Small Business Resources

Small Business Resources

Small Business Resources

Starting a small business is no easy task, and managing one can be stressful. Keeping track of legal and financial regulations while also building a reputation and marketing your services/products can be exhausting and frustrating.

If you’re like me, you wear many hats and have had to learn how to navigate processes you never thought you would need to know. In business school, I developed a strong foundation, but managing my own business has led me to fully experience the process from many different perspectives. Thank goodness for the Internet! With networks and organizations dedicated to small businesses and their success, it is much easier to navigate the realms of administration, marketing, finance, and more.

There are many resources available, so this list is by no means exhaustive. Here are just  a few to get you started:

U.S. Small Business Administration: Whether you’re just starting a new business or have been established for years, the SBA is great resource to find legal, loan, and contract information. Local chapters offer events and workshops for additional assistance.

US Chamber of Commerce: Small Business Nation is a project of the US Chamber of Commerce. From legal documents to financial advice, this site provides small business owners with a plethora of tools to succeed. Additionally, your local Chamber of Commerce is a good way to connect with business leaders in your own community for advice and mentoring.

National Association of Women Business Owners: NAWBO is network for women owned businesses. Events and seminars are designed to engage members in conversation as well as develop relationships with like-minded leaders in the community. Local chapters enable networking and the sharing of ideas and experiences.

Online Resources
LinkedIn: If you’re not already a part of this professional networking site, sign up today! This platform helps you stay connected with former and current colleagues as well as offers access to interest groups, where discussions are both timely and informational. LinkedIn Pulse offers users a way to tailor news that is most relevant to their own interests. If you don’t have a lot a time to read, Pulse is one-stop way to stay up-to-date.

Canva: Do you struggle with finding images to match your brand and vision? Canva is an online graphic design that eases the process of creating social media images as well as marketing materials and company letterhead. While many free images are available, paid images are only $1. Canva is an affordable way to do some of your own visual branding.

MailChimp: For businesses just starting out with email marketing and e-newsletters, MailChimp provides free plans for companies with a small number of subscribers. Easy to use, the platform generates tracking reports and presents your customers with a professional, visually appealing email.

While there are too many blogs to list, here are a few that I read on a regular basis.

James Altucher: Altucher is an entrepreneur and prolific writer. If anything, his blog posts offer great insight into entrepreneurship and often comic relief from the daily challenges of managing your own business.

Entrepreneur: Also a print magazine, Entrepreneur’s blog and website is a great place to go for inspiration and to see the latest trends in business, social media, marketing, and more.

Inc.: Also a print magazine, Inc. is geared towards helping businesses grow. Read about and learn from other business owners and find resources to help you build a competitive organization.

Meltwater: A communications company, the Meltwater blog provides information about tracking results from marketing/PR campaigns as well as tips for successful branding.

Seth Godin: If you need marketing help of inspiration, look no further!  Engaging and entertaining, Godin has also written several books if you can’t get enough.

The Arpan Group: I would be remiss if I left our own blog off this list! We write about our experiences as well as about the strategies that worked (and those that didn’t), so check in regularly or sign up for our newsletter to keep up-to-date with more tips and resources.

Update: One of our youngest readers suggested a website for teaching kids about business: It’s never too early to help children learn the ins and outs about finance, and this is a great resource to start. Special thanks for the suggestion!

Do I Know You? Making the Case for PR

Do I Know You? Making the Case for PR

Public Relations

How many times have you been at a networking event or conference and come across a familiar face, but blank on their name? The internal struggle begins as you try to connect the face with something more concrete in your mind. Consumers face this dilemma everyday as they are inundated by offers on social media sites, endless emails clogging their inbox, and telemarketers interrupting the rare sit-down dinner.

Driven by the bottom line, and understandably so, small business owners rely on advertising as a concrete way to achieve a measurable goal, i.e. increase sales or website traffic. As we filter through postcards in the mail or online offers, we see a company’s advertising dollars at work. While the impact of advertising dollars is clearly understood, the role public relations plays is often less so.

Before solely investing your time, money, and efforts in an in-depth marketing strategy, consider these questions:

  • Is the target market already well acquainted with my brand/services/products?
  • How likely will a consumer open my firm’s email or read the sales offer?

If the answers are no and not likely, then a different approach might achieve better impact. A public relations strategy, designed to inform the public about who you are and what you do, will ensure your firm’s advertising dollars don’t go to waste. Incorporating public relations into your marketing strategy helps in two crucial ways:

Strengthens brand name: Being sure a consumer knows your name and exactly what your firm offers is the first step. If a consumer already knows your company’s mission and the services/products offered,  s/he is more likely to engage in marketing efforts.

Enhances credibility: Enhance your firm’s reputation through articles or blog mentions. With advertising, consumers are well aware they are being given a sales pitch. Reading about how your firm’s history or a profile about the founder in a trusted media source lends a different vibe and adds to your credibility as a reputable firm.

A public relations strategy should, by no means, replace marketing efforts. Instead, the two complement one another resulting in a longer lasting (and lucrative) impact. What can your firm do to incorporate public relations with marketing efforts?

Distribute press releases: keep media informed about your latest products/services. If your firm is just entering the market, use press releases to tell your story – help the media understand the needs your firm addresses.

Target relevant media: Media outreach begins with a targeted approach. Be sure your story is heard by the right people, not a general mass, so that your target audience gets the message.

Engage on social media: Meaningful conversations with your customers strengthen your reputation. Stay in touch with customers by offering advice and tips or sharing relevant news.

As a small business owner myself, I am well acquainted with the dilemma of deciding where to spend money and time. Caught up in the day-to-day and trying to make ends meet is often the main focus, and the big picture is just something you catch a glimpse of the distance. By allocating resources to both public relations and marketing efforts, small businesses can achieve greater impact as well as meet growth and financial goals.