Technology For Business Sake Blog Speed Dating for Small Businesses

Posted by Brent Leary on Tue, Apr 24, 2007 @ 12:05 AM

Tags: suppliers, smallbusiness, HP, matchmaking, SCORE, procurement

Last week I had an opportunity to witness a cool business matchmaking event held in Atlanta and organized by HP and SCORE. It was the first of four being put on in 2007, and if they all go the way the Atlanta event did, you'll want to figure out a way to attend.  There were over 800 small businesses in attendance getting face time with over 100 representatives from companies like HP, Research In Motion (our show sponsor and maker of the BlackBerry devices) and Fedex to name a few.  There were also a large number of government agencies participating as well. 

The event was set up to give small businesses wanting to become suppliers to big business and government agencies, an opportunity to get 15 minutes of face time with on one.  Some folks I talked to had four and five such 15 minute appointments set up.  And with good reason as a good 15 minutes could lead to million dollar contracts at some point.  Because of the potential these meetings hold,  there were more than a few people from all over the country in attendance.  They go to all four locations the events take place in order to get that 15 minutes of face time.

If you curious about learning more you should check out to get information on where the next events will be held and how you can participate.  It's a free event but you have to register and be approved to attend.  The event website has all the details.

Check out the below clip of interviews I did from the event to get a flavor for how it went.  I spoke to the following to get some different perspectives that should give you a sense for what went on:

*    Lee Mauney of Ergogenesis - manufacturer of ergonomic office chairs whose company landed  a multi-million dollar contract from a relationship started at a matchmaking event

*    Lisa Baker, director of marketing for HP

*    Ken Yancey, chief executive officer of SCORE

*    Brian Tippins, manager of supplier diversity for HP

*    Steve Bloom, chairman of SCORE Atlanta

Listen Now!

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How a Nice Tie Can Help You Avoid Customer Relationship Mis-management

Posted by Brent Leary on Mon, Feb 19, 2007 @ 11:40 AM

Tags: marketing, smallbusiness, entrepreneur, email

Recently I wrote an article for the 2007 Direct Marketing News' Essential Guide to Lists, Database Marketing and Data Services.  The article was about how the Web 2.0 phenomenon was changing how companies interacted with their customers and prospects.  It was a short article that only touched at the surface of changes, but it was pretty well received.  I received a couple of nice emails from folks who read it and thought it was interesting.  And then I got this email from someone who basically wanted me to hire them to do public relations work. 

I really have no problem with this, as I use this strategy from time to time if I run across something that makes sense for me to approach.  And when I do this,  I try to make sure up front that I make a positive statement about whatever it is they wrote about, spoke about or presented on.  It shows that I've at least did a little homework and paid some attention to what they did.  This just makes good sense....and I'm not even in public relations.  So here's what I get from the PR person who wants me to hire them based off of the contact he's initiating with this email.....

Hi Brent:

Seeing your article in the DM News Guide to Lists & Database Marketing, I wanted to drop you a line and introduce myself. As a public relations consultant specializing in the database marketing & CRM space, I deal with marketing services and numerous industry publications every day. As a matter of fact, I helped create and placed two articles in the same Guide in which your article appeared.

This was the opening paragraph. You don't need to see the rest and I didn't either as I pretty much stopped reading after that.  Well typically that would have been it for me but I did check the rest of the email just to see if my assumption was correct.  And it was.  This person only talked about themselves and what they've done in the past.  What set me off in the first place was how it was pretty apparent to me that this person didn't even take the time to read my article.  He "saw" it, but he definitely didn't read it.  If he had, and if he really wanted my business, don't you think he would have complimented me before going full bore into his sales pitch?  My co-host Michael Thomas refers to this as the "nice tie" approach, where you find something to compliment your intended target on before hitting them up.  This person, who claims to be a public relations specialist, didn't even give me a nice tie before singing their own praises (and anyone who knows me knows I could really use a nice tie).  Needless to say, I didn't reply to the email.  In fact I'd probably hire Terrell Owens' old PR lady before hiring this person, and we know what kind of job she did under fire

It reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where George asks Jerry to act like his former employer and be a reference for the job he's going for as a latex salesman.  George has the company call Jerry's house, but instead of Jerry answering the phone Kramer does and totally screws it up for George.  George, in the bathroom, here's Kramer messing it up and comes tearing out of the bathroom with his pants down around his ankles, then falls face first right at Jerry's feet.  Jerry looks at George, and says those famous words...."and you want to be my latex salesman......"  And this person what to be my public relations consultant.......

To me, it's just another tragic case of customer relationship mis-management.  Please learn from this before sending that next email out.  And also learn how to say and spell "Nice Tie!"

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Are Small Businesses Being Priced out of Search Engine Marketing?

Posted by Brent Leary on Thu, Jan 18, 2007 @ 11:24 AM

Tags: smb, adsense, smallbusiness, entrepreneur, google, adwords

Dharmesh Shah had an interesting post a few days ago over at the Small Business 2.0 blog you should check out.  He offers up his views on how small businesses should approach search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO), now that more and more large enterprises are shifting a bigger portion of their advertising dollars to online activities like SEM.  Dharmesh references a recent article titled "The Small Fry Sour On Search Ads." 

Really the move to SEM by the big guys was inevitable as more and more success stories began to crop up.  And just like any other part of business, things change.  The early days of managing SEM campaigns has probably come to a close.  That doesn't mean that small businesses still can't find success with it, it means you're approach will need to be adjusted. And those small businesses who are just dipping their toes in to SEM it's extremely important to know what it's going to take to be successful now as compared to years (and even months) past.  I found this comment (posted by someone using the nickname of on the BusinessWeek site to get right to the point:

"Some of the PPC newbie mistakes that we see even in Fortune 500 companies: * Use of less-targeted content networks for campaigns * Negative keywords not used * Lack of geo-targeting for local/regional companies * Short keyword list * Bad, inappropriate landing pages * Few ads for very, different keyword groups * No conversion tracking All of these options, when not used, waste budgets quickly. When experienced professionals create campaigns with these options, there is generally high ROI. SEM is relatively new and more complex than print, TV campaigns, etc., hence the negative article comments. Also, no perspective given on other media costs versus ROI... Much of the old media is non-trackable and/or poorly tracked."

So I would say the rules of engagement have changed for small businesses.  It's definitely become more challenging and complex.  But if you know what you're doing, or hire in someone who does, you can still find success.  And as Dharmesh says, search engine optimization should strongly be considered as an equally important tool for lead gen and brand building.  You also have to take a hard look at social media optimization to garner attention for your business.  Now that's a lot to take on but it's worthwhile to find the right mix of activities for your company to create the kind of opportunities you're company will need to succeed.
Article has 38 Comments Click To Read/Write Comments The Social Networking Site for the Traditional Entrepreneur

Posted by Brent Leary on Tue, Jan 09, 2007 @ 12:49 AM

Tags: smb, smallbusiness, entrepreneur, web,, intuit

There's been a great deal of buzz focused on sites like MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and Digg.  These sites and many others (I do mean MANY) are part of the social media optimization phenomenon that is sweeping the web.  The sites foster community building via information creation and sharing by the community, for the community.  Creating and uploading videos on YouTube or photos on Flickr could create some exposure and lead to more web traffic if your content catches the attention of the community.  You can also share information, suggestions and opinions on subject matters of interest.  And if you write an interesting article which gets submitted to Digg or Reddit you could see a huge spike in traffic if your article gets promoted to either home page (Digg is a top 100 site and Reddit a top 800).  That's some good stuff if you're into video and/or photo-sharing, or maybe writing and reading a lot of technology focused content.  But what if you aren't? - The Place to Start a Business Contrary to popular belief, most small businesses are not web-savvy tech startups.  In fact the majority of small business  are still involved in those boring, traditional money making businesses.  And contrary to the belief of those traditional money making small businesses, there are places on the web you can use to share information and learn more about putting the latest technology to good "business use".  One such site I recently came across is  This site has many Web 2.0  characteristics like bookmarks, tags, showcasing community members, content rating and a few others.  You can also invite other community members into your own private network which is nice.  There are no RSS feeds and you can't write comments (you can only use 1-5 ranking scheme) so it's not totally on par with the above mentioned sites, but it has enough to work with.  This is not earth shattering stuff, but what is really nice about is that its target audience is not tech-crazed geeks (no disrespect intended) or overly-social teenagers (again no disrespect....), but entrepreneurs and those interesting in starting a business one day.  So you'll see a lot of articles and other resources focusing on developing business plans, finding capital, marketing and other topics of great importance to regular business folks.  And because its built with the some of the latest web concepts, it's a nice, subliminal introduction to some very important developments. 

The really interesting thing about is that Intuit put it together.  Give them credit for "getting" small business and also getting the importance of using the latest web tools and strategies.  They are one of the leaders of the old school software companies when it comes to embracing the new and wedding it to the tried and true.  Hopefully other small business software mainstays will do the same.  Plus they made sure that JumpUp wasn't a marketing site for their products and services, but a genuine resource and community for entrepreneurs.  So do yourself a favor and check it out.  
Article has 43 Comments Click To Read/Write Comments A website you should know about

Posted by Brent Leary on Thu, Jan 04, 2007 @ 01:05 PM

Tags: smb, marketing, smallbusiness, web,

By now most people have heard of YouTube.  It has become extremely popular because people can view all different kinds of videos.  They can also comment on them, email links to friends and add their own videos to the site for public consumption.  Another popular but lesser known site is Flickr, whose popularity is built on sharing photos in the same way YouTube does videos.  And there are a host of other sites built on the same social premises of allowing anyone to view, comment on and add content for all to see on the web. 

While not nearly as popular, can sort of be viewed as the YouTube for Powerpoint presentations.  If you are looking for information you can incorporate into your website or blog, there's a good chance you can find it on Slideshare.  If you put together some interesting presentation you can upload it to Slideshare and have people view, comment on it.  Slideshare even makes it easy for those people who like your presentation to incorporate it into their blog or website.  And each time someone views your presentation SlideShare keeps track of it.  If it's really popular your presentations can show up on the homepage, bringing your site a whole bunch of traffic, and potential customers. 

This is a great way for you to expand your presence on the web by showing off your knowledge and experience by using a tool you're already familiar with.  And don't be worried about someone "stealing your good ideas".  The more you are able to create and publish on the web the bigger the pool of prospects becomes.  This will far outweigh any negatives you may think of.  So do yourself a favor and check out
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Quick Takes from Michael Gerber on the Impact of the Web on the E-Myth

Posted by Brent Leary on Tue, Jan 02, 2007 @ 02:41 PM

Tags: smb, e-myth, smallbusiness, entrepreneur, MichaelGerber, web

It’s always cool to have an opportunity to speak with people you’ve heard about and especially read about. By interviewing Michael Gerber, author of the best selling E-Myth book series, it was really cool to speak with someone whose book I view as one of the must-reads for anyone going into business. Here are a few short clips (60 seconds or less) of the interview. Enjoy!

1. The reason why most startups struggle.

2. How most startups concentrate on lead generation, lead conversion and client fulfillment in the wrong order

3. How the seduction of technology can negatively impact entrepreneurs

4. How entrepreneurs and startups should view the web with respect to their businesses

If you listened to any of these short takes I bet you'll want to hear more.  All you have to do is click here to go the show page.  Just be sure to have pen and paper at the ready!
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Gmail Dilemna

Posted by Brent Leary on Wed, Dec 27, 2006 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: smb, marketing, smallbusiness, email, google, gmail

I've been using Gmail for about 10 months now. The only reason I started using it was because my Outlook crashed and I got fed up. I had a Hotmail account and Yahoo! account but they didn't do it for me. Even though I did get Outlook back up and running and need to use it for its rich feature set, I continue to use Gmail for basic emailing functions. It's easy to use interface and 3G of free space won me over. And apparently it's winning over a growing number of email users. In fact, according to a recent article in Direct magazine, unlike AOL email accounts which are typically popular with consumers only, professional types seem to be signing up. It even appears that having a Gmail account makes a better impression to prospective employers than having an AOL account.....Sorry AOL (I guess I was right to ditch my AOL account eight years ago!).
With more and more people using Gmail, an interesting quandary is beginning to face email marketers. Google serves of contextual ads in Gmail. So if you send a nice HTML email with graphics out to customers and prospects, by default the graphics are turned off and will have to manually be turned on by recipients. But Gmail will read the text of the message and then will place text ads in the margins of the email, and those ads could be from your competitors who have bought keywords with Google Adwords. Your content gets blocked while your competitors ads come in nice in clear. That's bad. Because of this you'd probably think it's not worth sending to gmail accounts because you might be drumming up business for your competition. But......
Here's why you may want to think twice about not sending to Gmail accounts:
  • According to email management firm Return Path, overall response rates for their May mailing campaigns was just over 2.8%, but Gmail users responded at a 5.6% rate, or double the average.
  • Gmail users are generally viewed as more sophisticated and more responsive
  • Gmail users are viewed as more active

So that puts email marketers in an interesting dilemma: Do I send to Gmailers since they are more likely to respond to my emails or do I not send to them because I could be putting them on the doorstep of my competition?
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Word to the Wise (Hitwise) about Consumer Generated Media

Posted by Brent Leary on Thu, Dec 21, 2006 @ 11:55 PM

Tags: smb, smallbusiness, entrepreneur, web

I'm always on the hunt for interesting information about how folks are using the web, and how that translates to relationship building....for business sake.  Although I'm in cutback mode when it comes to e-newsletters, I do like the info the folks at Hitwise puts together.  Hitwise is one of the leading sources of online competitive intelligence.  And you may want to have them email you a copy of their November 2006 "US Consumer Generated Media Report".  There's a lot of good stuff packed into the 22 pages of the report, but I'll just touch on a few I found interesting.

  1. People are spending a great deal more time on social networking sites

In September 2006, 5% of all website visits were to the top 20 social networking sites – a 94% increase compared to a year ago. Not only are they going to these sites, they are also spending over 27 minutes on average on these sites, compared to only 11 minutes for the overall website average.

The growth of these sites is being characterized by a term the report uses called “the network effect.” Basically this means that the more people join these sites, the more content gets created and people to interact with, which causes users to spend more time on the site interacting with each other and sharing content.
  1. More commerce is being driven through social networking sites

According to the report, the growth in web traffic to sites like MySpace is also driving up traffic to commercial websites. For example, upstream traffice from MySpace to companies Hitwise categorizes as being in the telecommunications industry grew by 89% between March and September of 2006. An 83% increase was seen by companies in the shopping and classifieds category, and a 77% increase for those in the Banking & Financial Institutions category.
  1. Photo and video sharing site traffic is growing rapidly, with its primary source of this traffic coming from search engines

People are uploading more and more of their own content to the web. They are also finding more and more of content by way of search engines. And with more and more people signing up for broadband access, they’ll be able to upload more and more of their own stuff. Which will generate more and more reasons to interact with people for personal and business reasons. There’s nothing more (and more) to say about that!

I’m sure many of you working in businesses that don’t sell consumer electronics, music, dvds and other hot sellers that social networking sites seems perfect for are probably wondering why this would be of interest. Well even though there may not be a direct link to what you do, there are some things that can be applied. Like founder Bob Parson’s told us in an interview, which is also proven to be true by Hitwise, “People love using the Internet for convenience, transacting business and communicating with each other.” And sites like MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and others have been great at creating loyal followings by enabling users to actively participate in growing the community.  And it's not just the Web 2.0 companies taking this approach, Intuit has created, which is a nice social networking-ish site aimed at helping start-ups get off to the ground faster.  So if you can create a web presence for your business that provides solid content and encourages collaboration, you’ll give prospects and customers alike a great reason to willingly interact with you. And it’s becoming increasingly simple (relatively speaking) to drop in all kinds of relevant content from sources all over the web to enhance your own content. Just look at all the “bling” (aka widgets) that are being created for blogging services like WordPress and TypePad and you’ll see how easily this can be done.  

In the end, willing, active participants are more easily converted to actual customers, who can become real advocates for your business. Just a few words to the wise.
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Are e-newsletters going the way of the Dodo Bird?

Posted by Brent Leary on Tue, Dec 19, 2006 @ 11:13 PM

Tags: smb, smallbusiness, entrepreneur, email

Talk about grabbing your attention. I receive an e-newsletter from The Warrillow Group on a weekly basis and today’s was a doozy. The Warrillow Group is a Canadian based research firm focused on the SMB market. There information is pretty interesting and you may want to check out their site. This week’s newsletter came with the following subject line – “The beginning of the end for the e-newsletter”. Now I am signed up to more than a few newsletters and most of the time I delete before reading them, as most of you probably do as well. But this one I opened.

As you rifle through your inbox (and through all the e-newsletters you no doubt have piled up in it), it’s probably hard to conceive e-newsletters going out of style anytime soon. But its popularity with businesses is precisely why Warrillow’s survey says e-newsletters are on their way out eventually…not tomorrow, but eventually. The survey, answered by small business owners with fewer than 100 employees, found the SMB marketers have become too reliant on e-newsletters, and that e-newsletters are being read less and less, not making it through spam filters.

Now this report is really aimed at companies selling to SMBs, letting them know that they need to do something else to reach the target. In fact, 84% of Fortune 500 companies selling products to SMBs have an e-newsletter. But you know businesses of all sizes are sending e-newsletters out with reckless abandon because it’s easy and cheap to do so. Causing a fraction of them to be read.

Warrillow points out that RSS (Really Simple Syndication), may be the tool that may replace e-newsletters. Many folks, including yours truly in a post on my personal blog, believe RSS will supplant e-newsletters at some point in time. Mainly because it puts the power of choice in the end user’s hand, and allows them to take back control of their inbox. And with Microsoft Vista and Office 2007 due out shortly, RSS will be hitting the mainstream at some point. So now would be a good time to acquaint yourself with it from a business perspective, and how it can enable you to get your messages through to the desired target.

To get more of this information you may want to sign up for Warrillow’s e-newsletter. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear they have a blog or RSS feed yet. I guess that means e-newsletters still have a little time left before they become extinct.
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Quick Takes on Software-as-a-Service for Small Business

Posted by Brent Leary on Mon, Dec 18, 2006 @ 06:19 PM

Tags: smb, crm, saas, sherylkingstone, marketing, smallbusiness, email

Small businesses are really starting to embrace Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in 2006. And it is truly a great way to quickly incorporate functionality that in the past would have been too expensive, too difficult to learn and too long for benefits to be realized. SaaS truly makes sense for small businesses to use in a number of ways.

Our company, CRM Essentials, was among the first certified implementation partners of on-demand CRM pioneer when we signed on back in 2003, and have been following the rise of SaaS since then. In fact, I’ve been following traffic patterns of some of the better known SaaS providers of CRM with my “Alexa CRM On Demand Ratings” posts on my blog for the past six months. So you can definitely call me a strong proponent of it, especially for small businesses who need to get up and running quickly and cheaply to compete, thrive and survive.

Now with all the hype surrounding SaaS you would think that buying traditional software has gone the way of the do-do bird, or relegated to history books…”Remember back in the 1990’s when we used to Comp USA to buy software?). But just keep in mind that the majority of software is still acquired the old-fashioned way. And that it still makes sense to do so for many uses.

Recently we had one of the leading experts on the SaaS market, Sheryl Kingstone of Yankee Group, on the show to discuss the whole “Buy vs. Rent” dilemma with respect to SMBs. Here are a few quick hits (90 seconds or less) you should check out before you completely go the “no software” route.

1. Installed software will be here for awhile, and might be cheaper for what you need it for

2. Email marketing is probably the best way to get started with SaaS to see quick results

3. Make sure you add everything in when doing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comparison between SaaS vs. installed software for a 3-5 year timeframe

4. SaaS will help make it easier to use functionality from one service provider from within another service providers application. This has created a new term called “intelligent mashups”.

Software-as-a-Service really can allow small business to “look like a big guy” while paying like a little guy. But there will probably be things that you’ll always want to install directly on you machines. Just take the time to figure out when it’s appropriate to use one or the other.

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