SBA Expands Eligibility for 7(a) Loans

The SBA is expanding eligibility for its 7(a) loan programs. This means more small businesses will be eligible for U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loans, resulting in greater access to much-needed capital in this tough economy. SBA’s alternate size standard for its 7(a) loan program will go into effect early next week through Sept. 30, 2010. Learn more about the changes HERE.


Interesting Social Media Application for Small Businesses

Learned about another new social media application today called “Loopt” that is specifically designed for use on GPS-enabled mobile phones and then conveys the information to other social media applications. Seems to have some very interesting features that have potential to help users drive income if used effectively. Found a great article from one small business user putting it to use in her real estate business. See the article HERE.


Ana Harvey Named to Lead SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership

Ana Recio Harvey, an experienced entrepreneur and recently the president of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has been named as head of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills announced today. Read more about her background HERE.


Video Marketing: A Great Way to Showcase Your Business

In today’s Web 2.0 marketplace small business owners are learning to take advantage of every new technology tool they can find to grow their business. One of the least understood tools is Video Marketing. In this week’s episode of our BlogTalkRadio program ‘Strategic Growth Concepts for Small Business’, our panel of experts explains how you can utilize Video marketing to grow your business, and how you can achieve this extremely cost-effectively. If you’re seeking new ways to market your business in the Web 2.0 environment, this is the show for you. Our panel of experts includes: Tim Tevlin, President of Local Business Videos Online; Greg George, Founder of iVideo Makers; and Bob Sullivan, Development Director of Think Creative Media Works.

Click HERE to listen to the complete broadcast!


Mobile Marketing - The Inside Scoop

Today’s BlogTalkRadio broadcast on “Mobile Marketing” consisted of an expert panel of nationally renowned mobile marketing industry insiders, including: Kim Graham Lee, CEO of Vontoo; Matt Silk, Sr. VP of Waterfall Mobile; Kim Dushinski, President/Founder of Mobile Marketing Profits and author of ‘The Mobile Marketing Handbook’; and Michael Becker, Co-founder and VP of Mobile Strategies at iLoop Mobile and co-author of ‘Mobile Internet for Dummies’ and ‘Web Marketing All-in-One for Dummies’.

Our panel provided a wealth of information on the different types of mobile marketing options, best practices, choosing vendors, industry trends, mobile strategies that perform the best, and examples of clients that have utilized mobile marketing effectively. The consistent theme throughout the broadcast - “just get started, stick your toe in and try it out to figure what works best for your firm”.

Hear the completed broadcast at http://blogtalkradio.com/strategicgrowthconcepts.


Public Relations: How to Use it to Grow Your Business

Had an enlightening broadcast today on our BlogTalkRadio show, ‘Strategic Growth Concepts for Small Business’. Today’s topic was ‘Public Relations: How to Use it to Grow Your Business’. Our expert panel consisted of: Gail Kent, Managing Director of The Buzz Factory; Jennifer Fortney, President at Cascade Communications and Publisher of SmallBizPRMadeEasy.com; and Melissa Cassera, President at Cassera Communications. Each of our panelists provided a wealth of valuable information on how to utilize public relations to your firm’s best advantage; each has also made available several special offers for our listeners. Download the podcast at http://blogtalkradio.com/strategicgrowthconcepts - and don’t forget to check the special offers while you’re there!


Marketing Plan Give-a-Way Contest for Small Businesses

Small business owners across the U.S. have the opportunity to win a comprehensive Strategic Marketing Plan for their business prepared by consulting firm, Strategic Growth Concepts of Southfield, MI. Strategic is sponsoring this national contest, being promoted primarily via Web 2.0 technology and social media, as part of their efforts in support of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s upcoming National Small Business Week celebration.

Contestants can enter the contest via Strategic’s website at www.StrategicGrowthConcepts.com where they complete an online entry form, including essays about their business and why a Marketing Plan will benefit their company. Contest entrants have the opportunity to win the grand prize, a Strategic Marketing Plan designed to help the firm effectively market themselves to prospective customers and achieve increased sales (approximate value $8,500), or one of five secondary prizes, 2 hours of small business consulting per winner (approximate value $470 per winner). Entries can be submitted thru April 30, 2009, with winners being announced during National Small Business Week, May 17 – 19, 2009.
Strategic Growth Concepts is a Detroit-based firm that provides training and consulting services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses in the areas of Start-up, Marketing, Operations, HR and Strategic Planning. The firm’s CEO, Linda Daichendt is a recognized business expert with 20+ years of corporate, small business and franchising experience. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com , and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.


Government Contracting - Is it an Option for Your Firm?

While it may seem that only large corporations have a shot at profitable military contracts, the Defense Department actually awards more than half of its available contracts, or $55 billion, to small businesses. Additionally, the recently passed $787 billion stimulus plan promises to make even more money available through the Defense Department and other government agencies.

Although the hurdles to becoming a military vendor can at times be overwhelming and frustrating, small-business owners who persevere agree that it is tremendously profitable and in times like our current economic conditions, even essential to survival. With the U.S. currently in the midst of two wars and a multitude of other security concerns, small business owners say the military is a recession-proof customer that has insulated them from the current economic downturn. Those interested in learning more about pursuing government contracts, click HERE for more information, as well as checking the Small Business Links section on this blog for additional resources that can assist you with this process.
The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. She is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years experience in providing Marketing, Operations, HR, and Strategic planning services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.


A Master Class in the Use of Web 2.0

Whatever your politics, there is one fact that is undeniable about Barack Obama, the man knows how to utilize today's Web 2.0 technology to reach his audience and convey his message. In the following story you will learn how he utilized an interactive website to obtain citizen participation in developing questions to be answered on an Internet broadcast, and that he had them casting votes to decide the "favorite" questions (or the ones that would be most popular with his Internet audience). You will also learn about the Internet broadcast Town Hall Meeting where he utilized those questions that were voted on. What the article doesn't tell you, but I can because I saw it, was that he publicized the whole thing (both the website question request/voting and the Internet broadcast) via Twitter, which then resulted in hundreds of retweets, and postings on both Facebook and in LinkedIN groups. As I said, whatever your politics, you have to be impressed with his ingenuity in reaching out to his potential audience – and the response number he received (as indicated in the article below) that shows it to be working.

So my question to you now is – "How can you apply these same strategies to your business to help it grow?" Think about it, if your website became interactive and allowed you to obtain customer response that helped you to market your product more effectively, wouldn't that be helpful? And, if you could drive people to your website at absolutely no cost by developing a creative "Tweet" that would cause people to retweet and to post your information on Facebook and LinkedIN to be seen by even more hundreds of thousands of people – wouldn't you find value in that?

With the country and the media saying that small business is necessary to the turnaround of the economy, and small business owners looking to Barack Obama for answers on how to help those small businesses help the economy – in my opinion, he's already given us one of the answers. Follow his lead in the use of technology in promoting our businesses to our target customers – it costs us essentially zero dollars and the impact can be huge! So I challenge all small business owners out there – read the article below and then sit down and evaluate your business to think of ways you can utilize Web 2.0 technology to promote your business and increase sales. And if in the final analysis you decide you don't know enough about it to come up with the ideas, then contact me – or another marketing professional – to help you make the most of this opportunity! I assure you, "our cup runneth over" with ideas we'd like to provide to clients willing to jump in to this new marketing arena and we'd love to hear from you!

Obama wraps up first-of-its kind Internet Q&A

WASHINGTON — President Obama wrapped up a unique Internet-era town hall meeting at the White House on Thursday, pushing hard for support of his $3.6 trillion budget and asking people to be patient with the administration's efforts to resuscitate the USA's ailing economy.

Obama said the precedent-setting online town hall meeting was an "an important step" toward creating a broader avenue for information about his administration.

He joked at one point about the number of questions about decriminalizing marijuana, saying he did not think that was the best way to stimulate the economy.

After a brief opening statement, Obama held a microphone and walked the floor in the ornate East Room, gesturing as he answered questions in an event reminiscent of town hall meetings he conducted in person across the nation during his campaign.

Before the event, the White House had said that 92,003 people have submitted 103,395 questions and cast 3,582,670 votes.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said about 67,000 viewers were watching the webcast, which was also televised on some cable channels.

In advance of the event, potential questioners signed up on the White House website "Open for Questions."

CNN reported that Obama answered seven questions submitted that way, while also taking questions from the audience in the East Room.

Questioned also about growing unemployment, Obama said creating jobs was difficult during these hard economic times, and recommended that the work of the future should be in more high-paying, high-skill areas like clean energy technology.

Many of the lost jobs in recent years, Obama said, involved work that was done by people earning low wages and with limited work skills. He said it will take some time — perhaps through the rest of the year — before vigorous hiring resumes, and that might not happen until businesses see evidence the economy is rebounding.

On the home financing crisis, the second question put to the president, he was asked how his programs helped homeowners who are not facing foreclosure but have been deeply hurt by the recession. Many homeowners, after the housing price bubble burst late last year, now owe more on their homes than the houses are worth.

Obama told his Internet audience and about 100 people assembled in the East Room that his injection of stimulus spending into the housing market now makes it possible for 40% of all homeowners to take advantage of record-low mortgage interest rates. He encouraged eligible Americans to refinance.

Political operatives say the White House's strategy is a way to reach a demographic key to Obama's election.

"In the new world of online media, formal press conferences are just one element or program to get the message out — to those, usually older, who watch such things on TV. The online version he is doing is an alternative way to get out the same message, in this case on the budget, targeted toward a different audience, usually younger," said Morley Winograd, a onetime adviser to former vice president Al Gore who now runs the Institute for Communication Technology Management at the University of Southern California.

"In both cases the questioners are just props — or, in some cases, foils — for the star, Obama, to deliver his message. But in the latter case, they get to self-nominate instead of be selected by elites," Winograd said.

In a way, it's part campaign-style politics and part American Idol, said political strategist Simon Rosenberg.

"Barack Obama is going to reinvent the presidency the way he reinvented electoral politics," said Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network and a veteran of presidential campaigns. "He is allowing everyday people to participate in a way that would've been impossible in the old media world."

Yet the process lends itself to softer questions and ones the White House is eager to answer, Republicans noted.

"The president is going back to the safe confines he was always most comfortable with, in this case a friendly audience where the focus is on the sale rather than the substance," GOP strategist Kevin Madden said.

Contributing: Richard Wolf at the White House; Steve Marshall in McLean, Va., and the Associated Press


Email Newsletter Programs are Strong Marketing Performers

Small business owners are always in search of cost-effective, time-efficient ways to keep in touch with existing clients/customers, and the internet provides us with a variety of ways in which to achieve that. One method of maintaining regular customer contact is the use of an Email Newsletter program. Using such a program enables your clients to maintain an on-going awareness of your firm, so they remember your firm when they finally have a need for a service such as yours instead of seeking out another firm because they forgot about you.

The use of an Email Newsletter program provides a variety of benefits to your firm, including:

  • A regularly scheduled communication program to remind your clients/customers that you are available to service them

  • A method of communicating new services/products, new staff members with areas of expertise which might be of interest to clients/customers, recent awards or recognition received by your firm, education/information about the latest industry developments

  • A communication that is professional in appearance and helps to reinforce your firm’s branding message

  • A communication that can link clients/customers back to your website or blog in areas that will be of particular interest to them.

Elements of an effective email newsletter include:

  • short, easy-to-read articles

  • photographs

  • interesting, attention-grabbing headlines

  • special limited-time offers for newsletter-readers only

  • information relevant to your industry (statistics and graphs are always interesting)

  • communication regarding new products or services being offered by your firm

  • company information of interest such as new staff, awards, new offices, community participation programs, etc.

  • links to your website or blog that provide greater detail on articles discussed in the newsletter.

Obviously, the use of a professional-appearing Email Newsletter presents some challenges for business owners who do not have HTML programming skills. Luckily Web 2.0 technology has provided us with a variety of resources that enable a small business to send a professional-appearing newsletter with only the most basic of computer skills. Services such as Aweber, Constant Contact and Ennect provide user-friendly, web-based email tools that enable any business owner to develop a professional email program extremely cost-effectively. Added benefits of using such a service are that they insure that you maintain compliance with the anti-spam laws, and they increase the potential that your newsletter will reach the customer’s inbox and actually be read.

Try an Email Newsletter program for 6 months as a test; track who it was sent to, who reads it and which articles they read (the software programs will provide reports), and who you receive additional business from. Compare your cost per person of implementing the program with the revenue you receive as a result of implementing the program to determine your ROI (return-on-investment). Then compare your Email Newsletter ROI with the ROI for other marketing programs you are implementing to determine its cost-effectiveness for your firm. I’m betting it will be one of your top-performing programs!


Business.gov Launches First Government-Sponsored Online Community for Small Businesses

The SBA’s Business Gateway Program announced today the launch of a new Web initiative to provide the first government-sponsored online community built specifically for small businesses.

The objective of the online small business community supports the White House’s mission to create transparency, and aims to provide small business owners, bloggers, and the government with a place to discuss and share information about starting and running a successful business.

Read the SBA’s news release detailing information about this new initiative and how it can help small businesses by clicking this link.


'Social Media' the Topic of Today's BlogTalkRadio Broadcast

Had an excellent panel today on the ‘Strategic Growth Concepts for Small Business’ BlogTalkRadio show. Topic was “Social Media: How to use it to grow your business”. Panel consisted of: Kevin Green, Director of Social Media Marketing at Digital Influence Group; Derek Mehraban, CEO at Ingenex Digital Media, blogger at The Digital Bus, and instructor at Michigan State University; and LJ Jones, Social Media Strategist at Studeo, and featured blogger on Social Media Today.
Conversation dealt with how best for a small business to maximize social media opportunities, including: the development of an appropriate strategy, selecting the right social media vehicles, designating the right person or people to lead your firm’s social media initiatives, and insuring that your firm is providing valuable content which will drive interaction.
The hour-long broadcast provided a broad array of “hints & tips” to maximize your firm’s social media experience. If you’d like to check it out, the podcast can be downloaded from: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/strategicgrowthconcepts or a link can be found on the ‘Media’ page of this blog.
Our next topic, scheduled for March 24th at 2:30 p.m. EDT, is ‘The Legal Aspects of Starting a Business: How to Prevent Pain and Expenses in the Future’. Please join us to insure that you - and your firm - are properly protected!


GREAT News for Laid Off Workers Paying for COBRA

There has been a great deal of debate recently about whether or not the recently passed 'American Recovery and Reinvestment Act' would provide benefit to small business, and I am certainly a participant in that debate. However, one provision of this legislation was recently brought to my attention and it is a provision that will provide tremendous benefit to those workers who were recently laid off and are attempting to keep their medical coverage thru COBRA.

As you are likely aware, the cost of COBRA coverage is significant. In most cases, even if you are just trying to cover yourself and not a family, you are likely paying in the range of $400-500 per month; family coverage likely puts you in the $1000 per month range. Not easy to manage when you're out of work and trying to live on unemployment (if you're lucky!). So, I'm happy to inform you that the recently passed legislation contains a provision that enables laid off employees who meet the criteria to pay just 35% of their premiums for a specified period and still maintain their coverage. The information on this provision is lengthy; therefore, I have posted an article providing the details on our website at http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/humanresources/HR-Resources-for-Employers_I58/Article-Understanding-COBRA-Premium-Assistance_A56.html. Please read this article and contact your COBRA administrator to see if you qualify for participation in this program. If so, it can go a long way toward keeping your finances on more stable ground while you work on finding that new job or starting your own small business. Good luck!


SBA Ready to Explain Stimulus Plan Directly to Small Business Owners

In reviewing the social media groups I participate in and the content posted on places like Twitter and Facebook recently, it's obvious to me that there are still a great many questions about the stimulus plan and what, if any, benefits it will provide to small businesses.

A recent news release by the New Jersey SBA office indicates, "The Small Business Administration will soon roll out major changes to its loan programs — including increased government guarantees and lower fees — in an effort to help small businesses get through the recession, according to Jim Kocsi, New Jersey district director for the agency. The SBA will guarantee 90 percent of the loan in its largest program, 7A, up from 85 percent for loans under $150,000 and 75 percent for loans between $150,000 and $2 million. An SBA loan is a loan made by a bank or other lender, then partially guaranteed by the federal government. Through the end of 2010, the agency also will waive the guarantee fee, which is charged to the lender but passed on to the borrower, Kocsi said. In effect, the fee reduces the amount of money the borrower can use, since part of the loan goes to pay the fee. "To give you an idea of the impact — on a $2 million loan, the fee is $53,000," he said."

News release notwithstanding, it still doesn't indicate what type of businesses will be helped, when the money will be available, how to qualify, and any of a dozen other questions that small businesses need to know answers to. That being the case, I thought you might be interested in an upcoming Web Chat the SBA will be hosting on March 19th, the topic of which will be helping small business owners get answers to questions about the stimulus plan and its impact on small business in the U.S. The news release announcing this web chat and providing access information is shown below.

WASHINGTON – The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be the focus of discussion for the U.S. Small Business Administration's March Web chat. SBA Associate Administrator for Capital Access Eric Zarnikow will help small business owners get answers to their questions about what the Recovery Act means for the nation's small businesses.

The Recovery Act is a national effort to grow the U.S. economy by stimulating job creation, freeing credit markets, and investing in small business. The Act contains a package of loan fee reductions, higher guarantees, new SBA programs, secondary market incentives, and enhancements to current SBA programs that will help unlock credit markets and begin economic recovery for the nation's small business sector.

SBA is working to enact the new programs created by the passage of the bill and make changes to the programs already in existence. Additional information on the Recovery Act is available online at www.sba.gov/recovery/index.html.

WHO: Eric Zarnikow, associate administrator for the Office of Capital Access at the U.S. Small Business Administration will host the SBA's March Web chat on the topic "The Recovery Act and Your Small Business." Zarnikow will answer a range of questions to help chat participants understand the elements of the Recovery Act that pertain to the SBA and the nation's small businesses.

WHAT: SBA's Web chat series, providing small business owners with an opportunity to chat about relevant business issues online with experts, industry leaders and successful entrepreneurs. Chat participants will have direct, real-time access to the Web chats via questions they submit online, both in advance of and during the live session.

WHEN: March 19, 2009, 1 – 2 p.m. ET

HOW: Participants can join the live Web chat by going online to http://www.sba.gov/, and clicking the "Online Business Chat" icon. Web chat participants may post questions for Zarnikow before the March 19th chat by visiting http://app1.sba.gov/liveMeeting/mar09/, and posting their questions online.


More than 500 Tools for Small Business

In today's turbulent economy small businesses need to take advantage of every resource that they can locate. In an effort to fulfill our Mission of providing access to the widest number of resources possible for small businesses, below please find links to over 500 resources for small business.

A large number of these provided resources are web-based, which enables you to access them from any location. Additionally, many of these resources are FREE.

100+ FREE Tools from Inc.com

65 FREE Resources from Entrepreneur.com

270+ Resources from Mashable.com

197 Resources from Business Owner's Toolkit

Resources from SCORE

50 Resources from Best Universities.com

34 Resources from Duct Tape Marketing

9 Tools from PC World

Resources frm Macrory.com

Free Software from Intuit

Resources from Social Computing Magazine

Trackur Reputation Management

8 FREE Tools from AllBusiness.com

Esimators, Calculators & Forms for Contractors from HGTVpro

FREE Podcasting

The FREE Site

ConnectNow webinar software via Adobe Reader 9

Resources from Marketing Today

Review of Marketing-related Laws

4 FREE Tools from the Web Reviewer

10 FREE Tools from CreativePro.com


LinkedIN Business Network


In reviewing the resources and tools included in this list we found some VERY interesting tools that frankly, we hadn't even conceived of – let alone heard of. Do yourself a favor and spend some time reviewing the resources made available on these links. I believe you will find some excellent tools to help you grow your business, increase your effectiveness and productivity, and minimize your costs.

If any of you are aware of other resources that would provide value to our readers – especially FREE ones – please provide info in the comments. I will continue to update the list periodically.