Get Mentioned on ShoestringVenture.com

Photo courtesy of ShoestringVenture.com
Photo courtesy of ShoestringVenture.com

For small businesses interested in some free publicity, Steve Monas of ShoestringVenture.com:  The Startup Bible Blog is looking for startup businesses that were started on a shoestring budget and that have a website. You can submit your interest with a brief synopsis to query-1bwf@helpareporter.com. Submissions must be received by 7:00 PM EST on July 20th, 2011. If your story is chosen, you may also get published in a future book as a case study.

You can see examples of the kind of stories they’ve published before here. Please don’t contact him if your story has already been published before on his site. ShoestringVenture.com gets 2,000 visitors per day so it’s worthwhile to give it a try.

What Small Businesses Can Learn from LEGO

LEGO
LEGO

Last week, I was talking to a co-worker about LEGO and it got me thinking about how brilliantly LEGO has expanded. Here are some things that every small business owner could learn from them:

1. Look outside your primary market

Originally, Lego was geared toward boys until 1971 when they introduced furniture pieces and dollhouses for girls. LEGO also added the Duplo product line (essentially large-sized lego) for pre-school kids. Like LEGO, you should keep an eye out for new opportunities for your products outside your traditional buyers.

2. Use your product to help others

Since the 1960’s, teachers used LEGO as a learning tool. By 1980, the LEGO group caught on and established the Educational Product Department to expand the educational possibilities of using LEGO. When your product has a learning component to it, you may want to offer it free to schools and/or community centers. People will talk about it and since they’re already used to your products, they’re most likely to buy it for their own private use too.

3. Keep on top of industry and mainstream news

In 1985, with the ever increasing popularity of computers, LEGO introduced the Technic Computer Control. It allowed Technic robots, trucks and other motorized LEGO toys to be controlled by a computer. As a small business owner, it’s important to read up on what’s happening not only in your industry but what’s becoming mainstream. It may help you find inspiration for new product ideas and prevent your product from getting outdated.

4. Form partnerships with complementary companies

Nowadays, it’s common to see movie-themed LEGO sets like Harry Potter and Star Wars. You can also find LEGO video games and story books. The company smartly formed partnerships with products that suited their brand and you can do the same. Ask your regular customers for ideas or brainstorm your own from time to time.

5. Embrace your fans

LEGO has encouraged and embraced hardcore LEGO builders through competitions and clubs. In 1988, LEGO held the first ever LEGO World Cup building contest. You can also see LEGO exhibits and subscribe to the LEGO Club Magazine. When you notice your customers are banding together to use your product, look for ways to help them to connect with each other. It could be as simple as a discussion board on your website (on CityMax, add layout “Message Board”) or hosting meet ups for customers to share ideas.

If there’s a company that you aspire to be like, check online for their story.

Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Business

Image by denharsh
Image by denharsh

Spring arrived this past weekend and while snow is actually still falling in some places, its still considered a good time of year to do some cleaning.

While most of us associate spring cleaning with washing the windows and vacuuming under the couch, consider taking some time to tidy up your business too. Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas.

Match your marketing materials
As your business evolves, so should anything you’re using to promote it. When’s the last time you spruced up your brochures, promotional swag, website, or even business cards?

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Get Cheap Business Stock Photography

Looking for some new images for your website? Right now AppSumo (it’s kind of like Groupon but specific to web apps) is offering a great deal well-suited for small business owners.

PixMac, a stock photography website, has put together a package designed specifically for business. Depending on your industry, these images may work well for your website, brochures, ads, etc.

It’s a limited time offer, but for only $25, you get 33 business-focused stock images – regularly valued at $250!

Interested? Check out the deal:
$25 for $250 worth of business stock photos

5 Tips for Choosing a Great Accountant

Image by epSos.de
Image by epSos.de

Tax time is coming up and while many of us use small business tax software and our own brains to figure it all out, you might have hit the point in your business where you’ve decided it’s time to hire a pro to handle your numbers.

Finding the right accountant is just as challenging as hiring the right in-house employee. You need to trust them with some of your most treasured data and you want to feel comfortable doing so.

Here are 5 tips for making sure you are happy with the accountant you choose:

1.    Ask for Referrals

Just like you would ask a friend about their Physiotherapist, Doctor or even Hairdresser, ask business people you trust (and who have good financial records) about who they use to manage their numbers. Consider talking to people in your industry and start generating a list of accountants with great reputations.

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How to Use Your Customers to Boost Your Bottom Line

istock_000006304060xsmallYou have a great product or service. You’ve taken it to market and it’s doing well. But could it being doing better? Are there steps towards growth that you haven’t yet thought of?

Maybe it’s time to talk to your customers.

They are the people that experience your business firsthand. They’re (mostly) objective and see things from the outside – they have a perspective that you can’t have, no matter how much you think you can.

Here are a few things that you can learn from your customers:

1. The state of your customer service
The impression you leave on a customer can help (or haunt) your business for the rest of its existence. In this day and age of sharing experience and reviews online, a bad customer experience can do a lot to damage your earning potential.

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Why Every Entrepreneur Needs a Business Plan

businessplanThe internet is the land of opportunity, where anyone can make a quick buck, right?

That’s what we like to think. But time after time people jump online and create a business website without really figuring out how the business is supposed to make money. That is why no matter what your idea, you need a business plan.

A business plan sets you up for success – it makes it much easier to reach your goal of being profitable because you know how you’re going to get there.

To break it down a bit further, here’s what else you get from creating a business plan:

1. Check the viability of your idea
Sometimes ideas sound great in your head, but when you put them down on paper, you start to find holes. Do you have a market? Will you be able to make enough profit? The list goes on. A business plan will help you identify flaws BEFORE you sink your time and money into an idea that might not fly.

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Are You Ready to Start Your Own Business?

startThe life of an entrepreneur isn’t for the faint of heart – but for every risk, there is an opportunity for huge gain. The thrill of success is made even better by knowing that it’s YOUR dream being realized. What could be better than being your own boss, running your own small business?

Keep in mind that before you jump in with both feet, it’s important to make sure you can swim. Being prepared and going in with the right attitude and information sets you up for success.

Two years ago, Alexa von Tobel launched LearnVest.com, a website dedicated helping and teaching women to manage their finances. In a recent blog post, Alexa outlines her top tips for starting your own company – and she’s got some great points.

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Are You Eavesdropping on the Right Conversations?

eavesdroppingWhether you like it or not, people are talking about you. As a business, you are constantly interacting with people that will have something to say about their experience with you – positive or negative.

The beauty about this day and age is that you can listen in on those conversations. By paying attention to what people are saying, you can:

  • mitigate potentially damaging critiques
  • contribute to conversations and demonstrate that you care about customer experiences
  • identify and address problems within your business/customer experience
  • build a more loyal following

So how exactly do you listen in? Well, in all honesty, it depends on how involved you want to get. Below you’ll find a few different levels of involvement:

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Are You Missing Out on Extra Profit?

money1As a business owner, you’re probably familiar with the term “upsell.” It’s when you take the opportunity to offer extra products or services after a customer is already committed to a purchase. A great example is the age-old McDonald’s classic: “Would you like fries with that?”

The impressive truth about upselling is that you can add a HUGE amount of revenue with simple suggestions or recommendations.

Upselling is easily done in person. After all, when you’re watching a customer peruse items in your store it’s easy to see what catches his or her attention. But what can you do when your small business is an online ecommerce store?

Here are three ways to add a few extra dollars to each order:

1. Offer Gift Wrap & Cards
Many people would love to spend a buck or two extra to avoid the hassle of wrapping a gift. This especially appeals to those who want to ship a gift directly to the recipient, without being a go-between.

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