For most businesses, listings are essential -- particularly for businesses that people use primarily in an emergency (for example, a drain cleaning service, a plumber, or a locksmith). Many merchants find a local business directory listing produces good results for a small investment.
Building a business image is a reflection of what you do and how you do it. Though many people think placing ads is the best way to let the world know about their business, advertising is actually one of the most expensive and least effective forms of marketing. Running a first-rate business, and letting people know about it through a good referral network, is often the best way to get new customers.
Spam is any message that you send electronically to people who have not specifically requested mail from you -- in other words, junk email. While sending spam may result in a sale or two in the short run, it will almost surely damage your reputation, so it's good advice to stay clear of it. There are many better ways to use email to keep in touch with current and potential customers. Here are a few of them.
Advertising is regulated by both federal and state law. Your ad will be unlawful if it tends to mislead or deceive. If your ad is deceptive or contains a false statement, you'll face legal problems even if you have the best intentions in the world. Learn the rules to keep your ads within safe, legal limits.
The best and most cost-effective form of marketing is word-of-mouth. If new business comes by referral, then you already have a marketing team in action: your customers. If you aren't getting new customers, you'll want to implement a more proactive marketing plan, but remember that there are no one-size-fits-all rules when it comes to marketing.
Many small businesses shy away from using primary market research (gathering information from potential customers regarding their views of a product or competitor) because they think it's too difficult. But primary market research should not be overlooked as a marketing tool. You can tackle primary research relatively easily and inexpensively -- and can get valuable information directly from your target customers.
In order for any business to succeed, it must have enough customers to buy the product or service offered. Before you launch your new business, take time to evaluate your potential customer base. Figure out whom you expect to be your most likely customers -- in other words, your target customers. Then tailor your marketing efforts, as well as your products and services, to those customers.
Leasing equipment can be a better option for business owners who have limited capital or who need equipment that must be upgraded every few years, while purchasing can be a better option for established businesses or for equipment that has a long usable life. Each business owner's situation is unique, however, and the decision to buy or lease business equipment must be made on a case-by-case basis.
You have several options for selling your goods: You might sell through a distributor (wholesale), sell directly to customers (retail), or place your products on consignment. Whatever method you use, it's smart to apply standard business procedures to avoid legal problems and protect your business.
Though "caveat emptor" -- let the buyer beware -- used to be the law of the marketplace, today's consumers have clout. State consumer protection statutes are meant to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive practices and often go beyond the traditional legal remedies available for breach of warranty. These laws are on the books in nearly every state.
When taking orders, whether by phone or online, you must follow the shipping and refund rules of the Federal Trade Commission's Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule, also known as the "30-Day Rule." In a nutshell, the rule mandates that when you advertise merchandise and state the shipping times, you must have a reasonable basis for believing you can meet these shipping deadlines.
Many businesses invoice their customers. But you may not realize that when you invoice a customer, your business is actually extending credit. It may not feel like you're extending credit -- after all, you're just waiting for payment -- but from a legal perspective, you're making an unsecured loan. You should consider the customer's creditworthiness before you do so. Here are a few basic principals to keep in mind.