February Save The Dates

Check out these February events for those in the Greater Los Angeles area.  No matter what business you’re thinking about going into, or if you’ve already started your own company, there are events here for all levels of business owners and entrepreneurs,

 

  • February 4th – Taking Your Grant Writing Research Skills to The Next Level Event organized by eCivis, Inc. from 9am – 4pm PST.  Event cost is $299 for the early bird fee, $349 for general admission.
  • February 5th FREE Self-Publishing Workshop located at 1246 Glendon Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood Library Branch) from 6-8pm PST hosted by the Toastmasters District One Speakers Bureau Workshop Committe, for more info, visit http://bit.ly/1fOqo6d
  • February 6thFREE Website Building Tools Class hosted by the Valley Economic Development Center from 6-8pm PST located at 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., 3rd Floor Van Nuys, CA 91403; from more information or to register, email hassali@vedc.org
  • February 6th – 8th – How To Sell To Women FREE Virtual Training Event hosted by Lisa Sasevich; to register http://bit.ly/1eHENio
  • February 7th – Women 2.0 Founder Friday, located at the Regus 3415 South Sepulveda, suite 1100 Los Angeles, CA 90034 from 6:30 to 9pm PST.  General admission starts at $22.09.  Visit http://bit.ly/1er4gjT for more information and to register
  • February 8thFREE Marketing and Promotions Event organized by the Business Entrepreneurship Club.  Event will take place the LA Mission College located at 13356 Elridge Ave, Los Angeles 91342 from 10am – 12pm PST.  Contact Dr. Norris Dorsey at  818.402.5050 and/or register at http://bit.ly/ML8CIQ
  • February 10th  — FREE Start Up Dos & Don’ts/ Business Plan class from 6-8pm PST hosted by the Valley Economic Development Center located at 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., 3rd Floor Van Nuys, CA 91403; from more information or to register, email hassali@vedc.org
  • February 10th – California Small Business Development Center is offering a How to Write a Business Plan Class for $40, hosted by Santa Monica College. Event takes place from 9am to 1pm PST on the campus.  To register, visit http://bit.ly/1fzdI51
  • February 19th – 2014 – 2015 Annual Economic Forecast and Industry Outlook hosted by the LA County Economic Development Corporation from 7 -10:30pm PST at the L.A. Hotel Downtown located at 333 Figueroa St, Los Angeles 90071; general admission is $155 if purchased by Feb. 14th.  Register at http://bit.ly/1acMC3E
  • February 26th – March 1st –  Black Enterpise Women of Power Summit hosted by State Farm held at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Florida.  Deadline to register for general admission is February 7th at $1395.  After February 7th, tickets to the event go up to $1695.  For more information visit, http://bit.ly/1ildZsN

(additional events may be added)

 

 

Write Outside The Lines

There is no trick or secret to blogging for your business.  There’s no formula or magic keywords or tags that will make your business blog be the most searched source on the internet. But it isn’t hard to blog either if you got something to offer and something to share.  Normally, I would say practice till you get it right, but sometimes it’s best to hire a freelancer or someone with much more experience.  And if you’re not a strong writer, don’t know your voice yet, or don’t have the time — someone else can do it for you in the meantime, right?  But if you wanna take a crack at it, review all the rules you’ve heard before: blog at least once a week, blog consistently and spread the word around through your other social media platforms.  Sounds easy enough.  But don’t forget the add-ons — the extras that make a blog a bit better: include video, photos and links whenever you can and appropriately, share more information that can help your customer or client rather than yakking it up about how great your company is and include links to your website.

But just like the tech companies, out there, there are some rules you should break —

  • Blog inconsistently consistently — What does that mean?  I try to blog every week, up to 3 times a week.  But I don’t have select days of the week when I blog.  I blog when I have an idea, or the time to devote to an entry.  Being flexible without a set schedule also allows me to add information as I get it — event dates, the latest news or what have you.  Decide how many times a week you’d like to blog and then go from there.  Your time should dictate when you have an opportunity to blog and share, not the calendar.
  • Play with the titles.  You’ll hear copywriters discuss the importance of a good headline or tag… I say, have fun with it.  Personally, I love innuendos for titles.  There’s something about misdirecting the topic that I enjoy all too much.  A (sexual) innuendo is more likely to stop people long enough to skim the article you wrote than a straight forward boring title.
  • Trade shoes when you write.  Think of the person who you are writing this blog for.  Think about what they would to get out of it, think  from their point of view.  Then give it to them.  Be that irate customer who doesn’t understand why the store won’t take back his purchase after 31 days even though his receipt says no returns, refunds or exchanges after 30 days.  Give him solution or a loophole to working with businesses and people like yourself.
  • Vent.  Here is that opportunity to tell the world about the awful no-paying-on-time client that won’t stop calling you whenever they feel like it. Here is the chance to spill how you (and most likely every other business owner) feels about that annoying client.  You can say it all, get it off your chest, be brutally honest without ever saying their name.  Think of it as a form of therapy.  Whoo-sah!

Blogging is the content marketing your business is going to need to keep it’s edge in 2014.  Anybody with a laptop and internet can blog, which means anyone with a business too, should be blogging.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t write outside the lines when you do.

 

 

 

Social Media Management

Did you know that Intel Boutique offered Social Media Management services?  No?  Really?

It’s a little bit what it sounds like.  However, this isn’t a service in which you hire someone to manage your social media platforms for you, i.e. a contract social media manager.  Intel Boutique’s Social Media Management service is where you — the client and business owner — invite Intel Boutique to show you how to become adept (if not more) in managing and tackling your business’ social media presence.  We all know how important it has become for businesses to create a social media image.  Today, much of the marketing that is done is through social media and/ or uses social media channels to carry the message of a business or brand.  But using social media goes beyond setting up an account and a few links to the business website.  I’ve had multiple people admit they got their nephew or niece or neighbor’s kid to help them start their ‘socials’ for their business because it was easier to have them do it and they understood it better.  I understand that Gen Ys know more about using it.  After all, Gen Ys pioneered social media.  That’s fine and dandy, but how much do they know about marketing? How much do they know about creating a campaign or selecting the right social sites?  How much do they know about applying all of this to your business?

This is where Intel Boutique steps in.  Intel Boutique offers a choice of two intimate settings (one small and one large) for business owners in the Greater Los Angeles area who know a little sum-thin’ sum-thin’ about social media but haven’t yet used it or aren’t using it to its greatest value.   The service isn’t a lecture about how to harness the endless potential of social media.  It is a ‘walk-through’, if you will, in which how to best use best social sites for your business based on your business needs and audience.  No generics, no what has worked for others, no empty promises, no buying a whole bunch of fake followers and likes.  The Social Media Management service simply sits you down and explores how you need to reach your target market via social media channels.  You get to select the right sites for you — no matter if you’re selling a service or product — set up those accounts and profiles, create a campaign right then and there and get reading material (that’s been collected from various resources) that discusses how small businesses should use social media.

But why doesn’t Intel Boutique just manage the social accounts of other businesses that don’t know how or don’t have the time?  That’s not a ruled out service, however, the point of the service is knowledge and know-how.  That niece or nephew those people hired don’t really know what those kids are doing because they don’t know how to use it themselves.  That leaves them to trust a bunch of young’uns to represent their business on platforms that thousands on top of thousands will see.  These are the same kids that struggle to use a fax machine.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong in hiring someone who knows better than you what you need done.  But you also shouldn’t be so in the dark that you’re just blindly following them hoping for the best.

Stop by intelboutique.com and take a gander. You can still hire that kid on the block to set up your Facebook account.  But at least you’ll how he’s doing it and what he should be doing.

Social Media Management

Labor of Love

I hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day weekend.  It’s nice to get some down time and do — nothing.  It’s even better that there’s a whole national holiday dedicated to NOT working.  But while you were putting up your feet, flipping through channels or chilling out in the backyard, I hope you also took some time this weekend to reflect on the labor of love you’ve been working on so hard.  Your business, dream, goal — call it what you want.    Did you give some real thought to where your business is going?  What you could be doing differently — better, even — to improve some of the inefficiencies that are creating obstacles?  By chance, did you take this Labor Day weekend to think about the labor you’ve been working on and building?

Much of the time, our down time is just that — down.  Productivity is down, effort is down, connecting is down.  Down on our list of priorities.  Every so often, we need a break and any time we get one, we take it.  But are we letting our down time drag us down?  Just because we get a break doesn’t mean we need to break the momentum.  Even when we’re taking it easy for a couple of days, there’s a lot we can still get done so that when we’re ready to pick things back up at our usual pace, we can do so effortlessly.

Plan – we should also be planning, creating outlines, mapping out timelines and working out budgets.  It doesn’t require a great deal of intensive energy but it can get much of out of the way.

Brainstorm – this is much like planning, except without the organization.  Brainstorming is the collection of ideas and thoughts before we’ve had a chance to comb through it and nit-pick over every detail.  Maybe there was something we wanted to introduce into our company but have been so busy to give it a second thought.   Now we can.

Read – we don’t always have time to stop and read the latest reports, findings or articles related to our industry.  Our down time is the perfect time to catch up on all this and see what the experts and other business owners are saying.

Wander – as in, let your mind wander.  Sometimes a little ol’ fashion daydreaming is just the right amount of inspiration we need to spike up our motivation and vision.   Daydreaming is a time killer when we’re busy.  But not when we’re doing nothing!  So let’s indulge ourselves.  What else can we create?

The next time you get some down time, use it wisely.  See if you can couple day dreaming with channel surfing or reading with sun-bathing.  You never know when inspiration will strike, so make a little time for it.  After all, it’s not work, it’s a labor of love

7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Be Using Google Products…

… at least, in their early stages while they’re building and establishing themselves.

  1. Gmail Account – It comes with EVERYTHING!  Now, We all know how more professional it looks to have an email address with your company website domain, but there’s no rule or law that says you can only have one business email.  I have contact@intelboutique.com (and a few others) as well as intelboutiquela@gmail.com.  It allows me to create a Google + profile, connect with others and promote my business blog. 
  2. Google + –  Speaking of it, Google + has rebounded and bounced back from unnecessary to useful.  Like any other social media platform, you have to find your audience and what drives them to read and engage on Google +, but once you do, you’ll find worth your while.   Nonetheless, it’s another tool brought to us by Google that can help businesses stand out and grow.
  3.  YouTube –  One of the best, if not the best ways, to promote your business is the use of videos.  Why?  Videos are watched, shared and commented on more than links, quotes and yes, content.  Maybe it’s our short attention span or that we’re bombarded with so much information that videos give us the right platform to digest data.  Whatever the reason, jump on it, it works!
  4. Hangout (formerly known as GChat) – This is perhaps my most favorite tool because, I am not a fan of Skype. Hangout/GChat is video conferencing and instant messaging all wrapped up in one.  You can hold video meetings with your team, you can voice text conversations and share links and videos.  Making virtual businesses easy to conduct .. well, business.
  5. Google Drive –  If you’re still sketchy about “The Cloud” Google Drive offers you a place to save your work, documents, presentations, client list, correspondences and whatever else is important to your business operations.  And what makes Google Drive a better, you can save it offline to your desktop.  Beautiful!
  6. Google Calendar – I live by my Google Calendar.  I upload every meeting, every task, invite others to shared events, set reminders in advance to remind me of due dates and deadlines.  And I get every update and notice sent to my phone and tablet.
  7. Maps – I travel to my clients in LA.  And although I grew up in LA, I don’t always know every side street, dead-end and little area or district.  If I feel like I’m not that familiar to where I’m headed, I pull out my phone, type in the address and let the voice guide directions be my GPS.  It hasn’t failed me yet.  Also, Google Maps tells me where other businesses, buildings and anything of importance to me and my businesses.

I don’t want to lead anyone thinking that Google is the be all to end all, but it does offer a host of very useful tools for newbies and seasoned business owners who need to do more with pocket change.    And who knows, you might find more uses with Google than you ever imagined.

Common Business Mistakes to Remember During Tax Season

As cute as this video is, and you gotta admire a man willing to throw on a woman’s wig to play to a few roles,  most of these mistakes will ring true as we get closer to April 15th.  Some of us have taken the necessary steps and precautions to make sure were licensed, legal and postured to run our businesses successfully, while others may need a few reminders.  Or maybe you’re ahead of the rest of us and on the ball.  Whichever it is, hopefully you’re not making as many mistakes as outlined in the video and if so, be sure to heed the advice presented so that your business can thrive and grow.  (And yes, Tony, Billy, Danella, Wesley, Linda, Ms. Alfa and Ferdinand are all the same person, in case you thought your eyes were playing tricks on you.)

{video credit: foundcom1}

Communication Is Your Customer Service

Image representing GrubHub as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

How many of you are familiar with GrubHub?  It’s an online ordering system that brings local restaurants to customers at the stroke of a key.  You enter your address and it pulls of dozens of restaurants in your immediate area with the option of pick up or delivery. Everything you need to order is on your screen from the menu to the prices to the location and restaurant number.  It even gives you the option of adding special instructions for those that live in more ‘complicated’ areas.  You can share, rate and recommend any restaurant on there to friends and those in your social media circles.  And the best part, this Illinois based company has a 24 hour customer service line should anything go wrong with your order.

Or when something goes wrong with your order.

Nothing in life is perfect and most of us except that.  Orders get mixed up, dry-cleaning gets lost, pets run away (the minor things).  But sitting on the other end as a customer waiting for my food for about an hour and a half, is a minor thing but a big thing for a restaurant business.  GrubHub was bringing customers to these restaurants without them ever having to leave the comfort of their home, but restaurant owners aren’t utilizing this leverage to its fullest.  They leave a huge void in the customer-business dynamic.  Communication. GrubHub itself is pretty responsive in requesting feedback and taking care of shortcomings.  Now forgive me for the observation here, (because this was made from a poor one-time experience, but as the rest of us have learned, sometimes all it takes it is one time for a whole lot of dong to hit the fan), but why was I never called to be informed that my order was going to take a little longer, or that the driver had just left and he was on his way?  After all, I did enter my number with ‘special instructions’ in case those special instructions needed further instructions.  But not once did the restaurant (employees, ’cause buildings don’t talk) I ordered from call me to let me know my food was on the way or thanked me for my patience.  It was a weekend night they were probably backed up on orders.  Maybe the driver didn’t have a phone.  Nope!  He had a phone because when the ‘special instructions’ failed, he had to call me and ask where exactly was my door.

Ever noticed when something goes wrong or takes longer than expected, you, the customer has to initiated communication? Bigger companies and corporations have figured this out a while ago (well, a good number of them, at least).  They know when customers have to wait longer than expected or something changes, if you keep them updated as to what’s going on, they’re much more forgiving than if you keep them in the dark.  People like to be informed, especially about their purchases and everything tied to it.  It’s easier for them to be patient and understanding when they know why.  Small companies may believe they don’t have the resources to provide such an added luxury.  WRONG ANSWER!  If you have customers, then you better believe customer service is top priority.  I’m not saying customer service absolves any and all problems your company will ever have.  But it’ll keep customers from turning away from your business.

Not many people enjoy tackling customer concerns, it can be a bear of a job.  Perhaps that’s why it feels like so few restaurants that deliver only speak when necessary.  But anytime a customer or client exchanges their information with you, value that opportunity to communicate with them.  You’re not just looking for the transaction, but building a long-term relationship.  Take that opportunity, they’re not always given.  And never shy away from being honest when things hit a rough patch.  Transparency makes communication easier to handle.

{photo credit: Crunchbase}