September 26, 2020

You’re the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: Does Yelp Help?


A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.

Economy 1: Turning the Corner

A Wall Street Journal study of small-business chief executives shows some optimism, and economic confidence is up along with a rise in the stock market. A new survey shows a steady, four-year increase in small-business job growth projections, and Rick Newman says small businesses have finally turned the corner. Housing starts (pdf) increased and new building permits are being issued at the fastest pace since 2008. Existing home sales and prices continued to rise in February, but a report says it’s still cheaper to buy than rent in the country’s top 100 metropolitan areas. Even independent bookstores did better than ever in 2012. Recent good data has economists “falling over themselves” to revise first-quarter growth estimates, but if you really want to know how the economy is doing, keep your eyes on a McDonald’s “eggonomic indicator”: drive-thru windows.

Economy 2: However

January’s jobless rate rose in 25 states. FedEx had a disappointing quarter, Caterpillar reported a slowdown in sales, and even though their ad spending increased 4 percent in 2012, restaurants are reeling from their worst three months since 2010. A consumer metrics wizard displays charts that show that this time around the pain (or economic cynicism) seems to be universal. The Federal Reserve holds firm to its stimulus plan, and Scott Grannis says the central bank is not printing money.

Online: Yelp’s Help

Yelp claims small businesses that advertise on its review platform produce an average $23,000 more a year in revenue. But small businesses still are not spending on online ads, and Cynthia Boris wonders why more are not taking advantage of online marketing. On the other hand, half of what online advertisers think they know about their Web visitors may be wrong. Here are 26 tools to enhance your business blog, eight mistakes to avoid when beginning your blog and eight steps to increase online visibility. Dan Norris says you should use Google Analytics to determine if your content is generating leads, and G.B. Oliver identifies a few recent search phrases that have been trending lately on Google.

Your People: Gloomy

Colleen Stanley says you should stop being in a hurry and say “thanks” once in a while. Venessa Wong explains why Mark Zuckerberg (and other C.E.O.’s) are popular with their employees. Gary Shouldis lists five reasons your business needs an employee manual. Most workers are not saving enough to retire, and a survey finds low-wage workers are gloomy about the future. March Madness will cost businesses $134 million but employers don’t seem concerned. Here are 10 March Madness stars to follow on Instagram. The president shares his N.C.A.A. bracket picks (and the kid president shares his). Booz Allen studies the environmental impact of basketball tournaments.

Women: Silicon Valley Discrimination

Sarah Barrett explains how she became an accidental entrepreneur. Sarah McKinney suggests 10 ways women entrepreneurs and leaders should take action now. Jane Harrow provides a quick guide to 360-degree feedback, especially for women. Vivek Wadhwa says Silicon Valley discriminates against women (but there is hope). Peggy Drexler says there are perks from crying at work.

Management: Problems at Quiznos

Joel Libava reports on the latest problems at Quiznos. A new book offers business lessons from Shakespeare. Ron Ashkenas says there are psychological reasons why stopping activities is so hard to do in organizations. A new report finds that although the incidence of fraud has decreased over all from 2011, 61 percent of companies reported they were hit by fraud at least once. And to put things into perspective, here’s how mom-and-pops fought five-and-dimes back in the Depression.

Cash Flow: The Perfect Vehicle

Wells Fargo topped the list for small-business loans in 2012. Lisa Girard has 10 questions to ask yourself before choosing an office, and here is how to pick the perfect vehicle for your business. Katy A. Limbaugh offers tips for organizing your company’s finances, including: “No business can successfully flourish without a proper projection, planning or budget.” A new financial app will track your business’s health.

Start-Up: Free Online Classes

Roya Wolverson suggests the best age to start a business, and Phyllis Korkki reports that budding entrepreneurs can get an “M.B.A. lite.” Eric T. Wagner says that spending a fortune in time and money to build your brainchild product or service is just one of seven steps to start-up failure, and Mark Suster also has thoughts on the biggest mistakes start-ups make. If you’re still up for starting a company, here are eight free online courses. And these are the best cities for start-ups, according to the Kauffman Foundation.

Ideas: Get Cash From Microsoft

Food scooters might be the next big thing. Or how about a restaurant that serves World War II fare? Or a beverage business? Microsoft is now offering cash to anyone who wants to build apps. British Airways introduces an “innovation lab in the sky.” Nike chooses 10 companies to drive digital sport innovation. This entrepreneurial couple turned their passion for arcade-style video games into profits. MillerCoors awards $150,000 in small-business grants. Ramit Sethi decides to give away two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the United States. The National Small Business Association chooses its Small Business Advocate of the Year.

E-Mail: Expand Your List

Hunter Boyle and Corey Post explain how to expand your e-mail list. A new study says that e-mail volume increased 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 over the same period a year earlier (with open rates the highest on Saturdays and Sundays). A social, e-mail and marketing webinar series is introduced.

Marketing: More Mistakes

Will Stevens explains how to run a content marketing campaign with no budget. John Jantsch says that the best way to guarantee that your new offerings succeed is to develop them with your customers instead of for your customers. Here are three ways that technology can improve customer service, and here are five marketing mistakes that 95 percent of entrepreneurs make.

Health Insurance: Three Years of A.C.A.

The Affordable Care Act has its third anniversary, and all eyes are on Arkansas. Some small businesses have figured out a loophole in the health law. CVS tells employees to reveal personal health information or pay up. A small-business owner wonders if her bakery should offer health insurance. This insanely complicated chart will help you determine if you can get health care. A study finds that the A.C.A. is not causing a big shift to part-time workers.

Taxes: Get Help

Brian Sutter shares five tax-season tips for small-business owners. Deborah Sweeney says that new tax credits and deductions could help small businesses expand this year. A new Internal Revenue Service tax tip explains the home-office deduction.

Around the Country: Flies, Maggots, Rats

A New Jersey poll finds small-business owners oppose a minimum-wage increase. A news anchor reads her own marriage proposal from a teleprompter. A huge oil deposit is found in the Gulf of Mexico. What “Big Ag” does not want you to see: flies, maggots, rats and waste. Stephen Colbert’s sister wins a Congressional primary. Manufacturing improves in the Philadelphia region, and the Philadelphia City Council passes a sick leave bill. A guy who won’t share his ice cream with his girlfriend is analyzed mercilessly.

Around the World: Panic in Cyprus

Cyprus creates a financial panic, but Mike Shedlock believes there is good news for some. Inflation hits a nine-month high in Britain and the government chooses more austerity. The World Start-Up Report provides a 15-minute guide to India’s start-up scene and culture. Jeremy Glass offers a D.I.Y. guide to being a hipster. German investor confidence unexpectedly rose to a three-year high but global steel output fell in February. McDonald’s gives away five million McMuffins in Asia. This kid has a point about tests.

Mobile: Should You Bother With Apps?

The C.E.O. of says that understanding the pricing model is just one thing you need to consider when trying to find the best apps for your small business. But Mariana Simoes believes that most small businesses shouldn’t bother with apps. In a new survey, 63 percent of consumers say they may buy from an e-mail read on a mobile device, while the number who may unsubscribe because of poor mobile display exceeds 30 percent. Fast Company finds the experience of using Square Wallet at Starbucks is “anything but polished.”

Technology: Amazon and the C.I.A.

Anne Czernek sums up the big trends from this year’s SXSW, and here’s how a few smart companies managed to set themselves apart from the crowd. Google introduces a competitor to Evernote, but will it just end up in the company’s graveyard? Microsoft Office “Luddites” explain why they will never give up their DVDs. Amazon may be entering into a deal with the C.I.A. Gerald Dicen has some advice about cyberinsurance for small-business owners. Staples releases an app for small-business owners. Sage sells off its ACT! and SalesLogix businesses. Here are five steps to create a cool, safe place for your data.

Tweet of the Week

@MaxGoldberg – I honestly think my favorite part of owning my own business today is having a landline.

The Week’s Best

Ross Kimbarovsky wonders if you know how to market and sell to squirrels: “The attention span of a human adult, according to BBC News, is nine seconds (The Associated Press reports that in 2012, the average attention span for a human was eight seconds). Nearly one-fifth of all page views in 2012 lasted fewer than four seconds. And to add fuel to the fire, people read only approximately half of the words on a Web page that has fewer than 111 words (and only 28 percent of the words on a Web page that has more than 593 words). If you’re still reading, then you’ve obviously decided that this content had some value and was worth your time.”

This Week’s Question: Do you think Yelp helps?

Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him on Twitter.

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You’re the Boss Blog: How Pat Flynn Uses Podcasting to Build His Business

Pat Flynn: Many of his listeners use iTunes as a search engine.Courtesy of the Smart Passive Income podcast. Pat Flynn: Many of his listeners use iTunes as a search engine.

On Social Media

Generating revenue along with the buzz.

Pat Flynn lost his job as an architect in the fall of 2008. Four years later, Mr. Flynn, who is 29, has one of the top business podcasts on iTunes. It’s called the Smart Passive Income Podcast, and it offers information and advice about online marketing and sales strategies.

Introduced in July 2010, the podcast has been downloaded more than two million times and its listeners have given it more than 500 five-star ratings. Mr. Flynn consistently ranks in the top 10 business podcasts on iTunes, including, at one point, earning a second place spot behind The Dave Ramsey Show (iTunes doesn’t explain how it ranks podcasts).

There are far too many self-proclaimed gurus of online marketing, but Mr. Flynn seems to have figured out some things that could help just about any small business.

It was early in 2008, before he was laid off, that Mr. Flynn first experienced the power of the Internet. While studying for the LEED exam, which certifies knowledge of green building practices, he created a blog where he posted charts, cheat sheets, and notes from reference guides. Months later, he found out that more than 10,000 people were visiting his site each day.

With that level of traffic, he decided to turn the blog into a business to help architects and other building industry professionals pass the exam. After adding more content to the Web site, he wrote and published an e-book study guide for the test and started selling it to his Web visitors. After 30 days, he had taken in $7,905.00, and he was starting to think  that getting laid off may have been the best thing that had ever happened to him. In his first year running his online business, he says he made $203,219.04 (as he reports  in his annual passive income report). “I was amazed that a real business could be created by just providing helpful information,” he said.

And that inspired him to start a new Web site, called the Smart Passive Income Blog, in which he explained how he had built the business. “It started out with me creating a site to tell people about how I made passive income with my LEED exam Web site,” he said, “but then I started to explore other ways to make money online and share my experiences.”

For example, he built a niche Web site for the security-guard-training industry and wrote a 20-part series of blogs explaining how he did it. One of his lessons is that he gives his content away free and makes money by selling ads and training courses. When it comes to selling on the Internet, he said, “the best sales pitch is no sales pitch at all.”

As his traffic grew, he decided to introduce a podcast to reach even more people. He had been listening to podcasts for more than three years. “The idea of learning as you go really intrigued me,” he said, “and so each week, in the car to and from work, at the gym, and even on train rides, I’d listen to 15 to 20 hours of audio, and I was always learning something new.”

In the summer of 2010, Mr. Flynn released the first session of The Smart Passive Income Podcast, as an extension of his then two-year-old blog, which, at that time, had about 7,500 subscribers. “It’s a bit technical to set up a podcast,” he said. “It involves first recording an episode, tagging it with the appropriate data — such as show name, host, episode number, category, etc., uploading it onto a server and then publishing it onto a Web site and directing that feed to a particular directory or player. What’s nice is that once you set it up, all you have to worry about is creating new shows. The directories, such as iTunes, will update automatically when you publish a new episode.”

Anyone can post a podcast on iTunes, Mr. Flynn said, but it’s imperative that you stay focused on your audience. “It all comes down to producing a high-quality podcast that provides some sort of value to its listeners, whether it’s entertainment value, education, whatever.” Not surprisingly, he has created a free podcasting tutorial, complete with six step-by-step training videos to help anyone get a podcast up and running.

Early on, he says, he spent about $400 on podcasting equipment, including a microphone, but beyond that he had everything else he needed. He uses Garageband software, which came with his iMac, to record his episodes. “If you’re on a PC, you can download free audio-editing software called Audacity, which works just as well as Garageband,” he said.

Today, Mr. Flynn’s shows run between 45 minutes and an hour and are posted twice weekly. He introduces himself at the beginning and provides the show number. An announcer gives a short intro with music, and Mr. Flynn offers a brief summary of what he’s going to cover. His guests have included well-known entrepreneurs and bloggers.

To promote the podcast, Mr. Flynn has syndicated his show through Stitcher, a popular podcasting directory that is available primarily on mobile platforms. But iTunes drives most of his traffic. “Itunes is also a search engine,” he said, “so if the title of your podcast, the description, and the title of the episodes are similar to what keywords people are typing into iTunes, you have a good chance of being found. You can easily find my podcast, for example, by typing in ‘blogging’ or ‘online business’ in the search field in iTunes.”

In part because Mr. Flynn often tells his podcast listeners to go to his blog for additional information, links or show notes, the blog now has more than 50,000 subscribers. The podcast has helped build  an audience for Smart Passive Income videos, an e-newsletter and an e-book.

“I just enjoyed the process and made sure that I put a lot of care into every single minute of my podcast,” he said. “They say that time flies when you’re having fun, well, results happen much faster when you’re having fun, too.”

Melinda Emerson is founder and chief executive of Quintessence Multimedia, a social media strategy and content development firm. You can follow her on Twitter.

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