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The tourism industry is a key part of South Carolina’s economy to be sure. And the 2013 summer travel season is in full swing already. But lots of travel and tourism businesses aren’t tied to our peak summer season.

Whether this is your busy season or your down-time, the SBA is holding four webinar events next week which feature entrepreneurs and industry experts from a variety of locations.

 

These free events require registration, and you can learn more from this website: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/official-sba-news-and-views/open-business/july-webinar-series-how-increase-sales-dur.

 

Whether you are launching a corporate event planning business or simply selling a product in festivals around your area there is something for you. I hope you can take advantage of this great resource to help build your business and grow your network. Good luck, and I’ll see you on the road!

The following post comes, with permission, from “ONCE a DAY MARKETING,” the blog of Jim Glover. Jim is a thought leader in small business marketing and branding. He is also a consultant, writer, speaker and now radio personality (visit www.santefe.com to stream live at 12 Noon, MDT, each week). The topic below really grabbed my attention as it hits on a key challenge for many small businesses: being remembered by the customer. Branding is the key, but it isn’t easy. I give his thoughts here a hearty “Amen.” Check out his blog to read more or watch the video: www.onceadaymarketing.com. Thanks for letting us share your thoughts!

 

Hello, I’m Jim Glover, That Branding Guy, for Once a Day Marketing™. Today is Smart Monday and we are reminding you that anything can be branded.

Having a recognized brand is critical to your business success because customers buy products or services they know and trust. Confidence is earned through positive customer interactions and experience with your brand. Creating favorable impressions will result in potential customers considering your brand at time of purchase.

No matter what your product or service is, it can be branded by creating the right brand expectations in the minds of your target customers. Brand identity will be established through an ongoing effort to enhance your offerings and customer experiences while sharing a consistent, compelling message of product benefits.

The more you are able to differentiate your brand the more customers will understand your unique selling proposition and gravitate to your brand.

Once a Day Marketing™ positions brands to become #1 in the minds of target customers. Visit our website at http://www.onceadaymarketing.com. You may also contact James Glover at (505) 501-1330 or email glover@onceadaymarketing.com.

Once a Day Marketing™ featured video blog: You Can Brand Anything

© 2013 Once a Day Marketing™. All rights reserved.

The reality of starting and running your own business is filled with continuous learning. We all need to keep learning in order to be competitive in a changing world.

So that is why the SBDC strives to make learning opportunities both FOCUSED and CONVENIENT. We want to deliver specific valuable content for those who need it, and do so in a convenient manner. That is why this post features three specific programs coming up in Greenville. AND, a reminder that we are making strides in the area of convenience by delivering more content through an online webinar format.

Coming up in Greenville:

Tuesday April 16: Focused Web Marketing.

This program, led by Chris Manley of Engenius Web Development, is designed to help business owners refocus on their target customers, then explore the best way to reach them with just the right message.

If you feel stretched for time to keep up with your e-mail newsletter, Facebook page, Twitter feed, LinkedIn requests, and actually write a blog all in the same week, we feel your pain. In one morning session we’ll uncover your target audiences, help figure out your message, and develop an action plan for what web marketing mediums you can best use to grow your business without it becoming your full time job.

For more information or to register, check out www.focusedwebmarketing.evenbrite.com.

 

Tuesday April 23: Tax Workshop for Established Small Businesses (no start-ups, please).

This new presentation will focus on the issues faced most often by growing small businesses. Some topics include: adding employees or contractors, appropriate expenses, changes to home-office rules, and more.

This FREE program runs from 9AM to 12Noon. To register please click on http://workgroups.clemson.edu/SBDC_Workshops/form.php and select the April 23 event.

 

Wednesday April 24: Positioning Your Business for Government Contracts (no start-ups, please).

This morning program is for the owner of business development officer of any business that has begun to explore government contracting (emphasis on Federal government) as a means to grow or diversify. Presenters from US Small Business Administration (SBA) will review benefits and requirements of various certification programs. US General Services Administration (GSA) will be on hand to speak about GSA Schedules and how they can impact your sales across a number of government agencies. Get the information you need to grow – directly from the experts.

To register for this ½-day program please click on http://workgroups.clemson.edu/SBDC_Workshops/form.php and then select this event from the list.

 

And that brings us to convenience… Your convenience is why we invested in capturing content for download wherever, whenever. The first three webinar sessions are targeted at starting a new business. The first (free) “Jumpstart Part I – Are you ready to be a business owner?” covers basic start-up questions and addresses feasibility issues. Jumpstart Part II walks through building a business plan and includes downloads to help with the process. And Jumpstart Part III provides an overview of the critical financial elements of a new business. Learn what lenders and investors want you to know before you ask for a dime. You can access the webinars from our event registration page at http://workgroups.clemson.edu/SBDC_Workshops/form.php and select the appropriate events.

It is said that there is no substitute for thorough planning. Military campaigns, political campaigns and even important social events are more successful for the planning. Maybe you were at that wedding where the flowers didn’t show up until the organ was playing?

A headline online caught my attention today. The key word was “FLU,” so we all can relate, right? Everyone knows someone who has had the flu recently, or has read about flu shots that didn’t address a certain strain. The word flu evokes a response indeed. But the story I saw –http://money.cnn.com/2013/01/11/smallbusiness/flu-cost/index.html?iid=HP_MPM – dealt directly with the impacts of an outbreak of flu on a small business. It could be any small business. It could be any illness, emergency or disaster.

Instantly I began asking myself questions about how much a business relies on one employee, or on all employees, to meet customers’ needs. In some cases there is no concern about contamination and contact with an ill employee, but in other cases the employee who is trying to help by showing up even when they are sick may be doing more harm than good.

Do you have a plan for maintaining a healthy workplace? Does the staff or janitorial contractor regularly clean effectively enough to disinfect common spaces, fixtures, restrooms, employee work areas or customer waiting areas? Do you have contingency plans with contractors, vendors or others to help cover needs should you face the illness of a key employee or group of employees? Do you have a policy that addresses when you may close or postpone meetings or calls with clients?

I wish I had answers to these questions. Like most of you, some of these items are still on my to-do list. But the impact to a small business can be dramatic – and somewhere it is creating a real opportunity I suspect. So have a good weekend, stay healthy, and make a note to ask yourself what you would do if half your employees can’t come in to work Monday.

We all hope it is true, that someone is out there looking for us.

Practically every business needs to incorporate an online presence into its marketing plan. Why? Because we see over and over that the vast majority of consumers search online as part of the shopping process. Whether we are in ‘research mode’ or are actively looking for where to make a purchase, we search online.

So if people are looking, will they find you? This is certainly not a technical “how-to” article, but rather a brief introduction to a few online tools to get you started asking the right questions. And right away I want to thank Chris Manley of Engenius Web Development (www.engeniusweb.com) for sharing some of these sites during a recent workshop he led for us here at the SBDC. His presentation helped to formulate this blog for those who are in the trenches of their business every day and need a 5-minute exercise to keep their online strategy on track.

The first tool is http://www.googlekeywordtool.com/ where you can find a number of tools to evaluate the keywords used in your website. With very little training I quickly explored a couple tools and found that in 15 minutes or less I could compare present keywords with the keywords that potential customers actively use when searching for a product or service. The Google AdWords: Keyword Tool also features a “competition” ranking that indicates how many sites (potential competition – or distractions) use various keyword combinations.

The second trick is really a bundle of ways to find the same thing: try searching for “keyword ranking tools” or a similar phrase to find your choice of websites which will help you gather information on what prospects are likely thinking (or searching on) when they are looking for you. There are dozens of sites out there – some better than others. I picked a random FREE site from the list and ran a couple quick tests. Professionals in the field would probably recommend a specific site, but my point here is that there is a lot you can learn quickly. Try a few variations to see where you land in different search strings.

The real take-away here is both strategic and practical: it doesn’t matter how well you present your business online, if you can’t think like a consumer they may never find you. While you know what you offer and how you want to be perceived the goal is to understand the thoughts, needs and vocabulary of the prospective customer. You probably ask customers how they heard about you, or if they have seen your website. But the truth is, if they didn’t find you online they may be someone else’s customer by now. It is about getting into the mind of the prospective customer you seek to attract.

Good luck! And please let me know if you find these thoughts helpful.

Merry Christmas and a Profitable New Year to you!

For years the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) has been fortunate to have Rhonda Abrams contribute to professional development sessions and support America’s 1200+ local SBDCs with timely information, online tools, free books and other resources. Now Rhonda and Planning Shop have partnered with Visa to bring new products and resources to thousands more small businesses!

One of the new products is the 2012 Holiday Success Guide http://usa.visa.com/download/business/2012holidaysuccess.pdf. Yes, I know it would’ve been great to see this before now, but if you only look at 2 or 3 pages, you will see that it can still impact your sales efforts and your business planning. And here’s a little secret: most of the information doesn’t just apply to the holiday season. Some of the forms, lists and exercises can form a great foundation to your marketing plans for next year. And speaking of next year…

Another great new resource is actively rolling out this month through https://www.facebook.com/visasmallbiz. This features a 25-part guide “Planning for Success in 2013″ which is delivered only through Facebook, so far as I can tell.

There you have it – two more free tools to help you better think, plan, measure and organize your business in the weeks to come. Please let me know if you find these helpful.

Greenville sports management firm Wyatt Sports announced on Monday, November 5 that it had formed a group to launch a new venture: the South Carolina College All Star Bowl. The first game will be played on the campus of North Greenville University on Saturday, March 23 2013.

This football game, destined to become a tradition, draws players, coaches and community partners from across South Carolina with two primary purposes. The first is to showcase the talented football players who are either from South Carolina or played college football in the state. The second is to rally support for Meals-On-Wheels chapters across the state who serve thousands of meals each week to neighbors who depend on them.

The date was chosen to provide additional exposure for athletes who may not have been drafted by the NFL, but are capable of playing at the professional level. Teams from the Upstate and Lowcountry will be selected from players who no longer have NCAA eligibility. Preparing for the event has meant securing commitments for television broadcasts, facility rentals, coaches, player mentors and support staff. David Wyatt, founder of Wyatt Sports, can’t hide his excitement when he speaks about the upcoming game. With good reason, as two of the State’s best known football personalities – Danny Ford and Willie Jeffries – are leading teams from the Upstate and Lowcountry, respectively. For participating players the game experience will include practices with legendary coaches, contact with mentors, and the opportunity to play in front of scouts from several professional football leagues.

For businesses the game presents a sponsorship opportunity, exposure on television to parts of three states, and a VIP bowl game experience. For fans it means more football. Everybody wins!

For more information please see www.facebook.com/southcarolinacollegeallstarbowl, or www.sccollegeallstarbowl.com.

For tickets click: http://www.showclix.com/event/3734274.

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