small business ideas

A Low Cost Way to Improve your Small Business Brand

Most small business owners know that sustainability is a concern to many consumers and can affect your small business brand.

While no business is going to claim not to be sustainable, it helps if you can point to actual things you are doing in this area.

The Small Business Brand as USP

Being “green” isn’t going to be a complete USP for most companies these days. But if you are in one of the few remaining industries that doesn’t concern itself with sustainability, then it might help.

Faced with two seemingly otherwise equal choices, most consumers will choose the small business brand that appears more sustainable.

Simple Small Business Brand Options

One easy and low cost way to make your small business brand more sustainable is to switch to green energy. Fortunately, these days you can buy sustainably sourced energy from many power companies. That’s much easier than trying to install solar cells or wind turbines.

Then you can tell your customers, employees and anyone else likely to care that your business is helping to save the planet and so on, increasing your small business brand.

In most cases, green energy isn’t going to cost much more than conventional. In fact, it might be one of the most inexpensive small business brand improvements you can do.

Said one retailer:

Yeah, it costs us a little bit extra to do these good things, but I think it helps our bottom line. Employee-retention rates are high and customers are more loyal.

In addition to local press, businesses that reach these sustainability goals may make it on to the EPA’s list of companies that choose renewable power. Official logos are usually good to improve a small business brand.

Source:

Green Power: A Low-Cost Boost to Your Brand and Bottom Line

Comments:

Sustainability can be a tricky subject. Take building supplies for example. You won’t find a product that doesn’t claim to be more sustainable. Concrete is one of the dirtiest, most energy intensive processes out there. But then well laid concrete will last indefinitely. Wood on the other hand, is infinitely renewable but we build with it intending for it to last only 50 years.

Another relevant example is the car battery. Electric and hybrid cars claim sustainability based on extremely low gas mileage. But then if you consider the production cost of manufacturing a hybrid battery and its disposal, it becomes one of the least sustainable vehicles there are.

Sustainability and The Small Business Brand

Those two examples look at sustainability from the cradle-to-cradle paradigm. It’s important to consider the energy it takes to bring a product to market as well as its disposal. Consumers are becoming more aware of such issues even if it doesn’t seem that it would be immediately relevant to your bottom line.

All that’s to say that paying a little bit more for your energy might make sense financially too when it comes to customer satisfaction, employee retention and improving your small business brand.

Small Business Ideas for Going Mobile

Almost everyone by now knows that the economy is going mobile. Not just a particular segment of the economy – the entire economy. Think Internet sized bigness.

For those who want to be hands on in going mobile but don’t want to start programming from scratch, we have this announcement:

RunRev Offers Free Small Business Academy on Going Mobile

Yes, that’s right, a free course on how to build your own apps. The course on going mobile runs through the month of May (2012) and requires a signup.

The course includes daily short videos on different topics related to using RunRev’s platform – LiveCode – in going mobile.

“We’re delighted to build on the success of our hugely popular Game Academy,” said Kevin Miller, CEO of RunRev. “With our new business-oriented course, we’re unlocking the potential of entrepreneurs and developers by giving them the tools to create custom apps and take their businesses to new levels. Today, every business can benefit from connecting with customers on mobile devices, and LiveCode is a great entry point for those new to development who want to create apps for iOS, Android, Mac, PC and even Linux. The Small Business App Academy will show you how in visual, engaging and easy steps.”

Going Mobile Options

If you’re wondering if there’s a catch – well, sort of. If you have no intention of using LiveCode to build your own apps, then this might only be halfway interesting to you.

If you compare it to hiring a developer to create you a custom app and then maintain it for you, you might just come out ahead going mobile this way.

Even if not, the course is sure to provide a number of pointers to keep in mind while building apps so at the very least, you’ll be a more informed consumer when it comes to hiring someone to build your app.

Going Mobile Course Topics

Some of the topics to be covered include:

  • Database and cloud access
  • Data manipulation
  • Monetization
  • Working with rich media
  • Creating user interfaces
  • Deployment to devices
  • Push notifications

If you don’t know what most of those things are, that’s okay. No doubt there will be lost of visuals and examples. It is a feature list after all and the training will probably cover the benefits of those features too.

Regarding RunRev, they were also listed as one of the top cross platform development tools for going mobile.

Sources:

Free Course Teaches Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses How to Create Mobile Apps in New RunRev Small Business Academy

Cross-Platform Developer Tools 2012

LiveCode Academy for Small Businesses

Comments:

As I’ve said before, going mobile – like any other tactic – needs to support your overall strategy and mission. Many apps are nothing more than an exact replica of company’s website. Having your website be mobile friendly may or may not help in the long run. That would depend on how you’re using your website now.

For many small business owners – especially the less tech savvy, learning to create an app might not be for you. It’s another question though whether any app is right for your business. It could help gain new customers with the right level of special offers and interaction.

Like all other marketing tactics, going mobile should be weighed on a ROI basis rather than just because it’s the next big thing.

Keeping Small Business Ideas Fresh

Keeping Small Business Ideas Fresh

There was an article today on bringing the spark back to your small business ideas.

Small Business Ideas versus Burnout

The first point was to clarify that we’re not talking about burnout. Getting bored or tired of your own small business ideas is a sure way to see the business be stuck at lukewarm and eventually fail. If that’s the case, then you need to reconsider why you got into business in the first place.

If it’s lack of clarity about the small business ideas themselves, then the advice was to reconnect with the unique selling proposition (or form one if it hadn’t already been defined). If you can’t answer why people should do business with you, then your customers probably can’t either and might find someone that can.

A solid USP means that you do something better or different than your competitors. And for the most part, that shouldn’t be as a low cost provider unless you like getting squashed by Wal-Mart or Amazon.

Your business’ branding is all about what existing and prospective customers think when they see or hear about your company. It comes from a number of things: your products and services, your physical presence, advertising, packaging, online appearance, reputation, logo and company name.

There were also a number of small business ideas given on various USPs including excellent customer service, serial innovation, and specialization.

More Small Business Ideas on Keeping It Fresh

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Small Business Administration is offering a webinar this week on keeping small business ideas fresh. It’s Thursday, April 26th, 2012 at 1pm ET. If you’ve missed it by the time you read this, they’ll probably have other webinars that might interest you.

Sources:

Ways to bring a little spark back into the business

SBA’s April Web Chat to Focus on Keeping Business Ideas Fresh

Comments:

The Unique Selling Proposition is arguably the most important factor for small business ideas. Once that’s worked out, everything else flows from there. A clear, strong USP would preclude ever needing to keep it fresh.

Customers would become raving fans and that’s exciting in itself. A USP may not seem as sexy as say, getting mobile devices and apps rolled out, but in the end, without a USP you’d find there weren’t clear small business ideas to communicate in the social media sphere anyway.

Crowdsourced Consulting Small Business Ideas

More Crowdsourced Small Business Ideas

Askyourusers.com is a new crowdsourced solution among small business ideas. It’s a new twist on crowdsourcing that can help facilitate the market research process on a smaller budget.

Prior to this small business idea, market research has been conducted by in-person focus groups, recruiting from Craigslist and formal surveys.

“Micro-Consulting” For Small Business Ideas

Now, entrepreneurs will be able to get “micro-consultations” for their small business ideas. They will be 15 minutes duration for about $22 on average. It’s a quick way to vet small business ideas.

Small Business Ideas Marketing Research

Per their website, other uses are usability testing, professional advice, general advice or small business idea validation. They initially plan to find users through LinkedIn.

Said founder Amelia Dunne:

But after a month of development, we were still trying to validate the idea in order to feel comfortable spending our time and money building the prototype,” she says. “The validation process was time consuming, expensive and we weren’t finding the right people to talk with or getting objective feedback. AskYourUsers.com is the tool we wished we could use – but it didn’t exist. We determined that the value in it made AskYourUsers.com worth developing even if only for our own use. Quickly, it made clear business sense as well. We were surprised to learn how inefficiently other startups were conducting their market research, holding focus groups and learning about their customers’ needs/interests.

Sources:

New Crowdsourcing Launch: AskYourUsers.com Uses LinkedIn To Help You Find People For Microconsulting Projects

AskYourUsers.com

Comments:

Small business ideas that help owners do what they need to do more efficiently at a lower cost will always be welcome innovations. The sweet spot is creating enough value while keeping that value sufficiently uncomplicated.

Most small business owners aren’t going to be doing market research very often so the interface needs to be simple enough that they don’t have to relearn a system every time they need something.

From the look of the website, AskYourUsers.com seems to have accomplished the simple interface and made a valuable addition to small business ideas.

Small Business Ideas: Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS)

Small Business Ideas: Obama SigningSmall Business Ideas: Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act

The summary version is that the JOBS Act lowers the bar for people to invest in small business ideas. President Obama signed it into law on April 5th, 2012. The SEC has 9 months to write the rules under which it will be implemented.

Small Business Ideas: Crowdsourcing

One of the major features will be crowdsourcing. In a nutshell, it means that a crowd of people will be able to invest in small business ideas. Prior to this, the regulations were more strict about who could invest. There will still be investment limits based on income but at least now most people will have a chance.

Small Business Ideas: Internet Portal Funding

Another important feature for small business ideas is that a major distribution channel for this crowdsourcing will be via internet portals. There are already sites designed to match angel investors with startups but now that’s expected to increase substantially. Think Kiva.org for American companies.

“It will make it easier for small businesses to attract investors, to gain access to capital, to become the next big thing,” said Tom Quaadman, a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Sources:

Small businesses raise cash from crowds

How the JOBS Act Will Disrupt Funding for Small Businesses

Wikipedia: Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act

Comments:

While some criticize the bill saying it will open consumers to predatory and fraudulent investing schemes, one has to ask: aren’t we already? If anything, it gives consumers more control over their own lives.

Yes, we’ll want more third party safeguards and seals of approval. In the age of social media, we’ll look for credibility from others who have had good investing experiences. No doubt a whole new industry will spring up around giving innovative small business ideas the credibility they need to attract investment.

Small Business Ideas For Social Media

Small Business Ideas Share ButtonsSmall Business Ideas For Social Media

At this stage in the game, everyone knows that social media is a big deal in small business ideas. For any business dealing with consumers (and most who are not), a social media presence is almost a requirement to thriving in today’s market.

Is Social Media Working for Small Business Ideas?

The interesting story behind social media is not whether to use it but how. A site, Business 2 Community, reported a few statistics on social media usage as well as posting an infographic detailing survey results from Intuit.

Small Business Ideas from Business 2 Community:

  1. Businesses engaging with customers on Facebook build loyalty and drive word of mouth.
  2. Special deals and offers are the top reasons consumers follow a brand on Facebook.
  3. Social Media Experts can help take the burden off building and managing social media pages.

Sources:

Social Media and the Impact on Small Business Marketing

How Small Businesses Are Using Social Media (Infographic)

Comments:

To follow on to this list, item #2 is also true for Twitter. We’ve seen examples of businesses do well promoting their specials on Twitter once word reached their customer base.

The most interesting small business ideas from on the Intuit infographic to me was the conflicting views between small business owners and their customers. The most effective Facebook tactic for reaching customers according to small business owners was wall posts (followed by direct messages). The most effective tactic according to customers was special offers and discounts (followed by direct messages.

In using social media, it would also be helpful to talk to your customers and ask them what they’d like to see on your Facebook page.

The small business ideas to take away are that you should be on Facebook and that you should find a way to post special offers and discounts.