The Importance of Having an Accountant

Many small business owners are experts in the specific product or service that they offer, have no doubt about it.  However, an equally common feature of the small business owner is that they lack several of the necessary skills to completely administer a business.  Someone who is great as a floor manager at a manufacturing company may not be as great at balancing the books; some bean-counter who is a whiz with numbers may not be good at operating machinery or equipment.  Whatever the circumstance, everyone has a weakness. One of the most common weaknesses businesses owners have is lack of financial planning and accounting skills.  These skills are quite unrelated to most other tasks an owner is called upon to do, so if they haven’t received specific training on how to do it or perhaps studied it in school, they may simply not know how.  Or worse, they many know just enough to be dangerous, and end up getting themselves in hot water with the IRS through some questionable deduction practices. That is why I recommend that nearly every small business owner who doesn’t have experience or a degree in finance hire an accountant; they bring a huge variety …

Your Business Needs a Review Strategy

It is no secret; local SEO is getting harder and harder to successfully perform.  It looks like all the low-hanging fruit has basically been plucked at this point, and now small businesses are beginning to run into the same stumbling blocks that affect larger businesses regarding their SERP results. One method that many companies still have not yet implemented that will likely pay off big dividends in upcoming years is a review strategy.  Google has explicitly commented that they want to see reviews and engagement on social sites that grows in an organic, holistic manner.  So why have nearly 80% of businesses still not implemented a review strategy? Basically, a formal review strategy is a process for soliciting feedback from your customers.  Much like sales funnels or any other part of a marketing campaign, it is modular in nature, and can be simple or very complex. An example of a very simple review strategy is simply appending a link to Yelp, Facebook, or wherever you are trying to promote yourself to every invoice or receipt you put out.  This will encourage customers to hopefully visit these sites, give you a good rating, and share any helpful feedback they have for …

Business Should Learn some Lessons from the Video Game Industry

There have been a number of encouraging developments recently in the video game industry that can provide an example to businesses in other niches regarding developing new markets, products, and revenue streams.  Let’s take a look at some of these trends, and the lessons the general business community can learn from them: Huge Discounts Can Create New Customers – Steam is a popular online sales and distribution platform for PC games and software.  They recently ran a holiday sale in which some titles were discounted at rates of up to 90%.  Several developers reported that despite a 90% discount, the exposure they received due to the Steam sale resulted in sales figures greater than the rest of their year combined. Valve Creates New Market Out of Nowhere – Valve, the company behind Steam, recently debuted their living room ‘Steam Machine’ series, intended to compete with gaming and media consoles like the Xbox One and the PS4.  Bringing PC games to the living seems like a no-brainer, and little actual new technology or infrastructure was required to make this happen, just the idea itself. Taps Untapped Demographics – Video games tap those elusive dollars from males in their teens through their …

Some Challenges for Small Business in 2014

So far we have taken a look at some of the positive trends that small business can take advantages of in the coming year, but today we are going to take a look at some of the challenges and difficulties they are likely to face in the new year as well: Raising New Revenues – Companies that cannot take advantage of trends in online marketing will likely face increasing pressure to find new sources of revenue that may be difficult to locate and develop.  The growth of online shopping relative to traditional shopping is simply a game changer for almost every business and industry on the face of the Earth. Labor Difficulties – You may have heard about companies having difficulties finding qualified people to fill some of their most important jobs, particularly in extremely skilled positions like high-tech manufacturing.  While this is hardly new to 2014, the trend seems to be intensifying, and despite strong jobs numbers if your business finds yourself facing a critical shortage in terms of human capital it can be devastating to your organization. Health Care Expenses – Even if you delayed compliance with the new health care laws by renewing your policy at the …

New Year, New Markets

Hello everyone, and welcome to 2014.  We wish each and every one of our readers a prosperous and successful new year, with many interesting opportunities to take advantage of.  Today, in the spirit of the New Year, we are going to briefly touch on a subject we don’t often speak about: new markets.  ‘New markets’ as in going global, or expanding to literal new geographic marketplaces. The reason we don’t often speak about this is that it can be difficult for smaller businesses to engage in these tactics, which makes it essentially niche advice, but I believe there is a reason for addressing it now: mid-sized businesses.  You see, mid-sized business is positioned now better than ever before to take advantage of models like franchising, and really begin making the transition from local/regional organization to national/global. If you’re not sure how this can happen, watch the behavior of the Coca-Cola Corporation over the next five years or so in India.  While they are not exactly a mid-sized business, they are so alien to that market compared that the natural cultural disadvantages they face could possibly be insurmountable, regardless of budget.  Sales of Coke are actually lower than sales of ‘Thumbs …

Avoid These Holiday Marketing Mistakes

As we find ourselves right in the midst of another holiday season, businesses across the country are asking themselves how they can best position to take advantage of the season, and earn the most revenue possible.  However, in their zeal to grab those holiday dollars, companies often commit these common holiday marketing mistakes.  Make sure your business avoids them: Don’t Discount Too Deeply – Some retailers assume that bigger discounts are the way to go, but trying to compete on price with the WalMarts and CostCos is always a losing proposition for smaller businesses.  Find other ways to succeed instead. Forgetting to Advertise – Companies looking to improve the bottom line as the fiscal year ends often slash marketing and ad budgets to cut costs, but this can be counterproductive.  Advertising during the holidays has one of the best ROIs of any time of the year. No General Marketing – While it can be easy to appeal to individual portions of your demographic through specialized campaigns, don’t forget that you need an overall general marketing strategy to pick up those who aren’t already aware of your brand. Ignoring Feedback – While maintaining excellent service at all times should be a …

Stay Away from Software and Service that Doesn’t Really Add Value

One trap entrepreneurs have been known to fall into is investing in software or equipment that they end up not needing.  Stories abound of new software platforms and packages purchased by enthusiastic management that end up negatively impacting the organizations they were intended to help.  One thing that should guide every purchasing decision an entrepreneur makes is whether or not the purchase will really add value to their services, and enable them to sell more of their own products or services. An example of a software product that just isn’t very good is ReportGarden.  It claims to help you produce ‘professional’ looking AdWords reports for clients in just a few minutes.  You would think this could be of value to small marketing agencies or people who need data visualization for their PPC campaigns, but you would be wrong. Take a closer look at these ‘reports’, and ask yourself if they are of any actual value.  Delving into the site features a bit deeper, you would have to be hard pressed to find any sort of real benefit to having this software.  When you take a look at the price points the service has chosen, things get even more ridiculous, when …

Must Have Business Software for Entrepreneurs

Today we are going to take a look at some specific pieces of business software that are increasingly considered must haves by those in the entrepreneurial world.  They make the list for a variety of reasons, including utility, excellent pricing, innovativeness, and more.  We will discuss some of the common uses they have and how most any business can gain an advantage by learning how to use it properly: Skype – Skype, or other communications software, is the communications bedrock of many entrepreneurial efforts.  It combines the features of a traditional telephone along with text messaging, file sharing, and even webcam integration for video chat.  Best of all, communication between users is free, as is the software itself. Dropbox – Cloud storage services are another integral digital tool that entrepreneurs can really derive significant advantages from using.  Alternate products are Google Drive or SkyDrive, each of which has their pros and cons relative to Dropbox, which is the oldest service and considered the standard.  Imagine being able to share files with customers and team members across the globe as simply as you can across your own computer network.  Dropbox and other cloud storage software makes this possible. HelloFax – Believe …

The Next Big Development in QR Codes

Quick Response codes are kind of an interesting case study in the marketing world.  The possibilities and applications they can be used for are seemingly endless, but they haven’t really caught on in a massive way just yet.  Sometimes this is ascribed to smart devices not having reached a level of critical mass in the general populace, other times it is attributed to the difficulty of scanning the codes themselves, particularly when they are presented as digital media. However, this may be changing, as there has been a major development that could alter the nature of QR response codes in general, and will almost certainly cause a Renaissance of sorts in their employ over the coming months. The development comes to us from the University of Nottingham, in Great Britain.  Developed at the University’s Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute, it has been dubbed ‘Aestheticodes’.  What makes this new technology so different? In a nutshell, it enables the information normally carried in a typical QR graphic to be encoded or displayed in visually pleasing pictures, instead of that strange looking black-and-white square we’re all used to seeing. While this does not seem revolutionary at first, you have to consider the applications …

Apple Passes Coca-Cola as World’s Most Valuable Brand

For the past eight years or so, Coca-Cola has been considered by most to be the world’s most valuable brand, according to Interbrand, a large marketing research firm who releases an annual report on the subject.  It has been tracking statistics since about 2000 and uses these stats along with its own secret proprietary formula to compile the “Best Global Brands” list, in which it evaluates the world’s largest and most popular brands. So how did Apple dethrone Coca-Cola to take the crown? While the formula Interbrand uses is secret, certain elements of it are known.  There are essentially three elements to the rating: operating profit, RBI (Role of Brand Index), and Brand Strength.  It is no secret that Apple has been earning incredible operating profit ever since the time of the introduction of the original iPhone.  RBI is meant to reflect how much of that profit can be directly attributed to the strength of the brand, and is an arbitrary number from 0 to 100 assigned by an expert panel who participates in the process.  Brand strength is the ability of the brand to generate profit into the future along with creating customer loyalty. Most experts, including those at …