marketing. In fact, the Small Business Success Index grades America’s small businesses at a D- in finance and a C- in marketing (compared to an A- in customer service).

Learn from the risks taken, lessons learned, and success attained from a great webinar panel. Join entrepreneurs and business leaders for this free, live webcast. And get a chance to learn from their experience in securing capital and deciding their approach to marketing.

The When:
On Thursday, April 30 from 2-3pm ET, Network Solutions will host the GrowSmartBusiness Webinar to help small business owners learn from the success of others. Join our all-star line-up of entrepreneurs and experts for this free, live webcast. They’ll discuss tips for overcoming challenges to marketing strategy and capital access.

The Who:
Roy Dunbar, CEO of Network Solutions, will host the conversation. And the speakers include:

Kristina Bouweiri, CEO of Reston Limo, the largest independent limousine service in the Washington D.C. area

Anita Campbell, Editor of Small Business Trends

Kelly Muccio, Founder of Lost Boys, a fashionable clothing store recently featured on Good Morning America

Surfy Rahman, Co-owner of Indique, a popular DC-area restaurant chain.

Tom Heath, Columnist, The Washington Post’s Value Added

Don’t walk just run to register!
Visit http://growsmartbusiness.eventbrite.com.

A Few Small Business Gems from Solutions Are Power:

A Few Small Business Gems Women Grow Business:

Entrepreneur Evan Carmichael Discusses the Small Business Success Index

April 8th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

evan_carmichaelEntrepreneur and international speaker Evan Carmichael hosts the Internet’s #1 resource for small business motivation and strategies. Evan started his own business, the Evan Carmichael Communications Group, in 2005 as a resource for entrepreneurs to grow their business. He is known as an entrepreneurial expert and has been featured in publications such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Below is a snippet of his thoughts about the Small Business Success Index. For the full interview, visit the Young Entrepreneur blog.

IF YOU LIKE THE INTERVIEW YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ, YOU WILL LOVE THIS:

At the end of this month, Grow Smart Business – a new Network Solutions blog, resource hub, and home to the Small Business Success Index – hosts its first webinar hosted by Network Solutions CEO, Roy Dunbar

Learn from the risks taken, lessons learned, and success attained from a great webinar panel. Join entrepreneurs and business leaders for this free, live webcast. And get a chance to learn from their experience in securing capital and deciding their approach to marketing.

When: Thursday, April 30 from 2-3pm ET,

To register: Visit http://growsmartbusiness.eventbrite.com.

Network Solutions: What did the study reveal to you about the success of small businesses in 2008?
Evan:
What I loved about the results was that small companies are taking clients away from big business by providing excellent customer service. Consumers are no longer willing to be put on hold and being treated like a number. Small business owners understand that and are leveraging this need to build successful new companies

Network Solutions: According to the results, Capital Access and Marketing and Innovation were the two biggest inhibitors for success. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Evan:
I disagree with this on a number of fronts. I disagree that access to capital is the most heavily weighted part of this index. To say that customer service is only 1/3 as important as access to capital would be a slap in the face to all the entrepreneurs who have built a successful business by paying attention to the needs of their clients…

Read more here.