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In the Trenches: Reconsidering My Web Host

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Though my business isn-t truly an Internet business, the web is a huge part of what we do. Most of our clients sign up for service on our website, and the largest referrer is my airline blog, The Cranky Flier. Where I host my sites has never been anything I-ve thought about until recently. I think it-s time to start looking for a new one.

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How to Get Selected for a Panel at South By Southwest

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If your small business is in the tech, media, or entertainment industry, becoming a presenter at the South By Southwest (SXSW) annual conference in Austin, Texas is a great opportunity to increase your brand recognition, show off your expertise, and connect with some of the most influential people in America. Depending on your company’s focus, you can choose to participate in the Interactive, Film, or Music conferences, which are hosted back-to-back every March.

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Four Ideas for Improving Customer Retention

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Getting a customer in the door for the first time can be tough — but getting them to come back is actually an easier task. It’s well worth the extra effort required to hook a loyal customer: Attracting a new customer requires five times more money than keeping an existing one, according to research by TARP. And when you treat your returning customers well, they’re likely to spread the word to their friends, expanding your customer base through word-of-mouth.

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Small Business Optimism Hits Three-Year High

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While chunks of the country continue to dig out from winter weather, small businesses may already be feeling a long-awaited thaw. The National Federation of Independent Businesses- monthly confidence check just reached its highest level since December 2007.

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Are You Better Off Buying or Leasing Commercial Space?

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You’re ready to make the move from your home office to a commercial business or retail space. Would you better be off buying or leasing your new location? The answer depends upon how much capital you have available, the type of business you run, and the real estate available in your area.

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3 Ways You Can Benefit from Neuromarketing

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“Neuromarketing” has become a hot buzzword in marketing circles, but as intimidating as the practice may sound, it’s actually quite simple: It essentially lets businesses translate a handful of scientific discoveries — such as how certain stimuli (scent, sight, sound, texture, messages, etc.) prompt the brain to take desired actions — into favorable and lasting marketing tactics.

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5 Ways to Tell Your Customers You Love Them

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As a small business owner, you understand how important it is to make your customers feel appreciated. Unfortunately, showing your loyalists some love isn-t always easy. And it certainly isn-t a responsibility you want to take lightly.

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In the Trenches: Working From Home with a Child

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As you might imagine, there-s a new world order here in our house now that there-s a baby at home. He comes first, we come second, and the dogs take whatever they can get. That-s pretty standard, but what happens when you also work at home?

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5 PR Moves You Can Make Yourself

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If you’re like many small-business owners in today’s economy, hiring a press relations or PR rep isn’t in your budget. But you still need to get the word out about your business. Don’t fret. Here are five PR moves that you can make yourself.

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How Hiya Tea Used Kickstarter to Turn an Invention into a Business

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Dr. Tetsuo Nakatsu has been inventing products for years, first as a scientist for a large research firm that created flavors and fragrances for companies like P&G, Unilever, and L’Oreal, and now on his own as a consultant. In his spare time, he’s also come up with various design concepts, most of which he ultimately scrapped because he figured their successful development would require millions of dollars.

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8 Tips for Reaching Journalists via Twitter

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Social media has made it far easier for small businesses to interact with journalists who can help generate publicity and buzz for their brand, products, or services. Twitter in particular offers a means for disseminating important messages quickly with relatively little effort and minimal expense. That’s because many journalists now rely on the microblogging network as a source of news leads and expert resources.

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Microsoft Office System Professional 2003. Office desktop productivity suite with for all business sizes

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By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Tuesday, October 26, 2003; 3:00pm EST

Office System Professional 2003, is touted to increase productivity and efficiency, promote stronger collaboration and increase interoperability. It also celebrates the latest in a long line of suite revisions literally spanning the history of personal computers.

This review is centered around the Office Professional suite, and excludes many of the other products that were also introduced as part of the overall Office "System" such as Live Meeting, FrontPage 2003, Project 2003, Visio 2003 and so on. They may be featured in separate product reviews in the near future at Home Business Journal. Server related elements of the system such as InfoPath, Share Point and Exchange were also not included. Note that some of the new, mostly collaborative, functionality of the Office Professional Suite require these server components.

After reviewing the marketing material, attending the launch party, talking with people involved in the marketing of the product, and ultimately use of the product - it was quite apparent that a bulk of the innovation with this release was concentrated on the Outlook component of Office Professional. Strangely absent for the most part from marketing material and speeches were any mention of significant changes to Word, Excel or PowerPoint; and especially Access or Publisher. It is clear this release is more about the communications and sharing aspect of this "system" rather than specific enhancements to individual applications, with exception to Outlook which, in it's self, is communications and sharing.

Installation of the software was a complete no-brainer from it's single CD installation. Enter your software key, tell it the components you want to install, and off it goes! Activation of the product has been further streamlined to a single mouse click and a quick check with Microsoft to confirm you aren't part of an International piracy ring.

Quickly skimming through Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher, there are little if any real noteworthy additions to these components. Word and Excel allows entire or partial locking and control over documents and their distribution through its new IRM (Information Rights Management) feature. This will most likely help the Office System to combat the staggering growth of Adobe's PDF format. Excel allows manipulation of XML data sources to produce a variety of results such as tables and graphs. PowerPoint allows packaging of presentations onto a CD, great for doing presentations on the road. And Publisher, is well, Publisher, with an extended number of "Master Design Sets"; improved industry standard process-color support; and ability to create everything from email newsletters to DVD labels. Access 2003 improved error checking by pointing out common errors in reports and forms; and now employs auto properties updating between tables, forms and reports.

Things started to get real interesting when I finally got to crack out Outlook 2003. Upon first glance, even people highly familiar with the previous version, will not even recognize the 2003 edition. You are instead welcomed with a highly intuitive three column layout that is infinitely more eye friendly and space conscious. Your folders and various program functions occupy the first column, the second column handsomely displays your emails broken down by whatever criteria you desire, date, subject, name, etc. By date, it places partitions between "Toady's Mail", "Yesterdays Mail", "Last Weeks Mail". It's a god's send. The third column in my mind, really helps, a vertical rather than horizontal look at email message content. Instead of endless scrolling with the previous version, you are treated to what almost looks like a novel sized page representing the email you are reading. Very clever layout. It is not without its "adjustment time", but after a week of use, it is safe to say it is very pleasing to work with.

Outlook doesn't stop there... Priority flagging of emails allows you to mark emails for future attention, based on a variety of different flag colors you can apply to emails. The search has also been enhanced allowing you to look at commonly searched for email as easily as clicking on a pre-defined search folder already containing the results of such searches as "All my unread mail", or "All mail marked urgent". This applies to mail in all of your folders, preventing you from having to do a goose chase through all your many folders. Remote email access can now also be done by HTTP protocol, even without a VPN, handy for travelers on the road that are looking to skip any "complications" away from work.

Finally, the much needed addition of a variable level junk email filter finally makes its debut. Although it has successfully rid me of a lot of spam, it is by no means perfect, allowing at least a quarter of very obvious junk mail though. However, for a built in junk mail checker, it seems sufficient in simply "assisting" to clear up the "definitely junk" email. Other junk mail filters used in the past were a bit over zealous and also decided correspondence from clients were junk mail too - I'd much prefer this approach.

The biggest keyword by far of all the marketing material was "collaboration". Many features have been implemented to take advantage of new technologies for sharing documents between co-workers. Keeping in mind however, that a bulk of these features necessitate the use of additional Share Point Server software and other server technologies in order to work. This ease of sharing is facilitated through something called "Document Workspaces". Share Point generates on demand temporary intranet spaces where group members can work together in a version controlled manner. It simplifies the process of revisions, and is a darn site better than the "shared server directory on the server" or "email me your revisions" approach. Something like this could be especially helpful in such circumstances as creating an RFP response, product documentation, or where there are multiple people involved in the completed product.

An Office System component that was launched in conjunction with Office Professional 2003 was OneNote, the highly touted note taking application. OneNote allows seemingly random notes and ideas to be jotted down, and broken down into folders, pages and sub pages. I was particularly impressed with the simplicity and design of the application. It had the ease of use I always felt Lotus Notes should have had from the very beginning. Notes always lacked the interface refinement this certainly has even in its first revision. The audio note taking was also a welcome feature of the program, as its use in office meetings and even for personal reasons was apparent from the get go. It also takes advantage of the Tablet PC platform by allowing direct hand writing on the OneNote pages, which is turns into objects which can be moved within or between pages and converted to computer text through handwriting recognition. However, to my disbelief, OneNote is a separate application from even the highest grade of the suite, Office Professional. This certainly seemed like a candidate for inclusion into their suite. Although it is designed well with its attractive interface and simplicity of use,  it still in essence, simply lets you jot down notes and organize them. And to add insult to injury this glorified notepad will set you back $299CAD per license, almost half the price of the entire Office Professional license. That's a lot of clipboards, paper and ball point pens! It may be difficult for typical small to midsize business to justify $300 per worker to take down notes in meetings.

Should your organization consider Office System Professional 2003? New licenses for your organization should definitely be 2003. It's backward compatibility, XML handling and excellent email client are worth it in its self over older versions. Companies with Office XP or Office 2000 that are considering upgrading will have a hard time to justify the upgrade costs, as the return on investment may not be strong enough if they do not take advantage of their collaboration features (which require even more investment in server technologies, deployment and training). While users of versions 97 and below are strongly recommended to upgrade to the more stable and feature rich environment of 2003, especially if looking to embrace the collaborative functions touted in this version.

The performance of the applications is solid, loading times for all of the applications on our test box (Pentium 4 3GHz, 1GB memory) were neck snapping fast, with the splash screens given only fractions of a second to display before the programs are ready for use. Performance within the applications was also pleasing and seemed slightly faster than previous versions, with the exception to Outlook on occasion when accessing email folders it has not visited in a while.

System requirements are a Pentium III 233MHz processor (a Pentium 4 is highly recommended); 128MB of memory; up to 400MB of drive space, depending on the edition of Office you chose; SVGA graphics card and display; Windows 2000, XP or above operating system.

Office System Profession 2003 has a recommended retail price of $759CAD for the full version and $489CAD for the upgrade. It includes Access 2003, Excel 2003, Outlook 2003, Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager, PowerPoint 2003, Publisher 2003 and Word 2003. For volume and enterprise licenses, InfoPath 2003 is inclusive of the Office Professional suite. It is available immediately, and was launched October 21, 2003.

PROS - Excellent upgrade of Outlook, improving on some of the shortcomings perceived in previous versions. Continued small refinements and adjustment to make this a truly integrated package. Full XML support across the suite. Continuity and interface consistency between applications continues to be a strong point of the suite. Ease of exchanging data between the applications is excellent. Effortless to install and upgrade from previous versions.

CONS - Many core programs with room for improvement enjoyed only minor tweaks and changes (Word, Access, PowerPoint, Access). Lack of OneNote as part of Pro package and its steep individual pricing.

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.

info@viscaconsulting. com

http://www. viscaconsulting. com/

 

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Toshiba Satellite A70. Desktop replacement Windows notebook for business travelers

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By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Wednesday September 22, 2004; 1:44am EST

Many business users these days are making the migration from the desktop to a notebook desktop replacement. With the latest generation of mid to high range notebooks offering performance and features rivaling desktops; continually plummeting prices; and the convenience of no longer having to synchronize between your mobile and desktop - it makes more sense then ever to switch to a notebook.

A desktop replacement that fits the bill of being feature rich, with desktop comparable performance at an economical price point is the new Toshiba Satellite A70 notebook. Coming in at approximately $1700USD, it is amazing what they pack into this unit to make your life easier at the office, home or on the road.

The Toshiba A70 out of the box includes all the usual items; instruction manuals, backup software CD's, power adaptor and of course the notebook. The exterior of the A70 is attractive with a beautiful deep blue top accented with a silver Toshiba logo. The base is black with enlarged rubber feet for good traction and clearance from the working surface. Opening the notebook reveals a minimalist design with prominent widescreen 15.4" screen with dark bezel, light grey working surface featuring keyboard with power and CD controls to left, touchpad in center front and small circular speaker grills on either front corners. The lock and hinge mechanisms for opening and closing the notebook perform well and allow easy positioning of the monitor. Notebook weight is typical, if not slightly on the heavy side.

Starting up the notebook with the conveniently placed and informative multicolored lighting power button gets the notebook going relatively quickly. Loading the pre-installed Windows XP Home edition is at a decent pace but by no means extraordinary in speed. Once up and running we found the pre-loaded software the usual fare of lite and trial ware software such as CD burning software, antivirus, utilities specific to the proprietary software built into the notebook. The included Microsoft One Note is alright, but something more useful like Outlook or a productivity suite would have been preferable. Many users would feel the included software to be "limited" so be prepared to spend additional money for things such as utilities and applications. Otherwise, the configuration is for the most part uncluttered and should serve the purpose for most users with a bit of cleaning up (read, an afternoon of cleaning up a plethora of desktop icons and rearranging start menus). Once you're more settled in and using applications on the A70, load times seem somewhat slow for many applications, but application performance once loaded is without any problems and everything is smooth even with multiple heavy applications loaded at a time.

The notebook starts up with a whirl of fan noise, settling down seconds later to near silent operation. Occasionally interrupted with a slight fan noise clearing out any heat build up. It's generally an exceptionally quiet machine to work with. The keyboard is definitely nothing to marvel at. Key feedback is somewhat lacking, some keys squeak over extended use, placement of a limited number of keys is lacking, and the keys feel thin and slightly 'wobbly'. The touchpad works well with good mouse pointer tracking and the ability to customize specific touchpad uses to activate commands. However, the touchpad buttons feel somewhat indecisive and lacking in solid feedback. The power button has a circular clear part which indicates the notebooks power status by its color. A cool blue for regular operation or a fading amber for hibernation. Below the power button are the hard drive and CD operation indicator lights and a set of CD operation controls such as play, stop, forward and back. Volume buttons would have been better than the rotary style volume on the right of the case.

Key status such as Caps Lock is indicated with a light at the specific key, and long the front of the notebook are the AC, power and battery indicator lights. The left of the case features a multi-format memory card reader, an excellent convenience feature that is commended; PCMCIA card slot, IEEE port and CD/DVD drive.  The right features volume control, headphone and microphone port (the lack of built in microphone is disappointing), 1 USB2.0 port and the wireless on/off switch. The back features 2 additional USB2.0 ports, networking (10/100 Ethernet LAN) and modem (V.92/56K) jacks, parallel port, mouse port, power plug and heat vents.

Specification wise, the Toshiba A70 has a solid set of features. An Intel Pentium 4 2.8 processor keeps things rolling along at a decent pace; its 512MB DDR memory is perfect; 802.11b/g wireless built-in; dedicated ATI Radeon 9000 graphics; CD-RW/DVD-RAM drive, and the 40GB hard drive is not exactly generous, but certainly sufficient.

The widescreen 15.4" 1280x800 TFT active-matrix screen is simply a joy to work with, its bright, crisp, colorful and has an excellent viewing angle range. Its light distribution is uniform and the colors are rich and animated. Refresh rates were not a problem, nor was glare. The widescreen is also no gimmick. When using tools that require extra space for tool docks and other objects on the screen (example, graphics design software), that extra width is a great place to put it all so that it doesn't obstruct what you are doing. The graphics card is also able to handle pretty much anything you can throw at it within exception to demanding games and other high-end video applications. ATI drivers are great to have, highly customizable and allow you to set the amount of shared resources they use from 16mb (default is 64mb) to 128mb. Built-in CD-RW/DVD-RAM drive function well, with little noise (which is actually configurable with an included utility), and easy disc loading and removal. The wireless functionality worked well picking up local are wireless routers without difficulty and connecting to them with relative ease. Having the physical wireless on / off switch is a nice addition.

The built-in speakers were truly a severe disappointment. They are completely and utterly useless, only barely handling the absolute basic needs of using Windows. There is absolutely no music fidelity, volume, depth and quite frankly they sound distorted and totally underpowered for any real world use. For music listening or gaming it is pretty much a requirement to use external speakers or headphones. This is a shame because we have heard much better from lower cost notebooks.

The Toshiba A70 is available at most electronics retails and computer stores. The notebook retails at $1699CAD, but can usually be found with discounted pricing. It includes 1 year (back to the factory) warranty which is definitely nothing to sing about, 2 or 3 years would have been more reassuring, as well as on-site service.

Over prolonged use of the notebook, the Toshiba A70 was generally a comfortable computer to use. The incredible widescreen, fast processor and generous memory are certainly the Toshiba A70's strong points. You really do get quite a bit of bang for the buck. There are some small build quality points which would have been nice if Toshiba addressed, especially for a notebook in this price bracket. But overall it is certainly a competent notebook that overall fares well, if not favorably, when compared to some of its direct competitors.

PROS - Beautifully crisp and clear widescreen; dedicated ATI Radeon graphics; multi-format memory card reader convenience; generous memory and solid processor specification, built-in wireless.

CONS - Absolutely terrible built-in speakers; average keyboard and touchpad buttons; less than stellar hard drive performance and size; more USB2.0 ports would have been good; somewhat on the heavy side, limited warranty.

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.

info@viscaconsulting. com

http://www. viscaconsulting. com/

 

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Tech Review: FatCat ChargeCard

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Mobility has transformed the way we live and work. But our phones, PDAs, MP3 players, GPS receivers, and other mobile devices all share the same Achilles’ heel: batteries. If you’ve ever run out of juice in the middle of an important call, you know how frustrating it can be.

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Small Business Awards You Should Apply For

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Small businesses that are overcoming the odds and growing rapidly need to find creative ways to maintain their momentum. Since they usually don’t have big budgets for marketing campaigns, they should take advantage of free publicity whenever possible.

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Five Steps to Getting Free Publicity

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By Dianne Beiermann

Wednesday, January 5, 2005; 7:00pm EST

Learn the five key steps to getting free publicity for your internet site and products.

For many of us, the idea of getting free publicity can be a confusing and daunting task. So why do it? Because free publicity really works and if you are looking for ways to attract new customers to your internet business, free publicity is by far one of the best ways to do it. I am going to share with you five key steps to getting free publicity for your products. They go as follows:

1) Website Focus

Make sure your site is focused on a specific category of products. I cannot stress this enough. The editors will often check to see if your site features products that are in the same category as your product press release. This is one of the key ways you can get free publicity for your products. Because when you send out a press release on a new product, the editors will check your site to make sure that you offer similar products. Once they see that you offer a wide range of products in this same category, you will greatly improve your chances for getting free publicity for your products and website.

2) Target the right magazines for your products

I have talked to many people who are tempted to send out their press releases to every magazine available. I strongly advise against doing this. It is simply not effective and can even upset the editors when you send them information unrelated to their audience. It also reduces your chances of getting in the magazines if you are sending out press releases to every magazine category. The key is to stick with the most targeted magazines for your products and only email them with your product announcements.

3) Be consistent and patient while emailing the editors

It is very important to be consistent when you email the editors. Try to introduce a new product on a monthly to bi-monthly basis to the editors of the magazines. If you do it on a consistent basis before you know it, one of your products could be picked up in one of the magazines. It is also important to be patient with the process. You may not here anything for a few months and then all of a sudden you will find out that a magazine picked up your press release and is running it. On average it takes print magazines a month to three months to print your press release. For online magazines you could have your press release picked up within days or weeks. That is why it is important to target both.

4) Be prompt to an editor's request

Be prepared when the editors contact you. Many times an editor will want to contact you and ask some basic questions about your company. Another reason they might contact you would be to include your product in their next issue. When this happens the editor will ask you for a 300 dpi photo of your product to be e-mailed to them so they can put it in the magazine. Through the years of doing e-mail press releases, I have learned to contact my suppliers before I send out a press release and ask them for a 300 dpi photo. I keep the photo(s) on file in a computer file folder marked "editor's photos." They are easy to retrieve, and since I already requested the picture ahead of time, I can just retrieve it from my file and send it to the editor within minutes of the request.

5) Follow up with a thank you note whenever you receive free publicity

Whenever you receive free publicity send a thank you note to that editor to let them know how much you appreciate the write up. This is also a good opportunity to let them know how the ad is working for you. The editors love to hear about the success you are having with their magazine

About the Author

Dianne Beiermann is a results-driven internet marketer and online business owner. Dianne Beiermann is one of the leading experts in press release marketing for online businesses. Dianne specializes in assisting individuals and businesses with obtaining free publicity for their products and website. You can send an email to dianne@marketyourestore. com for information about her publicity services.

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US Trademark Law - Avoid Troubles

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By Larisa Thomason, NetMechanic, Inc.

Monday, March 08, 2004; 5:00pm EST

You're sure that you've covered every possible angle related to your online business. You carefully selected a good domain name, researched keyword phrases, and now you're kicking off an extensive pay per click (PPC) advertising campaign to quickly get the new site off the ground. But be wary: trademark troubles may be lurking just around the corner.

Copyright Versus Trademark

Although many people tend to regard the terms copyright and trademark as synonyms, they aren't - although they are related. Both copyright and trademark law exists to protect artists, writers, and businesses from unauthorized use of their property.

A copyright protects original expression in written and artistic works. Copyright law protects plays, films, books, software, and Web site copy. Our November 2002 Webmaster Tip discusses copyright law in more detail and explains how it relates to your Web site.

A trademark protects names, company and product logos, slogans, color combinations, and product design and packaging. A trademark is used to identify the source of goods and services. An individual or company must use the trademark in commerce.

Note the difference: the copyright belongs to the person who created the work, while the trademark belongs to the person (or business) who creates and markets a product.

As with copyright law, it's not necessary to formally register a trademark to have the right to use it, but it's really a good idea to do so. Under trademark law, a trademark owner can exercise his rights in two ways: use the trademark to identify his goods or services and/or authorize others to also use the trademark.

It's probably easier to understand in terms of brand names and authorized dealers. The Chevrolet division of General Motors owns the trademarked Chevrolet logo and allows its authorized Chevrolet dealers to display that logo on their signs and promotional merchandise. However, a used car dealer with no relationship to General Motors wouldn't be allowed to display the Chevrolet logo without express authorization from the company.

Trademarks seem pretty straightforward, but plenty of online businesses are having problems.

Domain Names And Trademark Law

In the United States, a domain name is viewed as a piece of property that can be sued. The basis for this situation is a law passed by Congress in 1999 called the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999 (ACPA).

We tend to think of cybersquatting in pretty direct terms: buying McDonalds. tv or Microsoft. net in hopes of making a huge profit when the companies in question buy the rights to those domain names. However, some companies refuse to play that game and file complaints even if the domain name owner has been using the name for his or her own business, isn't a competitor, and has no interest in selling the name at a profit.

Trademark holders got another boost from the Internet Commission on Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) when ICANN introduced a process for handling domain name disputes. Called the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Process (UDRP), it was established as a way to handle domain disputes without lawsuits.

In order to win under the UDRP, a trademark holder must prove three points:

The domain name is identical or could be easily confused with its trademark.

The domain holder has no legitimate interest in the domain

The domain was registered and is being used in bad faith.

During its first year, over 1000 disputes were settled through the UDRP and the trademark holder won 76% of those cases.

That large percentage troubles many critics who charge that the process is rigged against small businesses and individuals. They point to several high-profile decisions like these:

The clothing company J. Crew successfully gained control of the domain name crew. com from its owner because of the possible confusion between the two names.

Hanna Barbara, owner of the Scooby Doo cartoon trademark shut down a fan site - scoobydoo. co. uk - even though the site linked to the "official" Scooby Doo site operated by Hanna Barbara

Naturally, you should always research the history a prospective domain name before you buy. These types of laws and regulations make it really important to research the name itself as well! Otherwise, you could find the name yanked away by a trademark holder just as your search engine marketing campaign finally begins to pay off.

Research And Register Your Trademark

Unfortunately, researching a trademark isn't easy because - unlike other countries - trademarks don't have to be registered in the United States. There are a number of separate registries in the US:

Each state maintains a registry for trademarks that will only be used locally.

The US Patent and Trademark Office maintains a central registry for companies who provide their goods and services nationwide. Access that registry online at: USPTO. com

But remember, even if you don't find the trademark registered anywhere, someone may still be using it locally. That's generally not a problem. Two businesses can use the same trademark as long as one isn't using it in an effort to confuse consumers.

For instance, the Alamo rental car company owns the domain name Alamo. com. At the same time, San Antonio, TX is the site of the Alamo US historic site and many San Antonio businesses have the word Alamo in their names. But this is ok because someone needing to rent a car isn't likely to call Alamo Pet Sitting by mistake.

This "mistaken identity" problem is as the heart of many trademark disputes. For instance, in the mid 1990's, the Nissan Computer company registered the domain name "Nissan. com." Although the Nissan Motor company later complained, they didn't really have a case under trademark law until the Nissan. com Web site began to carry automotive-related advertising.

Once you've researched the trademark, you're ready to register it. Although it isn't strictly necessary, registration does give you far more rights under the law than you would have otherwise. It's particularly important because the first person or company to register a trademark is automatically assumed to be the owner. You'd spend a lot of time and money proving otherwise if your competitor beat you to the paperwork!

In the US, file your application with the Patent and Trademark Office and state your intention to use the trademark. In other countries, you usually have to formally register a trademark for it to be valid.

The paperwork is simple and you get added protection for your online business.

About Source of Article The author of this article is Larisa Thomason, Senior Web Analyst with NetMechanic, Inc. NetMechanic is an online service specializing in html code checking, search engine optimization and web site maintenance and promotion. For more information visit http://www. netmechanic. com/.

 

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5 Ways to Benefit from Bootstrapping

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You-ve got the beginnings of what could be a beautiful product, and are anxious to introduce your idea to the market. There-s just one hangup: funding. Or more precisely, the lack thereof.

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Turning Words Into Traffic

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By Adam Buhler

Friday, November 7, 2003; 1:00pm EST

A large portion of your business relies on your ability to deliver quality information to your visitors. Trashy websites built entirely of low-response sales letters are all too common. Your visitors and mailing list subscribers rely on you for something more...

Build a lasting relationship by offering quality information while keeping them informed of products that will improve their business and not just deflate their bank account! One WAY-under used technique to increase traffic AND deliver informative content is to write articles.

It doesn't matter what business you're in, someone is interested in the services you provide. Posting articles to your website is a good idea because it adds content for the search engines, and when your visitors publish your articles to their ezine or on their site with your resource box attached, it's a free advertisement for you!

A BIG part of my business comes from articles I publish to other ezines and newsletters. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out how much traffic I was missing out on by not using these methods.

This is a great way to bring in some extra traffic but, you can take this concept further still by publishing your articles to the internet through ezine directories and groups such as, Yahoo or Topica Groups. Try running a Google search on 'ezine directories', then visiting the first 20 sites and bookmarking their article submission page for fast submissions in the future.

Be sure to make the subject line 'eye-catching' or you'll end up in the recycle bin without even being read! Submit EACH article page to the major search engines, target niche keywords using a database service, Wordtracker offers a free trial, although you'll have access to more keywords by using their paid version.

These are just a few examples of the benefits of producing quality articles, getting published in the right places can bring targeted traffic for days, weeks, and even months to come. So... Get writing!

About Source of Article Adam Buhler is the owner of Affiliate Programs Directory: http://www. smokesoft. net/ Adam is the author of the weekly newsletter "Affiliate Secrets". He is offering a free trial copy of the BIBLE of selling on the net, "Make Your Site SELL!" For a limited time to anyone who subscribes at: http://www. smokesoft. net/newsletter. html

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The Power of Confidence

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By Kelley Robertson

Thursday, June 09, 2005; 6:30pm EST

My experience has taught me that people want to buy from sales people who are confident in their abilities. Taking control of the circumstances and situations around you will develop your self-confidence. When you consider the amount of rejection that many sales people encounter, the fact that many salespeople lack self-confidence is not surprising. Top performing people in any industry typically possess a high level of self-confidence. They may not necessarily possess this confidence all their lives.

I have not always have a lot of self-confidence. Outwardly I was Mr. Confident while on the inside I seriously doubted my abilities. I had to wrestle with my own mental baggage for years before I became internally confident. Learning to deal with this begins with letting go of your personal baggage.

Mental baggage is a collection of all the situations we have experienced or encountered during our lifetimes. We carry all this baggage around in our heads and draw from it when appropriate situations present themselves. Perhaps you tried to join a school sports team when you were a child. Your athletic abilities in that particular sport were average; for that reason you were unable to make the team. You filed away this experience in your subconscious until a similar situation to it came along. You immediately recalled the previous performance and outcome, and told yourself that you were not capable of successfully meeting the current challenge. Consequently, you did not make the effort required to meet it.

We all carry around this mental baggage. It influences us in everything we do, both in our business and personal lives. How it affects us when we sell is very simple. Mental baggage may consist of customers who have been rude, abrupt, or angry toward you. Baggage can include situations from earlier in our work careers or even from our childhoods.

As time progresses, this mental baggage weighs heavier and heavier. Yet we continue to drag it around with us into every sales situation. Over time our attitude turns sour, we become pessimistic and jaded, and we get frustrated with challenging customers and prospects. Our productivity drops, our performance slides, and our job security may even be threatened. We become increasingly bitter toward our chosen occupation, the customers we serve, and life in general. Our mental baggage is a weight on our shoulders.

How do we prevent this from happening?

First, carrying around mental baggage is a natural part of being a human being. It is the way we view and deal with our baggage that makes the real difference in our lives. If we look at each experience and consider how we can learn from it, our baggage will have less hold over us. I recall the first paid keynote presentation I gave. I was well prepared, but not in the appropriate manner. The room was an awkward shape and the stage was positioned quite high, something I had never dealt with previously. I was uncomfortable during my presentation and I knew my delivery was affected. Instead of focusing on this after my session, I chose to concentrate on what I learned from the experience.

When you encounter a sales situation that does not turn out favorably, rather than focus on the negatives and beating yourself up over it, ask yourself three questions:

What did I do well?

What did I miss or forget to do?

What will I do differently if faced with a similar situation in the future?

These three questions will help you learn and grow from each situation and will help improve your future results. Plus, by first focusing on the positive aspects of the sales interaction, you will give yourself a mental boost.

You must also recognize that some of our baggage is outdated. We may be relying on information that is several years old. This happened to me at the beginning of my career.

When I was twenty-three I was working for a restaurant chain as an assistant manager. I was promoted to general manager and lasted less than a year before I was demoted back to an assistant manager. I had proved unable to perform to the company's expectations. I ended up leaving the company shortly afterwards. For five years I hesitated any time an opportunity for a promotion presented itself; I had not been sure I could do it. Finally it dawned on me exactly what I had learned from that experience. I was not the only person responsible for that particular failure, and my leadership and managerial skills had developed since then. Nevertheless, it took me five years to realize it!

Let go of your mental baggage and work on developing your personal confidence. Pay attention to your successes and use these to help you improve your results.

About the Author

? 2005 Kelley Robertson, All rights reserved

Kelley Robertson, President of the Robertson Training Group, works with businesses to help them increase their sales and motivate their employees. He is also the author of ?Stop, Ask & Listen ? Proven Sales Techniques to Turn Browsers Into Buyers.? Receive a FREE copy of ?100 Ways to Increase Your Sales? by subscribing to his free sales and motivational newsletter available at www. kelleyrobertson. com. Contact him at 905-633-7750 or Kelley@RobertsonTrainingGroup. com

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5 Ways to Avoid -Death by Meeting-

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It may not always seem like meetings serve a purpose, but they do. When handled correctly, meetings can clarify objectives, boost morale, save time, and generate plans of action. The problem is, far too many meetings achieve the opposite. They waste time, bore everyone in the room, and suck the life out of the workday.

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Cut Costs to Increase Profit

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By Dr. Robert Sullivan, World Wide Information Outlet

Friday, May 7, 2004; 12:00pm EST

What do you think is easier to do... reduce your expenses by 2% or double your sales? I think most would agree that reducing expenses might be easier. Why, then, do most business owners spend little time on attempting to reduce expenses? Consider this: Your current profit margin is 2% - if you reduce costs by 2% your profits double! Of course, you can do the same thing by merely DOUBLING your sales! Right.

It is amazingly simple to reduce operating costs by a few percent by being diligent. This article will provide you with a listing of some of the specific ways in which operating costs may be reduced. You may find that you can reduce spending considerably by observing only a few of the suggestions. And remember, the small stuff adds up! Think about saving each time you spend and you will discover your own ways to save.

GENERAL GUIDELINES

    Comparison-shop for everything.

    Negotiate whenever possible. Ask! You will be surprised at how frequently a vendor will negotiate a price. Attempt to negotiate EVERY purchase.

    Utilize mail order. It's quick and frequently the best prices are available via catalog sales.

    Use the Internet to research a purchase. Nearly every vendor has a website containing product, pricing, and ordering information. This can be a tremendous time saver. Also, your research may lead you to a less expensive alternate.

TRAVEL

    Save and monitor your frequent flyer miles. Use them whenever possible. Also require your employees to return miles earned on company business back to the company.

    Consider a travel club. Many provide discounts that you cannot obtain as an individual.

    Try to combine travel, hotel, and automobile rental into a single package. This can frequently save you money.

LEGAL

    Before you decide to pursue a legal course of action, consider the chances of being sued in return! This might result in greater costs than you would receive from your initial action.

    Consider arbitration or mediation as an alternate course of action to resolve a legal problem. This can produce quicker results at less cost.

    Get your attorney involved early in any possible crisis.

UTILITIES

    Monitor energy usage. Utilize auto-setback thermostats and auto-off light switches.

    Have an energy audit performed by your local utility company. Their suggestions can save you considerable expense over time.

    Ensure all employees are "energy aware." Start a contest and give a prize to the employee who provides the best suggestion for saving energy.

SHIPPING & MAILING

    Educate yourself about the various postal rates. Visit the USPS website at http://www. usps. gov/ for complete descriptions of mailing options and rates.

    If you use a postage meter, ensure authorized personnel lock it when not in use. Note that the Post Office will refund any machine imprints that were not used.

    Plan your shipping or mailings to avoid overnight or second day delivery that is MUCH more expensive than alternate methods. If you must ship overnight check the various carriers as well as the post office for the best rates.

    When providing customers with literature (sales, technical, other printed information), use e-mail or FAX if possible.

INSURANCE

    Ensure your company (or personal) vehicles are classified properly for maximum savings.

    Review your various coverage's to ensure you are not "double insuring."

    Do an annual insurance review to make certain you have coverage you need but are not carrying something unnecessary.

    Have an effective safety program! Just ONE workplace accident can send your insurance rates skyrocketing.

    Make certain that all employees are classified properly for workers' compensation insurance. Rates vary widely.

    Shop for all your insurance needs and periodically ask for competitive bids.

MISCELLANEOUS

    Monitor office supplies. My guess is that at any moment you have twice what you need!

    Purchase office supplies from discount suppliers. Shop by mail.

    There are numerous discount mail order suppliers. Get on their mailing lists so that you are aware of their sale items.

    In general, extended equipment warranties are not worth the cost.

    Monitor telephone usage. Shop carefully for your long distance and/or 800 number suppliers. Prices vary widely as do the various fees.

About Source of Article Robert Sullivan is the author of The Small Business Start-Up Guide, and United States Government - New Customer!. He frequently lectures on starting small businesses and appears on CNBC's "Minding Your Business" as a small business expert. His books may be ordered toll-free by calling 1 800 375 8439.

Robert also developed and maintains an extensive award-winning Internet website, "The Small Business Advisor," at http://www. isquare. com/.

 

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Good Customer Service - Worth Its Weight in Gold

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By Tameka Sowder, World Wide Information Outlet

Friday, May 7, 2004; 12:00pm EST

How would you react if you contacted a company with a complaint you feel is valid and you received no answer? Or you finally get a representative on the phone and they lead you to believe that your complaint is of no importance? At this point you probably feel worse than when you made the initial complaint!

I worked as a customer service representative for almost 9 years for a local utility company. The most important thing I learned is to be nice. Be friendly, listen and offer solutions. If you own a business whether it is on the Internet or not, it will cost you thousands of dollars if you are not friendly.

Did you know the average person tells 12 people that they have been slighted or how aggravated they are about a company that has not responded to their complaint? By the time those 12 tell others, your name has been greatly blemished!

How important is your name to you? How serious are you about your business? If you have a customer complain about your business, do you take it personal?

I wrote an Internet company last week and asked them a question about their service I am using. I received no answer, not a single word! I am their customer and I received no answer! At this point I begin to doubt their credibility.

Did I tell anyone? Of course! I was agitated and told several friends about my experience. I didn't do this to get back at the company but instead to tell about my mishap. I needed to be heard! Do you want people telling their friends not to buy your product because you won't support them once they do?

Recently I went into a saddle store to see about getting a specific item. The OWNER acted as if he didn't want to help me. Offered solutions that sounded more like 'quick fixes', was grouchy and spoke in a way that belittled my intelligence and still never solved my problem.

Will I buy from him? Probably not. I still have a negative view of him and his store whenever I think about it. The worst part is he is the OWNER!

If he had talked with me about the problem, offered information and several solutions in a friendly and professional manner, I would have at least left with contentment and satisfaction.

If you give a positive image every time you are contacted, you will give yourself and your business credibility. Your contacts will become customers and your customers will buy from you over and over again.

Bad customer service is a very costly practice. It will cost you many sales not to mention your credibility.

I recently solved a problem for someone and by the end of our correspondence he said he would definitely do business with me in the future. His experience was positive and he walked away feeling satisfied.

Practice good customer service and you will see your business build and grow for the long term!

About Source of Article Tameka Sowder is the publisher of Promotion Toolkit Post, a FREE monthly ezine strictly about promotion! To subscribe or to get your site submitted to over 700 places for FREE visit http://www. promotiontoolkit. com/.

 

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Greening Your Office Printing and Copying

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Printing and copying can account for significant amounts of office waste. Reducing your use of paper and ink can help you to lower the overhead costs for your company — and make your business practices more sustainable. Here’s how.

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Making Sure Affiliate Programs Pay For Sales

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By John Lynch

Wednesday, October 27, 2004; 2:00pm EST

When joining affiliate programs there are many decisions you have to make. Unfortunately, few people query what kind of tracking software the program uses. To overlook this can prove costly, and means you may never be credited with 5% - 10% of your affiliate sales.

A good affiliate program will use quality affiliate tracking software that is reliable and tracks all of your sales. You must make sure that they not only track online sales, but also sales by phone, fax and mail order. Many companies only track online, and this means you will lose between 5% - 10% of your sales.

Also, make sure that the affiliate program uses 'cookie tracking' software to ensure that you will be credited for sales from people who don't buy the first time they visit your website, but come back and buy at a later date.

For those of you who don't know what a 'cookie' is. A cookie is a small piece of information that a web site puts on your hard drive so that it will remember you when you return later. This is how cookies can be used to track visitors to a web site. In this way the affiliate program will be able to track all the sales from your site, even though the visitor did not buy on the first visit to the web site.

Many affiliate programs use software that only tracks about 80% of your sales. It has to be said that many of the popular affiliate companies are guilty of this. So beware big names! Some companies use tracking software that only pays if the customer visits your link and buys straight away. If the visitor returns to your site an hour later... a day later... week later... and buys, you will not be credited for the sale. Good 'cookie tracking' software ensures that this never happens.

So, before you join any affiliate scheme make sure to ask about the kind of tracking software they use. It could save you a small fortune in the long term.

Resource Box

? 2003 by John Lynch. For information on reputable affiliate programs that convert to sales go to: http://www. merchant-account-service. com/affiliate_programs. html

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CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3. Complete graphics editing and designing application suite

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By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Wednesday, July 18, 2007; 4:00pm EST

Corel has long been a leader in the graphics suite market, and their latest release, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 is sure to solidify their position at the top. X3 continues the tradition of the pervious releases by building on the solid foundation of an application suite used by millions over the years. This release features not only refinements, but all-new time saving features and changes to help expedite designer's production timelines.

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 comes complete with CorelDRAW X3 the vector based illustration program; PowerTrace (which is now incorporated into CorelDRAW for ease of use) for bitmap to vector conversion; Photo-Paint X3 for bitmap editing and production; 1,000 fonts and fonts manager; 10,000 clipart images; and 1 hour of training videos from Linda. A copy of Bitstream Font Navigator is included to assist in loading the included fonts to your workstation.

Corel claims more than 40 new features and over 400 enhancements to this version of CorelDRAW and one way to get to know these new features is by their nifty "Highlight What's New" option. Every program should have this, it allows you to select a previous version of the program ? and then it will highlight all the menu items in the drop downs that did not exist in that version, compared to X3. Making it easy for you to see the new things you can take advantage of.

One area of definite improvement is in application performance. Load times are faster than previous versions, and especially faster than its competition - which seems to get slower and slower with every new release. The program feels more responsive and tasks are performed generally much quicker than before.

CorelDRAW X3 from an interface point of view is similar to Version 12, the previous version. We truly liked how some of the tools and new labs incorporated numerous ways you could view originals and compare them to the adjustments being made within that tool. This includes live image adjusting; side-by-side original and adjusted image editing; snapshots of various adjustment versions; scaling of the images and more. It is clear the developers thought through carefully what designers needed to make their life easier, and implemented it! Our hats off to you!

We are particularly impressed with the new Cutout Lab and Image Adjustment Lab. The Cutout Lab uses a lite version of the powerful Corel KnockOut engine to allow for expedited cutting of intricate detail and difficult to cut images. A classic example of this is trying to cut a person's head from a background? Usually cutting hair from a detailed background is a nightmare, but with the new Cutout Lab it's a snap! Similarly, the Image Adjustment lab takes the work out of making common image adjustments such as tint, saturation and brightness by bringing all these tools into one single space workspace so you can adjust in combination and compare against the original in the numerous ways discussed earlier. One feature we would like to see added in future versions is the retention of original bitmaps so that objects can be rescaled without loss of image quality.

Font handling has been improved to display font names in their style for easier browsing of your font library. It also provides drop downs to display available font style variations such as bolded or italicized and displays the font with those properties. Another innovation is the ability to fit text to path in CorelDRAW; it is truly the most intuitive implementation of this type of feature we have ever used. Unfortunately Corel Photo-Paint did not get the same treatment and still depends on an older method of fitting text to paths. Having more control over such things as font sharpness would have been another nice addition.

In addition to its already incredible array of file formats CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 can import and export, it now supports secure PDF exporting; perfect for distribution of paid or confidential content. Increased compatibility has also been added for Adobe Illustrator, PhotoShop, Corel Paint Shop Pro, Microsoft Office and JPEG. Additionally, the newly included Pixmantec RawShooter helps to streamline RAW file conversion.

If you are new to the CorelDRAW suite, you're in very good hands. Comprehensive in-program Help Topics; Tutorials; a new context sensitive Hints feature; an Insights from the Experts section; over 100 design templates to help you get started; a paper copy of the CorelDRAW Handbook, and even training videos. It just doesn't get much better then that in terms of helping users get acquainted with a program.

We did encounter a small number of minor bugs, such as sliders that sometimes were difficult to adjust to exact numbers, "dials" that would sometimes not rotate properly to adjust beveling, and some text drop shadow issues that caused distortions unless you reposition the text. The application sometimes hesitated when loading some image files or when displaying your font library for the first time after loading. While all these are minor, they will hopefully be addressed in a future patch or service pack. New effects and textures would have also been nice to see; many of the effects and paint textures are several versions old and their dated look would not be practical for use in modern business or web applications.

Overall, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 really does offer a tremendous amount of graphics power, offering a complete solution for all of your image needs. We liked the thoughtfulness that went into many of the new enhancements, and would definitely say this is more of a major upgrade than just an incremental upgrade.

System requirements include a Windows Vista, XP (with service pack 2) or 2000 based system with a minimum of a Pentium 3 1.4GHz processor, 256MB of memory, and 60MB of available hard drive space. The application ran incredibly smoothly on our test box (Pentium 4 3.6GHz, 1GB memory, ATI X800 running at 1920x1200 resolution). This product utilizes a product-key copy protection system which communicates with a centralized server for activation of your license.

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 is available from major electronics and computer retailers, as well as from the Corel web site as a shippable product or immediate download. The full product retails for a very reasonable $399USD, $179 for the upgrade, and $99 for the academic license. Check for often promotions that include bundled add-in software for free when purchasing from their web site. Product support includes unlimited web-based support and one courtesy telephone support incident. Additional priority support incidents can be purchased for $25 each. The Corel web site offers patches and service packs as downloads, comprehensive knowledge base and discussion forum. This product is available immediately.

PROS - Optimized faster performance; cut-out lab speeds up cut out work tremendously; image adjustment lab brings together commonly used image adjustment tools for easy editing; great enhancements for comparing image adjustments such as adjustment versioning and side-by-side comparing; incredible assortment of help options; complete all-in-one graphics solution at a very reasonable price.

CONS - Small handful of minor bugs; would have liked new realistic textures and effects; lacks ability to better define font sharpness; ability to scale bitmaps while retaining detail would have been nice.

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.

info@viscaconsulting. com

http://www. viscaconsulting. com/

 

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