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Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎12-16-2011 11:34 AM

VZ small_biz_info ICON.pngHappy Friday!  Below are some interesting articles we found this week to share with you. 

 

With the New Year almost upon us, there are plans you can put in place to make it an even better one.  Read this interesting article on IT predictions for 2012.  Also check out this article with tips to outsell your larger competitor.

 

Do you want your business to standout on Facebook?  Read this article on a new tool that might be able to help you get creative.

 

While you are making your personal New Year’s resolutions don’t forget your business.   Add improving customer service to your list. Read this article to learn just how critical this is to your company. Additionally, as you assess your business, make sure you’re prepared in case of a technology disaster.  Perhaps you’ll want to review one of our last post on preparing for a disaster.

 

To get 13 tips to grow profits check out this webinar (http://bit.ly/v5ONVJ) with small business expert Gene Marks.  One tip Gene offers is to consider using cloud services to help cut costs.  To see the cloud services Verizon offers SMBs click here (http://bit.ly/gxwvVj).

 

Have a great weekend!

 

 

Today’s roundup was compiled with the help with Maureen Burch, product strategy manager for Verizon.

 

 

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎12-21-2011 07:29 AM

Gene Marks.pngGuest post from Verizon Author Series with featured author Gene Marks, who wrote five best-selling books for small business owners and managers. His latest book is called In God We Trust, Everyone Else Pays Cash – Simple Lessons from Smart Business Owners.



 

My friend John’s a drywall contractor.  He keeps his costs down by outsourcing.    

John keeps his employee count low.  And he outsources as many functions as he can.  A few years ago, this didn’t seem to be fashionable.  But times change.  And in these tough economic times, where cutting costs is in favor and employee related expenses are on the rise, outsourcing seems to be back in vogue.  Most smart business people, like John, use outside contractors to do as much as possible.

And why not?  Just about everything in John’s life can be outsourced.  His bookkeeping.  Payroll.  Computer support.  Filing.  Fixing toilets.  Everything.

And nowadays, there are more ways than ever to find contracted help.  Two websites I know, Elance.com and Guru.com, are right now matching thousands of companies with contractors.  Both sites allow a user to search for and find independent workers anywhere in the world, “interview” them online, as well as accept and manage work and payments to them.   Elance, for example, makes money when the work is delivered.   

 

When employers make a payment to their service providers, Elance deducts between 6.75% and 8.75% from the payment to cover its costs and transfers the remaining amount directly to the service provider’s account.  They also sell membership plans too.  I’ve done some worked with the good people at Elance directly and like their service.  If you don’t want to deal with a middleman at all, then there are plenty of independents to be found on Craigslist too and that’s totally for free.

 

When John finds someone to do a job for him, he rarely worries about where that person’s located.  That’s because there are so many remote connection tools available today, like Windows Terminal Services and products from Citrix that he can hire people anywhere he wants and then get them connected to the office.  So if he finds a great marketing person in Idaho, or an excellent bookkeeper in Waco, he can have them work right from home.  Technology has made outsourcing really easy for him.  

 

But penny pinchers like John have to be careful nowadays.  There are pretty strict rules about who’s an employee and who’s a contractor.  If you break the rules, you may not only be stuck for that person’s back employment taxes but penalties and interest too.  And if the IRS thinks this was less than an “honest” mistake then criminal charges could also happen.  Not good. 

The IRS has rules to follow and a link to them is here:  http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1779.pdf.  The good news is that John has common sense.  He makes sure that his contractors have no workspace at his offices.  He does the appropriate filings.  He also likes to see his contractors do work for other people and to that end he’s in the past referred some of them to his customers and suppliers.  The more his outsourced telemarketer can show that she’s an independent business with many of her own clients the less of a case the IRS has saying that John’s her employer.

John keeps a close eye on the people he hires as contractors.  He talks to them a few times a week.  He looks at the invoices they send him and understands the hours they’re charging.  In some cases, like when he sends a sub-contractor out to do a job at a customer, he’ll only pay when the job is done.  Even as he keeps a close eye out on his independents he still likes to back off a little and let them operate on their own. 

That’s because John allows his independent contractors to be…independent.  He gives them the respect of a fellow business owner.  That’s because they are.  He negotiates with them as if they are an independent business.  That’s because they’re supposed to be. 

 

Sure, John’s lazy.  He doesn’t like to do things for himself.  And he doesn’t like to hire more employees.  So he outsources.  A lot.  Because that’s what smart business people do when times are tight.  To cut costs.  But also to grow their business. 

 


For more tips on what small business owners can do next year to grow profits check out my webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center.  Click here or go to http://bit.ly/v5ONVJ for the free webinar.

 

 

Editor's note: To get a free copy of Gene's latest book be one of the first 15 to send an email to vzsmallbiz@verizon.net (with your full mailing address information).

In God We Trust.png

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎12-09-2011 01:13 PM

Gene Marks.pngGuest post from Verizon Author Series with featured author Gene Marks, who wrote five best-selling books for small business owners and managers. His latest book is called In God We Trust, Everyone Else Pays Cash – Simple Lessons from Smart Business Owners.

 

Want to track a few cool metrics outside of your business?  Try these...

 


To keep track of consumer activity I recommend two places.  First, pay attention to the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Measure.  Trust me, when they release this number on the last Tuesday of each month you’ll be hearing plenty about it in the media.  A nice chart plotting the CCM can be found here: http://www.market-harmonics.com/free-charts/sentiment/consumer_confidence.htm.  When you see things start ticking up, that’s a good sign. 

 

Or… go to Alexa.com and check out page views for Expedia.  Alexa’s ranking system isn’t perfect, but here you can see how many people are visiting this travel site over the past year.  Activity has been picking up significantly since the end of the last recession.  Also, keep an eye on auto sales. 

I also look at commodities.  Like raw materials.  And the prices of steel, copper and oil.  Low commodity prices means low demand.  I don’t want to see $140/barrel oil again, but seeing the price of oil rise is actually a good sign of more economic activity.  And that will mean more business for my business.


And have you ever heard of the Baltic Dry Index?   This one of those little known indexes that economists like to track as a leading indicator and is probably the only useful thing to come out of the Baltic since….since….well, I’ll think of something.   The index tracks the prices of moving raw materials.  When it’s moving up it means economic activity is increasing. 

Finally, I present the biggest indicator to watch that will tell us how the economy is doing.

And that’s the Media.  The media will have a big impact deciding when our country emerges from this recession.  Go to Google Trends (www.google.com/trends) and search for both “Recession” and “Recovery.”  This will give you a good indication of what’s being talked about in the press.

 

And finally, follow a few good economic bloggers.  I personally like Mark Perry (http://mjperry.blogspot.com/), Ezra Klein (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein)  and the guys at Capital Risk Blog (www.capitalriskblog.com).  These sites give up to date economic analysis and thoughts and perspectives, in plain English, so that a dope like me can even understand what’s going on in the world.

 

Following this information is important.  As business owners, we’re responsible not for just meeting payroll this week, but making decisions now that will affect ourselves, our employees and families in the years to come.  That’s why we make the big bucks, right?

 

I’ll be discussing these and other cool metrics when I host a live free webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center next Wednesday (Dec. 14) at 2 p.m. ET.  To register click here to go to http://bit.ly/v5ONVJ.

 

Editor's note: To get a free copy of Gene's latest book be one of the first 15 to send an email to vzsmallbiz@verizon.net (with your full mailing address information).

 

In God We Trust.png 

Gene Marks.png­­­­Season’s Greetings!  We wrap up the Verizon Author Series with featured author Gene Marks, who wrote five best-selling books for small business owners and managers. His latest book is called In God We Trust, Everyone Else Pays Cash – Simple Lessons from Smart Business Owners.

 

Gene writes weekly on political, economic and cultural events that affect the business community for the New York Times, Forbes, The Huffington Post and American City Business Journals.

 

He frequently appears as a commentator on FOX Business, FOX News, MSNBC and CNBC and speaks often around the country on business management topics. Gene has worked with dozens of Fortune 1000 companies, helping them build relationships with the business community.  Since 1994 Gene, a CPA, has run his own ten person consulting firm based near Philadelphia. Previously, Gene was a senior manager with the international accounting and consulting firm KPMG.

 

To get insights directly from Gene this month, be sure to check back as he will share a couple of guest blog posts.  Join us this Thursday (Dec. 8th) to get real-time tips and advice directly from Gene during the live Twitter chat we’ll have with him at 12 p.m. ET.  Just follow us on Twitter @VZSmallBiz (www.twitter.com/VzSmallBiz) or search for #bizbooks.

 

Also, join us for a live (free) webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center next Wednesday which will feature Gene as a guest presenter on December 14 at 2 p.m. ET.  This will be another opportunity for you to ask Gene your questions and get tips to grow your business in 2012.  Register for the webinar now by clicking here or go to http://bit.ly/v5ONVJ.

 

The best part of the Verizon Author Series is that we’ll be giving away Gene’s book all this month: In God We Trust, Everyone Else Pays Cash – Simple Lessons from Smart Business Owners.

 

You’ll want to read this book to get tips to grow your business. To win your free copy of Gene’s latest book be one of the first 15 people to send an email to vzsmallbiz@verizon.net telling us you’d like a copy of Gene’s book and what tips you hope to gain from it. 

 

Should you have any questions for Gene, don’t hesitate to post it below; we’ll do our best to get him to answer your questions so you can get insights to help you grow your business starting now and into the New Year.

 

 

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎11-18-2011 11:29 AM

VZ small_biz_info ICON.pngThis week we got some great advice on small business loans from Tanya Brockett, a former adjunct professor of Entrepreneurship and Book Publishing at the University of Virginia and author of The Loan Solution. If you missed the live webinar with Tanya, you can get the archive here.

The Web was full of news about the protests on Wall Street, prime ministers losing their power and the latest gaffs by political candidates. In the small business blogosphere however, we found several articles worth sharing to our entrepreneurship-focused friends. So here they are, with everything from franchising to social media:


Lastly, if you missed this week's security video on how to avoid sending rogue "poopy-pants" emails, click here

 

Have a great weekend!

This week’s Weekly Roundup was contributed by Ryan Morris, Social Media Manager to Verizon.

 

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎11-15-2011 03:58 PM

TanyaB.pngGuest post from Tanya Brockett this month’s featured author from the Verizon Author Series. Tanya is a former adjunct professor of Entrepreneurship and Book Publishing at the University of Virginia; 15-year advocate of and consultant to entrepreneurs; and author of The Loan Solution.

 

 

When a small business falls into financial trouble nowadays, what does it do? Loral Langemeier, author of the national bestseller The Millionaire Maker, says we think small and retract. Additionally, because the credit markets have been so adept at increasing our reliance on them, we look to who we can borrow from to get out of the hole. Do you see the flaw?  We don’t say, “How can I create more cash to change things?” We ask instead, “where can I borrow from to turn things around?”

 

We need to shift our money consciousness to start thinking creation rather than just borrowing or trading. We are trading time for money, trading interest fees for money, or trading our first born for money. Though there are times when leveraging ourselves with debt capital makes strategic sense, small businesses should also be thinking of creating cash in multiple ways.

 

Changing the money mindset

 

In order to shift our small business mindset from indebtedness to cash creation, it requires a shift in perspective. Many success teachers tell us that if we cannot see our business thriving instead of just surviving, it probably won’t. If we cannot see ourselves being successful and working with great clients/customers who see our value and are willing to pay for it, we won’t.

 

So the first step in creating Money Solutions for your business starts with you. You have to believe that you have something of value to offer and that you have every likelihood of being successful offering it, or there is no point in continuing to struggle!

 

In my entrepreneurship classes, I have my students visualize their ideal business and its success. They literally close their eyes and see the clients, the employees, the money flowing in, the products shipping out, and the positive impact that they are having on the community and their customers. I want them to feel what it would feel like to be successful doing what they are passionate about doing. If they can’t see it or feel it now, how will they recognize it when it happens? How will they continue to strive for it when the going gets tough? If they can’t see success now, what is the chance that they will ever make it a reality?

 

 

Get on the right path                     

 

For those of us in the line of business that makes a difference in the lives of our clients and for whom working is a pleasure, getting in alignment with our true intentions of providing service is a necessary first step. Whether you are a plumber or an accountant or a consultant or a professional speaker, your customer’s needs must be met by the service you provide, or you are wasting your time and your customer’s money. And yours too.

 

Knowing that we are doing what we set out to do, and recognizing that we must “be in business to make money” in order to continue providing that great product or service for our clients, we should then open our minds to a variety of streams of income, not just those tied to the sales of our primary products or services.

 

 

First, review your results

 

Sometimes we continue to operate under the status quo just because it is the way we have always done it. In this economy, that is simply not good enough. In Jack Canfield’s book, The Success Principles, he shares an equation that states that E + R = O. Simply put, events and our responses to those events, create our results or our outcomes. So, from a business/money perspective, if business is slow and we spend $1,000 on an ad in a news periodical, that only generates $200 worth of business, our outcome is a loss of $800. Yet, because we don’t often measure the results of our business decisions and we figure running ads is what businesses do when they want clients, we run that add four more times, yielding similar results, and lose more than $4,000. We keep responding the same way and get the same or worse results.

 

If, instead, we recognized that the E (slow sales) was still there, and our original approach (the news print ad) caused us to lose more money, we can change our response for a different outcome. So we change our R (our approach) by choosing to sponsor an event that directly impacts our target customer, and our outcome (O) changes. We pay $5,000 to sponsor an event that leads to $20,000 in additional sales, and our outcome is much improved simply by thinking out of the box and responding to the results. If we look at where we have spent our money and evaluate the return on that investment, we can choose a different path that will lead to different results. If we don’t change our response (R), we have no right to complain about how much money we wasted (or how bad the economy is, etc.).

                                                                                                         

Know what you want

 

If you have specific business/financial goals that you want to achieve and you write those goals down and revisit them each day, you are much more likely to achieve those goals. Brian Tracy talks about this very specifically in the book Eat that Frog. Jack Canfield takes that a step further, and offers several success principles for achieving your goals, like applying the “Rule of 5s.” The Rule of 5s means to take five steps or actions towards your goals each day. To do so, you have to know what you want, and have it written down so you can refer to it each day to have a target to shoot for. This includes money for your business.

 

Knowing what you want is also essential for receiving it. One example I have often given my entrepreneurship students: I can’t write a check to you for “somewhere between $20,000 and $50,000.” I have to know a specific number to write on a check before I can give it to you, so you need to know what that number is so you can tell me!

 

So after you have analyzed your business results and have established goals for the upcoming fiscal year, be clear on what it is you need to make those goals happen.

 

 

Visualize its attainment

 

As mentioned earlier, if you cannot see yourself achieving a goal, financial or otherwise, you are not as likely to bring it to fruition. So, once you have set a business financial target, you should see yourself successfully achieving it each day until it comes to pass. You’ll be amazed at the actionable ideas that come to mind as you do so.

 

If you think that visualizing is silly, ask the top Olympic athletes if they see themselves crossing the finish line before they run their races. Ask pro golfers if they see themselves hitting that long putt and winning the match before they play. As Secrets of the Millionaire Mind author T. Harv Eker might say, if you feel stupid doing this, ask yourself: would I rather feel normal/smart and be poor, or would I rather feel stupid and be rich? You decide.

 

 

Stay open for something new

 

We have entered both challenging and exciting times. It is from the depth of recessions that millionaires are born. Necessity is the mother of invention. When challenged with obstacles, view them as opportunities to create new ways of doing things, new ways of making money, and new ways of creating meaningful business relationships. Open your mind to new thought processes and possibilities. Learn to collaborate with others in your industry for the good of all concerned, instead of operating purely on the competitive plane. It is my belief that doing so will offer up to you new opportunities for Money Solutions that you would never have thought of on your own.

 

I’ll review these and offer more insights during my webinar tomorrow, November 16 at 2 p.m. ET. Click here to sign up for this live free webinar or go http://bit.ly/rU6ATO.

 

 

[Editor’s note: To win your free copy of The Loan Solution be one of the first 15 people to send an email to vzsmallbiz@verizon.net telling us you’d like a copy of Tanya’s book.  Of course, in the email, do share with us how you handle your company’s cash flow.]

 

VZ Author Series - ey.pngThe Verizon Author Series was designed to bring experts to offer insights and advice to small businesses.  All this month we gave away featured author, Tanya Brockett’s book The Loan SolutionWe will give away more of Tanya’s book the rest of this month and during her live webinar and live Twitter chat.

 

Tanya Brockett is a dynamic speaker, published author, entrepreneur, and small business consultant.

 

Tomorrow Wednesday, November 16, at 2 p.m. ET Tanya will host a live (free) webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center and then be available for a whole hour on Twitter on Thursday, November 17 at 12 p.m. ET to answer questions and offer more tips and insights.

 

I urge all businesses to seize these two opportunities to get insights directly from Tanya Brockett. Consider these as free consultations with a business expert; so, why not use it to your advantage? 

 

During tomorrow’s webinar Tanya will focus on ways businesses can raise cash, with or without debt.  

 

To register for this live free webinar click here (or go to http://bit.ly/rU6ATO).  Towards the end of the webinar feel free to ask Tanya your question(s) or save your question(s) and ask her on Twitter

 

TanyaB.pngFor more information about the live Twitter chat and how to participate click here (or go to http://bit.ly/edjtQT).  To follow along the conversation search (http://search.twitter.com) for #bizbooks or follow @VzSmallBiz (www.twitter.com/VZSmallBiz).

 

Of course, feel free to post your questions in the comments section below and we’ll make sure Tanya answers it during the webinar or on Twitter.

 

The first 10 to ask Tanya a question or post a comment below will get a copy of her book.

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎11-13-2011 08:06 PM

TanyaB.pngGuest post from Tanya Brockett this month’s featured author from the Verizon Authors Series. Tanya is an adjunct professor of Entrepreneurship and Book Publishing at the University of Virginia; 15-year advocate of and consultant to entrepreneurs; and author of The Loan Solution.

 

 

 

Oftentimes we choose to avoid the evaluation of our spending because we are afraid of what we will find. If we examine our spending habits, we may see that we spend way too much on, say, office supplies than we need to. We overspend on every new gadget that comes along without looking at the return on that investment. We spend mindlessly on marketing...just because. We couldn't quantify the results of the advertising campaign if we wanted to. And, in reality, we didn't even have a campaign, it was just a series of spending actions that led to...well...we don't know because we didn't measure our results.

 

Year-end is a time to recognize that we cannot accurately set financial goals for our new year if we don't look at the spending of the previous year. At least, if we do, we won't know if it is better or worse, realistic or not. Small business owners, heck all individuals, need to take a look at their performance over the past year to set a new strategy for the year to come.

 

Now is the time to get a jump on entering the months' worth of transactions that you have avoided entering into your accounting system. Now is the time to record all the deposits, and document all the spending. Don't wait until the year ends to do this. Your accountant is going to have enough rush work to do without adding yours to it. Give them a break, and give yourself a heads up, by ensuring that all of your transactions are entered into your system and accounted for.

 

After you have done so, go ahead and pull up your preliminary income statement and balance sheets: your financial statements. These will help you to analyze your business activity from a financial perspective. Yes, you should have been looking at these monthly; but that is water under the bridge now. Pull up your statements now and evaluate what you see, so you aren't surprised by what your accountant finds after the year has ended.

 

If you find that you are in a better cash position than anticipated, you might ask your accountant about whether to buy the equipment that you need to run your business, in order to take advantage of new tax credits this year. It may mean you have to take possession of and put the equipment into service before December 31 to take the tax credit for the whole year. Find out now so you can take advantage of it.

 

If you find that you are in a cash-strapped position, what led to this? Can you identify areas of overspending or loss of inventory or poor pricing strategies that negatively impacted your cash? Have you made investments into marketing in a slow market? If not, why not? A down market is the time to be seen amongst the usual advertising clutter. It is also when customers may see you, consistently, rising above your competition.

 

Money Solution.jpg

 

After you have evaluated your financial position and discussed it with your accountant or business consultant, use your new knowledge to chart your course for the upcoming year. What will you do differently to improve your cash position? What will you keep the same because it is working well for you? What new income streams can you produce to boost sales? What fresh perspective can you take on your existing business and service areas that will breathe new life into your financials and the excitement you enjoy in "doing" your business? There is nothing like bouncing ideas off of others to help you stimulate your thinking. So plan to get together with others to share ideas, share best practices, and explore industry trends. It is likely to make a positive difference in your business, regardless of your current position.

 

Armed with all of the new insights and ideas, quantify your revised approach by developing a cash budget. This is not the same as creating financial statement projections (pro formas). Creating a cash budget helps you to literally see each dollar (or penny) going in and out of your business each month.  On page 40 of my book The Loan Solution, you will find a twelve-month cash budget spreadsheet that helps you to clearly identify each cash expenditure that your business will make (find the spreadsheets at www.loansolutionbook.com/CashSalesPage.htm).

 

In many ways, this is better than an income statement projection, because you can follow the movement of money, not just expenses (which may or may not require actual cash to claim).

 

My book recommends a very practical approach to budgeting that you should consider: put the actual dollar item where it will actually fall in your year, rather than just taking an annual total and dividing it by twelve for a monthly amount. For example, if you know you only pay your business insurance bill quarterly, put the quarterly amount into the four months that you will actually pay the bill. It sounds simple, but many business owners do not know what their monthly cash outlay is likely to be, so they cannot respond quickly when sales dip or when a great supplier discount can be realized.

Loan Solution.png 

If numbers are just not your thing, offset your weakness with someone else's strength. Seek out someone who can assist you with the collection, reporting, and analysis of your financial position. You, your business, your customers, and your employees will all benefit greatly by your willingness to evaluate and plan.  No matter what you find in your analysis, having your eyes wide open will allow you to have a better year in 2012.

 

To win your free copy of The Loan Solution be one of the first 15 people to send an email to vzsmallbiz@verizon.nettelling us you’d like a copy of Tanya’s book.  Of course, in the email, do share with us how you handle your company’s cash flow.

 

For opportunities to get more insights from Tanya click here.

 

TanyaB.pngIt’s November and we’re excited to introduce another expert in the Verizon Author Series: Tanya Brockett adjunct professor of Entrepreneurship and Book Publishing at the University of Virginia; 15-year advocate of and consultant to entrepreneurs; and author of The Loan Solution.

 

The best part of the Verizon Author Series is that we’ll be giving away Tanya’s book The Loan Solution all this month.  You’ll want to read this book because Tanya will share insights into how to manage and create your cash flow instead of borrowing to turn things around (and more).

 

Previously, Tanya served as director of operations for a non-profit micro-lender and as an SBDC Center Director, and has helped her clients to acquire millions in capital throughout her career. She is also the owner of Hallagen Ink where they help clients to prosper on purpose through corporate sponsorships, entrepreneurship, and publishing. Tanya is also a speaker and presenter of workshops and lectures. Tanya’s upcoming books include Money Solutions for Small Businesses and The Enlightened (New) Writer: Tips & Tools for Creating a Joyous Publishing Experience.

 

To get money solutions and insights from Tanya this month, be sure to check back as she will share a couple of guest blog posts.  Also, join us for a live (free) webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center which will feature Tanya as a guest presenter on Wednesday, November 16 at 2 p.m. ET.  This will be a great opportunity to ask Tanya your questions.  Register now (http://bit.ly/rU6ATO) .

 

Lastly, we give you another chance to get real-time tips and advice directly from Tanya during the live Twitter chat we’ll have with Tanya on Thursday, November 17 at 12 p.m. ET.  Just follow us @VZSmallBiz (www.twitter.com/VzSmallBiz) or search for #bizbooks.

Loan Solution.png 

To win your free copy of The Loan Solution be one of the first 15 people to send an email to vzsmallbiz@verizon.nettelling us you’d like a copy of Tanya’s book.  Of course, in the email, do share with us how you handle your company’s cash flow.

 

Should you have any questions for Tanya, don’t hesitate to post it below, we’ll do our best to get Tanya to answer your questions so you can get insights to help you grow your business.

 

To reach Tanya, email her at Tanya@ProsperOnPurpose.net or follow her on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎10-13-2011 09:31 PM

VZ small_biz_info ICON.pngThis past week, we learned about how to save money on products and services you regularly buy for your small business, work smarter from home and generate more referrals (get the live Twitter chat transcript here.)

 

The larger blogosphere covered a ton of issues, but here are a few we think you’ll find particularly interesting:

 

The more social networks you belong to, the higher your chances of generating more sales. Follow these tips grow your small business via LinkedIN. Read

 

If you don’t adapt, you’ll die. It’s the basic rule of human survival, war, parenting and even running your small business. Check out this entry from Small Business Trends that explores how to assess if it’s time to change your business structure. Read

 

As you know, Steve Jobs passed last week. The Web is chock-full of articles on the tech icon, but Guy Kawasaki’s entry really sums up some of the most salient lessons to be learned from Mr. Jobs. Follow these nuggets of advice to business greatness. Read

 


This week’s Weekly Roundup was contributed by Ryan Morris, Social Media Manager for Verizon Small Business.

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎10-13-2011 10:31 PM

Referral Engine.pngGuest post from John Jantsch this month’s featured author from the Verizon Author Series. John is a marketing consultant and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.

 

 

Businesses run on referrals. Just ask any business owner or salesperson what the number one source of new business is and you’re likely to hear some variation on the theme of referrals.

 

But, ask that same business owner, marketer or salesperson what they do to consistently generate referrals and you won’t hear much.

 

I’ve always struggled with this idea. It’s like knowing that your car needs gas, runs way better on gas, but then heading out on a long trip without any idea if there are any gas station along your route.

 

The fact that most referrals happen by accident leaves many business to conclude that the only way to get referrals is to sit and wait.

 

If you deserve referrals, because nothing I’m writing about here will change that reality if you don’t, you have every reason to make systematic referral generation a core marketing strategy and here’s how:

 

Target Your Sources – The first step in referral generation, heck in marketing, is to have a very clear understanding of what and who actually makes an ideal referral. If you don’t have a crystal clear understanding of this, how are you going explain to your referral sources how they might spot the perfect referral? This is the number one referral killer out there. If you can explain in sharp detail what a great referral looks like, it’s more likely that I’ll conjure up a list of several people that fit that exact picture – help me do that!

 

Educate Your Sources – Take the time to teach your best referral sources how to talk about your business in ways that spark interest and spell out the value of doing business with you. Single out every business that has ever referred a prospect and ask to meet with to teach them the value they’ve received and how and why to refer your business. Give them the actual words to use to describe what you do that’s ‘Wow’. Create marketing materials and tools for them to put in a referred prospect’s hands and show them exactly how you treat a referred lead when you get one.

 

Motivate Your Sources – You may find that offering cash rewards for referrals gets people motivated, but more often than not your customers, the ones that know your magic best, will be more motivated by a creative promotion that turns your referral program into a game for them, allows them to earn something worth more to them than cash (like free services or special perks) or acknowledges their contribution through charitable donations.

 

Reward Your Sources – Every business has those referral zealots. They can’t stop talking about your business to all they meet. Take those folks and give them a big hug, they are gold. Find ways to make them part of your team. Bring them into marketing conversations, put them on an informal advisory board and create special events for them. You will get referrals from rewarding this group than any other effort your might enact.

 

Get More Sources – The greatest overlooked referral opportunity lies in the development of a strategic referral network. Some businesses have a business here and there that they may trade leads or collaborate with on a pitch, but I’m talking about something far more integrated than that. Think in terms of building an entire team of best of class providers for every need your clients may have. The idea here it to turn yourself into the “go to” source for anything your clients need. Do you think that could make you more valuable to them?

 

The trick is to attract the right partners and this starts by asking your existing clients what other businesses should be on you team. Once you combine this information with your own observations, you can reach out to these businesses and ask them to teach you the best way to introduce them to your clients – I guarantee this will get their attention.

 

Ignite Your Sources – Once you get the attention of a handful of partners show them opportunities to benefit just by association. Interview them and place the video on your site, allow them to submit a guest blog post, offer them e-books you’ve produced and allow them to co-brand the content and distribute it, offer to do a free educational workshop on a hot topic for their clients, and create logical ways to start introducing them to your clients.

 

When you make these kinds of opportunities readily available to your partners you stand a far greater chance of gaining their trust and attention – just the kind of thing that will get you and your business intentionally referred to their entire customer community.

 

So, how do you engage with those customers that refer your business to their contacts?

 

Editor’s note: Read the tips John Jantsch shared during our live Twitter chat.   Follow us on Twitter @VZSmallBiz (www.twitter.com/VzSmallBiz) to learn of our next Twitter chat.

 

Additionally join us for a live (free) webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center which will feature John as a guest presenter on Thursday, October 20 at 2 p.m. ET.  This will be a great opportunity to ask John your questions. Click here to register (or go to http://www.brighttalk.com/channel/6255)

 

To win your free copy of The Referral Engine be one of the first 15 people to send an email to vzsmallbiz@verizon.net telling us you’d like a copy of John’s book.  Of course, in the email, do share with us how you offer good service or what’s so loveable about your business as that’s one of the reasons people refer a business because they had a more than pleasant experience working with the business.

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎10-05-2011 08:55 AM

Jantsch.pngIt’s October and we’re excited to introduce another expert in the Verizon Authors Series: John Jantsch a marketing consultant, award winning social media publisher and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.

 

The best part of the Verizon Authors Series is that we’ll be giving away John’s book The Referral Engine all this month.  You’ll want to read this book because John will share insights he gained from interviewing small businesses and how they got their customers to refer them business. Word of mouth is key for growth especially for small businesses.  You can make your business more referable and John has a systematic approach (watch his video à http://referralenginebook.com/john-jantsch/).  

 

John is also the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing System and Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network that trains and licenses small business marketing consultants around the world. His blog was chosen as a Forbes favorite for marketing and small business and his podcast, a top ten marketing show on iTunes, was called a “must listen” by Fast Company magazine.

 

He is the featured marketing contributor to American Express OPENForum and is a popular presenter of workshop and webinars for organizations such as American Express, Intuit, Verizon, HP, and Citrix.

 

John’s practical take on small business is often cited as a resource in publications such as the Wall St. JournalNew York Times, and CNNMoney.  To get tips directly from John find him on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Your first chance to get real-time tips and advice directly from John is during the live Twitter chat we’ll have with him on Wednesday, October 12 at 12 p.m. ET.  Just follow us @VZSmallBiz (www.twitter.com/VzSmallBiz) or search for #bizbooks.

 

To get offer more insights from John this month, be sure to check back as he will share a couple of new guest blog posts.  Also, join me for a live (free) webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Centerwhich will feature John as a guest presenter on Thursday, October 20 at 2 p.m. ET.  This will be a great opportunity to ask John any questions.

 

To win your free copy of The Referral Engine be one of the first 15 people to send an email to vzsmallbiz@verizon.nettelling us you’d like a copy of John’s book.  Of course, in the email, do share with us how you offer good service or what’s so loveable about your business as that’s one of the reasons people refer a business because they had a more than pleasant experience working with the business.

 

Should you have any questions for John, don’t hesitate to post it below, we’ll do our best to get John to answer as many questions as possible.

 

 

 

VZ small_biz_info ICON.pngCan you believe it’s the last day of September?!  I found a few interesting articles this week, see below.

 

Security is a great concern for all businesses but have you considered your mobile security?  Read the following article that reviews future trends in how companies deal with threats.

 

Is your company data secure at every access point?  Read this article that highlights ways to identify a secure environment.

 

Here are seven tips to avoid competing on price.  And seven tips to get your business un-stuck… if it is.  This is from John Jantsch, October’s featured author from the Verizon Author Series.

 

Check out this article to see if your business has any social media Klout.

 

This USA Today article shares some info on adding video to your website, scroll to the bottom to see Steve Strauss’ ‘tip of the day.’

 

Next Wednesday join the live free webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business CenterChris Brogan will offer insights into social media.  Click here (or go to this link http://www.brighttalk.com/channel/6255) to sign up.

 

Have a great weekend!

 

 

Today’s roundup was compiled with the help with Maureen Burch, product strategy manager for Verizon.

 

search.pngGuest blog post from Frank Swiatek, co-author of “Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?” – Hard-Hitting Lessons on How to Get Real Results. Frank is this month’s featured author in the Verizon Author Series. Frank was a recent webinar guest giving tips to find hidden marketing assets; click here to view it or go to http://www.brighttalk.com/channel/6255.

 

 

My marketing approach is to examine your marketing assets that are either underutilized or are underperforming.  They cost you money.  Many of these assets are right before your very eyes, but you may not see them because you are working in your business (performing tasks, operations, etc.) and not working on your business (determining marketing direction).  I call them ‘hidden marketing assets’ because they are present but you are not necessarily focused on them.

 

My goal is to help you optimize these assets.  You can realize dramatic and profitable growth by developing a marketing system that uncovers new found sales from these assets in 30 – 90 days.  You don’t have to invest a lot of money or spend more money on advertising.  You may, however, re-allocate marketing dollars or you may re-direct marketing efforts to get those sales.

 

To find your business’ hidden marketing assets you need to conduct an opportunity analysis audit.  Please spend some time to respond to each of the following questions below (individually or with your team) to discover overlooked sales opportunities and untapped sales possibilities in your small business:

 

1.    Do you have a laser-like focus on “The Four Fundamentals” every single day?

* Grow revenue

* Get new customers

* Keep the customers you already have

* Eliminate costs

 

2.    What distracts you, every day, from focusing on The Four Fundamentals?

* Do you spend excessive time focusing on external factors over which you have no

   control (economy, government, etc.)

* Do you spend excessive time looking for “magic pills” or “silver bullets” to improve

   your business?

* Are you overrun by text messages and emails to the extent that most of your day is

   spent receiving and sending?

 

 

3.    Do you know your key sales metrics?

* The number of new prospects you touch on a monthly basis?

* The number of prospects you sell on a monthly basis (your conversion rate)?

* The amount of the average sale?

 

4.    Do you have any of these underperforming assets?

* Subpar sales staff?

* Advertising that falls short?

* Low average sale?

* Poor website performance?

 

5.    Do you have any of these underutilized assets?

* Relationships with other businesses that can become profitable alliances?

* A competitive advantage that is not articulated or integrated?

* Prospective, existing and past customers that are lying dormant?

 

6.    Have you ever developed a process map or flow chart of your sales and marketing process to identify what is not working?

 

7.    Did you ever do a promotion, an ad, a direct mail piece, an e-mail campaign that failed?  Do you know why it failed?

* Wrong target market?

* Poor message?

* No compelling headline?

* Poor offer?

* Lack of customer benefits?

* Lack of proof, evidence, and testimonials?

* Did you test on a smaller scale before rolling out the full campaign?

 

8.    Can you state specifically why someone should do business with you?  Can your competitors say the same thing?  Is it a compelling marketing message?

 

9.    Do you have a compelling marketing message that is integrated in all your communications (letterhead, brochures, website, invoices, etc.)?

 

10.  Do you have a database that captures all customer contacts?

* Do you maintain it?

* How many are active names?  Inactive names?

* Do you consistently communicate with prospective, current and past customers?

* Do those communications provide valuable information to customers and not just

   another attempt to sell them?

* Do you know the lifetime value of your customers?

* Do you have, or can you develop, upsell products/services or back-end   

   products/services to complement the original sale?

 

11.  Can you develop cross-promotions and alliances with other businesses?

* What is common about your customers?

* What other businesses might appeal to them?

* What other non-competitive business do you know that may have the same type of

   Customers?

* Can you establish a partnership with them to promote each other’s products/services?

 

12.  Are you using local association memberships to boost your image in the community?

 

13.  Do you belong to national associations?  Do they provide trends, surveys, etc that you

could use for free local publicity?

 

14.  Do you belong to any networking groups (e.g.BNI) that provide leads to you?

 

15.  Do you let every prospect know that you are a “referral-based” business?

 

16.  Do you know why people stop buying from you?

 

17.  Can you write articles, special reports, or even a book for promotional reasons?

 

18.  Do you only use response-based advertising where you can track and measure results?

 

19.  Are your customer contact employees professionally trained?

 

20.  Have you developed a lead-generating or a sales producing website?

 

 

From the above audit questions, identify 3 areas that can provide a jumpstart to your sales:

  •          _________________________
  •          _________________________
  •          _________________________

 

 

Remember, exceptional owners and managers take action, make decisions, and get results!

I hope after reviewing these questions you have a better handle on your business and where it statnds.  If you go to www.marketing-for-results.com, you will find a quick way to calculate your potential sales growth based on the three key sales metrics.

 

In addition, you will be able to download a special marketing report entitled, “How to Grow Your Business 10% - 100% in the next 30 – 90 Days!” filled with valuable content on exponentially grow your business.  You will see opportunities and possibilities!

 

So, have you done such an audit recently on your business?  What did you learn?

 

Make it a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

frank small.pngGuest blog post from Frank Swiatek, co-author of “Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?” – Hard-Hitting Lessons on How to Get Real Results. Frank is this month’s featured author in the Verizon Author Series.

 

 

Whenever I talk with small business owners about their sales, I often hear the phrase, “I’ve got to get my name out there!”  They believe that future sales depend on outside marketing tools that they are not currently using, like advertising.

 

In fact, they have assets within their own businesses which can become a rich source of new business!  When we think of business assets we normally think of cash on hand, buildings, inventory, and accounts receivable.  There is another kind of business asset, called “Hidden Marketing Assets,” that are often underperforming or being underutilized.  If these assets can be optimized, exponential sales growth can happen very quickly…and without spending more money on advertising.

 

Let me give you an example of a hidden marketing asset being underutilized from a very recent experience with a prospect.  I had an appointment with a manager of a manufacturing company.  They make custom table tops for businesses, colleges and universities, and medical labs.

 

I asked him one of my favorite small business questions, “Why should I do business with you?”  He said, “Frank, if I tell you that your custom table top will be on a UPS truck or FedEx truck on Friday, you can count on it…guaranteed!”  I said, “That’s a strong marketing message.”   He continued, “When you call us for any kind of service, a live person will answer the phone within 3 rings.” Again, this was a strong marketing message that was a real asset to his business.  

 

Unfortunately, they were hidden marketing assets!  Why?  When I asked to see his brochures, his website, his communications, and his invoices, there was nothing about these assets on any of them!  They were assets lying dormant!  They were not communicated to prospective customers, current customers, or past customers.

 

Later today, in the LIVE – FREE – webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center (Wednesday, September 21, at 2:00 p.m. ET), I will help you to uncover those marketing assets in your business, which may be lying right before your very eyes.

 

Once discovered, they can be turned into powerful drivers for building a sustainable business.

 

To register for this webinar entitled, “How to Use Your Hidden Marketing Assets to Grow Sales, customers, and Profitability,” click here or go to http://www.brighttalk.com/channel/6255.

 

I will look forward to being with you online later this afternoon, if you haven’t signed up yet, click here or go to http://www.brighttalk.com/channel/6255.

 

 

 

Editor’s note: If you can join today’s webinar with Frank Swiatek at 2 p.m. ET, please do as you’ll get the chance to ask him a question about your business and win a free (signed) copy of his book.  If you can’t join this live webinar, the replay will be available at http://www.brighttalk.com/channel/6255.

 

hearmenow_book_small.jpg 

hearmenow_book_small.jpgThis month’s featured author from the Verizon Authors Series is Frank Swiatek who co-authored a book with Denny Strigl, the former president and CEO of Verizon Wireless called “Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? Hard-Hitting Lesson on How to Get Real Results.”

 

Frank is a speaker, coach, and consultant in the areas of leadership, management, sales, and marketing.  He has conducted over 3,400 sessions for organizations throughout the United States and Canada over a 30-year period.  He has worked for over 25 Fortune 500 companies including many small businesses.  In addition to running his own firm, he is also an adjunct faculty member at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.

 

Frank has served as a seminar leader for Learning Dynamics (Boston, MA) and the Waterloo Management Education Centre (Canada) for over 12 years.  He has received the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speakers Association.

 

Frank is also an authorized and licensed consultant for the Hidden Marketing Assets System.

 

This Wednesday (September 21 at 2 p.m. ET) Frank will be the guest presenter in the live webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center.  Frank will give insights into how businesses can find marketing assets to increase sales, customers and profitability.

 

To get additional insights from Frank this month, be sure to check back as he will share a couple of guest blog posts. 

 

The best part of the Verizon Authors Seriesis that we’ll be giving away Frank’s book “Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? Hard-Hitting Lesson on How to Get Real Results”

this month.

 

To win your copy of “Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?” be one of the first 15 people to send an email to vzsmallbiz@verizon.net telling us you’d like a signed copy of Frank’s book.  Of course, in the email, do share with us some marketing tactics you are using which is working for your business.   

 

Should you have any questions for Frank, don’t hesitate to post it below, we’ll do our best to get him to answer as many questions as possible.  To register for this Wednesday’s webinar click here or go to http://www.brighttalk.com/channel/6255.

 

 

VZ small_biz_info ICON.pngI think I can spend all day on Twitter sometimes… so many fascinating news pop up and almost any and every topic can be found.  While making a post earlier, I spotted this from Likeable Media the #1 mistake small businesses make on Facebookis not getting your customers to ‘Like’ you.  If you are a Verizon small business customer pretty please ‘like’ us on Facebook (we can be found by going to www.facebook.com/verizonsmallbiz).  And if you are Twitter (or www.twitter.com/vzsmallbiz), follow us for news and exclusive offers – no lie.  Smiley Wink

 

Speaking of social media here are 5 things you should never do in social media. http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-things-you-should-never-do-in-social-media

 

Here are 13 marketing activities to do for less than $20 a day.  

 

Secrets from John Jantsch on getting more done every day.   (We’ll hear from John in November as the featured author in the Verizon Author Series.)

 

If you missed our last free webinar with Ramon Ray of Smallbiztechnology.com click here to get over 20+ ‘rules’ to live by to grow your business and find success.  If you go to this link http://www.brighttalk.com/channel/6255 you will see we have two webinars coming up on Sept. 21 and Oct. 5.  Let us know if you think we should move the time of our 2 p.m. ET webinars to another time.

 

As we approach the anniversary of September 11th this weekend here’s an interesting article that highlight the impact of the events on businesses and their recovery.

 

Read this article that reflects on some major lessons learned from the events. 

 

The attacks also had a significant impact on how companies view IT

 

Does your business have a disaster plan?

 

 

 

VZ small_biz_info ICON.pngLast week’s Weekly Roundup blog post mentioned the importance of social media in growing your small business. This week, we expand on that blog entry by providing a few of our favorite resources for keeping up with the latest social media trends. Please keep in mind that even though some of these sites focus on more of the social in social media, there are very relevant takeaways to incorporate into your social media strategy.

 

Do you have a favorite site that keeps you in the social media trending loop? Share it with us in the comments section below.

 

Next Wednesday, Sept. 7 the Verizon Webinar Series kicks start again at 2 p.m. ET featuring Ramon Ray, editor of Smallbiztechnology.com.  To join this live webinar register here (http://www.brighttalk.com/r/dSv).

 

If you missed out on our live Twitter chat with Susan Solovic yesterday, click here.

 

On September 21 at 2pm EST, we’ll have a live webinar with Frank Swiatek, co-author of Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?  Hard-Hitting Lessons on How to Get Real Results. Also as a part of the Verizon Author Series,  we’ll host a Live Tweet Chat with the co-author on September 22 at 2pm EST. Mark your calendars!

 

 

Enjoy the long weekend.

 

 

This Week’s Weekly Roundup was contributed by Ryan Morris, Social Media Manager to Verizon.

 

 

 

new look straight hair cropped.jpgGuest post from Susan Wilson Solovic, who wrote “It’s Your Biz – The Complete Guide to Becoming Your Own Boss.” Susan is an award-winning entrepreneur, a journalist, bestselling author, multi-media personality, and attorney.  She is also the CEO of SBTV.com, offering news, tips, and helpful insights to small businesses.

 

 

An earthquake and a hurricane in New York City -- in the same week!  It seems every time I turn on the news, there is a natural disaster being reported somewhere across the country or around the world. The scenes of suffering and devastation can be heart-breaking and makes us think, “What if that happened to me?” It sure makes you realize how vulnerable we all are. Disaster can strike anytime, anywhere, demolishing our homes, ruining our businesses, and stealing friends and family members. Yet, very few of us take the necessary steps to be prepared for when a disaster hits.

 

Particularly, small businesses.

 

I’ve found that when there’s a natural disaster making headlines, small businesses get focused on learning more about disaster preparedness and managing their risk. Then, after things calm down and the headlines switch to other stories, entrepreneurs revert to business as usual. The sense of urgency to be prepared is gone.

 

What would you do if you faced a disaster? Are you prepared?  Can your business still operate? Your business could be hit with something unexpected tomorrow that interferes with your ability to conduct business operations. It doesn’t have to be a major natural disaster, either. What if the sprinkler system goes off in your building or a major pipe breaks, destroying all electronic systems, customer files and inventory? Think about what you’d do if construction workers nearby cut water mains and electrical lines causing outages for several days. Could you conduct business the next day?

 

It is impossible to prevent a disaster from striking your company, but you can take action in advance to limit the impact your business sustains. Here are a few thoughts:

 

Make a List of Business Essentials. Determine which staff, materials, procedures, and equipment are absolutely necessary to keep your business operating.

 

Create a Contact List. Make sure you have a list of your suppliers, customers, and other business resources located at an off-site location.

 

Maintain Document Storage. Keep duplicate files of all critical business documents at a separate location.

 

Review Your Insurance Coverage. Be sure it is up to date and covers all your assets.

 

Secure Emergency Supplies. Have a battery-operated radio and extra batteries, water, food, first-aid etc.

 

For more information and a helpful checklist, go to Ready.gov.  It provides disaster preparedness information for your business and personal needs.  But don’t procrastinate.  Start your planning today. 

 

Let me know how you’ve prepared your business.

It's Your Biz.png 

 

Editor’s note: Susan’s book is coming out in October and she is giving Verizon’s Small Biz Blog readers an exclusive peek into the first few chapters. Be one of the first 15 to make a post below and also send your mailing address to vzsmallbiz@verizon.net to get the first few chapters from It’s Your Biz – The Complete Guide to Becoming Your Own Boss. Once the book is out, we’ll mail you a copy.

 

We’ll be giving more copies of Susan’s book during her live Twitter chat tomorrow at 12 p.m. ET. For more information click here or follow @VZSmallBiz (search #bizbooks).

 

To give as many business owners this free resource from Verizon, please request one free book from the Verizon Author Series per every 60 days.

 

 

It's Your Biz.pngPlease join me in welcoming this week’s featured author Susan Solovic, who wrote “It’s Your Biz – The Complete Guide to Becoming Your Own Boss.”  Susan is an award-winning entrepreneur, a journalist, bestselling author, multi-media personality, and attorney.  She is also the CEO of SBTV.com, offering news, tips, and helpful insights to businesses.

 

Solovic embodies ideas that make her universally—and intimately—relatable to all entrepreneurs: hard work, fortitude, and persistence.

 

This week Susan will share insights on how businesses can grow and market their business.  Her guest post will be uploaded shortly.

 

This Thursday, September 1, at 12 p.m. ET, Susan will be available for a full hour on Twitter (#bizbooks) to answer questions about her business, offering insights from her experience and giving tips to help small businesses.

 

When asking Susan a question on Twitter this Thursday please include #bizbooks in the Tweet so we can track it.  Of course, you can direct the question to @VZSmallBiz or @SusanSolovic  too, but add #bizbooks.

 

I urge all businesses to seize this opportunity to join our LIVE Twitter chat to get insights directly from Susan.  Consider our live Twitter chat as a free consultation with a business expert; so, why not participate?  Why not get some of your business issues addressed by one of our experts who may offer you a solution or some advice?   

 

To follow along the LIVE Twitter conversation this Thursday – Sept. 1 at 12 p.m. ET – search (http://search.twitter.com) for #bizbooks or follow @VzSmallBiz (www.twitter.com/VZSmallBiz).

 

For additional tips on how to join our LIVE Twitter chat, check out this past post or review this short video tutorial (just go about 59 minutes into this webcast).  Of course, don’t hesitate to post your questions below.

 

 

VZ small_biz_info ICON.pngThe core of social media isn’t much more than just talking to people and small businesses need to make time for it if they want to compete in the digital age. Read this article from smallbiztrends.com for more reasons (500+ million users on Facebook, 200+ million users on Twitter, etc.) and tips to incorporate social media into your business.

 

Here’s a good read from It’s Your Biz on can your business survive the unexpected?  We also ran a similar post with the focus on the importance of having your data backup as stated by a small business owner.   

 

We have mentioned the importance of a website – please do not be one of the 40 percent of small businesses that do not have a website.  This article gives tips to building a website that drives more business.  This article offers three simple strategies for your business website.  And if you need an affordable solution, check out Verizon Websites powered by Intuit.

 

As always, please share what you are reading.  Lastly, we have a few more copies of the books from the Verizon Author Series.  Be one of the first 25 to send us an email [vzsmallbiz@verizon.net] and request the book that you’d like to read… just the authors we have featured, of course. 

 

 

 

perspective_large.jpgGuest post from this week’s featured author Steven Sisler, who wrote “There’s More to Management Than a Big Desk.”  Steve is CEO of The Behavioral Resource Group Inc., a motivational speaker, teacher, coach and an Agent of Change.

 

 

After twenty-five years of working with people and over six years working directly with managers, leaders, HR directors within the corporate world, I have concluded that there is much more to management than the big desk they sit behind.

 

In business it’s all about relationships – no matter the size of your business, the quantity and the quality of the interactions matter. 

 

That said, it begins with your employees, if you have a strong team then you know they will help you build those relationships with your customers and/or clients.  If you have a solid team their care and dedication to the company will help attract new customers and/or clients and help grow your business. 

 

I have come up with the five stages of employee creation as outlined in my book.  Great employees are not discovered; they are created and it begins with you as you select the right member to join your business and how you nurture their growth which will help to grow your business.

 

1.    Recruiting. This is the process of finding the right fit for your company both in culture and behavioral attributes. This process is conducted through behavioral profiling, attitudes analysis and unconventional interviews, which is having real conversations about life, leisure, family, work, and relationships. A headhunter or a hiring manager should not do this if your company has one, but it should be done by a real person—that’s you, with feelings who’s unafraid of being vulnerable and upfront. Take the potential candidate to dinner with their spouse and find out if this is someone you want on your team.

 

2.    Training. This is the process of getting a new employee acclimated to their new tasks and surroundings. Everyone needs to be trained. When you as a leader don’t take the time to train your people, you create a survival instinct in them that usually cause them to act in a way that preserves and protects self above others. This is always at the expense of everyone around them; ultimately impacting your business.

 

3.    Deployment. People need to be sent. This produces a “mission” mentality in the one being sent. Many employees are just wandering around within organizations because they have never been sent. Their mission never quite defined. They show up every day without a mandate, without a mission. They are like sheep without a shepherd. Most employees don’t know their job description, so be clear and give your team their mission.

 

4.    Monitoring. Many times employees are treated like children. A business owner or a manager may punish subordinates based upon how the subordinate makes the owner/manager look. In these situations, every move the owner/manager makes in relationship to the employee is actually designed to elevate himself or herself at the employee’s expense. And when an employee figures this out, they instinctively start looking out for themselves at others’ expense. Monitoring is not micro managing; it’s keeping a pulse on a person for their benefit.

 

5.    Nurturing. You have to constantly bring people along until they learn to walk alone. This is true when new employees are brought in and when raising children as well. No matter how smart, educated or gifted, they still need to be nurtured into the company – into your company. This creates great people who feel a part of the team. Caring for people goes a long way. Over sixty years of data suggests that when people feel important and cared for, they will work extra hard for a person or a cause. As the owner of your business or as a manager, your job is to bring the best out of the people you lead.

 

It’s far more productive with employees when you are personal first and professional second, vulnerable first and valuable second. Take some time and consider your leadership style, make necessary tweaks where you need them and consider your employee’s needs. Then you’ll be on your way to managing a great team.

 

 

 

Note from editor:

Interested in reading Steve’s book to get more insights?  Be one of the first 20 to send an email to vzsmallbiz@verizon.net to request a free copy of his book courtesy of the Verizon small business team.  To get real-time insights from Steve Sisler join our LIVE Twitter chat tomorrow (August 25) at 6 p.m. ET.  For more information on joining the chat click here.

 

 

Steve_High_Res.jpgPlease join me in welcoming this week’s featured author Steven Sisler, who wrote “There’s More to Management Than a Big Desk.”  Steve is CEO of The Behavioral Resource Group Inc., a motivational speaker, teacher, coach and an Agent of Change.

 

Recognized as one of the top behavioral profilers in the U.S.. Steven works with owners, managers, and teams in many countries including Canada, Germany, Switzerland, England, Amsterdam, South America, Austrailia, and the United States to name a few. Steven helps individuals understand how they are behavioraly wired for business, family and life. Steve is a personality consultant and a human nature specialist.

 

This week Steve will share insights on how businesses can create the best employees for their business by utilizing his 5-pillar process called; “The Maven Way.” His guest post will be uploaded shortly.

 

This Thursday, August 25, at 6 p.m. ET, Steve will be available for a full hour on Twitter (#bizbooks) to answer questions on how to manage with your heart instead of your head.   When asking Steve a question on Twitter this Thursday please include #bizbooks in the Tweet so we can track it.  Of course, you can direct the question to @VZSmallBiz or @SteveSisler too, but add #bizbooks.

 

I urge all businesses to seize this opportunity to join our LIVE Twitter chat to get insights directly from Steve.  Consider our live Twitter chat as a free consultation with a business expert; so, why not participate?  Why not get some of your business issues addressed by one of our experts who may offer you a solution or some advice?   

 

To follow along the LIVE Twitter conversation this Thursday – (Aug. 25 – at 6 p.m. ET, search (http://search.twitter.com) for #bizbooks or follow @VzSmallBiz (www.twitter.com/VZSmallBiz).

 

For additional tips on how to join our LIVE Twitter chat, check out this past post or review this short video tutorial (just go about 59 minutes into this webcast).  Of course, don’t hesitate to post your questions below.

 

 

 

ws book.jpgGuest post from this week’s featured author Wendy Stevens, who wrote “Local Guerrilla Marketing” with Jay Conrad Levinson.  A powerful, dynamic speaker, and popular trainer, as well as a championship coach and mentor, follow Wendy @WendyStevens.

 

 

In the local online search game you cannot afford to be left behind, trailing your competition.  To get out in front of your potential and ideal customers and/or clients in the local search engine game begins foundationally, first and foremost with a “local search engine” profile of your business. 

 

Everyday people are searching online right there in their own hometown for – maybe, your exact business product or service. Every major search engine is actually rushing to become the next local phonebook.  With one billion local searches a month on Google alone there are a lot of fingers doing the walking and clicking online to find your business.

 

So now, is the time for you to get your business listed in online maps and directories and take advantage of the massive growing numbers of people using local search, to find business services and products of all kinds right there in the town your business is located in.  Statistics shows that about 69 percent of households use online search for products and services on a daily basis. 

 

Out of the one billion searches – local searches a month online – half of those are done on a mobile device.  The reason mobile matters so much is the ideal customer and/or client that is out there utilizing a local search is often times doing so, on their mobile device where maps and directories play such a vital and critical role in the selection process for the end consumer.  So the question really is how do local searches search in the first place? 

 

For instance, someone in Nashville seeking a chiropractor will type in “Nashville Chiropractor” or someone in Chicago will type in “Chicago Accountant.”

 

That’s the reality of search at the local level. We search by the city or town in which we are located. This behavior has driven search to be hyper-local.  So local geo-targeting means that search engines are utilizing local IP addresses and location to identify and serve up results based on the end users location.  There is a mad dash to be the next big player in the local directory game; search results are global, national, all around town, and just around the corner.

 

Test it out, go ahead and do an online search for “Contractor 37069.”  You may not have noticed it before but the first results displayed are local directory results complete with a map feature such as Google Places of Franklin, TN.  By clicking on one of the local listings, you’ll get all the information that’s available online.  It is almost like a mini webpage for that business.  This means that when your potential ideal customer and/or client searches for your local business they can easily find your business’ phone number, address and vital signs.

 

How do you create a local search profile for your business?

 

The search profile provides a valuable quality inbound link next to your site and is ranked individually in search engines which increases your overall brand presence.  Local search profiles are incredibly important as I mentioned because of the many searches done on a mobile device.  So when your potential customers are out and about using their Blackberry’s, Blueberries or their iPhones, most of them are looking for quick information like a phone number or an address as they are already out there mobiling around.  They’re looking for that last piece of information to execute that stop or that shop.  This means they don’t have the time to dig through your website to get your business information and if it doesn’t come up fast… this potential customer and/or client will probably go with one of your competitors who’s information was readily available. 

 

If you’re not listed locally you're missing out on potential customers that may be trying to access your business via a mobile device and ready to buy.  So, not having this local search presence means you’ll be missing out on providing your business’ services to these potential customers and/or clients. 

 

Below you’ll find some of my best tips for creating and developing local search profiles for your business: 

 

First and foremost, claim your listing by going to Google Places – it’s free!  This is a free service provided by Google which allows you to list your business on the web. Your business might already be listed but you can make your listing more dynamic by adding photos, videos, links and more.  You’ll also be able to see reviews that are being posted and keep your business’ information up to date including hours of operation, payment options and other details.  You never know what piece of information your potential customer and/or client might be looking for. 

 

Google will ask to verify the ownership of your business by either calling you at the number provided for your business or they will send a postcard with a verification pin to the business address you listed. 

 

Please don’t rush your submissions.  If your business has multiple locations, don’t submit them all at once because you could appear to be spamming search engines.  When listing multiple locations spread it out over a couple of weeks or months so search engines won’t classify you as a spammer. 

 

The bare minimum information requires your business’ full address, and zip code as many of us search by zip codes as well. Be sure to include a direct phone number including links to your main website.  This is all about niche marketing.  Does your hometown have a business association?  Use local specific search engines  like WickedLocal.com or yp.com, merchantcircle.com or, yp.com.  These are some of the popular local search engines and have unique audiences. The more places you can post your business with its local profile the greater audience you can position your business in front of directly right before they buy.

 

In case any of this feels overwhelming you can use services like, elance.com or odesk.com or perhaps hire a virtual assistant that can post the proper information for you.  Then it's ring, ring!

 

 

Note from editor:

The first 25 to post a comment below will get a copy of Wendy’s book courtesy of the Verizon small business team.  To get real-time insights from Wendy Stevens join our LIVE Twitter chat tomorrow (August 18) at 7 p.m. ET.  For more information on joining the chat click here.

ws book.jpgPlease join me in welcoming this week’s featured author Wendy Stevens, who wrote “Local Guerrilla Marketing” with Jay Conrad Levinson.  Wendy is a powerful, dynamic speaker, and popular trainer, as well as a championship coach and mentor.

 

Wendy has leveraged her experience as a former All American, MVP and NCAA National Champion as well as a Division I Lacrosse Coach at Vanderbilt University and proven that the basic principles of success hold true whether you're on the playing field or running your own business.

 

Recognized as one of the top online marketers and social media experts, Wendy has been showcased as a speaker and trainer as a multiple seven-figure internet entrepreneur. Wendy has assisted thousands of people tripling their productivity at work, sales and marketing as well as launching their own successful businesses.

 

Wendy Stevens, who knows what it’s like to walk on and win, after nearly seven years of preparation as a savvy marketer, is launching her new book co-authored by the legendary marketing expert Jay Conrad Levinson, Local Guerrilla Marketing. Guerrilla Marketing is the best known marketing brand in history, named one of the 100 best business books ever written, with over 21 million sold Jay's books appear in 62 languages and are required reading in MBA programs worldwide.   

 

This week Wendy will share insights on how businesses can get better results if they localize their marketing efforts.  Her guest post will be uploaded shortly.

 

This Thursday, August 18, at 7 p.m. ET, Wendy will be available for a full hour on Twitter (#bizbooks) to answer questions how to market your business better online and target your marketing efforts.   When asking Wendy a question on Twitter this Thursday please include #bizbooks in the Tweet so we can track it.  Of course, you can direct the question to @VZSmallBiz or @WendyStevens too, but add #bizbooks.

 

I urge all businesses to seize this opportunity to join our LIVE Twitter chat to get insights directly from Wendy.  Consider our live Twitter chat as a free consultation with a business expert; so, why not participate?  Why not get some of your business issues addressed by one of our experts who may have already gone through it?   

 

To follow along the LIVE Twitter conversation this Thursday – (Aug. 18 – at 7 p.m. ET, search (http://search.twitter.com) for #bizbooks or follow @VzSmallBiz (www.twitter.com/VZSmallBiz).

 

For additional tips on how to join our LIVE Twitter chat, check out this past post or review this short video tutorial (just go about 59 minutes into this webcast).  Of course, don’t hesitate to post your questions below.

 

 

 

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎08-22-2011 10:50 AM

Become Your Own Boss#65937A.pngGuest post from Melinda F. Emerson who wrote the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months; A Month-By-Month Guide to a Business That Works. Melinda is known to many as the “Small Biz Lady,” one of the country’s leading small business experts. 

 

 

One of the top reasons why small businesses fail is because they try to sell to anyone that they think has money.  Now hear this:  If everybody can use your product or service, no one will.

 

That is why it’s important to have a niche – narrow in on your potential customers.  A niche has a particular market or specialty area where a company finds it profitable to concentrate its efforts. Niche marketing also offers an area of limited competition.

 

Why Niche? Niche marketing is cost-effective. By identifying your niche customer you can eliminate a lot of guess work and your marketing dollars will be targeted and go a lot further. The more specific your customers are the easier it is to meet their needs. You must study where they shop, where they live, how often they buy things, what their values are and what are their pain points—then armed with a detailed customer profile it is much easier to design custom solutions and sell to them.

 

Use the internet to dig deeper into your market. For example, I know an event planner created a website focused on Sweet 16 parties to advertise her business. She researched the key words people used to search for help with teen party planning and made sure to use those key words in her blog posts and marketing copy. Her business really took off after she launched her “princess for a day” website. Use the web to establish your niche brand, and become the ‘king’ or ‘queen’ of your niche.

 

Niche marketing is a major theme in my book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months; A Month-By-Month Guide to a Business That Works.  The book walks you step-by-step through the Emerson Planning System, which will reduce your learning curve as you start your business. 

 

Reduce the Competition

You must niche to get rich as a small business owner. Nowadays, all competition is global.  Competing on price is virtually impossible, so it is all about adding maximizing value for your customers. This means you must specialize in solving their core problem.  The best thing about running a niche business is that you reduce the competition.

 

Too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to go after too broad a market. They chase too many clients in too many diverse industries.  As a small business owner you have limited time and limited resources to market your business. Do not chase every ambulance going down the street that you think might have money in the back.  After months of doing this, your business will be on life support in need of emergency care.

 

If you try to sell to anyone with money—you’re going to struggle in business. And you will not be known for anything.  One of the best ways to carve out a niche for your business is to position yourself as an expert. Try blogging, writing a book, doing media interviews on your topic, expertise or the services you are offering.  Make sure you create a social media footprint that shows that you are the go to expert in your field. People will “google “you before they even pick up the phone to call you for a quote.

 

Consider this; lots of people sell graphic design services, promotional products and desserts. Why should anyone buy them from you?  Lots of people sell marketing consulting services.   What makes your services so special? What difference does it make to my business if I use your service? Do you have an answer for this in your business?

 

Do you have a niche business? Tell me about it?

 

The first 23 to post a comment will get a copy of Melinda’s book courtesy of the Verizon small business team.  To get real-time insights from Melinda Emerson join our LIVE Twitter chat tomorrow (August 11) at 2 p.m. ET.  For more information on the chat click here.

 

 

 

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎08-08-2011 11:11 AM

Twitter.jpgI’m excited to announce that beginning this week and every week in August, I’ll introduce you to an author a week.  This is an expansion of the Verizon Author Series, bringing additional business experts to offer advice and tips to help our community of small business owners run their businesses better, more strategically and more productively.

 

As always, insights from each author will be available as a guest post on the Verizon Small Biz Blog; additionally, each author will be available on Twitter (#bizbooks) for a full hour to share additional business best practices.  So, get your questions ready! 

 

All month long there’s an opportunity for small business owners like you to win a free book (limited copies available) from one of our newly featured authors – simply read our blog; follow the Verizon Small Business team on Twitter (www.twitter.com/VZSmallBiz); or fan the team on Facebook (www.facebook.com/VerizonSmallBiz) for more information.

 

Featured authors this month and their books, in the series are:

 

 

 

 

 

Since the April launch of the Verizon Author Series, an author has been featured every month to connect these experts to small businesses across the country.

 

For tips on how to join our LIVE Twitter chats, check out this past post or check out this short video tutorial (just go about 59 minutes into this webcast).  Of course, don’t hesitate to post your questions below.

 

If you have authors you’d like to suggest for the Verizon Author Series, please let me know.Twitter bird.png

 

 

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎07-06-2011 09:10 AM

jen.JPGIt’s July and we’re excited to introduce another expert in the Verizon Authors Series: Jennifer Prosek who wrote Army of Entrepreneurs: Create an Engaged and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business Growth.

 

Jen is the founder and CEO of CJP Communications, where she leads many of the firm’s key accounts. Under her leadership, the firm has become a leading international public relations and financial communications consultancy with offices in New York, Connecticut and London.

 

The secret to CJP's success has been Prosek's ability to develop, motivate and deploy her employees to be more entrepreneurial within their own positions. This strategy is the premise of her first book which is based on CJP’s unique business model and is now available from AMACOM, a division of the American Management Association.

CJP and Prosek have won numerous honors. CJP was named an Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing company, has been recognized as one of the "Top Places to Work in PR" by PR News, and was named "Small Agency of the Year" by The Holmes Report and one of the tri-state area’s 2011 “Great Entrepreneurial Places to Work” by New York Enterprise Report.

Prosek lectures frequently at business schools including Columbia, and entrepreneurial and business groups, such as the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute, Forté Foundation, The Royal Bank of Scotland Marketing Summit and British-American Business, Inc. 

She is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio and the Columbia Business School.

You can follow Jen on Twitter and Facebook.

 

To get insights from Jen all this month, be sure to check back as she will share a couple of guest blog posts.  Also, join us for a live (free) webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Centerwhich will feature Jen as a guest presenter on Wednesday, July 27 at 2 p.m. ET.  Lastly, join the live Twitter chat with Jen on Thursday, July 28th at 10 a.m. ET to directly ask her your questions.

 

The best part of the Verizon Authors Seriesis that we’ll be giving away Jen’s book Army of Entrepreneurs all this month.

 

To win your copy of Army of Entrepreneurs, be one of the first 10 people to send an email to vzsmallbiz@verizon.net telling us you’d like a signed copy of Jen’s book.  Of course, in the email, do share with us how you are motivating your employees to be more entrepreneurial. 

ArmyOfEntrepreneurs-book art.jpg 

Should you have any questions for Jen, don’t hesitate to post it below, we’ll do our best to get Jen to answer as many questions as possible.

 

 

 

The New Small book.pngThe Verizon Author Series was designed to bring experts to small businesses.  This month we gave away featured author, Phil Simon’s book “The New Small.”  We will give away more of Phil’s book the rest of this week and next.  

 

Phil Simon is a technology consultant, author, speaker, and small business owner.  He just published his third business book, The New Small.

 

This Wednesday, June 22nd, at 2 p.m. ET Phil will host a live (free) webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center and then be available for a whole hour on Twitter on Thursday, June 23rd at 12 p.m. ET to answer questions and offer advice.

I urge all businesses to seize these two opportunities to get insights from Phil Simon directly. Consider these as free consultations with a business expert; so, why not participate? 

 

During this Wednesday’s webinar Phil will discuss what most forget: a small business now has access to many kinds of technology that used to be reserved for major corporations with budgets and infrastructures to make them deliver.  And this all starts with website design.  Learn why you no longer need to spend a great deal of money to great a professional web presence.


To register for the free live webinar click here (or go to http://bit.ly/lJlndU).  Towards the end of the webinar feel free to ask Phil your questions or save your questions and ask him on Twitter.  For more information about the Twitter chat click here (or go to http://bit.ly/edjtQT) just be sure to include hashtag – #bizbooks – and follow @VzSmallBiz (www.twitter.com/VZSmallBiz).

 

Of course, feel free to post your questions – get tips/advice for your business – in the comments section below and we’ll make sure Phil answers it during the webinar or on Twitter.

 

The first 25 to ask a question or a comment below will get a copy of Phil’s book.

Employee Emeritus Employee Emeritus ‎04-26-2011 11:56 AM

Genius.jpgGuest blog post by author Alan Gregerman who wrote Surrounded by Geniuses, he has been helping companies and organizations unlock the genius that exists in all of their employees. 

 

Greetings!  

 

If you're like most businesses you realize that providing excellent customer service is essential to your success.  While you might win customers based on the quality, reliability, and price of your products, services, or solutions, you're likely to keep them by delivering the best customer experience in your marketplace.  And you don't have to be a large company to provide world-class service.  In fact, as a small or medium-size business you have some distinct advantages in building a more customer-centric business.  First, you're closer to the customer and can engage in an ongoing "conversation" to understand their evolving needs and the best ways to meet them.  Second, you can tap your entrepreneurial spirit to do new things more quickly and effectively without breaking the bank.  But it all begins by acknowledging the importance of customer service and your potential to be innovative and remarkable.

 

And that's what this Wednesday’s webinar is all about.  I will begin the webinar by looking at a couple of companies that have two different and very successful customer service models to give you a sense of how you can create your own winning customer experience.  Then I go over  service from the customer's perspective and show how you can identify the critical "moments of truth" in your relationship with customers--moments when you have the opportunity to make a powerful and lasting impression.  Next, I'll explore six big ideas that could provide a framework for enhancing your customer experience and provide practical guidance on how to bring them to life.  These ideas can be adapted to your budget and industry to achieve brilliant results.  And last, I'll review the eight keys to building stronger relationships with your customers.  And if you have questions at the end I'll tried to offer as much specific help as possible.

 

So please join me on this free live webinar tomorrow Wednesday April 27th at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time for "Customer Service -- Winning in Your Market by Creating the Most Compelling Customer Experience."  

 

PS, if you can’t make the live, free  webinar, watch the replay as my webinar will be taped and archived so you can view it later.  And follow @VzSmallBiz or fan VerizonSmallBiz to get a copy of my latest book titled "Surrounded by Geniuses" which offers even more ideas for unlocking the brilliance in yourself, your colleagues, and your company.

 

 

 

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Get news from Verizon about Business Markets services and market trends that affect your bottom line. Here, you'll find tips and commentary from the Verizon Business Markets group and other experts to help keep your business growing.

       




Contact the editor: tumara.r.jordan@verizon.com

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Tumara Jordan

Senior Manager: Verizon Business Markets

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Tumara is a contributor to the Business Markets Marketing team and she currently manages Social Media marketing campaigns.


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