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Better your business by finding people to shadow and critique your services. Small business owners may balk at the idea of launching a mystery shopper program, often seen as the staple of giant retail chains and a costly service provided by market research companies. But you can create your own fleet of secret shoppers that provides you critical feedback about your business and even helps you market your product or service. Here’s how one small business owner, Georgette Blau, founder and owner of On Location Tours, which provides tours of television hotspots in New York and Boston, did it herself. [...]

Learn how to bring exposure to your business by cultivating relationships with bloggers. Oprah may never feature your small business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get free advertising for your product or service. How? Build relationships with bloggers, many of whom have fiercely loyal readerships who are open to product and service-related posts. It can help you build your brand and move product in the process. “Everyone wants to make headlines on USA Today, but what most people don’t realize is that they will probably gain more traction by getting covered by industry blogs in their particular fields rather [...]

If you play music at your business, follow these tips to avoid thousands of dollars in fines. As the owner of a small café, boutique or shop, you want your establishment to have the perfect customer-friendly vibe. So you plug your iPhone, Android or mp3 player into your sound system, and cue up your favorite playlist. No problem, right? Wrong — that is, if you haven’t purchased the proper music licensing. Joy Butler, a Washington, D.C., attorney who advises clients on music licensing, says small businesses can rack up thousands of dollars in fines for failing to adhere to copyright [...]

3. Google Analytics Joel Gross, founder and CEO of Coalition Technologies, a Los Angeles website design firm, swears by Google Analytics. Like ClickTale, It’s a piece of code you can paste on your site that tracks data such as page views and unique visitors. Gross’s 24-employee company installs it for every client, many of whom are small business owners. “If you don’t have this installed, you’re blind,” Gross says. Google Analytics may sound complicated, but Gross says it’s extremely user-friendly. The service allows you to track everything from what specific groups of customers spend, what device they accessed your site [...]

Many military veterans apply skills they learned in the military to run successful businesses—and you don’t have to be a veteran to do the same.Army vet Darcella Craven uses techniques she gained as a communications specialist every day in St. Louis as executive director of Veterans Business Resource Center, where she trains both veterans and civilians to start nonprofit businesses. Compared with civilian folks, she says, veterans aren’t as fazed when times get tough.The sooner you accept that you’re facing a difficult situation, Craven says, the sooner you can adjust to those changes.Veterans reveal four key qualities that help their [...]

A new report by Symantec shows that small businesses are increasingly the targets of cyber theft, with 36% of targeted attacks during the first half of 2012 directed at companies with 250 or fewer employees. Many small business owners consider their business too small to be a target, which is a mistake because hackers know that small businesses have more capital than the average individual. “Cyber criminals are business people, too,” said Arild Jensen, owner of Secos Security, a Granada Hills, Calif., firm that specializes in cyber security for small businesses. “They’re going to go for the easiest, most rewarding [...]

The 2012 election finally ended, making it safe again to watch TV commercials and to check out your friends’ Facebook posts. So before the pundits start talking about the next campaign cycle, let’s take a look at six marketing lessons from the election that you can apply to your own business. 1. Tell your own story. Out-of-touch plutocrat! Out-of-touch socialist! The election saw no shortage of name calling by both sides. Late in the race, Mitt Romney jumped in the polls when his campaign responded with a let-Mitt-be-Mitt style in the first debate. So, how can you be you? Tell [...]

After a campaign that felt like it lasted forever, Election Day is finally here. The outcomes of today’s races across the country will impact how important small business issues are addressed next year in the 113th Congress, including taxes, healthcare and regulatory reform. Here are the top 5 things small business owners should watch for on Election Night:

You’ll need to invest some time, but it can also pay dividends. For more than 25 years, NFIB member K.Q. Allen ran her Lincoln, Neb., pet care facility with the help of her community bank, where she held $ 1.4 million in loans, lines of credit and both business and personal accounts.Then, last fall, she noticed some unsettling changes in the relationship: The bank wasn’t being attentive to her estate planning needs, was turning out sloppy paperwork and, at a time when interest rates were falling, only offered Allen the same interest rate as her business loans. “I had an [...]

While everyone could benefit from the healthy lifestyle tips that Weight Watchers gives, small business in particular can learn a thing or two from the way that Weight Watchers runs its business. The organization has become one of the most successful programs in its industry. Is your business poised for that kind of success? Weight Watchers began in the 1960s as an in-home meeting among friends who wanted support as they worked towards a healthier lifestyle. It then grew over the next 50 years into a globally operated company with more than 1.3 million members world-wide. With that kind of [...]

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