“It’s a Pyramid Scheme…”

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 8/2/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: American Free Enterprise, Business, Direct Marketing, Multi-Level Marketing, Network Marketing, Opportunity, Small Business,

Source: Multi-level marketing has received a great deal of criticism throughout the years, being accused of scamming people out of their money while coaxing them with grand visions of financial independence and lavish lifestyles. Though the odds have not always been in favor of the average network marketer, we uncover the myths versus facts of network marketing business opportunities.

So why does multi-level marketing receive such negative press and opinion? Chances are, the majority of negative opinions were developed by individuals that tried to make a go at becoming successful in a multi-level marketing business venture, and failed to achieve the success that was originally advertised. The statistics are not pretty, however when you compare them to how many people start a traditional business and fail, or how many people try to become professional athletes and fall short of their desired success, the statistics are relative to other career aspirations that are not achieved.

According to a Report authored by Robert FitzPatrick in 2005, over ninety-nine percent of individuals that got involved with multi-level marketing business opportunities ended up losing all of their investment. Studies performed by third party consumer watchdog groups have proven that between 990 and 999 people out of 1000 that have signed up as network marketers have lost their entire financial investments; and for some, because they had dedicated so much time to their multi-level marketing businesses, were let go from their day jobs or lost out on other career opportunities. It will be interesting to see if these numbers change as the industry transforms.

It is difficult to decipher the true number of MLM profits, losses and sales revenue from retail customers versus the network marketer participant’s product purchases because most MLM companies historically have not disclosed the data that makes a clear distinction between sales revenue from their consumer-only audience versus sales revenue from their own network marketer participant audiences.  Because there has been little incentive to solely focus on consumer retail sales, and much of the focus in the industry’s business training has been directed to recruiting a “downline”, few network marketers have focused their sales efforts on establishing retail sales only.

The fact that most MLM parent companies’ total gross revenue is not in direct relationship to what each independent distributor earns creates a blur between the numbers, a truth often skewed when a MLM company is presenting an opportunity. If the math and the probability of success is not in favor of the network marketer, why do people still sign up to participate?

Some individuals join the networking side of the business because they enjoy the parent company’s products so much that they continue to purchase them, but desire to continue making their purchase commitments at a significant discount. In some cases, the consumer then becomes their own network marketer and tends to save enough on product discounts that their fee for joining is covered over time.

Some individuals are drawn to the social lifestyle and travel, the added value of education and training, and networking with other like-minded individuals; thus treating their distributorship more like education and/or a social club membership. In some cases, this training, networking and the connections made also benefit their other businesses or day jobs. Some individuals just enjoy the flexibility that the MLM opportunity provides, and want complete control over their own schedules. Sometimes these individuals might be involved with more than one MLM opportunity, where they may profit from cross pollination of their networks from one organization to the other (though most often frowned upon and against company policies).

Some individuals become network marketers because they believe that they (and their team) will defy the odds and strike it rich, hoping to find themselves at the top of the pyramid after the masses of other people quit. For some, the idea of “owning a business” or being “in the business” is attractive, and they will leverage that representation to recruit others into their organization.

In the legal sense, a network marketer does not own their own business (unless they have their own corporation or limited liability company that is in contract with the MLM parent); because the network marketer does not own any hard assets owned by the MLM parent organization. The Network marketer does not own the patents, intellectual property, physical property, inventory (in most cases), or other intangible business assets such as a website or domain name; nor can the distributor’s “business” be sold or acquired for a profit (in most cases).

Multi-level marketing companies have had their fair share of legal bouts. In the 1980’s, the Amway Company was met with much criticism and negative press. As of most recent, HerbaLife faced the wrath of the Federal Trade Commission. Yet network marketers that remain committed to multi-level marketing claim they have benefited from their involvement and have seen a return of investment after three to five years of dedicated efforts.

Skeptics, media, and government agencies focused on consumer protection argue that a multi-level marketing agency crosses over to a pyramid scheme when it pays more focus and monetary benefit for new network marketer recruitment than on product sales commissions, where the participant (the network marketer) can only make sales commissions on consumer retail sales if their downline is meeting mandated personal consumption inventory buys; and in order to earn either bonuses from recruitment or sales commissions, one is most often required to maintain an automatic shipment purchase of company products themselves that also may include a number of pre-requisite items such as tools, marketing materials, and training materials.

There are some multi-level marketing companies that do focus more on the products and services offered than on network marketing recruitment of new participants. Companies like Primerica and Pre-paid Legal focus on the sales of services, and encourage their network marketing representatives to be successful at selling these services before recruiting new people into their downline. These companies also have no required auto-ship.

Some companies have changed their business model to adapt business practices acceptable to watchdog groups and government agencies. Some have also eliminated the requirement for auto ship purchasing, and have increased compensation benefits to allow individuals who only desire to earn commissions on sales of products, to do so and see a return on investment within a reasonable time period.

The perspective of ‘being a product of the product” holds true in successful product promotion, and most people are drawn to specific MLM companies because they see the value and benefits of the products that the company offers. However, many folks who are introduced to these companies have limited financial resources and are already struggling to get by. Though they may like nothing more than to be able to personally enjoy the benefits of the company’s product lines every day, they may not initially have the means to purchase them monthly while doling out the expenses of building their business – such as tools, training and fuel. It is also important to keep in mind that it takes time and training to build the knowledge, skill sets and relationships necessary for success; and most often, little (if any) monetary earnings will be recognized for the first several months, especially for those who are new to the industry.

If you’re still intrigued and contemplating whether or not the MLM industry might be for you, your next step may be to research a few multi-level marketing companies, along with their products, culture, and compensation plans with a fine eye focused on detail and the fine print. Before joining a MLM organization, you have the right to research and ask for reports on the average payouts per year to new recruits, statistical and historical analysis on success/failure rates of network marketers within that organization, and for a review of consumer complaints related to the MLM parent company’s product offerings. Once you have found the MLM opportunity you are comfortable in working with, continue to move on with your new business opportunity with cautious optimism.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also the author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource, Water;” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.” 

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Money Saving Tips Any Business Can Put into Practice

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) Resized Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 3/22/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Barter, Business, Community, Currency, Economy, Finance, Free Enterprise, Small Business

Source: There is an old saying, “To be profitable is to save money.” A small business needs every advantage it can get when it comes to trimming expenses and unnecessary cost. Here are a few savings tips for every business.

During tough economic times and a very competitive business climate, Small Business Owners are doing all they can to conserve cash and increase accountability of the best use of their working capital so that they avoid watching their margins of profit from slipping away in between the floor boards. “A penny (or dollar) saved is a penny (or dollar) earned,” so here are a few tips a small business can adopt in order to save on fees, interest payments, and other bills that seem to cut into an owner’s profit margins.

1). Do away with debit/credit card use-switch to a reimbursement system. Banking institutions have switched their business model to a fee based revenue generation machine; which is different from when banks mainly profited from interest payments and fees attached to loans and loan servicing. Every time you use your debit/credit card, there is a transaction fee, either at the merchant and/or at the bank, and sometimes both. Ever use an ATM that is not affiliated with your bank? You will find in those cases multiple usage and service fees from ATM Vendor, the bank it is associated with and your own bank. Some of these fees range from mere twenty or thirty cents upwards to three or four dollars.

To avoid watching these fees and service charges cutting into your profits, stop using debit/credit cards for every little business transaction. Also if you have multiple employees you will want to limit their usage of these cards as well. Use a draw of petty cash that is withdrawn from the bank in person. Use cash on smaller transactions under $100 when applicable. As it relates employees, you can set up a system in which they front the initial expenses they incur on behalf of the business, such as tolls, parking, gas, lunch or dinner meetings with clients, postage, and other purchases that make up the vast amount of small transactions. Once a week, have each employee submit their receipts to the company accountant for reimbursements and issue them a check for these expenses. Less usage of debit/credit cards means less fees you are charged.

2). Pay your vendors and/or suppliers early. Many of your vendors and/or suppliers may be on 30, 60, or even 90 day payment terms with your business. This allows for your business to have the time it may take to sell inventory or service a client account before you have begun covering your cost of goods sold. Many distributors, vendors, and/or suppliers do offer a discount if payment is received before the 30 day window. Usually the offered amount is 2% discount if a bill is paid within 10 to 15 business days. If such terms are offered, pay your bills early to take advantage of these discounts.

If your business has a burn rate of say $10k per month, 2% is $200 saved per month ($2400 a year). That is $200 that is found money which can be applied to other parts of your monthly budget, such as marketing and advertising. If your vendor and/or supplier does not yet offer you early payment terms, negotiate this upfront with them. This is a small concession they will be glad to offer in keeping you as a client. It is of no risk to them. Most vendors or suppliers are accustomed to not receiving payments until 30 days after they are due.

3). Pay your credit card balances on time and/or in full. Most Small Business Owners utilize credit cards as a form of business credit to keep their business afloat in between getting paid by clients. Most small business owners and managers often take credit card offers that provide “interest free,” or “low interest” on credit that is borrowed. Many of these deals are contingent on payments being made on time and/or in full. When only the minimum balance is paid, a small business owner now loses the low interest deal they first had when they acquired the card. To avoid these increases in interest rates and service fees, pay the balance off in full and on time.

Another practice you can try in saving money when using credit cards, is to call the credit card provider themselves and negotiate a “one time balance paid in full” when you have a high balance and are looking to close your account. Credit card companies would rather receive payment on an account that is closing than have it sent to collections. Usually if you get a manager or supervisor on the phone, you can ask to negotiate a final settlement offer. This saves you money in fees, interests, and charges, and clears the credit card company of the account.

If you are using credit cards to make purchases for business growth needs, consider joining a barter exchange that has a multitude of businesses connected to their network in which you can engage in. Barter is interest free.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

 

The World’s Demand for Alternatives to Traditional Currency

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) Resized Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 2/5/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Barter, Business, Community, Currency, Economy, Finance, Free Enterprise, Small Business

Source: With technology ten steps ahead of the market, even more options for paying bills have become readily available for both the consumer and for the merchant. We explore the many options payment options a business may choose to accept.

Two factors have changed the way we conduct commerce and financial transactions in the world over the past fifty years. The leading factor is the faith that people now have in traditional currency. Many countries, their money supply is based on one factor: faith; the belief that the value of the piece of paper or coin is a true representative of the value of good and/or services they wish to purchase.

Prior to what is known as “fiat currency,” money supply that is backed by no hard good, commodity, or tangible asset, that is widely accepted as a mark of trade, such as precious metals like gold or silver; Most countries would back their value of their currency on tradable commodities which had a real market value.  In recent years, crude oil and petro chemical fuels were used to support currency, while these same currencies were used as the preferred measuring stick against oil. Such is not the case anymore, now that even tying the US Dollar to fossil fuels has become volatile.

With such conditions changing, more individuals are sharing their concern, vocalizing how they have less faith in a piece of paper, which is backed by nothing.

Another trend that is leading people to explore other currency options is the development of technology. Today there are more options on how to make a financial transaction for a good or service. Beyond credit and debit cards, e-wallet and electronic paying systems such as Pay Pal, Apple Pay, and Android Pay. Crypto-currencies are also on the rise. Bitcoin and One Coin have become the top ranked electronic currencies, and merchants are racing get their business into the fold into accepting these new forms of payment.

However one form of a financial transaction that is as old as men and trade itself, is also still on the rise. Barter is growing at a faster pace due to advancements in technology, organizational set ups, wide spread networking, and oversight from two leading barter-industry trade organizations.

With the improvements into accountability and infrastructure, barter has never been so much easier. Traditionally one business or individual would trade services or products with another party that may too have a product or service to offer in the actual exchange. This limited barter, because if one party did not need the other party’s offering, then the exchange could not take place. Today the use of a credit system has widened up the scope in the barter arena. Barter exchanges have made it easier to use barter for many business to business purchases.

Exchanges such as Badger Barter, located in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Badger Barter offers a barter exchange that includes well over 600 business; range from auto repair to graphic design; from legal counsel and services to website creation. These types of exchanges have evolved over time to include many member benefits in which traditional barter did not offer.

As a small business, you should be exploring all payment options, in addition to traditional payments of debit, credit, cash, and check. Barter is a viable way to conduct business to business transactions and opens the door for new business relations to develop within barter exchange networks. Some retailers are now accepting Apple Pay, Android Pay, Pay Pal, Bitcoin, and Onecoin. However barter is considered one of the best options since most barter exchanges offer a credit system, allowing you to use the barter on a wider selection of products and/or services.

Barter is not only a form of payment; it is also a marketing tool. There are businesses that seek out other businesses that offer Barter payment options. You should notify your clients about all of the payment options you offer in multiple touch points. Including but not limited to a placard at the cash register/counter; logo of the barter exchange on your website, social media, and e-mail newsletters; logo on store front window, print advertising, business cards, invoices, and other forms signage a client may see at your establishment.

Bloomberg Business had researched and found that over $12 billion dollars in goods and services were traded without any currency changing hands in 2012. Research showed that not every transaction conducted was on business essentials however the barter was still utilized. Even when the most obscure product or service was offered, the bartered item eventually would find a relative home. Another part of the study revealed that Small Businesses mainly spent their barter in exchange for: marketing and advertising; legal and professional services; facilities maintenance; office supplies; and construction/renovation services; which are many of the same expenditures a small business might use proceeds from a working capital loan for.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Recycle, Re-purpose, Reuse; Giving New Life to Used Items

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) ResizedWritten by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 2/1/18 a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Finance, Government, Green, Healthy Living

Source: In comparison against most smaller and undeveloped nations, the United States categorically is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. When compared to the average household in other nations, even the poor are not considered so poor. As a nation we also are some of the world’s most consuming population of material things. Our nation also wastes just as much as it consumes. So how do we lessen our consumer footprint not to be so wasteful?

There is an old saying, “Everything has its place.” Go into any suburban home in post-modern day era, and you most likely will find a basement, an attic, a closet, a garage, or even a shed full of items which have outlasted their initial use. It seems that most households in America will replace their cell phone every six months, a kitchen appliance once a year, and then there is the question of what to do that occasional odd ball item which someone may give us as a gift, yet serves no immediate purpose in our household.

So what are we to do with all of this stuff? The obvious answer is if the item is much past its prime, beyond the cost of repairing it; it is time to recycle it. Every year, landfills run out of space because we still do not recycle enough. Glass, plastic, metal, electronics, appliances, wood, paper, cardboard, automobiles, and even some types of concrete-cement all can be re-processed and converted into other products. Before you throw something into the garbage can, ask yourself can that item be recycled. Most county governments have a waste disposal and recycling center which you can donor your renewable waste. Salvage yards will accept every type of metal and in some cases, plastic, glass, cardboard, and electronics. Wood items are ground down to make mulch or cardboard.

If you have children, you will know this scenario all too well; you buy an outfit, a pair of shoes, or a toy for your young child just to watch them outgrow it in a matter of a few months. There are a few options…You can trade up your gently used items for either cash, store credit, or a donation voucher at a local consignment shop which deals mainly with children’s items. One store in mind is called Once Upon a Child, where slightly used items are cleaned up and prepared for resale well below the original sticker price. You can find many name brand items can be found in these types of stores for a fraction of the former sticker price, thus allowing disadvantage parents to purchase name brand clothing for their children, without the high cost. You can also donate your items to your local church or to a family that might have children that might be slightly younger than yours; thus allowing for the children items to get a second life.

Just about any household item can be cleaned up and resold at a consignment shop, flea market, if the age of the item is correct, and antique shop, or even at a church bazaar fundraiser. There is an old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Your item may have outlived its use with you, however for someone else the item’s life is just beginning. Common items that you can find at flea markets or bazaars include tools, car parts, children’s toys, household decor, and even furniture.

You can try finding a new home for your item online. Craig’s List and EBAY are online havens for folks looking to sell and buy slightly used items. Even Facebook offers their version of the local marketplace. The most popular categories to buy and sell used items include used furniture, used cars and trucks, used garden tools and equipment; and children’s items. You will also be surprised at the amount of private sellers of jewelry, collectibles, and closeout items from businesses which are liquidating their left over inventory.

Many non-profit organizations have programs where you can donate your used and undesired car, boat, truck, trailer, or recreational vehicle. The standard previously followed, is that the donor would receive a donation voucher that they could write off their taxes in the amount of the lowest retail book value for their donated vehicle. In more current years, the donor gets a voucher for their item that relates to the scrap value of their former item. Then the non-profit will usually deal with a third party who would determine whether to scrap the item, or offer it for sale at the higher retail value. The public has no idea how much more the third party makes or how much the non-profit will actually receive. In this case, its best to sell your item as a private sale to another individual and then donate the cash amount to the non-profit you desire to assist.

The latest trend is that something old can be made new again. Wooden pallets can be taken apart and remade into shelves, storage crates, or even décor. Metal sheathing can be re-purposed into material for walls, shelving, made into crafts and containers, or even used in the construction or renovation of a home or business. Glass bottles and jars are great for making sand art pieces, planter pots for small flowers, or even fill them with candy or treats as gifts. Even old lumber, such as rustic beams, floorboards, shiplap siding, can be re-purposed for giving a new home the rustic look, or can be used to replace damaged lumber in a restoration project.

Even some waste products around the home can serve another purpose. Food scraps such as used coffee grinds, egg shells, banana peels and bones from meat when added to leaves and grass clippings, make for a great compost mixture for the at home gardener. Cardboard and newspaper can serve as a weed barrier in vegetable gardens and are safe for the soil.  When the cardboard and newspaper break down, they provide contents for earth worms to use to help enrich the garden soil.

Many of us are used to taking former dish and bathroom towels once they are past their prime and put those towels back to work in the garage as wash rags for the car or lawn equipment. Plastic bags from the grocery store can be reused as small garbage bags around the home. Brown paper bags from the grocery store can be made into protective book covers for children’s school books. Gift boxes can be held on to and reused again the following holiday season. Just about any item around the home can be re-purposed and reused into something else.

It is our responsibility as stewards of planet earth, to find ways to get the most life out of the consumer goods and material items around us. With limited landfill space, and the need to protect our precious fresh water supplies, the more we can do to recycle, reuse, and re-purpose, gives us one less item that makes its way to the landfill before its prime.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Online Marketing Tools for Small Businesses

Source: In today’s multi-media and digital marketing world, small business owners have multiple choices of low-cost/no cost options in promoting their business, in addition to traditional marketing and advertising tools and practices designed to aid the local business in becoming noticed by potential consumers.

Traditionally, before the internet and mobile devices, marketing and advertising options were limited and costly for the small business owner. Most small business owners would look to advertising in the newspaper, on local television or radio, or even handouts and flyers placed on car windshields and in mailboxes. As technology advanced, so did all the methods to stay out front of your competitors and customers. There are several tools online to help a locally owned business promote one’s self which carries little or no cost.

At one time, the standard form of advertisement for a business was to be listed in the Yellow Pages, which was the business-commercial section of the phone book directory. However, times have changed with consumers relying mainly upon their mobile devices more to communicate, and in some cases, not even having a home land line-supported phone. In place of the Yellow Pages are websites and business directories such as Manta, Merchant Circle, and Tap Into.

Manta is a website which lists profiles of local businesses, and allows for consumers to leave a review after their experience of either purchasing a product or service. Manta allows for a business to set up a profile, including spotlighting the services and products a business has to offer. The profile serves as a business card to the digital world. Manta also allows for local ranking of your business based on customer reviews and special awards a business may receive. Manta also has tools which allow local businesses find other resources, and to connect with other small businesses to fulfill operational or vender needs; all this without having to flip through pages of the phone book.

Businesses will benefit from using Manta. A small business can separate itself from the crowd of other similar local businesses by having customer reviews that new potential customers can use as a point of reference in making a buying decision. When new potential clients see a number of positive reviews about a business, they also see local brand loyalty. Repeat customers tell a very different story to the market than having hundreds of one time customers. Manta’s ability for a business owner to see customer feedback and reviews will allow for a business to identify areas of improvement within its business model.

Merchant Circle is another online business listing site. Merchant Circle is a platform that allows for the locally owned business to connect and network with other locally owned businesses, sharing contacts and ideas, while helping to connect the business with potential customers. Merchant Circle had advanced their capabilities beyond just being a local business directory. Merchant Circle has combined the concepts of a local business directory and profiles with the tools of social media and marketing. Businesses can level up and purchase additional marketing services from Merchant Circle, focusing efforts on a specific geographic area.

Local online new sites, such as TAP Into, also offer free business listing directories. TAP Into focuses its hyper-local content in the State of New Jersey and surrounding areas, and is supported by the local business community. Local businesses can list their business contact and location information. Also, businesses can submit press releases to the local editors and publishers, giving businesses the ability to promote an announcement or event.

These sites can help a business in establishing an online content footprint. Businesses that have multiple articles, or key search words or phrases in their business profile description are more likely to rank higher in search engines due to the amount of content. With so many people on the go relying on information at their fingertips from their mobile devices, if your business is not at least showing up on the first two or three pages of search engines, then your business will not be seen by new potential customers. Business listings with Manta, Merchant Circle, and TAP Into drastically change your local small business’s placement within the rankings of search engines. I have even seen businesses that don’t have their own website rank high in search engines because their business profiles are enhanced and provide a lot of detail to potential consumers.

Social media is the place a business should turn to in promoting their business wares and reaching new potential customers. Take your pick, there are many to choose, however, the front-runners for two-way engagement still stands as Facebook leading the way, followed by Linked-in, Google Plus, Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram. Each social media platform offers something different and serves a specific purpose.

They say, a photograph is worth a thousand words. That is where platforms like Flickr, Tumblr, and Instagram have specialized in providing a photo journal online to be shared with family, friends, fellow colleagues, and potential customers. These platforms are designed to allow users to load up photographs in the moment and share them with fan base instantaneously, in hopes of creating a real-time feeling of “I wish I was there,” for the person viewing the picture. This emotional trigger also can work well in creating a product demand in the moment. A business can feature a picture of a spotlighted product, and offer to the first hundred people who comment on the photo, a discount on their next purchase with the merchant.

Video content ranks the highest on the internet. Video content is also the most sought after content in the leading search engines. Every smart phone or mobile device is now equipped to film short video. Small businesses can create their own small videos and post them to various video hosting platforms that will help a business establish a wider internet presence. The most popular of video social media sites is YouTube.

Videos created with the purpose to capture the attention of a new potential customer needs to grab the attention of the viewer within the first 15 to 30 seconds, or you will lose the attention of the viewer. Your video content should also be unique and have a different hook. There are tens of millions of videos posted between You Tube, Vimeo, and Daily Motion, so you will need to be creative in order that your video can be searchable and stand out among the crowd.

If your business does not have a website yet, you need to get one. You can acquire a domain name from Go Daddy for just a few bucks a year. Create-it-yourself website platforms Wix, Word Press, and Web.com, provide several pre-existing templates. The most important pages to have for a very basic website are: a home page or landing page which is the first introduction to visitors about your business and its products/services, a contact us page, which includes the hours of operation, information about your products and/or services, as well as a list of the most popular or unique products/services you provide, and lastly, the about us page, giving visitors a little more information about the business and you as the owner.

Monthly e-newsletters are another way to stay in front of your customers. Email newsletters should not be a large book or difficult to read. It should inform the reader on two or three key areas you desire your customers to focus on about your business. Maybe you’re going to have a product or service sale or host a special event; email newsletter is a great way to keep your customers reminded of your business updates. You can also offer up an informative article (about 200 to 400 words) that will help educate your audience on how to make a better buying decision or create public awareness about a cause your business supports. The online tools and services of Mail Chimp or Constant Contact offer a variety of low-cost options to reach your current clients.

It may seem overwhelming at first that on top of all your other business responsibilities you now must spend time in front of your computer marketing your business, and yes, there are many options to employ. There are tools to help you manage your online efforts. Two tools that will help you measure and manage your online presence are Google Analytics and Hoot Suite. Google Analytics can help you measure your marketing ranking and efforts online, so you can eliminate online marketing that is not the most effective or does not provide a return on investment. Google Analytics will also give you the data you need to enhance the online marketing that is helping create customer flow for your business. Hoot Suite is a digital dashboard that you can use for managing and posting content to multiple social media sites at one time, thus saving you time having to make daily posts to each individual site.

The choice is yours. You can choose to spread your marketing efforts over multiple digital platforms or you can choose to stick to one or two tools. Local businesses that employ multiple online channels to promote their business are usually the businesses that have the most physical foot traffic in their door. Once they are in the door it’s up to you to provide the best experience to keep them coming back and tell their friends and neighbors about you and your business.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Taking Pride in Senior Health Care

PrintWritten by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published by   www.SamBurlum.com

Source: Whether it you are in search of an assisted living facility, nursing home, rehab center, or memory care unit; there are few facilities that offer all of these services under one roof located in central Wisconsin that can provide all of your needs with a staff capable of helping you navigate the twist and turns of an already complicated health care system. We take a look at one facility aimed at providing service for your loved one with tender loving care and dignity, putting pride back into senior health care.

So your loved one is in need of a facility during their rehabilitation transition back to good health; or maybe your parent, grandmother, aunt or uncle has become too frail and is unable to manage all of their own day to day needs and affairs.  Most families try to take care of their aged loved one, sometimes splitting shifts of care for the elder family member with the help of a spouse or sibling. In today’s very busy and complicated post-modern world, usually both spouses are working full time to meet their own household needs; in some cases, still have to manage their own children’s health care and education.

You try to partner with your siblings in caring for grandma or Uncle Joe, however your siblings now reside further away from their former childhood home, leaving few or no one to care for the aged in your family. You even resorted to hiring an assisted living nurse to frequent the love one’s home on a weekly or daily basis. It turns out your loved one is very particular and sometimes become frustrated with the level of care provided by the assisted living nurse; sometimes because they are not as well trained about your loved one’s conditions or they are not properly skilled in taking care of people with pride and dignity.

So now you turn to the internet or look up in the phone directory, in search of a nursing home, assisted living facility, rehabilitation center, or memory care unit, in hopes of locating a center that you feel comfortable will provide the level of care for your loved one that you would expect for yourself. After a few tours and visits of the traditional facility; you have to make a decision of where to place grandma or even your own parent, until they either get well enough to return to their home; or find a more permanent setting they call home.

What you have seen so far is far from something you can call home. Usually very sterile and industrial appearance, you come to realize the ideal of a stereotypical senior facility serve you right. Long white hallways, with little or no décor; minimal staff, takes minutes to locate; and when you do find a staffer; your questions go unanswered because they are not as qualified to care for your loved one as you are. The one thing you can count on is the unfriendly nurse who makes no personal connection, which rolls their cart from room to room, administering medications as prescribed by the patient’s doctor. Yes that seems the choices you have for grandma; where you must chose the worst of evils; a place for grandma to just be until her health takes a direction for better or worse…

Until now…

Changing the way patients are cared for while creating new standards in senior health care quality of life is a modeled destination designed to uplift individuals seeking elder care, and making them feel they are at home, regardless of their condition.

Located in Weston, Wisconsin, Pride TLC Therapy and Living Campus is restoring faith in senior care. Setting new standards in facility design and quality in staffing, Pride TLC has done the unthinkable. They have transformed the typical stereotypical senior care housing unit to an all in one inclusive full service full care campus, improving the quality of life for patients, staff, and the community.

When you first walk into through the doors of Pride TLC, you immediately take notice of the design of the facility, which was designed to mimic the Main Street setting of your loved one’s youth. Completely equipped in house with a full service salon-barber shop, chapel, movie theater, dining areas, meeting areas, fitness room, and wings with their own libraries and family meeting rooms, Pride TLC has set the pace for other senior care facilities to follow.

The quality of staff at any facility will command the quality of care your loved one will receive. Pride TLC has taken the industry by storm, by recruiting the most qualified of care takers to assist your loved one, so your time with your parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, or even your spouse which calls Pride TLC home, can spend more time with you when you visit than worrying about the business of health care. From the administrators to the nurses and facility staff, each team member is waiting for the opportunity to make your loved one’s stay the most comfortable and enjoyable experience, regardless of their individual condition or diagnosis.  Pride TLC, is restoring faith in senior health care by providing you the best short term/long term senior health and rehab care; treating you and your family with tender loving care and dignity that you deserve.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Product or Service; Which Do You Choose to Offer?

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published on 02/15/17, a www.SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Source: Now that you have decided on the type of business you desire to own, a small business owner must carefully consider which products and/or services it will offer to potential customers. Do you want to have a retail business, or do you want to be a service based provider? There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of business offering situation.

Making the decision to become a business owner is a substantial undertaking. After the initial decision to do so, you will need to give consideration to the next steps which include your specific industry interest, and then whether you desire to offer a product or a service, or both. Owning a business that sells products can be a costly investment depending on the type of business you are planning on opening. On the other hand, selling services that are intangible relies on your ability to transfer confidence about your expert skill sets. In choosing whether to offer a product or to be a service oriented business, there are advantages and disadvantages with the types of value proposition offerings.

Developing a business that sells products can offer several advantages in terms of business growth and financial reward. Products are tangible items (they can be held in one’s hand prior to any financial exchange), allowing an individual to identify with a product quicker since they can use their senses to make a judgement and a decision to purchase the product. You can see what a product looks like, how it tastes (if is a food product), how it smells, how it sounds (if it makes sounds), how it feels (like clothing or a tool that you hold in your hand).  Consumers have an opportunity to visually inspect the product they may choose to purchase, which allows for consumers to elevate their risk by taking a chance on the product.  Products are simpler to validate by the potential end user. The customer has an out if they are not happy with their purchase; usually they can return the item to the store.

A customer can predict what the expectation might be based on previous purchases of the same or similar product. There is a sense of product continuity, that each time a customer purchases a said product, they feel more comfortable based on their previous buying decision. This leads to a quicker closing rate on the sale of the product. If someone chooses not to purchase the product, then it can be reserved for the next potential customer.

Most national brand products already have large marketing machines in place to drive public awareness and educate potential customers about the product you might offer in your store. So having these products in your store where there is already an existing market demand increases the chances of potential foot traffic to your store. The product business relies on brand recognition.

In today’s market, products can be sold globally, and shipped just about anywhere. Store owners are no longer limited to just their own zip code. With product sales, advertising and marketing can be targeted toward a larger demographic and geographic set of potential clients. The name of the sales game for products is to sell product in either large volume to a small number of clients or take many small orders from a high volume of clients.

The downside of a product based business is initial investment into a store location and the upfront cost of inventory. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the average cost per square foot of retail lease space in 2015 was per $41 square foot.  Ace Hardware advocates that the optimum store size should be 10,000 square foot, which could be quite costly for many new business owners just beginning. The investment needed to fully stock a new hardware store or family owned pharmacy that is capable of competing against a big box retailer location will cost a small business owner up to millions of dollars in order to be ready to open their doors, and have ample supply of goods available for consumers. In today’s market, consumers demand more product choices in multiple product categories, so stores must offer the customer service model of convenience. This allows the business owner to make available these multiple choices and product mix to potential customers in order to be dubbed the “one stop shop”.

When your business is a product driven model, there are additional risks you must be aware of. Even if you have the proper funding to fill your store and/or warehouse full of inventory, there are still the issues of shrink and loss due to damages. Shrink is internal theft from employees, which does happen. An employee may not think it’s a big deal to remove a product for their own sample use, however, when that employee does not account for the product, it results in shrink. Some employees do intentionally steal products from their employers, as they feel one box or one can will not hurt anyone, but it does when it adds up in the loss column.

Damaged inventory is also a loss to the store owner. Inventory that is either shipped or received damaged, is inventory lost. Most damages happen during the shipping process of inventory to and from the warehouse, as sometimes a forklift operator may have not noticed they misjudged moving a pallet of product around, and it becomes dented and damaged.

Some disadvantages of having a product based business can be overcome, allowing for higher profitability and customer satisfaction. Having an accurate inventory control system in place will allow for you to house just the right amount of inventory in your store, based on historical consumer data, thus limiting the risk of having overstocked an item. By offering a program to your clients that they can order whatever they need, which is not yet stocked in your store, with a two or three day turn around will allow for you to still service the sale, while not having to stock everything that may not sell on a regular basis.

Employee training on the importance of monitoring shrink as well as reviewing the best practices in logistics, shipping, receiving, and warehousing, will assist you in decreasing lost or damaged inventory.  There is no getting around the cost of renting space, however there are some things you can do to get more for your rental dollar, such as negotiating for grounds keeping services, community fees, and other areas of financial value in your lease agreement.

Today, it’s not just about what is on the shelf at your store front. There are several online tools available in marketing a product over the internet, allowing you to make contact with potential clients outside your physical store location’s zip code. Amazon has become the premier platform of choice for selling merchandise online by local merchants; followed by EBAY, and other partnered sales sites such as Keep America.com which promote products that are manufactured stateside. With the evolution of online commerce and social media marketing, the traditional brick and mortar store front is only half of the available opportunity for many locally owned retailer merchants offering unique brands and/or specialty product.

Marketing a product based business has more options for the business owner. A business owner can piggyback on national product recognition and ad campaigns in creating awareness that these popular products are at his or her store. If your store is part of a cooperative group, the cooperative group usually supplies a recipe for investing into local brand awareness in contrast to other competing products and stores. Marketing and advertising options are endless. You must ask yourself, what are you really selling? In many cases products have a brand identity that must accompany the product.

The cost of setting up a product based business varies depending on a number of variables. These costs will be driven partially by the decision you the business owner makes. Do you choose to sell a limited product line from home as an internet based business or are you prepared to open up a full blown retail location, with tens of thousands of product selections? Do you start small with a limited store front or do you take a chance and open a large retail location? How many employees do you think you will need in the beginning to staff your operation or do you start off as the single owner-operator?

Some new business owners opt to offer their expertise as well as their skill sets in the form of services offered. The upside to owning a business that is more service oriented is that you have minimal, if any inventory to stock. Your services offered are not limited to the product’s limitations. For example, if your service business is building decks, you can design and build a deck according to the vision the potential client may have. A service business allows for the business owner to be more personalized and creative when providing services to each individual client. Your service should focus on solving a customer’s need in which they may not have the skills or expertise in providing for themselves. In essence, the business owner and what he or she can do for the client is the product they are selling, along with selling themselves; as in their character, reputation, and expertise.

For instance, if you offer business consulting services, your start-up costs are low, however your upfront investment is the years of experience, education, and understanding of how a business works. These are the tools of the trade. If you decide to begin a property maintenance business, you will have to invest into lawn and building maintenance equipment, a service truck or two, and you may have to hire some help depending on the job at hand.

Your services will be more targeted; as your goal is not to have the highest volume of clients, but the highest rate of quality client demand that results in higher revenue. A service based business will focus on more personalized and customer needs rather than the average cookie cutter mass produced model. This type of model will allow for service based business owners to network with the most desired potential clientele. Service businesses must directly market to specific clients, and usually will prospect for customers inside a radius within the business’s home location. For example, a landscape and property maintenance business would not market to potential customers thousands of miles away, for the obvious logistical reasons that would make the endeavor not profitable for the business owner. Your goal is to provide the highest quality of services to the highest quality of clients, in performing the most work for a smaller list of clients.

A service business can opt not to have a store front. Most service businesses which surround home services (a masonry, carpentry, or landscaping business) many times operate out of their home; saving cost on a rental location. Other service based businesses like a hair salon or dry cleaner, rely on having a retailer location that allows for walk in foot traffic. A service business will focus on the need of the client, where the business is providing a service or skill set the potential client may not possess themselves.

Because a service is intangible, it may be more difficult to connect and close deals with potential customers of your service if they cannot visualize the final result of the service you offer. Potential clients may be hesitant of purchasing a service even if their need of the service is great, because they cannot physically evaluate the outcome of their own buying decision. A service based business will experience a longer sales cycle because there is usually price and service negotiations, client contracts to review, and final review of the services provided, which in some cases will hold up final payment to the business owner.

Potential customers will rely on judgement calls when purchasing a service. Is the service provider trustworthy? Is the service provider of good character? Potential clients have a clear understanding that they cannot return a service once its provided, so they are more cautious in making a decision. For this, most potential customers will desire to get the most dollar value out of the service they are purchasing, since the value proposition is beyond just the service itself. The consumer realizes that part of the value exchange is the experience of the journey through having the service provided to them.

Service based businesses can overcome their unique challenges by offering the client a trial period for their services; giving the potential client the feeling they have an out if they are not happy with the service. This helps in removing some of the barriers that tend to go up during the negotiation of the purchase of a service. Providing a list of referrals and references which the potential customer may call would be prudent. It would also be most helpful if the referrals and references are current clients of the business that have already purchased the same or similar services to fulfill their needs. The importance of this is to communicate confidence to the prospective client that whether the sales representative (who may or may not also be the business owner), would be involved in providing the service, or if there are other individuals involved in providing a service, there is a quality connection of skills and service made through this business transaction.

A service is more challenging to promote, because there is nothing physical someone can hold in their hand. When marketing a service, it is more at the conceptual level of what the potential outcome and experience could be for the potential client. When pitching a service, the business owner must convey the message and the value of the service they are going to provide, clearly. The business owner must be able to be flexible and adjust their service offering to each client situation, for no situations are alike. Granted, if you are in the business of selling dry cleaning services, each individual client will have different needs; attention to the slightest of details will make all the difference whether or not the client returns to that dry cleaner in the future. The service industry relies on personal relationships and reliability. The potential client must have total confidence and belief in your ability to deliver upon your promises and skill sets. Therefore, it is necessary to provide your “why you are passionate about your business” and how that helps you deliver the best services available to your clients.

The start-up cost of service based business is much lower than that of a product based retailer location. Depending on the type of services your business will offer, will determine the type of investment you will need to make in order to fulfill customer demand.  The startup cost of a service provider will also depend on the type of industry and service offered.  In comparison, someone that wants to start up a landscape business will have far more up-front investment cost in equipment than someone that is providing consulting services to other businesses. A service business usually has to invest more money into marketing and branding their own individual brand identity, because in many cases of the service business, the business owner and their skill sets are the brand.

In either case, both a product and/or service based business boils down to a few basic concepts; you must have what someone else wants, which fills a need and provides an experience desired by the consumer. You can assure yourself of one thing – there is no reward without some level of risk, so regardless of product or service, all levels of business ventures require a cash investment, an investment of time, and an investment into knowledge of the industry by the business owner.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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WHERE DOES THE BEST WATER COME FROM?

Water-around-the-globe-300x250Published by http://www.H2OEnergyFlow.com, Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, SamBurlum.com

Source: So many bottled water companies claim that their water comes from the best sources; and with all of the different types of water out there for human consumption, it can be confusing. We investigate into where some of the best sources of water comes from, spanning around the world on a search of the planets freshest and cleanest water supplies.

Although 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, only one percent is available for fresh drinking water. So where does the best water come from?

Words like “all natural,” and “spring water,” can seem very appetizing, however when it comes to getting a better understanding of where the best sources of water are originated in the world, we need to dig a little deeper, actually sometimes a lot deeper, and sometimes we must look at earths most highest peaks.  Most sources of drinking water at that come from the faucet comes from one of two places; surface water or ground water.

Surface water is water that is collected from lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and streams. This is the case for most major metro urban centers, where they rely on these sources for their fresh drinking water. Ground water on the other hand comes from aquifers (highly permeable rocks, soil, and/or sand) which can be extracted through wells that pump the water to the surface or found as natural fed springs. In places where these resources have been over taxed, waste water is treated and put back into water distribution systems for use. In some areas where fresh water is scarce, salt water is refined into fresh water through the process of desalination.

So where does the ground water come from? Ground water is water that is located under the surface land ground locked up in spaces called pores, which are between rocks, sand, soil, and can be located between cracks and crevices deep below the earth’s surface. In some instances, these water supplies are under such immense pressure, it can spring up through the surface on their own. In most cases, a well must be dug, and water must be pumped to the surface. Most of these types of water pockets are trapped in what is known as aquifers. There are two common types of aquifers; sand and gravel aquifers and bedrock aquifers. Water found in sand and gravel is located where water is trapped between the individual chunks of gravel and grains of sand. In situations of bedrock aquifers, most water is found along fractures within the rock, joints, voids, and valleys between different slides of rock formations. This is the hardest of water to drill for since this water is surrounded by more solid material, however this water usually is more pure than sand and gravel aquifers because just as much as it traps water within, it blocks other materials from seeping into these spaces.

How ground water is replenished, is process of natural cycles. Rain water, melting snow and ice seep through the layers of soil and make their way into these natural aquifers. Most water that enters topsoil layers is absorbed by plant life; some water is held by the soil as topsoil acts as a natural sponge. The rest of the water moves down into the layers of the aquifer. In order for water to be allowed to flow to a well or a stream, an aquifer must be at its maximum potential. The surface of these aquifers, which leak water into wells, streams, and springs, is called the water table; which is the very top of where water levels are located. In cases where there is an over-abundance of surface water, streams, ponds, and lakes begin to take shape.

This natural “factory,” an eco-system that regenerates water and produces our most valuable resource is extremely sensitive. This is why our number one concern is how do we properly handle waste management, surface runoff, and limit the number of harmful toxins we introduce to this cycle.

Surface water is usually categorized as water that comes from streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Surface water is more preferred since it is less expensive to extract, collect, and redistribute to faucets of households. Because surface water is more available, and does not have any natural barriers to help filter pollution or containments, it must be property treated using both chemical and mechanical filtration processes. Surface water is more sensitive and susceptible to pollution due to it being out in the “open.” Brownsfields, which are properties contaminated by pollution in the ground, are monitored, so that run off contamination does not seep into surface water supplies.

Artesian wells are a pumpless water source that uses pipes to allow underground water that is under natural pressure that pushes it to the surface. Scientist say this type of well defies the laws of gravity, because the pressure that builds up between layers of rock has a chance to subside when water finds at path to the surface. This water is considered one of the most pure sources since the water from and artesian well becomes naturally filters as it passes through porous rock. Artesian wells are very popular due to their lack of needed infrastructure to access the water from these sources. This form of water source needs minimal filtration and can be brought to the surface with little or no effort.

The most pure of water supplies, which equates two-thirds of the available fresh drinking water for human consumption, is trapped inside frozen ice caps, icebergs, and glaciers. Knowing this, countries within the artic circles, have the most valuable water, as those with the highest elevated mountain regions which have the most snow fall. Yet is takes many years for this water source to reach a point where humans can access it.

The Institute of Earth Sciences, located at Germany’s Heidelberg University, claims that the cleanest and most pure water source within the article circle is located in the small village of Elmvale, Ontario. The reason for this is that this water is accessible and contains less atmospheric lead than any other source within the Article Circle.

Water located under Mt. Fuji, in Japan is considered one of the most pure sources in the Pacific. Located under the famous volcano, just 600 meters below the surface is the natural spring that provides this fresh water natural resource.

The Andes Mountains and Valleys contain some of the most pure water in the world, due to the minimal human urban development. With far and between modern manufacturing, and the added bonus of ice caps, snow caps, and glaciers, water that makes it into these aquifers have had minimal contact with any man made infrastructure or human influence (waste water, pollution, toxic run off, etc.).

The countries of Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Fiji, Norway, Austria, Sweden, and New Zealand are deemed to have the richest and pure water sources in the world, both from ground water, surface water, and when it is delivered to the tap.

Countries to have the worst water quality include Mexico, Indonesia, Tajikistan, Mongolia, and India; due to the high concentrations of manmade pollution that has found its way into water sources. Years of abusive land management practices, harsh agriculture (due to the over usage of fertilizers and chemicals), poor waste management, manufacturing and mining pollution had been major contributing factors to why the majority of these countries water supplies have been compromised.

Poor water quality has a significant impact on human health. Many poisonous and fatal bacteria, viruses, and disease thrive in dirty water conditions. Insects that carry harmful illnesses and disease find haven in polluted water sources which only makes matters worse. As human beings we have a social responsibility to contain as much of our negative influences upon fresh water sources as much as possible, and curb practices that compromise both surface and ground water resources. To ignore our own findings from professionals, advocates, and schools of thought about the importance of preserving fresh water sources will only lead to our own demise. We should not discount these warnings and take responsibility for protecting the most important natural resource to our existence.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Essential Must Have Marketing Tools for Most Small Businesses

Source: Quick to gain a cult consumer following and loyal customer base, most businesses begin to advertise their product and/or service offerings without a plan, which can cause the business to spend valuable dollars in advertising which may not have been the right fit in attracting potential clients from specific targeted audiences.  In order to reach any group of potential customers effectively, every small business needs essential marketing tools that will help them better direct their advertising budgets towards better use while reaching more clients for potential deal acquisition.

A quality marketing plan, which includes an advertising campaign, and an ongoing on-line presence, is the best place for every small business to invest their focus financially. Yet most small business owners say they cannot afford it. I tell them that they cannot afford to be invisible and allow for their competition to gain all the potential customers. A small business can invest tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising and see absolutely no results. The reason for this is that in order to know what types of advertising will best suit your business reach, you need to understand your goals and targets, your ideal clientele, and a defined budget you have available to allocate towards marketing and advertising.

With the plethora of choices, where do you begin? It can be a daunting task and it can be easy to get overwhelmed, however there are some tools that every small business must have to keep them on point and remain actively focused on their goals.

A business needs a quality marketing campaign.  Notice I said, “quality?” There are folks out there that will charge you thousands of dollars on a marketing plan, without taking the time to understand your business. The most complete marketing exercise is where an outside marketing and branding firm takes the time to research your business goals, your personal goals as the business owner, your vision, and your core values. They then take all of this data and compile it into a report that is the foundation for the road map in the most ideal client acquisition for your business. The marketing plan aligns your value proposition product or service with the ideal demographic of potential client within a geographic territory.

In order to stay in front of people, you need a quality advertising plan that properly represents your message to the public. Again, I mention the word “quality.” Any sales representative can give you an ad buy kit with the list of prices for ad space in the newspaper or on radio. However, a quality advertising campaign is going to take into account all of the audience you desire to specifically reach (based on demographics and geographic region), and provide you multiple avenues with which you can gain an audience with these potential clients. Your advertising campaign should be a mix of traditional advertising and online campaigns, with a detail of expected reaches. Advertising results should be measurable so that new client acquisition ratio can be properly assessed. This would look like, “x number of advertising dollars spent = x number of new clients,” and then broken down dollar for dollar with the return on the investment into advertising. Utilizing this plan will allow you to also gauge the most effective advertising medias for your business.

Living in a digital era, you must be able to have an effective website that is mobile friendly. Your website is your business card to the world. As technology continues to evolve, so should your website’s abilities to be searched for and found on multiple types of devices. There are 80% of individuals under the age 40 who use their mobile device for email, internet searches, and financial transactions. If your website is not mobile friendly, then your business will not be seen. Your website should also be able to support video, audio, as well as have multiple placements for a call to action that excites the viewer and engages them into wanting to know more or even make a purchase.

Keep an open mind to alternative forms of payment. Paper money, coins, and debit/credit cards are just a few ways people pay for things today. You need to expand your horizon to be able to accept crypto-currency, electronic wallet payments, and barter. Once you have decided on which platforms of payment your business will accept, you need to include it in your advertising materials. There are folks whom are loyal to one payment preference over another, and you need to let them know you are in a position to service their needs.

Cause marketing must be a part of our overall marketing strategies if you are going to have community brand value. Younger consumers do take notice of businesses that donate to local community causes and charities. They will patron those businesses that offer back something to a non-profit cause, especially when it is a cause that the consumer can identify with. Your plan on giving back should be consistent year to year. A business can build out an event around their contribution to the good cause, which gets noticed by local media.

Have an alliance with a freelance news reporter associated with local media. With the consolidation of newspapers and media outlets across America, most news stories, articles, and press releases do not get published unless someone with press credentials submits it to the reporting news wires. Most newspapers and publications have cut their staff and pluck from the news wires to save money on hiring dedicated reporters as well as the time required for getting content ready for print. Most freelance news reporters, journalists, and/or investigate reporters have credentials to submit content to news wires. When a reporter or journalist submits the content, it is deemed more creditable since the reporter has to vet the facts.

Hard physical marketing takeaways are still relevant, especially when you are marketing your business at a trade show or at a special buying market event.  Business cards are still the number one marketing tool when you are making an introduction to another party for the first time. Many folks fail to carry a business card on their person. Other marketing materials such as brochures, sell sheets, and post card mailers, are take away items that a client will have in their hand as a reminder to consider making a purchase. Letter head and thank you cards are also a must.

Branding your business is more than selecting a clip art logo. There are many generic logo designs to choose from in clip art or online. Today, the attention span of a consumer is less than 15 seconds, and if your logo is not dynamic enough, you will fall into the trap of getting lost in the sauce. Your logo should be the beacon of your brand, the message you wish to share, and explain what it is that you do without a lengthy conversation. You can take the time and make the investment to have the right logo crafted that will last for decades for your business or you can waste time and money on getting a generic logo design. In the end, if you choose the later route, you will also create channel confusion with your customer audience because they may stumble through in the transition from one branding to the next.

Many sales do not generate from social media, however positive social engagement about your product or service is now mandatory in a world where good news is noticed, but bad press moves at lightning speed. Social media business pages should not just be a bull horn for shouting to potential audiences to purchase your goods/services; it should be a platform of education. One where your business provides informative, engaging material and interesting facts to folks about your field of practice that they may not otherwise be aware of. Social media business pages on Facebook, Linked-in, and others are not the place to tell your business’s story, but just provide snippets of information which will peak the potential client’s interest.

A small introductory video about your business is an extra step that assures you someone will take notice of your business. You Tube is the premier platform for hosting video content for marketing your product and/or service, regardless how big or small your company may be.  The best part is that it is a free service for you to use, and the step-by-step upload process, gives your video additional search engine optimization so your video will rank higher in more relevant searches. Over time you can add to your video library content that can be re-purposed and shared in social media campaigns, or videos that can be sent to potential clients as part of your dribble marketing practices. It is suggested the shorter the introductory video the better. This takes some practice in trying to fit in who you are, what your business does, where you are located, what your value proposition is, why you are better than your competitor and what’s in it for the viewer of the video – all in less than 30 seconds.

Search engine ranking has become more and more competitive as the race to capture command over key words and ad word phrases intensifies on the internet. You will need a SEO plan that is phased in over time and that will stay relevant as your business expands in products and/or services offered. This will take careful consideration as you prepare a set of words and phrases that are unique to your business and industry situation, while being relevant to the common consumer. This is so that your business shows up on their radar, preferably on the first or second pages of their internet search.

The more upfront time, resources, and thought you invest into your business’s marketing tools, the more productive your results will be in staying in front of potential clients and while retaining top of the mind awareness with your current clients.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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