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Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: February 13, 2014

While some of online marketing is trendy and will inevitably fade away, there’s no disputing that content marketing is here to stay. If you’ve heard this buzzword, but aren’t really clear on what it includes, that’s probably because its definition is expanding as marketers find new ways to provide content to their audience.

In general, content marketing includes:

  • Blogs

  • Videos

  • Infographics

  • Whitepapers/Ebooks

How to Get More Readers (and Thereby Customers)

 

The point of content marketing is to attract new potential customers to your site. You’re providing useful information to them (in whatever format you choose), and ultimately, you’re working to build trust. Once they feel they can trust you, that relationship moves into the sales funnel.

 

But first you want to get as many readers or viewers of your content as possible, since they won’t all buy from you. Here’s how.

 

Share Content on Social Media

 

Each blog post, video, infographic or ebook you create should be trumpeted through your social network. And not just once! Schedule several updates -- across all channels -- encouraging your followers to click to view the content you have created. Ask your followers to also share the update with their followers to reach a wider audience.

 

So what’s the ideal number of times to share? There is none. Just be mindful of your audience, and don’t alienate them by posting multiple updates every day begging them to read your content. A few times a week is a good place to start.

 

Post Content to Bookmarking Sites

 

For many people, social bookmarking sites like Stumbleupon and BizSugar are where they get their content. The benefit of doing so is that the content has already been vetted, so to speak. The most popular content has the most votes, so a quick skim through the top links should net the best content.

 

For you, social bookmarking sites offer fabulous opportunity to connect to readers you wouldn’t otherwise have found. The more places you can pick up new readers, the more customers you’ll get.

 

Set Up an RSS Feed

 

It needs to be stupidly simple for visitors to your blog to easily get updates every time you post a new article. That’s where RSS feeds come into play. When a visitor signs up to get your blog updates, she can either read them in an RSS feeder with her other favorite blogs, or get your updates via email. That way, she doesn’t have to remember to check back on your blog for new content.

 

Set Up a Success Measurement Plan

 

All this hard work in developing and sharing your content will be for naught if you don’t measure results! Paying attention to how many visitors you’re attracting with your content can help you know if you’re doing a good enough job in marketing and sharing that content. And knowing which topics people are reading or viewing the most can help you generate future content ideas.

 

Google Analytics is the easiest tool to provide data on all of this. Plus, it’s free to use. With Analytics, you can also look at traffic over time and make sure it’s steadily rising the way you want it to. You can also look at conversions, if you sell products online. In other words: is the traffic that’s arriving on your blog converting into paying customers? If not, you should analyze your site to determine the disconnect.

 

These days, it's not enough to throw blog content out into cyberspace. You need a plan for your content marketing strategy so you draw in the right people with your content and turn them into loyal customers.

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

Build Business Credit Reports You Can Be Proud About Having

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: February 11, 2014

Business credit reports play an integral role in credit risk assessment and company research. Access to detailed information about a business such as background info, financial data, payment trends, company size, payment history and public filings provide the necessary details lenders, suppliers, investors and potential business partners need. build business credit

Your company credit reports and scores are constantly changing based on a variety of factors, including payment history, number of trade lines and outstanding balances. It’s essential to keep a close eye on your reports and watch out for changes that could affect your ability to acquire credit.

It’s vital to build and maintain business credit reports you can proud of. Did you know potential business partners and investors may evaluate your company credit files to acquire background information on your business, evaluate financials and review what other companies you're working with?

Building and improving the depth and diversity of your business credit reports will have lasting benefits financially and provide greater financing opportunities. While it may take time to build business credit that has depth and diversity, it’s equally important to take the time to manage and protect the good credit your company has already established. To accomplish this you should monitor your reports on a regular basis.

Here are five reasons to build strong business credit reports:

  1. Creditworthiness - Lending institutions, creditors and suppliers will check your business credit reports prior to extending or increasing your company’s line of credit. Additionally, they monitor your reports routinely to assess your company's ability to pay and may adjust credit terms prior to financial difficulties emerging.
  2. Customer acquisition - It’s not uncommon for potential customers to check a business's credit record to see if a company is a legal and credible business before working with them. This is not an unusual practice in today's business environment.
  3. Partnerships & joint ventures - Various other companies could evaluate your reports if they are thinking about collaborating with you. For example, by recognizing one of the most creditworthy companies, a business could supply first-time consumers a line of credit at very little risk.
  4. Insurance premiums - Company insurance policy costs are based upon information acquired from your company reports. Insurance companies make use of business credit reports for underwriting insurance policies. Factors that play a role in just how they forecast danger include industry classification, payment trends, trade experiences, and debt to credit ratios.
  5. Government contracts - Federal government departments also assess company credit records for companies wanting to do business with the government, collecting taxes, and fulfilling government deals. For instance, in order to obtain a federal contract your company must be registered to start marketing to government agencies. This registration process includes getting a DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet.

It's crucial to keep track of the health of your business credit reports as it is the basis for decisions other businesses, lenders, suppliers, government agencies, insurance firms and consumers make concerning your company. Monitoring your reports is important so you should regularly check and ensure details regarding your company are accurate and up to date.

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo
Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in 'Fox Small Business','American Express Small Business', 'Business Week', 'The Washington Post', 'The New York Times', 'The San Francisco Tribune',‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

How Your Small Business Can Spread the Love to Your Community

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: February 10, 2014

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and we know that businesses large and small incorporate this holiday of love into sales and marketing efforts with the hope that customers will spread a little more love their way. But another great way to acknowledge this amorous day is to spread a little love yourself – back to the community that supports your business. Read on for insight about making the most of your volunteer efforts.

Giving back through volunteering is a great way to show the value you place on your community – and your business can benefit as well. Alyssa Gregory, an entrepreneur and small business expert, points out a few potential returns when you lend a hand to others:

  • Networking: Getting out into your community gives you the chance to develop new relationships and strengthen existing ones.
  • Marketing: Representing your business is a surefire way to send a message about what you’re all about. You have the opportunity to make a positive, memorable impression that will stay with people.
  • Skill development: If you’re volunteering services that are a regular part of your offerings, you may have a unique opportunity to strengthen them in a different context. If you’re giving your time for a different activity, it’s a chance to learn something new and potentially translate those lessons into your business practices.

So, how can you make the most of your efforts to spread the love this Valentine’s Day – and beyond?

  • Find a cause that speaks to your passion! We all want to spend time doing what we love. And as a small business owner, you may not think you have much time to spare – that’s why you should find something that complements your existing business efforts or draws on a passion for you and your team. VolunteerMatch can help you find opportunities specific to your interests – from animals to board development ­– and your availability.
  • Pump up your team! Are you hoping to get others to join you? Get them excited and make it easy for them to participate. If you can afford it, order matching t-shirts or gather everyone for a meal afterward to discuss. It’ll serve as a great team-building activity and provide an opportunity for conversation about future efforts.
  • Get the word out! Press releases, Facebook updates, tweets and more. Let people know that you’re getting out there to help your community. If the organization you’re volunteering with also has a social media presence, don’t forget to tag them or use their handle – they’ll appreciate the additional publicity as well.  

Lending a hand to the less fortunate or providing your product or service to an organization in need are great ways to show you care about the community that makes it possible for you to do business. And the support you’re able to show for your community is sure to be appreciated.

So this Valentine’s Day, skip the box of chocolates and share the sweetness of the holiday with the deserving people and causes in your neighborhood. 

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

SBA Learning Center

SBA Disaster Assistance Program

In the wake of a disaster, SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations. Watch this short video to learn more about SBA's Disaster Assistance Program.

Focusing Your Business’s Social Media Strategy

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: February 6, 2014 Updated: February 6, 2014

You’ve heard time and again that social media marketing is the key to your business’s success. But, do you know where the corresponding lock is? Or how to use it? Social media can seem like a behemoth of a marketing strategy sucking up all your time with results that trickle in at first. Well, fear not; we’re here to set you on a clear, strategic path of the right ways to make social media work for your particular enterprise.

Start with the Big Picture

Is anyone on Google+? Will all these social media efforts even make a dent in my bottom line? What time of day should I post to get maximum exposure? You’ve got questions and we’ve compiled the answers. The new infographic, “2013 Small Business Social Media Trends” answers all the questions you’ve been pondering regarding social media’s effectiveness for small businesses, recommended posting frequency, emerging social networks and tips to keep in mind to get the biggest bang for your social buck.

Just “Be Likeable”

Sounds easy enough, right? Today's consumers are looking for businesses to display certain qualities on social media: accessibility, responsiveness, value, authenticity, adaptability and more. In his recent SCORE LIVE webinar, “Why it Pays to Be Likeable - 7 Simple Social Media Concepts To Drive Results” best-selling author & CEO of Likeable Local, Dave Kerpen, shared his 7 tips for harnessing these traits to become more likeable and ultimately see greater business results.

  1. 1. Listen
  2. Be Responsive
  3. Tell, Don’t Sell
  4. Be Transparent
  5. Be Authentic
  6. Be a Team
  7. Be Grateful

Listen in as Dave shares examples, anecdotes and quotes explaining why each of these 7 concepts is critical to your business achieving social media success.

Handle Negative Comments

You’ve tried your best to be likeable but somehow it’s happened: the dreaded negative comment! It’s not the end of your social media efforts and definitely isn’t the end of your business. In her recent blogpost, co-founder of IgnitorDigital.com, Carrie Hill, walks you step-by-step through dealing with negative comments on your business’s social media pages. As Carrie says, “The benefits of being online and active in social media far outweigh the negative aspects – but when the negative does rear its ugly head – you need to be ready with a solid strategy that your whole team is aware of.”

In the end, you’ve probably come to realize that the social realm is a place your business needs to be. Like really needs to be in order to survive. As with all initiatives in your business, your best bet is to make a plan, follow through, get everyone on the same page, analyze and revise....and get a SCORE business mentor to help you!

About the Author:

bridgetwpollack
Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

SBA Disaster Assistance During FY 2013

By James Rivera, SBA Official
Published: February 5, 2014 Updated: February 5, 2014

Fiscal year 2013—the period between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013—was one of the busiest in recent memory for SBA’s disaster assistance program.

SBA approved a total of 46,817 disaster loans for $2.8 billion during FY 2013.  The majority of those loans were made to homeowners and renters recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Atlantic coast on October 29, 2012—nearly a month after the beginning of the new fiscal year. 

Here are some interesting stats:

  • For Hurricane Sandy alone, SBA approved more than 36,500 disaster loans for a total of $2.4 billion by the end of FY 2013
  • Of those, more than 32,000 loans went to homeowners and renters for a total of $1.9 billion
  • The number of business disaster loans approved was 4,082, for a total of $478 million.
  • In terms of SBA disaster loan volume, Hurricane Sandy is the third largest natural disaster in U.S. History
  • The bigger disasters were the Gulf Coast Hurricanes of 2005 (Katrina, Rita and Wilma), with 169,900 loans approved for $11 billion, and the Northridge (CA) earthquake of 1994 (124,262 loans approved for $4 billion)

Meanwhile, 89 percent of the number of loans approved (41,698), and 80 percent of the dollars in disaster lending ($2.2 billion) went to homeowners and renters. 

About 10 percent of the number of loans approved (5,119) and 19 percent of the dollars ($550 million) in loans made went to businesses.

SBA quickly increased its staffing to support the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.  In October 2013, prior to Sandy, there were 1,100 SBA disaster personnel.  By January the number had grown to more than 2,400.

The number of disaster survivors using SBA’s Electronic Loan Application (ELA) increased from 36 percent in FY 2012 to 55 percent during FY 2013. Marketing outreach and a simplified application process made the ELA more attractive to users.

In the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters, the SBA provides recovery assistance in the form of low-interest, direct loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private non-profit organizations.  Visit the website for more information about SBA’s disaster loan program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author:

James Rivera
James Rivera

SBA Official

James Rivera was named Associate Administrator for SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance in November 2009 after serving for several months as Acting Associate Administrator. In a typical year, his office approves about 20,000 loans totaling about $1 billion. This is the SBA’s sole direct lending program.

Creating a Marketing Action Plan

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: February 4, 2014

We all know marketing is key to small business survival and success. And these days we’re so inundated with marketing platforms and tools that it can be overwhelming to know what to do to be an effective marketer.

What you need is a marketing action plan so you can lay out a path to follow. First though, warns Hal Shelton, a business executive, SCORE board member and author of The Secrets of Writing a Successful Business Plan, you need to define your company’s buying cycle.

As an example Shelton offers this cycle:

1.      Awareness. Potential customers know about your business, but aren’t sure you have the products or services that fit their needs.

2.      Discovery. The research stage when consumers try to learn more about your company.

3.      Engagement. Potential customers take some action that may (or may not) lead to sale. It’s important at this stage to get some customer contact information, like an email address.

4.      Active customer. The prospect has become an actual customer and made a purchase from you.

5.      Successful customer. The consumer has become a regular, loyal and satisfied customer.

6.      Referrals. When customers are so happy with you and your business, they’re willing to share their good experiences and offer testimonials and referrals.

Now you can move on to creating a marketing action plan. Shelton says make sure you include steps in your plan that “focus on customers in each of the steps of the buying cycle.” And he adds, “While some of the ‘instruments’ might be the same, the messages may be different. For example, in a direct marketing campaign to gain awareness, you might want to steer potential customers to your website, but for active customers, you may offer a store coupon.”

So what should your action steps consist of? Of course, they’ll vary depending on your type of business and stage your business, but here are some steps you might consider making part of your marketing action plan.

Market research. Market research isn’t something to do only when you start your business; you need to continually stay on top of your target customers’ demographics, needs, desires and lifestyles. Draw from your own experience talking with your customers, as well as any customer data you have—sales records, website analytics, social media interactions—to see what they are researching, browsing, doing and buying. Also use third-party sources of research such as Census data to keep up with trends in your target market, and contact media properties where you’re considering advertising to see who their readers/viewers/listeners are.

Develop a marketing plan. Once you know what your customers want and where they are spending their time, you can develop a marketing plan that reaches out to them where they live—whether that’s outdoor advertising, social media, radio ads, online pay-per-click ads, public relations and more. Focus most of your budget on the avenues your research suggests will be most effective and affordable. Your marketing plan should cover the coming year and should include specific goals.

Create a marketing calendar. Break down your marketing plan more specifically into a calendar that shows what type of marketing you will do each month, each week and even each day. This can include ad placements, PR campaigns, social media posts and more. By putting your plan on a calendar, you’re committed to carrying it out and things won’t fall through the cracks.

Measure results. To make sure your marketing efforts deliver ROI, you need to track the results of each type of marketing you do. For example, you could put a code in an online or print ad (“Mention code TREAT1 to get a free dessert!”) and keep track of who mentions the code. Online, you can use analytics to see which ads or mentions attract customers to your site and to track which customers end up making a purchase. Regularly (once a quarter, at minimum, or ideally once a month) assess which marketing methods are driving sales and which are not.

Shelton says other marketing action steps might include email marketing, using affiliates and distributors, building a website, direct mail, buying ads in assorted media outlets (newspapers, radio, etc.), social media and web marketing.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

Use Your Sales Forecast and Expense Budget to Define your Startup

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: January 29, 2014

I’ve been working on a new startup with some long-time friends and just discovered – again, for the umpteenth time – how the interaction between words, concepts, and numbers often demands the concrete logic of core business plan numbers.

Specifically, a sales forecast and an expense budget can do wonders for early start-up discussions. Putting specific numbers to things forces definitions and decisions. For the record, our new plan isn’t a restaurant; it’s a high-tech web-based offering. But it’s still confidential. So I’m using examples here from a business everybody can understand: a restaurant business.

1. The Sales Forecast Defines the Offering

I just saw it again but I’ve seen it before many times. The co-founders get together and share ideas. If it were a restaurant, it would be about things we could do for breakfast, lunch, drinks, dinner; it would be about price points, cuisines, menus, reservations and so on. And these general discussions become specific when you get to the forecast. They have to get specific about units and prices. That forces founders to focus in on realistic plans we can actually execute.

Not that we’d define every menu option – absolutely not. But a good forecast has to summarize at least on average revenue and average cost per meal, and that leads to defining whether meals are breakfasts, lunches, dinners or drinks, etc. The numbers move the general ideas forward.

2. An Expense Budget Defines Tasks and People

We need to focus practically on what and when we can afford to spend. For a restaurant, we’d need to start paying two or three people and we need to pay contractors for remodeling the location, developing the branding, doing menus, and people to start developing the kitchen and such. All of that takes deciding on priorities.

The way we do that, in practical terms, is to look at our expense budget. We develop it together step by step: From the first to the twelfth month, how much do we need to pay out, and to whom? We all have different ideas on this, so when we get together, the actual expense budget—which we can all see and agree on—helpfully steers us back to the plan.

Conclusion: Numbers Define Concepts

Particularly when the startup founders—such as in our case—all have a lot of experience, love the topic area and are full of ideas, it’s really hard to make progress moving from brainstorming to execution. My experience with the sales forecast and expense budget reminds me, once again, how much I like planning as a vital part of the process of starting a business.

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .

To request a copy of the archived documents listed below, please contact the Office of Advocacy via email at advocacy@sba.gov.

Radon in Drinking Water

November 2, 1999 - Proposed rule, National Primary Drinking Water Regulations; Radon-222, published in the Federal Register

April 23, 1999 - Transmittal letter to Charles Fox, Assistant Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), providing public comments on Health Risk Reduction and Cost Analysis for radon in drinking water.

Interested in Exporting? These Four Resources Can Help

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 27, 2014 Updated: July 6, 2016

Did you know that nearly 96 percent of consumers live outside the United States? And two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries. As the numbers show, the international marketplace is a big one. So if you’re interested in exploring the world of exporting – or have gotten started but could use some guidance – check out these resources to help.

Export Assistance Centers

Did you know that assistance centers across the United States exist to help small business owners and entrepreneurs exclusively with exporting topics?

United States Exporting Assistance Centers (USEACs) are staffed by professionals from the SBA, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and other public and private organizations. USEACs can help you understand the global marketplace and get you organized to join in and succeed. Some USEACs also have SBA representatives who are available to help you with your SBA export financing needs.  

Export Business Planner

The Export Business Planner is a downloadable tool that you can save and customize as you explore your exporting options.

The Planner starts with an introduction to exporting and helps you determine your export readiness, then walks you through training and counseling information; marketing plan and financial materials; transportation and documentation details and more.

The Planner also provides practical worksheets, templates and forms, in addition to a glossary of industry terms and even more helpful resources.

Export.gov’s FAQ

Export.gov is an ideal export resource. And its frequently asked questions page is great to browse, as they’ve organized responses by categories. From exporting basics to trade agreements and regulations, this is a good place to start if you’re looking to learn more but aren’t quite sure where to start.  

USTDA Consultant Database

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) maintains a database of companies and individuals who provide fee-based consulting services to small businesses interested in importing and exporting.

Almost all contracts with USTDA are reserved for small businesses, most of which are opportunities for technical experts qualified in the areas of energy and power; project finance; health; manufacturing; mining & natural resources; telecommunications and information technology; transportation; and water and the environment.

Your business may be small, but there’s a big opportunity in selling your product or service overseas. And this handful of resources can help put you on the path to international success.

Related resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

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