Dell Technologies
BMS-center-logo
 

Part 2: Increasing Sales in a Brick-and-Mortar Store

Share this Article:
Share Article on Facebook Share Article on Linked In Share Article on Twitter

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

As discussed previously, brick and mortar stores will always play a crucial role in our retail economy. Various strategies can optimize marketing efforts for such establishments well into the digital age.

First, consider your team. Brick-and-mortar establishments require in-person staff. An effective team requires careful selection and training. Owners should consider the importance of well-prepared employees who can deal tactfully with a diverse public.

A labor shortage confronts us, which complicates the selection process. However, a well-developed, individualized training process can prevent complaints and in-store meltdowns, as well maximize customer satisfaction. A well-developed staff can strengthen the business from the foundations upward.

Second, think about the store layout, especially at the checkout stand. “Impulse buys” can garnish a business owner’s bottom line. Furthermore, convenience and professional décor can improve the customer experience overall.

Consider space for events. Perhaps Santa can visit for Christmas, or the business can sponsor a local festival. Such promotions can even provide photo-ops that memorialize the business’s engagement with the local community. 

Third, replace print signage with digital screens. These screens can facilitate updates as well as display several messages together.

We are past the days of constantly refreshing on-site advertisements by manufacturing physical signage. These advertisements waste money, time, and are bad for the environment. Digital screens can perform the same tasks in a way that is not only more economical but more engaging as well. 

Fourth, as we have discussed, entrepreneurs should not forget their digital marketing skills just because a physical building houses the core of the establishment. 

Within the store itself, Wifi marketing may provide a digital strategy to build a loyal following. Wifi marketing entails free Wifi in exchange for, perhaps, an email address. Starbucks users may be familiar with this marketing strategy. The business owner controls the homepage and may also collect email addresses for further advertising.

Providing free Wifi inside the store can facilitate the compilation of an email list and expand social media presence. However, beware of the ethical implications of data collection. Each year, respect for the privacy of consumers has assumed greater prominence.

Perhaps your customers do want to stay in the loop. Through social media, applications such as Eventbrite or Facebook Events can keep your clientele up to date about current events involving your company. The same efforts can keep your business at the forefront in the minds of your customers so that in times of need they will think of you rather than your competition.

Finally, remember the value of search engine optimization. Make sure to optimize your online presence so that you show up first in local searches. 

Careful website design is one such strategy. Other strategies may include plugging your business elsewhere on the Internet that may attract consumers interested in your product.

Consider the use of video in your Google my Business listing. This innovation adds continually refreshed video content right to the listing that comes with a Google search. 

Overall, remember the importance of the digital age even when setting up marketing practices for a brick-and-mortar store. At the same time, a wise store layout and skilled use of events and promotions can keep your establishment relevant in the twenty-first century. Brick-and-mortar will never die, and nothing can beat the face-to-face experience that comes with integration into the surrounding community, digital or otherwise.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here:

https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

 

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

The social media age has brought attention to the various Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok accounts of countless well-known influencers. Such influencers can range from celebrities to smaller-scale social media personalities. 

Some of these influencers have great recipes, some design beautiful clothes, and some developed a following through their own inertia. Endorsements from these personalities can bring huge profits. However, many ask for high prices in return. Smaller business owners can find their own niche partnering with users with their own localized networks in their own industries.    Below are a few suggestions:

(1) Consider your strengths, interests, and motives for becoming a small business owner:

Most small businesses start with special expertise, interest, or hobby. These days, fellow travelers are often online. Joining a community is the best strategy. Within your interest group, you may find communities. Within one of these communities, someone may happily promote your product on their YouTube channel, Facebook community, or other localized sites. The trick? Find people with a genuine understanding and interest in what you have to offer.

(2) Always respect micro-influencers, especially those who operate within your own niche:

Kim Kardashian charges a fortune to promote a product on her Instagram and other social media sites. Small business owners need not look for endorsements from a Kim Kardashian or a Paris Hilton. Small businesses tend to work through their own specialized niches. Obviously, paying Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton a fortune to advertise your brand-new transmission generator would increase sales short term. 

However, a more cost-effective strategy would zero in on the local industry, as well as local hobbyists and business people who might have used it for such a contraption. These localized groups may even have distribution networks that can place your new product or service in front of the right interested parties.

(3) Remember the power of free stuff:

After zeroing in on the right community, business owners with a new concept may benefit from distributing samples of a new product itself. Free samples have long promoted new recipes, inventions, and contraptions. Innovations like YouTube can spread the word throughout your interest group or industry. 

As a first step, a business owner should find the right group of people. Luckily for our generation, the Internet can help to foster that process. Next, an independent businessperson can share their innovations with the relevant community. Next, hopefully, a satisfied well-wisher may provide an online demonstration! 

(4) Try to develop a long-term plan:

Baby steps can grow your concept further. Business owners with a new idea can slowly reach their tendrils outward by reaching out to fellow travelers. Depending on your goals, profits should come first, and profits come from you and your partners doing what you best. Perhaps your plans entail only a small business that can keep you personally fulfilled while keeping you comfortable economically. Perhaps you have wider ambitions. Either way, never underestimate the strategic use of social media micro-influencers. 

Remember, though, practicality is key. Extravagant use of widely visible personalities can only waste time and misdirect efforts towards people who will roll their eyes at a promotion of the product that neither they nor the influencer has any genuine interest in. However, in the age of the Internet, plenty of lucrative micro-influencers may give you a foothold right in the industry where you mean to take root.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

 

Steps to Create a Workable Online Store

Share this Article:
Share Article on Facebook Share Article on Linked In Share Article on Twitter

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Unused talent broils at the edges of the economy these days. With the labor participation rate at an all-time low, who might we find excluded from the labor market now? Examples may include all manner of artists, craftspeople, and even talented scavengers. Any number of people who can’t reach the right people in their marketing efforts.

Online marketing presents a solution. However, even the best merchants and craftspeople may feel intimidated in the process of developing an online marketing strategy for what may seem like niche enterprises. 

The first step may be an online presence. However, an actual “online checkout site” drastically increases user-friendliness, and certainly builds confidence on the part of any customer. Many online tools can facilitate the creation of an online store. Web creation tools such as WordPress, Etsy, and Godaddy can make all the difference.

The initial process of mastering the basics of web creation can be challenging. For example, remember that your “online store” will look different on tablets, phones, and even different browsers on desktop computers. Selecting and mastering proper themes on web-creation applications can make the difference between a navigable “online store” and one that looks messy and unprofessional.

Also, remember that behind these web-building applications are programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Web building applications allow modification of the underlying code as an option, but these modifications are sometimes not recommended. These applications update their plugins from time to time, which updates the code while, sometimes, overwriting any changes you have made.

As for the design of a checkout website, several considerations can optimize engagement with customers. 

First, business owners should keep their checkout sites simple and easy. Simplicity facilitates engagement directly with your product and builds confidence and trust in your capabilities. The internet abounds with “rogues’ galleries” of terrible web pages that could make you go blind. Such websites tend to be gaudy, busy, and overwhelming. Don’t be “that person.”

Second, carefully research the payment process, and ensure the checkout page accommodates each likely option. These options may include fingerprints, QR codes, and paperless checks, as well as any of a variety of credit card options. Increased payment choices make for more satisfied customers, provided the site remains pristine and uncluttered.

Third, progress bars help the checkout process. Especially mobile customers may appreciate this user-friendly feature to ensure the progress of their purchase.

Fourth, the best checkout sites feature popup and autofill features to ensure seamless transactions. “Popup” in this case does not mean “popup ads.” “Popup” means the fields should populate as the transaction progresses. 

Fifth, ensure wise messaging procedures. Once a customer proceeds with a transaction, the messaging ensures trust and provides the customer with documentation. A customer should get a receipt in their inbox immediately.

Many talented professionals lose their place in the economy simply because they don’t know how to market their products online. Even professionals who do have a website sometimes haven’t established an “online marketplace”. Creating such a website may present a challenge but can easily change the game. 

Never underestimate the investment with the time and energy to learn to use website-building applications. Such a project can cement your status as a professional and help launch your aspirations.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

Short-Term Financing: How Not to Get Ripped Off

Share this Article:
Share Article on Facebook Share Article on Linked In Share Article on Twitter

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Short-term credit often provides vital sustenance to a new business. Short-term creditors also commonly predate on fresh entrepreneurs.  Regardless of the need, business owners should use such lenders cautiously.

“Loan sharks” can suck businesses dry in their times of vulnerability. This stage of the pandemic likely exposes the vulnerabilities of many businesses. Small businesses now likely struggle with debts as well as labor and inventory. Predatory lenders may circle like vultures at this stage.

Are there healthy routes to short-term credit? Absolutely. Three outlets can provide safe short-term loans for the cautious small business owner.

Lines of Credit and Online Short-Term Loans

Always beware of unethical practices by creditors. Predatory lenders often exploit smaller business owners with exorbitant Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) and crushing terms. Of course, businesses do need a cushion when crises arise. This cushion could be hard cash in a savings account or a line of credit from any of a variety of lenders, including mortgagers and small banks.

As discussed in our previous blog posts, cash flow poses issues for many business owners. You need money to make money, right? A trustworthy lender usually asks two things from a small business for a simple line of credit: At least six months in business, and at least $50,000 in annual revenue. Short of these requirements, Veteran Business Owners should give a second look to any lender offering short-term lines of credit. A line of credit may provide the “emergency fund” to protect a business in case of a short-term crisis. 

In a pinch, an online short-term loan may offer a tempting alternative. Direct cash from a lender may provide another “safety net.” However, absent reasonable terms, business owners should look elsewhere before contracting with lenders that seem too eager to dispense short-term capital. Their collections efforts will likely haunt them afterward.

Most online short-term loans have similar terms as lines of credit. A decent credit score tends to hold greater significance when the lender offers hard cash outright. These loans offer further risks, and the lenders use even more caution when approving short-term cash. 

These loans can range from four to five digits. However, bear in mind that the payback period can range from three to eighteen months. Creditors will want their money in the meantime. Lenders will also wield greater leverage in negotiations for payment plans and repayment terms. In short, despite the occasional necessity of short-term money, lenders inevitably demand their pound of flesh afterward.

Equipment Loans

These loans are a different sort of animal. Lenders foreclose on the equipment itself in case of default on these loans. Such equipment may include kitchen equipment, warehouse machines, and even company-owned mobile devices. Most lenders expect more security from business owners for such loans, since damage to equipment can greatly decrease its value following repossession.

Trustworthy lenders generally expect eleven (11) months in business, a decent credit score, and $100,000 in annual revenue before securing a necessary piece of equipment. The risk to the lender is greater, so the contractual terms place more responsibility on the borrower.

When to Use a Short-Term Line of Credit?

All businesses (and even individuals) should ideally have an emergency fund. Lines of credit and short-term online loans may plausibly furnish that cushion. Additionally, Veteran Business Owners may lack investment funds during their idea’s development phase. In the case of shorter loans and payment plans, both lenders and borrowers generally should recognize the urgency of repayment. Hence, everyone should apply a fine-tooth comb to short-term financing. Short-term lenders can be as sketchy as they are sometimes necessary.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

Online Security Tips

Share this Article:
Share Article on Facebook Share Article on Linked In Share Article on Twitter

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

No company is a fortress, least of all small businesses. However, threats from outside are very real. Outside hackers as well as internal saboteurs can ruin a company. As the Internet comes of age, the good business practice requires that business people grow in sophistication just as the motley crew of potential scammers does the same.

1) Relationships with Employees

Creating a culture of security can save a business. One data breach can ruin a company. Access to a company’s online records merits careful consideration.

On an ongoing basis, workers should receive education about the dangers of online interlopers. Not every computer operator may understand even basic security concepts, such as the dangers of opening attachments. Periodic security courses can refresh employees’ knowledge regarding outside scammers, and the education can even benefit the employee in the long term.

At the very least, measures should be taken to ensure the separation of online life between work and home.  The use of workplace confidential information on unsecured home devices could make easy marks for scammers hungry for confidential information they can sell online.

Assuming the employee has an email account, the employee should know the basics of online scams such as “phishing,” fake online antivirus scams, and any of a host of more insidious schemes that may install malware or spyware onto company computers. Here is a link to some of the most common scams: https://uk.norton.com/internetsecurity-online-scams-5-most-popular-scams-in-2020.html.

Additionally, former employees commonly defraud small businesses with the information they carry off from the worksite. Employers should be as realistic about their own needs as they are about their relationship with their workers. As employees leave the team, their logins should be deleted immediately. Password management software may help with this process. Applications such as Dashlane or Lastpass may prove invaluable in managing IT aspects of any sort of offboarding.

In any case, good business practice demands (1) careful education of employees regarding good security practices, and (2) consideration of the terms of employee separation.  

2) Consider Industry Standards: Different Industries may have Different Forms of Sensitive Information

Some businesses may handle specialized information subject to unique legal requirements. For example, medical records may constitute PHI (Personal Health Information). In such cases, contracting businesses need to adopt practices under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) to ensure compliance. These practices may include seemingly extreme measures including computer privacy screens, injunctions against in-office cell phones, and measures to keep medical records out of the open air. Such measures may seem silly but are important for small businesses contracting with medical organizations that handle protected health information (PHI). Violations of HIPAA may range from medical ridicule to identity theft. These violations may also result in any range of consequences from jail time to monetary fines.

Other similar privacy laws may include the Family Educational and Privacy Act (FERPA). Many smaller businesses handle confidential information under FERPA and HIPAA. Protection of such information is crucial and may require special training under each statute.

3) The “Right” Security Expertise

Many companies now outsource their information technology needs. As these companies become more affordable, Veteran Business Owners should research IT services that best fit their niche. Many independent companies specialize. For example, legal, medical, and educational IT companies may provide the right expertise for various relevant companies. The expertise of such companies may provide crucial expertise for the unique logistical and legal demands of smaller companies handling sensitive online information.

Finding the right security software can present another problem. The tricky landscape of online security can daunt the most discerning business managers. Some online security applications are outright scams. Others may not quite provide the necessary airtight protection against the most skillful breaches. Many small businesses find larger, established companies such as Norton satisfactory. Others choose to do their own research.

The Bottom Line

In sum, honesty and common sense should prevail in the management of company information. The most sensitive information may include private customer information, gatekeeping data such as passwords, and internal proprietary information hidden within company records. In fact, the standard should be airtight security whenever possible, rather than mere due diligence.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

ibmpos_blurgb