Direct marketing through emails or faxes is often the first step towards a more comprehensive marketing strategy that small business owners take. The great thing about these strategies is that they are relatively inexpensive and can be highly effective in creating leads and engagement. However, there are dangers present behind these marketing techniques that small business owners need to remain aware of lest they get hit with expensive legal bills or be forced to pay fines. In the case of one Minnesota small business, as reported by Fox, a legal battle lasting 7 years ensued after a recipient of marketing faxes took them to court for not including an opt out clause in their faxes. While the plaintiff had originally requested to be added to the fax list, the fines faced by the small business for their lawsuit range from a possible $16 million to a whopping $48 million, a devastating blow to a small business that pulls in around $1 million in sales per year. Even

Small business owners need access to small business loans, but currently the only governmental organization that facilitates small business owner’s access to credit is the US Small Business Administration. Founded in July 30, 1953, the effectiveness of the organization has been called into question by Republican lawmakers who propose merging it with the Labor and Commerce departments in order to form a department of Commerce and the Workforce. While the proposed super-department would theoretically retain the functions of the SBA, many small business leaders and lobbyists are up in arms against the proposed changes, claiming that the creation of a consolidated department is really a veiled attempt to dramatically reduce or simply do away with many of the programs offered by the SBA. What has these constituents even more flustered is the fact that President Obama has stated his support for the consolidation of similar governmental organizations, as well as the nagging memory of when President Ronald Reagan attempted to shut down the organization in an

While small business owners are generally a tough bunch, there are things that are beyond their control, from the government to natural disasters, that they need to be prepared to face in order to preserve the strength of their business. One of these external issues that can severely effect a business is the extremely cold weather that many parts of the US experience in late winter. Business owners should take note that, before they do anything to protect their small business, they need to ensure that they and their families are dry, warm, and out of the path of dangerous weather, with enough supplies to last them through whatever period of time they may need to stay indoors. If possible, get your business location ready in advance of inclement weather. Things to do in order to prep for extreme cold are checking to see if any of the electrical wiring, water or gas lines to the building are in danger of freezing or being damaged by

Create a pitch targeting them. For example, putting a sign in your window with a funny phrase letting these tardy shoppers know that you have them covered can make a lot of difference when they pass by your location. You can also promote after Holiday specials on your website or through social media accounts. The more you put your message out there, the better response you can expect. Give them a deal. A special offer can attract more frugal shoppers, after all, at the end of the holiday season, people are more likely to have spent their budget for presents already. The perception that they are getting a deal can convince your customers to spend that last bit of their holiday budget. Stress the unique qualities of your products. The reason why people are going to buy from your small business over a big box retailer is because often times they think of small business products as being innately more unique, thus making better and more thoughtful gifts.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is an organization that many small business owners in the US don’t exactly understand. For many, the organization’s role may not be clear, as evidenced by the number of business owners (or would be business owners looking for start up capital) who ask for loans on their message boards. The SBA does not provide loans directly, rather, it provides backing for small business loan programs provided by banks. With the current high underwriting criteria on the part of these banks, many small businesses are finding it difficult to qualify for these programs. Efforts to help these businesses, for example by changing procedures around accessing holiday lines of credit, are often less than effective. The Herald Tribune’s recent story on new SBA programs highlights the inefficiency of the changes by pointing out there are still too many businesses being denied access to the capital they need, when they actually need it. More troubling, business owners who have bad credit usually cannot

For those who don’t already know, retail giant Target recently revealed that millions of its customer’s credit and debit card information was compromised in a hacking job that has a veritable goldmine of sensitive information in the hands of cyber criminals. This level of blunder throws serious doubts over the way corporations store the data of their clients, as sensitive financial information in the hands of malicious parties has the potential to create massive havoc and even ruin the credit scores of innocent shoppers. However, massive data troves like the one compromised at Target are not the only prizes cyber criminals are after. It is much more common for digital criminals to go after businesses with less developed security measures, i.e. small businesses. Businesses are often loaded with credit card information from customers and business accounts which are stored in simple spreadsheets or documents on desktops. Law breakers are aware of this and can target multiple businesses at a time, probing for weak points and

The holidays represent a great time to be a small business owner, as more business around this time of year means that you will be able to create more revenues. However, criminals are also aware of the increase in business volume around the holiday season, and target in particular businesses that handle a large amount of cash around this time of year, including retailers and other service providers like limousine and taxi services. Invest in the security of your small business, and the safety of you and your employees identities and credit, by taking the following steps to stay secure this year. Document Shredders can safeguard sensitive information. When you throw out documents, you are creating an opportunity for thieves to salvage potentially sensitive information about your business and your employees. This can be avoided by investing in a document shredder, which will destroy any records leaving your business. In general, shredding documents is a good safeguard, but for businesses that collect a large amount of

In the retail business, your physical storefront has a huge impact on your business’ s ability to make sales. Apart from location, the biggest factor in how much business you are able to create from foot traffic around your area is whether or not your retail location looks sufficiently interesting and inviting to pull someone in. When your business has revenue goals that aren’t being hit and there are external pressures such as capital requirements due to bad credit that are weighing you down, creating a more alluring storefront in order to maximize new business is something worth considering. Taking a retail location and giving it an updated look can be a fully involved process wherein you completely renovate your space to better highlight your products and brand, or it can be simple, with the addition of some new flair that catches the eye. How deep you take your updates depends on how your business is performing. The worse your sales are dipping, the bigger

Every business has one, it’s that special something that defines it’s unique qualities, the je ne sais quoi that your customers recognize and associate with your brand. However, before your edge is defined, it can be hard to single out the quality attributes that you need to stress in order to stand out. Bad credit businesses, enterprises where sales are down, or businesses that have had to redefine their image as they’ve expanded should all pay particular attention to the points in this article, as they are the businesses that need a solid center the most. Without further ado, here’s how you can start to look at your business in order to define your very own “secret sauce”. Start from the ground up. Documenting your processes is something you should already be doing, as it will aid you in a large number of ways to have core procedures on file. For one thing, it aids in your business’s expansion by briefing new employees as well as demonstrating

Out the window of the Horizon Business Funding offices, a the first real snow of the season  is coming down, a reminder that all across the country the true Winter is just beginning. Small business owners in locations that get heavy snow or other inclement weather this time of the year need to have a game plan firmly in place that allows them to minimize the potential harm to their businesses caused by heavy weather conditions. While business can shut down in many locations this time of the year because snows are so deep, that does not mean that there is nothing that business owners can do to protect their locations. Always have an emergency bag in your location. An emergency bag is there to give you and your employees peace of mind in the event that heavy snows block your means of egress from your work location. An emergency bag should include survival basics like blankets and ready to go flashlights, as well as enough

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