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How to Choose an Effective Domain Name for Your Small Business

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The selection of a domain name for your company-s website - a process that can be more taxing than trying to name your company - is one of the most important decisions you will make with regard to the full scope of your online marketing strategy. In the absence of a domain name that-s simple, memorable, and pertinent to your business or your customers, the full potential of your website - and possibly even your business - may never be realized.

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City Government and Small Business: An Award-Winning Combo in Austin

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Small businesses don-t often feel like they get much support from government. That-s not the case in Austin. In fact, Harvard University gave the city a prestigious award for its above-and-beyond efforts to help small businesses out during a tough economy. Last October, Harvard-s Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation gave one of its inaugural -Bright Ideas Program- awards to Austin-s -Meet the Lender- program, a free business fair held every summer to match small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with local, small business-friendly lenders in order to get commercial loans. The seventh annual -Meet the Lender- fair, held last August, drew more than 700 attendees.

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New ways to get started on QuickBooks

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In our ongoing effort to help you save time and get up and running on QuickBooks quickly, we have made some changes to the QuickBooks registration process based on your feedback and input.

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10 Free Tools For Marketing Your Business Online

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There are hundreds of free tools that you can use to market your business online, but the trick can be figuring out where to start and which tools to use first. When it comes to leveraging the power of the social web to build your brand and business, at the very least you need a Facebook profile and page, Twitter profile, and LinkedIn profile and company page. But moving beyond the basics, here are ten free tools that can help you take the next step in implementing your social media and content marketing plans.

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Where to Find Good Freelance Assistance for Your Business

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It’s always a little risky handing important tasks over to people outside of your company. But if you have a one-time need for help with graphic design or an email newsletter that your employees can’t handle, it’s time to call on freelance assistance. So where can you find qualified and experienced help at a reasonable price? Here are a few options.

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Everything You Need to Process Credit Cards on Your iPhone

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You can now go to your local Apple Retail Store and get everything you need to quickly and easily process credit cards on your iPhone. That’s because yesterday we announced the Complete Credit Card Solution, which is available starting this week in Apple Retail Stores and soon on Apple. com. It’s a joint product between Intuit and mophie, a company well-known for its iPhone accessories such as the juice pack rechargeable battery case.

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Catch the QR Code Wave to Upgrade Your Marketing

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QR (Quick Response) codes, in case you haven’t heard the term, are square, matrix-style bar codes that can be read by smartphones and instantly linked to web pages, contact information, images, or anything else online. They are free to create.

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F. A.C. E.: 4 Tips for Remembering Customers- Names

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Remembering customers’ names may feel like a daunting task, but it can have a big impact on retention. Benjamin Levy, author of Remember Every Name Every Time, points to a dry cleaner in Westport, Conn., that is legendary for remembering people’s names from the moment they walk in the door. -They-ve been in business for 30 years,- Levy says. -No one would think about going anywhere else.-

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In the Trenches: Executing the Switch

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In my last column, I wrote about how we recovered from a web and email outage. The recovery was relatively easy, but my faith in my web host, Bluehost, was shot. Way back in February, I mentioned that I was looking for a new host. After this incident, I finally pulled the trigger.

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Kitchen Retailer Survives Downturn by Closing 3 Days a Week

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Snowy weather and the recession nearly forced 30-year-old retailer Kitchen Kaboodle of Portland, Ore., into bankruptcy in 2009. But the five-store chain reinvented itself in a move many people thought was crazy: It closed its doors three days per week rather than shutting them permanently.

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Online Music - May Drown Your Message?

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By Larisa Thomason, NetMechanic, Inc.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004; 3:30pm EST

Online Music by itself isn't controversial: virtually everyone likes to hear or perform it. But they like to choose when, where, and what to listen to. A Web site is rarely the ideal presentation method. Visitors may just tune out if music is turned on.

MIDI Makes It Possible

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a method for storing music in a small amount of space. That space-saving feature tempted many webmasters to include MIDI files on their sites. During the mid to late-1990's, it seemed that virtually every Web site had a song to sing - and sing they did.

What was once cool soon fell out of favor. But now, visitors are experiencing the return of music to Web sites, this time combined with Flash animations and other interactive media. Designers also have the option of including music in different formats too: WAV files or MP3s are the most common.

It's also possible to convert WAV files to MP3 format or convert MP3 format into WAV files.

Problems With Music

Not everyone is pleased with music's resurging popularity on Web sites. The reasons vary, so consider each issue carefully for the good of your Web site.

    Increased download time. Remember that not everyone has a high-bandwidth Internet connection. An MP3 song file that loads in 14 seconds over a T1 line will take 10 minutes or longer to download on a 56k connection. How much patience do your visitors have? Check page download time using HTML Toolbox's Load Time Check tool. It will alert you to slow-loading pages that may annoy impatient visitors.

    Broken record effect. In a laudable effort to decrease music file size, many designers play just a snippet of a song instead of the entire work. So if visitors remain at your page for long, they hear the same section played over and over. If you're old enough to remember vinyl records, you'll flashback to a time when your favorite LP got a scratch and stereo repeated the same few bars until you intervened - sometimes forcefully. Web site visitors "intervene" by leaving your site, vowing never to return.

    High bandwidth usage. Of course, you can't compensate for the broken record effect by using a larger musical selection. That annoys visitors with long download time. Just as important, it may really annoy your Web host! Most virtual hosting accounts include a set amount of bandwidth per month. Sites that exceed the limit get charged extra hosting fees and may be taken down.

    Music tastes differ. Don't ignore the importance of this one! You may think it's the best tune around, but visitors may consider it about as appealing as the sound of a good, rousing cat fight. There's no way to please everybody. Choose your selection carefully and know your target audience!

    Copyright infringement. Unless you wrote and recorded the music yourself, you need to be very careful about including it on your site. Using music without permission hurts the artist who produced it and may violate your Web host's terms of service.

    If caught, the best resolution is that you'll have to remove the music. But you could lose your hosting account or even end up in court for violating someone's copyright.

Your Site May Need Music

Still interested in playing music on your site? Good! Some sites actually need it and benefit from it.

    When you're selling music. Visitors expect to be able to sample the product before they buy. Most online music sites allow shoppers to listen to snippets of songs before they decide to purchase. People know they'll have to wait for the clips to download, so size isn't such a big issue.

    When you're selling your talent. If you're a professional musician or singer looking for work, you should always showcase your talents with musical clips - just make sure you're actually the one performing! That way, when people contact you, you know they're seriously interested because they understand what you have to offer.

Give Visitors A Choice

Even if your site requires music, be kind to your visitors and don't play it automatically when the page loads. Let them choose when to listen.

People surfing while on the job will be particularly grateful. Lots of people work in cubicles where privacy is non-existent. Sites that open with blaring music annoy co-workers and may get the hapless employee in trouble. Other visitors may already be listening to an audio CD on their computer. They won't enjoy the resulting cacophony when your tunes compete with their personal selection.

Include prominent buttons that clearly indicate how to turn music on and off. That gives your visitors control over their own experience at your site. They'll appreciate it and you won't waste precious bandwidth just to irritate your visitors.

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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3 Key Strategies for Building Client Relationships

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It’s always great to hear from satisfied customers, but when someone isn’t happy with your product or service, the news can be difficult to bear. Yet listening to complaints and making a solid effort to address them goes right to your bottom line, says Meghan Ely, president of OFD Consulting in Richmond, Va. “It’s much easier to keep clients than to find new ones,” notes Ely, who runs her wedding marketing and public relations firm mostly on referrals (and nearly no advertising).

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Top 5 Super Affiliate Tips

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By Home Mike Merz

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

It's a known fact that establishing a USP (unique selling proposition) is an essential part of any business plan...

But what about your affiliate marketing campaigns?

What makes your promotions unique from the hundreds... or even thousands of other affiliates pushing the same merchant's products and services?

Well... nothing, if all you do is cut and paste the same merchant provided ad copy as everyone else, or just toss a bunch of links, banners, and buttons on your site.

What you must do is make yourself stand out... grab the interest of your prospect, and qualify your offering to meet their needs.

Here's 5 quick tips to get the most out of your affiliate promotions.

1) Learn all about the product/service you're promoting.

The more you know about your promotions, the more credible your promotional content. If you don't own the product, do your best to scour the merchant's site for info that you feel best explains the benefits of it, which leads to number...

2) Write your own ad copy.

It's the credibility factor again... you're selling yourself, establishing the bond between you and the prospect, in an effort to win their trust and interest. If you do own the product, or have access to it by permission of the merchant, write a detailed review. You can even use yourself as a case study to provide an eye witness account of the satisfaction potentially derived from using it. If not... and in addition to your own accounts, list the testimonials of others.

3) Establish a line of communication with the merchant.

You might have to settle for the affiliate program manager, or a related department, but the idea is to try to acquire anything you can, above and beyond what is offered to regular affiliates, that will help you gain a promotional edge. Branded articles, ebooks, special offers, free trials, etc. You might even be able to gain access to the product or service you're promoting if you explain that you'd like to review it for promotional purposes (it can't hurt to ask..;)

4) Build a sub list of targeted prospects.

Would you believe that I, personally, have built campaign designated email lists of less than 100 members, that have actually accounted for more sales than my main list... that goes out to thousands of subscribers? Why? Laser targeting, my friend. Offer a campaign related update, course, report, or other form of freebie to attract them. In addition, you'll now have a ready made list for future promotions made by the affiliate merchant.

5) Search engine optimize your promotional pages.

... for keywords and phrases relevant to your offerings, and run pay per click campaigns targeting the same and comparable terms. The search engines shouldn't, by any means, be your sole source of promotion (email, forum, offline marketing... to name just a few methods) but they could potentially play an important part. I recommend investing in a course like Brad Fallon and Andy Jenkin's 'Stomping The Search Engines' , which covers both SEO and PPC pretty extensively... and effectively.

Work these 5 tips into your affiliate program promotions, and I'm sure you'll enjoy success.

Sidenote:

If you're participating in a multiple tier affiliate program, and you have access to your downline referrals, make sure you take the time to train them to succeed. Remember... their success is YOUR success!

About the Author

Mike Merz is the owner/webmaster of Internet Marketing For Newbies LLC, publisher of The IM4Newbies Update, administrator of The IM4Newbies Internet Marketing Forum, and has had articles published on many of the internet's most popular sites, his main focus being Internet Marketing start up consultation, specializing in affiliate program related campaigns. Mr. Merz retired the #1 rated Internet Marketing expert of now defunct AskMe. com, and is a featured contributor for DEMC E-Magizine.

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CouchSurfing CEO Daniel Hoffer on Become a B Corporation

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CouchSurfing. org is a Silicon Valley enterprise that values the term “good” more than “growth.” For seven years, the nonprofit organization turned away venture-capital investment offers, preferring to remain independent and focused on its community of users. After its 2011 application for 501(c)(3) status was denied, however, CouchSurfing made the decision to go corporate. In August, officials announced a $7.6 million round of funding and the group’s transition from a nonprofit to a B Corporation.

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Leverage Strengths for Peak Performance

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By Dr. Robert Karlsberg and Dr. Jane Adler

Friday, March 11, 2005; 4:00pm EST

Ask almost any business leader how to most effectively develop people and build teamwork and you?ll hear, ?tap into employees? strengths.? Yet when it comes to their own careers, many managers still focus the majority of their personal development efforts on shoring up areas of weakness.

Sometimes this is due to well meaning critiques by superiors. Other times managers moving up the career ladder try to emulate those who have gone before.

While all managers need to hone their communication and people skills, learning these skills and adding knowledge is simple. Recognizing, developing and deliberately leveraging ones own strengths is more difficult.

Many programs are available to help the ambitious manager improve performance, but a review of typical business practices points to a common fallacy. Whether in individual development plans, performance reviews or 360 evaluations, efforts to help people change for the better often focus more on weaknesses than on strengths.

From our earliest years we are programmed to believe that our greatest potential for growth is in our areas of greatest deficiency. Think about it. If your child received an A in English and a C in Math, where would you focus most of your attention?

This is not necessarily wrong. In fact, everyone can and must develop a basic competency in multiple important areas. The problem is that this philosophy can perpetuate the focus on weakness long after basic competency has been achieved.

Social psychologists have found that focusing on strengths leads to higher performance, greater productivity and increased satisfaction. In fact, honing your abilities to their greatest potential can essentially make your weaknesses irrelevant.

Today?s business environment offers many more opportunities for advancement than ever before. But to take advantage of these opportunities, you need to recognize your areas of greatest competency, work to develop those to their fullest potential, then match your strengths to the right challenge and the right role.

To maximize your effectiveness, follow the example of high performing organizations. The most successful companies identify their core competencies, then work to develop those in order to maximize their potential. Functions that the organization performs less well are outsourced, markets that don?t fit core competencies are abandoned and divisions that don?t add to the company?s strengths or advance its purpose are sold or spun off.

Attaining the next level of performance involves identifying and enhancing your core competencies -- your strengths -- rather than attempting to remedy every weakness. Delegate every possible activity that doesn?t fit your strengths, and only attend to areas of weakness that stand in the way of doing what you do best.

First Determine Your Strengths

While it seems that most of us should be aware of our strengths, we often confuse strengths ? what we do well - with traits (our personality characteristics) or work habits (the conditions under which we perform). Many of us also take our strengths for granted. In doing what seems absolutely natural and logical to us, we fail to recognize that we are actually creating outcomes far superior to what others might have expected.

Harvard psychologist and pioneer of Multiple Intelligence theory, Dr. Howard Gardner, points out that people have many more areas of intelligence ? or capacities to produce useful outcomes ? than previously realized. Where traditional I. Q. testing measures linguistic and mathematical ability, we now know that other abilities such as interpersonal intelligence ? the ability to understand and relate well to others ? and spatial intelligence ? the capacity to create or plan in multiple dimensions - can have a significant value.

So how do you determine your greatest strengths?

One way is to examine your own past and present performance and try to discern a pattern of successful behavior. What comes easily to you that might be more difficult for others ? negotiating a tough contract, analyzing financial data, creating an advertising strategy, leading a team?

Or you could use feedback analysis as described by management guru Peter Drucker in his book management Challenges for the 21st Century. Whenever you undertake a key activity or make an important decision, write down your expectations. Then, a few months later, reexamine your expectations and the actual results you achieved.

Colleagues, family members and friends can also serve as resources for helping you determine your strengths. In the January 2005 issue of the Harvard Business Review, management professors Laura Roberts and Gretchen Spreitzer and their colleagues propose a Reflected Best Self Exercise, in which you actively solicit feedback from those who know you well. Critical to this exercise, however, is that the feedback focus on describing the specific areas where you have excelled ? not on the areas where you could use more work.

Match Your Strengths to Your Tasks

Once you know your strengths, you need to figure out how best to use them. It used to be that organizations managed the careers of their people, but today that obligation belongs to each one of us. You have the responsibility to know yourself and determine where and how you would perform best.

Often the difference between success and failure is not learning additional skills but rather figuring out how, given your strengths, you can adjust yourself to the demands of your specific position.

This is particularly important when the nature of your job changes. Jack was a star sales manager for an educational products company. His ability to form strong connections with his team and develop his people resulted in lower turnover and significantly increased sales.

Jack also worked well with his colleagues, leading brainstorming sessions that resulted in a new integrated product and service offering ? with significant profit margins for the company. Jack?s abilities both in the office and in the field caught the attention of company executives who saw him as a natural leader. When the opportunity came for significant career advancement, Jack jumped at it.

Jack had the advantage of following in the footsteps of Ellen, an admired veteran. Unlike Jack, Ellen had risen through the ranks of finance. She spent three weeks helping Jack transition into the new position before leaving to head operations in Europe.

Yet a few months into his new job as regional manager, Jack found himself becoming more and more frustrated with his work. He productivity was down and his former sense of eagerness to get to work each morning had disappeared.

As we worked with Jack, we began to see that his strengths were largely interpersonal and creative. He shone as he worked with his team, made presentations and coached his direct reports. But most of his work now involved written reports, formal strategy sessions and routine management tasks that had little to do with Jack?s greatest competencies.

After pinpointing his strengths, Jack began the work of redesigning his job so that it fit better with his

abilities. He began to spend more time in the field, visiting customers and prospects to gain a first-hand understanding of their needs.

He used his natural team-building and creative abilities in meetings that brought together representatives of the sales and product design departments to brainstorm ways of better serving customer needs. He found an assistant who excelled at writing reports and organizing data and began delegating these tasks as much as possible.

With this new focus on his areas of greatest competency, Jack felt a renewed satisfaction in his work. His productivity and performance improved greatly. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and while there will be many who encourage you to work on your deficiencies, the key to high performance is to look for what you do uncommonly well and focus there.

Armed with this self-knowledge, you will better be able to determine how you can best contribute -- both now and in the next phase of your career. Your greatest successes will come from placing yourself in a position where your strengths can meet opportunities for their regular expression. And, as maximizing your strength becomes a habit, you?ll be in a better position to help those around you maximize their abilities, leading to greater productivity and satisfaction for you, your team and your organization.

About the Author

? 2005 Dr. Robert Karlsberg & Dr. Jane Adler. Dr. Robert Karlsberg and Dr. Jane Adler are senior leadership consultants and founders of Strategic Leadership LLC. They work with senior executives to maximize performance, facilitate transitions and accelerate major change initiatives. Contact them at 301-530-5611 or visit http://www. ExecutiveEffectiveness. com

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How to Increase Your Chances of Winning a Government Grant

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Ever wonder whether you might qualify for a government grant to help grow and expand your business? If you run a nonprofit, operate in the technology or energy industries, or maintain an organization that helps small businesses find loans, increase profitability, or hire more employees, then the answer to that question could be yes. Artists, researchers, and educators are often eligible for financial support, too.

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Gmail’s New Look: What You Can Expect

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Do you use Gmail? Your email account is about to get a makeover. Google is transitioning all user accounts a “cleaner, more modern” interface design in the coming weeks. If you’re chomping at the bit to convert now, simply log in and click on the “Switch to the new look” link that appears at the lower right corner of the screen.

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Going Green in the Restaurant Industry

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The restaurant industry has seen a growing interest in sustainability-conscious menus, with clients increasingly seeking local, organic foods. However, going green as a restaurant can mean much more than just changes to ingredient sourcing, and sustainable practices can be introduced in almost all areas of restaurant operations. These practices can have significant effects beyond meeting the expectations of eco-focused clients, and your restaurant can realize significant reductions in overhead costs through green initiatives as well.

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Important Things to Tell Prospects

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By Larry Dotson

Tuesday, July 6, 2004; 3:30pm EST

1. Tell your prospects that you offer free delivery. This may cost a little money, but, you will gain the extra customers to make up for it.

2. Tell your prospects that you offer a lower price. If you can't afford to offer a lower price you could always hold the occasional discount sale.

3. Tell your prospects that your product achieves results faster. People are becoming more and more impatient and want results fast.

4. Tell your prospects you've been in business for a longer period of time. People think if you've been in business longer you have more credibility.

5. Tell your prospects that your product tastes, smells sounds, looks, or feels better. When you target the senses you're triggering human appeal.

6. Tell your prospects your product is compact or light. People may want to take the product on a trip or don't have much room where they live.

7. Tell your prospects that your product lasts longer. People don't like to spend more money purchasing replacement products all the time.

8. Tell your prospects that your product is easy to use. People don't want to buy a product that they have to read a 100 page instruction manual.

9. Tell your prospects that your product has better safety features. People want to feel safe when they use your products.

10. Tell your prospects that you stand behind all your products. People want to know that you back-up any claims you make about your product.

About Source of Article

? 2002 by Larry Dotson *FREE* eBook! "Hypnotic Sales Letters: 92 Hypnotic Sales Letter Templates!" Just add your product info and...BAM! You've just written a hypnotic sales letter in a few minutes! Visit my site to download it: http://www. ldpublishing. com/.

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Obtaining Merchant Card Accounts

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By Robert Sullivan

Thursday, November 27, 2003; 3:30pm EST

There is little doubt as to the value of being able to take credit cards as payment for your product or service that is mail order or online ecommerce. This merchant account status requires you deal with a provider or electronic clearing house for the credit card transactions and a participating bank for deposit of your funds. The process simply involves finding a bank that will accept you as a merchant card customer.

The problem is that it can be difficult to obtain a merchant account if you do not have a store front operation or if the majority of your business is via mail order or online. Currently, most banks are simply not interested in working with you unless you are a "traditional" business owner. However, with the proliferation of mail order and home based businesses, many electronic clearing houses are associated with banks that cater to the mail order business. That's the good news. The bad news is that if you are not very careful, your merchant account will cost you a lot more than necessary.

This report provides information to assist you in evaluating various banks and ensure you are getting the best deal possible. You do not need one of the numerous "manuals" that sell for up to $60 and claim to "guide you through the process." The "process" is actually very simple... you just need to find the best deal out there by using the information we've provided.

Finding a provider. First, try going to your own bank and ask if they will help. If they will, be sure and review the various charges discussed below. Be careful since many banks deal with agents who in turn represent an electronic clearing house. These agents are commissioned and are not looking out for your interests. If your bank won't help, check the yellow pages under "Credit Card & Other Credit Plans-Equipment & Supplies" or similar heading. You may also search the Internet which is how we found our merchant account provider. Most listings will be agents that represent an electronic clearing house or the clearing houses themselves. Remember, talk only to the electronic clearing houses. It may not be clear if you're talking with a clearing house or an agent, so ask! By the way, if you are not using the Internet, you should be! See the news release at the end of this report.

Transaction costs. There is a discount rate (expressed as a percentage of the sale) associated with each credit card transaction. This rate is always higher for mail order businesses, but you should not pay much over 2%. A transaction fee is also charged and this should be approximately 20-cents.

Hardware/Software requirements. You will need a terminal (or software) which allows you to enter credit card data and obtain authorization for each charge. The terminal connects to a telephone line and calls the clearing house; with software you need a computer and modem. This is an area where many providers make their money. Terminal costs can range from $300 to $2000 (the terminals are all basically the same). Software, usually by "IC Verify," is approximately $350. Many providers require that you purchase or lease equipment from them and will tell you cost is not negotiable. This is not necessarily true. One provider we initially contacted priced the terminal at $1200. Later they reduced the cost to $800. Finally they agreed to $400. You should not pay more than $375 for a terminal. In addition to the terminal you might want a printer to generate a "sales receipt" for the customer which you will mail with the merchandise or invoice. Typical printer costs are $150-250. You do not need a printer, however, since you can use a manual imprinter (usually furnished free) for receipts.

I recommend you purchase software. It's handier and no additional printer is required since you can use your computer system printer. Furthermore, there are no hassles with warranties, electronic failures and mechanical problems. Do not work with a provider if they will not allow software as an alternate to a terminal.

Questions to ask the perspective provider before committing. Each question is followed by a comment to assist you in determining a "satisfactory" answer.

Q: Are there any application fees?

C: There should be none although some providers charge up to $500.

Q: Are there any installation or programming fees?

C: There should be none although some providers charge up to $100.

Q: Are there any statement fees?

C: There should be none, although some banks charge a monthly statement fee of up to $10/month.

Q: Is there a minimum account billing?

C: There should be none, although some banks charge a monthly fee of up to $50 for accounts that do not meet the minimum.

Q: Is there a chargeback fee?

C: A chargeback occurs when a bankcard customer has their account credited for a prior purchase (i. e., merchandise returned under a guarantee). There should be no fees to you for this although some providers charge up to $10.

Q: Is there a voice authorization fee?

C: A voice authorization is utilized when your terminal or software is not available. The provider usually has a toll-free number to use for this purpose. There should be no charge but some will charge up to $1/call.

Q: What are the transaction fees?

C: These fees are in addition to the discount rate charge on each transaction. They can vary depending on the form of the transaction and in general bankcard numbers taken over the telephone are slightly more expensive. A fair fee is 20-cents per transaction.

Q: Is there a bank setup fee?

C: This is typical of a fee you will not find out about until the 11th hour unless you ask. There should be no setup fee but some banks charge up to $50.

Q: Is there a daily close-out fee?

C: You will normally "close-out" your transactions at the end of each business day. This is done by a simple transmittal to the provider via your software or terminal. There should be no fees associated with this.

Q: When is customer support available? Toll-free number?

C: Support should be available to you via a toll-free number during normal business hours.

Q: Is a reserve account required?

C: Some banks will require that you maintain a reserve account whose amount is determined by your estimated sales receipts. You should not deal with a bank that requires this reserve.

Q: When will funds be available?

C: That is, what is the time delay between a transaction and when the money is available in the bank? It should not be longer than 3-days.

Q: Is money deposited in my own local bank?

C: In some cases, the provider's bank will require that funds be placed in their bank, and not yours. If this is the case, you simply move funds from their bank to yours a few times a month.

Q: What is the equipment warranty and what assistance is available if the terminal becomes defective?

C: Warranty should be at least a year and if you are leasing, as long as the lease. A 'loaner' should be available if your terminal requires repair. (Note: We strongly recommend you do not lease. We didn't find a single supplier who had lease terms we felt were acceptable.)

Q: What credit cards can be processed?

C: Visa and MasterCard are usually processed. You can easily add Discover at no cost but there are additional fees associated with American Express.

Q: Is a manual imprinter available?

C: This should be included at no charge.

All the fees are negotiable. As a mail order business you may not have much clout with which to bargain, but the right provider will charge few, if any of these fees. The only charges you should incur are the normal transaction fees and cost of equipment or software.

Final Comment

We paid $367 for the software (which was our preferred approach) and a discount rate (for a manual entry; i. e., mail order) of 2% with a 30-cent transaction fee. If the credit card is "swiped;" i. e., you have the credit card in-hand and can pass it through a reader, the discount rate drops to 1.77%. The only other up front cost was about $15 to purchase checks from their bank with which to withdraw our funds. The rates you negotiate should be close to these figures.

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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Jonathan Fields on Succeeding in Uncertain Times

. Posted in small business stories

Many entrepreneurs strike out on their own early in life, but Jonathan Fields isn’t one of them. Fields began his career as a tough-as-nails hedge fund lawyer at a Manhattan mega-firm. Despite his professional success, he felt unfulfilled. So, he traded his corporate garb and comfortable salary to blaze a new trail.

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Combining PPC and SEO

. Posted in small business stories

By Tom Dahm

Monday, October 04, 2004; 3:00am EST

There are two ways to get to the top of the search engine listings: using search engine optimization (SEO) to boost your rankings, and buying your way to the top with pay per click (PPC) listings. Which method should you use to promote your web site?

Instant Gratification With PPC

PPC advertising programs such as Google Adwords and Yahoo's Overture place a small text ad for your web site in the Sponsored Links section of the search results. Each time someone clicks on your PPC listing, you pay a certain amount of money. Prices are set by competitive bidding and can range from surprisingly cheap ($0.33 for "java book") to insanely expensive ($12.98 for "web hosting").

The search engine optimization process is much slower. You have to work your way to the top of the free search results by tuning your web pages so the search engines can better understand them. Services like NetMechanic's Search Engine Power Pack can guide you in optimizing your site by analyzing pages for problems and telling you how to properly emphasize keywords.

PPC and SEO have very different flavors. The biggest advantage of PPC listings is that you can immediately reach the top of the search engine result listing. In contrast, it can take 3 months before you get the full benefit of your SEO campaign. Compared to that time, a PPC campaign feels like instant gratification.

But be prepared to pay for that leap to the top. You have to pay cold, hard cash for your listing, and your listing disappears as soon as you stop paying. Running an effective PPC campaign can cost you thousands of dollars each month. Compared to that, the $99 a year price for Search Engine Power Pack looks like a bargain.

1 + 1 = 4. Really!

So PPC is quick and relatively easy, but can cost significant money. SEO is inexpensive, but requires you to invest time and effort in tuning your web pages. Which approach should you be using to promote your Web site?

For most people the answer is to use both. Consider PPC as a short-term solution and SEO for the long term.

Some of the advantages of this combined approach are obvious. If it can take 3 months for SEO to show maximum results, why not run a PPC campaign during that time?

But there are other, surprising synergies you can get by combining both methods. In particular, a PPC campaign is the best way to find the keywords you should be targeting in your SEO campaign.

Finding the Right Words

Wouldn't it be a shame if you put a lot of effort into your SEO campaign, only to find you chose the wrong keywords?

For example, suppose we run the web site for a Colorado ski lodge. In our SEO campaign we decide to target the keyword "ski resort." Search Engine Power Pack's keyword popularity tool shows 24,804 monthly searches for that keyword, and that certainly looks attractive. You spend weeks optimizing your pages and working your way to the top of the free listings, but then something funny happens - you get lots of visitors, but very few sales.

Why? There are many reasons why a keyword can fail:

Perhaps your lodge is rustic and people are looking for an all-inclusive luxury resort. Maybe you should be including "Colorado" in your keyword phrase. Maybe people using this phrase are in the early stages of their research and aren't ready to book a room yet.

The important thing is that you just spent 3 months fighting your way to the top for a keyword that doesn't work. All your effort was wasted.

A PPC campaign lets you experiment with a wide range of keywords. Since it takes only a few minutes to create a listing for a keyword, it's easy to experiment with many of different words. It's common for a PPC campaign to target 100 or more keywords. Both Overture and Google include conversion-tracking tools that help you understand which keywords are generating sales. Once you've seen which words are working, you can target them for search engine optimization.

My preferred approach to running a search engine marketing campaign is to start with a small scale PPC campaign. Your PPC budget doesn't have to be large, since you aren't trying to buy all the clicks available for all your keywords. You want just enough traffic to let you learn which keywords are working. Within a month, you should have enough data to start your SEO campaign. Once that starts to show results, you can lower your keyword bids or drop them entirely.

There is one other advantage to this combined approach: it helps you quantify the value of your SEO work. If your company spends $5,000 a month for PPC listings, then an optimization campaign that cuts that spending has clear, tangible value. Suddenly your boss can see why SEO is worth the time you are spending on it!

Source of Article The author of this article is Tom Dahm, writes for 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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Top 5 Startup Mistakes

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Starting a Business

. Posted in small business stories

By The Sloan Brothers, StartupNation?

Thursday, September 26, 2003; 12:00pm EST

If you?ve read the paper or watched the news lately, you?d think that it is the worst possible time to start a business. Au contraire!

A closer look reveals that it?s actually the best of times to put the ?open? sign on your door. While everyone is moaning and groaning about a bad economy, we?re not, and you shouldn?t be either. There are far too many reasons why now is a great time to start and grow a business, and here are just a few.

Technology levels the playing field

The Internet and other communications technologies allow us ?little guys? to essentially act like much bigger players and easily and efficiently market and sell to a global audience. You can do business with anyone, anywhere, at any time and have more control over the information that customers receive. Remember, when people surf the Web, they often don?t look beyond your website to assess the credibility of your business. Your company size, location or age used to rule the day, but now the quality of your website can significantly influence perceptions and decisions. Don?t let the crash-and-burn fate of the ?dot bombers? fool you.

Technology is a game-changing resource, and it?s here to stay. Beyond the Internet, cellular communications, mobile emailing, a slew of highly efficient software solutions all add up to a big plus for small business. Corporate workers-turned-entrepreneurs, enterprising homemakers, ex-retirees, and college students are using it to their advantage to start their own successful businesses, and you can too.

Outsourcing from and to

This sweeping trend bears great opportunity for small businesses. ?Outsourcing? is when you contract with third party service vendors to provide business functions for your company instead of conducting those functions in-house.

Outsourcing ?from? your business

One thing we always talk about is ?focus.? It?s a discipline that can mean the difference between success and failure, especially in small businesses where resources are typically scarce. To aid you in focusing on your core capabilities?the aspects of your business that are unique and strategic?today you can take advantage of numerous service providers that allow you to outsource non-core functions such as logistics, accounting, IT services, payroll, public relations and more. It really helps you keep your eye on the ball! But here?s a word for the wise. Since you can?t just walk down the hall to oversee the quality and timeliness of outsourced work, be sure you continue to tightly manage whatever functions you outsource. Arrange for regular reporting to ensure accountability and effectiveness.

Outsourcing ?to? your business

The rigors of this economy are forcing corporate America to shed non-core functions. After all, corporations must find ways to maximize profitability, and with revenue down, they are forced to reduce their expenses. Outsourcing allows big companies to move ?fixed? costs to the ?variable? side. In essence, they pay for the outsourced functions only when they need them. This represents a trove of opportunity for your business. You can develop an entire business model centered on providing services that used to be in-house at big companies.

People, equipment, facilities are more affordable

For a few years, it was hard to find good people and even harder to afford them! But did you know that today, according to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), we are experiencing an unprecedented white-collar unemployment rate ? a whopping 20.1% of the total unemployed population. With the economy sputtering along as it is, there are more qualified people roaming the streets looking for work than there have been in a long time. It?s a complete flip-flop from the dotcom era. The same applies to office space. ?For Lease? signs are posted everywhere. Landlords are scrambling for tenants. It?s a buyer?s market and this puts you in the driver?s seat when negotiating your lease. Lastly, the new federal tax plans allow small businesses to claim a higher deduction for new equipment expenses. So what does all of this mean? You can hire better people, locate in nicer facilities, and utilize equipment LESS EXPENSIVELY than during the booming late 90?s.

Job security is at an all time low

Did you know that the average life of a corporate job for workers between the ages of 25 and 36 is now at an all time low of 2.7 years? And about that cushy retirement you might have heard your dad talk about? Well, it may not be the sure thing you expected ? put the recent corporate ethics debacles aside, and still, anytime a ?higher-up? is responsible for making decisions about your career, your future is more in someone else?s control than in your own. Don?t know about you, but that?s not our idea of ?security.? Take control of your future by starting up your business and putting job security in your own hands.

There?s less high-tech competition

In the aftermath of the dotcom era, we?re finding that there are actually fewer online and high-tech businesses vying for the same customers. Don?t get us wrong - we?re not saying you can just waltz into a deal without having to fight for it. But the fact is, only the fittest enterprises of the late 90?s survived. The Darwinian competition was so intense during that business cycle that you couldn?t even get a prospective customer's attention. These days, though, you can get peoples? attention, get in the door, and maybe strike a business deal. It might be a smaller deal than you?d like, but if you want our advice, we say, grab market share now! Things are going to heat up in the months to come and it won?t be this easy to make your business pitch when the competition has grown strong again.

Companies must adhere to fundamentals

In this tough economy, you have to generate revenue and cash flow through a solid business plan. It?s no longer the 90?s era when you had venture capitalists pouring money into your company even if you didn?t have the fundamentals in place. As we say on StartupNation? Radio, ?don?t buy into your own hype.? This economy forces you to be disciplined but in a very healthy way; you must do things the most inexpensive, efficient and effective way possible. It makes you try harder and really commit yourself to your business. Companies built on this kind of culture are the ones that have a more secure, long-term future?a stark contrast to the destiny of those ?here today, gone tomorrow? (or maybe more accurately, ?here yesterday, gone today?) high-flyers born in the dotcom era.

Play the business cycle to your advantage

As you can see, we feel very strongly about the many opportunities that exist in today?s economy. Some of our fellow entrepreneurs are already seizing the day. According to the Small Business Administration, new small businesses increased by approximately 2.7 percent in 2002. But if all the reasons we?ve provided here still don?t compel you, then consider this: Some of the nation?s fastest growing businesses were launched during downturns in the economy, just ahead of growth spurts?like Microsoft, for example?and were poised for significant benefit when the volume of commerce revved up.

One thing you can be sure of is that business goes in cycles. The companies that establish themselves with valuable, streamlined products and services and strong customer relationships in a down economy are in prime position once the economy kicks back into gear.

So, don?t delay. If you?ve been thinking about pursuing that great business idea, now?s the time to start it up!

Source of Article

Jeff and Rich Sloan are successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and two of the country?s top entrepreneurship experts. They founded StartupNation, LLC to provide information and coaching services to entrepreneurs on a nationwide level via various media venues. For more information please visit, http://www. startupnation. com/ or write to info@startupnation. com.

 

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