Thursday, July 12, 2012

Promoting Your New Business

I've had many discussions about various methods of business advertising/promotion over the years. The truth is, there is no one magic bullet that will guarantee a steady stream of paying customers. There are plenty of companies that promise leads and advertisements, but can not guarantee a conversion rate. That's the most important part. I would take one guaranteed sale in exchange for a million leads on any day. Over the years I have tried many methods of promotions both online and off, with varying degrees of success and failure.

Search Engine Advertising

This hasn't worked especially well for me. Paid online adverts have not converted especially well. It did drive some good traffic to my site, but mostly "hit it and quit it" traffic (I assume from competitors). These services can get pricey, especially if they are allowed to run outside of your business area. The bottom line was my conversion ratio: a dismal 1000 to 1. At anywhere between 0.05 and and a 1.00 a click, that's a lot of wasted money.

Lead Services

Many companies will sell you lead bundles. The problem with this is many of these are generated by offering something for free in exchange for contact information. The vast majority of these "leads" are not interested in anything other than the free trinket. Converting these types of leads can be exercise in futility. If you decide to use one of these firms, ask how the leads are generated and demand references.

Door-To-Door Hanger Advertising

Believe it or not this method of advertising can provide a good return on investment.

Newspaper Advertisements

Still works very well. It's one of the best forms of advertising around. It gets your name in front of a diverse group of readers, and when they call they are looking for what you are offering.

"Word Of Mouth"

The "golden egg" of any and all efforts.

Phone Directories

Online or off these directories will deliver targeted, convertible leads 90% of the time. This is money well spent.

Angie's List

This website influences serious buyers everyday. It's free for businesses to list and can be profitable for real world companies with good ratings. Running a special on this site will bring in customers.


Why not? It's a free link on a major website. You never know what might fall in your lap.

Publish A Blog

I have found Blogspot to be a great place to publish a blog. It's a free, full featured blogging platform that can be used to showcase your expertise or share ideas with others.

Join A Business Organization

Network with other business people and get to know the movers and shakers. Chambers of Commerce provide access to well established business people in almost every US community. Even something as simple as joining the Better Business Bureau can boost business.

Think Outside Of The Box

Put yourself out there. Tell people, hand out cards, never miss an opportunity to throw your name in the mix. A free seminar in your area of expertise guarantees a captive audience and allows you shine. Give out useful freebies to targeted clients with your contact information. Refrigerator magnets are effective. Keep an eye open for places to leave a card. I once picked up a large fencing job from a card I left in a laundromat while washing work clothes. Ads in small, free publications (like the ones found at donut shops, coffee shops, hotels, etc.) can be a cost effective lead generator as well. If approached by other businesses, don't dismiss them as potential rivals or assume they are wasting your time. You may find common ground that can turn a chance meeting into a valuable relationship.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Strong Parterships Build Better Business

In my younger days, I helped run a thriving fab shop that was in business over 30 years. My grandfather started the business back in the late 60's or early 70's out of a need to feed his family. He began in a an old barn behind the house and built it into a successful business. Over the years my uncles and myself became involved and the business expanded from mainly shop work into buildings, fencing, millwright projects, and portable machinery repairs. We always prided ourselves on going above and beyond "the call of duty", so to speak. We were able to handle virtually anything thrown in our path, better than anyone else. But, even with that winning mindset, the true strength behind our business was partnerships.

In my experience, no one company can handle everything. We weren't setup to pour concrete or do landscaping. Nor did we have the time to handle every job that came in. BUT we built solid relationships with other individuals companies that provided the services we couldn't. Through these relationships we were able to get each other jobs, and in some cases work together to get bigger jobs. These types of relationships are extremely beneficial and valuable to any business. They allow you to concentrate on your specialty while bringing in business you wouldn't have ordinarily gotten.

Even a reference to a solid company that does good work can lead to more jobs for your company. A happy customer is a returning customer, and all potential customers want to use someone that is trustworthy and knowledgeable across the board.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Where Will The Jobs Go?

The Obama administration's "win" on the Affordable Care Act has dealt a negative blow to the economy that couldn't have come at a worse time. Just when the economy started showing signs of improvement, "Obamacare" has covered any optimistic outlook with a wet, stinky blanket. Businesses now face some tough decisions. Corporations across the land gathered in boardrooms to discuss how to proceed with the new laws. It's not going to be financially feasible to keep extra workers or to expand workforces. Some will have to cut jobs. Most will not be hiring any new workers and will reduce through attrition. Some companies that may be slowly expanding may choose to scale back. As a result many more workers will be displaced and their earnings gone. This new climate doesn't bode well for anyone. It most certainly appears that a few people in our country would rather visit the doctor than work.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Do You Need To Incorporate?

Getting your business set up is a daunting task for the best of us. Somewhere between making the decision to actually start a business and filing the paperwork, lies the most important choice you will make for your business: What type of business you will ultimately be. Sole Proprietorship or Corporation? Each has it's merits and pitfalls. Like any good business person knows, every decision should revolve around money. After all, you want to be in business to make money, not lose it. This is my way of making this decision as easy as possible. This should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. Laws vary from state to state. You will need to look up the statutes in your state to ensure compliance. Some states (like Texas) can charge you with a crime and/or levy penalties for operating without proper permits and licenses. It is ill advised to operate without permits and licenses. It can lead to complete financial and personal ruin.

The goal here is asset protection. If you engaging in low liability activities, sole proprietorship is the way to go. It's much more simple to run than a corporation. Even though your personal assets are exposed to risk, the risk should be low enough as not to cause complete financial ruin. Carry an insurance policy to cover any mishaps and you should be golden. The good news is, you can easily do this yourself.

If your business engages in activities that have the potential to cause great damage or is vulnerable to litigation, forming a corporation is your best bet. LLCs, LLPs, and Corporations are all "limited liability" entities in Texas. Risk exposure is limited to company assets and protects your personal assets. This option is also a logical step up for sole proprietorships that become very profitable or want to take on public investors. These entities are complicated, and require regular filings with the state. Consult an attorney to ensure full compliance with applicable laws.

My Thoughts On New "Obama Tax"

As a small business owner and American citizen I am deeply concerned about the turn of events leading to the Affordable Act being upheld by SCOTUS. My concerns are not partisan and I'm definitely not against health care reform. Health care costs are careening out of control for patients, private providers, and government run institutions alike. But each face very different problems. There are a variety of factors that affect these costs, among them wasteful spending and fraud. I'm afraid this new law will do nothing but make health care costs sky rocket, negatively impact the care we receive, and lead to the destruction of Medicare and employer provided medical benefits as we know them. This law also opens the door for new, and never before seen, regressive taxation that we as a nation can ill afford.

Since this law has been upheld as a tax, I think we need to examine the many ways we are already taxed by the Federal government. Everyone focuses on income or payroll taxes, but many people outside of the business community may not be aware all of the hidden (or not so hidden) taxes that everyone pays. They are either directly charged to or passed on to Americans in the form of higher prices:

  • Federal Excise Taxes - Paid by manufacturers and wholesalers on many goods including alcohol, tobacco, tires, gasoline, diesel, coal, firearms, phone service, air transportation, unregistered bonds, and many other goods and services.
  • Tariffs - The United States imposes tariffs or customs duties on imports of goods. The duty is levied at the time of import and is paid by the importer of record. Customs duties vary by country of origin and product.
  • Federal Gift and Estate Taxes - Taxes based on the current market value of inherited or gifted property including property, stocks and bonds, monetary assets, mortgages, etc.
  • An Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is imposed at the Federal level on a somewhat modified version of taxable income. The tax applies to individuals and corporations. The tax base is adjusted gross income reduced by a fixed deduction that varies by taxpayer filing status.
Virtually every sale in this country is taxed at a minimum of 2 times (excluding any applicable state taxes) from production to sale (assuming at least one part was imported, sold through a wholesaler, and purchased). Couple this with income tax revenue, and the sheer volume of revenue the Federal government generates is nearly incomprehensible.

Even more alarming is the new "field of plunder" that has opened up for the Feds. What's going to stop them from placing "safe limits" on consumption of goods and using tax penalties for surpassing them? An argument can be made that this new precedent could allow brand new taxation under any future "cap and trade" or similar program that could be created. We have entered an age where behaviour can be taxed. I can envision a world where food and energy consumers can be taxed for consumption. High risk lifestyles can be taxed at higher rates. Parents of sick children can be taxed for their children's woes. This form of taxation boggles my mind. The possibilities are virtually endless, and as we all know, so is the spending appetite of Washington, D.C.

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