Online Business Solutions in the Current Marketplace

What’s The Problem?

Have you thought about starting a web based business? If so, you will probably have thought about various obstacles that might hamper you and have recognised the need to find certain online business solutions. For example how will you create a website, how will you develop your marketing strategy, how will you ever cope with high volumes of enquiries, or how will you process payments for the sale of your goods or services.

None of these concerns are new and there are practical business solutions for all of them. Too often companies end up trying to put together the web business puzzle without guidance, or without knowing the right questions to ask. The planning and development of a website has similarities to creating an architectural theme for a building and as the title of this article suggests the solution to most of the problems that you might anticipate, can be found by taking the time to research the current marketplace.

The Increasing Demand For Online Business Solutions

There’s definitely an increasing demand for online business solutions, but as quickly as this demand grows, new innovative technologies emerge to help tackle our biggest problems. Small business owners are quickly realising the incredible power of online marketing and for anyone who is serious about taking the plunge, being able to find reliable information and advice can be critical.

As technological advances continue to gather pace there is more demand for faster, more efficient and less complicated business solutions and the increased popularity of the internet means that there are also more and more people in search of them. Consider the slow computer speed of some computers in the past, a common irritation that many of us have experienced. We now get irritated if we have to wait more than 5 seconds or so for a page to load.

How expectations have changed, the more efficient computers become the more we seem to demand from them and on the whole they don’t disappoint.

How To Find Suitable Online Business Solutions

If you are about to jump in and experience the exciting world of online marketing, it’s important to recognize that there’s a need to keep up to date with the latest marketing strategies. Finding the right business solutions for your company deserves careful consideration and although it will depend largely on your particular needs, plenty can be learned by looking at the success of others.

Identifying the most suitable online business solutions for your particular venture could help you to outsmart your competition, gain a competitive edge, expand your business more quickly and ultimately help to make your business more profitable. If this is true, then it’s surely worth devoting some proportion of your time to.

Carefully researching your competitors can help you to determining the kind of tasks that you might need help with. There’s no better place to start, than with the most successful companies in your specific niche. They will have already identified some of the common difficulties in that marketplace and will have found some of the most appropriate online business solutions already.

Search engines can help you to identify resources too, but you need to be as specific as you can with the search terms that you use. Major search engines gain their credibility by being able to efficiently direct you towards exactly what you’re looking for, so the more accurate you are with your search terms the more quickly you will find what you’re looking for.

There are online business solutions available for just about any problem you can think of and many of them are relatively inexpensive. The more time that you spend and the more thoroughly you research the market before launching your business, the more likely it is that your business will flourish and succeed.

Final Thoughts

Don’t make the mistake of leaving your company’s business solutions in inexperienced hands as this can be a costly mistake. Beware of any company that tries to woo you with vague promises, you can always check their credibility by looking at past results or by reading what other people are saying about them.

Try to learn by the experiences of people and companies that are enjoying success in your niche. They must obviously be doing something right and with the help of internet technologies you can find out much more about their techniques than you might think!

Small Business Marketing Strategies for Tackling Big Competitors

One of the great challenges facing small business owners is that they must often battle for customers against larger competitors, who can afford to run more advertising, offer lower prices, and who are better established in the marketplace.

And yet some small business owners do it very successfully. How?

There are some proven marketing strategies to use when competing against larger, more established competitors. These strategies have been used successfully by companies of all sizes to drive sales and carve out a sustainable position in the market. They apply to online commerce and traditional small businesses.

Here are details on two such strategies that you can use as a small business owner to help grow your business when competing with larger competitors:

Take the “Alternative” Position

If you are up against the market leader in your business, shift your market position so you don’t compete directly with them on their turf. Become the “alternative” to the market leader – that is, promote and advertise an aspect of your product/service that the leader simply can’t offer. This is a classic marketing strategy that has been used successfully by small companies and major corporations, because it allows you to compete with the leader in a part of the market where they may not be very strong.

Pepsi couldn’t beat Coke at the cola wars, because Coke was viewed as the original cola drink that had no substitutes. That was fine with Pepsi. It let Coke have that territory, and instead marketed itself as the “Choice of a New Generation”. Its marketing appeal and target audience was young and cool – everything that Coke couldn’t be with their more traditional positioning. Pepsi successfully carved out the number 2 position in the market by becoming the primary alternative to Coke, and made billions in the process.

The rule applies to everything from .com companies to local furniture stores. Survey the competitive landscape in your market and determine how you can position your business as the best alternative to the established market leader. Second place in a given market can be a very nice place to be from a profitability standpoint.

Sell what they don’t have – You!

Many small business owners have found success by building their personal reputations as experts in their field, with significant benefits to their small business. They have become the “public face” for their company.

Some large companies have a “public face”, a person who represents the company in the minds of customers (Richard Branson for Virgin is one). But most don’t. As a small business owner, you can effectively represent yourself as an expert in your area of expertise, and drive awareness for your small business in the process.

One of the most effective ways to build your reputation is through the credibility that comes from publicity and media relations activities.

Here are some guiding principles to working with the media as a small business owner:

View it as a relationship – reporters need story ideas and expert sources – you can offer both when it comes to your area of expertise to create a win-win situation

Pitch story ideas about what’s new and what’s changing – the media likes to break news about emerging trends, either in your industry or related to your experience as a small business owner

Strive for repeat business – once a reporter has identified you as a good source of information on a topic, they will keep coming back to you – so ensure that early in your relationship you are available to them and willing to offer help in getting information for them to pull a story together

Having a single person leading the charge to build media relationships and run the company makes it easier to transfer the goodwill that you achieve in the media over to your business activities. This doesn’t work nearly as well for larger companies, so leverage this competitive advantage and take a personal approach to building your business through publicity.

You Can Compete!

Small business marketing is all about leveraging the built-in advantages of being a small enterprise in the battle against larger competition for customers and sales. Establishing your business as an alternative to the market leader in your business, and building personal credibility that can be transferred to your small business are just two strategies that you can implement to help your small business succeed against bigger competitors.

Business Brokers – How to Choose the Right One

The vast majority of small businesses are sold without the assistance of business brokers.

But if you do decide the hire a broker, here are some suggestions on how to pick the right one and how to structure the agreement in your favor.

What Business Is The Broker Actually In?

In many states there is no training or certification needed to become a business broker. In other states, brokers are required to hold a real estate license.

In these states it’s common to find real estate agents that do business brokering as a side business. If you deal with a broker who is also a real estate agent, make sure that being a business broker is more than just his hobby.

You will pay a pretty penny for the broker’s expertise and experience – you should make sure they have that experience when it comes to selling businesses and not just experience selling houses.

Questions To Ask

If you hire a broker you will be working with them closely for months to come; they will have access to your most confidential business records; the amount of money you put in your pocket at closing will be influenced heavily by the quality of work they do.

Therefore, you absolutely must check them out.

Here are some questions you should ask any prospective broker before hiring him:

1. How long have you been a broker?
2. Have you ever owned a business?
3. How many businesses similar to mine have you helped sell?
4. Can I see a blank version of your Listing Agreement?
5. What percentage of you income comes from brokering and how much from real estate (If applicable)

Ask them to provide you with references from previous clients. Then, I suggest you do something very unusual: Actually call the broker’s references!
I know a lot of people ask for references just to see how the person will react when asked (and to see if they actuality have any). But you can learn a lot about the broker’s reliability and professionalism by talking to people who dealt with that broker when they were in the exact same spot you are in.

Business Broker Fees

There are two benefits a broker can provide the business seller. First, he can locate potential buyers while maintaining the seller’s confidentiality. And second, a broker will qualify these potential business buyers so the seller saves time by not having to deal with weak prospects.

The big negative of dealing with a business broker is his fee, which averages 10-12% of the sale price. This fee is charged to the seller.

There is also a minimum fee. A very small business will pay a flat amount, typically $8-$10,000, instead of the commission. For a business worth $50,000 this minimum fee actually works out to be a higher percentage than the 10-12% industry average. But as a matter of practice, brokers usually won’t be interested in your business unless the asking price is above $100,000.

These fees are the reason most business owners choose to sell their business themselves and rely on their lawyers and accountants for the professional assistance they need.

The Broker Agreement

If you decide to use a broker you’ll be asked to sign a broker agreement which will detail the his fees. If possible, have your agreement include the following clauses:

Timing of Payments – Have it written into the agreement that the broker’s fee will be paid at the time you receive the purchase price – not at the time the sale is closed. This way, if you finance part of the sale price over a number of years, you pay the business broker as you get the money, not all up front.

Length Of Agreement – Your listing agreement should be for a limited time. If the broker locates the buyer within that time he gets paid. Be careful of lengthy agreements that lock you in with one business broker for more than 6 months. If he doesn’t produce, you want to be able to try other options. A 6 month business broker agreement is the longest you should allow. However, because selling a business can be a lengthy process, 3 months is usually too little time for the broker to find the right buyer. Try to settle on something between 3 and 6 months. If after six months, you haven’t closed the deal but you think the broker has done a good job, you’re always free to extend the agreement. But you want to be free to decide on an extension 6 months from now, not today.

Broker’s Guarantee – Include a paragraph stating that if you find the buyer, you don’t have to pay the commission. Without this clause, the broker is usually paid no matter who locates the buyer. Before signing any listing agreement, it is best to have your attorney review it to make sure your interests are protected.

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