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Sunday, August 25, 2013

7 Ways to Improve Your Website's Effectivness


OK, you've spent hundreds, if not thousands of your hard-earned dollars to get that dream website up and running, maybe you've even done it yourself for free, but the results are the same. Little or nothing. How can that be, you wonder? You look at other websites for similar or even identical businesses and you think, Gee, it appears I'm doing everything they"re doing. Or so it seems. And yet YOUR website is floundering. Worse yet, the algorithms that determine where you come up in Searches, are changing all the time. And on top of that there's more and more competition out there. What is one to do?

Well, here's a handy checklist of 7 very important aspects of your website that you need to address. Now.

#1 You need a headline that grabs a viewer's attention the moment they open your site. It needs to tell the viewer what your website is all about.

#2 What is your "Unique Sales Proposition?" WHY what you offer is important to the viewer.

(Example: America's largest selection of left-handed tools)

#3 Calls to Action: You need an attractive "button" strategically located on every page that urges the viewer to "Learn more" " View the catalog" "Schedule an appointment"

#4 Testimonials: People like to see others endorsing you, your company, your products, whatever. And if you have won awards of any type, showing them helps too.

#5 Images or very short videos about your products or services help the viewer decide.

#6 Navigation: Don't make the site complicated. A list of tabs on the left hand side is most common because it has been proven to work well.

#7 Resources: Providing a link to a Resource Center where potential customers can learn more is a critical component of a home page.

There's more to do with a website; there always is. It is an ever-evolving entity that demands your constant attention. Need more help? Come see us at SCORE.
 
 
Marty Kahn, SCORE Counselor
 
 

Marketing Yin and Yang


In Chinese culture Yin and Yang represent two opposite principals. In science we have Cause and Effect, the dominant principle in physics. The nature of Yin and Yang or Cause and Effect is the interplay of the two elements. In marketing we have “Classic” and “Social” media that may be considered in a similar way. It is the intersection or interplay of these two elements that most businesses need to deal with. Getting the most out of these elements is not a matter of right or wrong, but a matter of understanding each and leveraging the interplay.

Do you really know which customer uses what to discover your business and which one uses what to aid decision making? If you know the answers and know which customer you are targeting, you can know how to align your marketing efforts.

In reality both “Classic” and “Social” media play roles in most marketing efforts, they are interdependent and each should point to and cross-lead customers to the other. Print, Radio, TV and other hard copy media should point to on-line media you use, and the on-line media should point to the hard copy as well.

The interplay of these marketing elements lends itself to easier cross-selling with complementary businesses: Business A does the “Classic” while business B does the    “Social”, each pointing to the other. Or Business A focuses on product X and Business B focuses on product Y. This could be another way to leverage your marketing budget.

You could use “Classic” media to make offers that motivate people to sign on to your “Social” media, as a method of getting over the reluctant customer syndrome.

 
Steve Koenig – SCORE Counselor


 

 

 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Selecting a Sales Rep Abroad


This blog deals in what to look for when you identify a rep after short listing the candidates. Future blogs will discuss how that short list can be assembled. Reps get paid a comm. They expect a territory exclusive. Caution is the watchword.

1 What other products does the rep handle? It is almost impossible to know the true answer. IF the rep already works with similar products to your own, it is a sure sign the rep already has contacts in your appropriate trade. That's good. Most reps have many product lines they represent. They may have competitive lines to yours. The best you can hope for is compatibility between you and the rest of his stable. Ex: Toothpaste & your toothbrushes. Obtain full info and pursue due diligence with the reps other product lines.

2 Which line does the largest volume? Yours may be a perfect fit, but will not generate a lot of attention. Care here as the rep may do nothing with yours just to keep it out of his terr. Or, take the line to satisfy a single specific buyer and not bother to expand distribution.

3 Due diligence. The int'l. trade community freely shares info. Even competitors give info on credit, payment habits, organizational terr., etc. Don't be bashful to ask.

4 What is reps financial situation? The rep is YOU in the terr. You should insist on who is their banker. Your banker can obtain all info for you. Poor financial condition can cause losses due to marginal sales made without any regard to customers' payment ability. Adequate rep funding will allow the rep to make with the long view rather than accept immediate deals.

5 Establish a minimum annual sales quota. They will try to weasel out of this. However this is a benchmark that will allow you to extricate yourself from the relationship if that figure is not met. A legal basis for separating is always complex as foreign rules are so complicated. But with an annual quota that allows year-to-year negotiated agreements, overcomes the rigidity of the initial length of the relationship. e-mail me if you need one-on-one support in doing business overseas: hank.samuel2@gmail.com
Hank Samuel
Certified SCORE counselor
SCORE Chapter 412
Boca Raton, So. FL

Monday, August 19, 2013

Life of a Business Plan


When was the last time you reviewed and updated your business plan? Here are a few points to consider:

Write it yourself. You should know all the details.

Think out five or more years. Where do you want the business to go? How do you get it there?

Share the plan and seek inputs from others who can help you get where you want the business to go.

Understand that the plan is just that…a plan, and plans change as circumstances change. So review and update your plan often.

How old is your business plan…ready for a review?

 
Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Organization and Profits


We all know some people (maybe ourselves) who just have a hard time finding things. The keys, cell phone, glasses, wallet, address book, note book, the car, etc.. They spend a significant amount of time searching for things, time that could be put to better use.

Some folks get distracted easier than most. Others may have a difficulty focusing. Some are thinking about a future meeting or event. Some may suffer from some form of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). No matter what the cause, these time-consuming activities could be hurting your business, and may need to be minimized, so this lost time and energy can be put to work on your business issues.

So if this is you or someone who works for you consider this:

Plan and prioritize the activities for each day. Use any and all planning tools you are comfortable with (e.g. mobile calendars, day planners).

Use productivity software wherever possible. A little training time with these tools can be invaluable.

Do not use tools that distract you from your goals. Take control here. Set a goal for the time to be spent on email, returning phone calls, etc.

Keep the office organized. If you can’t do it, find someone who can.

Delegate, delegate, delegate. Your time and energy should not be focused on things others can do. You are an entrepreneur.

How do you handle organization?
 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Technology in your business


What do you know about technology? The more important question may be: What don’t you know about technology?

Clearly technology is a big plus for small business. Can you realistically grow without it? Can you have a competitive advantage without it? Think not only about robotics, your computer and its software, but also about mobile devices like your phone and its software.

Robotics tend to move things under some control element, hardware or software, like moving products from point A to point B.

Your computer may be handling your books and monitoring cash flow, inventory or security. You may use it for email, web browsing and other social media purposes as well.

Your phone or other mobile device may be an access point for voice communication and social media as well.

By the way…what are you using to read this?

Small business owners need to know about many things to be successful. In addition to knowing the products, marketing, sales, service, product and people management, cash flow, law and technology are on this list. If you lack the needed knowledge yourself, it is important to acquire it through others. One of the keys to success is knowing when to develop it and when to acquire it, or knowing what you don’t know.

In the case of the ever changing world of technology, knowledge is king. Acquiring enough knowledge to make intelligent decisions is critical. Dedicate time each week for you and/or your employees to learn how to better leverage the technologies you have and what new technologies are available.

So, here are a few ways to acquire and maintain the knowledge:

A. Sign up for online courses

B  Attend technology events at a local chamber, SCORE Chapter or other professional organization

C. Read information about technologies that can help your business.

D Hire a trainer or training organization

Remember this is a continuing process, not a one time event. Advanced courses can help you get more from the technology you already have.

Keep in mind that security is key to all technologies. You can’t be expert in all things however, so knowing when to call in the experts is important. Network and infrastructure security are among those areas that require continuous monitoring.

Are you on top of technologies for your business?

 
Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Got Insurance?


Do you have enough insurance? Are you over insured?

Here are a few tips:

Assess your needs. Property. Inventory and Casualty coverage is only the start. Think beyond this limitation. What about Business Interruption coverage? When a storm shuts your business down, you still need to keep the revenue flowing.  Product Liability coverage, particularly if it is your product? Are you covered for employee related issues?

Check with a number of Insurance Agents and ask for a risk evaluation. They can help you decide on the appropriate coverage.

Check on the viability of any potential insurance provider. You want to be sure they will be around to help when needed. Ask others about experiences. Check for ratings with A. M. Best, they rate insurers. And recheck this periodically.

As your business grows, be sure to keep your insurance coverage current.

 
Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tax issues on Travel Expenses


Tax law allows you to deduct two types of travel expenses related to your business, local and what the IRS calls "away from home".

First, local travel expenses. You can deduct local transportation expenses incurred for business purposes, for example the cost of getting from one location to another via public transportation, rental car, or your own automobile. Meals and incidentals are not deductible as travel expenses, although as you will read later in this guide, you can deduct meals as an entertainment expense as long as certain conditions are met.

Second, you can deduct away from home travel expenses-including meals and incidentals; however, if your employer reimburses your travel expenses, your deductions are limited.

Local Transportation Costs

The cost of local business transportation includes rail fare and bus fare, as well as the costs of using and maintaining an automobile used for business purposes. For those whose main place of business is their personal residence, business trips from the home office and back are considered deductible transportation and not non-deductible commuting. You generally cannot deduct lodging and meals unless you stay away overnight. Meals may be partially deductible as an entertainment expense.

Away From-Home Travel Expenses

You can deduct one-half of the cost of meals (50%) and all of the expenses of lodging incurred while traveling away from home. The IRS also allows you to deduct 100% of your transportation expenses--as long as business is the primary reason for your trip.

Here's a list of some deductible away-from-home travel expenses:

Meals (limited to 50%) and lodging while traveling or once you get to your away-from-home business destination.
The cost of having your clothes cleaned and pressed away from home.
Costs for telephone, fax or modem usage.
Costs for secretarial services away-from-home.
The costs of transportation between job sites or to and from hotels and terminals.
Airfare, bus fare, rail fare, and charges related to shipping baggage or taking it with you.
The cost of bringing or sending samples or displays, and of renting sample display rooms.
The costs of keeping and operating a car, including garaging costs.
The cost of keeping and operating an airplane, including hangar costs.
Transportation costs between "temporary" job sites and hotels and restaurants.
Incidentals, including computer rentals, stenographers' fees.
Tips related to the above.

Entertainment Expenses

There are limits and restrictions on deducting meal and entertainment expenses. Most are deductible at 50%, but there are a few exceptions. Meals and entertainment must be "ordinary and necessary" and not "lavish or extravagant" and directly related to or associated with your business. They must also be substantiated (see below).
Your home is considered a place conducive to business. As such, entertaining at home may be deductible providing there was business intent and business was discussed. The amount of time that business was discussed does not matter.
Reasonable costs for food and refreshments for year-end parties for employees, as well as sales seminars and presentations held at your home are 100% deductible.
If you rent a skybox or other private luxury box for more than one event, say for the season, at the same sports arena, you generally cannot deduct more than the price of a non-luxury box seat ticket. Count each game or other performance as one event. Deduction for those seats is then subject to the 50% entertainment expense limit.
If expenses for food and beverages are separately stated, you can deduct these expenses in addition to the amounts allowable for the skybox, subject to the requirements and limits that apply. The amounts separately stated for food and beverages must be reasonable.
Deductions are disallowed for depreciation and upkeep of "entertainment facilities" such as yachts, hunting lodges, fishing camps, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Costs of entertainment provided at such facilities are deductible subject to entertainment expense limitations.
Dues paid to country clubs or to social or golf and athletic clubs however, are not deductible. Dues that you pay to professional and civic organizations are deductible as long as your membership has a business purpose. Such organizations include business leagues, trade associations, chambers of commerce, boards of trade, and real estate boards.

Tip: To avoid problems qualifying for a deduction for dues paid to professional or civic organizations, document the business reasons for the membership, the contacts you make and any income generated from the membership.

Entertainment costs, taxes, tips, cover charges, room rentals, maids and waiters are all subject to the 50% limit on entertainment deductions.

How Do You Prove Expenses Are "Directly Related"?

Expenses are directly related if you can show:
There was more than a general expectation of gaining some business benefit other than goodwill.
You conducted business during the entertainment.
Active conduct of business was your main purpose.
Record-keeping and Substantiation Requirements
Tax law requires you to keep records that will prove the business purpose and amounts of your business travel, entertainment, and local transportation costs. For example, each expense for lodging away from home that is $75 or more must be supported by receipts. The receipt must show the amount, date, place, and type of the expense.
The most frequent reason that the IRS disallows travel and entertainment expenses is failure to show the place and business purpose of an item. Therefore, pay special attention to these aspects of your record-keeping.
Keeping a diary or log book--and recording your business-related activities at or close to the time the expense is incurred--is one of the best ways to document your business expenses.

If you need help documenting business travel and entertainment expenses, don't hesitate to call us. We'll help you set up a system that works for you--and satisfies IRS record-keeping requirements.


Barry Eisenberg, SCORE Counselor, email: barrye003@aol.com


 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Lynn University & SCORE South Palm Beach


SOUTH PALM BEACH SCORE AND LYNN UNIVERSITY TEAM UP TO ASSIST ENTREPRENEURS SEEKING BA AND MBA DEGREES

 
Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida (home of the last Presidential debate) and South Palm Beach SCORE, have teamed up to offer South Palm Beach SCORE clients (and eligible family members) “education benefits” at the University’s School of Business. Qualified applicants are eligible for a waived application fee and a 20% tuition discount on any evening undergraduate or graduate degree from Lynn (including MBA).

“This generous act by Lynn University can have a profound effect on the careers of these savvy entrepreneurs”, stated South Palm Beach SCORE Chairman Hal Finkelstein.

And eligible immediate family members can enjoy benefits too, with a 10% discount on the evening undergrad or graduate program of their choice. With degree tuition fees ranging from $19,500.00 to $23,040.00 eligible applicants will see savings of $3900.00 to $4600.00. Courses are typically completed within 12 months, but may run 18-24 months, and are held online or on campus in Boca Raton, Florida.


Ø     Eligible family members as mentioned above include spouse or legal domestic partner and adult dependents over the age of 19.

Ø     Eligible family members will receive a ten (10) percent tuition discount for eligible programs.

Ø     Eligible programs include all graduate and evening programs.

Ø     This program cannot be combined with other discounts.

Ø     Traditional Day Undergraduate students are not eligible for this program.


Lynn University and South Palm Beach SCORE, in their sole discretion either together or separately, reserves the right to make changes in tuition, program, costs, curriculum, regulations, eligibility, program dates and to make additional charges for special features and services whenever such actions are deemed appropriate. 

For further information and eligibility requirements Interested applicants may contact Chairman Finkelstein at hal.finkelstein@scorevolunteer.org or call 561-981-5180.

One of the current requirements for South Palm Beach SCORE clients to be eligible, they must have at least 3 mentoring sessions with the chapter since 2012, the sessions could be online, via SKYPE, email or face to face

Lean and Mean

 
Not having as much capital as you would like is an excuse we hear from entrepreneurs all the time. “If only I had more money, I know my business would be doing better than it is”. Sorry, people, that really doesn’t hold water. Here’s why:

Many small business owners use the lack of capital  as an excuse for not REALLY knowing what it takes to succeed, to getting more sales, making more profits, satisfying more customers. The real answer is that if your business fundamentals aren’t all lined up, having more capital will only create the same, unsatisfactory result, just more expensively, or even worse, provide a little better results and conceal the real problems.

The real answer, especially in a difficult business environment that only now, slowly is recovering, is: Review every person, every step in the operations of your business, from how you get prospects (do you REALLY know), how you deal with your customers, how you (efficiently) maintain the operational aspects. What you’re searching for is avoiding wasteful redundancies, unnecessary expenses, ineffective people, and instead, becoming Lean and Mean.

At the end of the day you will have an operation that runs like a Swiss watch, and we all know how efficient they are!

 

Martin Kahn, Certified SCORE Mentor
 
 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

This BLOG


This BLOG is brought to you by SCORE, South Palm Beach Chapter.

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Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor