Sticking with the bootstrapping theme, for small business software, get only what you need when you need it. To start, an essential software that most, if not all, businesses will need include an productivity suite such as Microsoft's Office XP or Sun's StarOffice. These suites provide you with the fundamentals: word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing applications. Other essentials include security, accounting, contact management, and file back up applications. The following sections describes important software considerations. Security Software You must protect your PC and network from various threats, including viruses, Trojans, worms, and other menaces. Well-known security applications, such as Symantec and McAfee, include firewalls to protect from unwanted intrusions, and virus scanning. Accounting If you prefer to do your accounting on computer, which I highly recommend for its efficiency and effectiveness, get an accounting program that lets you manage your books, bills, invoices, taxes, and bank accounts. Popular programs include Intuit's Quickbooks and Peachtree Accounting. Word Processing A word processing program is essential for your documents including proposals, customer letters, reports, etc. Good software programs in this category include Microsoft Word, Corel's WordPerfect, and Sun's Star Office Writer.
Posted on February 18

If you know how to build a web site, you probably can save a bundle on your small business web hosting solution. However, if you don't, there are many great small business web hosting solutions out there that fits your needs. No matter what your abilities, there are solutions out there that will quickly and effectively get your business online. If you're just a beginner, Yahoo! offers a small business web hosting solution that gives you a detailed step by step process to put your products online. They also offer your visitors the option of paying by credit card to pay for your products. The downside to this is that it can be a little pricey. However, the integrated package that Yahoo! offers is something to seriously explore for your business's needs. If you're experienced, you can save a bundle on your expenses by doing everything yourself. Although you will not have everything integrated, you can reduce are cost substantially. You'll need to buy a web host such as one from Go Daddy, use a shopping cart software (osCommerce offers a free one), and get a merchant service that offers credit card processing from your website.
Posted on February 18

If you never had any experience building web site, don't worry about it. You are 99% as qualified as other "professional" website designers. The fact is that most of these designers don't know how to attract visitors to their website. They design sites that look pleasing to them. Then they require you to pay a humongous investment for something that totally doesn't work. Too bad there are no permits required to sell web site design services. Most of these designers wouldn't pass the test. To build quality website that attracts visitors, understand how search engines work. Search engines are the primary traffic generation tool for almost all businesses online. With search engines, you will get free and targeted traffic. Then the key is to build a web site that is a search engine friendly. And how do you build a web site that is search engine friendly? Start with content. Search engines want to find the most qualified web site for the user. When users go on search engines, they search for information. If you build a web site that provides quality information, your site will be indexed higher on search engines. Thus, your website will generate more traffic. Then you'll have the opportunity to sell more of your services or products.
Posted on February 18

What's wrong with business industry marketing these days? Answer this and you'll have a better idea. What if you stuck a purple cow in the middle of a million black-and-white cows? Chances are you could spot it, and you'd be talking to your friends about it. No only that, but your friends would be talking to their friends about it too. It's something author Seth Godin learned when he traveled to France. Looking at the group of cows, everything looked the same; everything bored him. It's no wonder most people view businesses in such a way too. Business Industry Marketing Sucks Few people pay attention to black-and-white cows because it's all the same. It's been done. And if it hasn't caught their attention before, what makes you think it'll catch it this time? It probably won't. The better approach is to do something unordinary. People love surprises because their lives are already filled with the same corporate marketing crap everyday. The same tired marketing campaign signals boringness. People want passion. They want excitement. They don't buy products for what it does. People buy products for how it makes them feel. What emotions does your brand bring out from people? If that emotion doesn't excite you, it's time for a company makeover. To just do well in business, be boring. But to excel, be remarkable. Be a purple cow. Fo Shizzle My Bizo Do something that scares your business marketing industry. Purple-ize it. When that's done, scare it again. Repeat.
Posted on February 18

Using guerilla marketing tactics offers companies with low marketing budgets several ways to market their products and services.

It's an unconventional approach that's perfect for small businesses, and gives you an equal marketing playing field with big companies.

Author Jay Conrad Levinson notes small businesses must use this approach because their resources can't compete with those of larger competitors.

Guerilla marketing include:

  • word of mouth campaign
  • writing personal letters
  • getting advertisements in the Yellow Pages
  • holding personal meetings
  • promotional brochures distributed at parking lots, homes, offices, malls, etc.
  • buying classified ads
  • buying ads in local community newspapers
  • using direct mail campaigns
  • holding seminars, lectures, and demonstrations

Guerilla marketing techniques that build relationships with your customers will take your company from a startup phase to an established company.

Posted on February 18

Want to improve your marketing item? First, think of a car commercial. Immediately, what comes to mind? For most people, it's just another car model roaming a road somewhere in the desert. Tell us again, what company does this? That's right; we can't name just one, ourselves. Marketing for the American car industry sucks. It has an affinity for creating campaigns that seem ridiculously identical -- campaigns that nobody ever remembers. Never mind that your competitor is doing the exact same thing. Never mind that research tells you sameness never, ever, works. Because you've been doing the same commercial all along, it must be okay to film a car roaming the desert -- right? Probably not. That's why GM and Ford are junk stocks. It seems impossible to distinguish those companies from all of the same, lame, messages that they send. Chant with us: Marketing never works if your viewers can't recall your commercials. Repeat. (Now, we're not saying the marketing item itself doomed these companies. We're just highlighting the consistently inept business decisions that leaders of these companies make.) To understand effective marketing, take a look at Apple. It's unique, fresh, and elicits emotions the company wants to bring out in people. If you take out the Apple symbol on Apple laptops, would you still immediately know whose product it is? Probably. That's the magic of effective marketing. Be different. Stand out. Go against status quo. Your bottom line will thank you. Fo Shizzle My Bizo Take out your marketing items, such as an ad. Remove your company name and logo from it. With this, can people recall with certainty this ad belongs to you? If it can't, it's time to unleash a brand makeover.
Posted on February 18

Finding a marketing lead becomes simple if you know where to look. The problem, though, is where do you look? Here are some ways. Personal friends, family, co-workers, etc. These people know you. Each also knows several hundreds. The easiest and quickest way to get a marketing lead is through your personal acquaintances. Ask them for referrals, and reward them with a finder's fee. Look to customers Build a solid relationship with your customer, and they'll reward you through free word-of-mouth advertising. The psychological effect of a friend referring their friends to you gives you a great marketing advantage. Have business cards on hand We constantly meet people at coffee houses or bookstores, and it's a great way to start a relationship with a potential customer. It's a perfect opportunity, with your business card, to tell them that you want to meet again. Provide an informational website People love information. Satisfy their needs with an information-packed website to let them about your topic. Then have a way for your customer to contact you. Give something for free Whether you hand out free information, tapes, or promotional gifts, potential customers will reward you with an open mind when you market to them. Use trade shows effectively People at trade shows are usually in a buying mood. If you're selling items below $100, it's a great selling opportunity. But if you're a service business, or selling products at the higher end, trade shows can generate several leads.
Posted on February 18

Most people understand marketing, but never have a marketing program in place to measure its effectiveness. You'll learn that as you get further along your business, quantifying results is essential to your success. If you don't know the numbers game, you'll have no way of seeing how you can improve your business. You'll need numbers to to modify existing programs and eliminate things that don't work. Take a look at this analogy to understand why having a marketing program is important. If you were coaching a basketball team, and you wanted to improve your team, you'd have to look at your team's stats, wouldn't you? You will have to look at the stats of each player, such as their shooting percentage, their assists, their points per 48 minutes. Just putting in any five random players on your team wouldn't make your team the most effective. You'll have to know how each is precisely contributing to get the most out of your team. It's the same way with approaching your marketing strategy. Without being able to look at the statistics of your marketing techniques, you wouldn't be able to get the most out of your company. How do you develop a marketing program? As customers respond to a form you have for them, ask them where they found your business. It's a simply question that they'll be sure to answer for you. If you have a website, ask the question on your web form. The responses you'll get will be essential to looking at the effectiveness of your ROI on your different marketing techniques. Another method starts by looking at Jay Conrad Levinson's 100 marketing weapons. Pick one of his weapon for a month. Now, for only the next month, use it. Then quantify the results. How much more revenues are you bringing in? The next month in your marketing program, you'll begin with another weapon. Remember, all businesses aren't built the same, and it takes the ability to test and experiment a variety of weapons to make sure you're doing your best to find out the best marketing technique for your business.
Posted on February 18

Few small businesses use their marketing strategy effectively. Granted, we're a bunch of entrepreneurs who focus on our great product. Yet, we never concentrate on marketing it. When all is said and done, marketing will be the most important tool you can do for your business. An effective marketing strategy can bring in more revenues than a well-handcrafted product. [Now, don't get me wrong. You shouldn't be shortchanging your product. Good marketing can bring people into the door, but a great product makes sure they stay with you as a customer.] Most entrepreneurs first build the product, and then wait for a mass of customers to come. Usually, the "build and they will come" mentality rarely works. Marketing, like all things, has a gradual step to it. You won't be able to market your product to the mass market, and have them coming in droves to your company. A good entrepreneur with an effective marketing strategy understands the bell curve model. You can't attract the masses just yet, you'll have to bring in those inital few customers first. Only then will you be able to reach the masses. Patience is absolutely essential. How do you start a marketing strategy? Before marketing to those first few customers at the start of the bell curve, you'll need to get your marketing foundation intact. Of course you can skip this part and head straight to marketing methods, but you'll accelerate your marketing efforts quicker if you build a strong foundation first. What's involved in the foundation? First, think about marketing to yourself. You could create a customer profile, but it'll be futile because you never know if it's right. You'll have a much better standard if you market to your own needs and aspirations. If you want to market to somebody outside of your needs, do yourself a favor and hire somebody that fits that profile. Or get in touch with a targeted customer, and find out their exact needs. Your marketing will be much better as a result. Then begin the branding stage for your marketing strategy. Find out the essence of your company. Why does your company exist? What aspirations do you have for it? What message do you want to give to the world? Once you can answer these questions, it's time to put a face on your company. Give it a name. Then illustrate your company. Create a corporate identity. Create colors that matches your company's essence (read more about colors in this article). What emotions do you want to bring out in people? Capture it with your unique logo. Next, create a marketing plan that wraps this all up, and organizes your information into something you can always retrieve for future marketing purposes. Remember, marketing is an art that requires patience to build a classic piece. Doing it quickly, as you'll learn, never works. Start with the foundation, then work your way up. Understand this, and you'll have an effective marketing strategy.
Posted on February 18

Most of your competitiors don't have an effective marketing technology solution to sell their brands. In most cases, they'll hire a web design firm for $5000, who promise them high revenue returns. It usually doesn't happen. Fact is, more than 99% of web designers have no business expertise, and will only stun you with their programming knowledge - not their marketing expertise. To bring in revenues, you'll need more than a spiffy web page. You'll need to know how most of your targeted customers use technology. Then you'll have to build your site around that thinking. You'll have a tremendous advantage if you have the proper marketing technology solution in place. Do you need a website? The short answer is yes. With a webpage, you'll be able to market your brand to the world. Where else can you publicize your company to a global audience of millions for only a few dollars? Of course, you won't be able to get a million visitors to your site overnight, but it can and will work with the right techniques. Building a smart online presence also lets you market to your surrounding communities. Chances are your customers have access to the web, who will search for information regarding your services. You don't want to lose a customer to a competitor's website. Use the right strategy Remember, anyone can build a webpage. That's why millions of small business web pages exist. Most however don't bring in a dime. That means you have a great opportunity if you use an effective marketing technology solution. Here are the basics: First, understand that customers aren't there for you. Your users will not want to know how great you are. They're there for their own needs. Provide them with quality information on the benefits of your service. Don't make it a sales pitch. Give them value. Inform them as much as you can. Remember mom's saying:"It's better to give than receive"? That advice never rings truer when building your webpage.
Posted on February 18

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