Thursday, June 29, 2006

Online Conversion Rates

How can you tell how many people visiting your site actually become customers?
At, they claim to have come up with a formula and while they do not reveal the formula, they do discuss a few things to think about.
Calculate Your Online Conversion Rate
ROI Marketing
Sponsored by WebTrends
By Bryan Eisenberg August 13, 2004

Mal Watlington, president of specialty consulting group, City Square Consulting, offers a blog on the topic of online conversion: Online Conversion & Beyond discussing a variety of topics on marketing.

Put the "Find" Back in Search To Increase Online Conversion Rates
By Moshe Ofer
November 1, 2005

The Art of Online Conversion: Four Steps From Interest to Acquisition
by Brian Dempsey June 27, 2006

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Regulatory compliance

From InfoWorld:

Learn more about the current trends in regulatory compliance and how companies are dealing with multiple regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPPA, by reading The Struggle to Manage Security Compliance for Multiple Regulations.

This white paper offers key findings from the 2006 Security Compliance Benchmark Research Report, such as:

- Three out of four organizations must comply with two or more regulations and corresponding audits. Nearly half must comply with three or more regulations.
- The frequency of regulatory and IT security audits have dramatically increased.
- Many companies that employed manual, labor-intensive procedures to complete audits are now utilizing ways to automate the process.

Click HERE.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Survey Results

This is long overdue. My apologies.

Last April, we knew we were moving to new offices. We also knew that our old methods of doing things could be improved. Because of this, we created a survey for distribution to SBDC advisors, which Roger administered & tallied. Of the 112 people surveyed, we received 65 responses (nice response rate - thanks!)

Your responses were then the basis of the Research Network presentation at the Staff Training event in May. Since not every respondent came to our presentation, I thought you'd like to know the results:

1. Do you pose research requests for JUST your clients?
Just my clients (57)
For clients of others in the office (2)
Depends (6)

2. How often do you make requests to the RN?
Daily (2)
Two/three times a week (6)
Weekly (8)
Two/three times a month (22)
Monthly (9)
Rarely (14)
Never (0)
Other (4)

3. If the answer to the previous question is "rarely" or "never," please explain why (more than one might apply):
I do my own research (10)
I have interns to do my research (2)
I have to wait too long for the information (6)
I use other library/research services (1)

4. Do you make use of SBDCNET? How often? For what kind of questions?
No (23)
Thought we weren't supposed to (1)
Read their newsletter/go to their Web site (5)
What is it? (1)
Yes, will use again (8)
Yes, occasionally/rarely (7)

5. When do you make a request for client A, but not for client B? (more than one might apply)
The quality of the client (36)
The likelihood that the client will return for another session (25)
The difficulty of the question (36)
Have research in house file of frequently-used info (6)

6. If you would like to receive selected info from the RN electronically, how should it be done? (more than one might apply)
Mail a disc (3)
Put info on a secure section of SBDC internal Web site (13)
Send an e-mail with files attached (48)
Send an e-mail with info embedded into message (1)
Prefer it in print (10)

7. How do you process info received from the RN?
Hand over or mail without reviewing (7)
Review with client before handing over (43)
Keep a file with all info received from RN (14)
Keep a file of items we believe will be useful to other clients (34)
Keep no material (3)

8. What type of info sent by the RN is most useful? (can select more than one)
Business plans (8)
Industry trends (8)
Demographics (7)
Articles/literature search (5)
List of competitors (5)
Market research (5)
Unique, association-derived research (5)
Financial (4)
Industry-specific info (4)
Most/all is useful (4)
How-to Guides (3)

9. Ideally, what's the maximum number of CALENDAR days you're willing to wait for info from the RN?
Three (1)
Five (6)
Seven (5)
Ten (5)
Seven - Fourteen (1)
Ten - Fourteen (3)
Fourteen (24)
Fifteen (2)
Fourteen - Twenty-One (5)
Fourteen - Twenty-Eight (1)
Thirty (4)
Not a problem (2)

10. What services would make you use the RN more? What resources? (allowed to answer more than one)
Access to library catalog of materials you can borrow (22)
Access to electronic database info (6)
Specific resources (permits, etc.) (6)


Knowing this, we've been able to make some changes. Over half of our responses are being sent electronically, and that percentage will surey improve. Also, now that we have a stable staff of librarians and hard-working summer interns, and now that our technology is functioning much better, we've reduced the turnaround time from a dreadfully-long 28 days down to 6 days.

Additional changes to our internal procedures are in the works. You won't notice them directly, but, once enabled, will allow us to be much more efficient.

Thanks for your patience (and for getting to the end of this post)!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Spanish Language Marketing

As reported in a number of places, the Spanish language network, Univision is now the top-rated network in primetime among the sought-after 18-34 demographic. Last year the network even beat out Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS for number of viewers. Through the World Cup Univision has averaged 2.6 million viewers during the first 8 games. Even English speaking viewers are tuning into to Univision for coverage

If, as reports: “The Latino market is said to have a purchasing power of over $425 billion per year.”, then this is a market businesses will have to begin to understand. Search Engine Marketing carries an article entitled Spanish Marketing: The U.S. Hispanic Market – Are You Ready?
offers an idea of the size of this growing segment:
“According to U.S. Census statistics, the American Hispanic population stands at approximately 40 million today and is projected to grow to nearly 50 million within the next 5 to 6 years.”

i Media Connection
Reaching Hispanic Internet Users
April 21, 2006
By Debra Aho Williamson

McDonald’s(R) Announces Winners of World Cup Player Escort Sweepstakes
June 12, 2006
18 children from cities across the United States will be centerfield with the best soccer players in the world during the 2006 FIFA World Cup(TM)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pretty Pampered Pets

Recent pet owner surveys from the American Animal Hospital Asssociation found that:

83 percent of pet owners refer to themselves as the pet's mom and dad

70 percent sign their pet's name on greeting cards

Almost 75 percent hang a Christmas stocking for their pet

39 percent say they have more photos of their pets than their spouse *

It is estimated that Americans will spend $38.4 billion will be spent on their pets in the 2006.

The pet care and product industry is fully aware of these trends and it is coming up with more and more ways to pamper our pets. Pet gourmet meals, fancy shampoos, hotel suites with televisions and spa treatments- the sky is the limit.

Want more facts and figures about pet owners and the pet industry?

American Animal Hospital Asssociation 2004 Pet Owner Survey

American Pet Products Manufactures Association
Industry Statistics & Trends

*Cited in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1/8/2006

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Establish an Effective E-Policy

A few weeks ago, one of the center directors had a story in one of those weekly business newspapers discussing the use of office computers for personal use. This story from InfoWorld begged for being shared:

Any time that you allow employees access to your computer systems and authorize their use of the Internet, e-mail and instant messaging (IM), you put your organization's assets, future and reputation at risk.

By implementing well-defined best practices for all forms of electronic communication, your company can mitigate potential liabilities.
This comprehensive white paper offers:
- The Three E's of Electronic Risk Management, including how
to effectively enforce established policies.
- Managing peer-to-peer (P2P) file networking technology and
related security threats.
- Monitoring IM to manage risk and prevent disasters.
- 12 recommendations for electronic communication management.
- Various sample Internet policies.

Manage your organization's electronic liabilities today or risk disaster tomorrow.

Click here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Business Births & Dissolutions - Statistics

Here's a handy site should you be approached by local media asking "How many small businesses were started or disappeared around here in the last few years?"

The Census Bureau has a section on their site which they call their Business Information Tracking Series. The page presents a series of links to spreadsheet files, providing data showing growth/decline of businesses (small or otherwise) over specific two-year periods (2002-2003, 2001-2002, etc.). Each shows data by the U.S. in general, as well as by state & specific industry sector. Lately, they've also been providing data on metropolitan areas, too.

If you click on "Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), totals" under the 2002-2003 banner, you'll be presented with a fairly substantial spreadsheet. Each MSA takes up three lines: "Initial year establishments," "Establishment births," and "Establishment deaths". In column D, for example, you'll notice that there were 1,724 "establishment births" in the Albany, NY metro area between 2002 and 2003 -- all but 263 of which were small businesses.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Web 2.0

I have become fascinated by the “latest phenomenon” in cyberspace (there’s probably a new one already), the rise of social computing and such – or, what they are calling “Web 2.0.” Here is a brand new article about its impact on the business world:

Fast Company, The Network Unbound

And an older one on the same general topic (a sort of preview of a book by the same name):
Wired Magazine, The Long Tail

Here is an excellent article giving an overview of the phenomenon, from a reference librarian’s blog:
Infotangle (blog), The Hype and the Hullabaloo of Web 2.0

Incidentally, the concept is also being applied to libraries, as “Library 2.0” You can read more about that here (a Squidoo “lens,” - a sort of pathfinder).

-Ben Ropp

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Global Brain

I’ve mentioned before but Amelia and I were talking about the customer-designed phenomenon and I thought I’d check back at to see what they were calling it – since they like to come up with so many snappy names for trends, and sure enough their May/June Trend Briefing is “Customer-Made Update”.
This is becoming a popular way for companies to build interest in their products. Some I have noticed is L.L. Bean who’ve created “build-a-tote. Land’s End do it for jeans. Now the world of bespoke is becoming available to the masses. Even children’s medicine can be adjusted to be palatable to your tot’s tastes. Consumers are used to being able to communicate with their favorite brands and maybe these companies are seeing that the customer really is always right. It’s the ultimate lesson: don’t create a product and then look for a market, create a product that is needed or wanted. Check out this site to see how companies are innovating with borrowed ideas.

More on Networking!

The hunt for the elusive national networking association continues…
A couple months ago, Josee mentioned the social networking sites. Here are a few links to organizations that are more about benchmarking and connecting entrepreneurs and small to mid-size companies.

Need the email address of a friendly expert willing to answer your question?
The Entrepreneurship Network
The website provides “A database of hundreds of experienced solution providers compiled to facilitate "networking" and assist the growth of mid-market companies.” Users can search for experts by specialty or geography yielding full contact information.

Need help benchmarking? Want to discuss how other companies manage their billing process (or one of dozens of other topics)?
The Benchmarking Network
Offers lists of benchmarking resources organized both by industry and by process. Each topic seems to have its own benchmarking association that can be freely joined.

Want to develop your inner “researcher, capacity builder and practitioner”?
Society for Organizational Learning
“SoL was created to connect corporations and organizations, researchers and consultants to generate knowledge about and capacity for fundamental innovation and change by engaging in collaborative action inquiry projects.” The society is all about organizational learning and change, supporting cross-company communication and community learning.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tax Department Unveils New Electronic Service to Help Businesses Properly Report Local Sales Tax

Last week, New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Andrew S. Eristoff announced a new Department service that helps businesses more accurately determine which local sales tax jurisdictions should receive revenue from certain sales tax transactions, and the correct sales tax rate to apply to those transactions.

Sales tax on purchases is generally credited to the county or city in which the sale occurred, the service performed, or the tangible property delivered. However, problems arise when vendors use zip codes to determine the local taxing jurisdiction for New York addresses. Because postal zip codes may overlap county or city boundaries, sales tax revenue may be incorrectly credited to the wrong local taxing jurisdiction.

Sales Tax Jurisdiction and Rate Lookup Important Information

Sales Tax Jurisdiction and Rate Lookup

Monday, June 12, 2006

Angel Financing

Looking for angel investors for any of your clients? Check out these sites:

1) vFinance, Inc. - Angel Search - Here, you can search a database with "[o]ver 20,000 potential angels" by any number of variables (amount needed, industry & subindustry, state, ZIP, etc.). Searching is free. However, there is a fee for purchasing the complete record of any angel investor.

2) (June 2005 issue) - Directory of Angel-Investor Networks - Provides links to any number of Web sites, depending on the U.S. region in which the company is located.

When your client has secured a meeting with a potential angel, he or she might also want to check out a page called "Pitching Angel Investors," located on the Web site of the Kauffman Foundation. The page is a collection of articles on how a company can prepare itself to maximize its chances for financing when meeting with angels.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Props to Public Libraries

The Library: Next Best Thing to an MBA
Across the country, public libraries are giving would-be entrepreneurs ahelping hand with resources and expert guidance.
May 30, 2006
Business Week: Small Biz
By Stacy Perman

Public libraries get their due in this Business Week Small Business article. The author talks about entrepreneurs who discover " that owning a business takes a lot more than just raising money and finding a location". The article discusses how business-owners can learn how to write a business plan, create a website, and praises librarians as "the most valuable resource".
Apparently, according to a 2006 study by the American Library Association, 61% of small businesses found libraries to be important in getting them started.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Local Business

I was working on a question one afternoon about goat milk. After finding part of my answers elsewhere, I went to Google to enter the term. I looked over to the right side of the screen, to the sponsored section of the page and came across, which I clicked on. Lo and behold, lists of goat milk retailers in Albany from nearest location out!

Well, not exactly. After picking up the handful of goat milk (and dry goat milk) sources, it picked up goat cheese and other products.

Still, it was a useful piece of the reference puzzle for a product that doesn't lend itself to a lot of local data.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Health Insurance Deductibility & Entrepreneurial Survival

This is a 31-page PDF file, written by SBA's Office of Advocacy and published in April 2006. It states that health insurance premiums paid by wage & salary employees receives a different tax treatment than those paid by self-employed individuals. This paper explores how the tax treatment of self-employed health insurance premiums affects entrepreneurial decisions. Clearly, this is of interest to the sole proprietors among our clients.