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Growing An Online Business With Zero Marketing Budget

ideas-marketing-budget-planning-e1354030160590People often complain that they have no marketing budget to attract new customers, yet they have staff in charge of their PR or they handle PR themselves. You assign a budget as soon as you allocate someone to handle PR or marketing. Their wages constitute a marketing budget whether they have other responsibilities or not. You do not need to have someone working full-time on marketing to have a working and productive marketing plan and even when marketing efforts are stepped-up you can distribute tasks among employees to make sure everything required is completed on-time.

Free Marketing ideas

There are ways to create marketing campaigns that generate revenue before you spend a penny. The only thing you need is a little inventiveness.  Internet companies love the free competition model, but they can be just as effective to off-line businesses. Offer a free iPad to do people who like your Facebook page, invite ten friends or to your page or write comment number 1,000 on your blog posts and you have instant engagement from an otherwise un-incentivised audience. The iPad may sound like you need a marketing budget, but when you consider the cost of an iPad 2 is less than £250, you quickly realise that you should be able to generate more than enough business by converting website visitors into customers.

The Time and Effort Budget

It doesn’t matter how many times you read about a turnkey business that manages itself and creates a passive income from online sales, you quickly realise the writer has been making most of it up. All businesses require input from the business owner, staff or enthusiasts who are interested in your products or services.

If you are a rock band, Star Wars memorabilia stockist or sell addictive sweets, you may be lucky enough to have the fans and enthusiasts. If not, you could always try pulling your finger out and networking with players in your industry or your customer base on social networks, by writing blogs for industry relevant blogs or voicing your opinion and offering advice freely on forums. All of these will eventually generate traffic and custom for your website.

Brand and Online Reputation Management

An online business lives or dies with its reputation, but that stems from more than simply creating a few good revues for your products, it is about monitoring social media and utilising it in the correct way. People who openly criticise products and services on Twitter and if this includes a service you provided, a product you sold and creates another negative link to your company, you could be in trouble. You can use Twitter to engage your customers, but what about finding new customers.

Twitter has some amazing tools designed for people who want to use the platform as a professional communication setup. Even the simplest of tweets to about your latest blog post, product or service, will generate website traffic and potentially orders, but the best way to use Twitter is to find and engage with people who are in your target market. Using Twitter’s TweetDeck, you can have multiple-twitter feeds, each monitoring a different keyword that relates to your business. You will see complaints, enquiries and even straightforward requests for products or services from people who are in your target market. All of this is available completely free from charge, but these efforts require time and involvement.

From little Acorns, Do Mighty Oaks Grow?

The thing to remember if never run before you can crawl because it is easy to over-promise and under deliver. This is especially true in the service industry where clients and customers can see your company as a great provider, only to find out you have a staff of one when you fail to meet the level of service you promised.

Bill Jobs is a writer who has been involved with Internet star-ups for many years and has relied on the advice and mentorship of some of the UK’s greatest entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Gregory Cox who both inspire him daily.

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Increasing Your Business Revenues

86540047Most small business owners will have an obvious interest in increasing revenue levels. By doing so, it may be possible to expand the business and to look forward to a more successful future. You may feel that you are already doing absolutely everything that can be done, but there may yet be scope for improvement.

Although it’s fair to say that businesses come in all shapes and sizes, there are often similarities between one operation and the next. What this means is that analysts will often point to a general set of improvements that should be applicable to most situations. By concentrating on each of these areas, it should be possible for you to build the stronger business that you really desire.

Building your customer base

Attracting new customers is an obvious means of increasing revenues for any business, but it is sometimes easier said than done. By focusing on your marketing and advertising strategies, it’s almost certain that you may be able to make improvements.

These are areas that are often associated with an element of risk and it’s important that you should be confident and realistic. Most importantly, any money spent here needs to be considered as an investment, rather than as a simple expense. That only becomes possible once you have the right strategy in place.

If you’re spending money employing dedicated sales staff, for example, then it’s important that you should be able to monitor their overall impact, in terms of attracting new clients.

Increase income from existing customers

It’s also important that you should remember that your existing customers may also represent a source of income that can increase over time. This doesn’t mean that you should be looking to increase prices, but it may be the case that strong business relationships will enable you to become the first choice for a wider provision of services, over a period of time.

Improve employee productivity levels

You may feel that you are spending a lot of money on employee wages and it’s critical that this should represent value for money. If some members of staff aren’t busy throughout the week, then could you consider assigning them an increased range of tasks?

There may be other changes that you could make, in order to encourage better productivity levels. This is an area where you need to hold open discussions with individual members of the team. There may be opportunities, for example, to enhance productivity levels by providing additional training.

You may also be able to consider offering incentives, which would become applicable once improvements are witnessed.

Reducing costs

When looking at overall revenue levels, it can be tempting to imagine that your main aim should be to increase income levels. You may, however, be neglecting to consider the issue of expenditure.

Most businesses will have an element of waste and this is not always easy to detect. It can pay to spend time carrying out a full review of spending levels. Even reducing costs by a small percentage may be enough to transform the outlook for your enterprise.

Keith Barrett knows that it’s possible to use Decisive Mediation online to deal with workplace issues and to ensure that productivity levels remain high.

 

 

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Are Serviced Offices The Best Solution For Your Small Business?

Serviced-Offices

When you’ve just started out with an idea for a new business you need a quiet space where you can get away from it all and concentrate on establishing your business. For many start-ups, the perfect solution to this quandary is a serviced office. In this post we’re going to have a look at why serviced offices might well be the perfect solution for your small business.

Flexibility

One of the key requirements small or start-up businesses should look for from their office space is flexibility. Small businesses are plagued by uncertainty. As a new entrant in any market you will be entering the unknown: Will customers flock to your products or services? Are there barriers to entry you had not anticipated? Is there room for another player in the market? Whilst you are finding your place in the market it is important not to tie yourself into a long term lease for a business premises. You might expand more quickly than you had anticipated, or need to work from home if your costs grow quickly out of hand. Serviced offices provide short term leases with little or no start up costs, allowing you to hit the ground running or leave at a moment’s notice.

Location

When choosing the location for your commercial premises there are plenty of considerations for business owners. If you plan on meeting clients at your offices then good transport links are a must. On the other hand, you may conduct client meetings offsite, in which case offices in close proximity to your home may be worth a look. What about status? Are you operating in an industry where the right address will carry clout with your clients? If so, you might need to pay a bit more for offices in the heart of the city. Regardless of your specific needs at the time, the beauty of a serviced office is your ability to meet the changing demands of your business, quickly and without additional expense.

Easy to expand

With a start-up you never know quite how quickly business will take off, if at all! Many companies will turn from a one man band to a business with 10 or so employees in the first year, and will grow exponential thereafter. Obviously serviced offices are not the most cost effective solution for your business once your company gets much bigger than 10 employees, but in the early days whilst you are growing serviced offices are perfect, as they allow you to move from a small office to a larger office without having to take all the furniture with you or worry about other business infrastructure. A move can be completed in an hour, simply move your computers across and can carry on working with extra space and increased capacity.

Infrastructure is included

Growing a small business demands the owner’s full attention. The last thing you want is to be spending your valuable time organising office furniture or fielding calls you really haven’t got the time for. The majority of serviced offices will provide you with a receptionist service, so any clients you are due to see will be greeted by the in-house receptionist, helping to build a professional first impression and create the illusion that your business is bigger than it really is. The receptionist will also be able to field your calls for you if this is a service you require, which can help to reduce the time wasted on calls when it could be better spent elsewhere.

Charlie Maine is an employee of D&G Office Interiors. They specialise in high quality, ergonomically designed furniture, creating fresh and attractive spaces.      

 

 

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Big Ideas, No Business Plan

FeatureImage_BigIdea

The most successful businesses started with great ideas, but great ideas alone are not enough to attain a successful business. Even the most original, exciting concept can fall flat if not properly researched. Too many innovators think creating a business plan is merely putting their ideas into writing, but it takes far more homework to put together the data to support a big business plan.

Research

The idea is the easy part. It may not occur to everyone; it may even be just what the market needs. Sure, you have the knowledge and experience in the industry, but are you taking all the factors and obstacles into account? Knowing that for sure and getting the financial backing behind you will require putting together demographic information on your market. For starters, you can get information from the U.S. Small Business Association.  Your business plan should include figures on similar businesses, your potential market, a 5 year budget, a short and long term plan, etc. None of this stuff can be found off the top of your head. You can use a sample business plan to help you organize your ideas and plan out what type of information you need to put together. Investors, whether a bank or people you approach, will need to understand what’s in it for them to put their money on the table. A great idea is not enough to drop a wad of cash down.

Feedback

The most successful people were put down for their ideas by someone at one time. Their steadfast belief and perseverance led them to their success. But, you can’t just tune out all negative responses. Early responses give you a glimpse of what the larger, public response could be. Early on you have the opportunity to come up with the answers and overcome those obstacles so when you do launch your business, you are ready for whatever gets thrown at you. Cheerleaders are great and they will keep you motivated, but your business will open to people with all different perceptions to your concept and you need to be ready to face them.

Timing

Once you have a name for your business, you can secure your domain name to make sure no one grabs it before you have the chance. But, you’ll want to wait until all your bases are covered before you publicize your business. Opening the gate too early, before you’ve figured out all the details, could backfire. Figuring things out as you go is a poor plan and will leave you grasping for answers if you haven’t planned them out beforehand. You want to come across as professional, not give any inkling that you haven’t considered all the possibilities.

Homework, homework, homework. We didn’t like it in school, but it served a purpose. Ideas can’t survive in thin air. They should be grounded with comprehensive research.

Theresa Happe works with NameFind.com where you can find online business tools for finding domain names, available social handles, trademark information and business planning tips.

 

 

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How the Recession Has Changed Retirement Planning

images (2)Expert Offers 3 Tips for Baby Boomers

The economy may be recovering, but some of the changes wrought by the Great Recession may be long-lasting. Anyone planning for retirement, no matter what their age, needs to take those changes into account, says financial advisor Philip Rousseaux, a member of the esteemed Million Dollar Round Table association’s exclusive Top of the Table forum for the world’s most successful financial services professionals.

“People in their 40s and younger have some time to retooltheir plan, but Baby Boomers need to think with more urgency,” says Rousseaux, founder and president of Everest Wealth Management, Inc., www.everestwm.com.

“A lot of boomers had all of their retirement investments in the stock market and, if they didn’t lose their principal, it will take some time for them to recoup their gains. Others moved their money to short-term savings, like CDs. But with interest rates so low, they’re actually losing money when you factor in inflation.”

Those are the two most common mistakes people make in retirement planning – having everything in either stocks or short-term savings is a bad idea, he says.

“Space your investments so they’ll come due as they’re needed,” Rousseaux says. “Plan some that can be available in the short term, for emergencies, and others that will be available as you age.”

Only 14 percent of Americans are very confident they’ll have the money to live comfortably in retirement, according to a 2012 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Here are Rousseaux’s suggestions for ensuring you’re part of that 14 percent.

• Don’t take risks you can’t afford. This is another common mistake. “Don’t put the bulk of your assets into anything that makes your principal vulnerable. Gambling that you’re going to win big on the market, or any other investment, means you also risk losing big.” A portion of your investment should have a guaranteed return.

• Seek any guidance from independent financial advisors. This has two benefits: Advisors who aren’t marketing their own products have no conflicts of interest. “You wouldn’t go to a commissioned salesman for advice on buying a high-tech product. Instead, you’d probably turn to a trusted friend or an independent expert source, like Consumer Reports. Take the same care with something as important as your retirement.” The second benefit is that independent advisors can devise creative, innovative solutions to meet the needs of individual clients. Those working for companies like MetLife are not free to think outside the box. And that’s especially important In this new, post-recession economy.

• Consider alternatives to the stock market. One of the effects of the recession is that the public realizes Wall Street is not a safe retirement plan. Even if it can get you there, it’s not necessarily going to keep you there.“There are a number of great, safer alternatives,” Rousseaux says. One of those is fixed, indexed annuities. “You loan an insurance company money and it guarantees you payments over a specified length of time. It’s a contract between you and the company,” he explains. Fixed-rate indexed annuities have a minimum and maximum interest payment that’s linked to a common index, such as the Dow. When the Dow goes up or down, so does the interest rate, but it never go below the guaranteed minimum or above the guaranteed maximum. “Your principal is safe and you can ride an up market without the risk,” he says.

With pension plans a luxury of the past and Social Security not a guarantee for the future, Rousseaux says whatever your age, it’s important to start planning now for retirement by creating your own private pension.

“The good news is, our life expectancy grows every year,” he notes. “It’s up to you to ensure that you have a great quality of life when you decide you no longer want to work.”

About Philip Rousseaux

Philip Rousseaux is the founder and president of Everest Wealth Management and Everest Investment Advisors money management firm. A staunch advocate of objectivity in investment advice, he’s a member of the Million Dollar Round Table, the international association of independent advisors whose members are held to a rigid code of ethics. He is the co-author of “Climbing the Mountain to Financial Success.” Philip received his bachelor’s in economics from Towson University and completed the Wharton School of Business’s Investment Strategies and Portfolio Management Executive Education Program.

 

 

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Why Do Small Businesses Fail?

oil-burning-tbi

 

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration over 50% of all small businesses fail within the first five years. Why does this happen? Isn’t the U.S. supposed to be the place where anyone can make anything happen as long as they try hard enough?

In addition to the current economic crisis in the U.S. there are several specific reasons why many small businesses can’t quite seem to make it. If you are starting your own business or thinking of doing so you may want to watch out for the following.

1. They Don’t Have a Product/Service People Feel the Need to Buy

Many people make the mistake of thinking that because they have a cool idea they are automatically going to strike it rich. The reality is a company needs a compelling advertising strategy that tells the customer why they need a product. Especially during times when people don’t want to spend money, there needs to be a strong reason for someone to buy something.

2. The Boss Just Isn’t Cut Out For the Job

Being the boss isn’t easy. Some people underestimate what it takes to run a business. In order to be a successful boss one needs to be a strong communicator and motivator and know how to lead. They also need have the patience and determination to work past difficult situations and to help other people do so as well. If a small business doesn’t have a boss that knows how to do these things it doesn’t matter how cool the product is. The company will fail.

3. Growing Too Fast Too Soon

This one might be confusing to some. Isn’t growth a good thing? Of course it is. But a company also needs to know how to handle that growth. Lets say a new restaurant opens and experiences great success. Some people may want to immediately spend money opening new locations and buying a bunch of new equipment.  They may soon realize however that those other locations aren’t taking in what they thought they would and suddenly they are unable to get out of debt. This happens much too often. When your business experiences success be patient and allow it grow at a steady and manageable pace.

4. Poor Location

The idea for your business really becomes irrelevant if you try to sell it at the wrong place. Companies that set up shop in a poor location usually don’t fully understand who their target market is. For example, its not a great idea to place a high end jewelry store right next to a high school, where the people who see it every day can’t afford to buy anything.

5. No Online Presence

In today’s world people use the Internet for everything, including finding businesses. They look up things like where to eat and where to shop, all online. If a company doesn’t exist on the Internet, they will go unnoticed by a large percentage of the population. Companies need more than just a website too. Social media and customer outreach is essential for the survival of any company, especially small ones.

About the Author: Robert Cordray is a freelance writer and expert in business and finances. He has received many accolades for his work in teaching small business news.

 

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Managing Your Time Expectations For Online Marketing

internet-marketingEnough with “don’t look behind the curtain” marketing. We want clear, quantifiable results, and we want to know what the timeframe is before we’re going to see them.

Here’s the good news: more than any other previous marketing medium, the Internet is amazingly good at giving you those quantifiable results. But of course there has to be a downside, and in this case, it’s the fact that giving a timeframe depends on a lot of factors, most importantly which forms of marketing you’re using.

Some have results that you’ll notice quickly – but may just as quickly drop off – while others follow the slow build approach. In order of the length of time it will take for your strategies to pay off, from short to longest, here are several different potential strategies you can try – and many people use more than one concurrently.

Paid advertisements on sites. If you’re smart about when and where you place your paid ads (depending, of course, on the type of business you have), paid advertisements can lead to lots of quick hits. How quick? You can literally see the results as they happen by checking in on Google Analytics or similar programs.

Pay-per-click ads. This is arguably the more pocket-friendly version of the above type of advertisement, where a service will place ads for your company on different sites completely free of charge. You only pay them if those placements cause a people to click the ads and come to your site. Just like regular paid advertisements, you can see how well these are working the second they go up.

Guest blogging. You write a blog post on someone else’s site for free in exchange for them allowing you to link back to your own site. Typically, you want to use someone who has a following at least moderately bigger than yours. If they’re huge and your post really resonates, you might see a fairly immediate uptick when the post goes live, but most of the time you’ll get a trickle from one site, then more, and then still more as you do more guest blogs.

 

Link-swapping. I’ll advertise yours if you advertise mine? Yep, that’s the general idea. The idea is that through many people all sharing each other’s links, you’ll all raise each other up. It’s a strategy that helps you to build partnerships, of a sort, as well as get more hits. Of course, it takes time to swap enough links to really get momentum going unless you manage to get someone with a really sizeable audience.

Content marketing. In other words, blogging. That’s not always the only thing that it means, but in general that’s what people are talking about. You write blogs (or pay someone to write them) so that your site continually has new content to draw people in and keep you higher on the search engine rankings. People like the content and share it, then those people do the same, and on and on. The bad news is that this kind of build is usually really slow. The good news is that it can be the kind of marketing that you pay for once and continues driving people to your site for years.

About the Author: Steven Chalmers reviews web products and computer software, including Intercall. By training, he is an SEO and online marketing expert.

 

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