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The Small Business Advisor Newsletter for January, 2001

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CONTENTS
  Notes, tips, etc
  Finance your business
  Operating a successful web-based business
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NOTES/TIPS/etc
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NEW POSTAL RATES: As most are probably aware, the postage rates for domestic and international will go up effective January 7, 2001:
Postcard- stays at 20 cents
1 oz domestic letter- 34 cents additional ounces- 21 cents each
1 lb priority mail- $3.50
2 lbs priority mail- $3.95
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THE VERY BEST. Here is a short listing of some products that were listed as the “best of the best” by smartbusinessmag.com. Take your pick. Handy to use when evaluating a purchase:
High-end desktop computer: Gateway Select 1100 (we like Micron Millennia)
Low-cost portable computer: Compaq Presario 1400
Handheld computer: Palm Vx
Wireless phone service: Verizon Wireless
Monitor: Samsung 955DF
Flat panel display: Samsung 170Mb (we like the Eizo Flexscan)
Personal Laser Printer: Brother HL-1240
Personal Color Printer: Epson 980
Digital Camera: Kodak DC290
Accounting Software: Peachtree 8.0
E-mail client: Eudora 5.0
Web design tool: Dreamweaver 3 by Macromedia
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DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE. Don’t spend money finding a telephone number using conventional telephone company directory assistance. Visit http://www.directoryassistance.com - it’s great.
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The Internet Marketing Center, http://www.marketingtips.com/t.cgi/7115
Marketing tips, strategies, and secrets for internet marketing, online advertising and website promotion that will skyrocket your small, medium or home based business profits through the roof.

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Finance Your Business
by Robert Sullivan

The Small Business Administration has a number of small business loan programs. Two of the most popular are the MicroLoan program and the “7a” guarantee program.

The MICROLOAN Program provides very small loans to start-up, newly established, or growing small business concerns. Under this program, SBA makes funds available to nonprofit community based lenders (intermediaries) which, in turn, make loans to eligible borrowers in amounts up to a maximum of $25,000. The average loan size is about $10,500. Applications are submitted to the local intermediary and all credit decisions are made on the local level.

The maximum term allowed for a microloan is six years. However, loan terms vary according to the size of the loan, the planned use of funds, the requirements of the intermediary lender, and the needs of the small business borrower. Interest rates vary, depending upon the intermediary lender and costs to the intermediary from the U.S. Treasury.

Each intermediary lender has its own lending and credit requirements. However, business owners contemplating application for a microloan should be aware that intermediaries will generally require some type of collateral, and the personal guarantee of the business owner.

THE 7(A) LOAN GUARANTY PROGRAM is one of SBA's primary lending programs. It provides loans to small businesses unable to secure financing on reasonable terms through normal lending channels. The program operates through private-sector lenders that provide loans which are, in turn, guaranteed by the SBA -- the Agency has no funds for direct lending or grants. Most lenders are familiar with SBA loan programs so interested applicants should contact their local lender for further information and assistance in the SBA loan application process.

For most SBA loans there is no limit to the total amount of the loan that may be requested from the lender. However, the maximum amount the SBA can guaranty is generally $750,000. Thus, with a lender requesting the maximum SBA guaranty of 75 percent, the total loan amount available under this program generally would be limited to $1 million. However, there are some exceptions as presented below in the discussion of specialized loan programs.

Repayment ability from the cash flow of the business is a primary consideration in the SBA loan decision process but good character, management capability, collateral, and owner's equity contribution are also important considerations. All owners of twenty percent (20%) or more are required to personally guarantee SBA loans.

For more details on these loan programs and others, visit The Small Business Administration at http://www.isquare.com.

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(We get many, many articles about web-based business success. Here is one of the best and most straightforward – lots of valuable information… ed.)

Step-by-Step to Your Own Profitable Web Business
by Jim Daniels

Yes, contrary to what some "experts" will tell you, there is still plenty of room for new businesses in cyberspace. Sure, 1999 brought many giant dotcoms tumbling to the scrap heap, but running your own small business on the web is still a great way to make a living.

A small businesses on the web can be cheap to operate, nearly fully automated and nimble -- a great combination for success. I've been operating a successful business, exclusively on the web, and right from the comfort of my home, for almost five full years now. Like I said, it's a great way to make a living, but only if you do it right.

In this article I'll share a step-by-step "must do" list for those of you who are either considering starting, or have already started a business on the Web. Every key component you'll need to integrate for long-term success is revealed. (If you already have a web business, at least scan this piece for items you may have missed. You really do need every single one of these components if you want your business to grow into a source of financial security.)

10 Key Components to Lasting Success on the Web:

1. A unique and professional web site with your own domain name

Your web site will be the cornerstone of your success online. It should look different than the "rest of the pack" and it should have a unique domain name. I could go on and on with this one but I won't. Just surf the web a while and decide what sites YOU would buy from. That will tell you volumes.

2. A product line you can control

Ideally you should sell at least one product or service that you own completely. If that's just not possible right away, then make sure you align yourself only with the strongest companies that you can rely on going forward.

3. A way to accept secure payments via credit card at your web site

The best solution is to have a merchant account of your own. But if that's too costly for you in the beginning, a solution like ccnow.com or ibill.com will do. Offering a FAST and SECURE way for your customers to purchase from your web site with their Visa or MasterCard is simply a must on the web.

4. A support strategy that keeps your prospects and clients happy

There are lots of ways to offer support. The best is simply by offering contact forms at your site and answering email every day. Other solutions include "live support" interfaces such as those offered at http://www.livehelper.com or http://www.HumanClick.com.

5. An opt-in email strategy

You must always be growing a tightly targeted list of prospects. It's the only way you can "capture" a percentage of the folks who visit your site and do not buy the first time. (Which is nearly all of them!) An opt-in strategy works best when you give something of value away in exchange for a visitor's name and email address. Then you must stay in touch with these people on a regular basis, while providing value for them.

I use a combination of tools to perform these tasks. I offer a free book at my site and stay in touch with people through my email newsletter, the BizWeb eGazette. In a nutshell, I help new marketers and many of them purchase a product or service of mine when the need arises.

6. Sales copy that is proven to sell

If there is one aspect that kills web site sales it is poor sales copy. You may think your site is fine, but tiny details in your sales copy can be costing you thousands of dollars a month. I've sold tens of thousands of manuals, books and software products over the past few years online, and I know for a fact that if you follow proven, successful "cyber sales formulas" you'll be able to sell just about anything online! Find an expert with a proven track record and don't be shy about asking them for help.

7. An affiliate program for your customers

OK, some may say this is not an absolute necessity, but look around. Nearly ALL successful e-commerce sites offer some form of affiliate program. You can pay for visitors, leads or commission sales, but you need to offer SOME way of rewarding folks who bring you business.

8. "Recommended products and services"

While we're on the subject of offering an affiliate program at your site, on the flip side of the coin you need to join a few affiliate programs yourself! Find affiliate programs that tie in well with what you offer, use the product or service, and if you like it recommend it to your visitors. You'll increase your web site income literally overnight. Over the years I've found that the best programs are the ones that offer residual, or recurring income on each sale.

9. New products or services on a regular basis

If you can create a new product of your own once or twice a year, you'll stand a better chance of growing your income continually. Also be sure to update your existing products on a regular basis to keep content and sales fresh. If you're not able to create your own products that often, then find a product you could get behind and do a joint venture with the owner. Even if the owner does not offer an affiliate program you can offer to promote their product or service for a percentage of sales. Let them know you have a targeted list of prospects that would love their product, especially if they could get it at a reduced price through you!

10. A marketing strategy that includes free promotion and paid advertising

Lets face it, in order to make money online, you gotta get visitors to your web site. There are tons of ways to do that on the Internet and I've tried nearly all of them. But what works for me may not work for the next site. It all depends upon your target market and your products and services. The thing to understand is that you will never know what works best for you, until you try and try different strategies.

Visit Jim Daniels at http://www.bizweb2000.com. Jim's site is packed with free help for anyone trying to start or grow a business online.

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