Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kill SOPA and Protect IP

It's difficult for a small business to compete with the big guys. But in today's internet dominated world it is becoming easier for small business to get the word out about offerings a consumer may not even be aware of when choosing between the big and the small.

For example, a small business may provide more support and training for the products that are sold and what better way to get that kind of word out than on a website, blog, and social media?

But now there are 2 laws that are before congress that threaten to stymy that ability to compete on the world stage. Supported by big business and media companies, SOPA and Protect IP are laws that would affect what can be used and reused on the internet. Most small business have to start with basics, building with minimal tools---it's difficult enough to get started without having to reinvent the wheel.

Certainly copyrights should be protected. But not to the extent that the cost is shutting small businesses out of the internet or requiring small business to hire lawyers to govern every step that is made online. Government's role needs to be reconsidered. SOPA and Protect IP are laws that are counter productive and need to be stopped.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Competing online

Many small businesses are adding their presences online. And in the recent economic times this can be a smart business direction to go. Small businesses that service a niche can actually gain a stronghold over the big box stores because the small business does one thing and does that one thing well.

Small businesses can also position themselves on online search engines above the big box stores too. When you search for a sewing machine with a smart phone, for example, Walmart may not even come up as a store that carries sewing machines. (Even though they do.) This gives a small business a new advantage just by having a presence online.

And the more activity you have online the better your placement will be over all your competition. So blogs, responsive answers to email questions, frequent updates to your website, forums, as well as Twitter and Facebook posts can prove to your customers that a small business is a great place to go for good old fashioned responsive products and services.

Have a profitable Cyber Monday!        

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Have a wonderful holiday and don't forget to shop your local small business on Saturday.

I'll be back with a new web tip on Monday.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Don't forget to Shop Small November 26th 2011

Small business' are often the heart of the community---providing local jobs that often pay more and are more family friendly than the box stores.

They're also higher on service and more satisfying and fun to shop in too. So this Saturday, November 26th pick a small business and shop. Help an entrepreneur through this economy, pick a unique and unusual gift, and help your local community----shop local, shop small.       

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

eBay selling

As an addendum to my series on internet commerce without a website; I need to add one more tidbit. If you are accepting payments through Paypal, know that Paypal is also owned by eBay. If your buyer, right or wrong, has a problem with the product---anything from buyers remorse to didn't read the listing or store policy, and the buyer invokes the "isn't as described" clause; the amount of the sale is put on hold.

This occurs even when it is past the returns are accepted time as indicated in writing in your store policy. This occurs even if the money is not in your Paypal account---remember Paypal has access to your bank account or credit card.

eBay then apparently acts as judge and jury in the case. The internet is full of angry, frustrated, and disgusted sellers who have been cheated out of the merchandise and the money. In contrast, rarely do you find a disgruntled buyer.

Beware of this pitfall when merchandising on eBay. As an eBay staff member put it "if you don't like or agree with our policies too bad don't do business here."

And that is indeed the kind of customer service you can expect whether you sell $1 or thousands of dollars.      

Monday, November 14, 2011

Small Business Saturday

In case you haven't heard, November 26, 2011 is Small Business Saturday. There is a big campaign going nationwide to encourage folks to shop their local small business on the Saturday after black Friday.

And small businesses across the nation are announcing bargains, deals, and festivities in order to celebrate and entice customers to shop their local businesses, creating local jobs in the local economy, keeping their neighbors employed, and coming up with some original and thoughtful holiday gifts at the same time.

I don't know about you, but I actually enjoy shopping the small main street businesses, with their unique wares, helpful and knowledgeable staff, and, all in a Currier and Ives like setting too.

So...polish up your website, Facebook & Tweet, and post those fun holiday festivities that are to be to your blog! And let's bring a little of Main Street USA to this year's Christmas.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Keeping Customers

It costs much more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing customer. Everyone knows that---they teach that in customer service 101.

And today it is easier to stay close to customers, keeping them informed of new products, new uses for products they already purchased from you, and special deals and offerings you have in the works.

Many businesses have a seasonal aspect; whether it's the typical retailer's season in the fourth quarter of the year, the spring and summer period for products like lawn tractors, or those that focus on winter hobbies, you can stay in front of your competition by offering year round information, time saving tips, and communications.

Even if people are packing away those tractors for the season---think coupons for repairs or maybe a clearance sale for that guy who dreams of a replacement model for next year's lawn.  This can be done relatively inexpensively through your website, social media, newsletters, and business blog.

Year round connection, a club-like atmosphere, personal communication---means you'll be hanging onto the customers you already have. And new business marketing can focus on new business---not only replacement.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Your online business extention

Visiting Kmart or Walmart online is much like visiting one of their physical stores. The sites are full of online shelves where customers buy basic merchandise at cost effective prices. There isn't a whole lot more. This is as expected.

When offering your wares on line, whether services or products, consider your online site as another physical location. What is it that makes your business stand out? Do you offer quality merchandise with professional advice? Do you offer bargain basement prices and efficient delivery?

Keeping your brand and extending your business to online will be easier if you keep your identity consistent between the physical and online locations. Just because you add an online entity to your business doesn't mean that you need to go from being a Neiman Marcus to a Walmart.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Social Media

It's exciting to help a business grow via social media. I'm currently assisting a local business with over 30 years of experience grow via social networking. I love hearing that customers are enjoying the emails full of tips, deals, and information.

When coupons posted on the blog or website are brought in, or a sale is made because the product was posted on the web and when the traffic into the physical location is increased----in this economy---it is a great thing.

Providing value through the blog, Facebook, Twitter; solving customer's problems when the customer had no idea a solution existed--enhancing the customer experience, making life easier, and, yes, generating additional sales; it's great.