Category Archives: Marketing

SHOULD YOU BUY A NEW TOP-LEVEL DOMAIN NAME FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

domainNow it’s easier than ever before to buy a branded URL for your business. With the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ rollout of more than 1,400 themed domain extensions over the course of the year, you can now buy the website address of your choice with a .bike, .coffee, or .lawyer top-level domain, to name just a few of the options.

If the .com website address of your choice isn’t available, a themed domain extension may seem like an attractive option — but is it worth building your online brand around it? Consider the following points.

.Com Domains Still Dominate

There are more than 100 million registered .com domains, according to statistics from VeriSign, which far exceeds the use of any other domain extension. On a practical level, that means most people will default to including “.com” when typing in your URL unless you make a major branding effort to get customers to remember your custom domain.

What if You Can’t Find a .Com Domain That Suits Your Brand?

Domain names ending in .com are generally preferable, but what if your top choice — or even your tenth choice — isn’t available? That’s a common occurrence for small-business owners. In a study conducted by  Wakefield Research, 55 percent of respondents surveyed said they believe  they have lost business because of their domain names. If a suitable .com URL isn’t available, it may make sense to move to a themed top-level domain. For instance, if you own a business called Sunrise Coffee and can’t purchase sunrisecoffee.com or any suitable variants, consider purchasing sunrise.coffee instead.

You May Need to Buy More Than One Domain Name

Many businesses strive to protect their brand by purchasing numerous relevant domain names. But with the new business-themed domains, this can get quite expensive. If you own a chain of coffee shops, for instance, you may want to purchase a .com, a .biz, and now, even a .coffee domain name. ICANN has launched a trademark clearinghouse that allows brands to protect their trademarked names, with trademark registration available for between $95 and $150 per year. Keep in mind that this service sends a warning to those who purchase trademarked domain names, but it does not actually prevent anyone from buying them. To fully protect your brand, you’ll need to actually purchase the relevant domain names.

If you want to check on the costs and availability of brand-related domain names, a service like GoDaddy can help at no charge. If you haven’t even decided on a business name yet, try Panabee, which can help you come up with potential choices for a business name.

Written by Kathryn Hawkins, Intuit Small Business Blog, 7/17/2014

Read more: http://blog.intuit.com/marketing/should-you-buy-a-new-top-level-domain-name-for-your-business/#ixzz37jEVj1oR

CLOSING YOUR BOOKS ON THE FIRST HALF OF 2014: NOW WHAT?

closingthebooksJune 30 is the end of the second quarter in 2014 for most small businesses that operate on a calendar year; July 1 starts the third quarter. Now is the time to assess your results year to date, reassess your projections for the remainder of the year, and put your plans into action.

Assessing results
Has the first half of the year been profitable, or as profitable as you’d hoped? The only way to know is to review your revenue and expenses to date. Compare the results with your expectations from your business plan. What the results mean:

  • If you hit your target, congratulations! You’ve obviously got a good handle on your sales, and expenses haven’t exceeded your budget.
  • If you exceeded your target, determine the reason or reasons why. You must be doing something right and you need to identity this so you can capitalize on it going forward. Did new marketing efforts pay off? Did you implement new technology that significantly cut costs?
  • If you fell short of your target, determine the reason or reasons why. Was revenue too low? Were expenses too high? Did you experience an unusual event, such as a catastrophic storm?

Projecting revenues and expenses
Take the lessons you’ve learned from your assessment, couple that with expectations about customers and expenses, and devise new projections for the balance of the year (or longer).

  • Revenue side. What are you doing to retain customers? Find new customers? Are you seeing any changes in customer buying habits? Quantify your revenue projections based on what you know about your customers specifically and the market in general.
  • Expense side. Look at your expense budget to uncover potential cost increases. For example, if your current health plan is up for renewal, find out if possible what the new premiums will be. This will help you decide what to do about health coverage in light of the new cost and the rules under the Affordable Care Act.

Actions to take
Planning is not merely a cerebral activity. There are actions you can take now:

  • Update your business plan. If you don’t have a formal plan, consider creating one (even if it’s only one page). This will serve as a roadmap that you can follow in the coming months to try to meet your projections. It will also serve as a benchmark against which to assess your efforts at the end of the year. The business plan includes your budget (a discussion of which follows), your marketing efforts, strategic planning, and more.
  • Review your budget. As part of your business planning, you’ll need to check your pricing and see whether changes are warranted. If you’ve experienced price increases in your monthly expenses, you may want to pass on some or all of this to customers; your margin can handle only so much. Also look over your expenses to see where changes can be made. Take advantage of technology to trim expenses (e.g., use videoconferencing instead of traveling distances to customers and clients).
  • Meet with your tax advisor. Now is likely a slow time for CPAs and a great time to meet with yours to discuss tax issues for you and your business. Make sure you’re taking advantage of opportunities that can reduce your tax payments and implement best practices for your company.

Conclusion
You can’t run a business by crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Realistic planning and follow-up will go a long way in helping you to grow your business, handle disruptions, and achieve your dream.

Written By: Barbara Weltman, Big Ideas For Small Business

Source: http://www.barbaraweltman.com/articles/financial/financial_article_details.asp?id=268

FIVE SOCIAL MEDIA MISTAKES TO AVOID

oopsNearly half of American adults are on at least one social networking site, according to the latest Pew Research Center data. But in spite of the vast potential audience — and the equally vast amount of advice out there — the social world isn’t necessarily a straightforward proposition for small businesses. Here are five mindsets that could lead to trouble.

1. I Have No Idea Why My Business Is on Facebook

If you can’t name at least one — and preferably several — good business reasons to spend time on social media, take a step back and think harder until you do. “Trying something new for my business” can be a wonderful goal, but it’s not everlasting. Build a clear-cut plan for what you hope to gain by spending your business’s time on social sites. Keep that plan flexible; it can (and should) adapt to the growing, changing world of social media.

2. I’m a Sales Machine: Must Always Be Closing

Coffee might be for closers, but social networking is for everyone. Sales are a great thing — good luck to the business that tries to go without them. But if selling is your only social goal, you’re likely to be disappointed. In fact, loyal users of sites like Twitter and Quora tend to frown upon the “ABC” approach espoused by Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross. Take a wider, longer view: Think of things like customer service, potential partnerships, or community service. Likewise, consider the possible internal applications — a private Facebook page, for example, could be a no-cost tool for employee communications.

3. I Believe that Any Publicity Is Good Publicity

Social media is proving that legendary PR sound bite wrong on a regular basis. There have been a number of big-time gaffes lately. Twitter seems particularly prone to these cautionary tales. The general public can use social sites to complain when their neighbor’s music is too loud or someone cuts them off in traffic — or to flat-out misbehave. You should think twice before doing the same with your business. There’s no such thing as an inner monologue online, no matter what your privacy settings are. If you post it, it’s public.

4. My Friends Tell Me I Should Have Been a Comedian

A sense of humor is a wonderful thing, but don’t assume everyone thinks you’re a hoot. (See also: Any Publicity Is Good Publicity.) There aren’t a wealth of successful business models based on offending as many people as possible. Creating controversy can generate a short-term buzz, but unless you’re going for just that — a fast, short-term wave of interest, likely followed by digital wrath — it’s often not worth it. Even the professional comedians run into trouble: Gilbert Gottfried recently lost a lucrative deal with Geico after several tweets referring to the recent disaster in Japan.

5. I Know this Is Going to be a Piece of Cake

The social universe involves your business giving up a certain amount of control over its image. People have a very easy, very public platform to pat you on the back when things go well, and to slam you when they don’t. There’s no flip of the switch — to see real results, you’ll have to put in some work. (Though that’s not likely to put off successful business owners.) Take your time, keep an open mind, and don’t lose sight of your core business. No matter how staggering the social media usage stats get, that will still be what matters most.

Read more: http://blog.intuit.com/marketing/5-social-media-mistakes-for-your-business-to-avoid/#ixzz35BNcqKn2

SURPRISE YOUR CUSTOMERS TO BUILD LOYALTY

customerloyaltyCustomers generally expect to get what they pay for. If you go beyond that to deliver something extra and unexpected, you can set your company apart from the competition. To that end, here are five ways to surprise customers and beat “the other guys.”

1. Get to know people personally. Do you reach out to customers soon after a purchase is made, just to see whether they’re satisfied? Think about the positive impression you’ll make on customers by doing so. Making contact can be as simple as inviting customers to take an online survey or as involved as making a phone call or sending a personalized email or a handwritten thank-you note. Longtime loyalty stems from gestures like these.

For example, salespeople at The Mitchells Family of Stores in Fairfield, Connecticut, contact customers by phone, email or handwritten note, “not trying to sell them anything, but letting them know we’re available to do alterations, or to come to their home and look at their closet to see what is still wearable,” says CEO Jack Mitchell.

2. Offer help even when you don’t benefit from doing so. Like every other business, you have a customer-service policy and need to maintain certain standards. But when a valued client makes a special request, it may make sense to deviate from the rules. For example, you could provide free shipping on an exceptionally large order. Or, if you can’t satisfy a customer’s particular need, you could make a referral to a business that can. Customers are often surprised by this level of attention, and they’ll remember a business that provides it.

“Be willing to refer customers, even to your competitors,” says Maria Korolov, editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. “Then, when the customer is in a market for whatever it is you’re selling, they’ll remember you and come back.”

3. Solicit feedback. Is there a place on your website where visitors can easily offer suggestions or voice a complaint? Making the process simple shows how much you value your customers’ opinions. When a problem occurs with your service or product, offering a candid admission of the error — as opposed to excuses — may help you retain a potentially alienated customer. Always follow up with anyone who complains to let the customer know the problem has been resolved.

“The right follow-up can often rescue a customer,” notes Richard White, founder and CEO of UserVoice.

4. Be generous with discounts. Customers expect markdowns on goods or services from time to time. What they may not expect is a surprise 5 percent discount on their next invoice with a note saying, “Thank you for being such a great customer.” Consider offering other special discounts or free samples as rewards to loyal customers. This tactic also can be useful for repairing your relationships with complaining customers (see #3).

5. Keep your top employees happy. In a bricks-and-mortar setting, customers put a lot of emphasis on how well they’re served by employees. Staff members who do an outstanding job of assisting customers are often a small business’s most valuable asset. Take care of these employees in order to keep turnover to a minimum.

Visitors to your website or your store won’t always make a purchase. But it’s still important to be gracious and attentive to their needs, no matter what. “The key is to always make your customer happy,” says Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded. “If they remember a great experience in your store [or website] — even without a purchase — they are more likely to return again.”

by Lee Polevoi on  Read more: http://blog.intuit.com/marketing/surprise-your-customers-to-build-loyalty/#ixzz31srqCjR9

SKYPE YOUR WAY TO A BETTER BOTTOM LINE

Since its release in 2003, Skype — the world’s first practical VoIP service with video — has enabled geographically distant colleagues to converse as close as face-to-face as possible without being in the same place at the same time. Businesses big and small have adopted and adapted the service to lower costs and increase revenues in interesting  ways.

Here’s how various entrepreneurs and organizations are using Skype to their advantage, plus five features that may boost your bottom line.

Skype on the Job

Jason McCoy, a voice-over artist who operates McCoy Productions, uses Skype as a way to let his remote clients virtually sit in on his recording sessions for them.

“Producers and directors listen in as I record in my studio and provide me with feedback and direction,” McCoy says. “Skype is patched into my studio so that only my end of the conversation is recorded, but I can hear the client through my headphones the whole time.” Involving clients in the recording process reduces the time McCoy needs to deliver the perfect recording, he says.

Lori Feldman, who runs the consulting firm Database Diva, keeps a Skype chat window open with her four co-workers throughout the course of the business day, even though they are all located in the same room.

“Skype allows us to coach each other privately without clients knowing that we’re doing so,” Feldman explains. “For example, as a salesperson, I may be talking to a client who has a technical question. Instead of putting the client on hold to track down our programmer, I just Skype-chat him. He responds via chat, and I don’t disrupt the flow of my sales call. Skype helps us collaborate more effectively to close more sales.”

Speech and language pathologist Ita Olsen, who owns OlsenSpeech, coaches her clients via Skype. Contrary to her initial beliefs, she says, video chat is more effective than in-person coaching.

“Speech pathologists have traditionally needed to implement cues, things to help people to use their new speaking skills in all areas of their lives into their training. Traditionally, a client works on their speech in a faux training room and then goes out in the real world and has nothing to remind him to use his new speech skills,” Olsen explains.

“When a person is working with me in their own office or in their kitchen, everything around them becomes a cue, a reminder to use their skills. When I Skype with a client, they can see themselves,” she says. “This helps them work on facial expressions, body language, and even how to use their mouth to speak. That makes the webcam training more efficient.”

Emergency Medical Care in New York created a new division to provide telemedicine services to area nursing homes. “The doctor sees the patient through Skype, and the nurse on the other end takes the patient’s vital signs and manages the webcam to help the doctor evaluate the patient. We have even seen patients through the Skype app on our tablets,” says Dr. Steve Okhravi, the company’s CEO and founder. “This is a very promising venture for us.”

5 Lucrative Features

Use these built-in features of Skype to save — and make — money.

  1. Screen-sharing — Sharing your screen with a customer or colleague is free on Skype. Windows PC users can right-click during a video call on Share Your Screen. (Mac users simply click Share Screen.) Group screen sharing is available with Skype’s Premium service, $10/month. You can view presentations, do consultations, or collaborate on projects or upcoming assignments.
  2. Call recording — Skype doesn’t natively support call recording, but various third-party providers do. Record calls to save time and money on activities such as employee orientations, product introductions, or business meetings (for clients or staff members who were unable to attend in real time).
  3. Call forwarding — You can forward Skype calls to a second Skype contact for free. To send calls to your mobile phone, you will need to purchase Skype credits (2.3 cents per minute in the U.S.) or a one-, three-, or 12-month subscription. It doesn’t matter if your computer is on, the forwarding is handled on the back end by Skype.
  4. Remote monitoring — Use this feature to keep tabs on your office after hours while you’re out to make sure lights haven’t been left on or there hasn’t been a break-in. Here’s how: Set up two Skype accounts and, while logged in to your office account, set it to auto-answer any incoming calls, thus activating your webcam.
  5. Customer service — You can add a Skype button to your website to let customers and prospects contact you with a click of the mouse. This makes getting in touch with you quick and simple. You can talk them through service issues, address concerns about a purchase, or close the sale.

Read more: http://blog.intuit.com/marketing/skype-your-way-to-a-better-bottom-line/#ixzz2ziLB5nXJ

If you have questions about how to protect your small business assets, please  call your “trusted small business advisor” today.  We are only a phone call away – (727) 391-7373.

 

MARKETING YOUR BUSINESS

Is your business meeting a need in the market? The most successful businesses are those that are selling products or services to meet an unmet need that customers don’t know that they have or else currently isn’t being met by the competition. 

Do you have a written marketing plan? If not, let’s start by doing some strategic thinking. Your business should define its marketing mix.  This involves defining your “four P’s”:

1. Product – what is the product that you’re selling?  How is it different from the competition’s product or services?

2. Place – where will you offer and deliver your product or services? What is the specific time of day and year that work will be performed?

3. Price – how much will you charge for your services or products? Will your price cover all of your costs plus provide a profit? You should base your price on the amount that customers are willing to pay, not on the cost of providing the service or what your competitors are charging.

4. Promotion – how will you let your customers know about the products or services that you are offering to them. Several methods are available, and you should analyze the best method for your business.

 If you need help, please call us as your “trusted small business advisor.”  We are only a phone call away – (727) 391-7373.

TEN TIPS FOR RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS

1. Determine the type of business entity in which you will conduct your business. The major choices include: sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company or LLC, C corporation, S corporation, and not-for-profit organization.

2. Apply for your Federal Tax Identification number with the IRS.

3. Establish a separate bank account for your business.

4. Set up a business accounting system for your business. There are several to choose from but we recommed QuickBooks Pro software to meet your small business accounting, payroll, and financial reporting needs.  As an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, we can help set this program up for you, train you on how to use it, and help you troubleshoot problems.

5. Set up the forms that you’ll need to track transactions such as invoices, purchase orders, estimates, and statements. These can be set up in QuickBooks Pro.

6. Check to make sure that you have all of the business licenses that you need.

7. Purchase business insurance to protect your financial investment.

8. Market your business through referrals, a website, social media, Internet advertising, and networking events.

9. Make quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS throughout the year, especially if your business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, or an S corporation.

10. Value your time. Spend as much time as possible working “on” the business and not “in” the business.  Delegate and outsource tasks to experts and to your staff.

Linda A. Stortz, CPA, P.A. is a local CPA firm in Seminole, FL that provides accounting and QuickBooks solutions, tax return preparation services, and business advisory services to small businesses in the Tampa Bay, FL area. The firm specializes in advising small business owners to run a successful business. To find out more about our business services, please call us today at (727) 391-7373.