Business advice


Marketing on the fly
June 24, 2008, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Business Advice | Tags: , ,

Everyone is pinching pennies so tight the images are flying off. There isn’t a newspaper or magazine that isn’t discussing the mess the economy is in.

Despite the scary headlines, if you are a business owner or manager, you have to find a way to market your business despite the downturn in the markets. Marketing has to become as important to you as breathing if you wish to stay in business.

When is the last time that you updated your business card and had a new batch run? Yes, I know they cost money. Do you keep a good number with you when you are out and around doing errands, personal or business? Once you get a new order what do you do with them. Are they sitting on your desk staring at you?

I don’t care if you are one person shop or manage a team of 20, it has never been more urgent that you get the brand name of your company out in front of consumers in general.

Buying is going to slow way down in the next year. Consumers are always more apt to deal with a brand name they are familiar with.

Take an opportunity to expand your network in your general community. There are a number of ways this can be done. Yes, it takes time. But, it relatively cheaper than buying ads in local newspapers. One ad these days can cost as much as a membership in a Chamber of Commerce.

There is always Kiwanis’s and Toastmasters. Both organizations give you a chance to meet additional people that will now know you and your business.

Everyone is an expert in something. Hopefully, you have an area of expertise that is directly connected to your business. Check out your local weekly papers and see if you can convince the editor to allow you to write a weekly column. You wouldn’t get paid for the writing, but you will get great publicity. Getting published in the paper or getting a story written about you is better than any ad you can purchase.

If your business is already a Chamber member, offer to host the next networking meeting. There is, of course, the need for a budget. But it is nothing compared to an ad campaign. This way you have a group that you can immediately network with regarding your business.

If there is a good cause that needs money in your city or region, get involved in the fund raising. Once started, send out press releases to the nearby newspapers until one finally bites and writes a story about what you are up to.

Use an area of expertise to teach a continuing education class. Again, you will have a captive audience. You can interweave stories about your work experience into the class. If your students like you, they will talk about you to others.

Don’t hesitate to call customers you haven’t seen for awhile. If you don’t have a database of your regulars, then you are in more trouble than this article can help you with.

During these times, it will never be more important to remember that all business is selling. Keep that in front of your mind whenever you are out in public. You never know when an opportunity to spread the word may come up.

Market on.

For more samples of my work: www.bellbusinessreport.com

Laura Bell

writer@well.com

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Inflationary woed; a slightly different twist
June 16, 2008, 8:00 am
Filed under: Business Advice | Tags: , ,

Here’s simple insight on how to cope.

Can we reasonably answer the question, just how bad is it? It’s easier than the analysts would have your think. Contrary to popular beliefs, the true definition of inflation is, “a state of constant rising prices.” You got it. We have it. It’s bad. It doesn’t require percentage comparison to last year’s quarter, it’s in our faces every time we go to the store or stop at the gas station. We know how bad it is every time we go through the checkout line. We have TROUBLE.

We are at the point that there are workers running around changing prices. Not only are prices up, but the amount in the package is less. Seeing this takes a veteran shopper. Loaves of bread in major super markets are half the size they use to be. Restaurants that used to be known for their large portions are cutting way down.

Don’t take your anger out on the distributors. Both grocery stores and gas stations have large overheads and very small profit margins. Whenever the price increases from their distributor, they have to pay more in order to have the product available. It is hurting some to the point of questioning where they stay open for business. Smaller gas station owners are closing up shop.

During most inflationary times, there is an urge to shop, shop, and shop some more. The idea is money looses its value during inflation. If you wait, it will cost you more. There is a new twist this time around. People are scared of long run consequences because of the problems with mortgages and the fear of more layoffs. No one wants long term bills they might not be able to pay. The country, as well the world, is in a big fat pickle.

The mortgage mess is just a part of it. Gas prices have been rising for quite awhile. No one has stepped in to increase the effort of alternative energy. Oh yes, we all know about alternative fuel cars. There total numbers are small compared to the whole enchilada. What most consumers are not aware of is that the price of fuel effects everything. Goods need to be shipped for distribution. When our gas goes up, other fuel products move in the same direction. Then, there is air travel. Their fuel moves up just like ours. They have been screaming lately about their need to raise rates and nick pick you with charges for the extra carry on luggage. If you are a frequent flier, don’t think for a minute that it is over.

This is a gloomy picture. We have prices going up; jobs at risk; customers squeezing every nickel they have; and thousands of homes on the market which few buyers. There is no prediction as to when things will get better.

Here are some cautionary notes that will help you cope better than the average Joe. Don’t get into a long-term contract for anything you can do without it. I don’t care how great the deal sounds on paper today. Since the future is cloudy, there is good chance home prices might go down further, wait. Don’t fall for the fancy ads for products requiring a long-term contract. I don’t care how long they promise you don’t have to pay, you will pay and probably extra since they held the note so long before they started getting payments.

If there was ever a time to have a secondary skill that will earn you dollars, it’s now. If you don’t have one, develop one. I don’t care if it is knitting scarves for friends or catering school events with your prize winning cupcakes. Find one and start filing a profits and loss statement every year with your income tax. This plan will increase cash flow during the year and increase you income tax refund.

Because times are uncertain, the stock markets are jumping all around the place. Unless you have money you can live without, now is not the time to play in the stock market.Encourage any teens in your house to find a summer job. Incentive: they will have a better back-to-school wardrobe and it wouldn’t all come out of your pocket.

Don’t make any change in lifestyle, business, or long term purchases that you can’t get out of real fast, if the economy takes a turn for the worse.

Become an overly cautionary consumer and encourage others you know to do the same.

For more samples of my work: http://www.bellbusinessreport.com

Laura Bell

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Americans are stubborn when it comes to their transportation habits
June 11, 2008, 7:37 am
Filed under: Business Advice | Tags: , ,

This should be obvious by the gas prices going through the ceiling. Has everyone forgotten that there is a simple premise controlling this, despite the politics involved? Anyone ever heard of supply and demand?

Yet, we just keep showing up to the pump so the news reporters can have someone to talk to. When it gets down to it, Americans love to complain. They also take victimhood on very easily.

Consumers bury their head in the sand until, it is time to take a breath and give an opinion. No one has bothered to tell most of them that they do have a say in matters of pricing. Stop buying so much and watch the price go down.

Yes, I understand that we all have to get to work, the store and our entertainment sites. However, it can be done differently. I know that Americans don’t like changing their transportation habits. When BART was started in the San Francisco Bay area years ago now, it took quite awhile to get the consumers to come on board.

During earlier gas problems, in the Los Angeles area, we had the Diamond lane. It didn’t go over so hot, but it is still there and now back in use. We still have ride-share Thursdays after more than a decade. The only publicity it still gets is the announcement on one local radio station. Then companies got into the van-pool idea. It went over well in the last company I worked for. Then, there is flex time. It can allow for workers doing four days with 10 hour slots. One day being left out of the drive-to-work scenario.

It’s time to take the volunteer aspect out of the picture. As, it is evident that isn’t working. These changes need to be mandatory. Corporations need to pay for workers’ bus passes if they choose that alternative method of transportation. Organizing rideshare programs should be mandatory for all companies with employees that live outside of the city limits. A certain percentage of workers need to have telecommuting assignments. Most customer service is done through telecommuting. In 2007, the Consumer Electronics Association, claim there were 3.9 million Americans telecommute.

Consumers are going to have to rethink how they do their shopping and entertaining. Shopping trips with friends and coworkers can be fun. Going to the movies in a group will save. We live in an age where time is of the essence. None of us have enough of it. Saving gas on group trips will save us all in the long run despite the extra time being consumed.

Next time you think about shopping, going out for the weekend, reach for the phone first and see what your friends or relatives have planned. If you are driving to work by yourself, approach your employer with some of these ideas and see what can be worked out.

Bus transportation is available in most cities. I understand that some of it is better than others. It isn’t easy. I take the bus. I also know that the buses are usually half empty most of the time. Challenge yourself to see what ways you can come up with to keep you away from the gap pump.

Consumers do make a difference when they shift their buying power. It’s the only thing I know that can make a dramatic change in this situation.

For samples of my work: www.bellbusinessreport.com

Laura Bell

writer@well.com

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Be realistic when starting your own business
June 2, 2008, 7:35 am
Filed under: Business Advice | Tags: , ,

We have all seen the television commercials where someone is throwing off the shackles of working for someone else and launching his own. Freedom to do your own thing is the theme. And, of course, while you are it, come and buy our products.

If this is the picture you have in your head while planning to go out on your own, it is time to think again. For every choice in life, there is a price. Throwing off the shackles of working for someone else comes with a hefty price tag.

The question: are you willing to pay the price. Following are a few key areas to keep in mind.

Never start your own business because your budget is being strained by the limitations of your current paycheck. It is ok to take on a part-time gig selling others’ products during such a tight time, but don’t expect instant answers. I can remember when my husband and I were having a tough time and it was suggested we go back into Shaklee. It cost money to become a rep. It took phone calls to get sales and it took gas money to get around. We had none of these resources. But a similar situation could work if you have contacts already as potential customers.

Running your own business is a dream compared to being an employee. However, there will be times when it is going to be a nightmare. Are you prepared to deal with the times, when no matter what you do, no new clients show up at the door, while the ones you have seem to be slipping into the background. It happens.

What about tight and unexpected deadlines? How are you going to handle having to stay up all night to deliver a contract that means moving ahead? What if your spouse and children show up and demand your presence at the home front? How are you going to explain it to them? Do you have a family that will be able to deal with these issues without creating relationship issues that will further strain you? You need to answer these questions before you start.

What about questions? Remember when you had a boss or a coworker to go when a project wasn’t going exactly right? Have you been networking with self-employed professionals so you will have someone to call and ask for advice?

One doesn’t get to be sick when you are starting out. What are you going to do with a splitting headache when a project is due at the printers? Think this one out before getting started.

Business does not coming flocking in just because you open the doors and had an announcement in the newspaper. It takes some heavy duty work. There is advertising, networking and all over general marketing. From time to time, new entrepreneurs bring in clients from their previous positions. This will not keep a business going long. You will have to tackle the need for more clients and accept it as a fact of life if you want to stay in business.

And, those were just a few of the nuts and bolts that I came up with in a few minutes. Running your own business is the most difficult task you take on in life. It can also be the most rewarding.

For more samples of my work: www.bellbusinessreport.com

Laura Bell

writer@well.com

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