Small Business Marketing Solution – Is Database Marketing Right For You

Database marketing sounds like something Wal-Mart or Amazon.com is fantastic at. And they are. But so are many small businesses down the street. My local coffee shop has one of the best database marketing systems in the world. Their order processing machines remember my favorite cup of joe and serve it up to me hot, on sight, without my even asking.Of course, their order processing machines are bipedal, with organic computers known as brains and eyes in lieu of optical scanners. Database marketing essentially seeks to emulate what the baristas at the Coffee House do naturally.So, how can you know if your company is a good candidate for database marketing? There are three essential questions to ask:1. Do you have best customers? Do you possess a group of customers that clearly drive more profits–not gross sales, remember, but profits–to your bottom line?2. Can you identify those customers?3. Can you reach those customers? Can you communicate with them, individually, and treat them special?It is extremely valuable to you, then, to answer the above three questions…after you answer this one:Are you already a successful database marketer?Many sole proprietors already are. So are thousands of sales reps. They are familiar with their customers, they understand their preferences. If they have under a hundred customers, maybe even fewer than 500, they know their names and their likes and dislikes and know which ones contribute the most to their pocketbook.But once a business achieves a certain size it becomes impossible for any one person to know all the customers. This is where the aid of the computer comes in. But, we don’t want to discuss tactics in this article. Rather, let’s simply focus on whether or not your company is a candidate for a database marketing program. And that means we need to devise some questions that help us answer each of 1, 2 and 3 above.Payment. Can you capture their individual financial contribution? Does everybody pay with cash or credit card, and then scoot out the door? Or do you invoice your customers?Communication. Do you know their name and address? Can you acquire their name and address? How about email address? Can you acquire it?Acquisition Method. Do you know how they heard about your company in the first place? Can you track and quantify how much it cost your to acquire that customer?Decision Maker. Does the person who actually buys from you control the purchasing decision? If you sell to consumers, the answer is probably yes; but if you sell to businesses it can get a bit more complex. In some industries even finding let alone reaching the true decision maker can be tough but–that’s the person you need to market to for you to be effective.OK, the above are entry-level questions to ask when evaluating if your small business is a candidate for a database marketing program. Again, the key advantage the application of a database marketing program affords as part of a small business marketing program is the ability to target best customers. You find those customers that send the most to your bottom line, and spend more of your advertising dollar on them.If you can’t identify and communicate with a best customer segment, then it is probably best to look at a mass marketing program, where you essentially spend the same marketing promotional dollars on each prospect.If you can identify these best customers, then you are ready to learn more about specific database marketing techniques.Remember: Brand (who you are) + Package (your Face to the Customer) + People (customers and employees) = Marketing Success.© 2006 Marketing Hawks

Can Virtual PBX Really Change How Small Businesses Are Run?

Everywhere you turn these days it seems like the expression “in the cloud” has taken on some strange magnetic pull or force all its own. Web users, business owners and companies of all sizes, are being bombarded with “cloud” or “virtual” services which are hosted on remote servers far removed from one’s place of business.According to Gartner, a well respected information technology advisory and research company, some of the leading cloud providers now include Amazon, Google, HP, AT&T, IBM and Microsoft. In addition, in a recent survey, Gartner found 19% of companies are using the cloud for most of their production computing and 20% use it for storage.However, these cloud services are just, not for storage or computing, we also have other business services hosted in the clouds. Online or Internet fax is growing in popularity as more and more companies and businesses modernize or update their means of communication in our computer driven world. Then you also have virtual phone and PBX (Private Branch Exchange) services for the home office and companies both big and small.Perhaps, the greatest force driving all these “cloud” services, is our insatiable need to be completely portable and mobile in today’s current wireless environment. We simply need the ability to do our work anywhere and at any time – regardless of location. It may even be argued any company or small business without this ability has already lost a competitive edge or advantage over their competitors.This factor is brought home when one considers the benefits of using a virtual PBX vs a conventional land-line system. Going with a cloud based system gives your company much more flexibility and scalability. You can be completely mobile and wireless, regardless of where your employees or salespersons are located.Then you have to factor in the much lower costs of running a virtual system, there’s no expensive hardware to install or maintain. Set-up is almost instant, and there’s only one low monthly fee to pay. Plus, all of these virtual systems are full-featured – you get voice mail, call waiting, message forwarding, online fax… and even a virtual receptionist to handle all your business communications.One of the major drawbacks for most people has to do with online security. How safe will your company’s vital information be when stored on a remote server? Do I really want my information and communications accessible on the web?We all have heard horror stories of sites being hacked and information stolen, but for the most part, online security has improved greatly over the last few years, and the major “cloud service” companies mentioned above are completely professional. Sad truth, most companies store their data on computers, which can be accessed from the Internet, depending on the security measures you have in place, your information could be MORE safe with one of these services supplied by Google, IBM, Amazon or Microsoft.Regardless, anyone running a home office or a business, must consider using the “cloud” to do their computing and storage. The lower costs, the complete mobility, the ease of use, the complete flexibility/scalability, the greater competitiveness and instant set-up… all have to be factored into one’s decision. It is probably a safe bet that in the future, more businesses and companies will be hosting their computing, storage and virtual PBX phone services in the cloud.

Forestry Investments – How to Maximise Returns and Minimise Risk

In the current global climate, defined by low interest rates; high inflation; volatile investment markets; and poor short term visibility, investors are seeking out alternative investments that generate growth and income that does not depend on traditional market performance.As such, much attention has been focussed on timber investments as a tool to preserve capital, hedge inflation and generate superior income in a low-risk environment.Institutional Investors such as pension funds, university endowments and hedge funds have long known the benefits of investing in timber assets, with many such as the Yale University Endowment Fund holding 28 per cent of their investment portfolio in real-asset alternative investments including tropical forestry investments and farmland.Timber investments are seen as generating non-correlative investment returns due to the fact that the majority of revenues is sourced from the biological growth of the tree, with only a small percentage of return attributed to timber price growth or land value appreciation. One credible university study found that over 60 per cent of returns from forestry investments can be attributed to the ‘biological hedge’.Demand for timber products remains strong, and rises roughly in line with population expansion, a factor compounded by economic expansion in developing nations leading to a n increase in consumption of timber products per capita as new homes and other infrastructure in developed.Currently, around 30 per cent of global timber supplies are sourced from illegal logging, and a further 40 per cent form unsustainable sources. The future demand dynamics then indicates that timber investments are likely to continue to outperform other assets such as equities, as they have for the past 30 years.Taking a very broad view, forestry investment returns can be enhanced and potential downside risk substantially reduced through the application of strategic species and location selection, combined with experienced forestry management to create a sustainable and profitable investment model.Broadly speaking, the faster a tree grows into commercially viable timber, the greater the return on investment, so selecting fast-growing tropical timber species is the first step in consolidating profitable forestry investments. Bamboo is one example of a timber species with great potential as a subject of sustainable forestry investments due to the fact that the rate of biological growth is so rapid as to ensure a commercially viable, harvestable timber stand within 4 years of planting.Other features to take into account to maximise forestry investment returns are sustainable plantations managements, suitable site selection and investing in upstream products developments, allowing timber growers to process their raw materials and sell value-added timber products such as boards and other processed wood products.Investors interesting in harnessing the characteristics of forestry investments for their own portfolio should be encouraged to seek advice from an independent third party with experience in identifying and delivering successful forestry investment projects.


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