Seize the opportunity

This issue of Rural New York Small Business Owner holds ideas to help you get more customers, make more sales, and take advantage of changes likely to be made in the state’s Blue Laws.

Overhaul of alcoholic beverage laws proposed

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is proposing updates to the laws governing  the manufacturing and selling of alcoholic beverages in New York State. The laws are particularly designed to aid the craft beverage industry, which has become a significant driver of economic development in the state. Read a synopsis of the proposed amendments.

Welcome newcomers as your customers

Targeting new movers who are looking to establish a new relationship with local businesses should be an important strategy for businesses of any type, especially those in rural areas with declining populations. This post tells what new movers are likely to  want to buy and when they are likely to be in the market for those items.

Boost your website traffic with SEO

If you  sunk hundreds of dollars into a website design that not getting traffic, the problem may lie under the hood. No matter how nice your pages look, unless each one has a keyword for which your potential customers are searching, you wasted your money. Learn 5 search engine optimization tips that will help you deliver what your customers want. Note: This article says its for B2B companies, but everything here applies to B2Cs as well.

Find your best B2B social media platform

Generally,  LinkedIn is the dominant business-to-business social network, but there are significant differences by industry. TrackMaven lays them  out in its free 2016 analysis of 316 leading B2B brands in 17 industries.

3 clever ways to more customers in 3 weeks

The headline of this article says it gives three clever ideas and it delivers. None of the ideas are hard to implement, very time-consuming, or very expensive. What makes them clever is that many of them not only bring in traffic, but they also generate content that can be reused in marketing.


Preparedness matters

It’s not enough just to be prepared for emergencies. Preparing for routine occurrences is also very important for the small business owner who may be doing most of the the heavy lifting solo.

Prepare for natural and tech disasters

Whether from a natural disaster, human error, or cyber attack, data loss is costly and extremely risky. That’s why you need a backup and disaster recovery plan.

Become familiar to customers via video

People gravitate toward people—and businesses—they know; it’s called the familiarity principle. Short videos in which you, the small business owner, talk to customers in 30 to 60 seconds can make people feel they know you before their first visit to your site. This article suggests appropriate topics.

Put a personal story in your news releases

If you want to attract media coverage, your news release should contain  a clear narrative—your story—and it should put the news in a broader context. Both narrative and context help news people, and ultimately customers, decide whether your news matters to them.

Keep your promises; keep your reputation.

One failure to keep your promise to customers can sink your reputation forever to a customer. Work hard to fulfill the promises you make—especially the ones you advertise.

Is your startup ready to be disruptive?

Radically disruptive businesses like Uber or Apple employ business models only slightly different from their mainstream competitors.  Before you sink time and energy into developing what you believe is a radical new business idea, ask yourself three deceptively simple questions.

Get your business exit-plan in order

Not having a plan to get out of your business is like not having a will. Businesses have three general options: Check them out here, then decide which one is best for your business.

Find out what your business is worth

Nobody in their right mind would pay for an existing business without knowing what it’s worth, but there’s no one right way to determine the value of a business. You can, however, use a couple of these free business valuation calculators to get a ballpark figure.

Who will buy your business when you retire?

In small towns, when an established business closes, unless there’s a smaller established business person to buy it, the business is often lost for good. Does your town have a program to build entrepreneurs who can carry on when you retire?  Related: Why your business won’t fund your retirement

Internet tips for SBOs

Promote your business in the Internet world by going where your customers are. Using mobile messaging services, making sure your business information is available to search engines, and geo-targeting are a few ways to get there.

Blog your way to increased sales

Blogging is a great way to drive sales, share news, and engage with potential customers–without advertising or selling. If you create your blog as a subdomain of your website, new posts freshen your content and help your website ranking. Read more about how to get the most out of blogging.

Use messaging to connect with mobile users

If retail and service businesses have—or expect to win—any customers under age 35, they need to use messaging. (Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and SnapChat alone have 4.32 billion active users a month!) This article will tell you more about the benefits of using messaging in your business.

Register your business with Google

Businesses with a physical location should register it with Google and keep the registration up-to-date.   This article explains the benefits of taking 10 minutes to register your site with search engines.

Tip 1:  Register even if you don’t have a website and especially if your site is nothing more than a “coming soon” splash page.

Tip 2: Save that information. Copy and paste the information you put on Google into a .txt document. Save the document. Copy and paste from it into corresponding text blocks at other search engines. This keeps your information uniform across the web.

Learn whether geo-targeting is right for your site

Promoting a business to people based on their location can be effective. This article will help you decide whether geo-targeting is good for your business  or if it will turn off more potential customers than it will attract.

Boost your organic website traffic 7 ways

To get the opportunity to convert more website visitors to customers, you need to keep improving your organic website traffic—the people who find you because your site ranked high up in the search engine results for the keyword term they entered in the search box.  This article tells you seven simple ways to boost your search engine ranking.

Don’t become a ransomware victim

Small businesses are increasingly becoming targets of ransomware, a type of malware that freezes certain files on computers and smartphones then requires a ransom to unlock the files. Learn what you can do, besides having everyone with access to your business files use good passwords, to keep from being a victim.

Special farmer edition

This bonus issue of Rural NY SBO focuses on news of markets, funding, loans, and resources for farmers.

Compete for food/agriculture startup money

Innovative entrepreneurs working on for-profit food and agriculture businesses are invited to compete for $145,000 in startup funds offered in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s  third Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. Applications are due by June 30, 2016.

NY products sought for Thruway farm markets

New York vendors interested in selling food products at Taste NY Farm Markets should email for more information on how to participate this season.

Market seeks additional organic produce

The Warrensburgh Riverfront Farmers’ Market is looking for  suppliers of organic (naturally grown) produce. Now in its eighteenth year, the Upstate NY market needs additional producers to provide organically grown fruits and vegetables, hormone and antibiotic free meats and poultry, and value-added products. The article provides details and contact information.

USDA loans for portable farm storage

The USDA has loans, including a microloan option with 5 percent down payment, to help smaller farmers buy portable storage and handling equipment needed to help them produce high-value crops for local and regional markets. Learn more about the Farm Storage Facility Loan program.

Places beyond Facebook to reach customers

Social media networks are a great place to promote a farm business. You can’t be on all of them, so chose those that fit your customers, your products, and your available time. The descriptions of these 20 popular social media platforms may help you find good options for your farm business.

Free book to help your business go mobile

The NFIB offers a free e-book that discusses over best practices for optimizing your website for mobile, marketing and advertising, accepting smartphone payments, and whether or not you really need an app. The Mobile Revolution and Your Small Business is free for anyone to download,  but you do need to give your contact information.

8 rural small business resources

This issue contains no mention of Mother’s Day. It does contain capsule descriptions of sources you can consult to help you run your small, rural New York business.

4 essential tech tools for startups

When you’re just starting out in business, it’s tempting to buy the latest technology, but buying the minimum you need is smarter. Learn the four pieces of equipment you’ll need (you probably have some of them) and check the useful tips about ways to save money if you must buy.

Make keeping customers your #1 priority

Much is written about how to get new customers,  but there are seven very good reasons why you should work at holding on to existing customers.

Small business is big cybercrime target

New information shows nearly half of all cybercrime targets small business. The criminals are after information, (your employee payroll records, for example)  cash, and back door access to the big businesses that are your vendors.

What to do on a slow day in a small town

A retailer in a small town in Oviedo in the north of Spain told Becky McCray how she gives lessons on her slow day to encourage people to come to her store. Becky has some suggestions on how you could adapt the idea.

Free webinar 5/17 on social sales strategy

Learn how to take your social media strategy beyond likes, comments, and shares using a three-step marketing and sales campaign. A webinar from noon to 1 PM Tuesday, May 17, will be followed by a Q&A with three social media experts about how to convert more followers into paying customers. Get details and register.

20 popular social media sites

Social media networks are a major resource for both small and big businesses seeking to promote  their brands on the Internet. Skim a list of twenty currently popular SM websites to see if any is a good match for your business, such as photo sharing sites (Pinterest, Instagram) for businesses with strong visual possibilities.

Enhance your image with visual content tools

Visual content can get you big returns for relatively little effort. Learn about eight tools to create content that will connect with your customers.

Learn customer support from your competition

If you want to know what kind of support your customers expect from your B2B operation, go online and look to see what kind of support they expect from your competition.  You’ll discover five important lessons.

Subscriber alert: special edition Saturday

Spring has brought a bumper crop of news information of particular interest to farmers. Tomorrow around noon I’ll be releasing an extra edition of Rural New York Small Business Owner  with content just for farm folks.