SBA Shares 7 Ways To Increase Foot Traffic For Your Business

1. Start from the outside and look in

If you are in a pedestrianized area, get to know who passes by your store. Literally, sit outside or close by your window and assess the demographic of who comes and goes. Do they window shop? Have they come from another store close by first?

Next, take an objective look at your signage and window display–does it appeal to your target demographic or buyer? For example, if you run a coffee shop and most of your business is done during the hours of 8 AM to 10 AM, think of ways to optimize your merchandising and window display to attract more buyers during these times. This could be as simple as using this time to hand out coupons outside, offering bakery samples to passersby, or promoting your latest offers using sidewalk signage.

2. Host a community event with a newsworthy tie-in

One of the best ways to increase foot traffic is to host a community or charity event. A great way to do this and get noticed is to tie it to a topical event. Say, for example, your local NFL or high school team is playing a critical game. Consider teaming up with other businesses nearby to offer game-day promotions/offers or a tie-in event. Host the event as a block party or at a central location downtown (even if you have to take your business on the road for a few hours). Don’t forget to be community-oriented—consider donating a portion of your profits to charity.

Feature the event ahead of time on your website and social media. For maximum impact, don’t forget to contact local media outlets—including radio channels—and email and mail out fliers to your contact list.

3. Host a seminar or workshop

Both retail and service-based businesses can generate a good deal of foot traffic by educating their customers about how to get more out of what they are buying (even if you don’t make a sale that day). Florist shops could host a flower arranging class or realtors could host a house-staging workshop to attract potential sellers. And of course, publicize your event—in-store, online, via press releases and advertising.

4. Use location-based services to attract passersby

You don’t have to be a tech wizard to promote your small business using mobile apps that target consumers in the vicinity of your business. Groupon, Living Social, FourSquare and ThinkNear among others let you post information about your latest offers and limited-time deals to consumers within a certain distance of your business. You can also schedule deals to get delivered during key hours, for example, if you’re looking to boost foot traffic during off-peak times.

5. Engage old customers in new ways

It’s always refreshing when a store or restaurant you’ve frequented for some time starts doing something new. And thanks to the power of social media, doing something new or different and doing it well can quickly go viral.

So think about ways you can get the attention of older or existing customers. It could be as simple as offering a new type of discount (it may sound obvious, but offering something of value at a discount for a limited period of time can be attention-grabbing) or letting customers know about a new product or service you’ve added.

A straight-out sale is always a great way to bring old customers out of the woodwork. Send out an email or e-newsletter to your contact database and post it on social media. You might even host a secret sale first for a hand-selected group of customers.

If your business is service-oriented, consider offering a referral fee to existing customers who bring in new clients for you.

6. Put on your small business customer service hat

There’s a reason why consumers opt to frequent small businesses over larger chains—personal relationships. A smile, great service, product knowledge and enthusiasm will bring customers through your door and keep them coming back. So as you host new events, sales or workshops, use your small business advantage to the max!

7. Stay in touch

Staying top of mind with new and existing customers who you’ve engaged through your new efforts is not just about offering great products and services. It’s also about staying in touch.

If you host an event that brings in new customers, encourage them to sign up for your emails. A little incentive, such as a free giveaway in exchange for an email address, is always effective. Then stay in touch, set-up an e-newsletter program, send out regular updates about new product lines, company news, and events and start to engage with your customers via social media. (For tips, check out thisblog).

Getting a loan from family and friends

Borrowed from the Pittsburg Business Times

Though the economy appears to be on the uptick for 2013, the problem of where to get financing for many entrepreneurs and small business owners has not become any easier to solve.

With no collateral or a bad credit score, the little capital banks are giving to small businesses likely will not be headed your way. With no proven experience or track record of success, it is also likely your company would be a tough sell to venture capitalists.

“Unfortunately in today’s economy, in many cases, asking friends and family for money is the only way a small business startup can get funding,” said Bob Shephard, director of community partnerships at the National Entrepreneur Center (NEC).

According to the National Small Business Association, in 2011, 14 percent of business owners reported turning to friends and family for loans to cover their costs.

Shephard said while the NEC endorses borrowing from friends and family, it must be handled carefully.

“Not only is there the risk you could do something to damage your business, but there is the added danger that you could lose or damage your personal relationship,” he said.

The U.S. Small Business Association lists the average cost for starting a new business to be $30,000. According to the Kaufmann Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, approximately 534,000 new businesses were created throughout the U.S. each month in 2011.

From personal relationship to business relationship

Geno Moscetti, co-founder of LendFriend Inc., said the key to building a strong working relationship while maintaining a personal relationship is to have clear and open communication from both sides.

LendFriend, a software platform that helps to create and manage loans between friends and family, was developed after Moscetti provided a personal loan to his college friend and co-founder, Dave Kuchar.

Kuchar, who bootstrapped and funded his first startup with credit cards and his entire savings, found that no banks would give him a debt consolidation loan, just as his company was turning into a profitable lifestyle business.

Moscetti, who at the time was a management consultant for financial services firms, had available cash sitting in a savings account and saw an opportunity.

“I believed in what he was doing and had additional information than a traditional bank would use to assess risk,” he said. “I offered to lend him the money at an interest rate that was greater than I was earning with a savings account, but less than what he was paying to credit cards.”

Ray Vargo, director of the Small Business Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence said turning to friends and family for financing can provide benefits.

“One of the ‘Five C’s of lending’ is character,” Vargo said. “Because this person already knows you and believes in your character, they can offer you a loan faster, and with more flexibility, than a bank.”

Vargo said while it may be less rigid than a traditional loan, it is critical that both parties understand that this is a business transaction and should be treated as such.

“Business owners need to follow the same process they would if they were dealing with someone other than a family member or friend,” he said.

He said to be prepared to submit a full-fledged business plan that specifically details what they money will be used for.

“Even though you are dealing with someone you know, you still need to develop a formal approach,” he said. “When money is changing hands it needs to be more than just a simple conversation, it needs to be very specific and well thought out.”

Write it out

“When it comes to your business, it needs to be more than a handshake agreement,” Shephard said.

Vargo and the other agree, everything should be in writing. Moscetti said things that should be included in the official loan agreement include standard loan items such as principal, interest rate, length of loan and any applicable collateral. Part of the plan should also include specifics on how the money will be paid back and a timeline for payments.

“You can’t worry about the details later, everything needs to be ironed out up front,” Vargo said.

Vargo said it is also important for each party know what their specific role will be. Before you accept anything, decide if you are accepting the money as a debt or as equity.

“If they can’t provide value to the business, other than the funds, it would be best to accept the money as a debt obligations,” Vargo said.

Shephard said if the money is to be taken as equity in the company, it may be beneficial to seek professional legal advice to work out all of the details.

Sometimes being a good friend leads to bad business

When being approached for a loan, it is also important to remember that having an open heart doesn’t necessarily mean having an open wallet.

“The lender needs to separate themselves from the emotion of the relationship,” Vargo said.

He said it is important to act as your own analyst and pretend the business is being pitched to you by a stranger.

“Ask yourself, ‘If I didn’t know this person would I still think this is a good idea?’” he said. “You need to get excited about the business itself, rather than just the personality behind it.”

Vargo said it is important to lay out all of the pros and cons for both parties and make sure everyone is comfortable with the arrangement before any money changes hands.

“It’s best to take your time and really think everything through,” he said. “If something goes wrong it can go on to impact the relationship for the rest of your life.”

Links:

The U.S. Small Business Association: http://www.sba.gov SCORE: http://www.score.org Entrepreneurship.org: http://www.entrepreneurship.org Kaufmann Foundation: http://www.kauffman.org LendFriend: https://lendfriend.com

SBDC Client Launches New Website

01/15/2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT PERSON: Traci L. Morris, Owner at 520-891-1851 or traci@homahotaconsulting.com

National Native Owned Consulting Firm to Celebrate Website Launch with Live First Friday Event in Phoenix Area

Phoenix, AZ –In celebration of the start of their 5th year as a business supporting tribes and tribal businesses, Homahota Consulting LLC, a national consulting firm, will host a Website Launch Party (www.HomahotaConsulting.com) for clients and interested parties in one of their key service areas, Phoenix, Arizona, with a ‘First Friday’ Event on Friday, February 1st, from 4-7 pm in the lobby of the Clarendon Hotel in mid-town Phoenix. The event is open to all and will co-mingle with the guests enjoying happy hour and First Friday festivities. With this event, the organization is reaching out to local and regional tribes and businesses that work with Native Nations, as Arizona has one of the highest populations of Native Americans in the country.

Dr. Traci L. Morris stated “Homahota Consulting’s work is primarily national in scope and we needed our website to reflect this. We worked with IsletaTech, a Native-owned firm out of Washington DC on the ground-up new design. In 2013, we are on target for unprecedented growth in support of tribal business and tribal organizations and we want our website to be a resource to Indian Country.” Morris founded Homahota Consulting LLC in 2009 in response to the need for consultants who understood the complexity of working with and within Indian Country. Native communities are actively engaged in creating opportunities that support nation-building practices, but they often lack capacity, employees, skills and expertise in the short-term to implement the work they have planned. Homahota Consulting LLC solves this issue by providing tribal-centric consulting services to Indian Country and businesses working with Tribal Nations.

Homahota Consulting LLC is a Native American woman-owned and operated national consulting group. With a full understanding of the legal, social, political, intellectual and cultural complexities of working in Indian Country, Homahota Consulting provides operational business-to-business services and applied support services to organizations, tribes, and governments, including tribal governments. As a Native American-owned business founded on academic and applied experience working in communities, Homahota Consulting, can truly say that their work is grounded in tribal-centric solutions and innovations for tribes and businesses that serve Indian Country.

Can the Cloud Help Small Business?

Contributed by Wall Street Journal Online

By CICELY K. DYSON

When USstoragesearch.com, a 58-employee property-storage business, went national in 2004, business-development director Bill Hipsher didn’t expect to be spending more than $25,000 a month on information technology within a few years. New software, and the need to manage and maintain servers, required him to look for outside IT support and thus kept the Omaha, Neb.-based company from growing as fast as he’d hoped.

Enlarge Image

Matt Miller for The Wall Street Journal
Bill Hipsher, business-development director at US Storage Search, has used online call-center and storage services to reduce IT spending.

Nearly two years ago, Mr. Hipsher moved some of the operations off the company’s own servers and onto the cloud, using services like inContact SAAS +1.60% to operate its call center and Rackspace Hosting Inc., RAX -1.55% which US Storage Search uses to operate 400 separate websites that it owns or manages for other companies.

As a result, Mr. Hipsher says the company—which helps people compare and book physical storage facilities online—is saving up to $7,000 a month on IT, can afford to cut back on third-party IT services and expects to add up to 40 jobs this year.

“We’ve been able to reinvest into what we make,” he says. “Every dollar that we’ve made we’ve pretty much sunk back into what we have.”

There’s nonstop chatter, often funded by the cloud-service industry itself, about the new world of the cloud, in which businesses outsource their computing muscle to a third party. Much of the discussion has been around stories like that of Mr. Hipsher, where a small business saves substantially and can then invest the savings elsewhere in its business.

For many small businesses that have used the cloud for a few years, the experience has largely been positive, but not without drawbacks. Cloud services run by companies like Google Inc., GOOG -0.47% Amazon.com Inc., AMZN -0.60% Microsoft Corp. MSFT -0.18% and Dell Inc. DELL +2.26% attract entrepreneurs because of their convenience and low startup costs. But some customers complain about security measures and entrepreneurs’ lack of control over data.

Data housed in the cloud is stored and processed in centers hundreds or even thousands of miles away from a company’s headquarters. While this lets entrepreneurs decide how much storage and processing power they need, it can also be an added frustration for business owners.

“The only downside would be not having direct control over what you’re doing,” says Mr. Hipsher of US Storage Search. The company still operates about a dozen servers on its premises in Omaha.

The future of IT for small businesses will largely rely on both servers on site and in the cloud. Some small businesses have found using a hybrid of both to be beneficial by backing up data on site and in the cloud. IT costs can be particularly a heavy burden on small businesses, because they don’t have the deep pockets of large corporations.

In late June, several users of Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud, were hit with a scare when electrical storms cut power to 10 data centers in northern Virginia and the generators shut down. While any infrastructure can and will have issues, “no amount of downtime is acceptable or our customers,” says Adam Selipsky, vice president of AWS.

Small businesses in the U.S. spent $3.5 billion on cloud technology in 2011, up 41% from the $2.2 billion spent in 2010, according to a report by International Data Corp., a technology research firm. In 2012, spending on cloud technology was projected to increase by about 25%.

In 2011, cloud spending by small businesses in the U.S. accounted for around 7% of the $53 billion that was spent on all IT expenditures. IDC defines a “small business” as one with fewer than 100 employees.

Operating servers both on-site and in the cloud is “a very effective way of reducing risk,” says Michael Harries, chief technologist at Citrix Startup Accelerator, a Silicon Valley investment firm that works specifically with software startups. Business owners should make the decision based on the “support they have available,” he says.

Harpaul Sambhi, chief executive of social-media recruitment firm Careerify, says running his company solely in the cloud has allowed him to focus more on business growth. Careerify allows a company to connect to its employees’ social networks in order to find candidates for jobs at that company, be it through Facebook, FB +3.58% Twitter or LinkedIn. Mr. Sambhi uses Microsoft.’s Windows Azure to support Careerify’s storage and data processing.

Mr. Sambhi says because an average employee has about 300 social-media contacts, he didn’t want to burden his staff of 12 with trying to maintain servers that are mining the data of hundreds of thousands of users.

“It’s a lot of work for us,” he says.

Financial benefits and convenience aside, some entrepreneurs are still wary of the security risks. The top drawback for small businesses adopting cloud services in 2012 was data security, according to IDC research.

Louis Barajas, a financial planner in Los Angeles who serves mostly Hispanic and elderly customers, says that while he’d like to incorporate the cloud more into his business, his clients are leery of the technology. Even so much as logging on to their bank accounts online could be a struggle.

“They’re all afraid someone’s going to steal their information because they don’t understand the cloud,” he says. “Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t get them to.”

He says that clients with some understanding of cloud technology are still apprehensive because of the lack of direct control.

“Everybody tells you that the information is safe, and nobody knows where it’s going,” Mr. Barajas says.

Mr. Barajas operates his on-site Microsoft servers at a cost of $400 per month paid to an outside IT company. To ease his customers’ minds about security, the servers are frequently backed up at his company, he says. While his business is mostly operated on in-house servers, he says he doesn’t have a choice on using some cloud-based software, such as eMoney Advisor for financial planning.

“Ideally, it would be much simpler to have everything in the cloud,” Mr. Barajas says.

Providers still see the value in offering both on-site and cloud servers. Dell, which had 14% growth in its server business in its fiscal third quarter ended Nov. 2, says growth in its cloud business isn’t having a major impact on its server-network business.

While Dell acknowledges that some small-business owners would feel safer with an on-site server, Nnamdi Orakwue, vice president of infrastructure cloud service, says Dell has been building better security through acquisitions like SonicWall, which helps customers develop and maintain IT security. The deal was reportedly valued at $1.2 billion.

Online Marketing Techniques by business type

Effective online marketing techniques by business type.

Online marketing is a critical component of making your business successful in this day and age where 97% of internet-connected consumers go online to research services and products. But with so many ways to market yourself online, you may be suffering from analysis paralysis… so to get you started, here is the top action item I recommend depending on your type of business.

If you’re a local business and you see your customers face-to-face, either when they walk into your location, or because you go and see them at theirs, the #1 thing to do is take control over your listing in online directories. That means claiming your Local listing with all the big search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. Once you’ve claimed your listing, here are the top things you should do:
● Pick the business category closest to what you do. If they don’t provide exactly the category you wanted, just pick the one that is closest rather than creating a new one. That’s because a custom category may not be part of the search algorithm or site navigation so while it may seem more relevant, you may end up not getting found at all.
● Fill out your profile as completely as possible and include the services you provide or the brands your store carries.
● Include images and videos to make your business look its best.
● More tips for getting listed in local directory sites

If you’re a service business, reviews will play a significant role in the decision-making process for consumers. Make sure you know where your business is getting reviewed and monitor these sites regularly so you can respond when there is a new review.
● When there’s a happy review, acknowledge it and say thanks.
● When there’s a negative review, apologize and offer to make it right… the author of the review may even replace their unhappy review with a positive one.

If you are a pure-play online business, building a great website with lots of useful content should be your top priority so you can get a high ranking in the search engines. There are many straightforward best practices that make your site easier to index by the search engines, so make sure you’re doing at least the following:
● Give every page a useful and unique title and meta description since this is what Google uses when they show your website in the search results. Do a search on Google for site:mysite.com (where you replace mysite.com with your website address) and see what the results look like. If the titles and descriptions don’t look great, go and update your page titles and meta description tags.
● Make sure that http://www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com are seen as one and the same website, otherwise you’re splitting your ranking between the two. A simple 301 permanent redirect from one site to the other takes care of this. Do a search for “301 redirect” in your hosting company’s help center to look up how to do this.
● Make it easy for people to share your content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ by adding social sharing buttons on every page. The easier it is for users to recommend your content to their friends, the more referrals you may get.

Getting Employees to Act on your Brand promise

Sometimes, employees get mixed messages about how they’re expected to behave toward customers. For example, a resort that heavily promotes itself as family-friendly charges guests $3.00 for drink refills. So when a three-year-old spills his lemonade, the waiter has a choice: Break the brand promise to be family-friendly — or break the rule about charging for refills.

Every product and facility detail — and every employee act — must exemplify the brand promise.

Problems like these arise when there’s a disconnect between a company’s brand promise — what it says it stands for — and its service behaviors — what employees actually do. Gallup has found that employees across a range of industries probably aren’t prepared to embody or “behave” the brand promise.

About four in 10 (41%) workers, for example, strongly agree with the statement “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors.” And only about half of all employees know what’s expected of them at work. This should worry business leaders because a well-defined brand promise gives customers a unique, compelling reason to use the brand; differentiates the business from its competitors; steers marketing efforts; is a major component of creating a service culture; and defines the company’s services, products, and processes.

If a rule prevents employees from embodying the brand promise or if employees don’t know how to behave to deliver on it, the company breaks its brand promise. The consequences should motivate leaders to clearly articulate their brand promise, teach it to their staff, and show them how to behave it.

Teach and reinforce brand behaviors

“Behaving the brand” means the company will do whatever it takes to deliver on its brand promise. Every product and facility detail — and every employee act — must exemplify that promise, whether it’s quality, fast service, customer care, or low prices. Employees must execute brand and service behaviors consistently, and frequent reminders help employees understand and internalize these behaviors.

For instance, The Ritz-Carlton’s brand promise is: “The Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission. We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience. The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”

To translate that promise into meaningful actions, The Ritz-Carlton doesn’t make employees guess what to do. Instead, it tells them in its 12 Service Values, which include statements like these:

I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
These Service Values are printed on cards, and every day, employees in locations worldwide discuss one of them at a team meeting. The team members talk about the Service Value, offer examples of how they have seen it behaved or have behaved it themselves, and strategize ways to operationalize the behavior even more. When the 12th Service Value is discussed, they go back to the first one. That way, everything The Ritz-Carlton stands for is thoroughly discussed and promoted.

“We know that in order for our employees to deliver service excellence, they must understand their purpose within the organization,” says Janet Crutchfield Souter, Ritz-Carlton senior director of quality. “Our Service Values communicate the expected outcomes to our Ladies and Gentlemen [Ritz-Carlton employees], while allowing them to rely on their training and expertise to determine the best approach to reach the outcome. Our employees are the brand.”

Maricopa SBDC Small Business Academy

Creating Small Business Economic Impact through Global Partnerships

What does a tutoring service, a consulting firm and a software company all have in common? These thriving locally-owned businesses are all run by graduates of the SBDC Academy (formerly known as HP Life). Due to the overwhelming demand the SBDC Academy has expanded with more than 40 sessions offered in three locations across the valley.

Last year more than 500 business owners attended the SBDC Academy workshops. More than 40 new businesses were launched and existing business added more than 53 new jobs; with some firms doubling their revenues.

The Maricopa Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is part of a global partnership with HP to enable entrepreneurs grow their businesses while creating a stronger local economy. Additionally, the SBDC has partnered with Google and local organizations including the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.

With so many options for training and development, what makes the SBDC Academy successful? SBDC Academy graduate and Chandler business owner Laura Petersen believes the success of the program is simple. “The new SBDC Academy is a great set of courses to help businesses and people with ideas take it them to the marketplace and be successful. I have an entire notebook filled with new tips and tricks that I cannot wait to implement! I feel lucky to have stumbled upon these terrific (and FREE!) classes.”

Kristin Slice, business analyst and program coordinator for the SBDC Academy, believes the reason for success is the business owners themselves. “Business owners learn from each other in an open environment with a flexible format designed specifically for business owners. We expanded a globally tested curriculum and incorporated feedback from hundreds Arizona business owners.”

The next series of workshops starts in February in Surprise, Chandler and Phoenix. Visit http://www.maricopa-sbdc.com to register. The SBDC Academy is free but space is limited.

“We are committed to being the go-to resource for small business. Not just putting together resources we think they want. We use technology to create a community of on-going empowerment and connection between small business owners. We have taken the time to evolve the program. We are proud of what our graduates have done and we are excited to see what the future holds,” says Slice.

If you are a member of the media and would like more information on the SBDC Academy please contact,  Mark Engle                                                                                            Email: mark.engle@domail.maricopa.ed, (480) 784-0590

Small Business Owners attending our great hands on workshops.

Small Business Owners attending our great hands on workshops.

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