Displaying articles for: April 2012
Read this article and learn how to tie your loyalty programs to social and location-based check-ins like Foursquare.
Click here for a quick video to help check to make sure your business is healthy.
Be sure you company is protected, read this article for web security tips for your small business.
Read this article and learn to have a more efficient social business strategy in 60 minutes.
Are you just starting out or rebranding? Read these 7 tips for naming your small business.
Guest post from Shirley Chun in California, small business marketing manager for Verizon. To get news specific to California, follow @VZCABiz (www.twitter.com/vzcabiz).
To continue our work to assist small businesses in southern California, my local team sponsored the Verizon Small Business Makeover contest earlier this year. Small business owners entered for a chance to win a $5,000 technology makeover.
I’m happy to announce that Raquel and John Anthony from Temecula, CA are the grand prize winners! Read about their business and how my team will help get their store the technology they need to run their business more efficiently and productively.
Chili Gourmet’s Challenges:
Raquel and John are small business owners who started their business in 2007. They have enjoyed success selling their family’s not-so-famous salsa at the local Farmer’s Market in Old Town Temecula. In 2009, they opened the Chili Gourmet Fiery Food Store and since then they manufacture six salsas, six pepper jellies, and they are the largest suppliers of New Mexico Hatch Chile in Temecula, Calif. As is typical with most small business owners, Raquel and John handle every step of their business: manufacturing, advertising, bookkeeping, sales, public relations, marketing, events and more. Here are some of the items that Raquel outlined as their technology challenges in her entry for the contest:
- Not having a computer in the store and they’re often forced to operate their accounting system on a memory stick that bounces back and forth between their home PC and laptop
- No laser printer or fax machine
- Often their coupons, flyers, labels, and faxes are made at the local print shop
- Manual inventory system that involves writing every sale on a log sheet. Items are often missed and inventory doesn’t always match. This makes it a challenge in transferring to a profit and loss sheet at the end of the year
The Verizon “Make Over”:
Verizon’s small business is excited to hear about the early success of Raquel and John’s business. They’ve expanded into a retail store and turned a family dream into a successful small business. However, to continue their success the Anthonys’ business need to be streamlined and automated to move them towards greater productivity. This will also give them more time to focus on the uniqueness of their business and further grow their customers!
Verizon, along with Intuit and Google, our key partners, together recommends these changes and how these services can give the Anthonys a boost in how they run their business:
- Make sure your company has the right communications services (Verizon Solution Bundle).
For a small business it would be important to have a minimum of three business-grade telephone lines and broadband (Internet) access. Depending on the amount of customer traffic, we recommend the two telephone lines so that if the main line is busy, it would route to the second line. The third line could be used for faxes and backup broadband access. Completing the package is Verizon Internet Security Services and Online Backup to keep computer(s) free from spam, viruses, offering firewall protection and more. Oftentimes, online security is not even a service that is considered by small businesses until important private data are compromised, stolen or hacked. No matter the size of your business, online backup is also an important service to have as it backs up all of your data and keep important business information in the cloud that can be easily accessible and retrieved.
- An updated, fresher looking website with Verizon Websites powered by Intuit. Currently the Anthonys have a good website with solid content. However, there a few things that will really help spice up Chili Gourmet Fiery Food Store’s website and many of these functionalities are available through Verizon Websites powered by Intuit:
o A website refresh every quarter or a couple times a year makes any business’ online presence more interesting. Verizon Websites powered by Intuit’s Design Full Services offers website design tools and a choice of over 2,000 templates to provide an easy way to design a new look for any business’ website.
o Search engine optimization that will allow your business to be found on over 100 search engines!
o Utilizing the Verizon Websites powered by Intuit product will help the Anthonys fine tune their website so they can easily add contact information as well as a map and directions to their store. Additionally, emails from customers or potential customers can be sent from their website and reach their inbox.
o Consider having a toll free number to help track where your customers are calling from and making it most likely for them to pick up the phone and call you.
o Add links to your company’s social media pages directly onto your website so online visitors can easily “fan” your Facebook page or “follow” your Twitter account, connect with your business on LinkedIn or Google+.
o Upload and update current or special promotions, seasonal products, coupons or new information on your company website when it makes sense to further engage and attract customers back to your store.
- Embrace cloud based (or online) services like Google Apps for Verizon.
o A small business particularly should (and can easily) get a domain name, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, instead of @yahoo, @hotmail, etc. email address.
o Track online customer information and orders with Google Analytics software which can be incorporated back into inventory as well as sales management systems.
o Manage recipes (data) and how to use products from Chili Gourmet Fiery Food Store by loading them into Google doc to help manage them and provide customers the ability to easily download the recipes.
o Ability to connect with suppliers on inventory and make sure manufactured goods are sent in a timely manner.
o Ability to easily connect with customers online.
- Be mobile. A smart device can do so much for a business on the move, for instance Verizon’s 4G LTE LG Revolution Smartphone and the Intuit GoPayment application.
As the grand prize winner of the Verizon Small Business Makeover contest the Anthonys will also receive a HP Pavilion dv7t Quad Edition laptop and $2,000 which will help complement the total effort in the Chili Gourmet Fiery Food Store technology makeover by Verizon.
I’ll share more about our other semi-finalists soon*:
Nick Chiotellis DDS from Gilroy, CA
Stacey Bradley Photography from Lancaster, CA
Artworks Gallery & Framing from Palm Desert, CA
Paradise Catering and Events from Long Beach, CA
The $500 American Express® Gift Card Watch to Win Sweepstakes Winner is Nick Chiotellis DDS from Gilroy, CA.
Congratulations to all!
*Each semi-finalist will receive a customized Verizon Small Business service recommendation
Your business may be running smoothly, but do you have the right security measures in place to prevent cyber-criminals from stealing your customers’ information or diverting your hard earned cash to their offshore bank account?
According to Verizon’s fifth annual Data Breach Investigation Report (DBIR) many hacking attacks are directed against small companies. The good news is that most of these attacks can be prevented with a few small and relatively easy steps. Click here to read more about the DBIR.
The Verizon Small Business Center presents another free webinar, this time a discussion with three security industry experts who will offer additional insights from the DBIR as well as offer low cost tips to protect your business from cyber-hacks.
Our guests feature Quinton Jones, SMB Solutions Architect with McAfee, the world’s largest dedicated security technology company; Robby Gulri, Vice President of products with Echoworx, offering managed encryption services; and Marc Spitler, Senior Analyst with Verizon’s Research Investigations Solutions Knowledge (RISK) team.
The free webinar series presented by the Verizon Small Business Center keeps small businesses informed to help them gain a competitive edge.
WHAT: Verizon Small Business Webinar: “Protecting Your Online Assets and Information.”
It’s Friday – and that means we have some great articles to help you run your business better.
Networking events can often lead to new business prospects. But do you have a strategy? Read this article to learn more.
Looking to boost revenue? Read this article to learn about a simple revenue boosting formula.
Is your small business marketing strategy working? Read this and find out.
Read this infographic to learn about the behavior and trends of your e-commerce customers.
Read this article to take your “green” business idea to the next level.
Check out and read this article for 7 small business tips to make your 2012 a huge success.
Guest post by Albe Zakes, goblal vice president of public relations for Terracycle, the world’s leading recycling and ‘upcycling’ company, which turns waste materials into eco-friendly, affordable products available at big box retailers nationwide.
Money is a concern for small businesses whether they’re just starting out, trying to stay afloat, or ‘swimming in the black’. There’s no way around it: money makes the world go ‘round, especially for small businesses. It makes sense when executives or owners try to cut the budget or keep it under control, but the question of what is best to cut remains.
Marketing and advertising are key components of a company’s outreach and growth because without them, it is difficult for potential customers to learn about a company’s service and offerings. Still, it’s hard for small businesses to compete with the marketing spend of larger corporations and brands. This is where creativity comes in as a key asset in building and maintaining a small business.
Another key asset is relationships, and so it follows that getting creative with business relationships can go a long way. One of the best ways to get started is to work with or partner with other local businesses or community opportunities. For example, at TerraCycle we offer free marketing support to individuals, schools, and/or companies that sign up for our recycling programs which brings the local community together and for a great cause: eliminating waste and their efforts supports a charity. To learn more about these free community engagement programs at www.terracycle.net.
Additionally, consider sponsoring and/or working with local charities, and/or holding joint events and projects with them, this can build your brand by promoting the ethos of your small business.
These events and partnerships (if impactful enough) can be shared with the local media, who just may share your efforts with a mention in a story which puts your small business on display in a manner far more genuine – and cost-conscious (for the most part it’s just a phone call or an email) - than paid advertising.
As a small business owner, market your business online if you are not doing it already. Social media is useful for broadcasting and talking about recent business news and local news, conduct contests and product giveaways, and offer to write a guest post for a blog (like what I am doing here) and other appropriate outlets. One of the tricky parts of social media is keeping fans and readers around after you’ve engaged them with a contest or giveaway. So continue to offer relevant content and interesting news bits that can help small business owners grow and manage their business.
Here’s an effective example: if you run a clothing business, add to the company blog with a post about seasonal styles, the best ways to layer for the winter, the latest Spring colors, etc. The key to keeping your ‘followers’ as active users or those who share your content is by making sure that your content is not always self-promotional. Mix in news, tips, maybe jokes, and ideas relevant to your industry or to your customers. And be sure pepper in some information about your products or services or special promotions, but in the right doses.
Bottom-line, whenever possible, expand your business’ reach by working with similar companies and other local businesses (and larger ones too!) perhaps to exchange services or to buy in bulk, or perhaps to cross promote when it makes sense: on the company’s website, Facebook page, Twitter handle, or a blog?
It’s absolutely crucial to remember that low cost, grassroots marketing requires an ability to recognize and cultivate shared values, whether it be a common mission or local community. Relationships must be symbiotic and mutually beneficial; otherwise, others will get tired of helping you and provide constant support and foundation for you. So before you ask and engage, know what you can offer.
Once you’ve established a strong support network that you’re also contributing to, you can continue to build your brand with your owned media such as blogs, videos (if your business doesn’t have one, perhaps it’s time to set up a Youtube channel with relevant content for your business!) and podcasts or a book. For instance, that clothing company that I referenced earlier could make a book about putting together seasonal styles, seasonal colors, or DIYs for old clothes – something that relates to the company and expands on its business.
Grassroots, small business marketing is tricky, but with some creativity and awareness of other’s help and intentions, it can be done on a shoestring budget that ends up benefiting other businesses, your business and the community.
How have you marketed your small business with pennies? Please share some of your marketing ideas.
Each week, the Verizon Small Business team may select a small business “fan” to feature on our Facebook page. This means your business can be prominently displayed on the Verizon Small Biz Facebook page: www.facebook.com/VerizonSmallBiz.
If you would like an opportunity to have your small business featured, just post a photo and share some information about your business on our Facebook wall. If you are not already a fan, please be sure to “like” us!
Don’t forget to include the best method for others to contact your business: address, telephone, email and/or the URL to your company’s website. Just be sure to post a clear photo of your business’s logo or of you working with your business. For more information about Verizon’s small business “Fan of the Week” please click here.
We can't wait to hightlight small businesses across the country by promoting your business on our Facebook page.
TGIF! We found the following articles to help run your business better.
Whether you are growing your company or just starting out, getting a business loan can be a daunting task. Read about an easier way to apply for small business loans.
Interested in getting paid faster? Read these four tips on how to get invoices paid faster.
If your small business does not have an on-line presence, read this infographic on why your business needs to be on-line today!
Read about the 25 Best Small Business Apps for 2012.
Taxes are due next week. Just in case you have not filed yet, read this article for last minute tax tips for small businesses.
Guest post by Mario Acosta-Velez, director, State Government Affairs for Verizon. Mario manages external relations with key stakeholders, business organizations, and diverse communities in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Last month, while attending the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 3rd Annual Hispanic Business Expo at the Washington, DC Convention Center, I talked with many small business owners who visited Verizon’s exhibit to learn about the latest communications technology for small businesses, such as 4G and FiOS. Some of the common questions asked by small business owners were:
- how do I develop an effective communications and marketing strategy?
- does my business have the right communications tools in place to maximize its potential?
- how can I effectively use voice and internet services to better reach customers?
- how can I ensure my business comes up first in a Google search?
One thing was clear as part of these conversations: small business owners want access to real communications solutions that will help them be more productive, retain and find new customers, create or expand their online presence, and run all aspects of their businesses on the go.
Think about these three key topics below and ask if you have addressed these within your business:
Aligning communications solutions with marketing strategy. As small business owner, you want to ensure that you do not miss any contacts, inquiries or leads from current or potential customers (calls, emails or clicks), that potential customers can find your business and easily reach you, and that your business comes up first on web searches. More than 90% of consumers research online before making decisions on products and services in their local area. As you increase your online presence, your business needs to have an effective business website to market your services or products when customers find you online.
Leveraging Cloud technology to effectively run your business. How you ever thought how cloud (or online) services can benefit your business? Cloud technology allows you to access, organize, manage and share business data from any online source, provides the most current online security, and helps ensure contingency planning via online backup and storage to ensure continued business operations. This type of technology can definitely help maximize business efficiency so you can have more time to run your business.
Using Wireless Machine to Machine (M2M) technology to grow your business. Through M2M technology, which wirelessly connects machines and devices through the network, your small business can gain better visibility and control over asset and inventory levels. For example, the Mobile Router Broadband Solutions feature allows multiple devices to share a wireless wide area network (WWAN) connection to minimize risk, set up failover protection, and quickly connect job sites.
So, whether you are a one-person business or a company with more than 200 employees, the power of our technology will help your business achieve better results, innovate, drive productivity and stay continuously connected to your customers.
Please share your comments or questions below. For those in the DC-metro area, Verizon will have a booth at the Vienna/Tysons Corner Regional Chamber of Commerce Annual Conference to be held this Friday, April 13 at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. I, as well as other small business experts from Verizon will be onsite to answer your questions or show you how some of our latest technologies can help you run increase your business productivity.
The Verizon exhibit booth is at the Trade Show floor right across from the main ballroom.
To learn more about the power of wireless and broadband technology for small businesses, please visit http://www.verizonbusinessmadeeasy.com/, the Verizon Small Business Center or http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/businessSolutio
This post is from members of Verizon’s small business team.
Facebook is an incredibly useful tool that allows small businesses to reach new customers and build strong relationships with the customers you already have. Recently, Facebook introduced a new format called Timeline that will change the way your page looks and some of the ways you use it to interact with customers.
As we just changed the Verizon Small Biz Facebook page, we share the following overview of the changes you need to know about to make sure your Facebook page is the best possible representation of your business.
- Cover Photo
The most obvious change is the addition of cover photos, or banner-like images that measure 851 by 315 pixels and span the top of your page. You will still have a profile picture but this cover image gives you an opportunity to further customize your page with the look and feel of your brand.
Facebook does have a few stipulations about what kind of picture you can use as a cover image. Cover photos cannot include:
- Information about prices or how to purchase your products or services
- Web addresses, phone numbers, email, physical addresses or any other contact information
- Language or graphics that encourage your fans to “Like” or “Share” your page
- Calls to action like “Win today!” or “Buy it now!”
A good rule of thumb for cover photos is to stick to images that you own, that accurately reflect your business and that have few words.
2. Pinned and Starred Posts
The Timeline update also lets you have more control over how content appears on your page by allowing you to “pin” an update in your timeline. A pinned update will stay at the top of the page for seven days. So, if you have an important event coming up, such as a weeklong sale or just an especially exciting piece of news, you can pin it to make sure everyone who visits your page that week sees it.
Another way to highlight updates on your page is to “star” them. A starred post will move down your timeline as you add updates, but it will take up two column widths to display images, videos and information more prominently.
Facebook has also announced that it will soon launch “offers”, another tool that will help businesses reach customers. This feature will allow you to create an offer, such as a sale or promotion, and then post that offer on your business’s timeline. When customers visit your page, they can click on the offer, receive a voucher via email and then redeem that offer at your business or on your e-commerce website. In addition to giving you a new way to promote sales on your business’s page, this feature encourages your customers to share the offers they get on their own timeline and in their friends’ news feeds.
Right now, “offers” is only available to brands that advertise on at Facebook using an account manager. Facebook has said that it expects to make offers more widely available soon.
- Private Messages
Individual Facebook users have always been able to use the website to send each other messages, but now businesses can receive and respond to private messages too. This feature will not allow you to initiate a private conversation with one of your customers, but if a customer has a specific concern or question, they can send it to you directly without posting it publicly on your wall. Another nice aspect of this feature is that if your business does not have the resources to handle messages, you can disable it.
- Increase Mobile Functions
Currently, users can only view the Wall, Info and Photos tabs of any Facebook page on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, but this will soon change. Facebook has announced that in the future users will be able to view all tabs on their phones or tablets. We are still waiting to see what that user experience will be like, but this increased functionality does expand the possibilities for how you can to reach your customers, even when they are away from their computers.
All Facebook pages have now been automatically updated to the Timeline format. Visit your business’s page and follow the prompts to take advantage of these new features.
Guest post from Brad McCarty, a music and tech junkie, managing editor of The Next Web, one of the world’s largest online publications that delivers an international perspective on the latest news about Internet technology, business and culture.
For the past few years, businesses have been hearing all about Facebook when it comes to having an online presence where they can meet their customers. But a few months ago, Google came into the picture with Google+ and there's plenty of evidence to suggest that perhaps it's the better way to go for companies looking to establish themselves online.
It wasn't so very long ago that Google really started pushing for businesses on its social network, introducing Pages and Direct Connect. What's probably most interesting about Google's approach to social business is not so much what happens inside of Google+ itself, but rather what users of Google.com are likely to see.
Established companies, within different fields, are going to be able to take advantage of Google's heavy use of keywords related to their respective areas of business. For instance, if your customers have been talking about your chimney sweep business on Google+, their friends are very likely to see your company name show up in search results, in Google's "Search + Your World" initiative. An example is shown below:
Google is relying on customers talking about brands in order to bring more relevant search results to all users. For businesses, this is a potential boon that Facebook simply can't offer. It's almost impossible for your company's Facebook page to show up in search results unless someone is specifically looking for it. The prioritized, highly-visible results offer a powerful potential to the brands that are choosing to engage on Google services.
But it's not just a matter of being found, it's also highly important that your company is taking the right steps once that connection is made. Google+ offers a suite of tools to help you do just that. From live video chats to the ability to have customized information for different locations, there are huge possibilities with the service.
I took a closer look at the numerous aspects of Google+ for small business in my free webinar, presented by the Verizon Small Business Center. I spent about an hour discussing them and took questions throughout the webinar. So watch this webinar when you have some time to learn what Google+ can do for small businesses. Click here to watch the replay or go to http://www.brighttalk.com/r/rxD.
It’s Friday, and we found the following interesting articles to help you run your business better.
Are you selling products or services at trade shows, farmers markets or on the road? Read this article and learn about how easy it is to accept credit cards on the road or outdoors. Click here to hear from a real small business owner.
Do you want to make your small business greener and save money? Read this article for tips on how to get started.
Read about how to choose the best cell phone plans for your small business.
Starting a new business or looking to into how to set up your current business? Read this article and learn about the advantages and disadvantages of filing as a Corp or LLC. On our blog we have a couple of good post from Nellie Akalp, CEO of CorNet.com sharing insights into the best place to incorporate your business and why you should incorporate.
According to the Family Business Institute, only 30 percent of all family businesses survive beyond the founder’s generation. Read this article and learn how to beat the odds.
Today’s roundup was compiled with the help from Jarryd Gonzales, regional media relations manager for Verizon.
This guest post is provided on behalf of the faculty and staff of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business Executive Online Education. Notre Dame Online provides professional courses and masters certificates in the areas of Negotiations, Business Administration, Leadership & Management and Advanced Intercultural Management for the current and aspiring business professional. “
In part 1 of this series, we covered several items that small business owners can negotiate as they are starting up a new business. We want to continue now by discussing negotiations to consider after the grand opening. Items one through five covered a number of overhead items that can be more helpful if they are considered prior to opening, but steps six through ten are also applicable to owners who are currently in the midst of their success stories. To really succeed in business, it is important to regularly take a break from your daily work and take a look around for business opportunities to capitalize on in your community.
You Never Know What You Can Get Unless You Ask For What You Want!
Remember that other businesses want to associate with great colleagues. Do your research first and then ask for want you want. Consider your accounts payable expenses. Sometimes to secure your business, the fees in a standard contract can be negotiable.
6. Maybe you can swap services for some of your needs. Join your local small business association chapter and network yourself and your business. You will learn great tidbits from other entrepreneurs who have “been there and done that.” Bottom line, it doesn’t hurt to ask, so ask and you just may receive!
7. Look at your supply chain. Can you find any ways to alleviate storage costs or inquire about stock rotation without affecting your end product or production levels? Save money by seeking agile suppliers in your area and by negotiating contracts with provisions to protect your production and material supplies. When possible, support local commerce and underscore those associations that you partner with in your social media campaigns.
8. Trial services. Advertisers and marketing firms want your business. Can you take advantage of a trial offer at a reduced or free rate for a short period of time? If you have a trial offer, be sure to make the most of it. Track your results so you know how to best invest your marketing dollars in the future. Some large and very successful companies have completed successful product and service launches using unpaid advertising. Make sure to also utilize the growing number of free social media websites. Social media campaigns are becoming extremely powerful tools for businesses of all sizes.
9. Don’t forget about shipping. Shipping services offer variable rates and specials at different times throughout the year. Be sure to inquire about bulk discounts and shop around for the best deals. If you are located close to other small businesses, you may want to leverage discounts together by using the same service or by coordinating pick up times. If at all possible, email first then ship. And if the file is too large to email, then it may be time to upgrade your IT network so you have the speed to send very large files (such as blueprints and CAD files).
Think Twice Before You Hire
10. Employees are your most important resource. They represent you, your business and their attitude and work ethics can make or break your business. Before you hire, take the time to do some in-depth industry research to identify exactly what kind of help your business needs. Perhaps you could outsource certain services such as accounting or online strategy; or you could use a co-op relationship with other businesses. Another great money-saving opportunity is to make use of college interns if you are near a local college or university. Before you go handing out too many keys, make sure you are hiring the best people possible.
Be sure you know what makes a good team. Employees are huge investments and building that perfect team is extremely important to the success of your small business. Consider educating yourself about powerful work style assessments and team building intelligence from a reputable institution. You can also run an Internet search to find out about someone using their name and other information from their application. Again, depending on available time, you can hire a service that will screen prospective employees, or there are free services out there which can provide additional resources to help you make your decisions. Building your team thoughtfully is one of the best investments you can make for the achievement of your goals.
Thinking outside the box and setting aside self-doubt are two key attributes of successful small business owners. To continue that success you also need to manage your costs. While negotiating the terms of every contract involving your time and money is time consuming, it is well worth the effort. When you feel good about your smart investments and your clear direction, then business just seems to fall into place more easily and you may just find yourself enjoying the decision to build your dream and further secure your own financial freedom.
Click here to get more tips to cut costs. Please share some other costs savings tips.