Why You Need a Proofreader

Posted February 10th, 2011 in Branding, Small Business Tips by Mara
Image by adactio.

Image by adactio

Mistakes happen. We’ve all been in a situation where we carelessly overlooked something and it’s caused an embarrassing situation. While most of these faux pas happen in our personal lives, from time to time it affects business. This morning we received a Change of Legal Name letter for a business we’ve worked with in the past. It’s a nicely written letter on beautiful new letterhead with a funky new logo. The problem with the letter is two-fold:

  1. They don’t state anywhere in the letter what the previous name of the business is. Although we’ve now figured it out, it took more than three people to narrow it down.
  2. There’s a typo in the URL in the big bolded area where they list their contact information.

Yikes. If you’re sending out a notice like this, you want to make sure it goes out without a hitch and people aren’t left scratching their heads trying to figure out who you are. This letter probably should have been passed around a bit before it left the building.

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KIVA.org: Giving Back to Entrepreneurs Globally

Posted December 2nd, 2010 in Personal Message by Patrick

It’s the season for giving! No matter what religion, race, or denomination you belong to, if you’re reading this you probably share our belief in the entrepreneurial spirit.

This winter, why not help someone else achieve the same dream? KIVA.org supports entrepreneurs all over the world through a micro-loan system – based on the same idea that Muhammed Yunus, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize created. This concept is based on funding entrepreneurs through the concept of microloans, rather than donations. Since 2009 Kiva has helped raise over $160 million in loans with a 98.90% repayment rate. For as little as $25 you can help fund an entrepreneur’s dream – so please join our CityMax.com giving team.

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4 Steps to Getting (or Keeping) Your Business on the Right Track

Posted September 17th, 2010 in Guest Blogger, Small Business Tips by Patrick

traintrackGuest Post – Arpy Dragffy is a marketing strategist and customer experience specialist with over 10 years of corporate event planning, enterprise retention strategies, and customer research experience.

In this gloom and doom economy, every small business owner is looking for ways to slash their bottom line while growing their business. Who wouldn’t want to keep their costs down, increase profits, and boost loyalty among their customer base?

Often, entrepreneurs become so focused on closing sales and locking down new partnerships that their obsession with growth becomes blinding.

Take a step back.

A massive growth phase is an amazing thing, but it can come with side effects: resources that are stretched too thin, or even worse, a company that somehow ends up moving in a different direction than originally planned. Once you have turned your idea into a business, how do you create long-term relationships with your customers that will bring you sustainable revenue?
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Website of the Month: Southern Missouri Mule Outfitter & Equine Supply

Posted April 8th, 2010 in Website of the Month by Patrick

2010-04-08-somomule2Welcome back our Website of the Month! This month’s spotlight is on Ken Levine from Southern Missouri Mule Outfitter & Equine Supply (Somomule.com).

Ken retired as a federal law enforcement agent in 2007 to focus on his love – outfitting mules. As a trained ferrier (horseshoeing) his hobby quickly became a business after he set up his website using CityMax.com.

Somomule.com is a retail sales outfitter for horses and mules, selling pack equipment, tents and even Amish tack for backcountry pack saddles.

“It was very easy to figure out, and I don’t have any HTML knowledge,” said Ken. “In two and a half years we went from zero to making six figures a year from the business. My wife quit her bank job and we have more time to run our farm now.”

Ken’s site currently receives around 5,000 unique visitors per month. He offers this advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “You need to be dedicated to your business idea and be organized – be on top of everything. From shipping to selling, this has been a labor of love with thousands of hours going in.”

You can tell the man truly enjoys what he does! Congratulations again to Ken and Somomule.com, our March Website of the Month.

How to Keep Your Focus… Start with Your Desk!

Posted March 17th, 2010 in Productivity, Small Business Tips by Mara

2010-03-17-cheesy_salesman2Whether you work out of your home or in a high-rise, most people who work at a computer have the same problem – keeping an organized workspace.

A clean desk contributes to your productivity, and as a small business owner you probably want to maximize your time. Creating a system for keeping your desk clean can help you eliminate distractions and power through tasks more efficiently.

The folks over at Productivity501 have a series of questions to help you “streamline” your workspace. Check out 5 Questions To Help Organize Your Desk to see if you can clear the clutter!

Three Secrets to Getting More Customers

Posted February 23rd, 2010 in Getting Visitors, Selling Online by Mara

2010-02-23-secretsThe one question that every small business website owner asks themselves at some point or another is: “How can I get more customers?” Surprisingly enough, it’s not as difficult as you would think!

Here are three secrets that the best marketing minds rely on:

1. Identify Your Strengths

It’s pretty much guaranteed that no matter what industry you’re in, you are going to have some competition and you are going to be compared against them. So what can you do to stay ahead of the game?

The key is to identify what it is about your business that should make a customer choose you over anyone else. Pick something that you are or want to be the best at, then make sure you keep it that way. That “thing” is your silver bullet – in marketing speak it’s called your Unique Selling Point or USP. For example, if you sell protective cases for cameras, your USP might be that your cases are indestructible.

2. Pinpoint Your Customers

One of the common mistakes that small business owners make is thinking that their products are perfect for everyone. No matter how great your products are, there will always be a subset of people that are your TRUE customers. These are the people that make up your perfect target market and are also the people that you should be developing your marketing messages around.

If you already have a customer base, take a closer look at them. Who are you selling to primarily? Who is making you the most money? Look at age, location, gender, lifestyle habits, education level, and more. From there you can start to create a clear picture of who you are selling to, and what is important to them.

In following with the protective camera case business, it’s likely that an ideal customer might have the following characteristics:

  • Between the ages of 25 – 35
  • College/University educated
  • High amount of disposable income
  • Athletic and adventurous (“adrenaline junkie”)

3. Target Your Message and Make It Matter

Once you know what makes you stand apart from the competition and who you are selling to, your marketing is much easier to figure out. When you craft your marketing messages around your USP and your ideal customers, you should end up with a campaign that really communicates the right message to the right people.

Let’s talk about those camera cases again.

John is a 29 year old male who loves mountain climbing, biking, and snowboarding. He’s broken three digital cameras in just over a year. He’s trying to find a way to stop wasting money on cameras, but he’s not convinced that there’s anything out there strong enough to withstand his lifestyle.

Knowing that John is your ideal customer, one way to connect with him might be through video. Take an action shot of the camera case being dropped on a trail ride, then being “accidentally” ridden over by the camera owner’s friends. Afterwards, show the unscathed camera – and maybe even some accidentally captured images of bike tires riding over it.

By figuring out what makes your business different and who you are selling to, you identify your own niche and create room for growth. As a side benefit, you may also be able to identify additional products that are sorely needed by your ideal customers – products that nobody else has recognized yet and that will give you the additional advantage of being first in the space.

Ken Lyotier: Vancouver DTES Entrepreneur and Olympic Torch-Bearer

Posted February 11th, 2010 in CityMax.com News, Introduction, Personal Message by admin

2010-02-11-ken_lyotier_07It’s not often that you get to meet someone like Ken Lyotier – a man who rose above his own personal challenges to create a well-respected, non-profit business by uniting a community more known for sad stories of homelessness and addiction rather than those of success.

Lyotier is the founder and former Executive Director of United We Can, a non-profit bottle depot that operates out of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. This week, we were lucky enough to have Lyotier come in and tell his inspirational story to us first hand during our weekly team learning session.

Like many entrepreneurs, Lyotier started off by identifying a problem that he was experiencing himself. While trying to earn a living by collecting recyclable cans and bottles, he found that the stores that were supposed to honor the refunds were often unwilling to accommodate the bottle returns.

With the help of a local minister, he and a friend decided to organize an event where people could bring in non-recyclable items for cash – he was overwhelmed with the response and energy it generated from the community.

“The buzz you get from people being excited about what you’re doing is better than any high you’ll ever get from drugs or alcohol,” says Lyotier.

After searching for answers to local recycling issues and working with the government and VanCity, United We Can was founded in 1995 and has grown into an impressive source of inspiration, empowerment, and employment to people living in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Over the past few years, the organization has grown beyond the bottle depot to include other services that work well within the community, including a bicycle repair shop and computer recycling.

Along with being a well-respected member of his community, Lyotier’s positive impact on the community has also recently earned him an invitation to light the cauldron at the 2010 Vancouver Games celebration site after being handed the Olympic torch by Canadian singer Michael Buble.

Ken Lyotier is an inspiration to any entrepreneur and he also provides some food for thought. What business opportunities surround you in your own life? What’s holding you back? Use personal challenges to take a step forward and write your own success story.

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Business Success

Posted December 31st, 2009 in Getting Visitors, Selling Online, Website Builder Features by admin

2009-12-31-new-yearspic2009 is wrapping up, and what better occasion to take a fresh look at your online business! As we march into the New Year, it’s time to figure out what is and isn’t working. Here are five tips that should help you create a more profitable 2010:

1. Focus on Customer Service
No matter how fantastic your product, it’s not what your customer will be talking about if your service stinks. By building a great relationship with your customers, you keep them happy, loyal, and talking about you with their friends. Evaluate all of your points of contact, from emails, phone messages, web contact, and even how you interact face to face – then make sure you’re going above and beyond.

2. Ask Clients for Referrals
Now that you’ll be offering top notch customer service, encourage your customers to tell their friends about you. People are much more likely to trust a company recommended by friends and it’s as simple as adding a line to your email signature (ie. Happy with our products? Recommend us to a friend!).

Tip: With your CityMax.com small business website, you can add a “Recommend Website” page, which allows your visitors to send an email recommendation to their friends.

3. Learn to Delegate
Have too much on your plate? As a small business owner, it can be hard to let others do work for you, but learning to share your workload will help you accomplish a lot more. Consider what you do in a week and identify the things that don’t NEED to be done by you, then pass them on to others. If you don’t have staff, you may want to try outsourcing some of that extra work. For example, if you need content written for your website, consider using a service like Textbroker.

4. Ditch Broken Systems
Sometimes in business we set up processes that end up not being so successful… yet we keep on using them for years. Now is the time to make a move. Is your sales method not effective for closing deals? Is one of your products just not selling no matter what you do? Is your software constantly crashing? Out with the old and in with the new. Find something that works better – you’ll end up saving a lot of time and frustration.

5. Set Realistic Goals
If you’re not already setting goals, now is a great time to start. By setting goals, you not only have something to strive for, but you also have something to celebrate once it is accomplished. Make sure that any goal you set is realistic or you may end up just frustrating yourself.

These five resolutions should make a positive impact on your business, but don’t forget to take care of yourself! Work-life balance is just as important to your business’ health, so as a bonus resolution, make sure to also set personal time as a priority.