Philadelphia Online Business Consultants Blog

Friday, March 27, 2009

Online Presence for Small Businesses

Most small businesses rely primarily on word of mouth and local/geographic publications for their customer stream. In fact, many simply rely on their location and signage to attract customers.

It always fascinates me when I see how poorly most small businesses utilize their online presence. And that assumes that they have a website at all! It is not difficult to have an affective online property that serves as an additional traffic stream to your business or allows clients to more easily contact you. I simply don't understand why so few businesses take advantage of the resources out there. Almost any business can figure out an appropriate way to include a contributing website into its business model. This may not always be straightforward for some types of companies, so it may take a bit of creativity.

Small businesses need to start thinking about their website as an employee and demanding results from it. Measurable results, that benefit their company's bottom line.

Let me explain what I mean.

Business X is an automotive garage. They really need a new mechanic that will help them increase labor hours and efficiency. Ideally they will hire a certified expert that works with German and Japanese cars in addition to domestics. However, the first candidate that walks in the door is an English major with no mechanical skills.

This scenario sounds absurd, but it is exactly what most businesses do when they set up their first website. They do not take their business model, business needs, or businesses processes into account. They usually take the first thing that comes around, most often a "one-size-fits-all" design from a local designer. And they definitely don't demand as much from this new website as they would from an employee.

If your business needs a mechanic, it shouldn't hire an English major. Similarly, if your businesses needs to generate more qualified leads and sales or attract a new segment of the marketplace it previously wasn't able to reach, it shouldn't set up a one-size-fits-all website.

When deciding to create a website or modify an existing website, you should treat this process like hiring a new employee. Make a list of
  • Goals,
  • Requirements and
  • Ways you will measure success.

    With this new list, evaluate any website design proposals to make sure they actually take into account your lists. Ask yourself some questions:
  • In what concrete ways does this website contribute? (Provide Lead Inquiries? Expand Brand Building? Enable Communication/Support?)
  • How can I measure these contributions? (What metrics are available? Can I measure intangibles? Be creative)

    Just as not every website is not the same, very few hiring processes are identical. You should make sure that your "website hiring process" fits the way YOUR business operates, so that your website operates within your model.
  • Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    I love Skype!

    As the owner of a small business, I'm always looking out for deals that help me keep my overhead low. And since we all know the landline phone companies are still making a killing off of services that are overpriced and almost obsolete, I turned to Skype to help modernize my telecommunications and save some money.

    For those of you who aren't aware - Skype is a VOIP phone service. It is best known for its Skype-to-Skype calling options which allows users to download a software package and communicate with eachother solely through their PCs, free of charge. Skype-to-Skype features free international video and voice calling, but is restricted to PC-to-PC calling.

    Luckily Skype also permits both inbound and outbound calls from landlines and mobile phones, assuming you take advantage of their pay services.

    I purchased a local number in the 215 area code which allows me to receive unlimited inbound calls from landlines and mobile phones and paired that number with an unlimited outgoing call plan for US and Canada. I know have the equivalent of an expensive landline that comes with some free features like visual voicemail and caller ID - for much less than if I was paying through a traditional phone company.

    Keeping my costs down helps me pass the savings onto my clients.

    Saturday, February 21, 2009

    Small Business Banking

    The financial industry often takes small businesses for granted. This is evidenced by the superior rates negotiated for and by large corporations and the relatively poorer services offered to smaller businesses.

    Recently though, this has been changing for the better as banking institutions are realizing that small and growing businesses can make up a substantial amount of a deposit base. As a result, more and more financial institutions are offering low-cost and low-fee products to the small business owner.

    Depending on the needs of your business, you can now find:
    Interest-earning checking and savings accounts
    Free bill pay and ATM transactions
    Reduced cost EFT/ACH transaction processing
    Reduced rate credit cards

    Some of the best places to look are regional and local banks as smaller businesses have more leverage. Depending on your area, some great banks to check out are PNC (which recently expanded into the midwest by purchasing National City) and Regions Financial (which recently purchased FirstBank Financial)

    Setting up accounts and services at these types of institutions can help your bottom line by reducing fees and increasing return on banked capital. Financial savings can be reinvested into areas of your business that can yield even higher dividends - like ... search engine optimization.

    Copyright 2009 Manayunk Business Strategies. All rights reserved. 215.253.8788