7 Small Business Marketing Tips

Small businesses do not often have large budgets. Thanks to the Internet, small business marketing can be a huge success, even without big dollars behind it.

Small business marketing can benefit from new trends in general marketing. These trends point to methods that are inexpensive, innovative, and online.

One of the key online options for small business marketing is search engines. The cost of submitting your Web site to a search engine is minor, but there are some considerations to be made:

1. Your site must be optimized with keyword phrases. Search engine optimization is achieved by including keyword phrases that apply to your company. These phrases must be present enough times to draw the attention of the search engines to your site.

2. Since most small businesses focus on their local market, you should aim your advertising efforts at your local audience. Users have recently begun pushing for better local search capabilities and most search engine companies are responding. Statistics have shown that 74% of Internet users perform local searches. Your keywords should reflect your locale and you should look into local search engines and directories, like your local Yellow Pages, Google Local, Citysearch and others.
If you are a local merchant and your intention is to sell products on the web, one of many tactics is to build your online ads around local content to increase your click through rate.

3. Speaking of local searches, newspaper Web sites have become the top portal in their local areas, especially among the coveted 18-34 demographic. Traditional newspaper advertising is generally beyond most small business marketing budgets, but the online versions offer more affordable ads on the “back” pages – those that are not visited as often but are rich in content.

4. Another exciting small business marketing method is the weblog, or blog. A blog offers your business a good way to have an inexpensive, two-way conversation with your customers. Write a blog for your Web site to give your customers and prospects an additional reason to visit your site.

5. Podcasts are among the newest small business marketing techniques. A podcast is a multimedia file (think radio broadcast) distributed by paid or unpaid subscription over the Internet. Podcasts offer you a direct way to tell your prospects how your product or service can benefit them.

6. Many small businesses can use online seminars or demos, also known as webinars, to demonstrate and promote their latest products. Online demos are an ideal tool for small business marketing because they are relatively easy to produce and allow you to reach a wide audience without ever leaving the office.

7. A strong online presence is a critical component of any small business marketing campaign. Why? Because the Internet offers advertising options that are relatively inexpensive. Because 87% of consumers research purchases online before they buy. Because 63% research online and then visit a bricks and mortar store to complete a purchase. And because demographic trends show that the most desired customers are most accessible through online means.

Tips on Setting Up Your Small Business Bank Account

One of the first things you will need to set up is a bank account. We recommend a large bank because:

They have locations everywhere

They have longer hours

They will probably buy out your local community bank anyway

If you are an owner/operator of a small business, you will appreciate having a Debit or ATM card for your business. They also have easy to read statements for merchant accounts, little or low fee checking accounts, locations in the grocery store, weekend banking, business credit cards (VISA or MC), small business loans, auto loans and leases, etc. If you run a lot of locations and are expanding your business you might even ask the local manager to fax you weekly confirmation of daily deposits made during the week.

When opening an account always ask about checking account fees, primarily deposits per check charges. Try to have these reduced or eliminated. If you wish to shop banks and fees, don’t forget to shop service. We recommend these ten tips when selecting a bank.

Make an honest list of the services you want and those services you really need and then interview banks to see which services they provide on your ‘shopping list’. Be careful at big banks. Ask for the branch manager and not the new accounts sales girl. Chances are she’s just out of college and doesn’t even understand real world banking relations or hand-shaking deals at the Rotary Club or golf course. She’ll be too ‘By-The-Book’ to answer any real questions.

Start seeking referrals from long standing community and business leaders. Perhaps a local CPA, home based business consultant or small business owner. Make sure you get advice from people you respect.

Geography is important, but it should not in all cases be the deciding factor. You should start with nearby banks.

Visit the bank. Are there long teller lines? Is the staff courteous? Do they smile, etc.?

Sit down with a bank officer and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions: Do you really want our small company’s business? Are you interested in long-term relationships? Will I be able to work with a certain specific person on a continuing basis? Will you treat me like a number? What is your turn around time on loan applications? How many layers of management are there until I get to the president? What’s his or her name? Have you ever met them? May I?

Make clear exactly what you want and need from a banking relationship. Will you be looking for a loan soon? Like any other relationship, communication is the key to a good banking relationship.

Don’t fall for flashy ads that promise you stuff and they forget your name next week. You might even come back the next day and ask “Do you remember my name? If they don’t, smile and walk out.

Try not to be misled by free toasters or mouse pads if you open an account. These free items won’t help your car wash business thrive, but a good banking relationship can.

Remember, that a bank’s service is gauged by the service it provides, not it’s brochures, gimmicks, signage or billboard ads.

Evaluate the relationship when you have been with a new bank for six months. Honestly evaluate how things are going and share your conclusions with your banker. The best banking relationship is one where both parties are open and forthright and where issues can be discussed that will lead to a long-term mutually beneficial partnership for the expansion and betterment of your car wash franchise.

Check Ordering For Business Account

Why does ordering checks and replacement checks cost so much?

Because banks make a profit on the checks you order. For a little less than one-half the cost you can order your own checks and eliminate the middleman – that’s the bank. Call:

Current Check 1-800-426-0822;

Checks In The Mail 1-800-733-4443;

Deluxe Checks 1-800-4DELUXE

All three firms guarantee that their checks meet industry standards. We’ve ordered from all three. Deluxe is faster if you’re out of checks, but still have money left. They do cost an average of $4.00 more per box.

Interest Bearing Accounts

If you choose an interest bearing checking account, be sure to take a close look at the other associated fees. It may say it’s a free account with no fees and that it’s interest bearing, but if you fall below a pre-determined balance you may pay exorbitant fees or if you have high activity such as lots of checks written or deposited, you may be charged a fee anyway. If it’s a per check fee it will undoubtedly be higher than a normal basic account.

You should not pay fees on a business savings account if fees are charged for your checking account you may seriously want to consider switching banks.

Choosing a good bank for your small business is very important, please take this initial step in your business seriously, you’ll be glad you did.

10 Tips Small Businesses Can Use to Avoid Viruses, Spam and Spyware

Viruses, spam, spyware and other malware cost small businesses billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, stolen identities and IT support costs.

What small businesses need to understand is that these gremlins are easy to avoid when common sense and some simple precautions are applied. And ‘avoid’ is the key word; your strategy should be to stay as far away from these things in the first place so that you don’t have to experience the lost time and cost associated with cleaning up the mess they leave.

So how can a small business avoid viruses, spam, and spyware?

The following is a list of 10 best practices for small businesses:
1. Use antivirus software that is automatically updated on all machines
2. Use a hosted spam filtering service that filters the spam before it ever makes it to your local network
3. Make sure employees know that you have a policy that work computers are only to be used for work purposes.
4. Don’t give your business email address to a non-business source
5. Don’t forward jokes, chain mail, etc. to other employees
6. Never open an attachment from an unknown source
7. Never open an attachment with an unknown file extension
8. Don’t download free toolbars, shopping assistants, weather bug, etc. on your work computer
9. Never give your information or download information from an unknown site
10. Never update banking or other sensitive personal information using a link sent to you via email – always navigate directly to the site and log in there.

As you can see, most of these tips don’t require you to buy anything or use any special technology. Viruses, spam and spyware prey on human nature – curiosity, laziness, etc. – to get past technology-based defences, so you must educate yourself and your employees to know what to avoid.

One last tip: if you do feel like you have a virus or something else attacking your computer, unplug it from your network immediately. The last thing you want to do is give it to everyone else in your office – that’s when things get really expensive.

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