Resources

Small Businesses Get Social and New Media Bang

(By Larry Eiler, owner of Eiler Communications in Ann Arbor. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.)

Business-to-business marketing, which is what many SBAM member companies do, is beginning to be understood by small businesses that need to use today’s new and social media effectively. 
Social and new media have been widely touted and used by consumers in increasing numbers over the past few years. We have all heard how Facebook has 600 million users, LinkedIn has surpassed 100 million, Twitter is effective for reaching millions of other consumers.

But when you run a business, how can you determine what “new media” are the best for you to help reach target audiences, measure and get more results in terms of your ROI for marketing dollars?

Here are some facts to consider

1. B-to-B marketers spend about $80 billion a year on their marketing, but only $3 billion online. (Source: “Social Marketing to the Business Customer,” Paul Gillin, John Wiley & Sons, March 2011).
2. Several B-to-B companies – Cisco, IBM, Microsoft – were early adopters of social media and now use Facebook, YouTube and Twitter extensively. Why? Because they find such channels highly effective for reaching specific targets. B-to-B marketing is vastly different from selling to consumers. Here’s how (Gillin).
a. B to B buy decisions are made by groups, not individuals. Groups can be consolidated, targeted well with social media – far better than with scattershot advertising and much more of an effective public-relations technique.
b. B-to-B marketing focuses on value, not experience. The “gee whiz” or “wow” factor important in consumer buy decisions means less in business buy decisions.
c. Buying cycles take longer in B-to-B because more dollars are at stake and more people – like special committees of people with various disciplines – make the decisions.
d. Relationships are more important in B-to-B marketing decisions and the deciders have to feel confident that the companies they select will validate the soundness of the collective judgment. Companies have to live with their buy decisions for a long time. Therefore, they must select a vendor that provides strong service, is reliable and trustworthy.
e. Top quality support and service are imperative.
f. Social media and the ability to target customers, measure results with tools like Google Analytics and the Foresee Results Social Media Calculator, mean marketers can provide solid analytical data to help bolster marketing programs.
g. B-to-B companies have more to gain from social marketing than consumers because social tools address factors unique to their markets.
h. Group decision making gets better when all involved in a decision have access to vendor resources and expertise.
i. Relationships can be developed at multiple levels – important in B-to-B buying decisions when multiple disciplines are involved in the decision – engineering, production, sales, finance, etc.
j. Buying cycles can be shortened because relevant parties do not have to go through red tape and multiple people. Rather, they can get information online and through direct channels.
k. You can control your messaging when you use social media for B-to-B. Check out “Monsanto According to Monsanto.” It is a blog the giant firm started two years ago when it wanted a public place to tell its story directly as it desired to present it.

Most companies still think social media is a mystery. But many large B-to-B firms have embraced various forms of social media to their advantage; and small businesses can do the same. Social media is today where the Internet was 14 years ago – no one knows how

Steven Strauss Column: Selling A Business

Question:
I have read your columns for years and appreciate your advice. Maybe you can help me now. I would like to sell my business, but am finding it difficult to do so in the current economic environment. Other than dropping my price too low for my taste, what can I do?

Answer:
I know a fellow who was in a similar situation to you. Here is how he handled the problem:

Dan owned a couple of auto body shops for 20 years, and for at least the past three, has planned on selling the business and retiring to Costa Rica with his wife. He figured that the business was worth about $300,000 and that that would make a nice nest egg, along with his other investments.

But the changing economy shifted his plans too.

Dan put his business up for sale, but had little luck. So to entice buyers, he decided to offer to finance up to 1/3 of the purchase.  Although he was not thrilled with taking $100,000 less up front, he also knew that it made the sale of his business much more likely.

Certainly this is not a new or radical idea. By some estimates, up to 75% of all small business sales include some degree of financing on the part of sellers. The reason is obvious: Most buyers do not have all of the money necessary to purchase outright. And of course most lenders do not offer anything close to the 100% financing on a business sale loan.

So in my pal’s case, he figured that a good buyer should have been able to come up with $50,000 down. A bank could finance another $150,000, and he would take the remaining $100,000 using a five-year balloon note.

And it worked. Dan found a great buyer who was able to get in putting only 16% down, the bank did not have a lot of exposure, and Dan was able to sell his business and retire, while also receiving some steady income for the next five years and then a lump sum payment.

So seller financing is one the best things you can do to facilitate a sale. 

It’s a win-win. Obviously, for you, it makes selling the business much easier. By helping to finance the sale, you can get a better price and a faster sale. Other benefits include:
•    The seller should get an ongoing interest payment that is typically more than she could otherwise get from another investment
•    If there are any problems with the business or property, the seller can negotiate an “as-is” provision, which would be hard to do with more conventional financing

Are there risks involved? Of course. The main one is that the buyer may default on the loan and you will be forced to repossess a business you no longer want. But a seller can diminish the likelihood of that happening by doing some due diligence. The seller must check out the buyer as much as the buyer must check out the seller and the business.
There is good news for the buyer too in this scenario. First of all, that an owner is willing to finance some or all of the sale should be proof that this really is a good business; otherwise the seller would not finance it. Financing a lemon is a sure way to get a deal breached.

Beyond offering to finance part of the sale, other things you can do to help promote the sale of your business include:
Hiring a business broker: Hiring a broker is smart for several reasons:
•    The broker has access to more qualified buyers than you do. This saves you time, money and headaches
•    Brokers know where and how to market a business. That is what they do, and is likely not your specialty
•    The broker will also be able to help you accurately value your business, which is key to a successful sale

Drop the price: I know you don’t want to hear this, but it’s still true. My brother sells real estate and tells me that he knows the pri

SBAM, Business Leaders for Michigan File Brief to Michigan Supreme Court Supporting Tax Reform

The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), in partnership with Business Leaders for Michigan, has filed an amicus brief with the Michigan Supreme Court to help support the job-creating business tax reform. “This reform is literally a once-in-a-generation step forward toward creating a business climate that encourages business owners to grow their companies, generate jobs and revitalize their communities,” says Rob Fowler, president and CEO of SBAM.

Gov. Snyder has asked the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of the law. “Our purpose in participating in the filing of the amicus brief is to lend our support to the governor’s proactive effort to seek speedy resolution of any legal questions regarding the new law,” says SBAM’s Vice President Government Relations David Palsrok. “Small business owners crave certainty and stability in our tax system and need to know that this bill will go into effect as scheduled.


Business Next radio for Wed., Aug. 24: Key legislative issues affecting your small business success

Learn about the key legislative issues affecting your small business success that will be considered by lawmakers in the fall. Interview with Dave Jessup, director of government relations for SBAM, and David Rhoa, owner of Lake Michigan Mailers Inc. in Kalamazoo and chairman of SBAM's Legislative Action Council.

Business Next is part of the new MichiganBusinessNetwork.com Internet radio network. Hear great tips and ideas for growing your business on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. (Repeated at 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.)

Tune in to MichiganBusinessNetwork.com from your PC or mobile device and get the advice you need to be a successful entrepreneur!

Missed the broadcast? Listen to the podcast or download the MP3 version at our show page.

“The Best of Business Next” will air on TalkLansing.net at 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

Feds Release New Summary of Benefits and Coverage Rules - 5 Months Late

By Gary Kushner, SPHR, CBP
President and CEO, Kushner & Company

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), among other requirements insurers and health plans are to provide a new “summary of the Summary” Plan Description, known as the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (or, as it was known in the Act, the Uniform Explanation of Coverage), starting on March 23, 2012.  The Act’s purpose was straight-forward and clear: help participants be better able to choose a plan by having all plans provide information in a similar fashion.  Unlike most all other legislation, including the PPACA, the items for an SBC were very specific, as were the formatting and layout.  It was to be no more than four pages long, with a font of no less than 12 point, and had to contain information that would easily fill 10 or more pages under even the best of circumstances (unless your idea of a page was more a museum-sized mural).

In order to assist employers, insurers, and health plans come up with this new participant disclosure, the Act required three federal agencies–the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury–with providing a model of this new four page document by March 23, 2011.

Well, on August 17, 2011, almost five months after the law’s own requirement, the agencies did provide a model notice.  Surprise–they too couldn’t fit all of the required information onto four pages (it took them six).  Even better, they then added one of the items required for this document, a glossary of common plan terms, onto another notice to provide to participants.  So by the end there are more than 10 pages of information for employers, insurers, and plans to distribute.

But wait, there’s more.  Under the proposed rules, as required by the PPACA, in the event there is a material change in the plan benefits or coverages, a new Summary must be provided to participants no later than 60 days before the start of the new changes, typically the next plan year.  For large employers, this won’t be onerous as planning for the upcoming benefit year is usually done well in advance, often six to nine months before the start of the new plan year.  For small and mid-sized employers however, many insurers and stop-loss carriers are not currently providing renewal information and quotes until within 60 days of the new plan year.  This will force all employers and carriers to push for an earlier renewal process in preparation for the new plan year.  For example, for a calendar year plan, an employer will need to make all plan design decisions, including plan and contribution changes, by early to mid-October in order to communicate with employees by no later than November 1st.


Stay tuned.  I expect we’ll see a push for a number of items related to the new SBC.  First will be requests to delay the implementation date since the federal agencies were almost five months late getting employers and carriers the needed model information.  Second, expect to see requests for a safe harbor for small employers in orde

IRS and Common Sense

Granted - IRS and common sense are not two items that generally go together, but in new proposed regulations we think they have it about right.

In the Affordable Care Act there are provisions that allow an employee,whose contribution to their employer’s health insurance plan would be more than 9.5% of family income, to go to the Health Insurance Exchange and get subsidized coverage. 

Do you remember reading that if the employee does that, then the employer gets whacked with a $3,000 per employee penalty?  Do you also remember the immediate reaction from the business community of – "How are we supposed to know our employees family income?"  
 

Setting aside our distaste for the financial penalty included in the law. The Internal Revenue Service heard the questions and concerns and earlier this year said they would develop new rules to make it easier for employers to determine if their health care plans are "affordable" and exempt from the stiff financial penalty. Guess what? They seem to have accomplished that goal. 

Under the law, starting in 2014, employers are liable for an annual $3,000 penalty for those employees whose required health insurance premium contribution for single coverage exceeds 9.5% of family income and the employees are eligible for federal premium subsidies to buy coverage through state insurance exchanges.  However, in new rules proposed Aug. 12, the IRS said it will develop a “safe harbor” where the employer’s offered health insurance plan would be considered affordable as long as the premium contribution for single coverage did not exceed 9.5%of the employee’s’ W-2 wages.

The IRS said it is developing the new safe harbor to give employers more certainty on whether their plans will pass the affordability test.

Questions or comments? Please contact Scott Lyon, Vice President Small Business Services, at (800) 362-5461 or scott.lyon@sbam.org.

Business Next radio for Aug 22, 2011: how to get the most for your health insurance premium dollar

We take a look at what’s going on in the world of health insurance and we tell you how to get the most for your health insurance premium dollar. Interview with SBAM's health insurance expert Scott Lyon. 

Business Next 
is part of the new MichiganBusinessNetwork.comInternet radio network. Hear great tips and ideas for growing your business on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. (Repeated at 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.)

Tune in to MichiganBusinessNetwork.com from your PC or mobile device and get the advice you need to be a successful entrepreneur!

Missed the broadcast? Listen to the podcast or download the MP3 version at our show page.

“The Best of Business Next” will air on TalkLansing.net at 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

Don't forget to become a fan of the "Business Next" Face

Business Next radio for Aug 19, 2011: How communities are doing a better job supporting small business entrepreneurship.

How communities are doing a better job supporting small business entrepreneurship. Interview with Marsha Madle of the Michigan State University Land Policy Institute Entrepreneurial Communities Program.

Business Next 
is part of the new MichiganBusinessNetwork.comInternet radio network. Hear great tips and ideas for growing your business on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. (Repeated at 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.)

Tune in to MichiganBusinessNetwork.com from your PC or mobile device and get the advice you need to be a successful entrepreneur!

Missed the broadcast? Listen to the podcast or download the MP3 version at our show page.

“The Best of Business Next” will air on TalkLansing.net at 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

Don't forget to become a fan of the "Business Next" Facebook page! Got an idea for guests and topics for “Business Next”? Forward to Michael Rogers at michael.rogers@sbam.org or 517-267-2209.

Business Turnaround Strategies

By Nipa Shah, President of Online Marketing Simplified. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.

Remaining a viable business is tough in this economy. Fundamental challenges include managing cash flow while ensuring that the pipeline of prospects remains full. So how can a business remain viable? Theoretically, the answer is very simple. Just get more sales, manage your overhead costs, provide the best customer service possible, hire the best individuals, and voila, you have nothing to worry about. Practically speaking though, how do you do all that when business development cycles last longer, overhead costs remain the same, and competition is tougher than ever? Following are three Business Turnaround Strategies that can help:

1. Focus on business development: One of your top priorities must be business development. Building and keeping the pipeline full is an important activity that should take up most of your time as a business owner. Not comfortable with cold-calling? Cold-emailing is another strategy that can be effectively used to create new leads. Referrals are nice to have, but allocate a bulk of your time on a regular basis to conduct active solicitation of new business. Strategies could include cold-calling, cold-emailing, or buying appointments or leads through third-parties.

2. Delegate non-essential tasks: We all like to be do-it yourselvers because it helps us save money. But remember, if you aren’t a plumber by trade, then trying to fix a broken pipe by yourself ends up costing a whole lot more and takes longer than it takes a plumber-by-trade to do it. As a business owner, focus on working on growing the business and let others work on fulfilling the tasks of the business. Put a dollar value on your time and be wise about where you spend it.

3. Leverage technology: Small business owners must take advantage of advanced technology to create efficiency and manage their time better. Some areas where you should consider investing in technology include semi or fully manual order processing, office staff spending too much time on the phone, doing manual data entry from paper to computer, matching data between two systems or between a paper and a computer-based system, etc. etc. Implement these strategies and you will be sure to see a difference in how your business runs, how much new business you generate, and how much efficiency is created over time.

Nipa Shah is president of Online Marketing Simplified, www.jenesysgroup.com.

Business Next radio for Wed. Aug. 17: Entrepreneurship lessons from Michigan's fast-growing small business wine industry.

Entrepreneurship lessons from Michigan's fast-growing small business wine industry. Interview with Linda Jones, Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council.

Business Next 
is part of the new MichiganBusinessNetwork.comInternet radio network. Hear great tips and ideas for growing your business on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. (Repeated at 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.)

Tune in to MichiganBusinessNetwork.com from your PC or mobile device and get the advice you need to be a successful entrepreneur!

Missed the broadcast? Listen to the podcast or download the MP3 version at our show page.

“The Best of Business Next” will air on TalkLansing.net at 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

Don't forget to become a fan of the "Business Next" Facebook page! Got an idea for guests and topics for “Business Next”? Forward to Michael Rogers at michael.rogers@sbam.org or 517-267-2209.
RSS
First320321322323324325326327328329Last