COVID-19 relief options and additional resources
LEARN MORE Close

5 Keys to Angel Investment

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

With this post I’d like to give my personal answer to the frequent question, “What do angel investors look for in a business plan?” I can’t promise that what I think applies to anybody else. But I’ve been in an angel investment group for five years now, and I’ve seen a lot of businesses evaluated. Here are five things I say matter.

1. A believable market definition

It’s not just the numbers. Especially not huge numbers that lack definition. Too many of the several dozen business plans I’ve read this year lack a good market-defining story. Market numbers are useful, yes, but they don’t stand alone. Investors want to believe the story first, then get the numbers.

The story is about the use case, also called “why to buy,” and market need.

I like the business pitches that put a picture on a slide and explain how that person has a problem that this business solved. For example, one recent pitch starts with a picture of a middle-aged woman and explained how this new business creates a channel for her to sell her craft goods effectively. Another pitch I saw showed a picture of the garbage area behind a restaurant to pitch a system to save unused food and make it available to people who need it. Then they go to the numbers, after explaining the need.

2. Believable growth plan

Startups become good for the early stage investors by growing. While there are some extremely rare cases where traffic and position alone created value (such as Amazon in its early days, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), for most of us it takes sales growth.

Investors want to see and believe the growth plan. For example, if it’s a physical product to be sold in retail stores, there should be a plan for getting the product into distribution, and a sales forecast based on sales per store and stores’ growth by year. Or if it’s a mobile app, then sales growth based on potential user base and ways to drive traffic to the app via the various download stores.

Sales forecasts based on details are more credible. I liked a plan I saw recently that presented a forecast of sales of a product related to bars by showing actual sales in the first four bars and extrapolating those to all bars in the U.S. The methodology made sense.

3. Defensibility

Defensibility is whatever quality keeps a startup from being overwhelmed by competition that stunts its growth. Most investors look for proprietary technology, such as patents — when they are good patents that experts say will be reasonably defensible — or trade secrets. This is also called “barriers to entry.” There’s limited value to an idea that any other business can just copy.

4. Scalability

The lack of scalability in most service businesses is why investors generally prefer product businesses and why the classic service businesses aren’t as attractive. The test is whether it can double sales without doubling fixed costs and employees. Most service businesses don’t scale: the classic consulting business, for example, or attorneys, graphic design, programming for hire… these service businesses are hard to scale.

With product businesses, when a widget starts selling in most cases you can make more widgets with automation.

And there are some service businesses that are scalable. Generally, they relate to software services over the web. The travel buyer sites are services, but they scale.

5. Potential exit

Angel investors make money by investing money in a business today and getting money back from that business in a few years when it grows, increases its value and sells out to a larger company or registers its stock for sale on a public market.

What many people don’t realize is that outside investors don’t make money just from owning a small portion of stock in a successful business. Theoretically, there could be dividends eventually, but growing companies don’t normally generate dividends. Angel investment assumes that the businesses create some way for the investors to sell their shares.

Having a minority share in a healthy, happy company – one that doesn’t need any more outside investment and has no reason to invite a larger company to purchase it – offers no return on investment for the early investors who aren’t employees.

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 .

Exporting University – Enroll Anytime!

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: April 28, 2014

If you’re interested in exporting your small business’ goods or services – or are an exporter already – you probably know about the wealth of information we have here at SBA.gov and the resources available over at Export.gov. But another great source of knowledge is Export University, a series of courses designed for all stages of exporting.

What is Export University?

Export University was designed by the District Export Council, a volunteer non-profit organization associated with the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Its courses are designed to help U.S. companies start exporting and develop skills in expanding international sales, so whether you’re just starting out or have been in the exporting arena for some time, Export University can be a resource for you.

How does it work?

There are three series of courses that can provide you with the tools you need to organize your export operations: Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced. Courses are adapted at the local level to make them as applicable as possible to the local industries and needs. Although particular features such as exact course syllabus and price may vary slightly by location, here’s what you can expect according to the series’ descriptions available online:

  • The 100 Introductory Series is designed for all levels of personnel at companies that are primarily new to exporting. This is the series to start with if you’re looking for skills to identify and communicate with buyers, banks, logistics intermediaries, and others in developing the basis for an export transaction. Topics include export procedures and regulations; managing international sales orders; logistics; and more to help build your international business.
  • The 200 Intermediate Series is suited for managers at exporting companies who are responsible for developing and fine-tuning operations to increase a firm's export volume. Topics may include how to promote products in target markets; free trade agreements; market research; identifying trade contacts; and more.
  • The 300 Advanced Series is designed for executives responsible for developing and adjusting the strategic direction of an exporting firm. Topics may include how to adapt products to individual markets; protecting intellectual property; taxes and financing; and others.  

Export University classes are either half-day (morning or afternoon) or full-day (8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.) courses. For the most advanced topics, there may be two-day courses, but they don’t last longer than two days.

Who are the teachers?

So who’s imparting this exporting wisdom during your courses? Export University presenters are international trade practitioners who are associated with or recruited by members of the District Export Council, a group of private-sector individuals appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to provide mentoring on exporting. They present course material drawing from their extensive expertise in international trade.

How can I sign up?

To find Export University courses being offered in your state, select your state on the map featured on this page. If there are no courses being offered close to you, contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center or District Export Council and request a list of local upcoming courses.

You can also search the Export University website for nationwide webinars being offered in the future. Some Export University courses are taught via webinar and are open to all U.S. companies nationwide.

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!

Let’s Celebrate National Small Business Week – Across the Country and Online

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: April 25, 2014 Updated: August 16, 2016

It’s that time of year again! SBA is gearing up for National Small Business Week, May 12-16. And like last year, we’re taking the show on the road to celebrate small businesses across the United States. We’re excited for this year’s activities, which will include forums and panels about trends in small business, innovation, financing, business growth – and more. There will also be matchmaking events and networking opportunities.

The week will kick off in San Francisco on May 12, followed by events in Kansas City, Boston and Washington, DC. We’ll wrap up in our nation’s capital by honoring small businesses from across the country, culminating in the announcement of 2014’s National Small Business Person of the Year.

Check out the full conference schedule here.

Join Our Webinars and Online Events

Throughout the week, you can also participate in our webinars and online events, including “Making It Big: Small Biz Success in a Mobile World” with Conduit Mobile on Wednesday, May 14 at 9am ET. Join us – online or in person in New York City – to learn how you can better take advantage of the technology already at your fingertips to transform your mobile and digital experience and grow your small business’ bottom line.

And that’s just one of the great events you can anticipate! Check out other webinars happening throughout the week:

Monday, May 12

  • [SOLD OUT] Growing Your Business with Direct Mail | 6-7pm ET | with the United States Postal Service
    Learn about the value direct mail offers as part of an overall marketing strategy. Gain insight on how mail can be used to acquire new customers, and establish relationships that keep them coming back. 

Tuesday, May 13

  • Small Business: Big Benefits | 4-5pm ET | with Colonial Life
    Choosing between offering a robust benefits package or cutting back on total offerings is a challenge for many small businesses. Learn about “voluntary benefits” that can allow you to strengthen your existing benefits packages at little or no additional cost.
    > Register now

Wednesday, May 14

[SOLD OUT]

  • Achieving Big Customer Loyalty in a Small Business World: 10 Tips to Create A Killer Customer Loyalty Program | 3-4pm ET | with Manta
    Learn about the best approaches to jump-start your small business’ customer loyalty program, including how to make sure that your program fits your business’ needs and how to get positive ROI from a digital customer loyalty program.
     

Thursday, May 15

[SOLD OUT] 

  • Practical Marketing – A Five-Step Marketing Program for Small Biz | 3-4pm ET | with YP
    Gain insight about how to get the most from your marketing time with a 5-step practical marketing plan focused on "doing" – not marketing theory.

How Can You Get Involved?

You can still register for events in Kansas City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Can’t travel? Join our webinars and tune in for the live-streaming webcasts of all events as they happen.

Keep an eye on the event website and follow SBA on Twitter and Facebook for more details as the event approaches. If you tweet, get in on the conversation with the official hashtag: #SBW2014.

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!

Make Your Small Business Easily Found Online

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: April 24, 2014

If you’re looking to ramp up your business’s online presence and help your potential customers find you more easily, you may have considered a variety of web advertising options: banner ads, social media ads, pay-per-click sponsor ads, SEO, SEM, etc. What’s the most effective route to take? What’s the least costly?

The new infographic, Online Advertising: Go for the Right Audience and You'll See Real Results, compiled research on the effectiveness of various types of online advertising options for small business owners. It found that one-third of small and mid-sized businesses buy online advertising, spending an average of $6,800 annually. Some interesting findings to note in your own online advertising pursuits:

·         A typical person sees 1,700 banner ads per month, but clicks just 0.1% of the time.

·         3% of small business owners think that pay-per-click ads are effective

·         77% of ads are never seen

·         Investment in social media ads has increased from $3.8 billion in 2011 to $5.9 billion in 2013. This amount is projected to increase to $9.8 billion in 2016.

Check out the infographic for the full story on how small businesses like yours are taking advantage of online advertising and to see how Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn compare in terms of click-thru rates and ROI.

Pay for Traffic or Get it Free?

Given those survey results, you might be wondering if paid ads are worth the financial investment. SCORE mentor and owner of A&E Advertising and Web Design, Edison Guzman, answers exactly that question in the (appropriately titled) online workshop, “Pay for Traffic or Get it Free? (The Difference Between SEM and SEO).” Edison says the key to choosing the right strategy is: “before starting any campaign, you need to know the result.” What type of online presence are you looking to promote? Who and where is your target audience? How much are you willing to spend? Who will implement this strategy? These questions will help you determine the right approach for achieving your goals.

Listen in to this online workshop to find out:

·         The tools needed to get the most out of your time and investment in online advertising

·         The difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO and how to maximize both

·         The 7 parts of your website that tell search engines how to rank you

·         How social media plays a role in your search engine ranking

·         And… the only guaranteed way to rank on Page 1 of search engine results in less than 1 day

Make Content Work for You

You’ve certainly heard that content marketing is the next big thing for positioning yourself as the go-to resource in your industry. But it’s also an absolutely critical (and often free) way to get your business better known to the search engines. In his 4 part series, How to Win the New Game of Semantic Search, Bill Merrow, co-founder of Synergy Sales and Marketing, covers everything you need to know to get search engines to authenticate your website and, ultimately, bring you more and better visitors. Bill says “In September 2013, Google’s Hummingbird update rocked the world of every business concerned with search marketing, as simple keyword strategies were detonated and Google stopped reporting keywords in Google Analytics.” Therefore, he explains, content marketing is a necessary tactic for effective SEO.  In the series, Bill details the 4 components to properly implementing an effective content strategy: volume, velocity, variety and veracity.

The more you know about effective online advertising, the more you realize what a powerful tool it can be for bringing potential customers in the virtual door. It doesn’t have to be costly but it can require a time investment to learn the tools at your disposal and decide what works best for reaching your target audience. If you’re not sure who that is or how to reach them, reach out to a SCORE mentor for free, expert help.

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.

Quick Tips for Greening Your Small Business

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: April 21, 2014 Updated: September 16, 2016

Being “green” or environmentally friendly is probably not a new idea to you as a small business owner. In the last few years especially, the discussion of green business practices, services and products has become so prevalent that it’s often no longer the exception – but expected – to run a more earth-conscious operation. Consider these ways to green your business without breaking the bank.

Reduce travel with virtual meetings

Do you find yourself traveling for business or to meet clients? Consider reducing the number of in-person meetings you might do and go virtual instead! You’ll reduce your fuel consumption, which is good for you and the environment. Plus you’ll save money with all the free online conferencing tools available. A number of free and low-cost web-based sharing sites have features that allow you to video conference, share screens, use text chats, upload documents, simulate a white board and more. An added bonus? Think of the time you’ll save by not hitting the pavement.  

Ditch the disposables (cups, cutlery, etc.)

Did you know that in just one year, the average American office worker goes through around 500 disposable cups? It’s also been reported that Americans throw out enough paper disposable cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times! But you can make it easier to not be a part of this statistic in the workplace.

Instead of supplying the office with paper and plastic goods for coffee and lunches, switch to cutlery you’ll keep! Sure, you might spend a few more dollars up front establishing a stock of cups, plates and silverware – but you’ll make that money back and keep more trash from landfills. Looking for an even better deal? Visit a discount or thrift store to score your new kitchenware for less than you might pay otherwise.

Save energy – with paper!

Sure, you’ve heard about using sleep modes for devices and unplugging when electronics aren’t in use. But did you know that your business' paper use is another area to save energy? Paper manufacturers in the U.S. consume a significant amount of energy each year producing paper. Then there’s the energy spent harvesting and shipping trees, and shipping paper products to your business!

To optimize your use of this valuable resource, be sure to use double-sided printing and copying. Even better – distribute or reference documents electronically instead, if possible. When making your paper purchases, select products with a high recycled content; then continue the trend and recycle as much of it as you can when you’re through!

This is just the beginning of what you can do to have a “greener” business operation. For more tips and insight, check out SBA’s energy efficiency and green business guides. From energy savings calculators to industry-specific materials and more, you’ll find a wealth of information about being an environmentally responsible small business owner.

Related Resource

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!

Virtual Currency and Your Business

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: April 17, 2014

Bitcoin is a digital currency now used as medium of exchange by more than 10,000 businesses. Last year Apple applied for a patent on iMoney, another form of virtual currency, so it’s likely that using virtual currency as another payment method is something to be considered. How does this impact your business? The IRS says that convertible virtual currency, which is digitally traded between users and can be purchased for, or exchanged into, U.S. dollars or other real or virtual currencies, is property, not currency. Here’s what this means for you.

Receiving payment in bitcoin

If you receive bitcoin as payment for goods or services, you’re taxable on this payment in the same way you’d be taxed if you’d received any other type of property. You must include in gross income the fair market value of the bitcoin on the date it is received. For example, if you are an independent contractor paid in bitcoin, its receipt is income, and it is also subject to self-employment tax.

Determining fair market value may not be so easy. If the virtual currency is listed on an exchange and the rate is set by supply and demand, then this rate — on the day it is received — can be used for fair market value. There are several exchanges for bitcoin; both the buyer and seller must be listed on the same exchange to give and receive payment in this virtual currency.

The customer may have a gain or a loss when making a payment to you; it all depends on his or her basis in the bitcoin. If this is less than the cost of the goods or services, then the customer has a gain. For example, the customer bought the bitcoin for $5 and used it to pay for your cupcake costing $7. The customer’s basis is $5 and effectively acquired property for $7, so there’s a $2 gain. If the opposite is true, then there’s a loss. Whether the gain or loss is capital gain or loss or ordinary gain or loss depends on the person (usually capital gain or loss unless the person is a trader in bitcoin) and not on what is being bought with the bitcoin.  If the customer has a capital transaction, then whether it’s short-term or long-term gain or loss depends on how long the bitcoin was held (more than one year is long-term).

Using bitcoin as payment for employees

If you pay an employee in bitcoin, it’s treated as an “in-kind payment” and the fair market value of the payment subject to payroll taxes. This means you have to withhold income tax on the payment as you would for any other compensation made in property. And you must take the payment into account for FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes and FUTA (federal unemployment) tax. For withholding purposes, check with your payroll company if you use one or IRS Publication 15 for more on noncash wages.

Information reporting for bitcoin

The fact that you’re making payments in something other than money does not mean you’re relieved of reporting transactions to the IRS. Some information returns you may need to file or will receive:

  • Form 1099-MISC if you pay an independent contractor in bitcoin and total payments for the year to this person are $600 or more. If you’re a contractor being paid in virtual currency, expect to receive a 1099.
  • Form 1099-K if, as a merchant, you have more than 200 transactions totaling more than $20,000 for the year; the bitcoin exchange will issue this to you.
  • Form W-2 if you pay an employee in bitcoin, regardless of amount.

Customers using bitcoin may have to complete Form 8949 to list all of their purchases with virtual currency and then transfer the total to Schedule D of Form 1040; the IRS hasn’t given guidance about this reporting. Once they learn about this onerous reporting (if this becomes the requirement), they may not want to do business using bitcoin.

Conclusion

As businesses adapt to changing technology, the tax law won’t be far behind. If you have particular questions about how bitcoin may impact your business, contact your tax advisor.

About the Author:

BarbaraWeltman
Barbara Weltman

Guest Blogger

Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes, J.K. Lasser's Guide to Self-Employment, and Smooth Failing as well as a trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® and host of Build Your Business Radio. She has been included in the List of 100 Small Business Influencers for three years in a row. Follow her on Twitter: @BigIdeas4SB or at www.BigIdeasforSmallBusiness.com

Franchise Ownership Success Starts With Great Training

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: April 15, 2014

When you buy a franchise, you’re paying for the right to use the franchisors proprietary systems. Some of these include their marketing systems, computer and software systems, inventory management systems and more.

But, you won’t be able to use any of their business systems unless you know how to use them. That’s where the franchisors formal training program comes in. It’s part of what you’re paying for when you purchase a franchise

Are Franchise Training Programs Good?

I can’t think of one occasion in which a client of mine told me the training they received from their franchisor was disappointing. But, since this is your money we’re talking about…it’s you that will be buying the franchise, it’s important for you to make sure the training you’ll receive from franchise headquarters will be good. Here’s how:

Call existing franchisees of the franchise concept you’re thinking of buying and ask them to share their views on the training they received. It should be part of your due diligence.

Types of Franchise Training

These days, technology plays a major part of company training programs. Expect the franchisor to utilize technology in their training program.      

One way franchisors use technology to train their franchisees is to have some setup online. That’s right: Part of your training may be online. I’ve seen franchisors do what’s called pre-training online. Pre-training takes place a few weeks before you arrive at franchise headquarters for in-person training. I’ve found pre-training to be a great way for new franchisees to get their feet wet and have a head start on what’s to come when they arrive at headquarters for more intensive formal training. 

The formal, in-headquarters training will end up having the biggest impact on you. The training that takes place at headquarters is pretty intensive. It’s designed to prepare you for all of your day-to-day activities as a franchise owner. You’ll go through the entire operations manual. You’ll be trained on things like:

·        Computer systems

·        Inventory systems

·        Point of sale systems

·        Payroll management

·        Sales

·        Marketing

·        Advertising

·        Customer service *

You’ll learn a lot in a short period of time. (Training programs at franchise headquarters are usually 3-5 days in length)

If the thought of learning everything about running your new franchise business in a few short days sounds overwhelming, you’re not alone. Every franchisee before you thought the same exact thing, and their businesses are up and running. Yours will be too.

You could always ask some of the existing franchisees if the training they received prepared them to open and run their businesses adequately. The answers you get will give you a good idea of the quality of the franchisors training program. And, you’ll get a good idea of what to expect as a new franchise owner early on in your business. 

Franchisors want you to be successful. They know you’ll be apprehensive in the weeks and days before you actually open. Their training programs are designed to make sure you’re ready.

*Non-US Government link.

About the Author:

FranchiseKing
Joel Libava

Guest Blogger

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become a Franchise Owner! and recently launched Franchise Business University.

Build Your Business with a Great Web Presence

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: April 14, 2014

47% of small businesses don’t have a website. Can you believe it? Establishing a web presence is easier than ever these days and there are so many tools out there that will make it quicker and more influential on your bottom line than ever before. Here are 3 resources that will not only convince you that every small business should have a great website, but guide you in exactly how to make that a reality – as painlessly and effectively as possible.

Make Your Website Work for You

Do you have one of the 95% of small business websites that isn’t mobile-optimized? Get ahead of trends, stand out from your competition and make it as easy as possible for customers to connect with your business by providing them with an easy, enjoyable web impression. The new infographic by SCORE, “Making Your Website Work,” shares the real, hard numbers that put the value of mobile-friendly small business websites, online marketing and SEO into perspective. Did you know:

·         97% of consumers look online for local products and services?

·         70% of smartphone owners have connected with a local business after a search?

·         70-80% of searchers ignore paid ads and focus on search results?

The infographic compiles 9 statistics about small business website usage into 3 actionable tips to help you make the most of your business’s web presence.

Optimize Your Site Design

So you’re finally convinced - you have a website, but how can you tell if it’s really adding to your bottom line? And adding the absolute most that it could be? SCORE mentor and entrepreneur Dan Beldowicz presents an online workshop, “Winning with Websites” in which you’ll learn:

  • How website design can make or break your online success
  • Why going mobile is a MUST
  • The truth about mobile apps
  • How & when to hire a web developer

Listen and watch as Dan explains how to optimize your web presence.

Create a Great Customer Call to Action (CTA)

Finally, you’ve got to tell customers exactly what you want them to do next. If it’s unclear or if there are too many competing options, they’ll navigate away from that one important click you really want them to make. Daniel Kehrer, founder of BizBest.com, says, “A strong CTA makes it clear what action the customer is expected to take, and why.” How does that translate for your specific business? He says, “Your approach depends on the action you want to motivate. For example, if the goal is to spur a purchase, and you’ve already communicated benefits, a simple ‘Buy Now!’ might be all you need.”  Daniel explains in further detail and shares 10 tips for creating strong calls to action to help you turn your heard-earned web visitors into revenue.

By now, I hope you are completely convinced that a user-friendly, informative and helpful website is a must for your business and you know how to convert your newfound prospects into loyal customers. The online experience really does reflect the way you would drive sales at your storefront on Main Street: have an easy to find location, create an enjoyable, uncluttered experience and communicate exactly how customers can follow through to your end goal. And to make sure you stay on the right path to your end goal, be sure to get a SCORE mentor to be your sounding board.

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.

Build Your Business with a Great Web Presence

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: April 9, 2014

47% of small businesses don’t have a website. Can you believe it? Establishing a web presence is easier than ever these days and there are so many tools out there that will make it quicker and more influential on your bottom line than ever before. Here are 3 resources that will not only convince you that every small business should have a great website, but guide you in exactly how to make that a reality – as painlessly and effectively as possible.

Make Your Website Work for You

Do you have one of the 95% of small business websites that isn’t mobile-optimized? Get ahead of trends, stand out from your competition and make it as easy as possible for customers to connect with your business by providing them with an easy, enjoyable web impression. The new infographic by SCORE, “Making Your Website Work,” shares the real, hard numbers that put the value of mobile-friendly small business websites, online marketing and SEO into perspective. Did you know:

·         97% of consumers look online for local products and services?

·         70% of smartphone owners have connected with a local business after a search?

·         70-80% of searchers ignore paid ads and focus on search results?

The infographic compiles 9 statistics about small business website usage into 3 actionable tips to help you make the most of your business’s web presence.

Optimize Your Site Design

So you’re finally convinced - you have a website, but how can you tell if it’s really adding to your bottom line? And adding the absolute most that it could be? SCORE mentor and entrepreneur Dan Beldowicz presents an online workshop, “Winning with Websites” in which you’ll learn:

  • How website design can make or break your online success
  • Why going mobile is a MUST
  • The truth about mobile apps
  • How & when to hire a web developer

Listen and watch as Dan explains how to optimize your web presence.

Create a Great Customer Call to Action (CTA)

Finally, you’ve got to tell customers exactly what you want them to do next. If it’s unclear or if there are too many competing options, they’ll navigate away from that one important click you really want them to make. Daniel Kehrer, founder of BizBest.com, says, “A strong CTA makes it clear what action the customer is expected to take, and why.” How does that translate for your specific business? He says, “Your approach depends on the action you want to motivate. For example, if the goal is to spur a purchase, and you’ve already communicated benefits, a simple ‘Buy Now!’ might be all you need.”  Daniel explains in further detail and shares 10 tips for creating strong calls to action to help you turn your heard-earned web visitors into revenue.

By now, I hope you are completely convinced that a user-friendly, informative and helpful website is a must for your business and you know how to convert your newfound prospects into loyal customers. The online experience really does reflect the way you would drive sales at your storefront on Main Street: have an easy to find location, create an enjoyable, uncluttered experience and communicate exactly how customers can follow through to your end goal. And to make sure you stay on the right path to your end goal, be sure to get a SCORE mentor to be your sounding board.

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.

Make Your Small Business Easily Found Online

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: April 9, 2014

If you’re looking to ramp up your business’s online presence and help your potential customers find you more easily, you may have considered a variety of web advertising options: banner ads, social media ads, pay-per-click sponsor ads, SEO, SEM, etc. What’s the most effective route to take? What’s the least costly?

The new infographic, Online Advertising: Go for the Right Audience and You'll See Real Results, compiled research on the effectiveness of various types of online advertising options for small business owners. It found that one-third of small and mid-sized businesses buy online advertising, spending an average of $6,800 annually. Some interesting findings to note in your own online advertising pursuits:

  • A typical person sees 1,700 banner ads per month, but clicks just 0.1% of the time.
  • 3% of small business owners think that pay-per-click ads are effective.
  • 77% of ads are never seen.
  • Investment in social media ads has increased from $3.8 billion in 2011 to $5.9 billion in 2013. This amount is projected to increase to $9.8 billion in 2016.

Check out the infographic for the full story on how small businesses like yours are taking advantage of online advertising and to see how Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn compare in terms of click-thru rates and ROI.

Pay for Traffic or Get it Free?

Given those survey results, you might be wondering if paid ads are worth the financial investment. SCORE mentor and owner of A&E Advertising and Web Design, Edison Guzman, answers exactly that question in the (appropriately titled) online workshop, “Pay for Traffic or Get it Free? (The Difference Between SEM and SEO).” Edison says the key to choosing the right strategy is: “before starting any campaign, you need to know the result.” What type of online presence are you looking to promote? Who and where is your target audience? How much are you willing to spend? Who will implement this strategy? These questions will help you determine the right approach for achieving your goals.

Listen in to this online workshop to find out:

  • The tools needed to get the most out of your time and investment in online advertising
  • The difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO and how to maximize both
  • The 7 parts of your website that tell search engines how to rank you
  • How social media plays a role in your search engine ranking
  • And… the only guaranteed way to rank on Page 1 of search engine results in less than 1 day

Make Content Work for You

You’ve certainly heard that content marketing is the next big thing for positioning yourself as the go-to resource in your industry. But it’s also an absolutely critical (and often free) way to get your business better known to the search engines. In his 4 part series, How to Win the New Game of Semantic Search, Bill Merrow, co-founder of Synergy Sales and Marketing, covers everything you need to know to get search engines to authenticate your website and, ultimately, bring you more and better visitors. Bill says “In September 2013, Google’s Hummingbird update rocked the world of every business concerned with search marketing, as simple keyword strategies were detonated and Google stopped reporting keywords in Google Analytics.” Therefore, he explains, content marketing is a necessary tactic for effective SEO. In the series, Bill details the 4 components to properly implementing an effective content strategy: volume, velocity, variety and veracity.

The more you know about effective online advertising, the more you realize what a powerful tool it can be for bringing potential customers in the virtual door. It doesn’t have to be costly but it can require a time investment to learn the tools at your disposal and decide what works best for reaching your target audience. If you’re not sure who that is or how to reach them, reach out to a SCORE mentor for free, expert help.

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.

Pages

Subscribe to The U.S. Small Business Administration | SBA.gov RSS