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Summer Reading for the Business Minded

Published: July 29, 2016 Updated: July 29, 2016

Whether you are on a much needed vacation or in an effort to spur inspiration, the summer months provide an opportunity to reflect and re-engage. From starting a home-based business to handling taxes, these top SBA blog posts will give you options to rethink, reimagine and perhaps recommit yourself to your business needs and goals.

7 Inspiring Home Business Ideas for Stay-at-Home Moms or Dads
https://www.sba.gov/blogs/7-inspiring-home-business-ideas-stay-home-moms-or-dads

Being a parent is a full-time job but if you carve out time and some office space, you can use your parenting skills, network or other professional resources to launch a venture from kitchen.

How to Change Your Business Name – Legal and Regulatory Steps Explained
https://www.sba.gov/blogs/how-change-your-business-name-legal-and-regulatory-steps-explained

If you have set up shop for some time but recognize a shift in your business or industry, then perhaps you will need a new business name. Make sure to do it the right way!

6 Things You Need to Know About Your Tax Responsibilities as an LLC
https://www.sba.gov/blogs/6-things-you-need-know-about-your-tax-responsibilities-llc

Establishing a limited liability corporation is a popular choice for small business owners and entrepreneurs. With that in mind, understand the financial and tax implications of an LLC. Consider seeking professional advice to cover your bases.

Three Popular Start-Up Financing Options 
https://www.sba.gov/blogs/three-popular-start-financing-options

How to Estimate the Cost of Starting a Business from Scratch
https://www.sba.gov/blogs/how-estimate-cost-starting-business-scratch

Depending on the type of business or industry, starting a new business can be costly. Explore different financing options beforehand as well as determine upfront expenses.

How Do I Find an EIN?
https://www.sba.gov/blogs/how-do-i-find-ein-0

If you have a checklist of items to take care of as you launch your business, securing an EIN should be near the top.

Use the summertime to unwind and catch up on the numerous resources that SBA.gov has to offer new and experienced business owners.

 

About the Author:

Ijeoma S. Nwatu
Ijeoma S. Nwatu
Ijeoma S. Nwatu is a digital strategy and communications consultant. She is the Communications Manager for ColorComm, an organization that aims to uplift women of color in the communications field. When not working with clients, Ijeoma can be found speaking about career transitioning and social media marketing. Follow her on Twitter: @ijeomasnwatu.

5 Things Business Owners do Better with Lean Business Planning

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: July 26, 2016 Updated: July 26, 2016

Don’t think of a business plan as a formal document that’s hard to do, useful only for startups, bank loan applications, and seeking investment. Think of it as a lean plan that’s just lists and tables and is vital for optimizing business management.

1. Manage strategy

Strategy is focus. Most small businesses have trouble setting and maintaining focus on priorities because there’s always a new crisis interfering, or a new opportunity, real or perceived, distracting them like a shiny new thing.

Not that opportunity is bad. But a lot of the shiny new things that seem like opportunities are just distractions. Pursuing them dilutes the focus and weakens the business. Trying to do everything is too often a quick path to failure.

What to do? Manage strategy with planning. Set strategic priorities thoughtfully and use a simple planning process to manage them. Have a monthly plan review. Take time to reflect on results and assumptions and change and adapt carefully.

That starts with a plan that sets the key points of strategy. Make it a lean plan, just bullet points, extreme summaries. You do it for yourself, not outsiders. So keep it simple.  

2. Align strategy and tactics

It happens so often. You set back to develop strategy, but get back into the routine and don’t follow up with real tactics, real business decisions and activities, to execute strategy. For example, the computer store decides to focus on small business owners who appreciate service, but continues to advertise low prices, doesn’t insist on installing every system, and doesn’t offer good training and frequent upgrade reminders. The tactics don’t match the strategy.

To manage strategic alignment, do a lean business plan that lists tactics in simple bullet points. Tactics include pricing, channels, messaging, product and service mix, and so forth. Make sure the tactics execute the strategy.

Then review tactics and compare plan to actual results every month in a planning review meeting. Check strategic alignment as strategy, tactics, and assumptions change. Expect to revise often.

3. Manage execution

Thing of ongoing business management, and strategy and execution, as a process of taking steps towards goals. Goals include short- and medium-term goals you can call milestones. In your lean plan, you set the milestones you can see for the near future. You list important milestones for the team. You assign dates, deadlines, budgets, performance expectations, and responsibilities.

Then you manage progress towards milestones during the monthly lean plan review meetings. Bring up the milestone schedule, discuss progress, revise as necessary, and manage the ongoing flow from plan to meaningful activities to results.   

4. Manage people

People work better when objectives are clear and measurements are specific. People like to control their own performance numbers (also called metrics) so they can see their own progress towards goals and level of performance. Which would you rather have for yourself: an objective numerical goal you can see and share, or the subjective approval and review of your supervisor?

With lean planning, you have the regular review of expectations and results. It’s an easy forum for reviewing performance of team members, revising expectations, and applying both management and, where appropriate, peer pressure. Once a month you review results and compare them to expectations. Sometimes the plan was too ambitious and expectations too high, so you revise the goals. Sometimes the review turns up problems in execution and poor performance.

That’s where management comes in. Make expectations explicit, review results, and make people accountable for performance. All of which is built into a healthy planning process.

5. Manage cash

Cash flow is critical to a healthy business and it’s not always as simple as profits. Businesses that manage products and inventory can be profitable on paper but have all the working capital tied up in inventory. Businesses that sell to other businesses can be profitable on paper but have all their working capital tied up in Accounts Receivable, waiting for their business customers to pay their invoices.

A good lean planning process lays out expectations for money coming in and money going out to manage cash flow. Each money you have a plan vs. actual review to highlight developments, re-allocate spending as the need comes up, and make sure the cash flow is running as expected.   

Conclusion: Planning is Management

Forget the myth of the big formal business plan that makes most business owners grateful they don’t have to have one. Instead, think of business planning as a simple lean business plan – bullets and tables for strategy, tactics, milestones, metrics, and essential projections – with a process that includes regular review and revision.

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 .

3 Biggest Problems Implementing a CRM System, and What to Do About Them

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: July 21, 2016 Updated: July 21, 2016

CRM or customer relationship management systems can be an incredibly powerful tool to grow your business.  With CRM you can track sales leads, turns leads into closed sales faster, manage customer support issues and better market to your customers for follow-on sales and renewals. 

And that’s just a few of the things a CRM system can do. In my company we are in the process of evaluating CRM systems. We know we need help organizing sales leads and following up on sales leads. Any system would be better than what we have. Today we rely on a hodgepodge of disconnected, hard-to-find emails, chat messages and calendar reminders. 

Without a system to see “end to end” sales leads, inevitably fall through the cracks. Important commitments are not followed up on. Opportunities we work hard on disappear. The sad truth is, we’re not alone. CRM adoption by small businesses is low.  According to industry analyst Brent Leary, a partner with CRM Essentials, CRM adoption by small businesses “definitely lags that of larger companies.” And it’s not because CRM is less useful to small businesses.

Rather, there are three significant problems small businesses face when it comes to implementing a CRM system.

Problem 1: It’s hard to figure out what different CRM systems do

All CRM systems are not created equal. The good news is, there are dozens of CRM systems on the market. The bad news is; they each do different things well.

Some are great at managing sales leads. Others are focused more on managing relations with existing customers. Some are focused on marketing automation, i.e., automating your follow-on marketing. Others are simple and mostly help you keep track of contacts. Some do better at helping you maximize your social media networking.

Make sure you devote enough time up front to evaluating CRM providers, with a well-organized and focused approach: 

  • Focus on YOUR needs. Don’t get dazzled by shiny objects. Write down your two or three primary pain points that you want to fix.
  • Organize your evaluation. Set up a spreadsheet and list each CRM you evaluate, noting your impression of how well it meets your needs. Use live chat and take advantage of demos and free trials -- most providers offer some combination of these.
  • Evaluate price. While isn’t everything, in a small business it’s very important. In fact, a pricey CRM system often delivers a double whammy, because it may be loaded with bells and whistles that can make it overly complex to implement in a small company.

Problem 2: The perception that CRM is too costly and too complex to use

According to analyst Leary, many small business owners perceive CRM systems to be costly and overly complex.  And indeed, we’ve found some are complex and expensive. Those are better suited to larger enterprises.

Here’s how to deal with the cost and complexity issues:

  • Analyze price as a key factor in your decision tree. Leary points out there are even a number of cloud-based systems you can use for free making it “pretty painless to start.”
  • To deal with the complexity issue, look specifically for CRM systems that mention small business on their websites. The more they focus on small business as their core market, the more likely the functionality will be in keeping with what a small business needs. And if you go for a free cloud CRM, the added advantage is that the free version may be more entry level. That means it won’t be overkill when you go to implement it.

Problem 3: Not budgeting enough resources for a proper implementation

Many businesses get frustrated and give up too early in the implementation process, according to Leary. It takes work to implement any new software, as we’ve discovered repeatedly.  Whatever amount of time and effort you think it will take, it’s likely to be double or triple that once you’re done. But that’s not a reason for not choosing a CRM system, because the benefits far outweigh the implementation costs.

It all gets back to being prepared. “Take the time up front to understand at a detailed level what challenges you're trying to solve, and know what success is and how to measure it,” advises Leary. If you do that, you’re more likely to stick with the implementation and recognize when it’s starting to help your business.

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.

Email Marketing Basics for Small Business

Published: July 14, 2016

Email marketing is just one of many ways to engage customers and ultimately lead them to purchase a product or service. Building and maintaining a healthy email list is important in learning more about your customer base and how they respond to your business, as well as generating potential new business. If your business has not explored nor maximized the possibilities of email marketing, read more about how to leverage your existing and future contacts. If you are a small business owner looking to try a different tactic or introduce something new, why not use a change in season to test new ideas.

Get permission

First and foremost, your email marketing campaign or listserv should have the option to opt-out of emails. Subscribers may have their reason for removal from your list and to capture their explanation, add a comment section before they officially remove themselves. By having permission to be in the electronic inboxes of your customers, you can better target content and offerings to be the people who want to remain on your list. If you want to incentivize your email list or a special campaign, consider adding a discount code, flash sale or customer appreciation message.
 

Test and then test again

Once you focus on the subscribers who remain on your list, regardless of how many subscribers, there is an opportunity to experiment with different type of sales copy, promotions, visuals, etc. A simple way to test subject lines or a specific merchandise is to A/B test a call-to-action (CTA), time of day, or even the email’s layout. Send two emails to similar groups within your email list but hold a variable for testing. Make sure to have predetermined goals and review the analytics of open and click through rates of hyperlinks, especially those tied to your website.

Incorporate seasonal trends

If weather or the time of year affects your sales or potential new business, tailor email marketing accordingly. For example, if you manage a summer camp for teens, then you may target different groups to include school staff, parents, and community officials to inform them of your offerings, cost and availability. A common example of seasonal emails is small businesses and big brands using holidays like Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day to generate sales and customer interest about their products and store specials.

Integrate email marketing as part of an entire plan

A small business may not have a lot of marketing resources but to maximize your efforts, it’s important that email marketing and subsequent campaigns are connected to other business goals and marketing objectives. Think about social media, advertising, events, SEO, and other strategies that can work in tandem with your email marketing.

Email marketing can have many layers and may require knowledgeable staff or additional resources. Starting with the basics can help small businesses take advantage being present in their customers’ inboxes. Don’t lose sight of the chance to engage them, delight them and to make a sale.

Resources 

CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Busines

About the Author:

Ijeoma S. Nwatu
Ijeoma S. Nwatu
Ijeoma S. Nwatu is a digital strategy and communications consultant. She is the Communications Manager for ColorComm, an organization that aims to uplift women of color in the communications field. When not working with clients, Ijeoma can be found speaking about career transitioning and social media marketing. Follow her on Twitter: @ijeomasnwatu.

Helping Employees TaxWise Who Work from Home

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: July 14, 2016 Updated: July 14, 2016

According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com,* 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time, and the number of work-at-home employees has grown 103% since 2005. If your business has employees who work from home, understand the tax rules they face for claiming a home office deduction and what you can do to help them.

Overview of the home office deduction

A home office deduction enables a person to treat otherwise personal costs as a deductible business expense. The deduction can be based on the actual costs allocated to the portion of the home used for business or on an IRS-set allowance of $5 per square foot up to 300 square feet (a maximum deduction of $1,500). The employee claims the deduction as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on Schedule A of Form 1040.

An employee working from home can qualify for the home office deduction only if he or she meets the following three tests:

  1. The home office must be the principal place of business or a place to meet regularly with customers, clients, or patients (there’s also a “separate structure” rule not discussed here).
  2. The space must be used regularly and exclusively for business. The space cannot be used for personal purposes when not being used for business, so a kitchen won’t qualify.
  3. The use of the home office must be for the convenience of the employer and the employee does not rent the space to the employer

Special conditions for employees

Condition number 3, above, is only for employees; self-employed individuals working from home don’t have this concern. An employee who chooses to work from home because it better suits his/her lifestyle and family responsibilities or believes he or she can get more work done at home may not be eligible for a home office deduction. The choice must be the employer’s. Thus, an employee who finds it helpful and appropriate to do work in the evening at home probably can’t take the deduction.

But if the employer requires an employee to work from home—all the time or at certain times—the employee may be eligible for the tax break. More specifically, working from home must be a condition of employment, necessary for the employer’s business to function properly, or needed to allow an employee to perform his or her employment duties. Examples of situations where the use of a home office likely is for the convenience of an employer:

  • The employer requires an employee to work from home because there is no office space for the worker.
  • The office is locked at the end of the business day but the employer requires an employee to do work (e.g., be on call to answer customer questions) after hours or on weekends and holidays.

A company policy supporting an employee working at home can be reflected in a letter to the employee to this effect. For example, when I was an offsite part-time employee of a publishing company, I received a letter defining this work arrangement; there was no space for me at the company’s office and I was not required to work there.

The employee cannot charge the company rent for his or her home office. Thus, if you are the owner-employee of an S corporation and work from home, you can’t charge the corporation any rent if you want to take a home office deduction. Doing so means you must report the rent as income (and the corporation deducts the rent payment) but you can’t take a home office deduction.

Accountable plan

While it’s great to help an employee nail down a home office deduction, this write-off may be worth little or nothing to the employee. The employee must itemize to take the deduction. And assuming he or she does itemize, only miscellaneous itemized deductions over 2% of adjusted gross income are actually deductible. As an employer you can eliminate the need for a home office deduction by reimbursing the employee for home office expenditures. If you do this through an “accountable plan,” the reimbursements are not treated as compensation to the employee and there’s no employment taxes involved. You can still deduct your reimbursements.

To be treated as an accountable plan, all of the following conditions must be met:

  • The expenses must have a business purpose and are paid or incurred while performing services as an employee. Thus, paying an employee’s home office costs must reflect company policy.
  • The employee must account to the employer for costs within a reasonable time (usually within 60 days after the expense is paid or incurred).
  • If the company advances payments, the employee must return any excess reimbursement within a reasonable time (usually within 120 days after the expense is paid or incurred).

Reimbursements must be limited to actual business costs of the employee, such as charges for Internet access. Reimbursements under an accountable plan cannot include payments for personal expenses.

While the tax law doesn’t require any special type of written plan, it’s highly advisable to craft your own. Be sure that it contains the elements of an accountable plan and that the working-from-home arrangement is reflected in the document.

Conclusion

Companies are increasingly offering telework opportunities to employees. For example, FlexJobs* found that there was a 36% increase in telecommuting job listings from 2014 to 2015. Helping employees with tax rules on their home office will be much appreciated. The home office deduction is explained in IRS Publication 587. Details about an accountable plan are in IRS Publication 463.

*Denotes a non-governmental website link

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

How to Immediately Become a More Credit Savvy Business Owner

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: July 12, 2016

Credit plays an important role in your personal and business life. It impacts your purchasing power, the interest rates you’ll pay, and the terms of repayment. The more insight you have about credit, the easier it is to succeed in business.

Successful business owners appear to have a firm and knowledgeable grasp regarding finance and credit. Others, however, become credit savvy through years of experience and trial and error. Regardless of a business owner’s background, becoming more credit savvy is possible by adopting certain qualities and personality traits.

Here are some of those key character traits of credit-savvy business owners.

They are upfront and on the level - Being straightforward and honest with yourself about your personal and company finances enables you to pinpoint past mistakes and deal with budget issues or bad spending habits. It’s key to identify your company’s financial needs and identify the most appropriate sources of financing based on your honest financial assessment.

They are forward thinking –The time period when a business needs money the most is when it’s hardest to obtain: during the startup phase. Planning ahead, being clear on how much you need, and researching what lenders look for is essential to securing the funding your company needs. For starters, obtain a credit report on yourself and your business well in advance of searching for funding.

They are detail orientedCredit savvy business owners know the details of their financial status, from their personal credit ratings to the most recent profit and loss statement of the business. The fact is that numbers tell the real story of a business. Other factors that impact your bottom line are your fixed and variable expenses. Pay close attention to details like this so you can determine the health of your business and make appropriate adjustments if necessary.

They are disciplined – Business owners who are knowledgeable about credit and finance have a great deal of self-control. They conserve cash flow, follow budgets, use and manage credit responsibly, and keep their credit utilization ratio at or below 30%. According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) which surveyed 930 small business owners; discovered that the ability to manage a company’s cash flow effectively was their secret to small business success.

They know their priorities – Savvy business owners put their priorities in check and know what areas of their personal and/or business credit demands their attention. They pay their invoices on time and keep debt at a manageable level. They learn from their past mistakes and recognize them as learning opportunities.

They educate themselves – Business owners well versed in credit and finance invest in their ongoing education. They learn, study and research personal and business finance, including information about funding programs, credit products, and credit scores. It’s difficult to make wise decisions about credit without a clear understanding of all the factors involved in the decision making process.

If it’s true that you can become a credit savvy business owner by emulating one, this article gives you the roadmap for success. Whether it’s gaining more knowledge about credit, knowing your numbers, or planning ahead, there’s a lot to be learned from credit savvy business owners. Take a close look at your personal and business finances to determine what steps you can take to improve.  It may be just what you need to take your personal and business finances to the next level.

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’.

Are You Keeping Up with Your Business Cybersecurity Needs?

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: July 7, 2016 Updated: July 7, 2016

The increased connectivity provided by the internet has vastly changed the way we do business. But while most of the effects are for the better — ease of information exchange, ecommerce capabilities and customer service come to mind — there are still negative aspects small business owners should know about.

Cybercrime is one of the biggest threats businesses of all sizes face. More than 75 percent of data breaches target small and medium-sized businesses which can cause major havoc for your business operations. Sixty percent of small businesses affected by cybercrime will close within six months of the breach, according to a study by McAfee.

Here are a few tips for protecting your business from cybercrime.

Protect Your Business

First and foremost: Create and maintain a secure network for your business operations. A password may seem second nature for log-on, but do you have a firewall? Only twenty percent of small businesses have network security encryption. Contact your internet service provider to check on your security options, and find out where your network protection may be falling short.

Next, talk with your employees about keeping your business safe. They should create strong passwords for work-related accounts, and avoid completing personal tasks on company computers to reduce vulnerability.

Resist the urge to provide your Wi-Fi password to customers or visitors; if you wish to offer Wi-Fi to visitors, create a second network for guest use.

Finally, encourage your staff to backup data regularly, either to a cloud service, to a backup hard drive or both. Consider scheduling a regular backup day each week to get employees in the habit.

Protect Your Customers

Once you’ve taken steps to protect your business from cybercrime, it’s time to extend that protection to your customers. For the most part, your attention to cybersecurity to protect your business will flow over to your customers as well. But even the most web-savvy customers may need reassurance.

Be sure to communicate your online safety policies and measures to your customers especially if you’re offering ecommerce services. Be open with customers who may have questions about the security of their orders or personal information, and welcome discussion.

Don’t Let Your Small Business Get Complacent

One of the toughest parts of avoiding cybercrime is keeping up with the changing landscape of how we do business online. By keeping up with business news, you’ll help yourself stay aware of potential threats to your cybersecurity system.

Not sure if you’re doing enough — or the right things — to protect your small business? Get in touch with a SCORE mentor who can help you review your practices.

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.

When to Hire a Copywriter and How to Work With One

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: July 5, 2016 Updated: July 5, 2016

Does your small business need a copywriter? Many small business owners try to save money by writing copy for their marketing materials, websites and ads themselves. However, unless you have experience in marketing copywriting, this generally isn’t a good idea.

Here are some reasons you might need a copywriter:

You’re investing in an advertising campaign. If you're planning to spend money developing and placing ads, you should make sure your ads are expertly designed to work.

You want to refresh your business brand. If you're giving your brand a new look and feel, now is a good time to bring in a copywriter for professional help.

Your existing marketing isn’t working. Maybe your website isn't generating enough traffic. Maybe it’s attracting visitors, but they aren't taking the actions you want them to such as browsing your products, placing orders or making appointments. Perhaps you’ve been using the same brochures, mailers or print ads for years, and they’re no longer generating results like they did previously.

What to look for

Start by asking around — other small business owners, people in your professional network and advisers such as SCORE mentors should be able to suggest some local copywriters or online resources.  

Look for relevant experience. It's best to work with a copywriter who has previous experience working with small businesses and, ideally, working in your industry as well. Such a person will be up-to-date on marketing tactics that work for businesses similar to yours. You should also check references carefully and ask about the results of any marketing copywriting that was done (for instance, did website traffic increase after the copywriter rewrote the copy?).

Ask about specialization. Different copywriters have different specialties. For example, some copywriters specialize in B2B clients, others in B2C customers. Some focus on writing website or online advertising copy (an art in itself that requires an understanding of search engine optimization), others on print marketing materials. A copywriter who tries to do it all may not do anything very well.

Visit their websites and see what you think. These days, every copywriter should have a website featuring portfolios of his or her work. In addition to viewing work the copywriter has done for others, you should also assess whether the website does a good job of selling you on the copywriter's abilities. You don't want to hire someone who can’t even “sell” themselves, do you?

How to work with a copywriter

Know what you want to achieve. You need to know not only the specific project you want them to work on, but also the results you want to get. For example, do you want visitors to your website to call your business, fill out an online contact form, or make a purchase? If the copywriter doesn't know what you are trying to accomplish, he or she will struggle to help you accomplish it. The more specific you can be about your goals, the better your chances of a successful project.

Clarify the scope of work. Misunderstandings often arise when working with writers if neither side is clear about the scope of work. A good copywriter will create a detailed contract specifying things such as the number of revisions, cost of each element of the work, timeframe/deadlines, and what happens if you are not satisfied with the work after revisions. You should also clarify how the copywriter will be paid — per project, by the hour or by the word. Each copywriter will have his or her own preferred cost structure.

Be able to explain your business brand. In order to get the best results from a copywriter, you need to be able to convey what makes your business brand so special. If you can't explain the essence of your business to the copywriter, he or she won't be able to convey it to prospects.

Put someone in charge. It might be you, it might be your marketing person, but your copywriter needs one point of contact to work with in order to avoid confusion. This also eliminates the situation where five different people at your business send a copywriter different feedback about the work. Having one person gather all the feedback and synthesize it will mean the copywriter spends less time on your project — saving you money.

Be willing to pay for quality work. Yes, there are websites where you can find people willing to write copy for five dollars — but you get what you pay for. A skilled, experienced copywriter who gets results is worth the cost. By clarifying the scope of work, setting clear expectations at the beginning and providing detailed feedback, you'll get the best from your copywriter while still keeping your costs reasonable. 

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

Franchise Businesses That Show Up When A Disaster Strikes

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: June 16, 2016 Updated: June 16, 2016

Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and fires destroy homes and business every year. The homes and businesses affected need to be cleaned up and restored back to their original condition. Did you know that there are franchise businesses that specialize in disaster cleanup and restoration?

Opportunities That Are Under the Radar

Before I entered the world of franchising, I had no idea that disaster cleanup and restoration businesses even existed. And, I really didn’t know that a lot of them were franchise businesses. Did you?

Franchise opportunities like the ones I’m referring to, are off the radar of most of today’s franchise-seekers. For instance, what opportunities are you investigating? Are any of them franchise opportunities that most people don’t think of looking into? Or, do they fall under the more popular categories like food and retail?

It’s perfectly all right to look at popular categories in franchising. You may find one that’s perfect for you. But, are you looking at all the available options?

Disaster Cleanup & Restoration Businesses

Seeing a Servpro truck on your street is never a good sign–especially for the homeowner or business that the vehicle is in front of; it means that something happened; something requiring professional cleanup services.

FYI: Franchise businesses in this category don’t only appear after major disasters affect entire neighborhoods. They deal with matters such as:

  • Fire/smoke damage
  • Water heater leaks
  • Black mold removal
  • Odor removal
  • Crime scene cleanup

A Specialized Field. Recession-Proof, Too?

This is a highly specialized field. There are specific solvents and equipment that need to be used to properly cleanup and repair damage to homes and businesses. It takes time to learn how to provide these services. Franchisors in this category provide the specialized training needed by franchisees to do this type of work.

Not only is this a very specialized field to be in, it’s also pretty recession proof. Here’s why:

Think about how a potential customer appears. Think about how you would go about trying to cleanup your home if your water heater blew.

Would you go online and try to find a company that handles floods? Maybe. And, if you used that technique, you would try to find one that could come to your home quickly. It wouldn’t be about price at that point; it would be about speed. You need your flooded family room fixed–and fast!

Fact: Disasters happen in good times and bad times. They’re not affected by the ups and downs of the economy. People can’t and don’t price-shop when they need their flooded or burned out homes repaired.

My bet is that after you calmed down-after working through the fact that your carpeting and or hard surface flooring would need to be repaired or replaced, you would call your insurance company for help. And guess what? Your insurance person has a list of companies that are ready and willing to quickly be of service. And, a lot of them are franchise companies. Local franchisees in your area.

The Owner’s Role

Your role as the owner of a disaster cleanup and restoration franchise, is two-fold.

  1. You’ll be doing some of the cleaning and repair at first. You’ll need to know what you’re talking about when potential customers ask questions. The best way to do that is to actually do the work.
  2. You’ll also be in charge of new business development. Can you guess who you’ll be calling on?

If you guessed that you’d be contacting every insurance company in your territory you’d be right. Your business is one that depends heavily on referrals, not just insurance companies and insurance adjusters.

For example, you’ll want to get to know the people who work at city hall, and the local fire department and police departments in your area. And, there are plenty of other referral sources you’ll learn about if you become the owner of a franchise business in disaster cleanup and restoration.

Now You Know

I gave you a brief overview of a franchise business type that you may not have been aware of. I’m not trying to sell you on the idea of buying a franchise like this but disaster cleanup and restoration is just one of them.  

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.

4 Ways to Market Your Business This Father’s Day

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: June 9, 2016 Updated: June 9, 2016

Father’s Day is less than two weeks away and Americans say they will spend more than ever this year according to the National Retail Federation's annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics. The National Retail Federation also reports that consumers are expected to spend an average $125.92, up from last year’s $115.57. Here are a few ways to get in on the action this year.

Give the gift of togetherness

When it comes to Father’s Day gifts, we often think of getting something for Dad that he can enjoy on his own. Consider an approach that lets him have a good time with the family as well. For example, if you own a restaurant or café, try a father-child special for a dine-in experience. Or if you have a hardware store, hold a workshop that allows kids to come in with their fathers to make something they can take home. They’ll walk away with a great experience – and a birdhouse (or something) as a memento.

Cater to kids

Own a brick-and-mortar store? Highlight merchandise for Father’s Day by bringing it front and center. Arrange your items so that kids can see and reach what they might buy Dad. Like kids’ cereal in a supermarket, bringing things to eye level can go a long way to attract attention. Even if they’re not spending their own money, they can certainly carry purchasing power in influencing the other parent!

Make it easy

Buying gifts is never easy, so help your customers out by creating a gift guide. You can offer suggestions by price, interest or audience (child, spouse, parent). With emails and social media, especially, you can get the word out that you have the perfect gift for Dad. You can also highlight particular gifts you think may be hot-ticket items. If you can, take the extra step by offering free gift-wrapping (or shipping, if you run an online store) as an extra incentive as the holiday gets closer.

Create a buzz

If you don’t think you’re in the business of offering specific Father’s Day specials, you can still acknowledge the occasion! Get in on the action with social media, for instance. Ask fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter to share photos of special moments with Dad, funniest pictures of Dad, etc. It’ll be a great way to engage your customers and foster a sense of community.

Regardless of your type of business, what you provide or sell, there’s a way to incorporate Father’s Day into your marketing and sales tactics. 

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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