This is one of the most common questions new clients ask me.
“You’ve heard so many business ideas. Do I have a good idea for a business?”
There’s a simple answer. You have a good business idea if:
1. You think you can do what your competition does and do it 95% percent better.
2. You absolutely love what you’ll be doing in your own business.
1. I know I can make cupcakes better than 95% percent of the bakeries in my demographic area.
2. I love baking cupcakes.
Forget about those business ideas of “being your own boss” or “making money” or “making your own hours.” You’ll quickly find out that’s nonsense.
Small business is usually a tough way to make a living.
However, if you love what you’ll be doing in your business and you’ve researched your competition and your customers, you have a good chance of succeeding.
One more thing. If any “expert” tells you that you don’t belong in business and you’re absolutely certain they’re wrong, you could be the type of owner who makes a small business succeed.
In one form or another, this is usually the first question that I’m asked by potential small business owners. Where can I find the money for business expenses? Unfortunately, in this economy, your options are limited.
However, you do have options.
Recently banks are beginning to open their pockets for money for business startups.
Many potential business owners start their quest for start-up capital at larger banks. They believe larger banks have more cash on hand and are more likely to make loans.
I suggest potential business owners go to smaller banks. I’ve found it’s much easier to establish a personal relationship with managers of smaller banks such as Northfield Bank. These smaller banks are just as hungry for your business as you are for customers. Often these banks have an SBA facilitator on hand to help you with Small Business Administration Loan paperwork. Make an appointment with eCurtain Media to learn how to prepare to speak with a bank loan officer.
I’ve heard many experts say that a good place to look for money for business is to ask for a loan from your friends or family. This method has several potential pitfalls. First, you must make sure that any family or friend investor understands that it is your business and they can have little or no say about the day-to-day operation of the business once they’ve provided you with the cash. Also, you must show your family or friends that your business concept has an excellent chance of success (See how to write a business plan). Family and friends (unless your mother loves you so much she’ll simply give you her cash as a gift) should expect to get their money back with a reasonable return on their investment.
Small business owners can more easily get money for business in the form of “micro loans.” Micro loans range in the vicinity of $5,000.00 to $50,000.00. Realistically, in this economy, you’re probably looking at a $5,000.00 loan. However, that can be a excellent start if you just need a computer, a fax machine, and some other office equipment.
If you’re a minority or a woman, you have more options (in the form of grants). However, get ready to fill out a pile of forms.
This is just an overview. It’s such an important topic I’ll write more about it in the very near future.
I could list several websites where grants are available. However I’d rather offer this advice. Find a great simple tutorial on how to use Google and then study it. The vast majority of web users have no idea how to use Google effectively. This is a small business requisite. You put yourself way ahead of the competition when you can effectively research loans, grants, your competition, your demographics, and so much more.
In the meantime, let me close with this invaluable piece of advice: Never Joke About Money In Any Business Situation.
In business, no one finds jokes about money funny and it can cost you.
Recently, I heard this true story. A small business owner was closing on a loan from a bank. This was money for business that was crucial to the owner.
Minutes before signing a $60,000.00 loan agreement, the bank officer asked, “Are you sure this is going to be enough to cover your expenses?”
The business owner joked, “Well, $80,000.00 would be much nicer.”
Believing the business owner did not have a real handle on what he was planning to spend, the bank officer cancelled the loan.
Best Business Websites Rules Can Increase Your Profit.
Ask For An eCurtain Media Business Website Evaluation.
One client said, “I learned more about my business website talking with John Heartfield for one hour than in all the weeks of research I tried to do myself.”
An eCurtain Media Best Business Websites Evaluation examines your entire current website.
You’ll clearly see your website’s strengths and weaknesses.
CHECKING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF YOUR BUSINESS WEBSITE
YOUR HOME PAGE (Also called a LANDING PAGE)
> How effective is your HOME page at quickly grabbing the attention of potential customers or clients? Remember, you only have about 7 seconds to make them want to know more about you and what you can offer them.
> Are key questions such as “WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHY? HOW?” clearly answered?
> Is there at least one selling point that will catch a visitor’s eye and cause them to linger?
> Do elements on the HOME page draw the visitor into key areas of your site?
SITE NAVIGATION (Your buttons and options)
> How easy is it for visitors to move through the pages and areas of your site?
> Do visitors always know where they are?
> Is your site well organized?
> Do your options have excellent names (or icons)?
> Will visitors always know where they’re going and what will happen when they choose an option?
TEXT (The text visitors read)
> Does your text reflect the best practices of small business website copy?
> Do you understand the concept of “hunting and pecking” for information?
> Does your text brand you?
> Does it clearly tell visitors what you can do for them?
> Does your text contain researched keywords for Search Engines such as Google and Yahoo?
GENERAL GRAPHIC DESIGN
> Is your overall design attractive and appropriate for your business?
> Is the design scheme consistent throughout the site?
> Are any elements inappropriate for your target audience?
> Are you sure your graphic design items are optimized for Search Engines?
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
> Has your search engine strategy be implemented by an competent ethical professional. Think of it this way. You wouldn’t want your family doctor to perform brain surgery on you.
> Is your site currently following the basic rules that will improve your SEO ranking?
> Is the text visible on your pages optimized with keywords relevant to a search by clients attempting to find your type of services?
> What further steps should you immediately take to improve your current search engine ranking?
BASIC QUALITY CONTROL
> Do unexpected actions occur when visitors choose an option on your site?
> Is your text free of typos?
> Does your site frustrate visitors in ways you might not expect?Nothing is worse than a frustrated customer or client. They immediately become customers or clients that aren’t going to give you business.
What you see above is examples. If you can think of specific issues that you’d like to discuss with eCurtain, please send an email.
HOW CAN I MAKE MY SITE ONE OF THE BEST BUSINESS WEBSITES?
eCurtain Media provides practical suggestions as to how your site can be improved as quickly and cost effectively as possible.
Let’s spend some time talking at your convenience. We’ll discuss your website goals and your desired audience.
We’ll clarify what you want the site to accomplish, what role it plays in your business, and what audience you’re seeking.
What are the features and/or modifications you might consider making to your current website.
eCurtain Media’s suggestions and recommendations are tailored to your goals and your type of business.
To give you an idea, here’s a general list of some recommendations eCurtain Media clients have implemented in the past:
1) Include something “sticky” on the website. Something that brings visitors back to your site multiple times.
2) Increase the recognition factor of the business through basic networking techniques.
3) Provide appropriate ways for visitors to view professional events where they can meet
the business owner in person. This is not only a plausible way to meet potential clients. It
also automatically keeps the site “fresh” for search engine “spiders.” A website that stays the same for too long looks “stale” to the digital mind of Google.
4) Include credible testimonials from former clients.
5) Check if video is appropriate. Site visitors love video. However, your target audience needs the “bandwidth” (connection speed) do it well.
6) If your site is not an e-commerce site, consider spicing up your site with some appropriate multimedia programming. However, always avoid moving text or anything that blinks!
7) If you’re about to built a business site, consider creating it with WordPress rather than HTML/CSS/JS. WordPress can be easier to expand and maintain. It also provides a better a better experience for the very large and growing audience that accesses the Internet with smart phones and tablets.
The following is an an excerpt from “Make Your Small Business Website Work, Easy Answers to Content, Navigation, and Design”
John Heartfield wrote and designed this comprehensive book on building and maintaining business web sites (Rockport Publishers).
The small business website information presented in this book refers to the timeless best practices for creating an effective small business website.
Every day, untold amounts of money are lost because of mistakes that should have, and could have, been easily caught and corrected.
Here’s one example (the story is true, but the product has been changed to protect the innocent): A web shopper hears about a website that sells a revolutionary new type of garden tool. The shopper types in the URL and arrives at a homepage touting the new tool, displaying a photo, and offering a special discount for buying direct from the website. The site boasts a prominent “buy now” button.
The shopper is impressed, gets out a credit card, and clicks “buy now.” A form appears requesting the usual information including a phone number field. The shopper types in all the information except the phone number (people are hesitant to give their phone number to ecommerce sites) and clicks the submit button. Instead of verification that the order has been received or a “thank you!” message, the shopper is taken directly to the exact same homepage with everything, including the prominent “buy now” message, as it was before.
The shopper assumes it’s some kind of glitch but feels the tool would really make gardening easier. The “buy now” button is clicked again and, once again, the same form appears. All the shopper’s information is still in the fields of the form. The shopper doesn’t see any errors in their credit card info and, once again, the shopper in sent to the homepage. Once again the shopper is sent to the homepage.
Forget it, the shopper thinks, I’ll live without it.
The problem? The form was located “below the fold” (the non visible area of a long vertical page in a browser open to normal size). When the shopper clicked “buy now” instead of going to a new page, the navigation used an “anchor” (an marker inside the page) to jump to the form at the bottom of the page.
When the shopper clicked submit, the website detected an error. The phone number field was empty. The page was loaded again. But since the form was below the fold, the homepage appeared normal. The only difference in the newly reloaded homepage page was that a small line was added above the buy form noting that the phone number field could not be left blank. When the shopper clicked “buy now” again, the “you must complete the phone number field” message was, in essence, invisible to the shopper. Of course, the shopper could have put any phone number into that field.
If the person who designed the navigation above had read this book, that company would be shipping many more orders.
These days, almost very small business owner thinks, “I need a website!”
Of course, if you’re selling online or providing a service that can be described with extra benefits to the consumer, the obvious answer is: “Yes, you do need a website.” There’s a great deal of information on eCurtain Media’s site to help you build one.
However, it’s possible that your small business does NOT need a full-blown website. Don’t let anyone simply talk you into building a website because EVERY small business needs a Internet site.
Let’s consider two examples.
Example One: There’s an established medium-sized neighborhood hardware store. Its benefit over large outlets such as Home Depot is that it maintains a good basic inventory, has reasonable (though not cheaper prices), and an excellent knowledgeable staff. It has a loyal client base because customers know they can walk in, say, “I need a 2 1/2 inch bolt,” and they’ll be guided directed to the part they need. They don’t have to drive 20 minutes to Home Depot and look around the store for another 30 minutes. Also, they won’t be tempted to spend extra money on another new pair of scissors. This store needs to be found on the Internet. However it doesn’t really need a website. The convincing arguments for customers to go to this small hardware store are obvious. All the customers need to know is that it exists, its contact information, and how to easily find it. These pieces of information can be added to Online Yellow Pages and several other Internet Information Outlets.
Example Two: There’s a neighborhood auto repair shop. It’s won awards for service. It has strong professional affiliations with several major parts suppliers. It has many recommendations from its satisfied clientele. Its mechanics are all experienced pros. It has a guaranteed turn-around repair time. Someone from the shop will come to your house, pick up you car, repair it, and bring it back. It’s essential that such a small business has a strong professional website to bring those benefits to the public’s attention.
You should always consider the ROI (Return On Your Capital Investment) when you’re thinking you need a website.
Consider Example Two. The amount of extra profit the repair shop will make by investing in a great, reasonably priced web site demands that the shop invests in the kind of website that reflects the quality of its work and the benefits to its customers.
eCurtain Media can help you decide if you really need a website.
A Message From John Heartfield, eCurtain Media’s Director
John Specializes In Small Business Ideas & Answers.