Social Media & E-Tools for the Small Business Owner Seminar Summary

Hand holding a Social Media 3d SphereWe recently held a business seminar presented by SCORE and guest speaker Stephanie Shaffery, president of Flair Marketing. Our presenters discussed important strategies to get your business out there on the web and the do’s and don’ts of social media marketing. Here is some important information you may have missed out on that could be key to helping your business succeed:

• Some great free websites for your business to take advantage of are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Blogging.

• There are many advantages when it comes to using social media. It helps you build relationships with your consumers, establishes your business as a resource, and helps build your brand and show personality.

Blogging – This allows you to share customized information with everyone while humanizing your brand and sharing your expertise on various topics relating to your business. When blogging, make sure you integrate your blog with your website because you never want to have your blog stand alone, you always want it to link back to your main website. You may find it hard to set aside time to write for your blog, but if you try to post at least once a week or every other week to stay active with your audience, you will be in great shape. Don’t be afraid to schedule blog posts ahead of time for each month so you can stay organized and less stressed. Also, make sure the layout and design of your blog is consistent with your webpage to maintain your branding.

Facebook – By using this free tool you are reaching over 1.15 billion users (and that number grows each day). Not only does it give you access to a wide range of consumers, but it allows you to create polls, post events, encourage participation, advertise your website/products/services, and so much more. Try to respond to a wall post within 24 hours – this shows tenacity and punctuality which are great qualities to possess as a business-owner. Remember to keep content fresh and up-to-date, add a cover photo and profile photo (preferably with your logo) and include hyperlinks to boost SEO.

Twitter – You can gain immediate feedback when using Twitter. You can also engage in conversations, promote offers and discounts, and establish your brand. Make sure you do your research before engaging consumers, let everyone on Twitter know who they are talking to (aka that you’re not a robot), and build your Twitter equity and credibility up. Don’t be afraid to follow other companies in your industry and see what they are doing in their businesses – you can use ideas and information from others that could be very valuable.

YouTube – This website can help keep the costs of video production down while providing entertainment and educational value. This also creates another channel for your brand but make sure to keep videos short and concise, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new things. Learn what works and what doesn’t work with your business and take constructive criticism from friends, family, and consumers.

Pinterest – This is a great option for any visual business to share images of your work, products, and/or services. Pinterest is essentially a virtual bulletin board where you can “pin” photos onto various “boards”. For example, if you opened a new restaurant you may want to upload pictures of some of your specialty dishes with an embedded link to your website therefore, when users click on the photo it will automatically bring them to your page. It’s the latest hype right now with over 50 million users and the number three most-popular social network in the U.S behind Facebook and Twitter.

The most important thing to always remember is to thank all of your fans on any social media platform. This lets them know that you appreciate them and their business and gives them a “feel-good-feeling” knowing that you personally recognized them!

For more information visit our Twitter page to view the seminar’s live Twitterfeed and search #MediaToolsSem.

The SCORE Association is a national nonprofit organization with a public service mission to maximize the success of America’s existing and emerging small businesses. SCORE’s 10,500 members provide client counseling and training through a network of 389 chapters, 800 branches, and a national as well as individual chapter Web sites. SCORE has been a resource partner with the Small Business Administration (SBA) since 1964. Their volunteer members, who are both retired, or actively engaged in their business or profession, have many years of experience to bring to bear on helping to create stronger more profitable businesses.

Flair Marketing Group is an award winning marketing firm, specializing in a unique blend of online and traditional marketing to help our clients achieve their sales and marketing goals. They offer marketing consultation and solutions that help your company stand out from the competition.  By focusing on personalized service and customized marketing programs that capture the attention of your target audience, your company is sure to stand out. Their hands-on personalized service encourages client input and makes the client first priority in designing award winning logos, corporate branding and identity, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) friendly website design, development and maintenance.  Along with their highly qualified professional resources, they have decades of knowledge and experience in graphic design, websites, blogging, compelling content creation, social media marketing and SEO. 

“Is Being an Entrepreneur Right for You?” Business Seminar Summary

EntrepreneurThe SCORE organization recently gave a presentation on starting a business. So, are you ready and willing to take that risk in order to become a successful entrepreneur?

Myth vs. Reality of Being an Entrepreneur

  • Myth: If you go out on your own, you won’t have to work so hard or such long hours.
  • Reality: You’ll probably work harder and longer than ever before – but enjoy it more at the same time. Exhaustion fades at the moment you proudly say, “I did this!”
  • Myth: People with their own businesses can charge high prices and make a lot of money fast.
  • Reality: Provide a service or product that’s fair priced where you can make good money.
  • Myth: You’ll be able to deduct everything, so you don’t have to pay taxes.
  • Reality: Taxes are based on net income, which can be lowered by subtracting expenses related to the business from gross income. Keep good records and learn how to make the tax system work for you.
  • Myth: If you work independently you won’t have to report to a boss.
  • Reality: You won’t have a single boss, you’ll have many – your customers and vendors, each of whom have specific needs and demands. Your challenge is to keep all of them happy.
  • Myth: All you need is a few good customers and you’ll be set.
  • Reality: It’s easier to deal with just a few customers, but the risk is high – limiting yourself could sink your business.
  • Myth: If you work on your own, you can work uninterrupted and won’t have annoying distrctions like meetings.
  • Reality: The challenge is to establish structure and discipline so you can maintain as much control over your environment.
  • Myth: Business owners get to do the work they want to do, and only what they find interesting.
  • Reality: You’ll have to develop an interest in every aspect of your business, no matter whether or not you find it interesting.
  • Myth: You won’t have to deal with any office politics if you have your own business.
  • Reality: Customers, suppliers, employees and others will place demands on you.

Did you know that there are over 23 million small businesses in the US and about 75% of them are run by only one person. Therefore, you don’t need a whole office of employees, as long as you can be successful and run the company you want to run, that is all that matters.

Can’t attend one of our educational seminars? No need to fret, just follow us on Twitter @NJBanking and you can “join” the seminar with our Live Tweeting from the comfort of your own home or desk! We always invite you to join the conversation by using the hashtag provided the day of the seminar – this way you’ll never miss a beat! To go back and review the tweets from this seminar, use #EntreBiz.

SCORE is a nonprofit organization that helps small businesses. It offers free counseling sessions, workshops, and more. To learn more about how you can get free help with your small business or to set up an appointment, visit SCORE’s website, give them a call at 732.224.2573, or find them at library counseling locations at Shrewsbury, Manalapan, Wall, and Middletown; main office at Brookdale Community College. They are also available through EMACC, SMCC, and GMCC Chambers of Commerce.

Marketing & Sales for Business Seminar Summary

In a recent Marketing and Sales Business Seminar, counselors from SCORE spoke about the importance of marketing and sales at First Financial.

Marketing is about building trust and a relationship with clients. 70-80% of your time will be spent in marketing your business.

You want to ask yourself:

  1. What is the uniqueness my business offers?
  2. What problem will I solve for my client?
  3. How can I get my message out?

Some different types marketing outlets to consider using include:

  • Family and friends
  • Past Business Acquaintances
  • Cold Calling: telephone or door to door
  • Direct Mail
  • Advertising: Print and Media
  • Networking (something you want to constantly work at)

Social Media

When considering the use of social media here are five commandments to consider:

  1. Thou shalt understand the reach and power of the social Web – Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks give you cost effective access to more prospects than even before. It also gives you a chance to share information without sending out email blasts or cold calling.
  2. Thou shalt not become a Satan of Spam – offer members helpful ideas or links.  Never spam members or use automatic friend-adding software.
  3. Thou shalt not mix business and pleasure – to avoid confusion, use a professional identity for your business.  For example, when using Facebook, set up a page that is strictly for your business, not your personal account.
  4. Thou shalt be 100 percent transparent – when using social media programs always be upfront about who you are and what you do.  Never leave a positive comment or testimonial about yourself.
  5. Thou shalt be kind to others – online communities can be vicious at times, with people feuding and spreading rumors and innuendos.  While using online sites, remember the Golden Rule, treat others, including your competitors, as you want to be treated.

Selling a product or service is 70-80% listening.  You need to understand the right questions to ask and when you should ask them.  When trying to make a sale – be yourself, be natural, be confident, and be positive.

Sales are generally lost due to neglect of listening, lack of a trustful relationship, the client wasn’t educated enough, or you didn’t ask for the sale.

SCORE is a nonprofit organization that helps small businesses. It offers free counseling sessions, workshops, and more. To learn more about how you can get free help with your small business or to set up an appointment, visit SCORE’s website, give them a call at 732.224.2573, or find them at library counseling locations at Shrewsbury, Manalapan, Wall, and Middletown; main office at Brookdale Community College. They are also available through EMACC, SMCC, and GMCC Chambers of Commerce.

Job Search Strategies Seminar Summary

job-wanted-sign-resized-600Recently we had SCORE join us for an informative and engaging seminar on job search strategies. Seminar attendees were provided with the current elements that are crucial in order to start a successful job search.

Some helpful information that was provided, included:

  • Focus on finding your strengths: Ask yourself – Who are you? What are your skills, training and work experience? How can you develop those traits into a positive image? The answers to these questions will help you define who you are when answering questions during an interview.
  • Elevator speech: Incorporating the strengths that you came up with, you need to create a 30 second speech that tells a short story about yourself. It’s great to use when you first meet someone outside the workforce – perhaps in an elevator? You can expand on your 30 second speech by another two minutes in order to answer the “Tell me a little bit about yourself” question that frequently pops up in interviews.
  • Addressing your weaknesses: A perceived weakness is the perfect time to sell yourself. This is where you need to provide the interviewer with a positive response. For example, a good response for “positive weakness” would be, “I have to work on having more patience and giving myself a break. There have been times where I take on too many tasks and then expect to have everything done at once, but I have learned to be more realistic in what can be accomplished given the time and resources available.”
  • Time management: Once you develop a plan, set aside a portion of each day to execute the plan. Don’t feel that you need to devote 12 hours plus each day job searching. A job search is always full of rejection and dashed expectations. By scheduling down time you can recuperate from these downers.
  • The “Tell-All” resume: This is the part where you sell yourself. Your resume is essentially your sales pitch to the company you’re applying to. You want to tell a story about your experience and history while keeping in mind that it needs to be concise and to the point. Employers typically only look at the first page of your resume, so putting the important information first and making sure the layout is neat and organized are going to be in your best interest.
  • The “Search”: Once you’ve decided what position you are looking for, begin to look for opportunities in that field. You can research online, in newspapers, the One Stop Center and dozens of other ways. However, networking is the most effective way to get leads and land the job you want. Just a hint, if you take the time to introduce yourself to someone in the industry you want to be in, ask for their help in a way that they will want to assist you. A great, FREE tool to use is LinkedIn, you can search for various companies, people who work in those companies and even apply to jobs – everything you need all on one site!
  • Use company and job websites: A lot of the time, companies will internally post any positions they have available on their corporate website. You can also try job websites like Indeed, Career Builder, Monster, Google, etc. Just be sure to look into the company your interested in to make sure it is not a scam.
  • Word of mouth = Networking: Make it a point to reach out to friends, neighbors and relatives to see if they have any job openings at the company they are currently employed at or if they know any contacts in the industry you’re looking to apply to. Sometimes the “It’s all about who you know” phrase is pleasantly true!

The bottom line is that you need to try harder in marketing yourself and remember there are no automatic opening doors to employment. You must make the effort to reach out and seize the handle.

Exit Planning for Business Seminar Summary

Recently, SCORE presented a workshop designed for business owners on exit planning strategies.  They discussed how to identify the causes and circumstances for exiting a business; how to evaluate the impact of exiting a business on employees, family, and clients; and options and issues for exiting a business.

Exiting a business impacts you as a business owner, your family, your clients, and business partners – not just the business itself.  Every business should have at the very least – a brief exit plan strategy, which is a necessary component of your regular business plan.  If a partnership is involved in the business, the exit strategy should be established and in writing at the start of the partnership.  While you can make all the plans you wish, there is enough chaos in the world to have contingency plans prepared for any shift of business, health, personal issues, and disasters. Exit plans will need to be updated periodically during the lifespan of your business. Exit plans are living documents, it’s a good idea to evaluate yours once every year and be open and honest with all business partners throughout the life of the business.

Why exit a business?  There could be a number of reasons, however some of the most common include: family issues, death or disability of the business owner or partners, financial insolvency, decline in business, tax issues, the product is no longer viable as a revenue source, or you have achieved all your business goals and wish to sell your business to another company or new owner.

Once you have decided you want to exit your business, it is important to make sure all your obligations are met.  It’s also important to finalize all payroll and sales taxes – the government will collect all necessary funds – so meet your obligations!

Here are some other key points to think about when getting ready to exit your business: exit strategy contingency fund, buyer/seller agreements, life insurance, conditions of any partnership agreements, and potentially speaking with a trusted advisor like an accountant or lawyer during the exit process.  Do what’s reasonable for your business!

Stay on the lookout for future seminars at First Financial – we offer a business seminar each month! If you have any business banking or loan related questions, contact Business Development.

What You Missed at Networking for Business

Recently, SCORE presented an important workshop called Networking for Business. They covered how to build a business through networking, tools for the networker, types of events to attend in order to network, considerations to take when networking, and following up with contacts made at a networking event.

Networking-resized-600Here are some key points within each of those areas to remember when networking:

  • Before attending any networking event, define why you would like to attend it and consider what goals you plan to accomplish by attending.
  • Prepare and practice your introductory speech and keep it at 45 seconds or less. Consider what you are going to talk about that will make you stand out — perhaps you specialize in a certain area. Use what will stick in someone’s mind.
  • While business cards can be handy, all you really need to have on hand at a networking event is something to write on. If you do not have a business card, you can ask those who you are interested in doing business with for theirs.
  • Remember names whenever possible. Sometimes this can be difficult but if you do remember a name, it shows you have a genuine interest in the person you are communicating with.
  • A few types of events to attend include: Business Expos, Chamber of Commerce events, and structured events such as BNI and LeTip meetings.
  • Always be professional when you are networking — keep your mobile devices turned off, be courteous toward others, and get permission to follow up.
  • If you say you are going to follow up, be sure to do it, and do it within a reasonable time period.
  • When following up, you can try for face-to-face meetings and if you have one, ask your connections if you can add them to your email list. Keeping yourself in the head of the people you would like to do business with can help you to close a sale.

Stay on the lookout for future seminars at First Financial – we offer a business seminar each month! If you have any business banking or loan related questions, contact Business Development.