USA Today: Steve Strauss: Top 5 Small Business Trends for 2012 @stevestrauss

As I mentioned earlier this week, I really do enjoy reading the USA Today on my iPad and I stumbled upon this article last week as I was traveling that I 100% agreed with.  Steve Strauss outlines some trends he sees that could be very relevant in 2012, and I think he is spot on.

If you’d like the direct link to the article, click here.

Ask an Expert: The top 5 small business trends for 2012

By Steve Strauss, for USA TODAY

In my column last week I started looking at the top 10 trends, factors, and events that will shape your business in 2012. This week we are down to the Top 5.

No. 5. Internet video takes center stage. Consider these statistics:

• According to Cisco, online video now makes up 50% of all consumer Internet traffic
• Last year, almost 200 million Americans watched online videos every month, and on any given day, 100 million people will watch videos online

What does this mean for your business? Plenty. People love video, and it turns out that video increases sales. Onlineshoes.com says that its conversion rate is up to 45% higher with video and Zappos.com says it sells up to 30% more when videos are used to display a shoe.

The upshot is that you need to strongly consider adding video to the mix, be it an online video brochure, a tour of your store, video newsletters, or just some instructional videos.

No. 4. Social media is becoming the land of the have and have nots: There seem to be two distinct camps when it comes to social media vis-à-vis small business: Those who get it and use it effectively and those that don’t give a whit about it (oh, and camp three — those that get it but dabble ineffectively in it).

According to the 2011 Impact of Social Business in Small and Medium Business Study, about 50% of small businesses use social media. Those that do, do so for the following reasons:

• 80% of online visitors use social media daily
• More than 50% of all social media users follow a brand
• Social media is growing exponentially — Facebook added over 200 million users in 2011

So for the small business that has figured out that social media must be a key element to their business model going forward, I say way to go. To the other 50% I say — what are you waiting for?

No. 3: The death of 9 to 5: Does anyone really work at a desk five days a week from 9 to 5 anymore? Of course I am being facetious . . . or am I? A myriad of things have combined to make it so that we can work anywhere, anytime (whether we want to or not): The Internet, laptops, tablets, smartphones, apps and software are the main culprits.

I say culprits because some of this work anywhere, anytime stuff is great (checking emails while waiting at the airport) and some of it stinks (checking emails while on the beach in Hawaii.)

As my sweet grandfather used to say: Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

No. 2. Are happy days here again?

First a caveat: I am not an economic prognosticator and no one here is saying that the economy is peachy because it is not. But that said, there are signs that the economic doldrums we have been in for too long may be lifting a bit:

• Consumer confidence continues to rise
• Unemployment claims continue to fall
• Fourth-quarter GDP growth is looking to be in the 3% to 4% range

And while lowered expectations seem to be the new normal, it is nice to be able to report something other than dour economic news for a change. If this trend continues, it will surely shape your business significantly in 2012, and happily for the better.

And the Top Trend for 2012 is:

No. 1: Mobile mania! With iPads flying off the shelf and laptops outselling desktops, with smartphones all the rage and more than a million apps in the App store, with more than 20% of all searches being done on a mobile device now, it is clear that the era of mobile work is at hand.

For the small business, this sea-change will have all sorts of ripples:

• Employees will increasingly expect to work when and where they want (see No. 3, above)
• Customers will want to be able to interact with your business via their mobile device
• Sooner rather than later, you will be using apps to run your business
• Geo-targeting mobile marketing offers is a good idea
• Your website needs to be mobile friendly
• Mobile ad campaigns should probably become part of your marketing mix

And that’s a wrap. Happy New Year to all, and sincere thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to read my column!

Ask an Expert appears Mondays. You can e-mail Steve Strauss at:sstrauss AT mrallbiz DOT com.An an index of Strauss’ columns is hereSteven D. Strauss is a lawyer, author and speaker who specializes in small business and entrepreneurship. His latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You NeedYou can sign up for his free newsletter, “Small Business Success Secrets!” at his website —www.mrallbiz.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/stevestrauss.

USA Today: Rhonda Abrams: Small Business Strategies: Twelve tips for 2012

I love reading awesome business stories in the newspaper and in magazines.  Of course, other topics interest me as well.   When I was traveling last week, I read this on the USA Today iPad App and had to email it to myself.  If you’re in small business, like so many of you are, take a gander.  Ms. Abrams gives some incredible tips for 2012 that I think are more than relevant to all business owners and managers.

If you’d like the direct link to the article, click here.

Small Business Strategies: Twelve tips for 2012

By Rhonda Abrams, USA TODAY

I’m guessing that one of your New Year’s Resolutions for your small business was to make more money.

Great. But now what?

To help you actually achieve your goal, I’ve got 12 tips to make sure you do make more money this year.

1. Get listed free. Take 30 minutes — right after you finish reading this column — and list your business, free, on search engine local listings.

This helps your company show up when a prospective customer searches for a business like yours on the Web or a mobile device. No technical expertise is needed. Get started with Bing business portal, bing.com/businessportal; Foursquare, foursquare.com/business; Google Places,google.com/places; Yahoo Local, local.yahoo.com; and Yelp, biz.yelp.com/claiming.

2. Figure out what makes you money. Businesses have two kinds of money, cash and profits.

Cash comes from making sales. Profits come from selling products or services for more than they cost you to produce. Small businesses generally focus on bringing in cash, and that’s OK because cash keeps the doors open.

But to get ahead, you need to focus on the parts of your business that bring you the most profits.

3. Market to current and former customers. Satisfied customers are the ones most likely to be future customers or refer others to you.

Yet small businesses typically neglect to market to them.

When my garbage disposal breaks, will I remember the name of the plumber I used two years ago? Not if the business doesn’t keep its name in front of me.

4. Get a contact management system. You need a good way to organize, manage, and stay in touch with your contacts, something easy and that you can access from mobile devices, not just a drawer full of business cards.

My company just switched to Salesforce.com.

5. Create a marketing plan. Spend your marketing dollars and time wisely.

Identify your best prospects and the most effective ways to reach them. Then market consistently. You have to stay in front of prospects.

6. Contact at least three prospects a week. Or seven. Or 20.

Give yourself a realistic quota, make a list of top prospects and referral sources and keep it where you see it. Get out there and sell.

7. Bother people. I mean be persistent, not annoying.

People are busy, including your prospects. Even if they want to buy from you, they may forget you. So stay in touch repeatedly.

8. Close the deal. Marketing is great, but at the end of the day, you also have to make — and close — the sale.

Sure, you have to let prospects know about your products or services, but you also have to ask them to make the purchase. Give them incentives to purchase now and make sure they see a strong call to action in your marketing materials.

And ask, directly and in person, to take the order, close the deal.

9. Shop local, shop small. I asked a woman at my gym where she got her workout shoes.

She responded: “Try them on at (name of local small store), then order them online.” Yikes!

Small businesses can’t survive as showrooms for online retailers. If we want customers to buy from us, we have to shop small.

10. Check out social-media marketing. I’m not saying that Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn will make you money, but you can increase your visibility.

At least know enough to figure out whether it might be right for you.

11. Get a cloud-based email newsletter service. Don’t be misled by the word “newsletter.” You can use these services to announce sales, new products or services, whatever.

Some choices for small businesses: Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Vertical Response, Emma. An added bonus of cloud services is analytics. You get far better information about how your sales efforts are performing and who is responding to your emails.

12. Develop a business plan. In many ways, this is the most important.

Yes, I’m biased because I’ve written two books on developing business plans. But developing a business plan has been the single most important contribution to my company’s survival and success. Planning gets everyone moving in the same direction and provides structure for decision-making.

Now is the perfect time to develop a business plan for 2012.

Rhonda Abrams is president of The Planning Shop and publisher of books for entrepreneurs. Her newest is the 5th edition of The Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies. Register for Rhonda’s free newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com and “like” The Planning Shop on Facebook for updates. For an index of her columns, go to smallbiz.usatoday.comTwitter: twitter.com/RhondaAbrams. Copyright Rhonda Abrams 2011.

 

Team Building Graphic tells the Entire Story – courtesy of @graphjam

As you might know, I’m in the Team Building Business… I was talking to a friend of mine the other night and he shared with me the website www.graphjam.com and I saw this, and had to laugh…. It’s somewhat *true*… :)

Fear Based Leadership and Intimidation is not Sustainable in Todays Marketplace

When I was in Middle School, I wrestled.  I had the biggest jerk on the face of the earth as a coach – all he did was yell at me and the rest of my teammates, ridicule use, tell us we were horrible, and that was supposed to be “encouragement” for us to stay the course and do better as individual wrestlers, and as a team.  I ended up quitting after two seasons, and honestly, as I look back on it, I was a pretty good wrestler at the time.  Years later, I ran into the coach and I told him exactly the way he made me feel and how I never wanted to be that way as I grew up.

He led by fear and intimidation.  And it did not work.

In the last week, I’ve had two colleagues call me and tell me that they were struggling with the culture in the businesses they worked for, because they had a co-worker or boss who used Fear Based Leadership as a means to an end.  I was shocked to hear the stories of great, long-term employees making a mass exodus from companies because of one person who does not know the word “compassion”, the words “i’m sorry”  and, if they do, they certainly don’t know how to communicate past their own insecure interests.

I’ve found that people with these traits are often masking their own inadequacies and their inability to truly lead.  So, they just scare those great people around them off, for the only benefit that makes sense to them – themselves.  That was certainly the case, as it appears, with the two colleagues that called me last week, but also my horrible wrestling coach.

So, what do you do if you have a boss, leader or co-worker that uses passive agression as a communication tactic?  Ugh.  It’s not easy.  It completely depends on the organization, as well as who the person is who is the one doing it.  The easiest way, in my opinion, to thwart it is to not triangulate.  Triangulation is when you have a problem with one person, and instead of going to that person with the concern, you go to someone else to try to solve it, or worse yet, gossip about it.  I always suggest in my consulting practice, that no matter how difficult it is, go to the person you have a problem with.  Immediately.  They might not even know they are doing it.  And, if they become defensive (which they likely will) or use more fear based intimidation tactics, then you can circle in the HR Department or your mutual boss if you have one.

It’s more than a sticky situation, but if handled properly, you won’t have to live in the world of fear, thinking that your good-natured efforts will ultimately lead to termination, or you quitting.

If you want to chat about it confidentially, just hit me up.  I’m always happy to chat about situations like this, as I definitely (and unfortunately) see them often.

To an encouraging leadership culture,

~Jason

Building the Gigabit City: Brainstorming a Google Fiber Roadmap @smckc @kclibrary @brainzooming #gigabitcity #smckc

A little over a month ago, I was humbled to attend as a contributor Building the Gigabit City: Brainstorming a Google Fiber Roadmap, hosted by the Social Media Club of Kansas City.  There were about 80 of us invited from the global Kansas City business community, and our charge for the entire day was to brainstorm how the new Google Gigabit-speed Internet that will land in Kansas City in 2012 can have impact in the community.  Wow, I was amazed to spend so much time with these Kansas City thought leaders and explore the impact on my hometown.

I was asked to offer input in the Suburban Group – and it was incredible to offer my opinion as a life-long Suburbanite that recently moved Downtown KC and became a lover of all things Urban.  It was an interesting perspective and I sure did enjoy offering my thoughts on the matter.

We ended the day with a Press Conference where we shared the initial findings.

Then, strategy guru Mike Brown and his team with the Brainzooming Group went to work, compiling the hundreds of ideas into one streaming, flowing document, that was just released at a recent Press Conference back at the Kansas City Public Library Central Branch downtown.   Check out an awesome blog entry on the libraries take on the event.   (More on my thoughts on the library at another time, likely a Video Blog!)…

It was great to see the local media there last Thursday to soak up our thoughts of how to implement GigabitCity into something worthwhile, focused on the community and all things that mattered – the people of Kansas City.

If you’re interested in our results, click here to download the 120+ page document.  It’s an awesome read.  And, if you’d like to see my two pages in the document written from my perspective of the Suburban vs. Urban communization, check out pages 48 and 49, where I wrote a white paper titled, “The New Value of Community in Suburban Kansas City”.  Or, you can click below to read it here:

The New Value of Community in Suburban Kansas City

By Jason Cupp

As a life-long Kansas Citian, when I saw the news report some time ago that Google had awarded our community the first infrastructure for Gigabit speed internet, I was thoroughly excited.  Instantly, I thought, “We sure have come a long way since logging onto the internet via a telephone modem and using AOL as the interface” – and the fact that hometown KC was going to get this uber-speed internet connection was proof positive that it could have a monumental impact on our community.

And a monumental impact it can have on our community.

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