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Monday, May 18, 2020

Misleading Coronavirus Relief Loan Marketing


https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2020/05/ftc-sba-warn-operator-sbacom-lead-generator-lendio-stop?utm_source=govdeliveryThere is a great deal of information floating around at the moment about relief programs for small business owners and it can be difficult to know what information to trust. In this case, the SBA and the FTC sent warning letters to ITMedia Solutions and Lendio because their sites could confuse small business owners seeking funding under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other SBA programs. 

You can read the full press release here:

The letters warn the recipients to take immediate action to ensure all deceptive claims are removed and to remediate any harm to small business consumers as a result of the claims. The letters also instruct the recipients to notify the FTC within 48 hours about the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.





Sunday, March 15, 2020

Disaster Loans from the SBA

The SBA has announced that they will be working to provide low-interest disaster relief loans to small businesses impacted by novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Now that the President has declared a National Emergency, State and Federal governments can work together to assist business severely impacted by the pandemic. A statement by SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza was released on Friday, the 13th of March.



You can read more about the Small Business Administration at www.SBA.gov/Coronavirus.

You can read about SBA resources here: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Doing Business Under the Threat of COVID-19

Small businesses are especially vulnerable to the threat of any sort of disaster and certainly, we are now getting a glimpse of just how much businesses will be affected by the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

As the spread of the disease moves quickly from continent to continent and across the country, we can see healthcare organizations and cities roll out their plan for emergencies such as this. But if there is a task that falls by the wayside for the small business owner, planning for business continuity is probably the one that falls through the cracks. Perhaps lessons learned from myriad climate disasters have prepared business owners for this new threat but if not, there is no time like the present.

I've come across a few articles that offer some practical things that business owners can do to mitigate the damage. 

ECONOMICS & SOCIETY
How Chinese Companies Have Responded to Coronavirus
by Martin Reeves , Lars Fæste , Cinthia Chen , Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak and Kevin Whitaker
March 10, 2020

I've seen some of these suggestions elsewhere but this article offers real-world examples from those who have been through it. It's always good to learn from others and China has been the hardest hit so far by the spread of the virus so they ought to know. HBR looks at how businesses rallied and also the effect COVID-19 has had on the economy.

CULTURE:
Cancellations, Sick Leave, and Takeout: How Food Businesses Nationwide Are Handling COVID-19
by The Bon Appétit Staff
March 10, 2020

"The restaurant industry has already been deeply affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Here are a few of their stories, which we'll be updating regularly."

Time and place are of the essence for the restaurant business - more than many other businesses. Planning is tight and predicting the number of customers, maintaining the appropriate levels of staff and perishable inventory make the current situation especially dicey.


SBA To Provide Small Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19) Up to $2 Million in Disaster Assistance Loans
Mar 12, 2020, 11:51 ET
WASHINGTON, March 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --
SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza issued the following statement today in response to the President's address to the nation:
"The President took bold, decisive action to make our 30 million small businesses more resilient to Coronavirus-related economic disruptions. Small businesses are vital economic engines in every community and state, and they have helped make our economy the strongest in the world. Our Agency will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest disaster recovery loans to small businesses that have been severely impacted by the situation. Additionally, the SBA continues to assist small businesses with counseling and navigating their own preparedness plans through our network of 68 District Offices and numerous Resource Partners located around the country. The SBA will continue to provide every small business with the most effective and customer-focused response possible during these times of uncertainty."

Monday, February 24, 2020

Less Red Tape - Obstacles to Small Business in New York State

The Empire Center for Public Policy is an independent, non-partisan think tank based in Albany, NY. Their project, De/RegulateNY exists to improve policies in NYS to promote small businesses. De/RegulateNY gave small business owners a chance to nominate state laws that owners believe hinder the progress of new businesses. This February, the winners were announced and in particular, two votes went to a law that requires new LLCs to buy ads in local papers to announce their organization. This rule ignores progress that has been made in business communication and burdens the new business owner with additional expense.

You can read more about the award and the project here.





Monday, February 03, 2020

Teach the Young: A Frank-ly Kind Act

This story was brought to my attention by our esteemed alumnus, Roger Green. This is the story of youngsters thwarted in their initial forays into small business ownership and some suggestions for workarounds. The Now-I-Know blog by Dan Lewis shared the story of how the police were called to respond to a lemonade stand that had been set up a bit too close to County fairgrounds.

How do we encourage young people to think like entrepreneurs?


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

US Parents Get Digital After Dark

Article by Lucy Koch
From eMarketer

After the children are tucked in, most parents probably intend for that time to be quiet and interruption-free. But relaxing after the kids are asleep typically involves media consumption—which can also be an opportune window for marketers to reach those parents.

The No.1 post-bedtime activity for both mothers and fathers is watching TV or movies, according to an August 2018 survey by Brigham Young University and Deseret News. Mothers are more likely than fathers to use this time for interaction with people outside of the household. And more respondents in both groups said those interactions took place on social media, rather than on phone calls or texts.

Parents aren’t on their devices before bed just for entertainment purposes, they’re also shopping. In the OpenX/Harris Poll survey, 46% of parent respondents said they use their phones in bed at night to research purchases more than once a week, and 20% said they transact in-bed purchases by phone that often.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Future of Your Workplace Depends on Your Purpose

By Jennifer Robison
From Gallup


In his annual letter to the leaders of companies that his asset management firm invests in, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink wrote, "Profits are in no way inconsistent with purpose -- in fact profits and purpose are inextricably linked."

Leaders can be left with no doubt: Increasing profit and share price are the basics. Advocating for purpose to be an integral part of an organization's culture defines successful leadership.

Astute leaders increasingly understand the effect purpose has on business outcomes. But purpose can't be limited to just a slogan. To advance, inspire and unite a company, purpose must be actualized in the day-to-day work. Gallup data show businesses have a long way to go on purpose -- but Gallup analytics show leaders how to get there.

Friday, July 26, 2019

What the Best Small Business Websites Have in Common

By Beth Thouin
From Web.com

Consumers are now doing more research before they buy, so making an investment in your small business website is an absolute must.

With 56% of online shoppers and 45% of brick and mortar shoppers reading reviews before purchasing, their expectation is that they’ll be able to self-serve and get many of their questions answered during their research phase.

This means your website needs to be modern and give consumers what they want — information to qualify their buying decisions.

The most essential part of your business is its purpose and similarly, your website has to clearly express this purpose. Your business and your website need to thoughtfully address the needs of your visitors, and the best small business websites have this practice down from the start.

Before you buy your domain, make sure it was never used in the past for purposes you don’t want to associate your business with. Some domains already have a bad spam score once purchased, and only the best websites know to avoid these blunders. Once you’ve found your domain, do a quick Wayback Machine search to see if it was ever used before.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The FIVE MANDATORY Things You Need if You Want to SELL Your Business

By Wayne Rivers
For the Family Business Institute

[Here are] five mandatory things you have to have if you're going to attempt to sell the family business. And this is important because all of us dream one day of exiting the business, and we'd like to do it with a few nickels in our pocket and we'd like to do it while we still have enough health to travel and enjoy life a bit. And we know there are only four ways to dispose of a family business.

You can close the doors and walk away from it; well, we're not going to do that. You can give it to your kids, that's a whole lot less common than it once was. Or you can sell it, and you could sell it in two
ways. You could sell it to insiders, you could sell it outsiders. We all dream of selling the business for big dollars to some outsider...

Every one of those businesses was dependent on one or two or a tiny handful of people for everything. If they were going to buy those businesses, they were actually buying the individuals that ran them, and that's not what they wanted. A buyer wants to buy a business with all the things in place it needs to run, whether the head guy shows up or not. So that's the fatal flaw that kills most family business transactions right there. Number one...

They want to see that you have a unique niche in the market. If you're in the commodity business, providing a commodity service, and let's face it, most of us are, then there's really nothing to distinguish you for a buyer. So, if you're a construction company out there doing hard dollar bid work the way you've been doing it since the '60s or '70s, why would I want to buy your company?

With a little bit of capital, which I have as a buyer, I could just come into town, open an office of my own, and guess what? I can do hard dollar bids just as easily as you can. Same thing with a manufacturer or wholesaler: if you're just in a commodity business and you don't have a unique niche somehow in the marketplace that you can easily identify, then that makes you a lot less valuable to a potential purchaser.




Monday, July 22, 2019

Direct Mail is Hot Again. Here’s How to Use It

By Rieva Lesonsky
From the Small Business Administration

From Glossier to Quip, a variety of hip new companies is targeting millennials with...mailers? From postcards to catalogs, “hot, digitally savvy, direct-to-consumer” brands including Casper, Harry’s, Wayfair, Rover, Quip, Away, Handy, and Modcloth have all started targeting customers via direct mail, Vox notes.

Here’s why direct mail is hot again and how your business can use it effectively.

Why Direct Mail Is Hot
Why is direct mail so hot? One reason is a higher trust factor. Younger consumers don’t associate direct mail with “junk mail” the way older consumers do. They’re more likely to attach that label to email.

Direct mail can be more effective. While direct mail and email marketing campaigns get similar response rates, a recent study found direct mail campaigns generate purchases five times larger than email campaigns. Combining email with direct mail led to the best results of all: purchases six times larger than email alone generated.

Direct mail stands out. Young people get hundreds of emails a day but only a few pieces of actual mail, notes one marketer quoted by Vox. In the same way digital-first companies such as Warby Parker and Glossier have begun opening physical stores to create a special experience, sending physical mail is a way to stand out from the crowd.

Direct mail is more shareable. Unlike email that goes to one person, physical mail goes to a household. RetailWire reports 88% of key purchase decisions for retail, financial and automotive categories are discussed at home, and direct mail pieces give recipients a reason to talk over the offer.

Direct mail has a longer lifespan. Email has a lifespan of just a few seconds, RetailWire reports, while direct mail’s average lifespan is 17 days.

Making Direct Mail Work
If you want to get started with direct mail, you have several options, including postcards, catalogs or catalog-like booklets. There are even group mailers that combine several companies’ offers in an envelope. (Vox cites one company, Share Local Media, that’s targeting millennial Brooklyn hipsters with the type of mailers their parents used to get full of ads for mini blinds or power washing services.)

The option you choose will be based on your budget (direct mail isn’t cheap) and your goals. Once you’ve made a decision:

Start with your existing customers. If your direct mail isn’t relevant to the recipient, it will hit the circular file. More than two-thirds (68%) of consumers immediately throw away mail from a brand or retailer they haven’t heard of. However, 76% will discuss mail from a brand or retailer they have purchased from in the past.

Target your mailings. Focus your mailings on people who have expressed interest either in your business or your category. Two-thirds of consumers will discuss mail from a brand or retailer they’ve never heard of if the category is of interest to them; 54% will discuss mail from a brand/retailer they have heard of, but not purchased from. You can target customer demographics using the USPS Every Door Direct Mail program, buy or rent mailing lists from companies like InfoUSA or DirectMail.com, or create your own house mailing lists.

Style it right. If you’re trying to attract millennial consumers, think of your direct mail pieces as physical Instagram posts. Keep the text brief, the layout streamlined and the photography eye-catching.

Make worthwhile offers. Email offers for discounts are a dime a dozen, clogging up the average millennial’s mailbox. But a glossy postcard or catalog with a special offer can catch the eye. Make it worth the customer’s while, not just a few dollars off.

Create landing pages for your direct mail. Three-fourths of people who use direct mail to make purchasing decisions also consult online sources for more information, so drive them where you want them to go. If you’re sending out a direct mail piece promoting a sale on your store’s athletic shoes, for instance, include a URL that goes to a landing page for that specific offer.

Don’t overload them. Direct mail is special precisely because your customers don’t get a lot of it. Carefully limit how often you send direct mail to avoid it becoming “spam” and eroding the recipient’s trust. For example, you could send direct mail with a special offer for a customer’s birthday, or after somebody makes their first purchase.

Combine direct mail with email. Media Post suggests starting with direct mail and following up a week later with email. It also recommends sending two emails for everyone piece of direct mail. You can make direct mail part of your automated marketing campaigns by setting up triggers to send direct mail after a prospect takes certain actions, just as you would with a drip email campaign. Both the email and the direct mail piece should use the same design elements and messaging to reinforce your brand and your offer.

Track results. Use landing page visits, coupon codes, and redemption rates to see how well your direct mail campaign is working.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Why SWOT Analysis Belongs in Your Business Plan

By Tim Berry
From Bplans

We divided the discussion into four parts, opened it up, set the tone as brainstorming—no bad ideas, and no taboos—and had good discussions about all four elements: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, as they related to our financials and key metrics, the business climate in our industry, and the work we were doing together to grow our business.

The goal of a SWOT analysis is to develop actionable insights—you want to catch opportunities and pitfalls sooner. It’s one way to minimize risk when you’re starting and growing your business.

It was in one of these sessions that somebody suggested that I should change my focus a bit and deal more with the large picture than the specific code. It was also in a SWOT session that we realized we needed to make our product downloadable on the web (back in 1998, when we were among the first). In another session, we realized, as a group, that our key differentiator was the know-how and how-to built into our software.


Friday, July 12, 2019

5 People You Should Talk With Before Starting a Business

By Lisa Furgison
From Bplans
You’re probably mulling over a business idea. It’s probably something you’ve been thinking about for a while. And you’re probably ready to turn your business idea into a reality.

As part of the planning stage, you’ll want to gather information, do research, and make sure that your business idea is viable. During this information-gathering stage, there’s a small list of people you should talk with before you move forward with bigger steps like applying for a bank loan or looking at commercial space.

One of the first people you should talk with about this new venture is your spouse. It sounds like a no-brainer, right? But some people get so caught up in their business idea that they don’t have a real sit-down conversation about how the business could impact their relationship, finances, and free time.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

TV Viewers Browse Online While Watching Their Favorites

By Blake Droesch
From eMarketer

In this modern age of entertainment, one screen is no longer enough to satisfy most.

We forecast 180.8 million US adults will be two-screen viewers in 2019—meaning that 70.1% of the adult population will use a computer or mobile device to browse online while watching either digital video or traditional TV.

And even the most compelling film and TV content can’t grab the full attention of nearly half of US adults, according to a March 2019 report from CivicScience.

Forty-eight percent of adults in the US engage with a second screen (smartphone, tablet or laptop) while watching their favorite shows and movies on TV, compared with 38% who do not. The remaining 13% either don’t watch TV, don’t own a smartphone, tablet or laptop, or they watch video only on mobile devices.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Why Small & Mid-Size Manufacturers Need to Automate

By David Mantey
From ThomasNet

Small and midsize manufacturers need to automate if they’re going to compete. That's according to industry insider Bob Doyle who discussed the state of the automation industry in a recent interview leading up to Automate 2019 in Chicago.

According to Doyle, that’s one of the biggest myths about automation, that robots take jobs. He says that it not only creates jobs, but it creates higher paying positions. The investment in technology also helps companies become more efficient and subsequently hire more workers to keep up with growth.

In February, the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) announced that robots shipped to North American companies increased by seven percent in 2018. What was particularly interesting is that shipments to non-automotive companies are up 41%. Most of the growth came from the food, consumer goods, plastics and rubber, life sciences, and electronics industries.