Word of mouth in a digital world

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What’s the best kind of advertising for a micro business in a digital world?
One that doesn’t cost anything and brings in a lot of customers.

Many people say that word of mouth advertising is the best type of advertising because it doesn’t cost you, the micro business owner, anything.
But, there are a few problems with word of mouth advertising:

  • It’s unpredictable.

  • It’s hard to get started

  • No control. You have no idea of what people are saying about your micro business!

One way to kick start word of mouth marketing is to ask customers write a nice review about you and to tell all their friends.

True Story: My friend, Dave Huff, started a Mac support business, Mac Home Support, (http://machomesupport.com). He’ll work with anyone needing help with their Mac or Apple products. We called him to help my daughters and I straighten out our iTunes library after I accidentally deleted all the music on my iPod.


We don’t have a Mac, but we did need help with iTunes. Dave spent an hour hour in front of our PC answering our stupid questions like, “What do the blue circles mean?” and “What do the check marks mean?” Then he showed us a neat feature called smart playlists to help get us organized.

When I asked what we owed him, he said, “I want you to tell everyone you know about my business.”

So I did. I put it on Facebook that evening and now I’ve told all of you about MacHomeSupport.com too.

That’s how word of mouth works in the digital age.

Try it! Ask your customers to tell everyone about about you. They can pin, post, review, like, etc…

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Lately, on my Dollars and Sense podcast, I’ve been asking listeners to leave a positive review in iTunes.

That’s digital word of mouth.

 

Carol Topp

Homeschool Heartbeat: Help your student start a micro business

I was pleased to be interviewed by Mike Smith of HSLDA (Home School Leader Defense Association) on their Homeschool Heartbeat program.

click image to listen to the program

Here’s a bit of the transcript:

Mike: Carol, how can young people take something they enjoy and turn it into a business?

Carol: Well, they do what most business owners do—they find a need that they can fulfill and they meet that need, and someone will pay them for it. So they might meet needs with any talent or skill that they might be good at or better than somebody else.

Mike: What’s a practical first step for starting up a small business like this?

Carol: Well, I think you start with thinking about, obviously, what you’re good at. So kids don’t always give themselves credit, but sometimes they’re better at some things like algebra, Spanish, piano, pet care, pet cleaning. And you start thinking about what could I do to offer these services or offer my talents or skills to somebody else. I call it creating a mini-market plan, where you just think about, “Who could I help? How could I charge them? How can I find them?”

Read the rest of the transcript.

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In the interview I mention a public television program Starting a Micro Business. Watch it here.

How to pick a good idea for a micro business

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I listened to a podcast given by a Harvard MBA who gave 50 things to consider when evaluating a business idea. 50! It made my head hurt.

Micro business should not need 50 things to consider. How about five? Here’s five things to think about when picking an idea for a micro businesses.

1. Do you really like the product or service? Do you use it yourself? You need to be enthusiastic about what you are selling so that people to buy from you. Hopefully, you have used the product yourself and can tell customers how great it is from your personal experience.

2. Is it profitable? Do a cost-benefit analysis to calculate how profitable your business could be. Don;t know who to do a cost-benefit analysis? It’s all explained in Starting a Micro Business.

3. Is there a need? You can’t sell ice to Eskimos-there’s no need,  but you can sell ice in Florida! Evaluate if there is need for your product or service carefully. Try doing some surveys of potential customers or test your product on a few customers first.

4. What are the start-up costs? Micro business should not need a lot of start up money. If your idea takes a lot of money just to start, it is too risky for a micro business. Think about launching another, simpler micro business first to raise the start up money for your second venture.

5. Is it manageable for you? You may have a great idea, but it might consume all your free time. Save that idea for when you have more time and launch a simpler micro now to learn the ropes.

Those five questions are enough to help you determine if your idea would make a good micro business.

Starting a Micro Business for Teens BookMore tips on starting a micro business can be found in Starting a Micro Business. Available in print and ebook.

Carol Topp, CPA

Five tips to keep your customers happy

If your customers are happy, you’re happy.

Here are 5 tips to providing customer service as a  micro business owner:

  1. Smile: Learn a lesson from Wal-Mart and greet your customers with a smile and a friendly “Hello.”

  2. Dress well: Make sure your work clothes and hands are clean, even if you are hired to do dirty work like landscaping. Wear dark pants that don’t show the dirt and change your shirt between customers if it gets sweaty or dirty.

  3. Say “Thank you” every time they hire you.

  4. Follow up with a handwritten card to new customers. A card is so old fashioned, but that’s why people love hand written notes. It shows you made an extra effort. Simply write, “I appreciate your business and I hope that you will contact me in the future.”

  5. Be on time: Arrive a few minutes early if you can. If you will be later than 10 minutes, call and explain that you have been delayed.

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These are just a few tips on serving your customers in a micro business.

There’s more in my book, Running a Micro Business.

 

Carol Topp

Your Sales Statement: Why You Need One

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In a previous blog post, I discussed the importance of creating a sales presentation. Today I’m discussing why you should create a sales statement, also called a tag line.

If you have a product or service to sell to customers, you need to convince them that they have a problem or need that you can solve. Your product or service is the solution to the problem. But how do you share that you have the solution? It’s simple, you share with them the main benefit of your product or service.

Let’s look at an example, your customer’s lawn needs mowed but he doesn’t want to mow it. The problem is long grass that needs mowed. You offer a solution to the customer by providing your lawn care service. Instead of saying, “Hi John, I can mow you grass for $10.” You can say something catchy like, “Hi John, I’m Max and I can mow your lawn so you can relax.”

Creating a sales statement isn’t hard. Simply think of the main benefit that your micro business provides. Then, think of a short, five to seven word sentence that conveys your benefit using action verbs. Remember to keep it short, simple and memorable.

After you’ve created the sales statement, you can use it as your tag line on business cards, flyers, in conversation, and of course in the sales presentation that you created.

Running_small-259x300Interested in running a micro business? What you read above is an excerpt of my book on how to run a micro business. Not only do you learn how to create a sales statement and sales presentation, you also learn about marketing tactics, customer service skills, time management, and much more. Running a Micro Business is available for purchase on Micro Business For Teens or Amazon.

Carol Topp

Why a Teen Dropped Out of High School to Start a Fishing Business

Why a Teen Dropped Out of High School To Start a Fishing Business

Jordan Budd, business owner of OBX SeafoodNormally the road to success is finishing high school, going to college, and getting a good job in corporate America. But that’s not the case for 18-year-old Jordan Budd.

Jordan dropped out of high school during his junior year in May 2013. Why would he forsake his education? Jordan says that hanging around the wrong people and not having an interest for the high school classes were his reasons.

He enjoyed fishing and that sparked his interest to turn his passion into a business. Jordan began working under another fisherman to learn the trade. He worked in and around the Outer Banks area of North Carolina, where he lives.

While he was learning the trade, he also worked towards his GED. He received his GED 3 months after dropping out of school, in August of 2013.

A few months later, Jordan started his own fish business called, OBX Seafood, in October 2013.

The logo of OBX SeafoodWhile Jordan did start the business all by himself, he did have some financial help from his parents. He asked for $20,000 which sounds like a lot on money (most micro businesses can be started with little or no money), but he needed hat money to purchase a trailer, a pickup truck, an ice machine, a logo design, and a banner.

It’s been just over a year since Jordan has started his business. His fish are already in five local restaurants and he’s also selling at local farmers markets.

Jordan has thought about opening a storefront down the road, but is focusing on continuing to do what he does best for now.

(H/T: Winston-Salem Journal)

Curriculum SetFor more information about how to start your own micro business, check out my series of books, Micro Business For Teens.

Carol Topp

How to find your customers. Marketing and creating a customer profile podcast

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Do you have a product or service to sell, but don’t have a clue about how to find a buyer?

You’re not alone. A lot of micro business owners have a great product or service, but need help with marketing and finding customers.

We’ve got help. In this edition of the Dollars and Sense podcast, host Carol Topp will be talking to Carol Sue and Phillip Priddy from FamilyBusinessGreenhouse.com about creating a customer profile.

Listen to the podcast here

Philip and Carroll Sue decided that they wanted to teach their children how to open and run their own businesses from an early age. Each child starts his or her first business at 8 years old, does a product addition at 10 years old and starts a second business at 12 years old, and so on. Each child is responsible to negotiate with vendors, maintain records of costs, income and expenditures, maintain inventory, etc. Wow!

In the podcast we discussed:

  • Family Business Greenhouse.com a series of webinars offering training to families interested in launching a business together. New sessions starting in February 2015. Purchase and listen to the pre-recorded sessions at http://familybusinessgreenhouse.com/startyourbusiness/
  • Getting and serving customers
  • What is a customer profile?
  • How a customer profile helps in marketing?
  • How can a micro business owner have more success and fewer mistakes in marketing?
  • How does a business owner know when to persist in a marketing campaign and when to give up and move on?

If you enjoyed this episode of the Dollars and Sense podcast, please leave a review on iTunes. (click on View in iTunes to leave a review)

3 Tips for Running a Micro Business in 2015

3 Tips for Running a Micro Business in 2015

In a previous blog post, I showed you 5 Reasons to Start a Micro Business in 2015. I hope it empowered you to put starting a micro business on the top of your New Year’s Resolution list.

Today however, I want to give you some tips and tricks to get your micro business up and running in 2015.

1) Start as a Sole-Proprietor

This is the fastest and easiest method to getting your micro business up and running.

It means that you, the owner, are the sole person starting, running, and managing the business. Typically the name of your business is your personal full name. However, you can file the Doing Business As paperwork in your state and call your business something other than your name.

Typically all you need to start a sole-proprietor micro business is a checking account and a Tax ID (either your social security number or a Employer Identification Number).

2) Use a EIN Instead of Your SSN

When running a sole-proprietor business, you typically use either your social security number or a sole-proprietor employee identification number when conducting business. Either your social or EIN is used when opening a checking account, working as a independent contractor, and for filing taxes.

In my book, Running a Micro Business, I share three reasons for using a Employer Identification Number instead of your social security number:

  1. Privacy. With the growing concern of identify theft, using a EIN in-place of your SSN protects you from getting your identity stolen.
  2. Opening a checking account. While it is possible to run a micro business using a personal checking account. I recommend keeping your finances separate and opening a business checking account for your micro business. Most banks however require a EIN to opening a business checking account.
  3. The IRS Requires It. If you want to hire employees, form a corporation, or an Limited Liability Company then you will need an EIN.

3) Make Bookkeeping Easier By Opening a Business Checking Account

It’s completely possible to use your personal bank account for your micro business. But the problem with this method is it makes bookkeeping a pain!

How do you separate personal expenses from business expenses? Say you like going to Starbucks, how you do separate your personal trips from the couple of times you met a client at Starbucks? Or how you do separate getting paid allowance from your parents and the check you received from a client?

Most business checking accounts are completely free or low cost to open at large banks. Why don’t you save yourself the hassle during tax season. Open a business checking account and when you have a business expense or you receive payment from a client, you can keep track of it separate from your personal life and ensure that everything adds up at the end of the year.

SRunning_small-259x300o there you have it. I hope this 3 tips can help you with running a great micro business in 2015. If you still need help with running one, maybe you should check out my book, Running a Micro Business, available on MicroBusinessForTeens or Amazon.

Carol Topp

5 Reasons to Start a Micro Business in 2015

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The year is coming to a close and now is typically the time when people make New Year’s Resolutions. Why don’t you make it a resolution to start a micro business? Below are 5 Reasons to Start a Micro Business in 2015. Hopefully you will start one after reading through them.

1) You Need Just Yourself To Start a Micro Business

You can start a micro business with just yourself! There’s no need to hire anyone meaning less headache and less paperwork. This makes starting a micro business fast.

2) Little Start-up Money Required

When starting a micro business, little money is needed. In fact, it’s highly inadvisable to take on debt when starting your micro business.

Typically when a teenager starts a micro business, they use the equipment and knowledge they already possess.

3) You Can Start One At Home

Most teenagers who start a micro business, run them inside of their home. With most business transactions happening online these days, a physical location isn’t required for selling products. If you are selling a service, most customers or clients are served virtually or by meeting them in a location that convenient to them.

An example of providing a service virtually is Virtual Assistance work. You can provide your services like web design, writing blog posts, updating a client’s FaceBook page, or providing graphical expertise all over the Internet. Even if the client wants to meet you face-to-face, you can still do this virtually using Skype or FaceTime. When it comes time to get paid, you can email or use a invoicing software and get paid via the client’s debt or credit card.

4) A Micro Business is Manageable and Flexible

Your micro business can run around your schedule. If you are still a teenager in school, you can work on your business in the evenings after school and when homework is finished. If you want to start a micro business teaching piano lessons, you can make your schedule only available on weekends. A micro business is very flexible around the timeline you want to run it.

5) More Rewards Than a Traditional Job

One of the fantastic perks of running a micro business is you can use regular business tax deductions. If you need a printer for printing out flyers or labels for your micro business, purchase the printer and keep the receipt! Most purchases that are used for your micro business are completely deductible.

Think about this, if you love video production and need a nice MacBook Pro to edit videos for a client, guess what? That computer can be deducted on your tax forms at the end of the year!

Starting a Micro Business for Teens BookNow that you’ve seen the benefits of starting a micro business, doesn’t it make you want to begin as quickly as possible? If you’re still questioning starting one, then maybe my book, Starting a Micro Business, can help! In my book, I discuss if starting a micro business is right for you. Check it out today and get 2015 off to a fantastic start!

 

Carol Topp

What Do You Give an Entrepreneur for Christmas?

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Carol Topp, host of the Dollars and Sense Show podcast has some unique gift ideas for the entrepreneur in your family.

Listen to the podcast here

Gifts for Entrepreneurs just starting:

White Board  and markers (for brainstorming). See Dollars and Sense Show #27 Brainstorming Micro Business Ideas

Books:

EIN (from IRS.gov) and DBA (Doing Business As name registration in your county or state)

Consultation with an accountant. Contact me, Carol Topp, CPA!

 

Marketing Gifts for Entrepreneurs:

Logo design. I use The Graphic Lady. (listen how I completely messed up her website name in the podcast!)

Business cards. VistaPrint.com is where I get mine printed.

Banners, brochures, posters, postcards, etc (Vistaprint again!)

Website hosting and domain name. I use MomWebs.com (but you don’t have to be a mom!)

WordPress Premium Theme or Plugins. I could spent a lot of money at Studio Press and  WPMUDev!

 

Gifts for Entrepreneurs who are up and running a micro business

Tax return with a local CPA

Virtual assistant to help with 100 things like blogging, social media, video production, audio editing, etc.

Technology: flash drives, PCs, iPads, cameras, etc.

Sales awards

 

Here are some lists from others on Christmas gifts for entrepreneurs

http://mashable.com/2014/06/14/entrepreneur-grad-gifts/

http://www.thinkentrepreneurship.com/top-20-gifts-for-entrepreneurs/

 

If you’d like to give me a Christmas gift, I’s like a review on iTunes. (click on View in iTunes to leave a review)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Carol Topp, CPA