Small Biz Tips

Earn More Money for 2019

How to Increase the Profitability of Your Small or Home Based Business 

By Tom Greenbaum Certified SCORE Mentor New York Score

Greenbaum@scorenyc.org

You work very hard in your business, but for some reason do not achieve the profitability you feel should be generated from the revenues you are able to deliver.  

This is a common problem, that is particularly evident in the organizations with whom I have worked over the past 9 years as a counselor at SCORE (service corps of retired executives).  It is particularly common for small business where there often are not highly seasoned management personnel to address profitability questions.  There almost always are a few very basic reasons for this lower than desired profitability, which if you address can provide a relatively quick and often easy solution. The most common are:


Your own expectations.  

The first thing you must consider is whether you have realistic expectations of what your business can achieve.  

This requires you to try and “benchmark” your situation by (a) talking to your accountant to see if this person has experience in other similar businesses to give you an idea of what they achieve (b) talking to your industry trade or professional organization to see if they might be able to give you some parameters (c) visiting the reference librarian at a business library in your town , as they often can  find resources that provide profitability benchmarks for various businesses (d) do a Google search to see if there are any resources to help you, and (e) contact your local SCORE office (there are over 300 in the U.S) to consult a mentor for help.

Evaluate your pricing structure.  

Often, a small price increase will not effect the sales of your product(s) but could significantly impact your bottom line profitability.

Analyze your overhead.  

Frequently, one of the biggest issues with small business is the level of overhead they carry.  This can be manpower-related (too much staff) or due to such things as :

Health care costs are too high, and you need to talk too your providers or perhaps have your employees pay some of the costs of their policies.

You need to reduce or stop contributing to the 401K plans.

Excessive spending on either travel or entertainment..and many others

Evaluate your cost of goods.   

This is particularly the case for company’s that buy finished goods and resell them on the Internet. In some situations we have helped clients identify lower priced ingredients to a manufactured item that will not affect the final taste or quality.

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Have your accountant or bookkeeper help you analyze your aging of receivables report to identify possible issues.  

This is one of the most common issues I see at SCORE with my clients.  

They are so busy running the business that the receivables do not get the attention they deserve.  

You should be looking at an Aging of Receivables report at least every two weeks to identify problems that might need to be addressed.  Remember “receivables do not buy groceries, cash does.”

Address the absolute level of revenues you are generating.   Your problem might be a sales issue.  

You might need to have more sales in order to achieve a higher level of profitability.  However, even if you are able to increase your sales, you must address the above items also if you want to maximize your company profitability. 

I hope this was helpful to you.  If you need additional help, you might consider reading my latest book: You Can Do It; A Guide to Starting and Running a Small Business  – 2018 Edition (available on Amazon , Kindle, iPad or where ever you purchase your eBooks.  

Finally I highly recommend you contact your local SCORE chapter by going to www.score.org to find the chapter closest to you

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How to Create a Website for your Business

Web Site Development, A Primer That Anyone Can Use

How to Create a Website for your Business

By Thomas L. Greenbaum

SCORE Mentor, New York Chapter

TECH- In the current business environment having a website is as important as a Yellow Pages listing was 40 years ago. 

Many small and medium size businesses have not chosen to have a website because they were intimidated by the process of building one, or simply did not appreciate or understand the costs associated with having an active site.

As I discussed in a recent article published recently in the Bronx Voice, the website is essential in the current business environment both because it gives your business credibility, but also because you could generate additional revenues through customers you acquire via your website.   

Also, a website can be a sales vehicle through which to sell products or services.

Different Types of Websites

There are basically three different types of websites:

An informational website is a site developed with the objective of providing visitors with information about you or your company that is intended to build your image, increase awareness of the scope of your business or to encourage people to contact you for the purpose of doing business together. 

Nothing is actually sold on an informational website.

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An e-commerce website is a site built specifically to create sales of products or services from individuals (business or personal) who visit your site.

While the e-commerce site should follow the rules (to be discussed later) regarding construction, imagery, optimization for SEO (search engine optimization) the focus of this type of site is on direct sales to the visitor.

A hybrid website is essentially an e-commerce site that does not do the direct selling to the visitor. 

For example, a site promoting a new book might not take orders for the book and arrange the shipping to the customer, but rather might have a “buy it now” capability which links the customer to another platform such as ESTY or AMAZON who actually completes the sale, and frequently executes the collection and shipment.

How Does A Website Get Built? What are the mechanics?

In the current market environment, there are three basic ways sites get built. 

Build It Yourself – For small business clients, the most common approach to building a website is to engage one of the many website companies that offer free website development, with the only costs incurred being the hosting fees (generally very low but depends on the complexity of your site).  

These companies have menu-driven templates that take you through the steps of building a website.  

For a relatively simple site, one should be able to complete their website in a few hours or less.  There is virtually no knowledge of complex computer terms & processes in order to successfully develop the site. 

The quality of the material in the site is completely dependent on the creativity and writing skills of the individually developing the site.   

It is also important to note that virtually all the companies offering templates for websites have help lines you can contact if you are having problems achieving the end result that you wish to generate.   

There are dozens of different free web development companies, with some of the more frequently used being:  Web.com, Wix.com, GoDaddy, and 1&1.com.

The advantage to this approach is that there is no development cost, and it can be done very quickly.   

The host company (i.e.: Web.com, Wix.com etc.) will handle the hosting for you, which is the process of getting the site you are building on the Internet so visitors can find you. 

The disadvantage of this approach is that the quality of the site you create may not be as good as you might like, as you are not a website professional.  However, it might be adequate!

Built By Web Platform Provider  A second option is to talk to one of the many providers such as Web.com or Wix.com and have them build the site for you.   

This can generally be done at a very favorable price ( often around $1,200) and the end result of this process will be a site that is probably very adequate for your needs.

The provider expects you to provide the content for the site, but they are generally very effective in arranging your inputs into a good website that you can use and modify for a long time.   

Further, while this site is in development the process is very interactive as you can work with their development team to modify aspects of the site that you feel should be improved.

Built by a web development company (or individual)  Many small businesses decide they would rather pay a consultant to develop the site rather than try to do it themselves or have a platform provider create the site for you.   

This option has very significant advantages and disadvantages.  Specifically:

Advantages

It is likely the end result of your web development project will generate a better site than either of the other two options.

You have total control over how the site will look, as you are generally not constrained by the limitations of some of the templates.

You will have developed a relationship with an individual ( or company) that can easily make changes to your site in the future.

Disadvantages

The biggest disadvantage is the cost. Web designers who are experienced and qualified can be very expensive charging $3,500 to $10,000 or more to create a website.

The other big disadvantage is that you normally don’t know much about the person/company developing the site.  

While you could ask for references to see other sites they have created, most small business people do not have the knowledge or experience to know what makes for a successful site.

The above situation is particularly a problem for companies that go to the local teenager to develop their site, as the costs are normally very low.  

However, there is a very good chance that this individual has very little experience developing a site that will work for you in terms of building and reinforcing your image, your “reason why” and functioning as a SELLING site for you.





A Caution 

Many web designers are excellent in developing very attractive sites.  

However, they often are not skilled in developing sites that work for you to build the business.   

The balance of this article will address some of the key principles in web development that will help you personally develop or supervise development of EFFECTIVE websites.

Principles of Website Development

The goal of every website should be to attract visitors and to communicate to them in a way that a product or service is sold and/or the most appropriate information and imagery is conveyed to the visitor.

Some Important Preliminary Information

Approximately 6 months ago, Google Analytics announced the results of a world-wide survey that indicated that 68% of all visitors to websites stay on that site for less than 10 seconds.  This means that only 32% of the visitors were actually on the site, as there is virtually nothing you can communicate on a website in less than 10 seconds.

Another important fact is that normally about 70% of the people who go to a website enter through the home page.

Thirdly, a website must make very liberal and effective use of key words to generate traffic on its site.

As a result of these three very significant facts I believe there are some very important principles that should guide website creation, in order for your website to have real value to your brand, store or company.   

Home Page Structure

I recommend that the home page on every website be constructed with three distinct horizontal sections.  

The sections probably will not be the same size, but they should be obviously different.

The top section of the homepage should only consist of the brand/store/company name & logo, plus a very important 5-7-word slogan.

The 5-7-word slogan should always be an integral part of the brand identification for a small business, as it helps to communicate to the consumer what the name of the organization stands for and what the benefit of it is to the consumer.  

A good example of this is the BMW name/logo which always is combined with the words the ultimate driving machine. While BMW has sufficient money to advertise and promote its name so that consumers know what it means, by definition, small businesses do not have this luxury.   

Therefore, Klein’s Clothing Stores says virtually nothing about the store, in terms of the type of clothes they sell, whether they are for men, women, infants, etc.  Also, they do not communicate any benefit in buying from clothes, such as they will make me feel better, feel more confident, look thinner etc.   

We strongly urge all institutions develop a 5-7-word slogan for their brand that not only says what they are selling but offers the consumer with a benefit they get by purchasing in this store.  An example of a good statement for Klein’s might be:  “where men’s suits make you feel great.”

The middle section of the home page should consist of images that reinforce the 5-7-word statement.  





This might show men in different suit styles. They should all be “clickable” so the individual who sees a style they like can click on the picture and go to a landing page that shows more styles or variations on this theme.  

Also, in this e-commerce example they might be able to order this suit on that page.  

The key is that the middle section should contain only a few images of whatever the business is doing as a way to reinforce the 5-7-word statement.

The bottom section of the home page should consist of a story about the business to give the visitor more information about what it does. 

Importantly, this section should be loaded with “key words” in the story so when people type something into Google they will hopefully be transported to your website. This is the most important way we build traffic on the website.

Some Very Important web principles beyond the home page. 

While I could write volumes about other things you should do to make a website effective, here are a few key principles:

  1. Ensure that your site is VERY easy to navigate.  Visitors do not want to work had to find their way through the site.
  2. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile.  This is to ensure that people who go to your site on a cell phone (often as much as 60-70% of site visitors) can see the site contents as intended.  You probably will have to get help from your provider or consultant to do this.
  3. Create your site so it is one easy click from any page to get to the home page and the “contact us” page.  Visitors do not want to have to work hard to find these pages.
  4. Ensure that you have a “contact us” page that includes both email and telephone contact. This is particularly important on e-commerce sites as you want to be able to help close a sale when a visitor has questions.
  5. All pictures on your site should have ALT-TAGS.   An alt-tag is a simple add on to pictures that generates words when your cursor goes over the picture. This is important both the give the visitor more information about what they are seeing, but also it will enable you to be rated much higher by Google as they do not read pictures when their spiders look at your site.  Therefore, a picture without an alt-tag is a blank.  If you google to see how to put alt tags on your site, you will see it is very easy to do.

Summary:  Websites are an essential ingredient in the current business environment for virtually every company.  Hopefully this article was helpful in giving you a primer on how to build them, so they work hard for you.  

Should you want additional information, contact your local SCORE office by www.scorenyc.org.

Tom Greenbaum is a 10-year veteran of SCORE in both New York and Connecticut.  He has written 7 books about various aspects of marketing, the latest being the April 2018 edition of You Can Do It; A Guide to Starting and Running a Small business.  It is available on Amazon, in digital form on almost every digital selling site, and throughout the New York City Library system.   If you can’t find the 2018 edition in the library, ask the librarian.

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4 Ways Street Fairs are the Best Ways to Test Your Small Biz

Entrepreneurs Can Test Their Products at Street Fairs

By Tom Greenbaum, New York SCORE

You have just developed or acquired a new product that you want to sell, either on line or in a retail environment. This product could be something you developed on your own, or an item you acquired from another source (national or international).

There are many different ways to test the consumer appeal of this product, however most are quite expensive, and often take a very long time to determine if there is any real appeal.

One of the tools that I recommend to my clients very frequently is the use of New York Street Fairs. 





Street fairs are held in various parts of the city every weekend from April to October. If the weather is good, and you choose a good location to test, you rproduct could be exposed to 10,000- 20,000 people within a eight-hour period.

An example of this is a client I worked with that had developed a very attractive line of yoga mats that leveraged her very creative, artistic design capabilities. However, we found it difficult to identify a relatively inexpensive way to test consumer acceptance of this product, until we identified the summer fairs in New York City.  

We prepared a series of different designs and went into one of the fairs that was a 3-day event (unusual, as most are only one day).  At the end of the fair, after an exhausting effort trying to sell the products and learn about the consumers attitudes toward them, we sold only 3 mats.

This was a very quick market test that told us that we did not have a winner, and we would have to dramatically change our approach if we were to be successful selling yoga mats to the New York market.   

My client decided not to pursue this effort, but she learned very quickly and inexpensively that there was a very high probability that her idea would never make it in the marketplace.

Street fairs are excellent test market vehicles for new products for several very important reasons:

First, if you get good weather, you do have the opportunity to expose your idea to a very large number of people in a short period of time. 

Second, you have the opportunity to interact with prospective customers to learn what they liked and did not like about your product, so it may be possible to make changes in your offering if it seemed that this would increase the appeal.

Third, you can experiment with different pricing options, by changing the price after several hours and seeing the impact this would have on the consumer sales and attitudes.

Fourth, the cost of entering street fairs is very low.  A normal size booth (about ten linear feet) generally costs less than $200.

There are some dangers associated with using the street fair test option that also must be considered before quickly scheduling this into your marketing plan.

You are at the mercy of the weather. If it is bad, the traffic will be very low, or almost nonexistent. This is a big chance you take.

You must be careful to pick a location which has residents in the area that represent your target market. For example, if you have a product that appeals to the Hispanic community, you probably do not want to do your street fair in the upper east side.  

You also run the risk (which I believe is small) that your idea, if it is really innovative will get ripped off by someone else.

In summary, I am a big fan of using street fairs as a test vehicle, a research tool, or even a regular sales channel for certain types of products.   

If you Google New York Street fairs it is very easy to identify the company’s that run them, and you can learn what you need to do to participate (i.e.: licenses, table and chair requirements, electricity etc.).

You will never know if this tool is right for you until the research is done, so on to Google to learn about street fairs, and plan to attend a few so you know how they work and what you need to do to achieve your objectives.

Good Luck.

Tom Greenbaum is a former marketing executive who has been with SCORE for over ten years, providing consultation assistance to over 1000 different people/organizations.   He has written seven books about marketing, marketing research and small business, the latest  of which is YOU CAN DO IT; A GUIDE TO STARTING AND RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS – REVISED 2018.   It is available on Amazon or wherever you buy your digital books.

To reach a SCORE mentor for free counseling go to:  www.scorenyc.org, and request a counselor.