Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Small Business Web Site

Yesterday I wrote that doing a web site for a small business was no easy feat. Crucial. But time consuming.

Today, as luck would have it, I had lunch at Search Marketing Expo West and sat at a table with Ellie Burns-Brookens, owner of European Discovery, a travel agency that specializes in small groups and individuals.

Ellie left her career in high tech to pursue a dream - a true entrepreneur - and though she was ready to market via several channels, found that most of her business came via the web. She set about making her site more friendly for search engines.

But even though she knew the ins-and-outs of the web and could port her analytics over to an Excel spread sheet, Burns-Brookens found that for a small shop, web upkeep was hardly something that could be done with a lick-and-a-promise.

Any small business owner will tell you that taking three days out of a busy schedule to attend a conference is tough (and costly). Still, she dubbed the conference well worth the time. She's now looking at the best ways to incorporate video she's shot, how to get more bang from key words and tags, what to do with images. She's asking questions about what visitors do once they come to her site. And what content she should add on a regular basis.

In short, she's trying to balance on a small-biz budget what agencies charge a couple grand a month to do.

I'm not trying to frighten anyone away from a web site...eMarketer projects that this year there will be 193.9 million US Internet users—about two-thirds of the, it's folly to ignore it. But the web still isn't at the stage where a web site is as easy as a tri-fold brochure. Consider it an expense and budget both time and money accordingly.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Your local businss on the web

Research guru Tim Stehle sent me a copy of the All Business Newsletter, bringing my atention to an article titled, Is your business findable on the Web?

The author's point is that no business is so small that it can afford not to have a web presence, and that even if an owner doesn't have the time/money/expertise to do a complete web site, there is always a blog.

Her conclusion is, "It's up to you to build a strong Internet presence as part of your marketing plan. You can do it with minimal costs and a little investment of time."

The part about an Internet presence is spot on. But the part about minimal costs and a little investment of time...well, I don't want to nit-pick here, but a strong web presence pretty much takes more than "minimal costs" and "a little investment of time."

Anyone who has ever tackled a blog will tell you it takes a lot of energy, thought and time to write two or three times a week. Week in and week out. And it needs to be designed so that crucial information about your business is easy to find. And a website? Keeping it fresh, relevant, and "above the fold" in web searches takes a lot of work.

I don't mean to deter any local business from a web presence. It IS crucial. But a small business owner needs to understand that like any advertising or marketing effort, a web presence is not a one-time investment. It's an ongoing expense in today's world, and factoring in that time and cost is as important as any other element in a business plan.

SBA Online Tools Use Tops 125,000

Sure, it's straight from a press release (dated Feb 25) but still...if you are thinking you are ready for your own biz give it a try.

More than 125,000 entrepreneurs ...have used the U. S. Small Business Administration's newest online assessment resource ... two online assessment tools, the "Small Business Readiness" and the 8(a) Business Development assessment tools....

The Small Business Readiness assessment tool helps prospective entrepreneurs determine their level of preparedness...evaluate their skills, characteristics, and experience as they relate to
starting a business.

Based on their scores, entrepreneurs are directed to the SBA training
resources that support the identified needs to improve business
preparedness. The Small Business Readiness assessment tool is available on
the SBA's Web site at or by
clicking the "Assessment Tool" icon under the spotlight heading on the SBA
home page.

The 8(a) Business Development assessment tool was launched in October
to help small business owners decide whether they are suitable and eligible
for the SBA's 8(a) Business Development Program. The program helps small
disadvantaged businesses compete in the U.S. economy through business
development. Like the small business readiness assessment, the customized
8(a) Business Development assessment tool directs entrepreneurs to targeted
training and resources online. It too is available online at

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

SMX West - blogs from the conference

I'm over at Search Marketing Expo this week - listening to what's going on in the world of search and covering the event for Classified Intelligence. If you're interested in the field, here are a couple of blog posts where you can catch up on the action ...

The Online Marketing Blog has coverage of some of the sessions in a crisp, concise style. The coverage includes Danny Sullivan's Keynote, and some cool tips from the session on blended search that blogger Jolina Pettice titles Google's 5 Tips to Succeed in Universal Search -
1. Publish high quality, well captioned images
2. Create a Google video sitemap
3. Update business listings in local business center
4. Submit your feed to Google product search
5. Create a high-quality company blog

The Search Engine Roundtable has a bunch of bloggers there - here's a link to their site. I've also included a link to their post about today's keynote and their more in-depth coverage of the Blended Search Revolution. You can read about most of the sessions at Search Engine Roundtable.

UPDATE: Here's a page that lists most of the blogs covering the SMX Conference, courtesy of Search Engine Land.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Are You Entrepreneur of the Year

Yes, you could win glory, fame, and great bragging rights as Entrepreneur of the Year - sponsored by Entrepreneur Magazine and presented by The UPS Store. Entry form and links to rules etc are here.

To qualify, you must have fewer than 100 employees, have at least $500,000 in annual sales in 2007 and own at least 51 percent of your business.

Winners will be chosen in two categories: Entrepreneur of the Year and Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year. Entries must be received by June 30, 2008. Winners get a trip to the awards ceremony at an all-day conference for entrepreneurs in Long Beach, California on December 9, 2008.

Prizes, aside from the award ceremony, include a $500 gift certificate for products and services at any of The UPS Store franchised locations, a selection of Entrepreneur Press books (a $300 value), and a three year subscription to Entrepreneur® magazine (a $60 value) they will be profiled and promoted in a special section of the December 2008 issues of Entrepreneur magazine and in a follow-up article in the December 2009 issue.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Future of Small Business Report

The third segment of the "Intuit Future of Small Business Report" was released this week (originally due Q4 2007). Titled "The New Entrepreneurial Economy" this segment reveals trends helping small businesses thrive in the coming 10 years.

The report is sponsored by Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU) and authored by the Institute for the Future. Like the first two segments of the report, it's a great read. This portion focuses on three issues beneficial to small business:
  • Brain Meets Brawn to Create Opportunities for Small Business - The emergence of barbell-like economic structures [a few giant corporations on one end, a relatively small number of mid-sized firms in the middle, and a large group of small businesses balancing the other end] will drive new business collaborations, creating greater opportunity and profitability for small business.
  • Barriers Down, Small Business Opportunities Up - Access to big business infrastructure will expand, making their sophisticated technologies available to small and personal businesses, at lower risk, with a variable cost structure.
  • The Next Wave of Globalization Will be Driven by Small Business - Muted trade barriers, improved technology, and professional and social networks across borders will facilitate small business access to new markets.

If you recall, the first installment of the report revealed the changing face of small business. The second installment examined technology trends and their impact on small business formation and operation.