Think about your group of friends for a minute. Are any of them moms? Do any of them have a blog where they talk about the pitfalls, products, services and challenges that go along with being a mom or parent? Chances are you do, because right now there are an estimated 3.9 million people that identify themselves as "mommy bloggers" in the United States alone, according to research released last year by Scarborough Research.FULL ENTRY
It's the start of a new year, which means hope abounds for everyone.
January is the time for new ventures, new resolutions and renewed faith in all the things that you want to accomplish this year that you didn't get to last year. In fact, "starting my own business" is always one of the most popular New Year's resolutions every single year. For the most part, 2012 was a good year for small businesses. As a group it didn't grow as much as the government would have liked, but that's understandable given the economic challenges. Overall though, optimism was high and the numbers were good.FULL ENTRY
If one was so inclined, with all the notifications that come with smartphones, someone could set it up to "ding" every few minutes with something. Phone messages, texts, Facebook updates, Twitter updates, AP News feeds, software upgrades, gaming activity - the list goes on and on.
For me personally, I make it a point to turn off all of these distractions so that the only time my phone makes noise is when I get a text message, or someone is calling. That ensures that I check it, assuming that it's coming from someone relatively important with a message that I want to see. But last week, when I got a text message from my local dentist, telling me that I am due for a bi annual cleaning, I was a little taken aback. The first thought that went through my head was, "oh jeez I need to schedule that, I AM due for a cleaning." My second thought was, "hey wait a minute, I don't remember opting into text message marketing from my dentist."FULL ENTRY
Everyone knows Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year. People wait in line for hours, in the wee hours of the morning, to get the best deals they can. Stores have started running promotions early, even turning Black Friday into a month long event, rather than a 24 hour sale. It's become so ingrained in American culture, people forget that the initial connotation for Black Friday marked the stock market crash on Sept. 24, 1869. In the 1950's, workers adopted the phrase to mark the day after Thanksgiving and the number of employees who simply wouldn't show up for work. Despite it's nuances, the day has become a national shopping holiday.
However, the transformation of the Saturday following Black Friday has been nearly as remarkable as Black Friday itself. In just a few short years Small Business Saturday has taken hold on November 24. It's the day that American Express, along with a slew of influential partners including the Small Business Administration, multiple professional sports organizations and some of the countries biggest corporations (including Facebook) want you to "shop small." I wrote about this last year, allowing real small businesses to weigh in with their thoughts.FULL ENTRY
A new survey from Vertical Response, an online marketing provider, recently took a look at small businesses and their use of social media. While the basic findings like Facebook still being the No. 1 platform, and time being an issue were not surprising, some things did stand out to me. As I've mentioned in the past, social is something small business owners should embark on carefully, and consider the time investment before jumping in.FULL ENTRY
Ticket sales as an industry, have never been more controversial. Because the secondary ticket market is where the majority of tickets are purchased - through ticket brokers like StubHub, TicketMaster and other online sites - fans are often left with one of two options in seeing their favorite band or act: pay far above face value for the tickets, or stay home.
As an example, tickets to the upcoming Rolling Stones 50th anniversary tour were being listed as high as $10,000.
The result has been a number of start-ups launched to try and capitalize on the appetite for sold out shows, but also the secondary market for tickets. One has even managed to combine buying tickets online with giving to charity, a unique combination that has grown into a successful venture in just five short years.FULL ENTRY
Depending on what methodology you believe, a Facebook fan could be worth upwards of $100 or as little as $1.00. Some have speculated that fans are worth $10, based on brands advertising on Facebook and the number of impressions they get with actions taken. FULL ENTRY
They say that there's a business for everything. In many cases there are more than one. Oftentimes it's a different spin on an existing business that succeeds. One of my goals for this blog is to higlight the business owners that have taken a chance in starting a business that's doing things differently and having an impact locally, nationally or globally.FULL ENTRY
If I had a dime for every survey that measured the activity level of small business owners in social media, I'd be a millionaire. Or at the very least, close.
The frustrating part about the survey process is that most come to different conclusions, focus on different small business demographics or have questions that aren't getting at the heart of the issue. Just because a small business is "using" social media doesn't mean they are succeeding with it, it doesn't mean they are making money with it, and it doesn't mean that they are going to elevate it to the primary marketing tactic in the next year plus.FULL ENTRY
Most small businesses will go above and beyond to do a great job for their clients. You won't have too look far for a small business owner who's going the extra mile - be it ensuring that the meal you had was up to par, the work that was done on the house was done to specifications, or that your taxes were done correctly and you got the refund you deserve.
The truth is, they oftentimes have to. In order to "rise above" the bigger competition, small businesses have long had to rely on personal service and a more catered approach with clients in order to keep them happy, and paying over a longer period of time. They should be applauded for that, but sometimes small business owners aren't selfish enough when asking for customers to also go above and beyond in recognizing good work. It's probably rare to see someone pay more than the bill, even if the work was exceptional, but that doesn't mean a customer can't take steps after the work is done to show appreciation.FULL ENTRY
Marketing comes in many different forms, but the shift has dramatically swung to online channels in the past five years. Offline advertising and marketing that used to be staples of any small businesses success - including being listed in the yellow pages and local print ads in newspapers - are now all but extinct. Small business owners have had to adapt, taking to channels like Craigslist, Google AdWords and social media. And of course there's the still popular word of mouth referrals.
It seems obvious that at this point, any small business that doesn't currently have some form of a website, is way behind the times. A recent survey of micro businesses (small businesses with between 1-10 employees) done by Vistaprint showed that nearly 70% currently have a website for their small business. Of those micro business owners who have a website, 75% are generating revenue either directly or indirectly through a website. In addition, just over 50% have a dedicated Facebook page for their small business as well.FULL ENTRY
Have you ever met someone that's actually won a small business contest?
Believe it or not, they do exist. With a flood of contests aimed at small businesses launching in the past few years, you've likely heard of at least a few of them. Contests can ask small businesses to do all kinds of things in order to win: enter a full business plan, create a video talking about a business or get the most votes in social media. Some require a lot of work, others are relatively simple and the prizes can vary in both size and impact.FULL ENTRY
Any successful business owner will tell you that customer feedback is vital to success, but it's especially true for small businesses. Knowing what customers want and what they don't is important, especially when one is just starting out. That means actively listening to customers but also going the extra mile to find out what they think about a business and how it could better serve them in the future. I ran across a great example of gathering customer feedback this week, when I was contacted by the Salt Lick BBQ restaurant in Texas.
With November rapidly approaching and the candidates for President finalized, it's clear that small businesses are going to be at the heart of many political messages in the coming months. Even this week Republican nominee Mitt Romney took President Barack Obama to task for his small business record. Citing the standard political playbook for small business messaging, regardless of party, Romney outlined his plan to help small businesses grow if elected president. He promised to "lower taxes, block health care reform and weed out cumbersome federal regulations." As I've written before, small businesses are a convenient group to talk about during elections, how much help they'll actually get is up for debate.
But, having the news spotlight on small businesses is never a bad thing, and there have been several interesting stories this week that are worth a read. These range from survey data around the growing number of immigrant owned businesses, how small businesses can use Pinterest if they choose, and how you can take the search engine temperature of your website in order to see how Google is ranking it.FULL ENTRY
More and more data continues to come to light about small businesses and their attitudes heading into the summer of 2012. As optimism continues to rise from both a national and local perspective, as the stock market continues to come back and the housing market begins to rebound, it seems that small business attitudes are also following suit. This week I wanted to provide some interesting survey results that have recently come to light, including small businesses reporting positive conditions in which to operate and wanting to work with one another. And a friend weighs in on the raging "entrepreneur" vs. "small business" debate.FULL ENTRY
Glenn Beck may be one of the most hated men in America, while simultaneously enjoying an audience of millions as loyal as any media personality has ever enjoyed. If there's one thing you can say about him, it's that he's one of the most controversial figures of the past decade. But he's also apparently a big believer in small businesses, so much so that he's launched a site dependent on their success.FULL ENTRY
With the advent of social networks and sharing at the click of a mouse, imagery is quickly becoming a must have for business and marketing success.
Facebook just bought Instagram for $1 billion, and that's nothing but a network of people taking, altering and sharing photos they took. Infographics, videos, quirky signs with one liners, motivational posters and amazingly looking food are all being pinned to Pinterest and examples of image specific content that's being shared. People are looking for it, are more aware of it and are more likely to remember things they have seen than ever before. Forget the written word, people are now focused on pictures. If a photo of a random "photogenic man" running a 10K race can get viewed 1.4 million times, think about what imagery could do for a small business?FULL ENTRY
Mothers Day is upon us, which means if you haven't already gotten something for your wife or mother, you need to act fast.
Chances are you've seen at least one marketing campaign or advertisment for a Mother's Day gift, offer, discount or product that you absolutely have to take advantage of. So if really have forgotten, shame on you! All of the major retailers take advantage of "holidays" in order to sell products and services. And when that holiday involves the mom or wife, wow, that could mean a windfall in terms of revenue.FULL ENTRY
Small business week is right around the corner. As the focus starts to pivot to small businesses at the end of May, topics like social media, marketing, investing, funding, credit, hiring, growth and jobs will also be put under a microscope. Each and every facet of the "small business life" will be examined as everyone takes a week to appreciate the small business owners in our lives.
A few of those topics crept up this week, including where small business hiring and revenues stand, how they are potentially using video to market their business and how they can better manage their finances. These are just some of the stories you should be looking at this week.
If you've been following the small business news this week, you know that at least one report cited that confidence was down among the group. As I've stated in the past, I'm not sure how much confidence levels actually matter when it comes to the overall success of small businesses, but despite that, the results are interesting. I've also included two stories below that I thought were extremely insightful, one around the basics of Twitter and another around how "tax friendly" states fare in attracting small businesses. I hope you find these interesting and as always, if you have others to share, please feel free in the comments section.
In previous posts, I've highlighted how small business growth is alive and well within the state of Massachusetts. According to a recent survey though, women-owned business growth here in the Commonwealth isn't as high as it has been across the rest of the country.FULL ENTRY
Overall this was a very positive week for small businesses, as multiple reports showed that there was job growth as well as optimism amongst owners, while President Obama also signed into law a piece of legislation designed to loosen up funding. Also, I've included a story that follows on Monday's post around healthcare. Finally, Businessweek takes a look at the sometimes risky practice of "self insuring." For any small business owner looking into healthcare options, this story is a must read.FULL ENTRY
It was a very busy week in small business circles, as legislation surrounding the group continues to be debated, including tax cuts and healthcare. It seems that many small businesses, while being the focus of the legislation, are actually torn about the impact it will have on them directly. Another survey came out citing that small businesses rely heavily on referrals to drive business (no surprise there) but aren't leaning on social as much as you might think. Finally, a new trend is cropping up across the country, pop-up restaurants. Hopefully that will give you a little inspiration that while starting a business is hard, there's almost always "another way."FULL ENTRY
In case you haven't noticed, Facebook made some pretty significant changes to their overall look and feel that will impact how brands talk to customers, leverage content and even advertise on the world's largest social network. "Timeline" as it's been called, is rolling out to all Facebook pages on March 29. Some have already made the switch, but the lag between the announcement and roll out gives brands an opportunity to customize pages prior to launch.
The question is, what will you have to do as a small businesses in order to be ready for March 29?
Happiness is a tricky thing to measure. What isn't hard to measure is revenue and the number of customers a business has.
It's even easier when you're a micro business, with less than 10 employees and when every customer counts. While everyone else is apparently worrying about what the pending tax legislation will mean for small businesses, the owners on the ground every day are diligently working to improve their standing in the business community. The good news is, that hard work is clearly paying off.
If you look closely, nearly every social media property plays some form of follow the leader, or at the very least "follow the features." The latest installment of this game happened this week when it was announced that Twitter would be opening up it's advertising platform to small and medium sized merchants, allowing these groups to take advantage of opportunities that only Fortune 500 companies have had in the past year.FULL ENTRY
If you haven't heard, Pinterest is all the rage.
The statistics, depending on what you've read, are staggering. For example, the site received nearly 11 million total visits during the week ending December 17, 2011 and over 420 million pageviews in the United States in the month of October. That's a 2,000 percent increase since June. That's all well and good, but what does it mean for small businesses? It means that as always, a certain number of them will be able to capitalize and take advantage of its features, while others shouldn't bother even looking into it, because it will be a colossal waste of time. It all depends on what business we're talking about and what assets said business has to share.FULL ENTRY
I had the privilege of speaking to a number of small businesses this week at a marketing event held in Lexington. In talking to them about what they were succeeding with, what they needed help with and what the environment was like for small businesses on the whole, a few things stood out. The first was that many are wondering how to use social media effectively, if at all; the second is that many are going back to traditional marketing methods like direct mail; the third was that while search marketing is still as important as ever, many are struggling with how to do it well. As a result, many have turned to outside vendors to do it for them. That can be both beneficial and risky at the same time.FULL ENTRY
When you look back over the past few decades, it's amazing how many products have been phased out or are no longer sold. Fads come and go, technology catches up and makes things obsolete. There is always going to be a "better version" of something that's more popular and pushes the old model out.FULL ENTRY
By now you're probably weary of the coverage of the Republican Presidential nomination race. With the candidates touring through New Hampshire this past month, there's been an increased focus locally on the candidates - what they stand for, where they are in the polls and what they are doing nearly every waking moment. As candidates continue to go state to state, all have made it a point to talk about how they plan on supporting small business owners, but are also physically visiting a number of them along the way. Make no mistake, capitalizing on the "small businesses power the American economy" message isn't a partisan strategy, it's leveraged by all politicians every election cycle.
If you're asking yourself why they do this, the answer is simple: it works.FULL ENTRY
Facebook and Twitter have long been the darlings of the social media world. Pinterest is starting to gain traction, while sharing sites like Tumblr, About.me and others have carved out a specific niche of users. One of the sites that's often left off the list, but shouldn't be, is LinkedIn. That's because for the most part LinkedIn has been looked at as a networking site for consultants and job seekers only. And to some extent, that's true. But did you know that LinkedIn has 135 million members and is adding an average of two new accounts per second?FULL ENTRY
Amazon has always been recognized for customer loyalty, and now it might actually be costing them money. "Amazon Prime," a loyalty program rolled out years ago as a way to encourage more online purchases has been a dramatic success for e-retailer. By paying $79 a year, members get free, fast shipping for all purchases.FULL ENTRY
Families argue, it's just a part of life. When you spend a lot of time together, it's inevitable. But when the families members are operating as part of a small business, the time together is increased, as is the stress, which means the fireworks can really fly.FULL ENTRY
There’s a very famous old saying, written by Mark Twain in his own biography: "There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies and statistics."
We’ve never been more inundated with numbers, data and statistics than we are today. The Internet serves as the perfect vehicle for content, meaning there is more and more reliance on unique data and numbers to stand out. Every few months it seems there is a new survey that comes out, but the topic that has been analyzed and dissected more than any is social media usage. How often small business owners are using social media and what platforms they are using the most is the subject of many surveys. Even I’m guilty of generating social media stats for micro businesses around social media.FULL ENTRY
Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.