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5 Real World Examples of Forecasting a New Product

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: October 27, 2015 Updated: October 27, 2015

“How do I forecast a new product, with no real data to call on?” you ask. I’ve dealt with this a lot through the years. It began several decades ago when I had the job of forecasting new products for high-tech companies that were clients of the consulting firm I was with. It continued as I did business plan consulting for more than a decade, back in the 1980s and 1990s. Now I get it as questions my readers and it’s my favorite question. To this day my answer hasn’t changed.

First, it comes with the territory. Don’t think you’re not qualified because you can’t do econometric models or data smoothing, or you don’t have the MBA degree or CPA certification. You are. You know your business better than anybody else. Data analysis is all based on massaging past data, and you’re looking forward into the future. You can do it.

Second, the real goal of forecasting a new product isn’t the accuracy of a fortuneteller or a crystal ball. It’s about understanding what drives sales. Here are some specific examples:

  1. Focus on capacity. For example, you’re starting a restaurant and you want to say you have no idea what you can realistically sell. So draw a map of chairs and tables, figure out how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you can serve in your opening hours, then go from there to coffees and drinks based on the meals. Use realistic averages. Guess how many settings for each meal as an average, then multiply the hours and days to get months. Guess units and prices based on a reasonable sense of ramp-up.
  2. Focus on traffic, probably web traffic, but maybe auto, foot, or walk-in traffic. For example, a subscription-based web business ought to be able to project website views based on its organic search placement, pay-per-click advertising, email marketing, and related promotions. Make a projection of traffic by adding up your sources, then estimate conversion rates, and that gives you unit sales.
  3. Focus on contagion. Think of your product as a disease, in which one customer infects friends, family, and the world of word of mouth and amplified word of mouth through social media. Estimate a starting number of buyers and then how many new buyers each existing buyer will recommend (infect) each month. If each buyer infects five or 10 others, you’re happy. If each buyer infects nobody in a month, keep your day job.  
  4. Extrapolate from somebody else’s history. You may not have history, but is there somebody else’s history that tells you something? I’ve been working lately with an entrepreneur who justifies her ambitious early sales forecast with data on what happened to a somewhat similar product in a similar market a few years ago. It’s not my favorite technique, but it is convincing to see how this forecast mimics real data from the recent past.   
  5. Look at sales structure and channels. Especially for physical products that are supposed to sell through distribution channels, project how long it takes to get a distributor to carry your product, then how long it takes to get retail stores to carry it, and project the gradual increase of stores carrying it and a reasonable number of unit sales per month, per store. Getting into distribution doesn’t happen from one day to the next. The stores involved increase over time. And the direct sales process in an enterprise business-to-business launch has its structural numbers too. Think about how many deals per salesperson, how long the decision takes, how much pending business (called pipeline) at any time, and how the structure grows.

So the key, in all of these five cases, is connecting the dots. Don’t just take a wild guess; figure out the factors that drive sales. Build a sales forecast that you can use to track actual results, broken into variables like units, price per unit, stores, channels, web visits, or opening hours. Get it down at the beginning and then make sure to review once monthly to adjust your plan to accommodate ongoing actual results. You’ll be wrong at the beginning, but every month, you get closer to right. In the meantime, as you track results and make adjustments, you have managemen.

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 .

How to Start a Consignment Business

By mbramble, Contributor
Published: October 14, 2015

Getting Started

Are you interested in opening your own consignment shop? Consignment shops can offer lower overhead cost compared to traditional retail stores, because a consigner provides your inventory and they are paid out only when the item sells. Shop owners resell items from multiple consigners and share a portion of the profits. While the business model might be slightly different than a traditional retail shop, starting a consignment business still involves planning, development, making key financial decisions, and completing a series of legal activities.

Follow these 10 steps to prepare your business.


How it Works

Consignment shops commonly sell clothes, shoes, and housewares, but the there is no limit to the items that you can sell. Crafts, music, toys, antiques, and cars old and new can be sold.

While the items are in your possession, legally you do not have ownership. The consigner maintains ownership until the item is sold at which point you earn a commission on the sale and pay the consigner the rest.

If the item does not sell within the timeframe allotted by your consignment agreement*, then the contract should be renegotiated or the item returned to the consigner.

Startup costs for a consignment business are often less than say thrift or pawnshops, since you do not own the items, you do not incur the cost of purchasing inventory. Additionally you are not obligated to purchase the items if they do not sell. After the agreement time is up you can return the item if you do not think it will sell. 

Understanding your customer


Keeping up With Your Inventory

In general retail businesses should invest in a point of sale or (POS) system. This is especially important with a consignment business because you do not own the inventory. Having documentation on the item’s description, the agreed upon price, and condition is an important part of the process.

POS systems can also help you determine what types of items you have a need for in the shop with up-to-the-date, accurate assessments of your inventory. When shopping for an inventory system you want to think of function and price; a good system should be a balance of both. You want to be able to set alerts, add new items, and print out price agreements. If your budget is a concern you can always start with a basic system and then add more robust features as your business grows.


National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops*

*Links to a non-government website

About the Author:

Mariama Bramble


Top Tips to Lead and Empower Employees

By sfield, Contributor
Published: September 25, 2015 Updated: September 25, 2015

Employees are an essential part of your business and brand.  If they come across as unwelcoming or uninterested, you run the risk of rubbing your customers the wrong way.  Unhappy employees can lead to assumptions about whether or not your business is a great place to work – and whether or not customers want to give you their business.  There are countless studies highlighting the links between strong employee morale and satisfaction and customer satisfaction. So how do you make sure your employees are happy and satisfied?

“Happy” and “satisfied” are subjective terms, but typically, satisfied employees are those with a sense of well-being.  This includes the presence of positive feelings like joy and interest, and the absence of negative feelings like apathy and sadness.  In the same way that positive feelings can enhance an employee’s ability to find meaning in his or her work, those feelings can also play a role in that employee’s performance and growth.

Here are some tips to foster a positive work environment and empower your employees:

1.  Start by being a good leader.  You might be a good manager, but are you a good leader?  It’s often said that while managers manage people, leaders lead people.  In addition to managing projects and workload, make sure you’re also focused on inspiring your team to excel and succeed. 

2.  Give them quality time with strong leaders.  As a leader, it’s important for you to listen and show that you care about your employees’ work, concerns, and aspirations.  Whether you introduce a mentor/ protégé program or a few extra one-on-one meetings, your employees will be more engaged and productive when they feel seen and heard.  If you have a larger business with a hierarchal reporting structure, it’s also important to give recognition to your management team.  If they already get workplace face time with you due to their positions, consider a social outing like a lunch or a social event for the entire management team.

3.  Encourage empowered behaviors.  Employees who have a strong sense of well-being are also more likely to take on new challenges and to play a wider role in the success of your business.  When possible and with parameters, let your employees make some decisions independently of you when they are closer to the action than you are and may be more likely to know the right call to make.  Remind them that as they make decisions that they need to consider customers, the team, and your business profitability. 

4.  Encourage creativity.  There are always new challenges to address and better ways to do things; let your employees get creative when it comes to dealing with common business issues.  Whether it’s suggesting a process improvement for managing inventory or researching a new technology solution for your invoicing system, give your employees room to creatively address everyday challenges. 

5.  Hold “lunch and learn” sessions.  These meetings give your employees the opportunity to learn and connect with one another during the lunch hour.  Determine a clear topic ahead of time and tee the sessions up to be both informative and interactive.  Whether you’re discussing team goals and performance, holding a “show and tell” with a partner or a particular team, or bringing in a guest speaker or outside resource, getting everyone together in one room can shed light on new ways of doing things and make the lunch hour energizing and engaging.   

6.  Don’t forget to say thank you.  We all appreciate being thanked, but taking the extra step to use a hand-written note, a gift card, or other gestures to recognize achievement can make a big difference in making employees feel appreciated. 

About the Author:

Sarah Field


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!

10 Quick Tips on Business Plan Summaries

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: September 22, 2015 Updated: September 22, 2015

In this instant-update world we live in, life in 140-character bursts, it’s just a fact of modern life: you have to communicate faster. The whole world has attention deficit syndrome. So that’s as true for business planning as for most other things in business.  Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned about business plan summaries.

  1. I’ve never forgotten what they told us decades ago in the resume clinic at business school: “Even the President of the United States can do a one-page resume.” Step back and appreciate the meaning of the word summary.
  2. There’s way too much vague and fuzzy vocabulary around summarizing business plans. A one-page business plan is a summary, not a plan. So too, an elevator speech, elevator pitch, business pitch, pitch deck, executive summary, and summary memo.
  3. As we use them these days, you can think of the lean canvas and lean business model as summaries. They focus on strategy and in some cases tactics. But they lack the milestones, tasks, performance measurements, budgets, and forecasts of a real business plan.
  4. Keep your summary short, cover the highlights, and assume key people will read this summary and nothing else. It’s a front door. Whether it’s an executive summary that comes first in a document, or a summary memo, make that reader want more information.
  5. A good summary is a collection of tips of icebergs. Each one has enough information to imply its entire iceberg, but it can’t go too deep, and it has to leave the iceberg somewhere. Don’t promise in the summary anything you can’t back up in the document or following discussions.
  6. Real business plans change often. It’s planning, not just a plan. And as your plan changes, rewrite and revise your summary to keep it fresh and keep it aligned with the plan.
  7. Different experts have different opinions on the ideal length of a summary. I’ve always recommended a summary of 2-5 pages, which can be used as a stand-alone summary memo where that’s appropriate. For example, in my angel investment group, we don’t read full business plans of all the startups that apply for investment. We eliminate some proposals just from reading the summaries. We read the full business plan only after deciding, from the summary, that we want to know more.
  8. A generalized summary will include the obvious information such as essential business details, what you sell, what locations, projected sales growth, profitability, and news you don’t want anybody to miss. It’s a good place to put a highlights chart, a bar chart that shows sales, gross margin, and profits before interest and taxes for the next three years. You should also cite and explain those numbers in the text.
  9. However, generalized summaries are as rare as generalized business plan events. Write a new summary for each time you need one. Tailor it to match the requirements of your specific business need. The summary you show angel investors is different than one you show a bank loan manager, and different again from the one you show a potential partner, employee, or attorney. How? How can you tell? Think what’s most important for each audience, in each context. That changes depending on the occasion. 
  10. What you highlight depends on the context, as in point #8, but also on the specifics of your business. Highlight what serves your purpose best. For example, if you’re looking for investment and have a venture already backed by major brand-name backers, say so early in the summary. If you’ve got a founders team that includes several known entrepreneurs with good track records, then put it up front. If you have a good business track record, like impressive early sales or landmark deals with major channels, corporations or governments, put that first. If you have an amazing new invention or break-through technology, lead with that. Use good judgment. You’re an editor, at this point, looking at things through the audience’s eyes.

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 .

Starting a Business in the Trucking Industry: Part Two

By sfield, Contributor
Published: September 16, 2015 Updated: September 16, 2015

Earlier this week, we talked about the highly competitive trucking industry, and some guidelines that will hopefully save you time, money, and energy if you’re hoping to start a trucking business.  Today, we’re picking up where we left off with some of the specific rules and regulations of this industry.

Trucking Specifics

Starting a trucking business may require locating and purchasing specific equipment to get started.  If you choose to operate a private fleet with your own drivers, you’ll need commercial vehicles.  Different types of cargo require different equipment – if you’re transporting food, you may need a refrigerated truck.  If your cargo is oversized, you might need flatbed trucks.

In addition to specific equipment needs, the trucking industry comes with its own set of tax, license, and permit regulations.  Depending on the type of trucking business you’d like to start, important regulations could include:

Beyond operational requirements, if you choose to employ private drivers, those drivers will need to obtain special driver’s permits or endorsements such as a commercial driver’s license in order to legally operate your vehicles.

The good news is that each state has a portal dedicated to commercial transportation.  For example, Idaho’s government site has a trucking portal with detailed information on commercial driver’s license requirements, rules and safety information, permits and licenses, taxes, and other related topics.  Before you get started, be sure to visit your state’s transportation portal to ensure that you understand your state’s requirements and available assistance. 

As always, the best step you can take to ensure you are meeting all requirements is to consult a compliance professional. 

Time to Go Find Those Contracts

The trucking industry is competitive, and tracking down those first contracts can be difficult.  As a new business, you won’t have the reputation you need to secure large accounts – but don’t be afraid to start small and utilize local contracts and small business trade shows to build up your client base.  As you successfully complete your first jobs, you’ll be able to grow your business and contract larger jobs each year.

If you own a trucking business, what best practices would you share with someone who wants to get started in this industry?

About the Author:

Sarah Field


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!

Starting a Business in the Trucking Industry: Part One

By sfield, Contributor
Published: September 14, 2015

Commercial goods and products will always require transportation to new locations.  In a growing marketplace, this need presents a great opportunity for new transportation businesses – but the transportation industry in the United States is also highly competitive – particularly in the trucking industry. 

The American Trucking Associations reports that in 2012, trucks moved 9.4 billion tons of freight, or about 68.5 percent of all freight tonnage transported domestically.  Motor carriers collected $642 billion in revenues, or about 81 percent of total revenue earned by all domestic transport modes.

If you’re looking to throw your hat into the highly competitive trucking business, are some guidelines that will hopefully save you time, money, and energy.

Operation Options

Put simply, trucking companies operate by bidding on, winning, and fulfilling transportation accounts and contracts.  Most trucking businesses operate in one of two forms, depending on how they acquire drivers to fulfill contracts:

Sub-contracted drivers: With this option, business owners use sub-contractors as drivers. While the business owner runs the business and receives the contracts, the drivers are not actually employed by the company.  The up side?  This option can cut down on start-up costs, insurance costs, and required equipment.  The down side is that it also gives you less control over your drivers and can cut into your profits. 

Privately-owned drivers: With this option, the business owner privately runs his or her business and all operations, using their own equipment, paying higher insurance prices, and hiring a fleet of private drivers who are employed by the company.  This option gives you total control over your business and its employees, and promises the most return on profits.  The down side for this option is more obvious, as it requires significantly more start-up capital and has higher operating costs. 

Getting Started

As with any other business, it’s important to understand the basics of starting a business before researching the additional steps specific to your field of interest.  Once you’ve determined which type of trucking business you’d like to start, you can follow these 10 Steps to Starting a Business for great tips on how to finance your business, hire employees, and ensure that you are complying with tax obligations.

You’ll also need to consider insurance requirements.  The very nature of the trucking industry creates strict insurance requirements on businesses because you own and oversee the operation of commercial vehicles. 

In addition to your insurance responsibilities, your employer responsibilities require you to comply with health and safety standards and regulations. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides compliance assistance for the trucking industry to meet these expectations.

That’s all for today – tune in later this week for part two of this blog post, where we’ll outline the specific rules and regulations of the trucking industry.

About the Author:

Sarah Field


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!

Sales Tax and Small Businesses – Part Two

By sfield, Contributor
Published: September 4, 2015 Updated: September 4, 2015

Questions about sales tax are among the most frequent inquiries from small business owners across the country.  In part one of our “Sales Tax and Small Businesses” post earlier this week, we defined sales tax, explored state-specific permit and sales tax requirements, and reviewed common situations in which sales tax does not apply.  In today’s post, we’ll pick up where we left off with four additional lessons when it comes to small businesses and sales tax.

Lesson 5:  When your business sells online

If your business sells goods and services online, you will likely still pay sales tax, but not necessarily on all transactions. E-Commerce tax laws can be confusing, but typically, you charge sales tax for customers located in states where your business has a presence.  For example, if you only operate out of Virginia but sell your product to customers across the country, you would only collect and pay sales tax for customers located in Virginia.  However, if you have your headquarters in Virginia, a warehouse in Ohio, and a distribution center in Arizona, then you would pay sales tax on any transactions that originate from those three states.  Check out this article for more helpful tips on when to collect sales tax for online transactions.

Lesson 6:  Time to pay your sales taxes

Depending on your state’s requirements, your business probably has an option to pay monthly or quarterly.  Monthly payments may help you track your expenses more regularly and avoid a bigger tax bill to pay three times a year.  Some states and localities may require businesses with larger tax liability to make electronic payment, while others do not have the infrastructure in place to support electronic payment.  Regardless of which schedule and process you follow, make sure you know your state’s sales tax deadline to avoid costly fines.  

In addition to paying the state sales taxes your business owes, you will likely need to file periodic sales tax reports to your state department of revenue.  Most states now allow businesses to pay and report sales tax online – a great, time-saving feature – and some states also give a discount for prepayment of sales taxes.  If you can swing it, it will save you money in the long-run to pay in advance.

Lesson 7:  Relying on accounting software may not be enough

Your business may use accounting software, but it’s critical to also keep track of your accounting personally.  An incorrect entry could mean not collecting enough tax from customers, yet still having to pay state taxes.  While technology can be an incredibly helpful tool, make sure you also keep track of your numbers to give yourself a backup method for avoiding mistakes when technology is being less than cooperative.  This planning guide outlines more helpful tips to keep your business on top of its numbers.

Lesson 8:  Document in case of an audit

The word “audit” can strike terror into the heart of a small business owner, but if you have a reliable process for keeping track of sales taxes, it will serve you well in case of an audit.  The current economic client has increased the chances of small businesses being audited as many states work to balance their budgets and locate unpaid taxes through audits.  If your business takes the time now to review its process for keeping sales records, it could go a long way in minimizing your costs and time wasted in the event of an audit.    

That wraps up our list of top lessons when it comes to small businesses and sales tax.  Sound overwhelming?  It can be – there are thousands of sales tax jurisdictions in the United States, which makes this topic a challenging one.  Just remember that there are also dozens of resources available to help you with this process from start to finish. 

Did you learn something new through part one or part two of this series?  Do you have a great lesson to add to the list?  Share your small business sales tax takeaways in the comments below.

About the Author:

Sarah Field


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!

Why Your Business Needs a “Content First” Social Media Marketing Strategy

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: September 3, 2015 Updated: September 3, 2015

Social media marketing takes more than signing up for a free account and waiting for followers and fans to materialize.

But where do you start creating content that resonates with your audience on social media?

You need a content-first business. But while content-first usually refers to brands that develop content to build an audience before launching products or services, you can also think of the concept more widely to guide the development of your social marketing efforts.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute, explained the steps of creating a content-first strategy in a recent SCORE online workshop.

Great social marketing starts with expertise and passion

Pulizzi’s first step in developing shareable, engaging content comes down to you as an entrepreneur. Think about your knowledge base and expert-level skills. In what topic areas do you have authority to speak as an expert? What aspects of your industry are you most passionate about?

Match your passion and expertise with what you know about your customers. What are they passionate about? What pain points can you help them solve? Together, these elements of your expertise and your customers’ needs create what Pulizzi calls the sweet spot – the basis for your content marketing.

Once you find the sweet spot, go beyond it to narrow your efforts. Go an extra step to determine your content tilt: the thing that makes you not just an expert, but a leading expert in some aspect of your line of work. “Everyone stops at the sweet spot,” Pulizza explained. “You have to tilt it to find your leading area of expertise, and differentiate.”

Once you’ve solidified your sweet spot and content tilt, it’s time to develop a brand content mission to guide the content you create and share. This mission can be brief, but it should outline your target market, what you’ll offer (ex: blog posts, a podcast, three YouTube tutorials per month), and the outcome for the audience – the value they’ll take away from the experience.

By narrowing your focus with the content-first method, you can spend less time wondering what to post on social media, and spend more time connecting with your audience in a meaningful way.

Pulizzi warns that monetization of the content-first marketing plan takes 15-17 months. But once your audience builds in support of your consistent, compelling content, you’ll see an increase in social media followers, customer engagement, and, of course, revenue. If your business is already selling products, you may see results quicker, but more gradually.

Put your content-first strategy to work

Once you’ve mastered your content strategy, it’s time to communicate! On Twitter, search for and follow other leaders in your industry or region. Accounts with overlapping audiences can offer content to share and respond to. On Facebook, you’re not tied to a character count, so feel free to ask questions, respond to customer queries, and solicit ideas for additional content. Create photo or video posts, or keep tabs on shareable content your colleagues and industry partners are making. Sharing relevant content from others bolsters your own content-creation efforts by offering new items to click and comment on during lulls in your marketing calendar. Sharing also strengthens your reputation as someone who pays attention to their industry – and appreciates their colleagues.

With a steady stream of great content, you’ll not only continue to excite your followers, you’ll also be prepared when social media channels change. Twitter and Facebook have evolved, and Instagram, Snapchat, and Periscope have joined them. Other tools, like Google Plus, have begun to fade out of daily use.

Who’s to say what social channel will be next? By focusing on your sweet spot and content tilt, you’ll have content that transcends specific social media tools, enabling you to adapt it to whatever social channel is all the rage on any given day.

Not sure how to turn your passion and expertise into a marketing strategy? A SCORE mentor can talk through your ideas and help identify a niche audience.

About the Author:

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.

7 Secrets to Making PR Work for You

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: September 1, 2015 Updated: September 1, 2015

Do you do public relations for your business? Many small business owners neglect PR because they think it takes too much time or requires hiring a PR person or agency. Others think their businesses just aren’t newsworthy or that they can’t write a good press release – so why bother?

The truth: PR is a great way for any business to get noticed – for free. “Earned” publicity – publicity that comes from a blog, newspaper, or magazine writing about your business – is far more valuable than “paid” publicity (that is, advertising). Prospective customers trust earned publicity more, and it has long-lasting results in terms of building your brand and your credibility.

The nuts and bolts of PR have changed a bit in recent years, with the advent of social media and the rise of the Internet, but the basic rules of PR still hold true. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Get to know your target. Just as in any type of marketing, understanding what your target market wants and needs is key to success. In this case, your target market is the media – journalists, bloggers, TV and radio reporters, etc. To find out what they need, pay attention to what they already write about. A local reporter who covers the retail industry is the perfect person to pitch your new store to, while the reporter who reviews restaurants won’t care.

2. Craft your pitch and press release. There are many websites that provide templates for pitches and press releases. PRLog.org is one my company uses, but PRNewswire and PRWeb.com offer useful tools, too. Following a template helps by suggesting how and when to use hyperlinks, photos, and other elements to add interest to your pitch or press release. Of course, format isn’t the only thing that matters when writing a pitch or press release. You need to find a “hook” – something timely, interesting, or newsworthy to the media person you’re pitching. If your retail store sells children’s toys, for example, a pitch about the “10 Hottest Holiday Toys for 2015” will get parenting magazines or mom bloggers intrigued.

3. Hit the target. Send your pitch and press release to your target media members. Email is the generally accepted method today; you can find most media members’ emails on their publications’ websites. Use an attention-getting subject line that clearly states what you’re offering without being boring.

4. Follow up. Develop a spreadsheet of media contacts with contact information to help you manage your PR efforts. After your first pitch, follow up if you don’t hear back – but don’t be a pest. I’ve noticed a disturbing tendency of PR people emailing me the day after (or even later the same day) I get their pitches to follow up. Give people some time to get through their emails before you hit them with a second attempt – but do follow up; emails often fall through the cracks.

5. Make an offer. Spell out what’s in it for the media if they take you up on your press release. Provide some useful data (such as statistics from a survey you’ve done), an interesting or compelling quote, an offer to serve as an interview source, or an invitation to your grand opening or other event.

6. Be active. If your business targets local customers, getting out into your community is a great way to get PR. Become an active member of local networking groups, Chambers of Commerce, and other business organizations in your area. Local media often reach out to these groups when they need quotes or interview subjects, so being involved gives you a better chance of getting press.

7. Make the most of it. Once you do get publicity, make the most of the attention by posting the article on your website, framing it in your store, and generally spreading the news about your 15 minutes of fame. Also be sure to thank the journalist or blogger for the attention – that helps build relationships and leads to more publicity.

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

Choosing a Business Name: 5 Interesting Things to Know

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: August 20, 2015 Updated: August 20, 2015

There’s plenty of advice out there about choosing a business name, such as the need to do a name search in your state, a trademark search, register the name, and other key legal issues.  Those are all important factors to consider as you choose a business name.

But I’d like to focus today on five considerations you should also be thinking about. These five things may be overlooked when choosing a business name (or thinking about a re-branding of your business):

Dot Com Domain Names Still Rule

Today’s small businesses depend on Web presence to generate leads.  Prospective customers are researching businesses online before they buy, so being findable online is crucial. 

Before you settle on a choice for a business name, go to your favorite domain registrar, and search to see whether the .com URL is available.  The “dot com” version of a name is still the go-to address that most of the public thinks of automatically.  So whenever possible, try to get the dot com version of your chosen name. 

Otherwise, you may end up like me – buying that dot com extension at auction on the secondary market later –for thousands of dollars.  After years of vainly trying to encourage people to use our chosen domain name (which was close but not exact), I finally caved in and purchased the one that matched my company name and that people tended to automatically think of, and redirected it to our company website.  So now we no longer “leak” that misguided Web traffic, but it did cost us.

Newer Domain Extensions Can Be Catchy

Absent that – or perhaps in addition to a dot com – consider the catchiness of some other top level domain extensions.  Today we have many more choices for domain extensions, to the point that they can become a clever part of your name.

Consider a name like Lesson.ly.  The “.ly” extension is used as an integral part of the name.

Some of the new domain extensions suggest the type of business you may be in.  For instance, a consultant might opt for a .guru domain extension, as in JohnQSmith.guru.  A photographer might opt for a .photography domain, as in SuperSnazzy.photography or something similar.

There’s no rule that says you are limited to just one domain name.  You can always have two or more using some for specific marketing purposes – just make sure they are directed properly to your website.

Will Trendy Names Stand the Test of Time?

Names, like fashion, go through trends.  A number of years back, names with “crunch” in them were trendy.  Think Techcrunch.  Names with dropped vowels were also trendy for a long time - such as Unbxd.  Or adding in extra letters was cool, such as the three b’s in Dribbble. 

Consider, though, whether that trendiness will be difficult to spell or remember.  Will the public remember to drop the right combination of vowels, or to add in that extra letter? 

Catchy vs. Descriptive

There’s a trade-off when choosing a name.  Go for marketing memorability?  Or go for findability online or in yellow pages?  Have you ever wondered why there are so many service providers named “AAAA Best Plumber of Skokie, Iowa” or “AAA Pest Control of Hunstville, Arkansas”?  In the days when yellow pages ruled, businesses wanted to be first on alphabetical lists. 

When the Web showed up, names shifted toward the descriptive terms that the public looked for in search engines (“Lima Oklahoma Used Car Dealer”).

But consider whether you’re letting the tail wag the dog.  For many businesses, you want the public – buyers – to remember your name.  A catchy, memorable name often trumps one that is designed to get people to find it when searching. 

Of course, the best names manage to do both:  make it easy to find when searching, yet are memorable. Or the business owner gets two domain names – one that matches the brand name and one that pairs up with searches.

The International Dilemma

The world is becoming a small place when it comes to commerce.  The majority of companies that export are small businesses.  Business owners who are thinking ahead have to consider not only how that name sounds or what it means in the United States, but how it plays in other countries and languages.  Years ago, Chevrolet allegedly named a new car model the Nova – only to have it pointed out later that in Spanish, Nova meant “it doesn’t go.”  That turned out to be an urban legend about Chevrolet that has now been debunked according to Snopes.com – but the lesson it represents is still valid.  If nothing else, it’s wise to consider whether your business name will be pronounceable and spellable in countries you may plan to sell into.  And consider whether there’s already a famous competitor in those countries with the same name.

About the Author:

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.


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