Author: Emad Hanna

Social Media Small Biz Power

Social media can be a great budget-friendly alternative to buying an expensive website and in today’s market can actually be more effective. But, what’s the best way to hop on the social media bandwagon? Here are a few quick tips to help you get started.

Social Media Keyboard Small Business

Sign up on a social media website

Before you can do anything else, you must first become a member of some form of social media. There are many, many options, and you can start with just one, or you can sign up for them all. But be careful not to sign up for more than you can handle. You don’t want to join too many websites and forget to keep your accounts up-to-date. Facebook and Twitter are great options, or you can use Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn. The choice is yours.

 

Think about your customers

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with #1, depending on who your customers are or who you are trying to reach. For example, if you’re looking to attract teenagers, sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are great options. If you’re looking to attract a more professional crowd, try LinkedIn.

 

Hire someone to manage your account

Especially if you’re new to the social media world, it’s probably not going to be the easiest thing to handle on top of running your business. Hire someone to set up your pages, request friends, find followers, etc. Or, if you don’t want to hire on an extra person to do the work, you can sing up for sites such as Ping.fm and HootSuite that allow you to manage all of your accounts from one website and schedule messages to appear to your friends and followers at times that you designate. Some sites even offer analytic tools so that you can keep track of what’s working and what’s not.

 

Keep your content up-to-date

If you forget to post something for a couple of days, it’s no big deal. But, if you start regularly forgetting to list your new products or promote your new sales, your social media account isn’t going to do much good. In fact, it might even harm your business. If potential customers log in to browse your site and see that you haven’t updated in months, they’re likely to search for a similar business with more up-to-date information.

How to Create a Company Culture for Your Small Business

We normally think of company culture in terms of larger companies, but it can be just as important for your small business as well. And don’t worry; you won’t have to break the bank!

company culture smiling faces employees

What is company culture?

If you aren’t familiar with the term, company culture can be thought of as your business’s personality. Your company’s culture plays a role in determining how you, your employees and your customers perceive your business. A good company culture will sustain an atmosphere that encourages employees to come to work and enjoy the time spent. However, a poor company culture can be detrimental as your employees will not likely wish to continue to work in a negative environment.

 

How do I create my company culture?

The first thing that comes to mind for employers looking to create a better work environment is amenities. While food and drinks are important in creating a happy work environment, they surely aren’t everything, and they don’t have to be expensive. Coffee is a staple in most offices, and small snacks here and there don’t have to cost you a fortune. What’s more important is how you present yourself to and interact with your employees.

 

Workers thrive in an environment with a supportive, caring employer. If you are always negative and looking for something to criticize, your employees will likely avoid you and dread the days that you stay in the office. Instead, give helpful suggestions and constructive criticism. But be careful; this doesn’t mean that you should be lax with your rules or let your employees get away with murder. You should always be respected by your employees as their boss.

company culture word cloud friendly relaxed dynamic openHiring to fit your company culture

Which of your current employees would you consider your top-performer, and why? What makes him or her successful? Why can you not afford to lose that person? Write down your responses to these questions and review them carefully. This is the type of personality you’re looking for when hiring new employees. Your newly-hired employees should add to, or at least sustain your company culture, not detract from it.

 

And finally, consider drafting a mission statement for your company. Most large, successful businesses have a mission statement in place that serves as the company’s guideline. Your mission statement outlines who you are as a company, your business focus, your company policies and values, etc. But this is not something that can or should be drafted up in ten minutes. Think carefully about what you want this mission to portray, jot down some ideas, and go from there.

3 No-Brainers for Cutting Your Business Costs

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the cost of running your business? There are many ways that you can cut cost without sacrificing quality. Here are a few quick tips that you may not have considered in the past.

Use the Internet for free advertisement

In this day, it is nearly impossible to run a business without using the Internet in some form or fashion. However, owning your own website can be expensive. After paying for a creative, professional web design, hosting and other associated fees, you can start feeling a bit discouraged. But take heart, it doesn’t have to be so expensive! Try using sites such as WordPress that offer easy-to-maneuver templates for a one-time fee along with a cheap monthly hosting bill from partners such as GoDaddy.com. Or, if you don’t want the hassle of a website, try using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Believe it or not, these can be just as, if not more, effective than professional .com websites!

 

Get rid of the office bill

This may or may not be an option for your business, but think about it if you believe it may be a reasonable possibility. Many successful businesses can be run from home or from very small office suites. If you spend most of your time on the phone or the computer, would an in-home office be just as effective as paying monthly rent in the local shopping center?

 

Be smart about buying your office supplies

Some office supplies may not appear too expensive when buying them one-by-one, but the cost does add up over time. Printer cartridges, for example, can be an expensive investment. Try searching Google for a supplier of recycled printer cartridges. And computer software programs can be even more expensive! Check out Download.com to browse the hundreds of freeware, free trial, and limited version options available. This option may not work if your business requires all the features of some of these programs, but it’s worth checking in to. And finally, electronic equipment doesn’t have to be so costly. Instead of buying brand new equipment from your local Office Depot or Best Buy, try searching online for used products. A little known secret: when manufacturers resell previously used products, they must physically test each item before it is resold, unlike brand new merchandise which is often machine-tested and not checked for small glitches. Plus, you save tons of cash!

Hiring Freelancers to Help Your Business

What is a freelance worker?

Individuals can choose to become freelancers for a variety of reasons. Maybe they work as full-time freelancers, or maybe they’re just trying to earn some extra cash on the side. Maybe they’re stay-at-home parents looking to earn some additional income to support a family. Maybe they’re in-between jobs. No matter the reason, freelance workers can be beneficial for almost any company. And a survey done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2005 reported that independent contractors made up approximately 7.5% of the U.S. labor force.

Types of freelance workers

Independent contractors: The job description of these workers is defined by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as follows: “A general rule is that you, the payer, have the right to control or direct only the result of the work done by an independent contractor, and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result.” In sum, you pay them to complete a specific job function and they choose how they would like to go about it.

Help Agency Workers: These freelance workers are typically classified as temporary and are paid by a help agency.

On-Call Workers: The BLS defines these freelancers as “workers called to work only as needed, although they can be scheduled to work for several days or weeks in a row.”

Contract Firm-Provided Workers: The BLS defines these individuals as “workers employed by a company that provides them or their services to others under contract and who are usually assigned to only one customer and usually work at the customer’s worksite.”

 

What do freelance workers do?

Some businesses choose to hire freelance workers to complete projects that don’t necessarily merit the work of a full-time employee. These types of projects may include something long-term, or they may be geared more toward a labor-oriented task. Common types of freelance work include blog writing, web design, computer programming, office administration and consulting.

 

How do you hire a freelance worker?

Before you dive into hiring a freelance worker, you need to be familiar with the field and have a specific idea of the type of person you are looking for. Although you aren’t hiring a full-time employee, you still want to be sure that the job you are requesting is done as you would expect. If you know people who may be in-between jobs, see if they would be interested in doing some freelance work for your company. But, be careful when hiring relatives or close friends as these relationships can cloud your judgment and sometimes hurt your business. If you are not comfortable hiring a person whom you already know, there are many websites that allow companies to post jobs and freelancers to apply for them. Examples of such websites include FreelancerRatings.com, Elance.com and iFreelance.com.

 

Don’t forget to draw up a contract

Even though this is not a permanent employee, the contract between the freelance worker and company is very valuable. The contract must describe, in specific detail, the job that you are hiring the freelance worker to complete. Also, if this person is providing you with an item of their own creation, be sure to specify who owns the rights to this product upon its completion.

How to Hire Your Sales Superstar

Hiring a new employee can be tough in any industry. But, hiring the right person in retail/sales settings can be especially stressful. This person is responsible for driving up your revenue, so he or she will have the capacity to make or break your business, to an extent. Here are some quick tips that will guide you in hiring the right salesperson to foster a successful environment.

Dwight Schrute the office sales superstar

As a business owner, you already have a full plate in front of you. You have to be business savvy, know your market, and keep track of everything that goes along with it. Adding the responsibilities of profiling customers, marketing and selling products, creating pricing tiers and actually making the sale would make your job next to impossible. So, it’s important to hire someone you trust to take those responsibilities off your hands.

Make sure you’re specific about the job requirements. Don’t leave any room for guessing. Also, be sure you don’t have any typos or grammatical errors in your job posting as this tends to turn off experienced, educated, knowledgeable salespeople.

Ask open-ended questions. When your questions are broad rather than simple “yes or no” questions, it forces the interviewee to think on his or her feet. And, since it’s unlikely that they will have a planned answer for every single open-ended question you ask, it’s more likely that you will get their honest answer. For example, if you want to gauge their success at closing a sale, don’t simply ask, “How often do you try to close on a deal?” as their answer will surely be, “Every time.” Instead, ask “During an appointment with a potential client, what is your normal plan of action?” Be sure to pay close attention and take notes on their answer. Or, even bring in a small recording device so that you can review the interview at a later date.

It’s okay to be a little bit shallow. Everyone likes to say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but in reality, everyone does it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to hire your most attractive candidate, but you do want to be sure to hire someone who will be well-groomed and present themselves in a professional manner. After all, this is who your customers are going to be interacting with. Put yourself in the client’s shoes and decide whether or not, at first glance, you would be interested in talking to or buying from that person.our sales team cartoon holding up a sign

And finally, if you think you’ve found the right person, be sure to sell yourself! In today’s market, highly successful salespeople aren’t going to interview at just one place. And if you want to hire him or her, it is likely that another company does as well. Be sure to make the salesperson understand what your business is all about, and sell the best aspects of your company.

Myths about Small Businesses

If you own or are looking to start up your own small business, you’ve probably already heard your fair share of myths about the small business world. These urban legends can be disheartening and negatively affect the potential for your small business’s success. They can lead you to make wrong or rash decisions and diminish the credibility of your company. While there are many to choose from, here is a list of the top 3 most commonly heard myths regarding small businesses.

 

Myth 1: I can start by business and receive a loan without putting down any money up-frontLoan money bag

Reality: If you’re not going to put down money, you’re going to have to put up capital (i.e. your property), and the normal amount is somewhere in the neighborhood of 25%. Additionally, business owners who invest money in their company up-front are more likely to feel as though they have more at stake and, as such, are willing to work harder to keep their business afloat. Also, lenders will ask you to propose your realistic cash flow projection to show how you are planning to repay your loan. This brings me to the second small business myth.

 

Myth 2: If I have a plan in mind, there is no need to write up an official business plan.

Business plan chalkboard

Reality: No matter how smart you are or how good your memory is, this is never going to be a viable option. Without taking the time to sit down and write out your business plan, you are liable to omit important information that will, sooner or later, result in massive damage to your company. Laying out a foundation that includes your marketing strategies, funding options, organizational structure and anticipated revenue is not optional. And, drawing back to myth 1, if you are planning to receive a loan, lenders are undoubtedly going to require this information before investing in your business venture.

 

 

Myth 3: If my business is going to be a success, I need to buy an office before I get started.

office conference table window view london

Reality: Many successful business owners either started or continue to work from home. It is not necessary to start your business in a huge, high rise office suite downtown. The less overhead you have to dish out, the better, regardless of whether it is coming out of your pocket or someone else’s. If possible, start your business from home. Later on down the road, you can decide if it is a good idea to expand into an office building or a free-standing suite.

 

Keep in mind that this is not a compilation of all of the false myths surrounding small businesses. There are many other myths that could harm your endeavor, so keep an eye out for false claims and be careful about what advice you take to heart and from whom that advice stems.

Advertising your business on a small budget

Many small business owners are always looking for ways to stretch their advertising dollars.  And depending on your area of industry, this can often prove to be a bit of a challenge.  Luckily, we now live in the age of social media and the Internet, so marketing your business is often much more affordable than those older practices of flyers and newspaper advertisements.

Pay Per Click

 First of all, any business owner, small or large, needs to have a professional website today in order to remain competitive.  But attracting large amounts of traffic to your site is often where we need some help.  Cost Per Click and Pay Per Click marketing is a great way to spend only what you can afford.  This is a method of getting your link “special treatment” with the search engines.  You pay them to highlight your company website at the top of the page. But you only pay if someone clicks on the link!  Cost Per Click can cost only fractions of a penny, depending on your choices of keywords, the times of day that you choose to advertise, and other contributing factors.


Email Marketing Campaigns

 Email marketing is a great way for small businesses to remain in contact with their existing and potentially interested customers.  In the early days of the Internet, many of these strategies proved rather unsuccessful as emails would get lost in the recipients’ spam folders.  But today, there are some very affordable email advertising software and autoresponder programs that can guarantee a 99.9% deliverability rating.  Use your emails to offer discounts and promotional items, or market your business by giving away free tips and advice to keep your clients interested and engaged.

 

Social Media

 Social media is here to stay.  And best of all, these sites are FREE!  Facebook and Twitter are the most popular, but don’t discount other sites like LinkedIn and Instagram.  LinkedIn is great for developing Business to Business connections, improving your brand name recognition, and building a network of like-minded professionals in your industry.  Instagram is a social media site based around the use of pretty pictures rather than text posts.  This might be the perfect choice of small business advertising if you want to show off some of your past projects.

 

Give Your Business a Makeover

Makeover

 

Want to give your business a makeover, but don’t know where to start?

Before you begin revamping your business, decide what it is you’re trying to achieve. Do you want to change your overall image to attract specific types of customers? What types of customers are you trying to attract, and what sort of image would best draw them in? Do you want to adjust your prices in order to keep up with your competition? If so, what is the average price in your community for the type of merchandise you are marketing? Can you still make a substantial profit if you decrease your price to meet the lowest price in your market?

Next, assess the current state of your business. What does your image say about your company? Check the designs on your flyers, posters, business cards, web page, etc. If you were a consumer, would you want to do business with your company?

Once you have decided what type of image you want your company to portray, it’s time to get to work! Enlist the help of other businesses or your own employees to design modern marketing materials. Vamp up your web design, your logo, your stationary and your business cards. Does your physical office-space need to be renovated as well? Choose a style that fits the vibe you would like your customers to feel upon entering your business. Check out some design websites or magazines to get a feel for what you like, and have fun with it!

Finally, direct your attention toward your employees. Is your staff educated on your business and products? Do they effectively communicate to your customers why they should choose to do business with your company or why they should choose your products over those from other local stores? Also, do they look the part? If your front-desk employees show up for work looking unkempt, no matter how much effort you put into your office renovation, they will still be the first person your customers lay eyes on. So, are your workers fitting into the vision that you have for the future of your business? If not, consider sitting down to talk with them about the image you would like to portray and ask that they comply with some new guidelines that you will put forth for all of your employees.

And try not to stress too much about your business makeover. Renovating should be a fun and exciting time! Think of this as a time for a fresh start! And remember, if possible, to take it slow. As we all know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Big City, Small Business – How to Stand Out

As a small business owner, you sometimes may feel like you have to work twice as hard for the kind of result a larger business gets instantly. We know that struggle. If you own a SaaS business like us, you know there are difficulties around carving space in a crowded market, and these difficulties only increase when you’re trying to attract local clientele.

CyberStockroom has gathered our best tips for how to stand out in a local crowd. How many of these have you mastered?

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Make Connections

You’ve heard it before: “It’s all about who you know.” Partner with local businesses to get your name out there. Hand out business cards, give away coupons, pass out fliers, and, most importantly, make friends with well-known companies. If you’re running a new restaurant in a big city, network with some of the local bakeries or clothing stores. Ask them if you can leave business cards or coupons at their checkout counter as gifts to their customers. It brings them business by giving them something free to give away, and it brings your business traffic by getting your name out there in the community.

 

Utilize the Internet

Make Facebook your best friend. In this day and time, it is one of the best marketing tools out there for new businesses. Create a Facebook page, and invite all of your friends to “Like” and “Share” it. Use it to post pictures of your new merchandise, advertise promotions and sales and offer special coupons to your “Facebook Fans.”

 

Be open during peak hours

Let’s say you own a gym. Unless you’re running a specialized gym geared toward specific classes or personal training, it’s likely that you’ll be competing against larger gyms that are open 24/7. That said, having your gym open from 9-5 isn’t going to be your best option. If running a 24-hour gym isn’t an option, hire staff members that are willing to come in at 5am, and hire others that are willing to stay until midnight. If you want a shot at competing with the big boys, you’re going to have to go the extra mile.

 

Market Your strengths

If your price is better than your competitor, get the news out there! If your products are handmade, whereas your competitors are made in a factory, make sure everyone knows it! As explained in #2, the Internet is going to be your best friend here. Also, word-of-mouth does wonders for small businesses! Spread the news to some of your gossip-loving friends, and your news will spread like wildfire.

 

Be active in the community

This one is self-explanatory. Attend as many community events as possible and market your business, your products and yourself. If people like you, they’ll buy from you.

Your Guide to a Successful Summer Sale

Want to run a special sale for the summertime, but can’t come up with any creative ideas? Here’s a list of just a few options that don’t force you to break the bank!

Summer

Come up with a catchy Theme

Summer is known for so many things! Road trips, sweet treats, travel, beaches, nostalgia, the list goes on and on. Grasp on to one of these concepts and create a themed sale. Let’s use the nostalgia theme, for example. Market your sale prices as a “throwback” to when the products were less expensive. Or, say you decide to go with the road trip theme. Get creative and decorate your business with displays that highlight your favorite road trip destinations to create a fun atmosphere!

Giveaways

You may think that this option is more suited for an established, financially stable company, but possibilities abound. For every purchase made at your store during the promotional period that you choose, have your customers put their name into a drawing for some kind of a giveaway. Prizes can be large or small, depending on how much money you are willing and able to invest. They can range anywhere from a summer getaway trip to a free ice cream from your local ice cream shop. Check around with your local stores and see who would be willing to participate in merchandise giveaways!

Get out in the Community

Summer is the time for family trips to the pool, little league baseball and picnics in the park. Head out to your community’s favorite summer hotspots and network! Bring along fliers, business cards, coupons, free gifts, samples, etc. to market your business.

Have a Holiday Celebration

National Ice Cream Day, National Siblings Day, National Cousins Day, Fudge Day, etc. Any one of these could make for a great sale opportunity! On National Ice Cream Day, give out coupons to your local ice cream shop (or, if you are the local ice cream shop, offer free cones to your first 25 customers!). If you own a restaurant, on National Sibling/Cousin day, let one sibling/cousin eat free. You get the idea.

No matter which direction you decide to go, there are tons of options for hosting a great summer sale!