There are a variety of options to think about when naming your brand new startup business. You want a name that will be memorable, quickly communicate what your business is and does, and certainly one that makes sense. Within that framework come the many options. For example, do you want a name that is instantly recognizable and brandable? Do you want a simple name that while not unique aptly describes your business? The article below details the advantages and disadvantages of each type of name and provides ample food for thought on how to name your new startup business.
BY JAY CONRAD LEVINSON, JEANNIE LEVINSON AND SETH GODIN
Naming a product or a company is a difficult decision. Unlike most challenges you’ll face, this one is in a field in which virtually everyone claims expertise. The first thing to remember when naming something is not to rely too heavily on another’s advice. Names created by committee are usually losers.
Don’t forget about the law. Your name can cause a Jurassic Park-size problem if you don’t first conduct a legal name search. The last thing you want is to hit it big, then be forced to change your name because a tiny company has the same name and wants $100 million from you for the rights to it.
Start by sitting down and making a list of what you want your name to stand for in the mind of the consumer. Your name should reflect your name and your positioning. Haagen-Dazs is supposed to make you think of cold fjords and rich, creamy milk. It doesn’t matter that there’s no such person as Haagen or no such place as Dazs—the name serves its purpose.
You must decide what you want your name to imply. It’s usually the first thing your prospects learn about you. Here are some of the things your name can tell your prospects about you:
• The best
• Highest quality
Once you’ve got your list of attributes, try it out on peers and focus groups. For example, if you’re starting a dry cleaning service, ask them if the attributes you’ve chosen — fast, reliable and inexpensive — would meet their needs. If not, adjust your list and try again.
Now that you’ve got a list, you’ve got to make a decision. Do you want a name that’s generic, descriptive or fanciful? Any lawyer will tell you that a fanciful name is the best sort of trademark. It’s the easiest to protect from encroachment by competitors, and eventually it makes the strongest name. A fanciful name is one where no picture comes to mind. No one knows what a Nike or a Xerox looks like.
The problem with fanciful names is that it takes an awful lot of time and money to persuade the consumer that they stand for something. The name itself doesn’t begin by positioning the product or the company. So for most guerrillas, a fanciful name is too expensive to develop into an asset.
The second alternative, which is more difficult to protect, is a descriptive name. These names help position your company or product, and they telegraph information about what you do. Some examples:
• Speedy Muffler
• Ultimate Auto Body
• College Pro Painters
Descriptive names are my favorites. They communicate enough about your product to help the sale, but they’re unique and stick in the customer’s mind and help stop the competition.
Lastly, you can use a generic name. These names are virtually unprotectable, but they have the ability to immediately telegraph what your business does.
Some generic names include:
• International Business Machines
• U.S. Steel
• Park Avenue Cleaners
• General Foods
As you can see, sometimes a generic name takes off and works, but in general, it’s an uphill battle—you’ve positioned your company, but your company has no identity.
Examples of Good Names
• Faith Popcorn—a memorable name that reminds you that she doesn’t take things too seriously.
• National Public Radio—a simple name that immediately connotes weight, seriousness, and the fact that everyone is involved.
• Staples—a simple word that brings together a ubiquitous office supply with another word for “essentials.” Once learned, the user never forgets what it stands for.
• Head and Shoulders—the name lets you see the benefit of the product—no dandruff on your shoulders.
• Apple Computer—simple, friendly, basic, easy to remember.
Eight Simple Rules for Choosing a Business Name
1. Your name should have a positive ring. Avoid anything negative. Your name should make people enthusiastic and optimistic about working with you.
2. Avoid difficult names. If people have trouble pronouncing it or spelling it, they won’t remember it. (Embarrassing exceptions: “Haagen-Dazs” and “Guerrilla.”)
3. Make your name unique. You don’t want people confusing you with a business that already exists, especially if it’s one with a poor reputation.
4. Don’t use a name that will limit you down the road. Acme Sleep Shop will limit you to selling sleep products. Acme Interiors is more open to expansion.
5. Use a descriptive name, such as Jiffy Lube. Note that this name also conveys a benefit.
6. Don’t get caught up in trends or fads. While it may be profitable in the short run, you can’t ride a fad for the long haul, and focus on the long haul.
7. Your name should reflect your identity: dignity, largeness, local identification, quality and other descriptive elements.
8. Pick a name that looks and sounds attractive on the phone, on the radio, on your letterhead, and on your website.
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BY MICHELLE GOODMAN
Erica Zidel knew trying to raise funds for her startup would be a full-time job. She worried that chasing after capital would distract her from building the best product she could. So, rather than sweat the investment game, she has spent two years holding down a day job while bootstrapping her new company on the side.
During business hours, the Boston resident works as a management consultant. Evenings and weekends, she puts on her startup hat.
“I’ve basically been working two full-time jobs,” says Zidel, founder and CEO of Sitting Around, an online community that makes it easy for parents to find and coordinate babysitting co-ops in their neighborhoods. It’s a hectic schedule–schizophrenic, even–but it’s also thrilling. “When I woke up this morning, I realized that it was Monday, and I got excited,” Zidel says.
What’s perhaps more thrilling is that she’s been able to self-fund Sitting Around with the money she earns from her consulting work. Besides not getting sidetracked with fundraising, Zidel and her business partner, CTO Ted Tieken, have been able to retain 100 percent ownership of the babysitting venture.
“Bootstrapping early on means I have complete control over the vision and the product at a time when even small changes can lead to big consequences down the road,” Zidel says. “I wanted the flexibility to make the right decisions, free from a board or an investor’s influence. When you have just the founders making decisions, you can innovate much faster.”
That focus on innovation has paid off. Sitting Around serves families in 48 states, as well as in Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and the U.K. Since the site launched in June, its user base has doubled every month; the company is on track to have 5,000 users by year’s end. Sitting Around also was one of 125 finalists in this year’s MassChallenge, a Boston-based startup competition and accelerator program. Perhaps most exciting of all? Shortly after launching the company, Zidel was honored at the White House as a champion of change for her contributions to child care.
Money vs. Time
The beauty of moonlighting with a startup is that it lets you test a business idea without jeopardizing your financial well-being, says Pamela Slim, business consultant and author ofEscape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur.
“When you don’t know where your monthly income is coming from, it often sets up a fight-or-flight response in your brain,” Slim says. “And that’s not a good place to be when you’re trying to be creative. So having that psychological cushion is often very important for the development of business ideas.”
Zidel will attest to that. Thanks to her day job, she’s been able to pour $15,000 to $20,000 of her own money into her business. Not having to take on debt or live like a monk has been a point of pride–but it has also been a necessity. “Since I’m a mother, I have to maintain an adequate standard of living for my son,” Zidel explains. “While I’m definitely frugal and very conscious that a dollar spent on lifestyle is a dollar not spent on Sitting Around, I’d rather work two jobs than feed my son ramen.”
But as anyone bootstrapping a business on top of a day job will tell you, seed capital isn’t the only ingredient in the recipe.
“When I started my journey as an entrepreneur, I thought the most precious resource was money, but it’s actually time,” says Aaron Franklin, co-founder of LazyMeter.com, a web-based productivity tool that launched in August.
Franklin and LazyMeter co-founder Joshua Runge initially began “messing around” with their idea nights and weekends while working full time at Microsoft. After four months of brainstorming and development, the two felt they could no longer do their day jobs justice. With LazyMeter still in the product-development stage, they resigned from Microsoft at the end of 2009, trading in their steady paychecks for a more flexible web-consulting client.
“We needed a source of revenue to buy us the time to build the right product. Consulting was really the perfect way to ease this transition,” says Franklin, who is based in San Francisco.
Taking project-based work did more than just allow Franklin and Runge to bootstrap the startup. Because they performed their consulting work under their business entity, they were able to stretch their income further by putting their pre-tax earnings back into their new company.
Today, LazyMeter has more than 10,000 users. Although currently a free service, the founders plan to introduce premium subscription features as soon as the first quarter of 2012.
Bootstrapping a business is not without its challenges. Besides the long hours and the strain on personal relationships, it can be tricky to split one’s creative juices between two professional pursuits.
“Being pulled in multiple directions is the hardest,” says Sitting Around’s Zidel. “It takes a while for your brain to switch gears. And when things start to collide, it can be hard to say [what] you should be working on.”
To stay productive and sane, Zidel schedules her workdays down to the hour and sticks to a list of non-negotiable items to accomplish each day. Still, she admits, “it’s hard to stop working. I really have to force myself to carve out some personal time.”
Bootstrapping with income earned from not a single employer but a cadre of consulting clients comes with its own set of obstacles.
“Sometimes customers require a lot of attention, making it difficult to carve out time for your startup,” LazyMeter’s Franklin says. Likewise, he adds, “When you start consulting, it can be tempting to work as many hours as they can pay you.”
Either way, your startup loses–which is why it’s important to make an exit plan and stick to it. “If you make enough revenue to last another month but slow down your startup by a month, you’re not getting ahead,” Franklin says. “Make sure your efforts are moving you forward, not backward.”
Knowing When to Leap
How will you know when to quit your day job? Author Slim advises that once you’ve tested your idea in the real world and know there’s a market for it, you should set specific, tangible metrics.
“For some people, it can be getting a significant amount of traffic on their website or selling a certain number of units,” she says. “For some people, it’s when they have X dollars in their savings. For some people, it’s a date–say, ‘Come hell or high water, Dec. 31, 2012, I’m quitting my job.’”
For Nick Cronin, co-founder and CEO of ExpertBids.com, which connects business owners with lawyers, CPAs and other consultants, the day came when his web startup began to bring in revenue. After spending 15 months growing his site to 10,000 users–7,000 of them experts–Cronin left his gig as a corporate attorney to work on his startup full time in November 2010. Now, he says, “We bring in enough money for a developer and myself to work on [the site] and to cover all expenses, including office space and advertising/marketing.”
Before quitting his job, Cronin spent a year lining his savings account. “I knew that things were going to take time and that we were going to need a little bit of a runway before I could take a salary,” says the Chicago-based entrepreneur. “My goal was to have nine months where, if we didn’t make a dollar, I’d be totally fine.”
The escape route looks completely different for Sitting Around’s Zidel. “It’s less the number of users and more the rate of growth. We’ve been testing different components of our business to see what works before we go out to raise money and turn the gas on,” she says. “Now we have a lot of great data: what messages resonate, what products make money.”
While she won’t specify revenue, Zidel says her site is making money from its premium subscribers, who pay $15 per year, and from advertisers. In 2012, the company will launch discounted product offers to site members (such as backpacks for kids) and a pay-per-transaction scheduling tool for booking babysitters.
Until Sitting Around brings in enough to pay a comfortable salary, Zidel says she’s content to juggle CEO duties with her consulting work. And to those who say you’re not a true entrepreneur unless you quit your day job, she cries foul.
“A lot people think that to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be sleeping on an air mattress and working on your business 80 to 90 hours a week,” she says. “But I think that definition of success is silly. I’m living proof that if you have a quality idea and you spend your time well and execute it well, you can wind up with something great.”
Protecting Your Rep at Your Day Job
Your boss may not be thrilled to learn that you’re cultivating a side business. To avoid biting the hand that feeds you, follow this advice from Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur.
Check your employment agreement and employee handbook. Some companies have a no-moonlighting policy. Others have non-compete agreements that prohibit you from doing your own business with their clients. Others–particularly technology companies–have policies that nab the intellectual property rights of anything you create on your own time.
Keep quiet about your side project. Unless your employment agreement requires you to come clean about your after-hours venture, Slim recommends staying mum with managers and colleagues. Yes, some might be supportive of your side pursuit. But, Slim says, once the cat’s out of the bag, “be prepared to be fired, as a worst-case scenario.”
Don’t work on your startup on company time. Just because you love your side project more than your job doesn’t give you license to slack off. Resist the urge to use your work phone and e-mail to conduct startup business. “Take the calls on your cell on a break, and, if possible, use your own laptop or mobile device to check personal e-mail,” Slim says. “Remember, everything is tracked and monitored in large corporations.”
Don’t burn bridges. Guard your professional reputation as though your life depends on it. “It’s never a pleasant thing to be fired for performance,” Slim says. “That’s not the way you want to go out.” Besides, your current employer might be a future customer or investor.
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BY SAM HOGG
When I first started my company, I hit the businessplan competition circuit for funding and feedback. At each event, I encountered the same question from a judge or a member of the audience: “This seems pretty simple, why doesn’t [insert large competitor] just do this?” My response was always the same: “I don’t know–they just don’t.” The answer was always oddly sufficient, probably because the asker had no idea either.
That question ultimately became rhetorical, in the eventual sale of my company and in general observations on how big companies and startups act. Why do large companies more successfully acquire instead of innovate? They certainly have the talent, the money and the existing market share to launch startups with ease, yet they don’t do it very well. What’s clearly missing is something in their DNA, but also something in the numbers. As big companies look at growing internally or via a shopping spree, it’s important to consider the underlying motivations and math.
People and culture: Startups require innovative entrepreneurs, and that typically isn’t in a job description for a large company. Big companies hire people when the workload demands it, not when they can come up for air and think about innovation.
By the same token, people work for big companies when they want a stable paycheck, an eight-hour workday and projects lined up on their desk. Mechanically, the ability to break away from a billable workload to pursue something innovative requires significant buy-in and resources from managers. Those managers are likely evaluated by their higher-ups on the profitability of existing, not future, business.
Cost and organizational structure: Large companies simply can’t compete with startups on a cost and execution basis. Organizational hierarchies slow decisions that could be made over lunch or beers in a startup, and established salaries and service providers create costs that would bury almost any early stage company. While startups beg, borrow and barter, large companies follow established processes, protocol and prices to accomplish the same things at a much slower speed and a heavy multiple of the cost.
Risk: Unfortunately, all of those extra dollars and time spent do little to mitigate the risks of the actual concepts and, unlike startups, big companies have a lot to lose. Failed internal ventures not only hurt the balance sheet, but the corporate brand companies invest significant resources in building and protecting. The only risk in acquiring established and derisked companies is overpaying. That premium debatably trumps the risk of having several internal failures to get something right. Like everything else in business, it boils down to math–mainly probability and statistics.
For instance, if a large company knows it could replicate a startup concept for $1 million, but only has a 33 percent chance of competing successfully long term, it could mathematically justify waiting around to pay $3 million for the derisked version. This allows it to leave the founding, flailing and failing to entrepreneurs, and acquire the company and competition in one fell swoop–no disruption to current projects, no need to retain internal innovators on payroll and no reason to change the corporate machine that put them in the acquiring position in the first place. No-brainer.
So why is this important? Knowing why big companies buy little ones is critical to positioning and pricing a company for an acquisition. Large companies are cash heavy and innovation poor, and when they seemingly sit on the sidelines, chances are they aren’t being dumb, they are just doing the math. Making sure your company fits their price and formula requires thinking like they do.
It would be easy to just abandon a startup altogether because a bigger company could compete with it. Instead, knowing the innovation challenges of large companies transforms them from competitors into strategic acquirers. Building startups right in the wheelhouse of potential competitors isn’t stupid–it’s smart. And next time I’m asked why a competitor isn’t replicating my concept, I’ll confidently answer this way: “Because they are waiting to buy me.”
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BY JASON W. WOMACK
Have you ever arrived to a meeting that started 10 or 20 minutes late? Waited at a restaurant or coffee shopfor someone who completely forgot you had a meeting? If you travel, have you had a flight delayed?
It’s possible you’ve even experienced all of these in the same week. But you may not be prepared to take advantage of this “lost” time. Instead, it drains energy, and you end up frustrated and stressed out.
During each of the past past 11 years, I have stayed in hotels more than 225 nights and flown on more than 100 commercial flights. I’ve presented more than 80 seminars and attended countless client meetings every year. One thing I know: I’ll get more time than I know what to do with.
Yes, you read that right. I’m not “time challenged.” I use all the extra time I have. I’ll get extra open blocks of time, 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there, an entire hour when a conference call gets rescheduled at the last minute.
During a typical week, I may get up to five hours of “extra time.”
How much time do you get? With some planning, there ways you can use these last-minute changes to your advantage. Here are some habits that can help you find hidden time in time-wasters.
1. Shift your mindset. I used to get extremely frustrated when meetings were run inefficiently or people arrived late. But long ago, I realized I was “anticipating stress” too much in my life. That’s when I decided to think differently. Instead of thinking they were wasting my time, I saw this as built-in opportunity to get ahead.
Your beliefs drive your thoughts, and your thoughts your actions. By accepting that people, as standard operating procedure, will be late and forget meetings, you can use that time to your advantage.
2. Bring something to work on to meetings in case they start late. If you’re ready, and have the right tools, you can turn a late-starting meeting into an uber-productive work session. Think about what your business lives and grows on. You might have the latest in mobile technology, but is that what you need to get your work done?
I am a productivity and performance advisor. My clients count on me to share the latest, greatest and highest-priority information as soon as I see it. I read at least a book a week and subscribe to many business magazines. I do this so my clients don’t have to.
To every meeting I attend, I bring one or two magazines and letter-sized envelopes. I also have a few sticky-notes handy. If I have a little extra time, I will read through the magazines looking for two types of articles:
- Ones that I am interested in.
- Ones my clients may be interested in. (Of course, often they’re one in the same.)
While I’m reading, if I see an article that someone I know may enjoy, I remove it from the magazine, fold it into thirds, and write a short note on the sticky note. Since I have my mobile device with my contacts list and I always have a notebook with postage stamps tucked in the back, I can address and stamp the envelope right there.
3. Use your downtime to learn something new. Practice makes…comfortable. That’s right, the more times you do something, the easier it can be to do again. So, while you’re waiting, practice some skill that you’re working to develop.
Are you learning a piece of software? Bring your computer and watch a YouTube tutorial. Are you learning a new language? Bring flash cards (paper or digital) and use that “found time” to go through bits and bytes of information. Have you added a new piece of technology to your toolkit? Print out and bring the first five to 10 pages of the instruction manual and a highlighter so you can scan those first few pages to see if there’s something you can learn in the little bit of time you have.
A key to time management is to anticipate time wasters. Bypass feeling angry by staying productive, regardless of the circumstances. You may not always be able to avoid cancellations, delays and other people running late, but with a bit of preparation, you can get even more done when life doesn’t go exactly as planned. I don’t like unscheduled changes, but being prepared for them take off the negative edge. As a bonus, you’ll keep your peace of mind.
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The business profile that can be found at the link found below may be of interest to my fellow venture capitalists and business partners. This Bloomberg Businessweek profile details by professional background and current employment positions. Please take a moment to look over my profile found here.
BY RICHARD BRANSON
Everywhere I go, I’m deluged with business ideas — but ideas for products that will help our society address the problem of climate change just can’t come fast enough.Climate change poses a serious challenge to business, and business must be part of the solution.
Some companies have already implemented new standards focused on the need to reduce, reuse and recycle, but change is not progressing nearly fast enough. We will need advanced technologies and clean energy alternatives in order to meet our goal of cutting carbon emissions in half, which is what we must do to slow the process of climate change. But we haven’t developed a fraction of the new products our society needs to avoid disaster: ultra-efficient water heaters, improved refrigeration and freezers, advanced building materials and rainwater harvesting — the list is long.
Some terrific products have, however, already emerged. Smart windows that can automatically increase or decrease translucency to maintain comfortable temperatures. Super-efficient LED lighting. Energy-saving improvements in building design. Sensor technology that helps us to use scarce resources more wisely.
Next-generation hybrid cars that emit less pollution are already in use. Entrepreneurial ventures are developing technologies that capture carbon from the burning of coal and natural gas. Parabolic mirrors, deployed in Africa’s deserts, are providinggreen electricity. Many such excellent schemes have been evaluated by Virgin’s Investment Advisory Committee. We see real opportunities in this field, and have invested in a few.
One of the keys to saving our environment is to create cleaner fuels that do not emit carbon dioxide when burned. For a biofuel to be a viable alternative to gasoline, there must be massive amounts of feedstock available — the raw material needed for the manufacturing of the liquid fuel– and the finished product has to be equal in price to, or cheaper than, traditional fuels. The primary types of feedstock for the production of renewable fuel are sugarcane and corn (the latter is the source of most ethanol sold in the United States). In Asia, tapioca, potatoes and other starches can also be used.
But I cannot see the benefit in growing food and using it for energy when people around the world are starving and basic food prices are rising.
Our studies found that cellulosic biomass is a better alternative, as is waste from agriculture, municipal sewage and animals. Prairie grass, willows, corn stalks and wheat straw all can be used to manufacture cellulosic ethanol. Our research led the Virgin Green Fund to make an investment in Gevo, a world-class biofuels company that converts biomass into butanol.
But this is a possible biofuel source for countries with large prairie areas, not necessarily for the entire world. On the islands of Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean, an Australian entrepreneur, Tony Deamer, has succeeded in using coconut oil in fuel for motor vehicles. Potentially, this enterprise could help to revitalize the declining market for copra, or coconut flesh, and would have wide-ranging environmental benefits as well. The sheer labor of breaking into coconuts and scooping out the flesh makes them unsuitable as a feedstock to supply the world biofuel market. Coconut oil is, however, an excellent local solution.
The scientists and entrepreneurs working in this field do not have to find a single biofuel that will do everything for everyone. What we can and should develop is a suite of solutions that work well in different places, for different purposes, and at different scales. We should then be able to dramatically reduce carbon emissions by introducing bio-ethanol for general use in cars and buses.
The challenge is to develop local biofuels that will scale up to supply a given market, that do not damage the atmosphere, do not lead to deforestation, and do not consume vital food stocks that the world’s growing population will need to eat.
That work is under way. Imperium Renewables has opened one of the world’s largest biodiesel refineries at Grays Harbor, in Washington state. It’s capable of producing up to 100 million gallons of biofuel per year. While this facility primarily uses canola grown in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, soy, and many other crops, John Plaza, president and CEO of Imperium, is overseeing the development of a biofuel that can be used in jets, harvesting algae which can be grown in fresh or sea water.
Many people are looking to government and nonprofit groups to resolve the challenges we face. But given our rapidly rising population and the consequent environmental pressure, our solutions have to be technological as well as social — business must be a part of this equation as well.
Entrepreneurs can and should work for the greater good, by developing products that address our society’s greatest problems: that save the planet, create jobs, and foster ecological diversity.
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BY CAROL TICE
It’s the hottest thing since hanging out at Starbucks — only quieter. Co-working spaces have been opening up across the country since the mid 2000s.
For solopreneurs or small businesses starting to add employees, these homes-away-from-home can offer some real advantages. They can also offer loads of distractions and add to your overhead.
Dave Lifson, the CEO of social-media management platform Postling, has his company set up at New York City coworking space General Assembly. Why does Lifson like co-working?
“Early stage startups are so fragile, where even the slightest misstep can lead to bankruptcy,” Lifson says. “Surrounding yourself with others who are solving the same problems as you reduces risk because you can see what works and what doesn’t before you stick your neck out and commit to a particular strategy or idea.”
Is a coworking space right for your business? Here are some tips on how to make coworking work from Adam Neary, CEO of the six-person business-planning firm Profitably, which also runs his business out of General Assembly.
- Buy headphones. Letting your computer’s email alert beeps and video playbacks disturb others isn’t good co-working etiquette. Headphones also allow you to listen to music without bothering neighbors.
- Use the private space. Most co-working spaces have conference rooms of various sizes. Sign up for one if you’re planning a long call or virtual meeting. Neary recommends using the cellphone for serious or private calls, so you can walk outside if you need more privacy.
- Keep it neat. Neary tries to keep the Profitably space tidy to be courteous. It’s also a good idea because in a shared office, you never know when reporters or an influential bigwig might drop by to visit one of your neighbors and give you an opportunity to connect.
- Don’t be a blowhard. Don’t think that carrying on top-volume conversations about your business’s greatness is going to impress your roommates. “Don’t force people to actively tune you out so they can get stuff done,” he says. “It’s called co-working, not co-lounging.”
- Network after hours. In a big company, popping into a co-worker’s cubicle to chat is OK. But it doesn’t fly when the people around you working for different businesses. Remember, you don’t know your suitemates’ deadlines. Instead of impromptu chats, set a coffee or lunch date to get acquainted, and take advantage of networking events at the co-working space.
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BY MIKAL E. BELICOVE
You’ve just added a status update to your Facebook business page, and, so far, you’ve received 57 Likes and about dozen comments on both the blog post it focuses on and the Facebook status update itself.
The question is, how long is this online euphoria going to last? Will your update continue to attract comments and Likes well into the foreseeable future? Highly unlikely, says Jeff Widman, co-founder of PageLever, a Mountain View, Calif.-based startup that makes analytics and metrics tools for Facebook pages. In fact, if Widman’s prognosticating is correct, you’ve got a shade less than 23 hours to bask in the active attention that that Facebook post is attracting.
Whether you’re promoting a blog post, introducing a new product or service or enticing potential fans with contests, coupons or causes, it’s important to know that you only have a limited amount of time to make your mark. As status updates don’t remain in the Facebook Newsfeed for long, devising a timing strategy for how often to post new items to your Facebook page should be a priority. Here are Widman’s findings, which could help guide you toward crafting an optimal timetable for updating your Facebook status:
Widman co-founded PageLever to help companies including YouTube, MTV, Microsoft and others drive more fans, traffic, comments and Newsfeed impressions to their Facebook pages. Earlier this month, he compiled information on the life of the average Facebook status update from an informal study he conducted using a very small sample. And by small, we’re talking only 20 status updates from five pages (certainly not representative of all Facebook posts). However, each of these pages has more than two million fans.
He found that the average lifetime of a post in the Facebook Newsfeed is 22 hours and 51 minutes for comments and Likes, and 28 hours and 57 minutes for per-post impressions. He said that it has been his experience that the post-Ticker version of Facebook’s EdgeRank drops posts much faster than the pre-Ticker version, based on how often you log onto Facebook.
Widman’s survey also showed that the standard deviation of hours of posting ranged from a minimum of 10 hours and 42 minutes for comments and Likes and 11 hours and 29 minutes for per-post impressions. And the lifetime of posts outside that span of time varies greatly, ranging from a minimum of 10 hours for some comments and Likes, to 59 hours for a long-lasting per-post impression.
Why should you know how long a status update remains in the Facebook Newsfeed? For starters, one status update that’s visible to your fans on the Newsfeed is really all you want at one time. Any more than that and you run the risk of annoying your fan base. Any less, and it’s like the old expression: Out of sight, out of mind. Not to mention the fact that during the time you’re “in between” posts, you’re losing opportunities to present important news or offers to those who Like your business or brand.
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By Jonathan Blum
No matter how modest your launch, your business will need a web presence. Maybe you’ve been putting it off. After all, we weren’t all put on earth to write code on the web–and hiring someone who was is expensive. Luckily, you don’t have to know a thing about programming to build a respectable website these days. There are loads of affordable–even free–tools that do the grunt work for you.
You’ll need a sense of what you want your website to do for your business. As long as you have a germ of an idea, the best do-it-yourself services will guide you along. You’ll also find plenty of options for syncing your website with other online tools like Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, YouTube channels and PayPal accounts. It’s surprisingly easy to get a simple but powerful website up and running in a few hours.
Here are our top five picks for launching your business on the web without skimping on quality.
What it does: Yola lets you build a basic website by picking a template and filling out a few simple forms. Once you have a rough outline, you fine-tune your site with an in-place editing tool. Yola has the goods to let you really dig into the web. You can integrate your site with an impressive list of third-party services such as Google Maps and PayPal, Flickr for photosharing and Picnik for photo editing.
What it costs: The basic web-building tool and a Yola.com address are free. For extra features, better-looking templates and the ability to use your own domain name, the Yola Silver upgrade is $100 per year.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a basic, professional site at a reasonable cost, Yola’s your answer.
What it does: Jimdo’s free version does what a respectable website builder should do, and not much else. We suggest springing for the upgrades (which are reasonably priced) to unlock some cool business features, such as custom newsletters to keep in touch with your customers, page-view stats, PayPal stores and password-protected employees-only pages.
What it costs: Basic features and a Jimdo.com address are free. Jimdo Pro is $5 per month. Jimdo Business is $15 per month, including unlimited data storage and online selling, two domain names and business-specific site designs.
Bottom line: The free tool isn’t worth your time. But what Jimdo does well is hold your hand with nice templates and good overall tools. If you want to sink a little more effort into a site that looks and feels unique, Jimdo is your best bet.
What it does: Wix lets you build a great-looking website in no time with its easy-to-use, what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor. Here’s the downside: The web development tool is based on Adobe Flash, which works on most PCs but isn’t supported by some mobile devices, including the all-powerful Apple iPad. If that isn’t a problem for you, Wix has lots of elegant templates that are easy to customize and can fit every business need. Wix’s image-heavy sites are especially great for photo galleries, which really show clients what your business can do. A new mobile tool lets you build a simple, smartphone-optimized site to reach on-the-go clients.
What it costs: The full-featured website-building tool and Wix.com address are free. Paid subscriptions, which let you do things like remove ads and link a site to your own domain name, run $5 to $16 per month.
Bottom line: If you must have that slick, designed look and don’t mind alienating a couple of potential users, Wix is the answer. Just be sure you understand the limits of Flash, as it can be surprisingly tricky to work with.
For almost every business the holiday season is an opportunity to bring in large revenues. In order to take advantage of the season of spending business owners should get started early developing external and internal marketing campaigns using the 5 tips listed in the article below. Not only is it important to entice customers to your business using special promotions or email marketing lists, but it is almost important to entice employees using promotional sales goals and rewards in order to really push sales and make the most of the holiday season. The holiday season is also a great time to have events related to your business. People are in the shopping mood in the holiday season but it is also a time to have fun and mixing the two can be a powerful marketing tool to get customers interested in your product.
By Susan Gunelius
For many small businesses, the holiday season is an opportunity to bring in significant sales and revenues. But many businesses don’t start preparing for holiday season marketing until it’s too late, and they end up missing out on opportunities. For optimum success, you should identify your holiday marketing budget and begin planning your holiday marketing months in advance.
None of these things can happen overnight. Trust me. I’ve been on the phone with printers and clients the day before Thanksgiving and on Christmas Eve trying to get a last-minute project done, and it’s not fun. You can avoid that stress if you start preparing now.
Keep in mind that holiday marketing includes both customer marketing and internal marketing. I’ve created many internal holiday promotional campaigns to motivate sales teams, customer services representatives, and other employees during the busy and critical holiday season. With prizes and recognition, you can give employees the incentive they need to reach individual performance goals and overall business goals.
Here are five ways to get your business ready for holiday marketing. You can pursue all or just a few, but whatever you choose, you need to start right now.
1. Develop Special Promotions
Whether you want to focus on promotions in-store, online or through social media, you need to develop them early so you know what needs to be done to make them happen. You need time for design, to secure ad placement, and for printing.
2. Create Email Marketing Lists
Gather current customer email addresses from your existing email marketing list and update your opt-in messages on your website, Facebook page, in-store, and so on to promote upcoming holiday discount offers. For example, “Sign up now so you don’t miss big holiday savings offers.”
Encourage existing customers on your email marketing list to share the link to your opt-in form as well as holiday promotional email messages by including in your messages “email to a friend” and social media share buttons, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
3. Turn Products and Services into Gifts
Brainstorm how you can repackage your existing products and services as gifts. Of course, gift cards are popular purchases during the holidays, but clever marketing can create more ways for customers to give your products and services as gifts without actually purchasing an item that the recipient might not like or giving only a boring gift card.
For example, instead of simply offering a gift card to customers, a restaurant could offer a “Romantic Evening” package with a special menu, table, souvenir champagne glasses (with the restaurant’s name imprinted on them), and other creative extras. A “Family Night Out” package could coincide with a “kids eat free” night and include kid-friendly foods and souvenirs. These packages provide more unique gifts than a gift card. However, they do require more planning to create an enticing package that is cost effective. Further, you need time to promote the package with ads and time to create materials such as a special gift voucher and an envelope or box for the goodies to go in.
4. Plan and Organize Events
If you plan to hold in-store or local events to promote your business during the holiday season, then you need to start planning and promoting them weeks or months in advance. It takes time to reserve space (if the event will not be held at your location) and book or purchase music, chairs, tables, decorations, giveaways, and other items.
Even if you hold only an in-store event such as opening an hour early for “preferred customers” on your email list or staying open late one night for a special “Holiday Celebration Sale,” you still need to promote that event in advance or the turnout will be disappointing.
Don’t forget to contact local charities prior to the holiday season to identify events your business could sponsor for a goodwill boost and some indirect promotion.
5. Partner with Local Businesses
The holiday season is a perfect time to partner with other local businesses that offer complementary products and services to yours. You can offer joint promotions or co-host events. For example, a restaurant could partner with a local movie theater to offer movie tickets with special reserved seating. Both businesses would promote the offer and both businesses would benefit from it.
Many businesses partner to share ad space and costs. Even cross-promoting through in-store materials is a great way for businesses to achieve economies of scale during a critical marketing period.
Of course, each of these opportunities requires that you begin reaching out to other business owners in advance to describe the benefits, achieve buy-in, coordinate and plan the effort, and execute it successfully. Be sure to schedule time after the holidays to circle back and discuss ways to improve in the following year. This saves you time leading up to the next year’s holiday season.
Last but not least, don’t launch any holiday marketing programs unless you’re sure that you have the necessary trained staff in place to handle the response efficiently, professionally, and in the holiday spirit. The last thing you want to happen is to spend time and money developing great holiday marketing initiatives then watch those efforts fail because you’re not prepared for the response from consumers. It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared because bad service this year will certainly be remembered, and talked about with friends or on the social web, next year.
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