Business Opportunity

Best Place to Advertise?

Best Place to Advertise?

Very interesting article in the Wall Street Journalabout where small local businesses are advertising. According to the article, yellow pages still dominate but the internet is opening up some promising new opportunities. The article talks about three:

Local Television. An online company called Spot Runner will make you semi-custom ad for less than $500 and then place it for you with local stations. A pet boarding service paid $299 for an ad plus $1,400 for placement and saw their calls increase 20%

Online Search Ads. Hook up with Yahoo and or Google and for $250 to $300 a month they will host a detailed web page and provide ad listings on their search engines. A salon tried it and says they now get 80% of their new customer through the internet.

Craigslist. Craigslist is an online classified ad system that is free and growing like crazy. A carpet cleaner in New York quit using newspaper ads and gets 90% of his business from Craigslist.

Some of these ideas seem pretty good and may be worth trying depending on what kind of business you are in. What it highlights for me once again is that it is tough to get new customers in the door. In fact, it costs 5 to 10 times more to attract new customers than it does to sell more to your current customers. So once you get them, don't ever let them go. How do you do that? Give them a remarkable experience, ask them what they think, get their email address, and stay in touch with them. Not only will they come back, they will bring their friends.

Customers who feel that you are listening to them are more likely to recommend you to a friend. How do your customers know that you are listening? Learn more

Keep an Eye on Your Tail

Keep an Eye on Your Tail

It is hard to overemphasize the importance and long lasting effect of reputation. As humans we seem to have a natural belief that things don't change. Once we've developed a perception of something, it is pretty hard to shift our perspective. Here is a quick quiz from a recent post in Tom Guarriello's blog:

Which has more crime, San Diego or New York?
Which country has the highest per capita income?

If you answered New York and the U.S. you would be wrong. New York used to have more crime but not any more. Now it just has the reputation.

And where does the U.S. rank on per capita income? We're number 5 now behind Bermuda, Luxembourg, Equitorial Guinea and Norway. We used to have the highest.

So what does this have to do with our businesses? Well ask yourself what reputation does your business have and, perhaps even more important, what kind of reputation are we building every day? When a customer has a problem, how do you find out about it? Are you proactively asking? And when you do become aware of a problem, do you solve it or avoid it?

Your tail is growing--make sure it is the one you want.

If you are not regularly staying in touch with your customers someone else will. How do you stay in touch? Learn more

Gas $2.55 a Gallon!

Gas $2.55 a Gallon!

That's right, you can still buy gas for $2.55 a gallon. Only drawback? You have to drive to Evanston, Wyoming to get it. Nothing against Evanston, I've been through there several times. Problem is that it is a long way from most places people live. Why is gas so cheap there? There appear to be two reasons. First, Wyoming fuel levies are the cheapest in the country and second a family of entrepreneurs by the name of Call.

Ruel Call started in 1937 with a small gas station and then in 1960 launched his own gasoline brand, Maverik, which now has about 175 stations. They helped pioneer self-service pumps and gas station convenience stores. In the mid sixties O. Jay Call launched another discount fuel retailer called Flying J. It did $7.3 billion in sales last year at 160 truck stops.

In 2003, Kristen Call, 36, a daughter of one of the Maverick Calls decided she could apply internet technology to cut more costs and keep prices even lower. The concept: pay for your gas online or at an unmanned kiosk at an unmanned station. The company is called iFuel.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, iFuel didn't stay open long. It opened in Evanston offering fuel at 10 cents per gallon less than Maverick, but it didn't catch on with the locals. Many weren't on the internet yet and seemed confused by the concept. In addition iFuel used indoor key pads for their kiosks but didn't install them indoors. Ever been to Evanston in the winter? The key pads froze up and wouldn't work. Kristen is now focused on selling the internet payment software to big box chains with gas pumps.

So what is the take away? First, let's hear it for entrepreneurs! Want a real solution to gas prices? Turn a bunch of entrepreneurs loose on the problem--not congress.

Second, timing may be everything on a concept like this. I could be wrong, but I think if a chain of gas stations offered a 5 to 10 cent discount on pre-paid fuel purchased online they could do very well. Where do I join?

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Give Your Business a Quick Physical

What are the three most important things to look at to determine the health of any business? Is it income? Return on Investment? Book value? Revenue? If you could only look at three measurements what would they be?

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, was recently asked that question. These are his top 3 which he says apply to any size organization:

1. How satisfied are the customers?

Do the customers want to come back? Do they like my stuff? Are they willing to refer me. Learn by doing surveys and get out of your office to talk with your customers. Become known as the person that always wants to know.

2. How satisfied are the employees?

Is my message getting through--is it in their blood? I need the most engaged energized people in the world.

3. How much free cash flow is available?

It's simple. You need more cash coming in than cash going out. Net income is for accountants, it is full of assumptions. Cash has no assumptions. It gives you true flexibility and is the one thing that frees you.

I really like Jack's list. I've been involved in organizations that have lacked one or more of the three. They didn't last long. If your employees aren't satisfied, it is doubtful that your customers will be. And if your customers aren't satisfied, the free cash flow can't be positive for long.

The real question is do you know the answer to each of the three? I'm betting you are very familiar with your cash flow situation. Every month those bills come due and you have to pay them some how. But what about employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction? Are you systematically and regularly getting a read on how your customers and employees feel?

You can listen to Jack's comments on the topic by downloading a podcast he and his wife (former editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review) produce called "The Welch Way." It is free and available on iTunes.

The Happiest customers tell on average 8 other people. Who are your happiest customers? Promoterz knows. Learn more

Building Trust Instead of Selling

Building Trust Instead of Selling

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame was recently interviewed by a BusinessWeek editor. A few of the tidbits:

It appears to me that advertising itself is at an all time low for effectiveness, and businesses that really succeed are focusing on the idea of building trust and educating as opposed to selling.

When asked for the short list of what small businesses should absolutely be doing to market themselves, Mr. Jantsch responded with the following three:

  • One: Absolutely differentiate yourself from everyone. You have to find a way [to make] people say you're something different, whether that's to focus on a narrowly targeted market or [through] packaging. Otherwise you're just competing on price. And the line I use all of the time is that price is a really bad place to compete because there's always someone willing to go out of business faster than you.


  • Two: It's more important than ever, and easier and cheaper, to embrace technology, and specifically the Internet, as a tool to educate, market, and generate leads. It offers a tremendous way to automate the whole process and is a great tool for customer service and project management -- things that add value with clients. If a small business isn't taking advantage of these tools, they're giving up a great way to level the playing field with much larger companies.


  • Three: I always ask people how they got to where they are now. Amazingly, it's mostly through word of mouth referrals. The follow up question is: What do you do to systematically take advantage of that? One of the most powerful tactical aspects of marketing is referrals, and when it's done right, there could be zero cost.

Differentiate, use the Internet, and systematically generate word of mouth referrals. What a great list! I couldn't agree more. And you know the easiest way to do it? (shameless plug coming) PromoterZ is the easiest, quickest and most inexpensive way to do all three of those things. If you haven't already checked it out do it now at www.promoterz.com. (end of shameless plug)

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We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.

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