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4 Myths (and Truths) About Websites - And Why Your Small Business Needs One Today

4 Myths (and Truths) About Websites – And Why Your Small Business Needs One Today

The World Wide Web is an endless portal of information — and businesses without a website are missing out some big opportunities. For many consumers, if you’re not online, you don’t really exist. But the prospect of designing a website from scratch can be scary for businesses, especially small businesses. Still holding out on that website? Here are four myths about building a website for your business — and why every small business should be online.

Myth: Websites are expensive.
Truth: Websites can be as little as a few dollars a month — and most earn back several times their cost.

Hiring a professional web designer to maintain a large website can be expensive. But, the cost of a website can often match the size of the business. Small businesses don’t need the big, expensive websites of a large business. Hiring a freelancer (or another small business) to launch your website is often very affordable. DIY website builders are also getting better at helping small business owners build their own site — even an eCommerce site — with little technical experience and often for less than $20 a month. Once that website is up and running, most will result on a big return on investment by driving new customers to your brick and mortar location, opening another revenue stream through eCommerce or serving as another marketing strategy.

Myth: Websites take too much time.
Truth: Websites can often save time.

Say a potential customer wants to know what your hours are. More often than not, today, customers Google it first. Without a website, basic information isn’t easily accessible, which turns into time spent fielding calls about basics like hours and location. While a website takes time and occasional maintenance to stay up-to-date, making all that information easily accessible allows businesses to stop answering the same questions over and over.

Myth: My business is doing just fine, so I don’t need a website.
Truth: Traditional businesses can still benefit from the 24/7 availability of a website.

Many family-owned businesses were open for years before the internet became popular. But not opening a website is a mistake even for traditionally based businesses. Besides not attracting younger customers, current customer miss out on being able to access details 24/7 and the helpful insight that a blog could provide.

Myth: If my business has a Facebook page, I don’t need a website.
Truth: Social media marketing is great — but how do customers that hear about you from social media find out more if you don’t have a website?

Social media marketing is a great tool — but it’s not a replacement for an actual website. One recent study suggests that as many as 84 percent of consumers think that a small business is more credible when they have a website. Besides giving your business more credibility, having a website gives social media fans a place to go for more details. While you can put your location and hours on Facebook and even photographs displaying what you do, it’s probably not the best place for pricing information and company history — and it’s also not as good for popping up in those search results.

Creating a website for a small business can be a daunting task — but today, it’s a must. Even a simple website with just a page or two offering basics like hours, location and a business description can add credibility and drive more sales, all while saving time and costing less than the additional revenue a website creates.

5 Simple Steps For Building Affordable, Effective Advertising Through Cross-Promotion

5 Simple Steps For Building Affordable, Effective Advertising Through Cross-Promotion

Reaching more people while spending less isn’t some false promise from an advertising firm — it’s a growing strategy called cross-promotion.  Using cross-promotion strategies allows small businesses to reach more people with smaller budgets by sharing promotions with non-competing companies with similar audiences. For example, a wedding photographer may partner with a DJ to share advertising costs, since both are looking to reach the same audience: brides. Intrigued? Here are five easy steps for small businesses to integrate cross-promotion marketing.

Determine if cross-promotion is the right fit.

Cross-promotion isn’t for every business. For the idea to work, you need to have other businesses serving a similar area and a similar audience that are not direct competitors with your own business. A print shop could partner with a custom frame shop — but a print shop that already sells custom frames too would want to brainstorm a different partner. Make sure you are also partnering with a business that customers respect too, or their bad vibes could come off negatively on your own business.

Brainstorm potential campaigns.

Cross-promotion simply means sharing any advertising strategy — which advertising strategy is entirely up to you. Some industries may have several options available, while for others, a specific marketing technique may make more sense. Marketing campaigns can be shared in the more traditional sense such as TV, print, web and social media ads. But cross-promotion can go well beyond the usual — like hosting an event, conference or give away together. Cross-promotion doesn’t always have to cost something; businesses can also partner in small ways like linking to each other’s websites.

Pitch the partner.

Once you have a few ideas on how you’d like to approach cross-promotion, start reaching out to those like-minded businesses. Start by introducing yourself and your business. A personal relationship, like one cultivated from attending the same industry events, also helps here. Then, discuss your idea, making sure to highlight what would be in it for the other business, not focusing on your own needs.

Dig into the details.

Once you have a partner on board, pin down all the details to make sure both sides are on the same page. Make sure details like the cost, date and method are understood. Get specifics, so you don’t create a fancy graphic to link to the other business while they give you a simple text link.

Promote, then promote again.

Once you find a solid relationship for cross-promotion, keep it going. Expand by adding more promotional ideas, from including flyers at each other’s locations to printing coupons to the opposite business on the bottom of receipts. Trade links in email campaigns and share each other’s social media posts. If customers find more value by finding a new service or product that fits nicely with yours, cross-promotion can be a long-term advertising strategy.

Small businesses are always looking for big ways to reach customers on small budgets. Cross-promotion works for many businesses because it reaches out the same audience while sharing costs — or even opening up free advertising like link swaps.

5 Ways Small Businesses Can Diversify

5 Ways Small Businesses Can Diversify

For small businesses, there’s a fine line between being recognised as an industry expert — and putting all your eggs in one basket. While specialising may help small businesses earn recognition for their expertise, if consumer needs change from that one area, that business could be looking at shutting its doors for good. So how can small businesses diversify while keeping their expert status? Here are five ideas.

Branch out to the same audience.

Offering multiple products to the same audience is a good idea for a number of different reasons. For one, your marketing efforts don’t have to change. And two, you can earn more money with your existing customer base. There are a number of different ways small businesses can reach the same audience with a different product. For example, print shops specialising in canvas wall art can also move to include other types of wall art — like custom framing or even prints on wood or glass.

Branch out with a similar product, but a different audience.

While offering a product with a similar audience is a good idea, that’s not the only way to diversify a small business. Many companies offer both high-end and lower-priced products, offering a similar product but to slightly different audiences. That same print shop, for example, could branch out beyond just wall art and offer printing for businesses such as flyers, or could branch out by offering a budget line of wall art products.

Think outside physical products.

Retail stores often think of expanding in terms of more physical products — but diversity can stretch beyond that. Many businesses find success by selling a service or electronic product that is related to their physical ones. That same print shop could offer in-home services to create a gallery wall, host a photography class, release a photography e-book or sell a unique photography app.

Open another location — or an online shop.

Putting your eggs all in one basket could still be referring to a physical space. Opening a second location allows small businesses to reach out to new areas.

Opening a physical shop requires a lot of expense, however, and some shops may expand by opening an online shop. Brick-and-motar businesses can expand by selling their products to a broader audience online, not limited by location. Consider directly opening an online store, or selling on existing platforms like eBay or Etsy.

Watch the trends.

Often, the businesses that succeed are the ones that look for the next trends. Hollywood Video is completely gone, while Netflix switched their through-the-mail DVD rentals to keep up with the latest trends. Keep your ears to the ground in your industry by following industry publications and making it a habit to chat with your customers and find out what they need or are looking for next.

Small businesses may be small in size, but that doesn’t mean they can’t diversify for a more stable future. By adding similar products, creating a budget version, expanding beyond physical products, opening new locations and watching the trends, small businesses can grow with the times instead of being stifled by them.

7 Ways Small Businesses Can Go Green

7 Ways Small Businesses Can Go Green

Environmentally-friendly businesses can attract more customers much in the same way that companies who regularly donate to charity can see a boost. Consumers like shopping with companies who have the same values. Yet, going green is often tougher for small businesses without big budgets. Making sustainable environment choices doesn’t have to cost big bucks, however — and can even save companies money in the long run. Here are seven ways small businesses can go green without spending too much green.

Replace light bulbs.

LED lights used to have a luxury price, but now off-brands have brought the prices to affordable levels. Since LEDs last ten times longer and use only a quarter of the energy costs, those few extra dollars for the bulb will turn into a long-term savings while being eco-conscious.

Turn off at the end of the day — or use timers.

A significant portion of energy costs — and emissions — comes from idle gadgets. At the end of the day, turn everything off, from computers to cash registers. To simplify the task, use power strips to turn off multiple devices at once, or use timers. Installing motion sensors in areas without much traffic can also help.

Plant green.

Besides just making your small business feel more cozy and less stale-big-box-store, indoor plants can help clean the air — and show customers you’re serious about going green. A few well-placed plants inside crate a more relaxed environment while doing their job cleaning up the air. A few good varieties are spider plants, peace lilies, ferns and aloe vera.

That greenery doesn’t just have to include houseplants either. When updating the landscaping around your business, be sure to choose plants that are native to the area and species that don’t require constant watering.

Consider energy efficiency when buying anything that plugs in.

Whether you are looking for a new computer or a refrigerator for the break room, you should always check their Energy Star rating. Once any office equipment is ready for a replace, look for models that conserve less energy. For example, laptops tend to use less energy than desktop computers.

Check the ingredients.

From cleaning products to printer ink, check any products you buy for ingredients that are harsh for the environment. Try switching to green cleaners, inks and papers to start.

Go electronic.

Emailing receipts is more environmentally friendly — plus Entrepreneur adds that this method also allows you to get customers emails for marketing purposes. Using email and social media marketing is also more environmentally friendly than mass producing lots of flyers, though there are still some good occasions for printing on recycled paper.

Recycle and re-use.

Small businesses can both save money and go green by buying some products used. Buying gently used office furniture saves it from taking up a landfill and is also more budget-friendly.

As consumers become more environmentally conscious, they prefer to shop at businesses that hold similar standards. By adjusting a few habits, businesses can reduce their impact on the environment while often saving money in the long run.

5 Tips For Retail Managers

5 Tips For Retail Managers

From managing staff to reordering stock, retail managers have a widely varied list of responsibilities, and while most excel in a few areas, a manager that shines in every area is hard to find. But, by recognising their weaknesses and learning the tricks of the trade, retail managers — and employees that one day hope to step up to fulfil that role — can become great leaders. Here are five tips for retail managers to build their skills.

People are led, not managed.

Sure, “manage” may be in retail manager, but leadership is a more appropriate term to the way managers should interact with their team. Avoid only pointing out mistakes and make sure to compliment employees when they do a good job. Offer constructive criticism that’s coupled with ways to improve, instead of straight negativity. Be wary of becoming too close to your employees as well, or directing staff becomes difficult when those staff members are close friends.

Embrace a flexible schedule.

Like it or not, most retail management positions require odd hours and occasionally being called into work on short notice. Learn to embrace the flexible work schedule, or you’ll wind up frustrated and distracted. Find the positives in your new schedule and put on the same attitude you want your staff to wear to work everyday.

Expect change and grow with it.

Retail is continually changing. As seasons change and sales trends adjust, retail mangers that embrace the change will find new ways to grow the business, instead of being held back by unexpected curve balls. Instead of resisting change, expect it and lead the team through the adjustment.

Earn the respect of your team.

Leading is impossible without respect. Retail managers need to set expectations and stick to them. When an employee makes a mistake, discuss the issue and how they can improve. Drawing on your own experience is also helpful. Give employees reasonable time to correct. Besides just correcting mistakes, good retail managers will also recognises changes in the industry and keep staff informed. Maintain a positive connection on a regular basis and staff will feel like part of a team, not just employees.

Learn how to best manage your time.

With so many tasks, retail managers need to develop solid time management skills. Learn how to prioritise which tasks need be completed first. Identify repetitive tasks that could be streamlined, like creating email templates for the most common correspondence. Leaders also need to be able to identify which tasks should be assigned to another team member and which ones shouldn’t be divvied up.

Managing a retail team isn’t an easy task. Retail managers need to be adept at a number of different skills, from leading team members to managing time. By learning to build up those areas, however, retail managers can grow to become even more valuable assets to the team. Employees eyeing a management position can also note the skills of successful retail managers and work to build towards that position.