Saturday, April 12, 2008

Internet Marketing Workshops

Jack Revelle This article was written by Jack Revelle, SCORE Orange County Chairman

Ask a group of small business owners what small businesses really need and you’ll get a broad spectrum of different responses. Some owners will tell you they need more customers, others will indicate they need better cash flow, and of course virtually all small business owners are now aware they need an improved presence on the Internet.

To this end Orange County SCORE-114 has already begun to offer a new workshop, “Introduction to Internet Marketing.” As noted in our newly-released workshop schedule brochure, this course is scheduled to be offered 10 times at seven different venues located throughout Orange County between April and October 2008. For those readers of this newsletter who have yet to register for their first SCORE-114 workshop, don’t be put off by the highly-recommended, user-friendly on-line registration process.

We have several experienced, knowledgeable SCORE volunteer management counselors who have developed a PowerPoint presentation designed to quickly take Internet novices to the next level of Internet marketing.

The Internet has become a daily part of our lives, both personal and business. Yet many business owners are unsure how to use the Internet to effectively market and grow their businesses. This workshop will help you to learn the do's and don'ts when forming your Internet marketing strategy. You’ll also learn about the relevance of costs as well as the importance of resource allocation and return-on-investment (ROI) when dealing with a business website, e-mail, and e-commerce.

Your workshop leader will show you how to put it all together into an Internet marketing plan. This workshop is designed for those novice and experienced small business owners who want to develop their skills in website basics and the world of e-commerce.

As Chapter Chair, one of my various responsibilities is to help our thousands of workshop clients and other thousands of one-on-one counseling clients prioritize their workshop choices. If you are one of our many clients who already recognize the importance of using the Internet to take your business beyond the status quo, I urge you to seriously consider this unique opportunity; register for this workshop before you do anything else.

When A Lease Is Not A Lease

Dick Ginnaty This article was written by Dick Ginnaty, CPA

The words may say “lease” but the detail terms of the financing agreement will determine if the IRS agrees. If they don’t agree than the “lease” will be treated as a purchase (i.e. installment purchase) and the tax attributes (i.e. limits on deductions based on the depreciation rules) of a purchase will prevail.

A “lease” is not a lease if the terms equate to a purchase. IRS says that if the residual payment or buyout at the end of the lease is less than 10% of the “cost” of the property, then it is a purchase agreement, not a lease, regardless of the title on the paper. Such tricks as front loading the “lease” payments so the buyout is low, don’t work.

Factors considered by the court (and IRS) include intent of the parties, whether legal title is transferred, whether “equity” is being created by the size of the payments, which party bears risk of loss or damage to the property, which party pays the property tax, and most importantly the option-to-purchase price in relation to the value of the property (If the option price is substantially less than the fair market value of the property than it will be considered a purchase, not a lease). This last factor, the relation of the option price in relation to the value of the property will be measured at any time during the lease that the option provides for a buyout. In conclusion, the imagination of the leasing agents in structuring the deal and the lure of writing off a 100% cost of a lease should be tempered by the realities of dealing with the IRS.

Good luck and here’s hoping it “all adds up” for you.

(If there is any area in accounting or tax that you think needs to be addressed in this newsletter please e-mail Dick at Ginnatycpa@aol.com and if it is of general interest, he will address it in future articles)

Women in Business Breakfast

Women In Business Breakfast The next Women in Business breakfast will be held on Wednesday, May 7, 2008, from 7:30 to 9:30 at the Center Club, 650 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa (free valet parking located just past the ticket office for the OC Performing Arts). The speaker will be Mary Scarborough, author and marketing guru. Mary believes that successful marketing has to do with “matching your message to your market and using a suitable vehicle”. If you are a small business owner, you won’t want to miss Mary’s presentation because she’ll explain why a marketing plan is your businesses’ best friend. She’ll also debunk the current get-rich-quick hype and provide you with solid and actionable advice based on her hard-won, in-the-trenches practical experience combined with years of study. A former Fortune 500 marketing executive, she is also a founder of two successful small businesses, an award-winning speaker and the co-author of two new books, “The Procrastinator’s Guide to Marketing” and “Mastering Online Marketing”. Read more at her web site http://www.strategicmarektingadvisors.com/.

The cost for the breakfast is $30.00 pre registration, $35.00 at the door. Add an additional $35.00 to reserve an exhibit table. Sign up on the SCORE website http://www.score114.org/women_in_business.html to reserve your space as seating is limited.

Be a mentor to Cal State Fullerton Business Students

If you are interested in working as a mentor to senior business students on real time consulting projects for small businesses, you can contact Dr. Michael Ames, at 949-644- 4541 or sbiames@fullerton.edu.

Mentors are assigned to a team of 5 students on projects that CSUF selects from the many applications they receive for consulting assistance. Mentors meet with students about 8 times a semester to discuss the ideas and recommendations that the students develop. Mentors review proposals and final written reports and critique the final PowerPoint presentation.

Several SCORE counselors are mentors and speak highly of the experience and the enthusiasm of the students.

Removing Website Obstacles

Michelle Howe This article was written by Michelle Howe, MBA.

When someone lands on your homepage, how clear is your marketing message? Is it easy for them to decide to do business with you or do they have to maneuver through a series of obstacles on your website to get the information they need?

Let's take a look at some of the obstacles on a website that sabotage the sales process:

Confusing Navigation
How many times have you gone to a website, ready to buy, and then can't figure out where you need to go to make the purchase?

One of my first clients hired me to write sales copy for her website because she had written the copy and she felt it was not doing a good job converting sales. So I went to the website and pretended I was a customer to experience what her customers experience when they go to the website.

I actually spent over 10 minutes trying to figure out where I needed to go to buy her products and the only reason I didn't give up is because I had been hired to solve the problem of poor sales.

What I discovered is that her biggest problem wasn't the sales copy, it was poor navigation. First we had to solve the navigation problem and then I rewrote the copy for her products. And you know what happened? Literally hours after the website went live with the new changes she started selling products.

Confusing Jargon
You may be an expert in your field but what about your customer? One of the biggest problems I find with website copy written by the business owner is that it is too technical. The content tends to be filled with jargon or words that would be unfamiliar to a potential customer or client.

A few years back I was working on a website for a client who did remodeling for commercial buildings. He insisted that the website content include construction terminology that only a builder would understand. I asked him who his customers were and he told me they were store managers (who may or may not be familiar with construction terms).

It never occurred to him that the website content needed to be written using words that would be familiar to his customers and to leave out the jargon.

Confusing Marketing Message
When someone comes to your website they are looking for information to help them solve a problem. In order for them to get an answer to their problem, you need to make sure the answer is not hidden on your website or completely missing.

Since most people who come to your website will land on the home page, it's vitally important that you have bold headlines that clearly express your marketing message in a way that is easy to understand.

It doesn't matter whether you are selling a product or selling a service, what's most important is that people can immediately figure out what to do without having to think too much. If you make them think, they will leave your site. No one has the time to read through long paragraphs and long sentences.

You want to present a simple headline, easy-to-understand benefits and a clear value proposition. By scanning the headlines on the home page, the reader should immediately be able to make a decision about whether they want to do business with you or not.

Conclusion
Simple language, clear direction and benefit driven content are key to a successful website. If you want to increase the sales on your website, maybe you just need to remove the obstacles that sabotage the sales process.

Michelle Howe is the president of Internet Word Magic, an Internet marketing and PR agency.

Handbooks vs. Policy Manuals

Bern Lefson This article was written by Bern Lefson,
SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

Small businesses tend to ignore setting out expectations of employees. It is penny wise and pound foolish to do so. Performance and acceptable behavior is encouraged and improved with written policies that employees may access.

In order to clear up any confusion of the purpose of an employee handbook let's take a short look at the difference between a handbook and a policy manual.

Employee handbooks are written with employees as the intended audience. They are vehicles for familiarizing employees with basic company policies and benefits programs, as well as the general expectations of the company, including acceptable and unacceptable behavior and discipline measures. The policies and procedures manual are much more detailed than the employee handbook and should be used for backup when more information is needed to explain a policy or when a deeper understanding of a process is desired.