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.


Where to Get Small Business Loans

As small business loans from banks are harder and harder to come by, the stimulus package notwithstanding, one source seems to have escaped the issues being experienced by the banking industry; that source is credit unions. It turns out that credit unions weren't involved in the sub-prime lending that has turned the banking industry upside down so they have money – and willingness – to lend to small businesses. According to the Credit Union National Association, the amount of business loans was up 18% last year and the average loan size is about $215,000 – and they're even making loans to startup businesses. However, borrowers will still have to prove credit-worthiness. In most cases, they will be required to verify their income with tax forms, pay stubs and other forms.

There is an excellent article recently published by the Wall Street Journal which details this increased lending trend by credit unions; the article can be found at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123603579028714219.html . Check out the article, then check with your credit union to see if a small business loan is an option for your company!


Using Web 2.0 Technology to Teach About Web 2.0 Technology

A recent survey by Local Mobile Search, in conjunction with AllBusiness.com (as reported by Opus Research, Inc.) indicates that 59% of businesses surveyed say they do not participate in online marketing of their businesses. The survey further reported that the reasons most cited were high cost, lack of time and not knowing where to begin.

Strategic Growth Concepts is striving to change those results because we believe that with the largest percentage of businesses today having less than 5 employees and little, if any, startup capital, it is imperative that small business owners are made aware of the wide array of Web 2.0 technology tools and resources available to aid them in growing their businesses with little investment other than their time and effort. This technology can teach them how to maximize their business' resources (both human and financial) and provide them with the tools to do so.

As part of Strategic's effort to educate small business about the technology by utilizing the technology, our firm has scheduled several upcoming broadcasts on our BlogTalkRadio show, 'Strategic Growth Concepts for Small Business'. These broadcasts will focus on topics of interest to small business, and will feature experts in each topic area. The following is a schedule of the broadcast topics currently scheduled:

Franchising – What is it, and is it right for you?

March 10, 2009 at 2:30 p.m. EST

Featuring experts: Paul Segreto, CEO of franchisEssentials and 21st Century Franchise Coach

Jackie Adams, President of JA Adams & Associates, dba FranChoice

Dave Keegan, Franchise Operations Specialist Associate, Strategic Growth Concepts

The Basics of Social Media – How to Use it to Grow Your Business

March 17, 2009 at 2:30 p.m. EST

Featuring experts: currently being finalized

The Legal Aspects of Starting a Business – How to Save Pain & Expense in the Future

March 24, 2009 at 2:30 p.m. EST

Featuring experts: James Voigt, Attorney at Lavelle Law

Irv Williamson, CEO at Growth Guidance, Inc.

Rebecca Turner, Attorney at Maddin Hauser

Using Facebook to Grow Your Business

Like most small business owners, I'm always looking for new ways to promote my business and make people more aware of what I do. And like many of you who are "social media savvy", I've had a personal profile on Facebook for awhile now as one more avenue meant to promote my business. However, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with it, as it really IS much more of a "social-oriented" medium and that's not what I was looking to gain from it. So, I took a couple of basic steps – first, I started another Profile under my company name (http://profile.to/strategicgrowthconcepts), and then I also started a Group under my company name (http://groups.to/strategicgrowthconcepts). Both of these have given me additional opportunity to provide more focus on the business, though not quite yet to the extent that I wanted. The "wall" page is still very "social-oriented" because that's what it's designed to be, and what most people use it for. The "group" has allowed me to do a better job of "controlling content" in order to insure that it stays business-focused. But, I still wasn't happy with it.

So, I did as I normally do, and I started conducting research; in this case on the ways other companies are utilizing FaceBook – and I found the answer I was seeking. It turns out that FaceBook is currently in the midst of implementing some changes that are designed to solve exactly the problem I was having. They have developed a "Page" concept that is meant to focus on different categories of businesses. Each category comes with a specific template of included sections that you can then customize as you like. The "Pages" allow you to include a lot more detailed information about your company, as well as any events you want to promote, discussions you would like to initiate, various applications that you would like to attach, as well as uploading files you want to share, video, photos, etc. It allows you to customize the Tabs included on the page so they are best suited to your company's purposes.

I just set up my company's page today so I still have some work to do to it, but I thought the concept was so great that I wanted to share it with all of you. Check out my "page" at: http://companies.to//strategicgrowthconcepts. Also, to help you learn about this new offering from Facebook, I was able to track down a Facebook location that takes you thru the process as well as providing additional information and resources; see this at: http://www.facebook.com/advertising/?pages .


Make a Referral - Jump Start the Economy

As you all know, our economy needs all the help it can get right now. In my opinion and that of many thought leaders that I read, small business is the answer to solving the problem. Therefore I was very intrigued when I read about a program currently being promoted throughout the web, Make a Referral Week: A Small Business Stimulus Program sponsored by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing.

'Make a Referral Week' is an entrepreneurial approach to stimulating the small business economy one referred business at a time. The goal for the week is to generate 1000 referred leads to 1000 deserving small businesses in an effort to highlight the impact of a simple action that could blossom into millions of dollars in new business. Small business is the lifeblood and job-creating engine of the economy and merits the positive attention so often saved for corporate bailout stories.

During the week of March 9-13, we will do everything in our power to get everyone referring leads to small businesses. A whole bunch of small business experts will share ideas, tools, information and resources to get you started. Look at the educational events happening during the week here.

You may think that this effort won't have much impact, particularly if it doesn't benefit you specifically, but I would ask you to remember that every effort to benefit small business in general will benefit every individual small business in some way. Your referral might hit someone's business right when they are considering shutting their doors, or they may be behind on their mortgage and staying up nights worrying about paying the bills. This economy impacts personal health, families, relationships and communities. It's something that can be fixed, one small business at a time; or in this case – one referral at a time.

For my part, I'm pledging to make a referral to a business I want to help as part of the national campaign to make 1000 referrals March 9-13. What a great small business stimulus plan - won't you join this effort? http://www.makeareferralweek.com/pledge

Here are other ways to participate:

  • Sign up at the Make a Referral Pledge Page
  • Spend the week referring the heck out of trusted friends/partners/colleagues
  • Promote 'Make a Referral Week' in your blogs and your social networks

Do your part to stimulate the economy by telling your network about making referrals and 'Make a Referral Week' - you'll be in good company AND you'll be doing your part to help the economy.


What Social Media Marketers Can Learn from Email Marketing and In-person Networking

Are you still trying to figure out the “do’s” and “don’ts” of social media marketing? Be assured, you’re not alone. As the social networking community continues to grow at an ever-increasing pace, marketers and small business owners are challenged with learning how to apply standard marketing principles to this new medium.

One of the challenges of social media is that it doesn’t respond well to “advertising”. Social media marketing needs to be more subtle. It’s about networking to build a reputation as an expert, and then having your expertise sought out. To give you a relevant example, many of you attend networking meetings for your Chamber of Commerce or various trade associations. When you attend those functions do you walk in wearing a sign that says “buy from me”? Or, do you take a more subtle approach by trying to meet new people, learn about what they do, offer a free bit of advice here and there, and build relationships that down the road will result in new business? If you’re like most people, you follow the second option and with that being the case, why would you not apply that same strategy to social networking? You would – and you should!

Additionally, since email marketers have already traversed a path similar to that now being explored by social media marketers, there are a great many lessons that can be learned by reviewing email marketing strategies and the results which were achieved. A recent article by Stephanie Miller, published in MediaPost online publications, explores the email media / social media comparison and provides some interesting lessons to help you improve the results from your social media marketing strategies. This article can be found on our website.


Grow Your Business by Building Your Credibility as an Expert

In today's world of 5-person or less small businesses, oftentimes building demand for your business requires building demand for your expertise as the owner and a subject-matter expert in your field. With the many resources available today, online and elsewhere, the opportunities to showcase your expertise and build your personal "brand", as well as that of your company, are almost limitless. On our website find an article that will provide you with tips to utilize some of these opportunities to your best advantage for growing your business. Learn how to maximize the opportunities presented by blogging, social media, public speaking, teaching, portfolio presentation, and publishing in your efforts to grow your business.


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 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 http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/.


IRS May Give Some a Break

Review a recent interview with IRS Commissioner, Douglas Shulman, discussing his plan to authorize front-line staff to be easier on those currently in financial hardship. The article also discussions his plans for increased enforcement efforts on high net worth individuals, U.S. businesses with international operations, and large corporations.

But Shulman quickly added that they won’t get a “free ride,” just a break, and that such grace is directed toward people who have been tax-compliant in the past. “We want to help people who have always been upstanding,” he said. There’s not just an altruistic goal here. This is still the IRS. Shulman said his goal is to keep “compliant taxpayers in the system.”

Could this benefit small business? Time will tell, but I would venture to say that we’ll all be watching! Read the complete article via our website.

Get FREE Weekly Business Growth Tips

Can your business use a “shot in the arm”? Do you need some “outsider perspective”? If so, register on our website to receive our weekly Business Growth Tips via email.

These weekly quick-tips are designed to offer quick, easy-to-implement ideas that can have positive impact on the growth of your business. Sign up today!


How Small Biz Will Benefit from the Stimulus

Finally found an article that details how small business will benefit from the stimulus package. You can find it on our website. Would be interested in hearing opinions: do you agree, will it benefit small business? Did it go far enough? What else would you have added?


Customer Relationship Management for Small Businesses

As we have become more and more technology-oriented in recent years, one of the trends I've noticed is that small business owners seem to assume that any task needing to be done to run their business requires a software package to facilitate it. Customer Relationship Management is no different. The multitude of CRM software packages available today, such as ACT, Outlook Contact Manager, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, FreeCRM, SalesBoom.com and many others, have encouraged this trend. Unfortunately, what frequently occurs is that the programs are so complicated, or so work-intensive, that the already over-worked small business owners eventually stop using them; and then assume that they can't proceed with a CRM program since they don't have time to manage it with the software program.

I would like to propose that small business owners go back to the basics as listed below:

  • A database of your customers, in Excel, that can be sorted and updated and includes a comments section.
  • Follow-up steps, including "Thanks for your time/business" letters or e-mails.
  • An inexpensive e-mail vendor such as ConstantContact, SwiftPages or any other similar online service that can cost as little as $15 per month to manage up to 500 contacts.
  • A solid communication schedule, with a customer feedback loop that captures and logs in the customer contact history.
  • Buy-in from every employee in your company to execute the strategy.

The list of basic tasks above comes from an article that recently ran in Forbes.com that discussed CRM from a similar standpoint (the complete article can be found at: http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/services/Business-Information-Articles_I33/Article-Managing-Customer-Relationships_A42.html ), the premise being that CRM programs don't need to be complicated to implement to be effective. Nor do they need to be costly or time-consuming. Make a plan, have a basic database to track your efforts, some simple tools, and you're on your way to increasing business from the most cost-effective and profitable customers you can have – the ones who already know you and have done business with you. Try it and see if it doesn't have positive impact on your business!


Use History as a Guide to Grow Your Business

One question that seems to be most prominent when talking to small businesses, or reading the social networks, today is 'what should I be doing to market my business effectively in the down economy?'. There are a multitude of answers to this question, but the one I like the best is to keep functioning in business-as-usual mode with an added dose of aggressiveness when it comes to advertising/promoting your business. In today's Web 2.0 environment, that doesn't necessarily translate into spending more money, but it does mean you have to get more creative and aggressive with your promotional strategies.

However, as I've had discussions with a variety of small business owners on this topic, I find that they are not convinced. They are less than confident that increased marketing in today's economic environment is the right choice. In my state of frustration at not being able to convince them of the soundness of this strategy, I elected to find evidence to back me up. In the course of that evidence search I came across the article below which was published in iMedia Connection. If this well-written article doesn't convince a small business owner of the viability of self-promotion in today's economy, then, I'm certain I don't know what will. Please read the summary below and follow the link to the complete article, then let me know if you agree with me.

Published in iMedia Connection: October 17, 2008
How brands thrived during the Great Depression
By Dave Chase

Companies can and do prosper during times of economic turmoil. Take a lesson from brands whose Depression-era advertising strategies were key to their survival.

To begin, not all was doom and gloom during the Great Depression. It was a time when those who knew what they were doing made great economic strides, and the very nature of the Depression was an economic boon for them. It was a time when several companies benefited from aggressive marketing while their rivals cut back. A good example of that would be Kellogg besting C.W. Post during that time. Consumers didn't stop spending during the Depression; most just looked for better deals, and the companies providing those better deals came out stronger after the Depression ended. When spending picked up, consumer loyalty to those companies remained.

Generally speaking, those companies that not only survived but also thrived during the Great Depression were those that continued to act as though there were nothing wrong and that the public had money to spend. In other words, they advertised. These are industries that didn't wait for public demand for their products to rise. They created that demand even during the most difficult of times.

The complete article can be found HERE.


No Time Marketing Truths: 10 Things to Remember That Will Improve Your Marketing Results

Adapted from "No Time Marketing: small business-sized steps in 30 minutes or less", By Alyssa Dver, www.NoTimeMarketing.com

1. Marketing is as much an art as it is a science. Plan, test, execute, and measure, but never be surprised by uncertainty and change.

In our eagerness to measure and declare return on investment for all marketing spends, we often forget that humans are unpredictable. As such, we can't always predict a market reaction or group think. Testing helps minimize the chances of this but historically it is like the weather. We can predict some things but often not with precise timing or impact. While we must embark on programs we feel have a high likelihood to generate results, don't be stuck doing what everyone else does. Can you be the Apple of your industry?

2. You usually need to bang on the same prospect door four or more times before someone answers. Make sure that you have the right address.

Be sure you have a target list and target profile that you are confident represents qualified leads BEFORE you spend money on any program. Just because you gave out 1000 pens at the tradeshow doesn't mean you have any real leads. Know who and why people will buy your products or service and not someone else's.

3. You are not your customer. Never assume you know them that well.

Just because you buy products or even buy your own product, never assume that you are a typical customer. Don't even assume there is such a thing as a "typical customer". There may be types of customers at best. Learn your customer demographics and psychographics. Once you "get" them, marketing "gets" much easier.

4. Restricted resources represent an opportunity to embrace creativity and revisit comfort.

Economic downturns force us to look within and find ways to improve productivity and reduce waste. It's hard to readjust the way we work but it's a great time update business processes and marketing assumptions. Use the opportunity to revitalize your perspective and take the lead away from dormant competitors.

5. Don't confuse prospect enthusiasm for purchase authority.

I love your product" doesn't mean "I will buy your product" in any language. People will say nice things out of courtesy, lack of confidence, politics and for many other reasons that don't require them to take out their wallet. Asking prospects directly who and how purchase decisions are made could save you enormous efforts. If you just want perpetual positive feedback, get a dog.

6. Motivate don't manipulate.

Find reasons why people want to work at your company or buy your products such that it improves THEIR lives, not their company's. People don't do things usually unless they get something of clear personal value in return. Figure out what that is and then use that as your currency. How will your product or service make them look better at work or home? Will it increase their revenues or reduce their expense? Nothing else matters. Just ask Maslow.

7. Quality precedes quantity.

More leads and more sales may sound great but only if you can support and follow up with them. Damage to your reputation and costly repairs will be the result when customers or prospects are left hanging. When identifying leads, save your sales team the pain of sifting through hoards of simply breathing prospects and provide them a list of really qualified leads. This saves everyone – your sales people, the prospects and your marketing team - a ton of time, money and aggravation.

8. The best teachers are students.

Your best weapons are your ears. By listening more so you can understand other people's needs and desires. A defensive posture is never welcoming and it is incredibly attractive to your prospects when you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Build your own bandwagon by inviting other opinions and input to gain buy-in and team membership. Exercise your intellect and creativity by asking questions, trying new technologies and reading a broad variety of information. An open mind closes more deals.

9. Confidence sells. BS smells.

Say to yourself: "What would Barack do?"

10. Spend only if you would be willing to pick up the tab.

It's easy to spend company money so next time you approve a marketing expense, think about it coming out of your own potential bonus or salary increase. While you do need to spend money to do marketing, make sure you are being responsible with assets that really are yours even though you don't balance that specific check book. Be responsible with your marketing spend as well as your impact on the earth and society. We all can make a difference.


About the Author

Formerly a CMO for a public company, Dver now consults for companies ranging from large multinationals to small startups. In 2007, BusinessWeek recognized Dver as one of 8 female entrepreneurs to watch. She authored the well-endorsed books, "No Time Marketing" and previously, "Software Product Management Essentials". A featured columnist for Software Magazine, she has also been published in Forbes, BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur, Promo Magazine, and dozens of others. Ms. Dver regularly presents at venues including The World Diversity Leadership Summit at the UN, The Women's Congress, The American Marketing and American Banking Associations, and Strategic Management Institute. A graduate of Wharton Business School, she is currently working towards her PhD at the University of East London.


The Stimulus Bill, the Economy, and the Effects on Small Business

Many of you have responded to my recent posting about the Obama Stimulus plan, and there have been a wide diversity of opinions on its potential effectiveness. However, one comment that was prevalent in a large percentage of the responses was a question with regard to the actual content in the latest version of the plan. Most of you are interested to find out whether or not the bill currently being debated in Congress resembles the plan that was originally presented. Therefore, I am providing you with a link to an article that appeared in a recent issue of the New York Times entitled, 'Small Business Critical of Stimulus'. http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/services/Business-Information-Articles_I33/Article-Small-Business-Critical-of-Stimulus_A31.html . This article gives a good overview of the content of the bill as it currently stands and its potential affect on small business.

Additionally, I am also providing a link to a report recently issued by the SBA entitled, 'Fourth Quarter 2008: The Economy and Small Business' http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/cm/dpl/downloads/content/13/Q4%202008%20-%20The%20Economy%20and%20Small%20Business%20Quarterly%20Indicators.pdf . This report summarizes the current economic trends and discusses their specific effect on small business, as well as providing a grid of economic indicators for the last 5 years and the last 5 quarters which you may find of interest.

Those of you who had additional questions on the bill and the state of small business will likely find the answers you are seeking in these documents.


Innovation Lessons from Small Business

As I've attended networking events and various meetings in the last 6 months, one theme has been consistent among most of the small business owners I've met, the majority are frustrated by the downturn in today's economy and the effect it's having on their businesses. However, the reasons for this frustration appear to be many and varied. Some blame the economy for a lack of customers/sales, others blame the economy for a lack of credit which is affecting their ability to maintain short-term operating capital, and others insist that this Summer's exorbitant gasoline prices put them so far behind in other expenses that they can barely stay afloat. None of this frustration, nor these comments, have been unexpected.

What have been unexpected are those businesses I've met that have seen this economy as an opportunity. These businesses have chosen to look at this situation as a "glass half full" and seek new ways to take advantage of the situation to grow their business. For example: the small independent technical college who decided to expand their training offerings when the layoffs started to happen – and guess what, the supply of extra funds from the government for training programs for laid-off workers has continued to expand, resulting in increased enrollment – and the need for even more training classes. Another example is the small technology company that has re-prioritized its' research and development schedule (and budget) to meet the increased demand for green technology.

These companies did not have large amounts of capital to make these changes; in fact, they barely operated on a shoestring. What they did have was a small company that was able to review their circumstances and their marketplace, and in a short period make a decision to re-align their resources in a way that would provide better opportunities for their firms. This is called Innovation, and if utilized often enough by small business within the next few months, it could be the one thing that saves America from experiencing another Depression.

In keeping with this theme, below please find an article recently run by Forbes.com that gives a broader perspective on Innovation and the ways it can provide small businesses with an advantage – even in this economy. Once you've read the article, I challenge you to meet with your team to find ways that your company can take advantage of today's economy with a "glass half full" mentality, thereby positioning yourself to be in a very positive situation when the economy stabilizes.


Small Business owners are highly innovative but don't realize it. The reason: They need to better understand their customers.

Many people have come to think wrongly of innovation as a separate activity, walled off from their regular course of business, something they have to pursue intentionally. We saw this firsthand recently while participating in a workshop on small-business innovation. One small-business owner disavowed the notion that anything his business did could be classified as innovative, saying, "We're not creating the iPod."

Our recent experience showed that many small-business owners are highly innovative but not aware of it. The notion that you have to be creating an iPod to be innovative reveals that people are very confused about what innovation is.

In fact, iPod wasn't Apple's sole reason for success in the digital music space. This innovation went well beyond the technology. Apple understood that some customers wanted to buy MP3s, not steal them. Thus the combination of iTunes with the slick iPod device proved a winning business model that upended digital music.

Understanding your customers is required for successful innovation. Small-business owners, with their intimate knowledge of their customers, actually are incredibly well-positioned to innovate. One example is a story told at the workshop by a man we'll call "John" who owns a pool-service business.

John started out in the traditional way, servicing equipment and maintaining pools for residential, commercial and government customers. The pools that were controlled by the municipalities and some of the very large commercial installations were required to maintain strict water quality standards. These customers invested heavily in monitoring technology that ensured the water quality was up to local standards. The rest of John's pool customers were certainly interested in maintaining pool quality but viewed monitoring technology as far too expensive for them to reasonably deploy.

At a local trade show some time later, John was taken by new technology that would provide remote monitoring services at a much lower cost than the systems deployed in the large pool installations. Recognizing this enabling technology, John developed an entirely new business model for his customers. He purchased a limited number of the devices and then offered monitoring to a group of small to mid-sized pool owners as a service. Overnight, this entrepreneur evolved his business model from a fee-for-service model to a leasing business.

However, John did not consider this change to his business model to be highly innovative for his field. When asked about the innovation, John explained he felt the decision to expand into leasing equipment was an easy one. He didn't need a business plan to evaluate this innovation. He pointed out that, in fact, he hasn't had a plan for a number of years. He started out with a business plan but stopped updating it years ago. He said, "I know in my mind by how much I want to grow and what I need to accomplish each month at achieve my target."

What John didn't realize is that he does in fact have all the elements of a business plan. Instead of the annual, stagnant planning process that characterizes many large businesses, John and other small-business owners have clear metrics, a clear direction and the ability to change course immediately if they need to.

There are lessons here for small-business owners. Small companies should realize that their close customer connection provides a great springboard for innovation. The small businesses we talked to were incredibly market-connected. To them, a customer problem is an opportunity to sell that customer another solution. They are responsive, iterative and flexible.

Further, small-business owners might think they don't have the resources to innovate. In fact, constraints are a friend to innovation, not a foe. More promising innovations have been killed by too much time and money, and too many people, than have been killed by lack of any of these.

Big companies can also learn from the way small companies approach innovation:

* Connect with your customers in order to truly understand them; pay particular attention to framing the conversation around the problems the customer has rather than the problems you think your current product or services could solve for that customer.

* Be iterative in regards to strategy and planning, in order to maintain flexibility and be most responsive to outside change.

* Be open to experimentation with new business models.

* Be wary of the curse of too much capital and resist the temptation to throw resources at innovation efforts.

Above all, businesses of all sizes need to remember that innovation is not limited to products, services, technology or creative thinking. Creating a new iPod isn't always the goal--rather, focus on understanding why the customer can't adequately solve important problems and develop an innovative business model that does the job in a new, novel fashion.

The last six months have certainly taught us that all businesses need to be open to change. If there was ever a time to start thinking like a small, nimble business, 2009 is it.


Written by Andrew Waldeck, a partner with Innosight and Renee Hopkins Callahan, editor of Strategy & Innovation. This article was excerpted from a recent online issue of Strategy & Innovation by Innosight, a consulting firm co-founded by Clayton Christensen and Mark Johnson specializing in innovation and disruptive strategy.

Surviving an Economic Downturn

The author of this article is unknown; it was sourced from an online repository called 'Small Business Notes'. Given today's economic climate, and the prevalence I have seen recently of small business owners tending to "bury their heads in the sand" and blame their woes on the economy, I thought this article was an excellent opportunity to provide an alternative thought process. In tough times the best thing a small business (or any business for that matter) can do is to go back to the basics. If you actively run your business every day, think thru the issues so you can make smart decisions, and utilize the ideas in the following article, you should be well on your way to insuring that your business survives today's economic challenges and is set up to thrive when things turn back around.

The belief that small businesses fare poorly in economic slowdowns is a common misconception that is not generally true. Solidly run small businesses actually hold their own during downturns. While we all like to believe our businesses fit the definition of "solidly run", let's take a look at what are some commonly cited best practices for all businesses to be following during a time of economic downturn.

Revisit Your Business Plan
The number one recommendation, across the board, is to re-examine your business plan. Your business plan should be the working base for your company. Have you strayed from it in any way? Does it need revision in light of new information? Should you be considering whole new directions that are not included in it? Sit down and read it from the perspective of someone about to invest in your business - and make any revisions that seem appropriate. You may even identify additional information you need to know in order to make decisions about the future of the company.

Seek Supporters and Advisors
If ever there is a time to network, this is it. Many companies set up advisory boards that include a wide spectrum of professional expertise that they can draw on for advice. Such board members often are attorneys, certified public accountants, civic club leaders, owners or managers of businesses similar to yours or whom you do business with, and retired executives. The latest jargon for these types of boards is "Power Circles." An apt name because the members should be power connections for you - knowledgeable about the environment in which you do business and able to connect you with the information you need to make good decisions. The purpose of the board is to offer you objectivity. They should be people you can be truthful with and who will keep your disclosures confidential. Most groups like this discuss specific business problems you have, using the meeting to brainstorm possible solutions.

If you don't belong to civic and professional organizations, do it. Here are groups of people facing similar challenges to you. Their joint expertise and resources can be a powerful support mechanism when times are tough.

Make Customer Satisfaction Your Priority
Your customers are your lifeblood in any economic climate. In a downturn they are what keep you in business. Treat them very well. Spend time listening to your clients to hear what they like and do not like about the services you offer. Change those things that you can. Take time to be innovative in meeting your customer needs. Perhaps taking the time to computerize customer information would allow you to more easily access their particular preferences and respond quickly to their needs. Perhaps taking time to call special clients to discuss how you can serve them better would be productive. Maybe an extra telephone line would speed the service time. Do whatever you need to do to keep your current customers loyal and to position yourself to win new customers.

Expand Relationships with Existing Clients/ Sign More Long-term Deals
Given that your customers are satisfied, they should want to do more business with you. Find out if there are ways you can expand what you do for them, perhaps by offering more products or services or fulfilling other needs that they have. Long-term deals add to your security. So, if you have happy customers, offer a discount to those who are willing to sign a long-term contract or who are willing to pay cash up front for a contracted set of services. Cash up front is particularly attractive because it makes you look good on paper and can allow you to lock in favorable financing from financial institutions.

In a downturn one of the first places many businesses cut expenses is in advertising - a real mistake. As part of the philosophy of expanding your base and recruiting more customers, you need to advertise and sell more than ever. People are looking for better ways to do business. If you have established strong customer satisfaction, this is the time to get the message out.

Seek New Business Opportunities (Diversify)
A downturn sounds like a terrible time to diversify, doesn't it? But there are opportunities out there to be taken. And given that you have done your homework in establishing yourself on a solid financial base, this is an opportune time to broaden your base. Diversification gives you more stability because a down market in one product may be compensated for by another product. The tricky part is, of course, finding complementary products that face differing market challenges. You don't want to stretch your expertise by producing totally different products, yet you do want to target different types of markets so that softness in one may not be mirrored in the other. A simple example of a way to seek new opportunities is to establish an internet business for a retail store. You have provided a new way to service your regular customers and expanded the audience you reach.

Form Alliances
Alliances with your vendors or with closely aligned types of products is always a good way to strengthen your customer base. With the right alliance you are reaching a broader spectrum of possible customers and you have more to offer each potential customer.

Diversify Your Customer Base
It may be possible that you have been selling to a limited sub-group within the community and you can expand the appeal of your product to a wider audience. For instance, you may be primarily selling to a specific age, ethnic, or gender group and with different advertising or a slight modification in the product; you can reach a broader spectrum of the population. Simple things like instructions in another language or wording advertising slightly differently can have a major impact in who your business attracts.

Find Ways to Save Time and Money
Collections are a great place to start in tightening your belt. Not only do you need to be providing incentives to your customers to pay on time or even early, but you need an efficient collection system that gives you advance warning of problems as they develop. Similarly, you need to be paying your bills on time and taking advantage of every possible discount that you can.

Look at fixed and variable costs. What among the variable costs can you cut back on or put off for later? What among the fixed costs can you find a better deal on or negotiate more favorable terms for? And, pay attention to your banking relationships.

Keep in touch with your banker, apprising them of any company developments. If you face a tight situation, having your banker knowledgeable about the positives of you and your business will make them much more amenable to helping you through difficult times.

Watch for Signs and Act on Them
Look for changes in psychology and behavior in your clientele. They may be spending less or putting projects on hold. They may not be paying their bills as quickly. If you are in touch with your customers, you will be aware of differences in buying habits. Contact them before they contact you about what the problems are. Can you help them in some way? You can gain a long-time relationship with a customer by approaching them pro-actively with the view of being there to help them through their own hard times.

Mobilize Your People to Save Jobs
Economic downturns are scary times for employees. Many firms cut personnel and add to the workload of the remaining employees. Involve them in cost cutting. Let them know they are important to you and that you are committed to keeping them. If they know that they are perceived as an active part of the solution, they can identify sources of savings that never occurred to you.

Find rewards that are not costly yet acknowledge their efforts. As hokey as it sounds, one successful businessman placed post-it notes on the restroom mirrors every evening noting positives that had been reported about various individuals during that day. It became a delightful, early morning ritual for the employees to discover each morning what the CEO had noted from the day before.

Whether or not the economy is in a recession, any of these methods can strengthen your organization - and your bottom line. This is what makes a "solidly run" business. It means returning to the roots of your business and making certain that everyone is healthy. All of these principles are worth revisiting at least annually, in good or bad times.

The New Basics of Marketing

What you need to know about: websites, email, mobile phones, social networks, viral video, and blogging.

By: Leigh Buchanan, Max Chafkin, and Ryan McCarthy

Inc. Online, February 2008

The world of marketing is radically different than it was only a few short years ago. From viral video to text-message campaigns and avatar sales reps, marketing tools that only recently seemed rare and futuristic are quickly becoming commonplace.

They're the New Basics.

Mainstream marketing was invented by big companies to convey simple messages to the masses. New marketing, in contrast, is about complexity and individuality. There are, for example, 100 million blogs worldwide. No matter how small the market for your products or services, one of those blogs probably serves it.

But though today's marketers have more choices in terms of the tools they use to reach customers, their jobs aren't getting any easier. With an explosion of new offerings, it's hard to know when and how best to spend your marketing dollars. In compiling this report, Inc. looked for developments that are new and creative but also effective and affordable--and, of course, well suited to nimble, entrepreneurial companies. Use them creatively, and you just might transform your business.

Related Content

Survey Indicates CMOs Not Tracking Social Media Well. How About Your Company?

As most of you are likely aware, the use of Social Media Marketing is on a tremendous upswing today, particularly among small businesses that typically have minimal marketing budgets – and even less staff. This being the case, it seems prudent to provide information that small businesses can use to understand the pros and cons of using social media, as well as how best to effectively measure ROI to insure that monies available are put to the best use.

A recent article in Advertising Age reviews a study conducted by the CMO Council which indicates that companies overall are not yet doing an effective job of tracking the results and impact of social media. The article further discusses who in the corporate environment should be charged with this responsibility, as well as providing examples of how some of today's largest companies are beginning to implement social media tracking strategies. This article is shown in-full below.

Since the majority of people who will be reading this blog will likely be somewhat social-media-aware, I thought this would be a good audience to ask to review the article and then provide commentary on what your company is doing to insure the effective tracking of your social media strategies and the monies being spent on that endeavor – from a small business perspective. I would ask readers to provide Comments in this blog on the following questions in order to assist other small businesses who will read it and who have not yet addressed this issue:

  • Do you currently have in place a social media tracking mechanism for your company? If so, please provide a brief description of your tracking methodology.
  • Who in your organization (by title) is responsible for implementing/monitoring your tracking mechanisms?
  • Are you measuring ROI as part of your tracking? If so, what is an appropriate social media ROI per your company?
  • Please provide any additional input you believe to be relevant to the discussion

After reading the article below about social media tracking, you might have interest in going to the following link http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/marketing/Marketing-Information-Resources_I12.html to learn the basics about An Introduction to Social Media Marketing and how to put it into effect.

Few CMOs Think They're Effectively Tracking Social Media, Word-of-Mouth

Survey: Marketing Execs, Not Other Departments, Should Be in Charge of Monitoring Customers' Conversations

by Jack Neff

January 26, 2009

BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Who in corporate America owns the consumer relationship, the customer experience, word-of-mouth or social media? The answer appears to be nobody.

For all the talk about listening to consumers, few marketers think their companies are doing so effectively and even fewer are monitoring what people say about their brands in social media, according to a new survey by the CMO Council.

The survey of 400 executives found that 56% said their companies have no programs to track or propagate positive word-of-mouth; 59% don't compensate any employees based on improvements in customer loyalty or satisfaction; and only 30% rated their companies highly in their ability to handle or resolve customer complaints.

Few have a system in place
Despite all the hype about social media, only 16% of respondents said their companies have any routine system in place for monitoring what people are saying about them or their brands online.

The survey comes, however, as big marketers are paying growing attention to monitoring and leveraging social media. Procter & Gamble Co. has a Social Media Lab that's about 18 months old, and Unilever last month hosted a word-of-mouth summit at its U.S. headquarters dedicated largely to understanding how social media affect its brands.

Another big marketer, Johnson & Johnson, became acutely aware of the trouble social media can cause when complaints on the micro blogging site Twitter led it to pull the plug on an ad campaign for Motrin in November.

One problem for marketing executives is that they're not clearly in charge now of managing the customer experience, customer loyalty or social media today, given that public-relations, sales, consumer-affairs and research-and-development departments all have a stake in those areas now.

Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, said marketing should take the lead in overseeing the customer experience and satisfaction. And he said addressing deficiencies in tracking and analyzing consumer feedback and buzz may be the key way CMOs can stake a claim to leadership.

Buck stops with CMO
"From our standpoint, if there's anybody who needs to be accountable for the customer experience, it's the CMO," Mr. Neale-May said. "Clearly what marketing needs to do to cover a lot of ground we've lost in the organization is more analytics, predictive modeling, and data integration and aggregation."

How three big package-goods marketers are addressing social media, however, shows just how varied functional ownership even of that aspect of the customer experience can be.

P&G's Social Media Lab has been led largely by corporate digital-marketing specialists. Unilever's word-of-mouth summit last month appeared to be spearheaded by market research. And J&J last fall appointed corporate-public-relations executive and part-time corporate blogger Marc Monseau to focus full time on social media, both monitoring how J&J is faring and reaching out to help exert corporate influence.

Regardless of who's in charge, the CMO Council survey suggests "companies generally still aren't very sophisticated at capturing or managing either positive or negative word-of-mouth," said Laura Brooks, VP-research for Satmetrix, the company behind the "Net Promoter Score" and a sponsor of the study. Aside from the leadership vacuum, she said corporate silos mean that disparate data streams are never brought together in a way that could help identify and solve problems.

But Pete Blackshaw, exec-VP of digital strategic services for Nielsen Online, isn't sure separation of duties is such a bad thing.

"You could argue that tension is positive," he said. "It's probably a good thing that the consumer-affairs department is freaked out that the digital-marketing team is doing listening. It's probably a good thing that the research team is kept on its toes by the social-media team."

Database problems
He also said marketers, even those with extensive customer-relationship-marketing programs, are hamstrung by databases that don't take into account the word-of-mouth potential of consumers by asking whether they blog, participate in social networks or post to message boards. One exception, he said, is beauty marketer Coty, which does ask consumers about some of those things.

On the social-media front, while Ted McConnell, P&G general manager for interactive marketing and innovation, generated controversy late last year with his dismissal of Facebook and other so-called consumer-generated media as places for P&G ads, the company remains intently focused on tracking and working with social media.

P&G's Social Media Lab has worked with 15 P&G brands and 70 external partners in an effort to better understand and leverage social media. Among the more interesting projects has been working with Ripple6, acquired last year by Gannett, to develop tools for monitoring social-media buzz and building online communities. Among other things, Ripple6 is helping P&G Productions' soap opera "The Guiding Light" develop a new online community.

To be sure, wherever there's consumer data, P&G will try to mine it.

"Aside from technology, it's almost been a natural thing for P&G to [listen to consumers]," said Stan Joosten, innovation manager-holistic consumer communication. "What technology does for us is truly extend what we can do. For the first time ever with this technology, conversations are visible to us. ... You cannot start in social media without knowing how to listen."

Mobile Marketers Target Receptive Hispanic Audience

In keeping with our recent review of mobile advertising, and our goal to keep you apprised of marketing information that will provide value to your business, we thought that a recent article from Advertising Age Magazine would have particular value to those of you who are marketing to consumers rather than businesses. In this article we are advised that Hispanics are the country's largest and fastest-growing ethnic minority, and as a result, major brands such as "Continental Airlines, General Mills, Sears, Kmart and Tag Heuer will be working in the first quarter to launch Latino-centric mobile campaigns".

Making the case to utilize mobile advertising to reach this hot demographic is research that suggests "U.S. Hispanics are more engaged with their mobile phones than Americans overall. Some 71% of Hispanics consume content on their cellphones, compared with the market average of 48%, according to ComScore M:Metrics. Why? Many don't have subscriptions to internet or landline service, so wireless phones are their sole communications tool. Additionally, the median age among Hispanics is 27.6, compared with 36.6 in the population as a whole, so that may also help explain their propensity toward mobile".

Read the article at the following link to help you determine if mobile advertising can help your company grow by reaching this hot demographic target group. http://www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com/marketing/Marketing-Information-Resources_I12.html

Sam Walton – Rules for Building a Successful Business

In today's challenging economy small business owners are looking for inspiration to help them travel the road to success, and examples of the best ways to achieve that success. As part of our company's promise to provide information and resources to small business, I thought the article below about Sam Walton's 'Rules for Building a Successful Business' would provide some needed insight and the motivation to keep going in spite of today's economic hardships. Whether you're among those who love Wal-Mart, or those who despise them, there is no disputing what they've achieved by becoming the nation's #1 retailer less than 30 years after they started and maintaining that position yet today.

I urge you to review the '10 Rules' below and think about how they may apply to your business. Sometimes all it takes is standing back and looking at your business from a different perspective to enable you to "kick-start" your positive attitude AND your business. Can you be the next Sam Walton? Can your business be the next Wal-Mart? The answer lies in your hands!


Sam Walton grew up poor during the Great Depression

, yet rose to start the biggest retail store Wal-Mart. In Sam Walton's "Running a Successful Company: Ten Rules that Worked for Me," learn Walton's winning formula for business.

Excerpted from "The Book of Business Wisdom"
Edited by Peter Krass


Sam Walton: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Business

Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, grew up poor in a farm community in rural Missouri during the Great Depression. The poverty he experienced while growing up taught him the value of money and to persevere.

After attending the University of Missouri, he immediately worked for J.C. Penny where he got his first taste of retailing. He served in World War II, after which he became a successful franchiser of Ben Franklin five-and-dime stores. In 1962, he had the idea of opening bigger stores, sticking to rural areas, keeping costs low and discounting heavily. The management disagreed with his vision. Undaunted, Walton pursued his vision, founded Wal-Mart and started a retailing success story. When Walton died in 1992, the family's net worth approached $25 billion.

Today, Wal-Mart is the world's #1 retailer, with more than 4,150 stores, including discount stores, combination discount and grocery stores, and membership-only warehouse stores (Sam's Club). Learn Walton's winning formula for business.

Rule 1: Commit to your business. Believe in it more than anybody else. I think I overcame every single one of my personal shortcomings by the sheer passion I brought to my work. I don't know if you're born with this kind of passion, or if you can learn it. But I do know you need it. If you love your work, you'll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you — like a fever.

Rule 2: Share your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners. In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations. Remain a corporation and retain control if you like, but behave as a servant leader in your partnership. Encourage your associates to hold a stake in the company. Offer discounted stock, and grant them stock for their retirement. It's the single best thing we ever did.

Rule 3: Motivate your partners. Money and ownership alone aren't enough. Constantly, day by day, think of new and more interesting ways to motivate and challenge your partners. Set high goals, encourage competition, and then keep score. Make bets with outrageous payoffs. If things get stale, cross-pollinate; have managers switch jobs with one another to stay challenged. Keep everybody guessing as to what your next trick is going to be. Don't become too predictable.

Rule 4: Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners. The more they know, the more they'll understand. The more they understand, the more they'll care. Once they care, there's no stopping them. If you don't trust your associates to know what's going on, they'll know you really don't consider them partners. Information is power, and the gain you get from empowering your associates more than offsets the risk of informing your competitors.

Rule 5: Appreciate everything your associates do for the business. A paycheck and a stock option will buy one kind of loyalty. But all of us like to be told how much somebody appreciates what we do for them. We like to hear it often, and especially when we have done something we're really proud of. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They're absolutely free — and worth a fortune.

Rule 6: Celebrate your success. Find some humor in your failures. Don't take yourself so seriously. Loosen up, and everybody around you will loosen up. Have fun. Show enthusiasm — always. When all else fails, put on a costume and sing a silly song. Then make everybody else sing with you. Don't do a hula on Wall Street. It's been done. Think up your own stunt. All of this is more important, and more fun, than you think, and it really fools competition. "Why should we take those cornballs at Wal-Mart seriously?"

Rule 7: Listen to everyone in your company and figure out ways to get them talking. The folks on the front lines — the ones who actually talk to the customer — are the only ones who really know what's going on out there. You'd better find out what they know. This really is what total quality is all about. To push responsibility down in your organization, and to force good ideas to bubble up within it, you must listen to what your associates are trying to tell you.

Rule 8: Exceed your customer's expectations. If you do, they'll come back over and over. Give them what they want — and a little more. Let them know you appreciate them. Make good on all your mistakes, and don't make excuses — apologize. Stand behind everything you do. The two most important words I ever wrote were on that first Wal-Mart sign: "Satisfaction Guaranteed." They're still up there, and they have made all the difference.

Rule 9: Control your expenses better than your competition. This is where you can always find the competitive advantage. For twenty-five years running — long before Wal-Mart was known as the nation's largest retailer — we've ranked No. 1 in our industry for the lowest ratio of expenses to sales. You can make a lot of different mistakes and still recover if you run an efficient operation. Or you can be brilliant and still go out of business if you're too inefficient.

Rule 10: Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there's a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction. But be prepared for a lot of folks to wave you down and tell you you're headed the wrong way. I guess in all my years, what I heard more often than anything was: a town of less than 50,000 population cannot support a discount store for very long.