January 1, 2011
Happy New Year! Not only is today the first day of the new year, it is also the first day of the rest of your life! The difficult economic environment the last couple of years and the incessant media coverage of it has caused many small business owners to fall into a stupor. However, today is a perfect day to wake up and smell the smell the coffee.
You can bet that 2011 will be no different from 2010 unless you do things differently. It is time to consider what has changed around you and alter your plan to capitalize upon those changes. And I believe there are several good reasons small business owners should be optimistic about the coming year because things are definitely looking up.
For one thing, small business owners may find it easier to get loans in 2011. Although getting a loan still won’t be easy, during a recent conference of SBA lenders, it was anticipated that there would be twice as many SBA loans in 2011.
One of the bright spots on the economic horizon last year that promises to shine every bit as bright next year is e-commerce. The most savvy small business owners are planning to leverage this phenomenon.
A study indicated that 17% of small business respondents planned on ramping up their e-marketing efforts to drive growth. An additional 15% indicated they were going to make a bigger investment in e-mail marketing and 13% were planning on increasing their marketing through social-media. While small businesses need to venture out of their comfort zones and into newer, albeit foreign, internet and media strategies, they should not discard more traditional methods such as email marketing.
Young people between the ages of twenty and thirty-five tend to change their physical addresses more frequently than their e-mail addresses. Approximately 20% of holiday shoppers who bought from top websites credited a promotional e-mail for their visit to the site. Although the return on investment may be more difficult to measure, small businesses should not overlook social media.
In the study, only one in 20 credited social media as the reason they visited a website. Chances are, this is because people don’t consciously make the connection between social media interactions and their subsequent visits to websites and related purchases. They think of these interactions as ”word-of-mouth” referrals and yet social media may have provided the initial impetus to go to a particular website. Going forward, more and more companies are going to find the use of social media to respond to customers in real time to be worth its weight in gold.
If you are looking for help in launching or running a small business, but can’t afford to pay for expensive coaching, consulting and training, I recommend you check out the SCORE website. SCORE is a not for profit organization comprised of thousands of experienced business executives (retired, still working or between assignments) who donate their time, expertise and talent to mentor small businesses and help them succeed.
Simply visit the SCORE website and enter your zip to find a chapter close to you. You can then go to the local chapter website and request free mentoring. Based upon your needs they will pair you with a mentor who has experience in that area.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, and I think it is, the right video can be worth millions to a small business. For the cost of a Flip Mino (around $150), a small business owner can shoot their own videos and then post them on YouTube, embed them in blog posts & websites and link to them in emails. If done reasonably well, it is an inexpensive and highly effective way for a small business to capture the attention of a whole new world of prospective customers.
Another emerging trend that bodes well for local small local businesses has been called “localism”. Increasingly, people are realizing how much sense it makes to spend their money, not just locally, but with local small businesses. Out of every $100 that is spent locally, it is estimated that $68 goes right back into the community in terms of job creation and tax dollars that fund infrastructure and education, not to mention supporting local entrepreneurs and their employees.
Because of its focus on revitalizing America’s small business community and its natural alignment with the new focus on “localism”, MainStreetChamber™ (MSC) is growing by leaps and bounds. In less than 6 months, we have already established 35 chapters and attracted over 100,000 small business members. The reason for this explosive growth is obvious. Small business owners love the benefits of free lifetime membership, free attendance at networking events and free opportunities to promote their business locally and nationally.
Always on the lookout for innovative ways to help small business owners promote and grow their business, MSC is getting ready to launch their new VIP Membership program. This program has two distinct parts; one for consumers and one for MSC members.
First, consumers who purchase the VIP Membership card receive discounts at thousands of local and national, online and offline businesses. Second, MSC members have an opportunity to promote their products/services free of charge on the VIP Membership website by becoming VIP Discount Providers, which gives them local as well as national exposure to prospective customers. The rapid expansion of MSC across the country will eventually provide VIP Discount Providers with exposure to hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of consumers who could do business with them. What could be better than the opportunity to promote your small business locally and nationally without spending a single penny!
Although the suggested retail price for the VIP Membership card is $399, MSC members and fundraisers can purchase them at wholesale for a mere fraction of that price for a limited time during the introductory period (no more than the cost of an Entertainment book). The VIP Membership cards will be sold for a one-time (lifetime) fee, which gives the MSC chapter an opportunity to generate the revenue they need to support local activities (free membership, free events, etc.).
The difference between an Entertainment coupon book and a VIP Membership card is that consumers don’t have to purchase one every year and they are not limited to coupons which can only be used once. While the VIP Membership card isn’t free to consumers, it is very affordable. This makes it the perfect vehicle for fundraising similar to the Entertainment coupon book.
For more information on the VIP Membership Program be sure to attend our upcoming MSC events. If you don’t want to wait for an event you can contact Susan Fronk, President of the Twin Cities Chapter (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Eric Jacobson, President of the St Paul Chapter (email@example.com).
So, in my opinion (just one man’s opinion, but one I respect), small business owners have good reason to be more optimistic than they were at this time last year. However, I would love to know your thoughts. Please leave your comments at the end of this article!