Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Art of Selling Intangible Services

Law, accounting, consulting, advertising, public relations and human resources software, insurance, property management. These are some of the intangibles. They present marketing challenges to the entrepreneur trying to get the word out about their businesses. Below are a few articles that discuss some of the issues that face these services and how they can show potential clients something they can get their hands around..

Selling Your Services Pop quiz: How do you sell something you can’t touch? We've got a few answers
August 28, 2000
By Danielle Kennedy

Ten Myths about Selling Intangible Services
By Charles H. Green
Trusted Advisor Associates

SWOT Team: Selling the Intangible
By Meryl K. Evans and Hank Stroll
October 26, 2004

Selling the Intangible: The Value of Perceived Security
IMAGE SUBSTATION Corporate Identity Consultants
By Hamish Chadwick

Carolina Entrepreneurship Club
Business Resource Center
How to Understand Your Customers

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

For Your Health

Health Status, Health Insurance, and Health Services Utilization: 2001 - How often do Americans use health care services? If you're looking for an answer, this report may be "just what the doctor ordered." It provides data on the frequency of visits to doctors, dentists and hospitals and whether or not people are taking prescription medicine - by characteristics such as self-reported health status, age and health insurance coverage status. Internet address:

Monday, April 24, 2006

A New Librarian

The Research Network is happy to announce the hiring of Amelia Birdsall, who will be starting her time with the SBDC on May 1st. Since Josee Fonseca will be unable to attend the upcoming Staff Conference, she will be working with Amelia - in a very quiet office - in introducing her to the ropes.

Amelia graduated from the SUNY at Albany library program last December, and interned with both Empire State Development (where Mary Beth interned several years ago), as well as with the NYS DEC library. She had been working part-time at a local public library, but she now eagerly enters the world of specialized business librarianship. She comes highly recommended by those who've worked with her in the recent past, and we (Al Scher, Josee & myself) were very impressed with the answers given during her interview.

We're all certain that you, too, will be impressed with the answers she'll be providing as a member of our library team.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change"

Last night I attended an event held by the NYS Writers Institute program at the University at Albany where Elizabeth Kolbert, a journalist for the New Yorker and the New York Times discussed her new book, "Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change."

This book grew out of a series of articles on climate change Kolbert wrote for the New Yorker that hoped to get the full story on climate change or global warming. Kolbert described her experiences in Alaska and Greenland, noting the dramatic changes that have already occurred. She also discussed the disconnect between the scientific community and the lay community. Apparently the majority of the scientific community not doing research sponsored by energy companies, agree that we are in a dire situation that needs immediate attention. The damage we do now will have a knock-on effect that will severely affect our children.

From the point of view of small business, I wondered what if anything was happening. While big business is usually the focus, because of the local nature of small businesses, belonging to communities, they are ideally placed to take non-bureaucratic steps to respond to local environmental issues.

I am listing a few sites that are trying to raise the awareness and support of small business to preserve the planet.

Center for Small Business and the Environment

As such, small business consumes one-half of all energy used for commercial and industrial purposes. One-third to one-half of all the energy consumed by small business is wasted through inefficiency. Small businesses can profit immensely by making investments in energy efficiency.

Climate Biz: The Business Resource for Climate Management
This site points small businesses to what steps they can take to be part of the solution. As they say, it is difficult for small businesses to see how they can make a difference in efforts to control climate change but small businesses together have a fair sized effect.

"Conventional wisdom posits environmentalists and small businesspeople as mortal enemies or, at best, the opposite ends of the political spectrum. In reality, in today's entrepreneurial, high tech, innovative economy, small businesspeople are emerging as effective advocates of environmental protection, pollution prevention, energy efficiency, and resource conservation. For these people, the Center for Small Business and the Environment provides a strong, effective voice." -- Richard C. Herring, President, former Chair National Small Business United

Ceres Investors and Environmentalists for Sustainable Prosperity
A coalition of over 80 organizations, joined to “advance corporate responsibility”
“Ceres’ mission is to move businesses, capital, and markets to advance lasting prosperity valuing the health of the planet and its people.”
They look at emerging opportunities for businesses, something entrepreneurs should care about. They also offer a Corporate Governance Checklist that ranks the performance of 100 top companies on their efforts to address issues affecting climate change.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Last May, at Staff Training in Lake Placid, we had some special visitors from the province of Zhejiang, China at Staff Training this year. Mary Hoffman send out an e-mail to alert staff about the sensitivities of hosting international dignitaries, a message that may have future applicability:

The following notes are excerpts from several sources regarding protocol for interactions with visitors from other countries.

The cardinal rule that should guide your thoughts as you plan to receive international guests or travel abroad is: "When in doubt, err on the side of excess." One doesn't have to apologize for being too kind and respectful - but one cannot recover from an affront and disrespect. Often what Americans might view as appropriate would be seen as minimal in many other cultures. As members of the global community, a sensitivity and understanding of cross-cultural protocol is vitally important.

It is very important to ensure that neither your actions, nor your appearance nor your posture could possibly be interpreted as in any way lacking in respect.
Complete attention should always be paid to the person with whom you are dealing. Avoid yawning, stretching or anything that might suggest distraction, boredom or disrespect. Do not slouch or stand with hands in pockets, hands on hips or arms folded. Do not look around to see whether there are other people with whom you wish to make contact. If, after first encounter, conversation is continued while seated, sit up straight: and keep both feet on the ground.

A handshake, coupled with a smile, is generally the best form of greeting, introduction and farewell. It is not likely to be taken amiss even if not common in a particular culture. However

  • it should not be too hearty or prolonged
  • an older man should be the first to offer his hand to a younger man
  • any man should wait for a woman to offer her hand.

    Other forms of bodily contact - particularly backslapping or hugging - should not be initiated.

    It's important to introduce visitors to all with whom they come in contact. Degrees and titles carry more prestige in other cultures than they do in the U.S. American modesty should be replaced with formality; titles should be included in the introduction. Handshakes are generally exchanged more frequently in other cultures usually upon greeting and leave-taking. Exchange of business cards is usually expected.

    In addition, especially while one of our visitors is at the podium during the sessions:
  • Do not walk around the room while delegation members are speaking.
  • Please have cell phones turned off or silenced.
  • Be quiet, attentive and respectful.

    If you have any questions, consult our expert on international activities, Jinshui Zhang.
  • Monday, April 17, 2006

    Grants - Payback!

    Many clients come to your doors telling stories of how they gave money to some organization - be it an inventors assessment program, or a grants provider group - only to have regrets soon after. I recently received an e-mail from Walter Reid, an advisor with the Farmingdale SBDC. He'd been keeping me posted regarding a client who sent $1,000 to the National Grants Conferences, an organization that promises attendees of their conferences with the "secrets" on how to obtain "free" government money for any number of endeavors. Walter took it upon himself to write a letter on behalf of the client, insisting on his money back. Recently, the client received a check for the full amount. Persistence, then, can pay off. If you're interested in Walter's methods, give him a call down in Farmingdale.

    I know that there've been several clients with bad experiences with NGC and similar types of organizations. In fact, go here to read about other people & their dealings with NGC. They're an aggressive organization, relying on people not to do their homework. This site will give your clients all the ammunition they need to stay far, far away from this group.

    Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    New Books

    Before anymore is added to the pile on my are the latest additions to the collection both purchased and donated:

    SRDS The Lifestyle Market Analyst 2006
    Media Solutions

    Federal Yellow Book: Who's Who in Federal Departments and Agencies
    Leadership Directories
    Spring 2006

    Congressional Yellow Book: Who's Who in Congress, Including Committees and Key staff
    Leadership Directories
    Spring 2006

    2005 New York State Staistical Yearbook
    30th edition
    The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government

    Don't Make me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
    Steve Krug

    Constructing Accessible Web Sites
    Jim Thatcher, Paul Bohman, Michael Burks, Shawn Lawton Henry, Bob Regan, Srah Swierenga, Mark D. Urban, Cynthia D. Waddell

    You Need to be a Little Crazy
    The Truth about Starting and Growing Your Business
    Barry J. Moltz

    Staying With It: Role Models of Perserverence
    Emerson Klees

    Entrepreneurs in History
    Success vs. Failure - Entrepreneurial Role Models
    Emerson Klees

    No More Frogs to Kiss:
    99 Ways to Give Economic Power to Girls
    Joline Godfrey

    The Young Entrepreneur's Guide to Starting and Running a Business
    Steve Mariotti
    2006 edition

    Special Report: Protecting and Patenting Your Idea
    Matthew Yubas

    Special Report: How to Prevent Invention Companies from Taking Your Money
    Matthew Yubas

    Special Report: The Complete Guide to Marketing and Launching a New Product
    Matthew Yubas

    Special Libraries Association Annual Salary Survey 2004
    Special Libraries Association

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Small Biz Resource blog

    This is a useful business blog. Actually, it's three blogs: the Balancing Act that a business person must face (Rules About Blogging, Working At Home Not For Everyone); MyTech (virus protection, mobile speech to text); and Thinking Big (patents, preparation).

    The main page of this site also has helpful information on finance, growth, management, marketing, sales, technology and more.

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    Market Research reports

    Clients who do their own research often find reference to very expensive market research reports. Often, these items are not available on the shelves of your local public or university library. (They're certainly beyond the budget for our library, too.)

    However, there is a site that your clients might consider visiting in these circumstances. It's This site makes available for sale reports from many market research firms. Of course, they'd rather your clients buy the whole report. However, they also allow them to buy "by the slice".

    When there, your client can search for a given report. If it's in their database, they can then search within the report for a given word or phrase. They'll then get results that show them the context of the report in which that word or phrase is used. If only one or two instances fit your client's needs, then they can buy just that chapter. It still won't be super cheap, but they'll likely be paying only hundreds of dollars, instead of many thousands for the whole report.

    Something to consider . . .

    Friday, April 07, 2006

    Thanks, Mary Beth

    Before I ever met Mary Beth, I heard her. Specifically, I heard her laugh. She had just been hired, and since I was not on the search committee, I had no information about her, other than the assurances from the librarians who were on the committee that she was "really good."

    Well, that turned out to be correct; she is a fine librarian. She has the dogged determination and the requisite curiosity of a good researcher. She also is in charge of the SBDC web page, which is more than a design task; it’s asking, sometimes cajoling, newspapers to provide rights to display stories about the NYS SBDC on the site.

    It’s probably because of the varied experience she had before coming to the SBDC – she had worked at ASCAP, the New York Assembly and Empire State Development.

    Mary Beth is currently the president of a local branch of a national library association. In fact, it was attending a library conference meeting where MB came up with the idea of the Research Network doing a blog, which we have been doing for nearly a year now.

    She attended the University at Albany library school, where she met her husband. They now live in one of the Albany County hill towns with their cat and two birds.

    Perhaps you didn’t know MB plays piano and organ, occasionally for her church. She’s an avid reader of The New Yorker magazine, and non-fiction books. MB was in an award-winning ad as a voiceover performer for the New York State Thruway radio broadcast.

    Beyond all of that, though, she’s a very fine person. I think I speak for all of the librarians, and undoubtedly others in the office who have appreciated her attentive listening and helpful suggestions, whether the issue be reference, technical or personal.

    Mary Beth is moving on to the state library, after nearly five years at the SBDC. Certainly, we'll all miss her, but are comforted by the fact that she’s moving not too far away.

    I was looking for a visual to accompany this story, so I typed in MB in a database, and came up with Mercedes-Benz. Seems somehow appropriate. It’s not that she drives one – or would even aspire to drive one. Rather, it is that she is a class act.

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Wal-Mart to Offer Help to Small Business?

    At the Research Network, we have a book in the collection entitled, "Up Against the Wal-Marts: How Your Business Can Prosper in the Shadow of the Retail Giants," published back in 1994. Competition can be fierce for small businesses in communities where Wal-Mart set up. Now Wal-Mart is stepping up to remarks of criticism according to a New York Times report by offering "financial grants, training on how to survive with Wal-Mart in town and even free advertising within a Wal-Mart store." Read more about the "Wal-Mart Jobs and Opportunity Zone” initiative.

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006


    A source that offers a number of resources to entrepreneurs is the CELCEE website. CELCEE stands for Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Clearinghouse on Entrepreneurship Education, a non-profit add-on to ERIC, the Educational Resources Information Center. They offer articles related to entrepreneurship, as well as conferences, government publications, books, among many other things. There is a simple search function that searches the entire site. Materials are also arranged by year and there is an advanced search feature that allows you to choose the type of record.

    Some examples are:

    Native American Gaming and Tribal Economic Development: Myths and Realities
    By Amy Fann
    June 2005
    DIGEST Number 05-11

    Entrepreneurial Opportunities Serving Aging Adults
    By Jennifer Paek
    June 2005
    DIGEST Number 05-03

    July 2004
    Women in Agriculture
    CELCEE Clearinghouse on Entrepreneurship Education
    EDINFO Number 04-07

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    Tax Free

    Beginning Saturday, April 1, a year-round exemption from the four percent New York State sales and use taxes went into effect on the purchase of clothing, footwear, and items to make or repair exempt clothing, costing less than $110 per item or pair.

    The exemption does not apply to locally imposed sales and use taxes unless the county or city imposing those taxes elected the exemption.
    To find the local sales tax, if any, on these products, go here.

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    Survey - Personal Productivity

    Sam Kandel from the Mid-Hudson SBDC sent me an e-mail regarding one of his clients. She's an author, and is currently researching and writing a book about improving personal productivity in the workplace.

    Ideally, this woman would like small business owners to take a brief survey, so that they can add their "voice" on the issue. It's only 17 questions, and most of them are a matter of selecting a rating on a scale. Participants are entitled to an advance copy of the book.

    The client would be grateful if you could ask your existing small business clients to take the survey. It can be found here.