"Branding is not just about being seen as better than the competition. It's about being seen as the only solution to your audiences problem"

-Accelerate Ocala | Ocala, Florida

Marketing is is not complicated, but it certainly is complex.

Ocala Small Business Marketing Resource Accelerate Ocala, Ocala, Florida

Ocala, Florida Ocala Small Business Marketing Resource

Ocala, Florida Ocala Small Business Marketing Resource

Small Business Marketing Demystified !

All small business owners know that marketing and promotion for your business is critical to the success of the business. However, the choices faced by any small business are mind-boggling. The range of choices range include:

  1. Physical Marketing Materials: (ranging from business cards, brochures) 
  2. Media Advertising (newspapers, magazines, radio, tv)
  3. Internet:  (website, search, social platforms)
  4. Outdoor: (vehicle wrapping, billboards, signs)
  5. etc

Which of these make sense for your business, and where you should focus your energies is entirely a function of your business and your customer ! The answer is not the same for everyone. 

AccelerateOcala is a group of the leading businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions in the Ocala area, whose objective is to help you with growing your business.   How ?

  1. Knowledge:  In this website, you will find information on how to grow your business. This starts with a free book you can download which serves as a primer for how the internet can help your business.
  2. Access to Experts:  The site is managed by professionals who have decades of experience in their respective fields.  Through this site, you can ask questions which maybe on your mind.
  3. Access to Resources:  Through this site, you can gain access to resources which can help you execute on your plan.

Websites for Services: What do you need?...

(08/04/2014) Q&A with Rahul Razdan, CEO of Ocoos What do you see as the unique challenges facing owners of service based businesses in marketing to potential clients? Over the years, businesses focused on products have seen enormous leaps in capability with world-class platforms such as Amazon and eBay. These platforms provide a convenient marketplace, handle all aspects of payments/commerce, and even facilitate shipping/warehousing.  Along with these marketplaces, companies such as bigcommerce, shopify, weebly have provided excellent capability for individual websites.  However, we have not seen similar advances in services. Why ?    Services are in general more complex to describe, and very often involve a two-way dialog with the customer before a transaction can be completed. Services are more difficult to manage because they often require a management of the combination of space (where will the service will be delivered?), time (customer/service provider must coordinate), and capacity (there are likely limitations to the number of concurrent customers).  Services often have more complex payments relationships (deposits, pay after job complete, recurring payments, etc) Services involve more complex legal structures which range from on-premises liability agreements to sign-off on work-product. Finally, services providers provide only a slice of an overall value statement, and they often have to interlock with other service providers to provide the customer with an overall experience. Imagine a wedding planner who works with caterers, limousine service, florists..etc.  What are the essentials for any website/web presence for a service? The most basic is that the core value statement of the company needs to be communicated on the internet in such a manner that it is available to customers. Technically, this means that the website should be optimized for the major browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari) and major devices (laptop, tablet, phone).  A common mistake made by many firms is to optimize for Internet Explorer and not realize that browsers such as Google Chrome have actually bypassed Internet Explorer in market share. Another common mistake is to forget about mobile devices even though internet traffic driven by mobile devices is fast overtaking that on laptops, and search engines have declared they will penalize websites which are not mobile optimized.   Beyond the basics, service providers need additional features such as: support for a scheduling function which respects capacity/space. This capability allows customers to engage on their own timetable and service providers to balance workloads proactively.  support for more complex models for payments such as deposits, recurring payments, quote/post-payment, and point-of-sale transactions.. integration of legal agreements for digital signature and storage (ex: liability agreements) enablement of  b2b marketing interlock where several small service providers can provides a powerful co-marketing solution to the end customer. Example: wedding planner, limousine service, caterer, and florist can go to market together. supports all of the above with an integrated database built for analytics, customized reports and data mining. How much time and money does it cost to get a website up and generating leads? Today, there is a large variety of technologies and services available to build websites based on comfort level with internet technology.  These include do-it-yourself (DIY) products (wix, weebly, shopify, godaddy) which can produce reasonable homepages. These products will typically run $10-20/month for real-life usage, but  will only offer a splash page and some support for product-like ecommerce.  Building a total services solution with these products requires a great deal of customization, and maynot be possible for anything complex. Another alternative is to tap into the wordpress eco-system. Wordpress is a large open-source community which is popular with web developers.  Wordpress itself is free, but requires programmer-like capability to manage/run. Much like a tailor, a developer can build a custom solution using wordpress. The advantages are that over a few weeks, you will get exactly what you have specified, and depending on complexity will likely cost you $5-10K to build and $200-300/month to maintain.  Recently, services focused platforms such as Ocoos have come to the marketplace, and they can offer a custom solution for $500-1500 setup and under $50/month maintenance.      How can an owner measure success? Like anything in marketing,  success is a function of the use of the website in the context of an overall marketing plan.  There are situations where the customer uses the website primary as a reference vehicle. That is, most of the traffic will be driven by word-of-mouth or other vehicles, but they need a good website to establish credibility and early engagement.   There are other situations where the website is the primary driver for commerce, and a much more elaborate plan around content, internet advertising, and email marketing is required.  In both cases, the metrics of interest tend to be traffic to the website, conversation of that traffic to engagement points as defined by the service owner (bookings, scheduling appointments, etc) with the actual magnitude a function of the overall marketing plan. Can you recommend any other good resources for a services business wanted to ramp up his/her marketing and sales? For the basic website, we obviously recommend our own company, Ocoos. Beyond the capability, customers can get a free ebook which gives an overview of the space of the use of the internet for small businesses. Because services are complex, our preferred engagement model is to have an intial free consultative discussion. Layered over the website are other services which can be very helpful to the services company. These include: Yext.com:  This company publishes your website to a large number of directories, and keeps them up-to-date.  These additional directories create electronic bill-boards for customers to potentially find you. elance.com:  This company offers a large array of specialized services such as logo design, social media content generation, video production etc  which can be layered over the website. One caution we would provide is SEO/SEM merchants. In general, the adage “if its too good to be true, it is likely not true holds.”

The 4-hour Massage Therapist -...

(07/25/2014)   My apologies to Tim Ferriss, but I’m in the middle of reading the latest edition of The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated (affiliate link) and I’m going to share an epiphany I had: I’m going to outsource my bookkeeping. Why? Because I hate doing it, I’m not very good at doing it so it takes a long time to do it. Basically, it costs me money to do my own bookkeeping. The Balance Between Time and Money In running a business, we are constantly budgeting 2 precious commodities – Time and Money. When I first opened my business, I didn’t have many clients, so I had a lot of time and not much money.  So it made sense to do as much of the labor-intensive work as I could. I had time to spend struggling through the learning curve of all the tasks of business ownership. I designed my own fliers, business cards, brochures, newsletters, did all the bookkeeping, mailing list management, and insurance billing. I got pretty good at Photoshop and filling out CMS1500 forms. The only thing I outsourced was my taxes and, honestly, that was because I would rather roll around a parking lot full of broken glass and road salt than read another IRS document. For the safety of the community, and for my own sanity, I hired a Certified Public Accountant. I highly recommend you hire one, too. (He doesn’t do bookkeeping – he outsources it!) More Money, Less Time As the business grew and my schedule filled up, I was getting more money but didn’t have as much time. I’m now at a point where I have to decide between doing a task I can outsource or spending that time doing something that can make me money. Bookkeeping was an easy call. I do a fair amount of insurance work where I have to wait for the insurance reimbursement before I can bill the client for their co-insurance. This adds a layer of complexity to the bookkeeping and takes more time. Not being trained in double entry bookkeeping, my attempts at tracking all of this were slow and tedious. I was doing it correctly; it just took longer than if I were trained in how to do it. My bookkeeper is a Quickbooks wizard. She makes it look effortless and she can do my books in about a quarter of the time it takes me. She knows what a journal entry is, accounts receivable, accounts payable, accrual vs. cash, and how to set up my books to make tracking all of this easy-ish.  She should be wearing a superhero cape and have her own comic book series, that’s how easy she makes it look. SOURCE AND COMPLETE POST : http://massagetherapyworld.com/2010/05/4-hour-massage-therapist/ Check out: Start a Personal Training business in under $100 and beat the rest!

Companies that Recommend Accelerate Ocala