Thursday, April 27, 2017

Making Business Life Easier for Small Business Owners

The life of a small business owner is one of constant decisions. Some are split second and others require more time and information.  But in the end game, it all affects the business.  Many of these decisions are made without any tools to help make an educated choice.  So below are a few tools to help the business owner’s decisions easier to make.

With social, online and email marketing becoming more and more necessary for small businesses to get the word out, here are a few vendors to consider. AWeber provides customizable templates for emails along with list management, tracking and delivery counts. Another one is Campaigner that offers templates, tracking, customization, ability to manage opt-in and opt-out email requests, and delivery counts. SurveyMonkey builds free surveys to help the business owner better understand the customer’s needs, wants, desires and levels of satisfaction. SpyFu is a service allowing for a keyword comparison of competitor’s SEM tactics. Constant Contact is a leading email service provider that helps businesses stay in touch with their customers and prospects. They provide a discount to clients of a SBTDC.  Google offers many services in this category like Ad Words, Apps for Business, Business Online and others to help small businesses and many have discounts to SBTDC clients.

Customer relation tools are also essential for a small business owner to create a stronger relationship between the business and clients. TimetoNote is a free basic service that creates an interface for Google products and ties client interactions to a trackable method. PipeJump is a project/client tracking software that alerts the user to tasks and upcoming deadlines. Solve360 is also a client/project software tool that helps teams work together, meet deadlines and improves internal communication while tying it to customer purchase behavior. In addition, there is ZenDesk where the user can streamline customer service interfaces so it is easier to talk to each other while tracking each interaction. GetSatisfaction is another one that does similar work for the owner.

Many small business owners struggle with the finances of the business – is this entry a credit or a debit.  So with accounting, one source to look at is Freshbooks – an accounting package done online to include invoicing, time tracking and expense reporting. Wave Accounting allows the user to manage payroll and business expenses at no charge. Expensify software concentrates all the business expenses and invoices into one place so it is easier to work on them. Intuit QuickBooks is a leading provider of small business accounting software.  Go to to learn more details on the software and the SBTDC discount. It allows expense shoot and file for your books and easy online training on how to implement. It is estimated users save up to eleven hours a month on accounting tasks with QuickBooks.  Intuit Payroll is another service in the accounting field that can help business owners make sure they are paying correctly, avoid tax penalties plus it works with or without QuickBooks. Square is another Intuit service that automatically synchronizes with QuickBooks and avoids the needs for credit card machines. 

The point of sale system is another area many owners cannot decide when to make the jump from paper to computer or upgrade.  Intuit Point of Sale software makes the process easy by integrating into QuickBooks, processing credit cards, and run reports showing sales, inventory levels, and customer sales tracking.

Hiring and firing is often a landmine for the small business owner.  So making informed decisions in this area is important. ZipRecruiter and help the owner find better talent by managing the job posting system and provides a candidate scoring system. Intelius is a software
that will run background checks of many types on potential employees. A business owner should also consider the local Missouri job center also for potential new employees by going to to find the one closest. CareerOneStop is a resource for finding tools and information to recruit and train employees.

If a business owner would like assistance in buying or selling a business, there is BizBuySell that offers many free resources and helps in the actual transactions of buying or selling a business. There is also a local resource called Murphey Business of Cape Girardeau that offers the same services.

Microsoft has opened the doors for the business users to be able to work anywhere anytime.  They offer a SBTDC 30 day free trail before you buy and offer training to SBTDC clients on their products ranging from beginning, intermediate and advanced regarding Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access and One Note. 

As the business grows, the need for additional financing becomes apparent and a business plan is required.  PaloAltoSoftware offers small business owners an online method of writing a business called Live Plan. This software helps in planning, creating the budget, doing projections and helps the writer know where he is at by looking at a dashboard. Your local SBTDC has a 30-day free service to help in writing the business plan.

If there are questions about any of these products or how your local SBTDC can help, please contact Richard Proffer, business development specialist at 573-243-3581 or email him at

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Websites – You Need One, But What Makes It Successful

Small business owners want to reach as many customers as possible with as little investment as possible. Many try traditional advertising and that method is still tried and true. Many are trying the internet but this new marketing tool has some new rules to play by that are easily overlooked. 

The first step many owners take is to build a website.  Often, they do this with little thought except to get their name out there on a page.  These attempts often prove to be unsuccessful because there was little to no planning put into them. Just as any start up business, planning has to go into the development and purpose of the website.

Janet Attard, owner of the company Business KnowHow has put together a preplanning checklist for developing a website for small business owners.  The checklist is at  While the questions it asks are simple, in my working with clients, I have found sometimes the simplest thoughts are often overlooked in planning.  It asks like: 1) what do you expect to accomplish, 2) who will use it, 3) who will do the updates and many more. 

Your website needs goals so its success can be measured against them. Some typical goals for a website are: 1) to sell product to consumers or other businesses, 2) generate revenue in other ways for your business like content subscriptions if you are a writer, 3) develop new markets for your products, and 4) provide new ways for your existing customers to reach you.

The website needs to be built with an audience in mind. This audience is the customers of your business – the people who currently buy your product or new customers you hope to reach with the website. The audience will determine the website’s look and feel regarding how the content is written, the colors used and even font size.

The website you are building should not be a duplicate of competitors.  You want to make sure you investigate your competitor’s websites to see what works, what does not work, how they bring customers into their website and more.  You can learn from their mistakes to make your website more useful to your customers.

Some features making a website easier to operate are aimed at the owner and the customer. For the owner,  it is having the ability to easily update the content, and being able to do marketing through captured emails are just some examples.  For customers, it is ecommerce-shopping carts, online payment options, being able to learn about the products, easy shipping, pictures of the products are also examples.

A big item is making sure you stay in budget. There are companies that offer free website building and others do it for a fee - investigate them both to make sure you get what you want and at a reasonable price. Others offer free development but then charge you hosting fees. 

Another resource for website planning is with Aurora Marketing. They have put together a whitepaper client questionnaire at that is pretty thought provoking if you are just getting started or wanting to revamp your site. Some other sights to consider are;webplan.html and

So continually evaluate your industry to make sure your idea is not already taken and you can stay on top of new trends.  If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment to talk to Richard Proffer, area University of Missouri Extension business development specialist, feel free to email him at or call him at 573-243-3581.  He is located in Jackson, MO.