Free webmail services: No cost, but with a catch.

Free email services like Hotmail (to be replaced by, Google, and Yahoo have the advantage of giving users instant access to friends, family, and businesses around the world at no cost. The popularity of these services is beyond question, with Hotmail boasting 360 million users ( has 60 million); Gmail with 425 million and Yahoo Mail with 281 million. However, despite their popularity, there are numerous reasons why free email services are a less attractive option for the professional looking to stand out in the world of business.


First, the upsides.


  • Lots of space: many providers give you 10 gigs of free disk storage so you can easily receive as many attachments as you like. If you go over this limit, you can ask for more disk space from their support technicians.


  • Convenience: you can access these services virtually everywhere.


  • Email search: free services allow you to search your email to find the one you’re looking for by entering a few keywords.


  • Call phones: some services allow you to call to USA and Canada phones free of cost and get low long-distance rates to other countries.


  • No cost: you get all the above for free.


However, even though these email providers offer their services at no financial cost, generally speaking, they do have some serious downsides.


Email accounts from free providers are notoriously prone to phishing scams or hacking. Because these email services are most often targeted by spammers and malware, they also tend to be viewed with suspicion by the professional community. In one such phishing scam in 2011, approximately 10, 000 Hotmail accounts were compromised. These highjacked accounts could then be used to send out fictitious emails to others, thereby potentially compromising them as well.


Consequently, some corporate spam and malware filters automatically filter out emails from Hotmail and other webmail services as they are the most widely exploited services out there. This means that professional emails bearing the @Hotmail, @Gmail or @Yahoo addresses may be deleted before they even reach the recipient’s inbox.


In addition to their security vulnerabilities, professionals have an added set of issues when it comes to using free email services.


As we all know, perception and trust are essential in business, meaning that making a good first impression is paramount. These days, your first contact with prospective clients or business contacts is likely to be through email, making this your “first impression.” Many sources report that emails from addresses such as are taken less seriously professionally than addresses with the company’s domain name included. This is because companies with their own domain names are perceived as more established and stable than those using the free email services.


In some countries, businesses may also have compliance issues to be concerned about with regards to email. In Australia, for example, anyone storing financial or federal data must host that data within the country. Therefore, in such countries, if you send your email through Hotmail or some equivalent, then you could be in breach of the law. Professionals will want to take note and educate themselves on the law in their particular jurisdiction.


If a free email service goes down, gets hacked or simply closes its doors, this mean that your archived emails and all their attachments risk being lost. This can be disastrous when looking for the draft proposal a client sent to you or that report you needed for an important meeting. Many times, this can occur without warning, leaving you no time to backup your data. If you aren’t doing backups yourself, you risk losing a lot of valuable information.


One solution is a professional email address, which is one with your business name in it (e.g. This increases trust because, when customers or contacts see it, they can easily look up your company for more information. Greater trust ultimately leads to greater sales–whatever your business may be. Setting up your own email domain, especially through an established host, can reduce the risk of your important business emails or newsletters getting bounced or sent straight to the trash bin.


If you prefer your own domain name, you can either host the data in-house, which requires a basic corporate IT infrastructure or through a company you have a service level agreement with. Many such agreements include backups and contingency strategies, ensuring that your data is secure and accessible. Hosting the data in-house and service contracts with outside hosting services are just not cost-effective for any but the most established professionals, though.


For the cost-conscious businessperson, there are a number of options for setting up a professional email address. You can use the built-in mail server that comes with WordPress web hosting providers, for example. There are various different types of WordPress hosting options available such as Free, Shared, VPS, Dedicated, and managed hosting. Honestly, the functionality you get with the built-in WordPress client is pretty limited, so you may want to go a different route.


Another option is one that routes emails with your pre-purchased domain name through or Gmail addresses. Personalized domain names can be purchased from GoDaddy  for about $5/year.  The setup for this option is beyond the capabilities of most non-techies though. It does offer the benefit of providing you with your own domain name but may not avoid the security issues that come along with free email clients.


For the professional looking for a simpler solution, there is another option. Many domain registry services also offer web hosting and personalized (read: professional-looking!) email addresses as a package at a reduced cost. For example, a package including domain name, web hosting (of your blog and/or website) and personalized email support can be bought for about $ 80/per year with search engine optimization available for an additional fee. This option provides the benefit of one-stop-shopping while also offloading the IT infrastructure issues onto a separate web hosting company. Be sure to go with a reputable and established provider since you don’t want to be left with no recourse (and no email) if the company suddenly shuts its doors.


In today’s competitive business environment, you definitely want to use every tool in your arsenal to ensure that you are taken seriously from the get-go. While free email services offer the benefit of convenience at no financial cost, they do pose a risk that your data may be exposed to corruption or outright loss by hackers. A personalized email address with your company’s domain name is a safe and relatively inexpensive way to set yourself apart from the competition. Given all of this, now, more than ever, professional email addresses seem to be the way to go for the cost-conscious professional looking to make their mark in the world of business.


What You Need to Know About Travel Rewards Credit Cards



If you’ve gotten a signup bonus offer in the mail that could pay for your summer vacation or just like the general perks, you may be considering adding a travel rewards credit card to your wallet. For a frequent traveler, these cards can provide better rewards than even the best cash back credit cards. However, there are a few things you need to be aware of.


Not all miles are created equally


If you get signup offers of 50,000 bonus miles or 100,000 bonus miles, you may automatically assume that the 100,000 mile offer is the better deal. However, unlike with cash back cards where you can easily compare the cash back percentage, travel miles are not so easy to compare. First, you need to figure out how many miles you’ll get per dollar spent. Then, you’ll have to figure out what the miles will be worth when you cash them out. It may turn out that the card offering less miles actually makes miles easier to earn and gives you more when you redeem them.


It may travel, but will it be accepted?


For travel within the United States, you can safely assume that your card will be widely accepted subject to the usual handful of businesses not taking American Express or Discover. If you’re traveling abroad, you need to make sure your card meets the standards of the country you’re traveling to. Most foreign countries no longer use the magnetic strip technology still used in the United States. If that is the only way you can swipe your card, you will likely be unable to use it outside of major tourist centers.


To be sure your card will be accepted abroad, you’ll need to get a card with EMV chip technology. These cards contain a small computer chip that is inserted into a reader. To be safest, try to find a card with chip and pin technology. These cards function similarly to debit cards in the United States and are widely accepted abroad, but few banks issue them. The next best alternative is a chip and signature card. Most U.S. banks now have them available upon request, but they may not be accepted at fuel pumps, train ticket machines, or other unattended locations.


Your miles are worthless if you can’t use them


Travel miles can be redeemed in one of two ways. Either you can request a statement credit for travel related expenses after your trip or you convert your miles into frequent flier miles or hotel nights before you book your travel. Either way, you’ll need to collect thousands of miles before you can redeem any awards. If you’re a light spender or infrequent traveler, you may never reach the redemption threshold and effectively turn your card into a no rewards card. Your miles are also use it or lose it — if you ever decide to change cards or your account is closed, you will lose all the miles you had saved up.


Watch out for the fees


The best travel rewards cards can have some of the highest annual fees among all credit cards. For frequent travelers, the benefits the cards provide might be well worth it. Occasional travelers should carefully review any offers and decide if the reward value after the annual fee would outweigh what they would get with another card. International travelers should also be aware of foreign transaction fees and currency exchange fees. Some travel cards charge them, and some don’t. If they do, and most of your travel will be abroad, the fees may eat up most of your rewards earnings.


The real value may be in the perks


For many travel rewards credit card holders, the miles aren’t the main reason to have the card. Some travel cards provide special privileges such as airport lounge access, free checked bags, or early boarding. These perks can make flying much more enjoyable, and even if the card has an annual fee, the cost will likely be far less than paying for those services directly.

How to Choose the Correct File Type for a Business Document


In a business environment, sending documents in the correct format can be essential to fluid productivity. By sending incorrect or less-optimal file types, you hinder not only the recipient’s productivity but that of the whole business. Knowing which document file type is which could significantly increase your productivity, along with that of those around you.



DOCX Files


DOCX files are one of the most common formats, and also sometimes one of the most troublesome. They have a great deal of versatility when it comes to text formatting and functions, and are ideal for typing up a quick yet professional-looking document. They also support easy and hassle-free editing. These files are used widely, and you’re more than likely to encounter them on a daily basis.


So what’s the catch? Well, for one, DOCX files are designed to work with Microsoft Word, and specifically newer versions of it. While other text processors can handle it, most users will likely feel obliged to purchase Microsoft’s software. For those running older versions of Word, such as the 2003 edition, a downgrade in the file format may be applied automatically, or it may not register at all. Another downside is that DOCX files aren’t often capable of being displayed in a web browser, so downloading them is typically a must. However, at the end of the day, DOCX files offer fantastic versatility, at least to those who can use them.


PDF Files


The other commonly used document type is the PDF file. PDFs are also widely used, perhaps even more so than DOCX files. This is due to a few properties that PDFs possess over other file types. For one, they are universal, and a wide range of programs exist to read and edit these files. This also applies to web browsers, and almost every commonly-used web browser supports in-browser PDF viewing.

Thus, it is flexible in its compatibility and is also relatively versatile when it comes to text formatting, as well.


However, PDFs do also have their share of weaknesses. Unlike DOCX files, PDFs may take more than a bit of effort to edit, and already-published PDF files will often stay that way. Furthermore, they usually take up a larger file size than DOCX files, which may be an issue for those low on hard drive space. These are probably minor issues to most users, but should be noted.


DOC Files


The precursor to the DOCX file type, DOC files are a backwards-compatible yet less-complex form of Microsoft’s file format. These are generally eclipsed by DOCX files, and should really only be used if the recipient or network utilizes older computers or software.


TXT Files


TXT files are text documents without any frills. With little to no formatting or design possible, these files convey only one thing: raw text. They are excellent for documents which need to be read automatically, as by a program, or for those low on file space. However, their lack of features and capabilities mean that most often, you won’t be using this file type for business purposes.



These three file types are by far the most commonly used, and other file types are likely encompassed by the features possessed by these. If you need the recipient to be able to edit and quickly examine the document, a DOCX file will be most appropriate. If you’re looking to present the file as formally and efficiently as possible, it might be best to go with a PDF. If you want the structure of a DOCX, but don’t have the newer software to support it, you may want to settle for the DOC file type. And, lastly, if you don’t need any formatting, or if you need for the document to be run through a program, the simple TXT file may be the best way to go. Knowing the difference between these file types could make or break your next project, so be sure to carefully choose how to send your documents.



Communication Made Easy: Get the Skills You Need to Be Understood

Whether you’re struggling in your personal or business relationships, good communication skills are an essential part of striving for successful encounters with other people. If you aren’t able to communicate with others, you’re going to find that dating is difficult, your work relationships suffer and that other people don’t want to be around you. Fortunately, even if you never learned how to communicate well, it’s possible to start changing for the better. There are numerous quick, easy ways that you can start to communicate more effectively. Remember that no matter who you’re trying to communicate with, it’s important to remain dedicated, patient, and determined as you develop your communication abilities.


  1. Listen attentively

When someone speaks to you, do you look away? Do you tend to play with your cell phone instead of making eye contact? Do you glance around the room instead of paying attention to what the person is saying? While you might not view this type of behavior as a negative thing, the truth is that the people around you could be offended if you don’t seem to be paying attention. When someone speaks to you, try to listen attentively. This means that you make eye contact, you don’t play with your phone, and you give the person your full attention at all times.


  1. Speak without raising your voice

If someone makes you mad, frustrated, or upset, you may find that it’s easy to raise your voice. Unfortunately, this is completely counterproductive to good communication. Skip the yelling and instead, try to speak in a calm tone. If you raise your voice, the other person will immediately begin to feel defensive. This will destroy any chance you have of developing meaningful communication. Your goal should be to put the other person at ease while you have your discussion. No matter what the topic or issue might be, keeping your tone even and cool will go far in improving your relationship.


  1. Ask meaningful questions

When someone is talking with you about something, demonstrate that you’re paying attention and that you are about them by asking meaningful questions. You could ask someone to clarify something for you or you could ask someone to elaborate on something. This technique works for both work and personal relationships. Just remember to actually ask questions that are related to the conversation. If you’re talking about business meetings, for example, don’t ask the person about the coffee maker in the break room.


  1. Be patient

No matter how well you currently communicate, you can always get better. Remember to be patient with yourself and the people around you as you learn how to better communicate with others. Most people aren’t born naturally good listeners, so developing the skills and the habits you need to improve your relationships is something that will take time. Even if you make a mistake, get in an argument, or begin to feel frustrated, try to take a deep breath and try again.



How to Get the Best Commercial Inventory Rates


What Methods of Printing Do Card Printers Use?

Using ID card printers for your business is a great way to create professional-looking identification cards quickly and easily. When it comes to choosing a card printer, it is important to decide which printing method will work best for you. The two most common types of printing methods utilized in card printers include direct to card and reverse transfer.


Direct to Card

Direct to Card printing is sometimes referred to as edge to edge printing because the edges of the card will dictate the size of the image. Once the card is printed , you will be left with a thin white border around the edge. This is one of the most commonly purchased printers and prints the image directly onto  the card.


Direct to card printer uses a dye sublimation process. In dye sublimation, the printer head heats up the full color or monochrome ribbon, which then diffuses onto the surface of the card. This type of process will give you quality images up to 300 dpi.


Reverse Transfer/High Definition Printing

Reverse transfer printing uses ribbons to print onto  a thin clear film that is then overlaid and fused to the surface of the card. This printing is typically used when the image needs to wrap around the edge of the card.



Since this type of printing uses a wrap technique instead of coming into direct contact with the card it is able to be used on cards with smart technology or any non-PVC cards. You will want to keep in mind that in addition to ribbons, you will also have to purchase clear film for use with this machine. Printers that use reverse transfer printing have a slower print time but produce a higher quality 600 dpi image.


Once you determine what your ID card will be used for and what type of image you will need, you will be able to determine the best type of ID card printer to suit your needs.         image_443839450

How to Get the Best Commercial Inventory Rates


Inventory – it’s something your business need regularly.  You can either conduct your own inventory in house or outsource it to an inventory service provider.  Unfortunately, no matter which way you go there’s a cost involved.  If you’re using your own employees, you either have to shut down your store or pay overtime to inventory your stock after closing.  Aside from the cost, efficiently gathering stock data and aggregating inventory results requires a certain level of programming and engineering – an expertise that you may not possess.

Whatever the reason you’ve decided it’s best to outsource your inventory, the bottom line is that you should be able to save as much money as possible.  Here are a few tips for getting the best price from an inventory service provider.

Search for Local Independent Inventory Service Providers First

For many business owners, 2 primary inventory service providers come to mind:  WIS and RGIS.  There are other growing inventory service providers like Accurate Inventory and Reliant Inventory that may come to mind, as well.  It’s true that there are quite a few remote areas in which these companies’ willingness to travel makes them about the only option.  Generally speaking, though, there are local, less expensive inventory service providers in your area; you just have to look for them.

Much of the information you’re going to read in the following sections of this article applies to corporate inventory service providers – not small or family owned businesses.  Remember that the larger a company becomes the more expenses it accumulates; so there is a combination of a variable cost model and corporate greed that causes rates to be increased over time.  You should still take the time to compare rates, but you will most likely find that you get a much better offer from a local service provider rather than an international inventory corporation.

Understanding Inventory Service Billing

Every inventory service provider has different procedures for determining what type of billing should be applied, but there are general consistencies among them.  Here are some important facts to know about standard inventory service billing practices.

Net Profit Target

The first thing you need to know is that – for many inventory service providers – there really is no set cost; it all depends on a variety of factors.  Rather than a set cost, there is a target for a percentage of net profit from each inventory – generally above 50%.  For example, RGIS has a target net profit margin of 70%.  Yes, that’s right:  70%; and it winds up getting as much as 85% to 90% from some customers.  What’s the maximum net profit margin for your business?  Is it less than 50% like most industries?  All that extra money they’re getting just goes into the pockets of executives at bonus time. Not to mention the fact that the sales representative quoting you quite possibly gets a commission, so there’s plenty of motivation to offer you the most outrageous price.

Do not accept the first quote from an inventory service provider.  Counter offer at least 20%-40% less than you’re quoted.  Sure, 40% may be excessive, but they know you mean business and they’ll come back with something more reasonable.  Trust in the fact that they can easily afford to meet operational costs and still make a profit by conducting an inventory for a price that’s well below their target range.  Not only can they afford to do it, they will do it rather than saying “No” to income.

Billing Method

For most inventory companies, there are 3 basic categories for billing:  Price per pieces, price per dollar value, and price per man hour.  There are some exceptions, but generally speaking, man hour rates are a complete rip off.  The service provider intentionally over-staffs but goes a step further; they staff multiple salaried managers to “oversee” in an effort to bump up the cost.  That’s 2 or more people who are doing absolutely nothing but for whose presence you’re being charged.  Unless it’s a very large inventory for a major store like Kohl’s, Lowe’s, etc; there is NEVER more than 1 salaried manager present…Unless a man hour rate is being applied.  Many customers do not know this and wind up just accepting whatever method is offered to them, unaware that it’s not fiscally in their best interest.

The price per dollar value method is generally reserved for grocery stores and other stores that have at least $500K-$1M worth of inventory and go by a price point inventory system rather than a SKU number inventory system.

The price per pieces billing method is the most commonly used and is billed according to how many products are scanned.  More often than not, both of these rates are set at a ‘per thousand’ basis; so you may be charged $15 per thousand pieces counted or $5 per thousand dollars inventoried.  For smaller stores with fewer products, a price per piece or per hundred pieces may be applied.

How to Choose the Most Cost Effective Billing Method

The best way to make sure you’re getting the best price is to get basic information for each feasible billing method and so some math yourself.  If you have a rough idea of how much inventory you have, it should be easy.  If you’ve conducted inventory in the past, use your last inventory results to determine how much product is on your shelves.

Next, consider how your product needs to be counted.  Is it all individual SKU numbers that need to be individually scanned?  Do you have rows of products for which an auditor could simply scan one and count back?

If you own a clothing store and each SKU needs to be individually scanned, assume that the inventory service will count 400 pieces per hour.  If you have breakable product that must be carefully handled and individually scanned, assume that it will be counted at 100 pieces per hour.  If you have groups of products that can be counted together, assume that it will be counted at 1,500 pieces per hour.

Divide your inventory total by the number that matches your type of product.  For example, if you have about 150K pieces in your store and it’s product that can be counted in groups, divide 150K by 1,500.  For this example, you can see that it would take approximately 100 man hours to inventory your store.  Compare the man hour rate to the price per pieces rate to see which price comes out to be lower.  If you have different types of product, try your best to determine the inventory levels of each so you can calculate required man hours as accurately as possible.

If you find you can logically save money by going with a man hour rate, make sure to set demands in your agreement.  First of all, determine how long you want your inventory to last and make a provision that if it goes any longer you receive a discount.  Also, place a limit on the amount of employees allowed to attend the inventory.  If your inventory should take approximately 100 man hours and you don’t want it going longer than 6-8 hours, limit the number of employees to 20.  This will give you 5 hours to complete the count and an additional 1-3 hours for identifying errors and wrapping up.  During the inventory process make sure that every person besides the manager running the inventory is actively counting.  Also check to make sure that auditors aren’t taking excessive breaks.

Once you’ve negotiated the best possible price from one inventory service provider, let them know you’ll be in touch and use that offer as leverage for the next to see if you can get an even better agreement.  If you live in a remote area that will require multiple vehicles to travel for more than 1 hour, make sure to consider the cost of travel in your negotiations (to be fair).

Be Careful About Committing to Long Term Service Agreements

Due to the competitive nature of inventory service providers, many try to get their customers locked into a legally binding contract to prevent future shopping around for competing services.  Sometimes it makes sense to get involved in a long term contract.  Not only are you generally able to save money, you may have additional service features offered to you like free mapping after renovations, shopping analysis based on product location, or other beneficial services.  If a long term inventory service contract seems appealing, make sure that you’ve done enough research to know that you’re getting locked in to the best rates.  Also, try to get a progressive discount for your loyalty.

Make sure the contract you sign holds the inventory service accountable for certain standards like accuracy, professionalism, efficiency, and promptness.  It is always recommended to have your own attorney review a contract to make sure there are no ‘traps’ which could cause you to default on your agreement simply by following your own business procedures or making a common mistake.

Additional Considerations

Make sure to plan your inventory well in advance.  Many large inventory service providers can meet the demands of a last minute inventory, but it’s not generally easy.  It quite often requires auditors to travel from other districts to conduct what would be an otherwise local inventory.  More often than not, this cost is transferred to you.  Try to schedule your inventories at least 2-3 months in advance.

If you want to have your inventory in the beginning (January, February, or March) or middle (June, July, or August) of the year, you may want to seriously consider scheduling it at least 6 months in advance or earlier.  These times of the year fill up very quickly, as these are the most common months in which the fiscal year ends and/or begins.

If at all possible, try to avoid the aforementioned months, as most inventory service providers are scheduled beyond staffing capabilities.  As such, your inventory will most likely run much longer than it would if you had a sufficient number of auditors present.  If you are among the fortunate who have enough auditors, many of them will have been recently hired for the busy season and prone to mistakes.

E-Commerce SEO – 5 Simple Ways to Make Your Online Business Easier to Find

When’s the last time you searched for your e-commerce site on a cookie-free search engine? Investigating how difficult it is for potential customers to find your site online can be a real eye-opening experience. While a Google search is likely to offer your site’s URL as a potential option (thanks to tracking your web history), a search engine like DuckDuckGo might give you a much clearer picture of your company’s online visibility. If the search results scare you and you’re ready to boost your SEO efforts, here are five simple improvements you can make to help make your website easier to find:


– Review each page of content on your site and ask yourself if the content delivers true value to potential customers. Is it a page of fluff content, stuffed with keywords designed to attract search engine crawlers but not buyers? There’s no faster way to send customers running in the opposite direction than to offer them content with no redeeming value. Improve the content on each page to ensure visitors don’t immediately bounce away from your site.


– Increase your time-on-page ratio by integrating a variety of content formats into your website. Consider everything from GIFs and videos to infographics and photographs. Don’t just offer visitors page after page of text content about your business. Making your site a pleasure to visit will not only improve your SEO but also increase your return visitor rate.


– Add fresh updates to your site on a regular basis. Business blogging is fabulous for SEO and it builds your writing chops at the same time. Think about the questions your customers frequently ask, and turn your answers into blog posts.


– Check your site navigation to make sure you don’t have dead links or a confusing page structure. Can a customer new to your site easily find their way around, or is it like searching through particles of sand to find the content they seek? If your site is difficult to navigate, buyers will abandon your site rather than dig through multiple web pages just to find what they need.


– Double-check the social media links on each of your website’s pages. Are they all properly linked to your Facebook page? Did you change your Twitter handle and forget to update the URL on your site? Ensuring you don’t have broken social media links can help your SEO and improve your social follower count.


Paying attention to small factors can have a big impact on your e-commerce site’s SEO. You can hire an agency to help with major SEO campaigns, but small updates can be handled on your own. Will you be checking the above five factors to make sure your site is as visible on search engines as possible?




6 Essential Components of a Good Business Plan

Formulating a solid business plan is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your new business venture.  Your business plan will not only be studied by potential lenders or investors, but it will also force you to look objectively at the feasibility of your business idea.  It allows you to clarify your vision of the business and determine what areas you will need to focus more energy on in order to be successful.  By working things out on paper, you may be able to avoid costly mistakes before they ever even occur in the real world.Although business plans vary slightly, here is a list of six common elements which must be included in every good business plan.


1)  Executive Summary


Although the executive summary is usually stated at the beginning of your business plan, it is recommended that you don’t construct this section until after you have finished the rest of your plan, because its content largely will depend on what you include in later sections. Typically one or two pages long, it gives a thorough overview of the business as you envision it.  It should describe the nature of the business and touch briefly on market analysis, promotional ideas, marketing strategies, competition research, and management plans.  All of these items should be covered more extensively in the later sections of your business plan.  The primary function of this section is to interest readers enough to continue reading your entire business plan.


2)  Description of Business


The business description should focus on the fine details of your operations.  This is where you will put your day-to-day vision into words.  It covers why you are qualified to run a particular business, your product or service, what your target market will be, and steps you plan to take in order to assure success.


3)  Market Study                          image_423862351


In the market study section, you will state what you have learned from researching your market.  You will detail market trends and tell why you feel there is a need for your product, and address the demographics of your target customers and how you will guarantee the quality of your product.  Additionally, you will use this section to tell how you plan to distinguish yourself from your competition.


4)  Marketing Plan


A marketing plan is the flip side of a market study.  Now that you know your market exists, you need to figure out how to make that market want your product.  This section will address how you will attract and retain customers.  Advertising should be an essential part of your marketing plan, but your strategy must include more than just purchasing ads.  It should encompass the 5 P’s of marketing:  Product, Price, Place, Promotion, and Packaging.  Be sure to include your advertising budget in this section as well.


5)  Management and Operations


This section should go into detail about how you plan to run your business.  If you sell a pre-made product, explain where you will obtain your inventory.  If you make something, where will you get your raw materials?  Explain the process by which products are to be made.  How will you distribute your finished product?  What days and times will your business be open?  Is this a sole operation or will you have partners?  What qualifies you to perform the service or produce the product?  Will you need to apply for permits or licenses?  Anything that you can think of regarding the operational side of the business will need to go into this section.


6)  Financial Projections


This is the section where it all comes together.  You need to realistically state your financial expectations for your business over the course of the next several years.  You will need to figure out your anticipated costs and expenses as well as income.  You should determine what your breakeven price will be and how you will price your product.  This section should also address how you plan to obtain funding to start the business in the first place.


Creating a business plan can be a daunting task, but it is also a necessary one if your business is going to succeed.  Not only will lenders require a business plan prior to considering your loan application, but any potential investors will want to view it as well.  Writing out a thorough business plan allows you to critically evaluate all aspects of the potential business.  By carefully constructing your business plan, you will increase your chances of being successful in your new endeavor.

Starting an Escape Room Business



4 Local SEO Tips for Optimizing your Website

If you are a bricks and mortar business, then you should be optimizing your website to appear in the local search results. Local search results appear in Google, and other search engines when you search for a keyword using a location. For example, “Dog Walking in Manhattan”.


The local search results map will appear under the sponsored results and above the normal search results. Here businesses are displayed on the map and some businesses will appear in the local search results just under the map.


Your aim is to get your website into the top three local search results to ensure that your website gets noticed. It’s possible to have your website in three positions on the first page for your preferred search term. This includes the sponsored results, local results, and normal results.


Keyword Research


The most important aspect of your local SEO campaign is your keyword research. You should be targeting local keywords which people use to find products and services in their area. You should use Google’s Keyword Planner to research and find keywords.

When using the Keyword Planner, you should filter the result by geographic region. You can filter countries, states, counties, and cities. This will help to give you an idea of how competitive the keyword is.


A good keyword for your business will have a good number of monthly searches. You will then need to optimize your website around these keywords. This will give you a solid foundation on which to build your local SEO campaign.


You should categorize your keywords into groups (or silos). For example, if your main keyword is “hotels in New York”, you should have a list of keywords which contain both the word ‘hotel’ and ‘New York’. This list might contain, ‘best hotels in New York’, ‘top rated hotels in New York’, etc. If you have similar keywords, such as ‘backpackers in New York’, you should have another category which contains the words ‘backpacker’ and ‘New York’. This may include, ‘backpacker hostel in New York’, ‘cheapest backpacker hostel in New York’.


Using Keywords


Now that you have a list of local keywords that you want to target, you now need to start using them. You should create one landing page for each silo of keywords. You need to ensure that you use the main keyword from each silo in your META title and description.


Moreover, you should also use a combination of keywords in your H1 – H6 titles. Your main keyword from one silo should be used in the first H1 tag and other related keywords can be used in other title tags.


On top of this, you should also use your keywords in your content as naturally as possible and include them in your image ALT text and URLs. You don’t want to stuff the same keyword too many times throughout the page because this may result in a penalty. Good SEO content which also provides the user with valuable content and converts into sales is what you are aiming for here.




In 2011 a new tool called SCHEMA was created and it has been universally adopted by Yahoo, Bing, and Google. You should put your business address on every page of your website using the correct structured data. You can visit for more information about how to insert this structured data into your HTML code.


You should place your full address, website, phone number, and email address into your footer using structured data so that it appears on every page of your website. If applicable, you should also include opening times and delivery areas.


This information is called a business citation. You should ensure that all websites contain the same business citations, which are also known as NAP (name, address, phone), as what is displayed on your website. Consistency with NAP citations is important here.


Local Contentimage_249921142


You should also use a blog to publish content about your business and local area as this will help you to attract more visitors to your websites. Generally, the more visitors you get, the more chances you have of selling your product or service. Content marketing is a very popular method to attract visitors to your website.


On top of this, you should ensure that you are following best SEO practices by having enough written content on each page. This is especially the case with your home page as it’s likely to be your main landing page.


Don’t fall for the outdated trick of spamming keywords and listing 50 different cities in bullet points and expecting to rank for them all. You probably won’t even rank for one keyword in those cities. Google has become very good at spotting over-optimized sites in recent years. Google’s Panda algorithm affected a high number of low-quality websites. Moreover, Google’s Pigeon algorithm was created to provide more useful local search results. This means, that lower quality sites will perform worse than higher quality ones.


Before you start any other aspect of SEO work for your site, you need to ensure that you have the basics right with your on-page SEO. If you don’t have your on-page SEO done well, then all off-site SEO work will be in vain. The first thing you should do is thorough keyword research. These lists of keywords will be at the center of everything you do to improve the rankings of your website in the local search results.

3 Simple Sales Reports That Will Improve Your ROI

Every business wants to glean actionable reports from sales data so they can improve performance, but there are so many places to start that it can be challenging to dive right in. These 3 simple reports are the perfect place to get started leveraging data-driven insights to improve your business.


  1. What are your most popular selling items? image_192526157


In order to make the largest profit margin and to ensure a steady supply of inventory, you need to know which of the items you sell are the most popular. Once you know what sells well, you can take advantage of economies of scale to invest heavily in popular items or run a sale to increase numbers before the end of the month or quarter.


Without running this type of report, you risk selling out of your most popular styles, colors, or items, leaving money on the table.


  1. What is the most profitable time of day for business?


The busiest time of day for your retail store may not line up with the most profitable time of day. By knowing when you usually sell the most, you can schedule your rockstar employees. You can also schedule fewer staff on hand during times that are historically slow, saving money and ensuring that staff are not on hand with nothing to do.


If you’ve ever had a novice team member provide poor service to an important customer, or fail to upsell a big order, running this report can solve that problem. This report can also motivate staff during peak seasons, by encouraging one sales team to outsell the other.


  1. Where are you making money and, more importantly, where are you losing money?


Do you know, generally, what areas of expense are returning their investment with sales and which expenses are not paying off? New signage or brighter lighting may make it easier for customers to find what they need in your store, resulting in fewer staff inquiries and more sales. On the other hand, if you invest heavily in something (like lighting) and it does not return investment, then you are losing money.


No matter what CRM you use, you should be able to run these basic reports. When you start running these reports regularly, you can keep your customer service, sales, and marketing team members accountable. You’ll avoid rushing into decisions or running out of product, because you know key data points. As a result, you’ll perform better and avoid stress.

Precision Machining

Tires, Trucks, inspections