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Customer Loyalty: The Trust Factor Matters

How important is customer trust for small businesses? More important than you might think, according to a new research from Pitney Bowes that explores the role of trust in customer relationships. Indeed, trust is one of the leading influences.

Specifically, the Pitney Bowes study revealed that customer communications drive more than 20 percent of the overall trust a company receives. That trust, in turn, impacts the length of the customer relationship and profitability. Overall, the study results show that trust can drive up to 44 percent of customer loyalty, reinforcing the theory that long-lasting customer relationships are absolutely critical for business success.

"Trusted brands build upon each interaction to enable lifetime customer relationships—every customer interaction—in person, on a Web site, with direct mail, or with a call center —is an opportunity to build or break trust,” says David Newberry, Chief Marketing Officer of Pitney Bowes Business Insight.

What does this mean for your small business? According to Pitney Bowes:


  • Customers are looking for companies that can provide high quality customer care which in turn gives them a feeling of being well looked after.

  • Companies are also looking for a high level of competency and etiquette from front-facing employees.

  • Companies can reach out to customers and exchange opinions about products and services by using digital technologies and social media.


Check out this quick video on customer loyalty marketing for some strategic tips for your small business:

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Entrepreneur Day Fosters Startup Collaborations

If you are looking for a helping hand to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, you may get lucky on Entrepreneur Day.

Intuit is holding its third annual Entrepreneur Day to collaborate with startups and innovators in the quest to launch the next “big idea” in technology.

That could be mobile apps or cloud computing or data analytics or some other cutting-edge tech. The only catch is that it needs to improve the financial lives of Intuit customers.

"Technology moves fast, and through Entrepreneur Day our Intuit leaders and the entrepreneurs on the front line of emerging technologies will begin to work together to bring something new to market that's meaningful for our customers," says Tayloe Stansbury, Chief Technology Officer at Intuit. "As we open up our innovation processes, the entrepreneurs who participate can benefit from us introducing them to our large ecosystem of partners, suppliers and customers."

If you want to get in on this opportunity, you need to apply. The application process asks you to describe your product or service and a profile of your target audience. The application deadline is Sept. 9. The event, which includes one-on-one time to pitch your ideas and demonstrate your products, will be held at Intuit’s Mountainview, Calif. headquarters on Oct. 9.

Not sure it’s worth it? After attending last year's event, David Barrett, CEO of Expensify, joined the Intuit Partner Platform and integrated his expense report program within QuickBooks.

"The time I invested in applying for and attending Entrepreneur Day paid off," says Barrett. "The experience opened a number of doors for me. I met with a lot of great people, from top to bottom, and got in front of the right decision makers to move a relationship with Intuit and their product development teams along quickly."
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How to Navigate Google’s Changing Algorithms

SEO. It’s an acronym that wasn’t on the radar screen of most small businesses 10 years ago. But in an age when consumers are turning to search engines to find everything from products and services to news and various other types of information, you can’t afford not to put SEO, or search engine optimization, on your radar screen in a hurry.

Many companies large and small rely on behemoth Google for search engine marketing. But with its ever changing algorithms how can businesses adapt to SEO winning strategies? It begins by understanding how Google ticks. According to ThomasNet, a SEO press release distribution service firm, Google makes over 350 algorithm changes every year.

With 97 percents of industrial buyers beginning their OEM, MRO and services purchasing process online, ThomasNet experts say it is critical for SMB industrial companies to learn how to adapt their online marketing strategy—including their Web site, search engine marketing and search engine optimization—to minimize risks and maximize opportunities.

That’s why ThomasNet is recommending a free whitepaper called, "Reliance on Search Engine Optimization for Industrial SMBs is a Slippery Slope.” The white paper explains the four major Google algorithm changes since April 2010, outlines their impact to search results delivered on Google, reviews the implications of these changes to industrial businesses who promote themselves online, and provide recommendations for succeeding in the ever-changing world of online search.

No matter what industry your small business is in, you can glean some valuable insights into how to SEO your Web site and its content around Google algorithms in this white paper.

In the meantime, here are a four general SEO tips any small business can put into practice:

  1. Do your keyword research.

  2. Develop value-added content.

  3. Optimize for local search.

  4. See what keywords your competitors are using.


And here’s a video with some additional SEO insights:

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Tap Into Small Business Competitive Intelligence

Whether you're starting a business, introducing new products or services, or adding locations, it's always a good idea to first do your research. Informed decisions make the best decisions, and–especially when credit is tight–we often need to show that we have a solid understanding of our target markets.

Unfortunately, neither your customers nor your competitors make up one homogeneous group. What motivates people and businesses can vary–depending on the places where they operate, live, or work. That's why it's a good idea to incorporate into your research some business and market information about places-including demographics and the economic, political, social, and other issues that make each market unique.

Several key resources will help you drill to the local level and learn about counties, cities, census blocks, and other sub-state areas:

U.S. Government resources

The federal government collects and analyzes massive amounts of data, much of it about local areas. Population and business statistics, economic indicators, regional profiles, and mapped data are made available for free through a variety of publications and databases.

Most local-level business information comes from three U.S. government agencies: the Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One of the best sources for demographics is the American Community Survey. This annual survey of three million households collects such information as age, race, income, commute time to work, home value, and veteran status.

If you're looking for statistics on business and industry, try the County Business Patterns website (which actually offers employment and earnings down to the zip-code level) and the Building Permits database of construction statistics.

For insights into a local area's economic health, head to the BEA's Regional Economic Accounts web page. Here you will find information about Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and local-area personal income and employment. The BEA Regional Fact Sheets (BEARFACTS), with data compiled into handy tables, graphs, charts, and bulleted lists, make it easy to compare an area's economy to that of the U.S. as a whole.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a great resource for data on hours, earnings, and type of employment for workers in a particular geographic area. Also of interest are the links to information about the demographic makeup of the workforce and regional mass layoffs. Discover which products from the Bureau of Labor Statistics drill to the local level through the Overview of BLS Statistics by Geography page of this agency's website.

State and Local Governments

Regional, state, and local governments frequently provide more detailed geographic-based information than federal sources, but the data won't necessarily be uniform or consistent across locations – even for locations within the same state. More likely than not, you will have to visit the websites for each jurisdiction separately. What you lose in convenience though, you gain in in-depth and first-hand knowledge.

To find official government sites, try entering the keyword government with the name of your location in a general-purpose search engine. You can also link to official sites through these resources:

State and Local Government on the Net

Local Governments: USA.gov

Local News

News reports, either from or about a particular location, are a rich source of local information about public and private companies, people, economics, and issues. Local media outlets go into far greater detail than their national counterparts when covering local events and stay with the story long after the national press has moved on. Local news sources also offer something the larger outlets can't–a local perspective–and knowing what's important to local residents is a valuable piece of business and market planning.

The Google News advanced search page allows for location-based searching, as does Bing News. Also try these resources for print, radio, and TV news stories:

Local Experts

Even in the age of Google, you won't find everything on the web. Perhaps no one's collected or posted exactly what you're looking for, or it's not in plain sight and will take too long to uncover. Then there's the information you won't find in any data table or news headline. As competitive-intelligence researcher Ben Gilad puts it, "Only human sources can provide commentary, opinion, feelings, intuition, emotions, and commitment."  ("My Source is Better Than Your Source!—The Argument Over Primary and Secondary Sources," by Ben Gilad, Competitive Intelligence Review, Vol. 6(3) 58-60, 1995).

Sometimes the best way to find the answers you need is to ask an expert. People in the following professions make good targets for your research, because they generally keep an eye on the community and will often have subject expertise as well:

  • Journalists
  • Government workers
  • Librarians
  • University professors
  • Association members or leaders
  • Economists and economic development executives

Search the web to find the right people ask and to prepare for your phone calls (yes, calls are much more effective than emails when contacting local experts). Scan the news to identify the people writing the stories and the people about whom they are writing. Try the websites of local governments, libraries, and organizations such as the chamber of commerce or convention and visitors bureau for key personnel.

Experts are often willing to talk and want to be helpful, but it's important to respect their time. Keep interviews short, and do some background research on both your contact and topic to make sure you quickly ask the right questions.??Business growth will take you into new and unchartered territory. Minimize the risk by arming yourself with a thorough understanding of your customers and your competitors-and the day-to-day local issues that affect their decisions.

Marcy Phelps is the founder of Phelps Research and author of the book, Research on Main Street: Using the Web to Find Local Business and Market Information. For more information, please visit, www.ResearchOnMainStreet.com and www.MarcyPhelps.com.

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Why Your Small Business Must Have a Web Site

The first web site was published 20 years ago today. Can you believe it? Still, recent studies show that a large number of small businesses still don’t have a web site.

And that’s a big mistake, according to many small business marketing experts. Brandon Yanofsky from BlistMarketing.com, is one of them. As he sees it, small businesses that don’t have web sites are missing out on three big benefits.

1. People are looking for your product/service online.
People are now using search engines to find products and services. The only way a small business can appear in the search engine results is if they have a Web site, Yanofsky says. “If you have a website, your potential customers will find your business,” he continues. “If you don't, they'll find your competitors.”

2. People are looking for YOU online.
In addition to searching for products and services, Yanofsky says consumers are also using Web sites to get in contact with small businesses. If they need a phone number, they won't look in the Yellow Pages. Instead, they search for the company's Web site.

“When [a plumber's] customer had a leak in their house, they went online looking for his phone number,” he explains. “But because he didn't have a Web site, his customer wasn't able to find his phone number and called his competitor instead.”

3. It's the best way to spend your marketing budget.
Out of all the advertising and marketing methods available to businesses, Yanofsky says Web sites are the most effective and efficient. Compared to other forms of advertising, a Web site is much cheaper but yields more results.

“One of my clients was spending thousands a month on advertising,” he says. “When they finally got a website, they stopped running the advertising and still had more clients. They lowered their costs and increased their revenue.”

Some small businesses may be ready to take the next step: mobile Web sites. Everywhere people are using mobile devices to surf the Web for information. It is more important than ever for businesses to have a mobile website, especially one that presents essential information quickly and displays it in a way that helps website visitors find what they are looking for while on the go.

Traditional Web sites are designed to be used in a desktop computing environment, with a full browser, large monitor, mouse driven navigation and in a mostly sedentary context. By comparison, the mobile user has a small screen and limited navigation tools. Businesses who do not accommodate the mobile user are losing out on the most rapidly growing informational market segment in the world today.

"Having a mobile presence for your business is essential in today's competitive market,” says Gary Hughes, president of SoFlaMobi LLC, parent company of South Florida goMobi. “More and more people are relying on their mobile devices to find information they need while out and about.”

Here's a quick video on how to build a web site yourself:

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