To connect with customers, be where they are and ask what problem you can solve for them. The blurbs below will tell you about sources that can help.

Let your fingers gather leads with PureChat

If you’ve avoided even thinking about using a chat service on your website because you can’t be available 24/7, there’s good news. PureChat has a free visitor tracking feature which lets you see “see” your website visitors. By looking at the traffic record for the same day in the previous week, you can figure out when the best time for you to be available for live chat

Learn about your visitor’s needs (and get their name and email) during the conversation. PureChat has great potential for small businesses and nonprofits strapped for time and money.

June deadline  for USDA Value-Added grants

Electronic applications are due June 24 and paper applications due July 1  for Value-Added Producer Grants administered by the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development. For assistance, download the free National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s  Farmers’ Guide or visit the USDA VAPG webpage.

6 best advertising strategies for SBOs

By assigning the right amount of advertising money to the right channels, you can get the results you want, or at the least, improve the results you have, based on the data you gather along the way.

Free Google training for SBOs missing online

Free Google workshops will be offered across the US the first week of May to help small businesses improve their online presence. Today 63 percent of small businesses don’t claim or update their local listings on search engines and half of SBOs don’t have websites.

Workshops will be carried out by local partners such as SCORE and the Small Business Development Centers. Check this article to learn about other help available and to find a workshop.

5 ways to use video to sell handmade items

Nothing can showcase the color and texture of your product the way a handmade products video can. Learn ways to use video to showcase handmade products and compel people to buy more of them.

American homes drop Internet for mobile

Since 2013, the number of households using DSL, cable, or fiber connections to get online dropped from 82 percent to 75 percent. In the U.S today, about one in five households goes online mobile-only.

5 easy tricks to generate website leads

An infographic and related article give essential tips to turn surfers into shoppers. Number one is having a mobile-friendly site. The others are simpler to implement.


Actionable ideas

Know what car-buyers seek. Get more referrals. Track cash flow. Sign up for B2B search engine now. More actionable ideas.

What are car-buyers seeking online?

Need help knowing where your auto dealership should put its marketing messages? A free report from search engine Bing offers insights to help you sell online.

11 ways to get more referrals

Referrals matter. This article targeted toward retailers and service businesses provides simple tips for getting customers to recommend your business to their friends and family.

Is your business the “best-kept secret?”

You want the name of your business and what it does on the mind of your entire target audience and more. This blog post gives you a few simple ways to begin to put your message out without spending a dime on advertising or marketing.

Send customers on a scavenger hunt

Small Biz Survival reported that an Oklahoma town that created a scavenger hunt as a tourism activity. The sponsors used a single-page flier to send people in search of architectural features in the town.

Your rural small business community could do something similar to what El Reno, OK did, perhaps in conjunction with a farmer market or similar event that draws foot traffic.

Guide aids farmers seeking producer grants

The 2016 Farmers’ Guide to Value-Added Producer Grant Funding is now available for download from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. The guide helps farmers prepare successful funding applications for working capital, feasibility studies, business plans, and marketing efforts to enable them to transform raw goods into higher-value processed products.

Plonked offers B2B firms data to grow with

The  new search engine Plonked could become the premier place for business-to-business companies to find customers,  build a sales pipeline, or secure venture capital.  Learn how Plonked could help your B2B accomplish its business objectives.

Track cash flow with any spreadsheet program

To keep your small business running smoothly, you need to understand cash flow. Businesses don’t just spend profits; they spend cash.  See a  simple explanation plus a graphic that shows how to create a cash flow tracker for a new business using whichever spreadsheet program you have.  The directions explain how to adapt the spreadsheet for an existing business.

Press your advantage

Family businesses have 21st century advantage. Fine art sales increasing. More news and insights for rural SBOs to act on.

First steps to engage moms online

With 90% of moms online and 22% shopping online at least once a day, rural small businesses can’t afford not to engage with them. The trick to doing it well is to start by learning what topics are on their minds. Then see if your business has solutions to the problems they’re experiencing.

Family businesses have edge in 21st century

An article in Harvard Business Review says family businesses have the potential to out-adapt other types of businesses and thus to dominate the business world in this century.

Their value-oriented culture is the first reason for that prediction. Read all five reasons family businesses are the next big thing.

Taste NY bolsters access to local food products

Taste NY is partnering with distributor Baldor Specialty Foods to support local agribusinesses and farms. As part of the deal, Baldor’s Pledge Local will make it easier for chefs to secure local foods for their restaurants. Learn more.

Good news for artists, art dealers

One of the major changes in the fine arts industry is a big increase in online sales of one-of-a-kind art items. Prices are up, too. Social media is playing a big role in purchasing decisions. Read more and download the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2015.

S. Tier agriculture gets development money

The first two major projects awarded under the $5 million Southern Tier Agricultural Industry Enhancement program were recently announced. Broome County Cornell Cooperative Extension was awarded $500,000 for a one-stop Agriculture Development Center and a Taste NY Market in Broome County. Cornell University was awarded $627,055 for the Stocker Cattle Initiative to further training and research in the industry which raises weaned calves for others to “finish” by raising them to maturity.

Sell online

From websites to shippers, digital tools allow your rural small business to profit from ecommerce.

Sell from with Shopify, the world’s most popular content management system, (ordinary people call such systems websites and blogs) now offers plug-ins that let users link their WordPress site to Shopify, the online ecommerce service.  This is good news for people with a relatively small number of goods to sell. Those with an extensive inventory are better off using Shopify as their primary sales venue.

Get best rate to ship ecommerce purchases

Shippo  negotiates low rates with multiple carriers like FedEx and UPS by buying in volume on behalf of a host of shippers. You enter the shipment information, Shippo finds the cheapest way to ship it. The company also provides a tracking tool that shippers host on their own websites, so customers tracking their orders keep returning and being tempted to buy again.

Google lowers mobile-unfriendly sites in search

Google recently announced in May  it will increase the importance of having a mobile page, and sites that are not mobile-friendly will rank even lower in search results than before. Since so much shopping is now done on mobile devices, you can’t afford to have a site that’s not optimized for mobile, especially if you have an ecommerce site.

Test your website’s mobile friendliness

Paste the URL of your website’s home page into this Google page to find out whether your site is mobile-friendly enough to not be hammered in the search results and lose potential customers seeking to buy from you.

See how mobile friendly your site is

You can get a look at how your website looks on screens of different sizes by putting your domain name into the box at the top of this page.

Learn how to make a mobile website

Flexible, the folks who offer the website viewer mentioned in the post above, also will teach you how to use the Flexible Grid System to create web applications.  To take advantage of their free help, you need to know  HTML, CSS, Sass, Less or Stylus.

Social media is where buying starts today

Social media is highly influential in customers’ decisions to buy products. In a Forbes study,  81 percent of  respondents indicated posts from their friends and family directly influence their purchase decisions.

Not all social media posts lead to sales, however, Learn what your social media posts need to do—and not do—to drive retail sales.

What mobile users want from a website

Mobile users  were  asked what items a website must have before they’d consider it mobile friendly. Their responses may surprise you.  Can you guess what 90 percent of mobile users said they shop for on their smartphones? The answer is in the article.

Don’t celebrate April Fool’s Day

Just because it’s April 1 is no reason to be foolish about your business marketing. Click below for advice.

Facebook explains News Feed

Apparently many Facebook users are confused by the social media company’s News Feed. Facebook has an interactive explanation of News Feed and why the company has chosen to use it. Near the end of the explainer is information specifically targeted toward business users.

How to gather subscriber feedback

Subscribers to your email newsletter are one of your most important sources of feedback. Learn how to ask for subscriber feedback. The article shows survey forms from two popular tools.

How to create killer CTAs on social media

The key to creating Calls to Action that customers act upon is engaging those customers on social media beforehand. Good images can help. Learn other tips here.

How to recover from a website hack

If yours is one of the 25 percent of all websites that run on the content management system, use the directions in this article to undo the damage and get back in business quickly. Sometimes WordPress has hiccups that cause “the white screen of death.” This article gives tips on dealing with that WordPress problem.

Site owners should notify their customers immediately when a site is offline. Keep people in the loop. Use social media and email all your newsletter subscribers daily about your progress.

How to prevent a website hack

The article about recovering from a website hack includes useful information near the bottom of the page about how to keep from getting hacked.

A website that’s down a week has been down a century in web years. If bots visit your site when it’s unavailable, your site could be removed from the search engine’s index. Getting re-indexed can take months. Be sure you perform routine maintenance to keep your site safe. has a free website management checklist that can help.

See for free how visitors use your website

HotJar translates Google Analytics data into understandable, actionable  information. The site lets you use its service for two weeks free. If your website is at least a year old and not yet pulling at least 250 unique visitors a day, you certainly should take advantage of HotJar’s offer.