Saturday, September 16, 2006

Simple Web Tools for the Small Business

There's nothing like watching someone's eyes light up when you crack some of the problems that have been holding back their business. I've been volunteering for a while at a microenterprise organization called JobStarts, where I pontificate on the power of cold calling, a solid database of contacts, and systematic, well-designed marketing campaigns. My clients are existing or aspiring entrepreneurs in the businesses of child care, construction, event security, catering, and chakra-aligning panties.

I'm supposed to be doing what they call "technical assistance" but I call it coaching, mentoring, and just plain fun. I get to sit down and take an objective and caring look at how people can take their business to the next level. Sometimes it's a money constraint -- like not enough working capital to build up inventory and fulfill orders -- but most of the time it's a shortage of the right kind of marketing. And with my background in commercial real estate, my solution is almost always: GET ON THE PHONE AND START CALLING!

More about that in a forthcoming post, in the meantime, here's some essential web tools for the new entrepreneur:
  1. Take out some ads on Craigslist -- Write a quick explanation of what you do and how someone will benefit. Write a snappy headline. Include a great photo. Get an account to make reposting the ad simple.
  2. Get a website. The simplest way to an online presence is with the software I use for this site, Blogger. You can write passionate posts about how your business changes your customers' lives for the better. You are passionate about your business right? If not, do something else. You can also post great photos of what you do (cakes, panties, parties, whatever). A few fabulous photos are better than lots of okay ones. Choose carefully.
  3. Get a database. You can use a free one here. You should also check out DabbleDB or Basecamp. They're the coolest little Web 2.0 thingamajigs out there. They're cheap and worth it.
It can be hard to get started on the web. Using these few simple tools, I think it will be a little easier for you.