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Common Mistakes of New Internet-Based Entrepreneurs

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Choosing the Wrong Metrics of Success

Consider the industry and market. Many businesses are seasonal, especially in the eCommerce field. Short-term measurements may hold limited relevance for long-term success. In addition to sales revenue, important considerations may include customer satisfaction, customer turnover, customer engagement, as well as the cost of acquiring new clients. Feedback from customers may prove just as useful and important input for long-term growth as raw numbers reflecting factors such as sales revenue.

Remember the bottom line. Metrics such as site views are a good sign, but don’t let your head puff up until you’ve seen the end rewards. Beyond tactics such as “search engine optimization,” businesses should flesh out their intelligence with a multidimensional approach that provides multiple perspectives and can better develop strategies for the future.

Plan for a Reasonable Balance Between Supply and Demand

In the initial excitement of contract negotiation, business owners might overestimate demand for their projects. Wise entrepreneurs take baby steps while wading through the planning phase. The time for a deeper plunge is after a realistic assessment of product demand. Only after meeting demand becomes a challenge in itself should a new business expand its initial investment.

Too much product at the outset complicates a website, adds to maintenance costs, and wastes the original investment.  There is something to be said for keeping it simple.

Work Out Sales Promotion Strategies in the Early Stages

New business owners can also go overboard with their initial advertising. Remember to carefully ponder sales promotions, and tailor them to your company’s goals. Some business managers can dump money into advertising that can misfire, even harming brand image or simply wasting resources.

A tasteless, spammy, or annoying sales promotion does no one favors. Neither do wasteful practices such as carelessly executed free sample campaigns. Remember that ads should take advantage of the right time, place, and style to effectively influence potential clientele.

Prioritize Wise Contract Negotiation

Irrational optimism can doom new companies. Small business owners need to put together contracts with the worst possible outcomes in mind. Human nature tends to assume everything will go smoothly, but the inevitable snags often pop up unexpectedly. Veteran business owners should pour over contracts with a fine-tooth comb with an eye toward the life of a contract rather than the bare minimums and the foreseeable future.

Careless Choice of Advertising Partners

Remember that you have as much of a right to choose your advertisers as they do to choose you. Advertisers need to stay relevant, ethical, and lucrative. Advertisements should stay interesting and tasteful. In other words, new business owners should maintain self-respect and not get carried away in the excitement of finally receiving sponsorship.

Consider Effective Customer Contact Strategies

Email lists can provide a free method to reach prospects on demand. Remember to form these lists quickly, efficiently, and ethically. When soliciting contact information, make sure to obtain a full profile of the customer’s interests, goals, and potential. Effective customer contact lists can save a fortune in advertising later.

Conclusion

Ecommerce presents its own set of risks. Without careful contemplation, Veteran Business Owners can go overboard in the wrong direction at the outset, in ways that can quickly deplete resources. The remote nature of the online customer relationship amplifies these. Careful, realistic, and multidimensional feedback and planning can effectively prepare for success in the modern, largely internet-based economy.

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/ 

 

How to Make the Most of Holidays with Your Customers

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

The holidays can present challenges and opportunities for Veteran Business Owners. The increased demand presents to labor and supply issues, while also significantly increasing profit margins. A seasonal workforce often must pick up the slack. Meanwhile, customer demands may skyrocket, and nerves may fray. 

Various strategies can slice a bigger piece of the pie for your business.

1) Get in the Holiday Spirit for all holidays!

During the winter months, traditionally we hunker up with the hard-earned rewards of the rest of the yearly cycle. Remember to share this warmth with your workforce! They’re working extra hard especially during holiday seasons.

2) Respect Your Employees and their Additional Workload.

Seasonal workers may not always feel much warmth from employers. For some, the holidays are the season for overwork. 

Respect your employees, no matter what the type of business. Mandatory “ugly Christmas sweaters” and elf costumes affront human dignity and have no place in the workplace. Furthermore, consider that the workforce may be working extra hard to meet the spikes in demand. Some workers may even work extra hard during various holiday seasons for money to last over the year.

Respect for your workforce conveys positive vibes. Remember that most customers have been employees as well.

3) Keep Holiday Décor Tasteful

Some people think many decorations including some for  Christmas are “tacky.” 

Well, maybe they are. As alternatives for your business, tasteful alternatives abound. For example, the “snowy” look might appeal to more discerning customers. “Traditional” holiday decorations strategically placed provide the right vibe while maintaining a professional look for the establishment. Just remember the work for the cleanup crews at the end of any holiday season.

Cornucopias and colorful artificial fruits can last from November until early January. Furthermore, consider the final cleanup for the sake of both employees and employers.

2) Remember, some people celebrate a different holidays such as Channukah or Kwanzaa

Channukah ends in early December, while Kwanzaa lasts until January. Depictions of the season’s bounty convey importance to the Kwanzaa festivities as well as Thanksgiving and the Holiday period in general. 

Christmas colors are traditionally green and red. For Chanukkah, blue and white, and Kwanzaa colors are red, black, and green. The holiday season integrates diverse traditions. Winter decorations can integrate any medley of holiday baubles, so long as creative decorating brings that warm holiday cheer to your entire clientele. 

3) Make Things Local

Many holiday celebrations provide chances for local communities to come together. Participation in local events might win goodwill that could liven up your business. Maybe Santa can visit. Maybe a Christmas tree needs decorating.   Perhaps the Easter Bunny can help decorate eggs, etc. Regardless, presence at a local fair or festival can provide rich opportunities.

4) Holiday Promotions

Local festivities may even provide opportunities for coupon distributions and free samples. For example, raffles and contests may offer bundles of coupons as rewards. Sponsorships for entertainers and appearances may also bring attention to your business.

Online events can offer the same opportunities. Don’t forget your digital marketing skills while concentrating on the local state fair. Assuming the resources for the increased demand, remember the opportunities that each holiday season brings. When carefully planned, the increased demand can bring the opportunity to relax a little during the months afterward. Your online presence may even convey seasonal products. 

5) Finally, we wish joyful holidays for you and your families and staff from VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association!

Holidays provide the opportunity to have fun while doing work. Remember to extend this holiday cheer to your employees as well as friends and family while directing this positive energy in safe directions. Don’t forget to take care of yourself during this busy season, and never grow out of the Holiday Spirit!

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/ 

 

Self-Marketing for Entrepreneurs

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Marketing is its own field within the business world. Specialists in marketing often come out of school with vast coursework and little experience. The generalities acquired by “professional marketers” often fail entrepreneurs seeking their niche in the economy. 

Every company is different. Each entrepreneur likely has their own set of values, as well as their own understanding of the niche of the economy they seek to occupy. Outsiders may provide guidelines and principles, but the core of a marketing strategy must come from the source of the business idea itself. Successful marketing ultimately comes from within.

Remember the sitcom Family Ties from the eighties? Consider the episode “The Spirit of Columbus.” In a classic standoff between money-obsessed Alex P. Keaton and his opposite, the artist Nick, Alex usurps Nick’s greatest artistic triumph and markets the sculpture “in volume” as home decor. In several fabulous colors to boot. 

These days, marketers rely largely on online strategies. Professional marketers know the web, social media, and other such channels. Entrepreneurs know their own hearts and the goals of their companies. Efforts of marketers fall impotent absent coordination with the leadership of their clients. Consider the ongoing lament of online gamers in the face of recent waves of offbeat, sometimes offensive marketing campaigns. “Why do they do this? The game is nothing like that!”

Entrepreneurs do their best to market themselves, often with advice from ad agencies. Marketers should stick to their roles. These days, marketers do have irreplaceable functions on the online and social media fronts. However, unless the marketer and entrepreneur are one and the same, no one can sell that great idea better than its originator. A marketer can filter the idea. A marketer can find the right channels. However, no one can express the idea’s heart and soul better than the entrepreneur themself.

There are strategies that business owners can use to market themselves. First, no matter the niche product or service, business owners should make their outreach efforts personable. Sometimes, a little creativity can liven up not only the brand but even the lives of its patrons. Perhaps the Michelin man can be an example. The iconic 120-year-old character is as old as the company itself. Over the years he has evolved from grease-monkey to symbol of fine dining. The Michelin brothers needed no marketing agency to accomplish that.

Second, entrepreneurs should ensure focus on their fundamental message. Marketing ideas should have organic roots in the core ideas of the company. Whatever the original focus of a business venture, a marketing campaign should beam this inspiration into their target clientele with laser intensity. A “meeting of the minds” does wonders between owners and clientele, at least in the early stages. Third-party marketers have the potential to complicate this process. Business owners should always stay in control of their message, at least until the enterprise diversifies and becomes too complex.

In the end, business owners should never allow third parties to market their idea in far-off directions, at least in the early stages. Marketers have their place and their own expertise, especially in the age of social media and other forms of online exposure. However, while the business owner provides the capital, the business owner provides the leadership. When the visionary separates from the vision, only broken dreams loom on the horizon.

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/ 

Marketing Advantages of Blogs

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By James Pruitt – Senior Staff Writer

A blog allows agency over your company’s narrative. With a blog, your company’s news comes from your perspective. With news releases, any information must filter through another outlet. Your blog allows information through the horse’s mouth so to speak.

Blogs are essentially websites with primarily informational content. Your company’s blog should provide information directly from you and your organization. While news releases certainly have value as marketing tools and as evidence for recognition of your company’s accomplishments, blogs eliminate the hearsay factor and allow you to control the narrative of your company’s development.

Blogs are a boom to new companies. In the past, marketing was a more challenging process. News releases, public relations specialists, and advertisement executives mattered far more. Since the Information Age, blogs have done much of the initial marketing work, and applications such as WordPress have placed much of this work directly in the hands of the small business owner.

Assuming access to a newswire, a news release can in fact reach more people. Hence the continuing relevance of news releases. However, blogs allow a starting point for directed marketing.

From your blog, you can begin a directed marketing plan for yourself, under your own thumb. Not least important, blogs allow tracking of website traffic, and hence facilitate marketing through the most appropriate channels. No one likes spam. However, directed marketing works.

As you are starting a company, starting a blog allows opportunities for the initial pitch, for control over your own cycle of news, and for a plan to track site visits. Additionally, a blog administrator for a new business should consider the ins and outs of visitor feedback, and archiving information. The new blogger can trace organizations that may link back to your blog or track the number or origins of site visits. Such information can help with directed marketing and provide cues about the best routes for varieties of outreach strategies.

Blogs can serve as their own news release source.  The business owner can schedule posts over the course of the year regarding any variety of subjects, including new hires, new innovations, and new policies. The owner can set their own rhythm to these updates, and at their discretion, news outlets can respond accordingly.

Also, blogs allow an opportunity for feedback. In other words, blogs are interactive, rather than news sources which are under the control of some third-party news outlet. Therefore customers can provide business owners with feedback, and give endorsements and create greater opportunities for more business. The interactive nature of blogs is priceless for a new business owner. The old-fashion news report only spews information through any channel that will publish it. A blog allows a one-on-one with the ownership of the company.

This direct interaction can provide some of the most important feedback for a small company at its earliest stages.

Traditional routes such as press releases are not irrelevant for your new company. However, this deep into the Information Age, blogs allow the business owner unprecedented control over the initial stages of their marketing campaign. By setting up a blog, you, the business owner, may control your own business plan and marketing trajectory.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that you enjoyed this first article on blogs in our mini-series.  Stay tuned….

If you are not already a member of VAMBOA, please consider joining.  There are not any dues or membership fees.  We provide a great deal of valuable information weekly.  You can also proudly display the VAMBOA seal on your website and collateral.

Here is a link to sign up:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

What Are Hashtags and Why Use Them?

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

The symbol that we now know as a hashtag was once called the pound symbol, or octothorpe, and was initially used to mark numbers. The first known usage of this symbol as a “hashtag” was in the summer of 2007 by Chris Messina, a web marketing specialist. He approached the company Twitter with the suggestion that they use the symbol to group related Tweets together. Since that fateful day the use of hashtags, their reach, and their effectiveness has grown exponentially.

 

Hashtags in a nutshell:

  • Connect social media content to a specific topic, event, theme or conversation
  • Make it easier to discover posts around specific topics

 

Where are hashtags used?

Hashtags are used on almost every social media platform that we use today.

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • And more

 

Why should you use hashtags?

Hashtags help your post take part in a larger conversation which makes your posts more visible to both followers and non-followers on any given platform. This can lead to better engagement with others including likes, shares, comments, more followers, etc. as well, it can boost your brand’s overall standing on the platform. When hashtags are used correctly, they are a very effective and easy way to promote your business and drive the conversation. You can also use hashtags to show your support for social issues, help your target audience to find your posts on social media and add more context to your posts without adding too many more words.

 

Should you use popular hashtags?

Just because a hashtag is popular does not mean it is a good idea for you to use. For example, the hashtag #followme has more than 515 million posts on Instagram but is broadly used in every industry and category. That hashtag will not help you get more followers. You want to avoid using a hashtag simply because it is popular. If the hashtag does not engage your followers or add to your post, it is best to be avoided.

 

This does not mean that you should ignore popular hashtags.  In fact, some hash tags are excellent to insert your brand into a fun or popular conversation. For example, hashtags such as #throwbackthursday or #flashbackfriday, help you mix up your social posting with fun and popular social media games.

 

Keep in mind that popular hashtags also differ depending on what social media platform you are using. On Instagram, popular hashtags include ones such as #instagood, #photooftheday, and #photography, among others. However, on LinkedIn, popular hashtags include more business-focused ones such as #leadership and #productivity. You may need to do a bit of research to find the popular hashtags on each platform that boost you.

 

A few things to keep in mind for using hashtags:

  • Hashtags always start with the ‘#’ symbol and contain no spaces between the words such as #thisisahashtag.
  • Hashtags listed on private accounts cannot be seen by non-followers of that account.
  • The best hashtags are short and easy to remember.
  • More is not better when it comes to hashtags. Limit the number that you use and make sure they are relevant to your post.

 

As you can see, hashtags really help people connect with the things they find important or interesting on social media. If you have not been using them in your posts, now is the time to start! They are one of the best and easiest ways to get your brand in front of people who may be interested in what you are offering.

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