Ask SCORE

SCORE, "Counselors to America's Small Business," is a nonprofit organization of more than 13,000 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners. Call 610.327.2673 for the Pottstown SCORE chapter, or find a counselor online at www.pottstownscore.org

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Tips For Choosing The Right CRM Platform For Your Small Business

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems offer technology to streamline a company’s ability to interact with current and future customers. A CRM system essentially provides a central place where businesses can store customer and prospect data, track customer interactions, and share this information with colleagues. It allows businesses to manage relationships with customers, helping the business to grow.

A good introduction to the benefits of having a CRM system can be seen at …

How To Find The Right Accountant For Your Small Business

Your business success depends on many factors. Managing your money well and understanding your finances are two of the most critical. Unless you are an accountant by trade, it is likely you will need some outside guidance and insight as you start and grow your company.

Getting help from an accountant can benefit your business in a number of ways:

Press Release Basics for Small Business Owners

Press releases remain among the most effective ways to generate awareness of your small business and its products and services. Media outlets may reproduce a press release as is (or with some editing), or follow up about creating a longer story. A press release that gets picked up by reporters, bloggers, and others who share information with potential customers can result in media attention that facilitates interest in your company, builds credibility, and ultimately leads to more revenue.

Closing Sales Starts With Building Trust

Making the sale, especially when your small business offers products and services to other businesses, demands more than being good at what you do. It also requires building professional relationships. To do that, you must earn your customers’ trust.

There’s no scientific formula for earning trust. It requires time, patience, and honest effort.

Here are some suggestions to help you lay a foundation of trust with your potential customers:

Bringing On Contractors Vs. Hiring Staff: Which Will Benefit Your Small Business The Most?

As your small business grows, you will find you cannot do everything on your own. To obtain the help you need, you can choose to outsource tasks to independent contractors or hire employees to whom you can delegate work.

To decide which will make the most sense for your company, it is important first to understand some of the key differences between working with independent contractors versus having employees on staff.

Employees vs. Independent Contractors: Four Points Of Comparison

Key Considerations When Firing an Employee

While carefully selecting employees can help prevent human resources issues, your small business might still find it has hired a staff member who is not a good fit.

A number of issues may justify termination of an employee:

How Creating Buyer Personas Can Help Small Businesses in Their Marketing Efforts

Compiling demographic information about your buyers will only take you so far in understanding how to reach and what to say to your target customers. By creating a “buyer persona” (a profile of a customer to represent a particular group of buyers) for each group of customers to whom you wish to sell your products and services, you will gain greater insight. Buyer personas help you drill down to the specifics of what motivates individual customers to buy and identify what communications channels will give you an opportunity to connect with more of your prospects and customers. 

“Success Thinking”—It’s All About Attitude

As a small business owner, you’re not just “the boss.” You’re also the leader, the person employees, vendors, customers, and prospects look to for guidance, support, and confidence. And being a leader is easier than you think. It begins with a positive, “can-do” attitude that your business delivers what it promises, and can achieve any goal.

Self-Employment Tax Basics

Going from “employee” to being your own boss brings some significant changes, professionally and personally. One of the most significant to become accustomed to is no longer having certain taxes neatly taken from your paycheck by your employer.

As a self-employed individual, not only are you responsible for directly submitting the income tax you owe to the federal, state, and local governments, you are also responsible for paying self-employment tax.

Understanding the What’s and Why’s of Advertising

Have you ever seen an advertisement and thought that something similar might well benefit your small business? Well, it just could. Or, it could backfire and be a complete waste of money.

That’s because advertising is but one element of a business’s overall marketing strategy. True, it has many facets—print, billboard, online, broadcast, direct mail, etc.—but each element and the message it conveys has been carefully developed with a specific purpose in mind. In other words, image is not always everything.

“Success Thinking”—It’s All About Attitude

As a small business owner, you’re not just “the boss.” You’re also the leader, the person employees, vendors, customers, and prospects look to for guidance, support, and confidence. And being a leader is easier than you think. It begins with a positive, “can-do” attitude that your business delivers what it promises, and can achieve any goal.

Plan Now to Survive the Seasonal Sales Cycle

Seasonal businesses devote a large part of the year preparing for those special weeks or months when most of their revenue is generated. For many retailers the holidays are boom time. Fitness centers soar in January and sag with the summer exodus. Some businesses sell more when the weather warms, the tax or wedding season arrives or tourists travel.

Those boom times come at a price—financial survival throughout the remainder of the year when business slows to a trickle.

Use Mindful Management to Control Routine Costs

You’re very meticulous when it comes to providing quality service or products to your customers. So why treat your routine administrative expenses the same way? Every extra dime or dollar you spend on supplies, photocopies, postage, etc. adds up. Taken together, those “little things” can take a huge chunk out of your profits.

Good Habits Can Translate Into Great Sales

The longer you’re in business, the more you realize that the only constant is change. You may be enjoying strong sales across a broad customer base, but those conditions could be far different in just a matter of months. A competitor’s offer may tempt your customers to try something different. Organizational and operational changes may require you to build relationships with new people from scratch.

Revitalizing Your Old PCs Can Maximize Your IT Investment

Computer technology changes so quickly, it almost seems like today’s state-of-the-art today might well be obsolete. Though few small business owners can afford to be on the “bleeding edge” of PC technology, they also don’t want to compromise their employees’ productivity with seemingly outmoded machines.  As a result, they find themselves making periodic purchases of new hardware while the old machines pile up in a closet or corner.

Your Price Is Right — If You Do Your Homework

“How much should I charge?”

That’s one of the first questions most small business owners ask. And it’s not an easy one to answer. Setting a pricing strategy depends on many factors — the type of product or service you’re offering, your own costs to provide it, your expected profit, your customers’ location, the “going rate” for your industry, and many others.  

Finding just the right balance between all of the factors involved is more art than science. Pricing too low can cut into your profits, while overpricing also can hurt your business.

Good Planning Will Help You Know How to Grow

After a fast start, your small business seems to have lost momentum. What happened? And more importantly, what can you do about it?

Given the interconnected nature of today’s economy, even small, largely local businesses are influenced by trends and events in other industries, and even other continents. 

For Fast-Track Fulfillment, Consider Specialized Shipping Services

Handling the fulfillment responsibilities yourself may seem like a good, cost-saving idea when you’re just starting out. But as demand for your products grows, so too will your fulfillment backlog. Unless you stay on top of it, your sales will suffer along with your company’s reputation for quality and responsiveness.

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