Business Consultant Blog

The main focus of this blog is to help increase the efficiency of a business.  Many of the entries will focus on converting traffic to increased sales and revenue but will also have a focus on finance, operations, human resources and more.

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Profile Backlinks

Posted by emel on March 15, 2013 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

There are a variety of types of websites to gain a profile backlink from. They consist of blogs, forums, social medias, web directories, referral networks, common interest sites and more. While there is a potential for spam, there is no reason to believe that if one contibutes in a meaningful way to the site they wouldn't be rewarded. Through business participation of websites like these, search engines may even be able to decipher quality of the business (to a certain extent) based on their input, number of followers, thumbed responses, +1's etc. Below are some of my favorite websites that have profile backlinks.

While this first site isn't a blog site at all, most of the activity and backlinks to your profile occurs there. Here you will find a SEOmoz user profile. Although most of the links are nofollow, the nofollow attribute is removed from one once a point level is reached. SEOmoz is a prominent domain and the activity required can generate significant link juice to your profile. It is difficult to find a website where the profile page is indexed as often. If your curious as to how mozpoint works, feel free to click here.

It is pretty easy to find a high trafficked forum that is related to your industry. Often times, one would be able to contibute to a post with minimal time and effort. Usually, it is answering question about your field that you come across on a daily basis. Forum posts can be one of the fasted ways to build backlinks. Search engines realize that some can contain spam. It is important to complete profiles and contribute to the website. It is also preferred that the forum relates to your search keywords. Here is an example of a air conditioning contractor's profile on HVACSite, an air conditioning forum.

Social medias are one of the more common and known websites that have user profiles. Most of them are all nofollow links but I could only assume that a significant amount of activity would be required. I do believe some social medias, even less known, can provide some good link juice. One of them is Shoutlife and where you can create a profile.

Many web directories have a profile page as well, often times it is the listing detail page. While the link juice generated wildly varies, often times these pages will stay indexed if some unique content or description exists. If the description is copied off another, this page may likely not be indexed.

Referral networks are another way to receive online citations. Many of these sites hide content from search engines because they wouldn't want the browser to find a business without having to go through the referrer. On occasion, referral networks will allow a browser to view company information but rarely provide a web link. I believe that the citation is still beneficial because phone numbers, names and addresses would be identifiable. Here is a Homeadvisor screened professional.

I wasn't quite sure what to define the final category other than a shared interests website. My example is for a government home energy professional website. Here, professionals like air conditioning contractors can trade ideas with energy raters to work towards home efficiency solutions.

With all this opportunity, it seems like it would be easy to spend too much time contributing to the web. I think the best idea would be to start with one and contribute as you can before picking up additional sources. Often times an office could share the posts, blog commenting etc. to reach the goal faster.

Web Directory Submission.....Still Works

Posted by emel on March 13, 2013 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Edit 3-20-14 Due to a number of penguin updates since this posting, we recommend to proceed with extreme caution while doing directory submissions. We wouldn't advise going outside of your niche and making sure the listings are strictly related. It is also a bad idea to use optimized anchor text. 

Web directory submission still works for increasing SERPs for targeted keywords. At least it is true for some niches I am close to including air conditioning contractors. I believe this is true because of two companies in particular, Husky Air and All Weather Contractors, that own the top spots for all the keywords I could imagine they would target. Both of their link profiles are almost exclusively directory listings. They use a variety of keywords and submit the homepage as well as indexed pages over a lot of web directories. This isn't to say that these listings haven't lost value over the years and that the trend appears to be negative but it appears they provide some substantial benefit. Some drawbacks could be high cost when comparing another method to increase search engine rankings, such as blogging. It may not even be a time saver considering the importance of altering the company descriptions in your listing detail.

It is easy to see that many web directories are being de-indexed by Google. Another trend I have noticed it that top levels in directories are also being de-indexed while leaving the niche listings in tact. Here is an example of a de-indexed top level that left many of the listing details in the index. Previously, the conventional wisdom would have been to place the link on the higher level domain. This was because the pagerank was typically higher when the page was closer to the homepage.

Although the effectiveness may be waning, directory submissions still benefits your SERP. I also believe a penalty risk is minimal because the page will likely be deindexed and the crawlers would not attempt to decipher unrelated content. The safest bet appears to be to drill down as far as possible into your niche. Regional directories are also preferred, such as this Florida air conditioning contractor directory. One can also expect to take the least risk when submitting to a directory that is exclusive to their niche. Often times the location is more specific. In this air conditioning directory you are even allowed mutliple listings for areas served such as this contractor's Tampa and Brandon, FL listings.

In order to determine if a page you would like to list on is indexed or not, we recommend using the SEO Quake toolbar.

How did Facebook reach its current status? The answer is in the question.

Posted by emel on December 25, 2012 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

How did Facebook reach its current status? The answer is in the question and is now what makes Facebook vulnerable.

There are many things about Facebook which raise questions and do not seem to make much sense. Facebook is now the #1 trafficked website in the world and I can't help but ask, "how did they do that?" The answer to this question becomes more complicated because it appears to me they have an inferior product to Myspace but somehow handed them a crushing defeat.

There are a number of factors and people will point to things like: facebook allowed for more outside development, games, better communication, safer, less prone to virus' and possibly even the Illuminati. I don't disagree and these all could be considered contributing factors to Facebook's success. These factors don't explain the 1 billion Facebook users compared to the 25 million Myspace users, particularly when Myspace has some serious advantages. It allows for more profile customization and is much easier to figure out the privacy controls. So what gives?

Not many folks remember that Facebook was once an exclusive club. The requirement for entry was a .edu email address. During this time, I was a college-aged person. This website create a separation of myself to many peers. This was an elite group or club where only the college educated could join. I wanted in. One of my first actions after enrolling at Southeastern University was to activate a Facebook account. I remember being disappointed. It didn't live up to the hype but I felt proud that I was in. 

Facebook's next step was to allow for high schools to join. I felt betrayed by Facebook. How could they do this to me? How could they let lowly high schoolers into MY club? It wasn't long after that before Facebook let anyone over 13 years old join. By this time the website had already become wildly popular. It was no longer an exclusive club where people wanted entry but had to because everyone else was doing it.

Like other big things, Facebook risks toppling because of their own weight. Their platform actually allows for other niche social medias to come in and hack up their user base. Many websites you now join will allow you to instantly invite your Facebook friends to your new niche or club website.

I see too many consumers driven by emotions rather than rational thought. It has become obvious that many companies have tried to create exclusive clubs with their: rewards programs, membership cards, platinum clubs etc.  People want to feel special, that they are a part of something. It would be beneficial for any company to create a special program where entry is exclusive, people do need to work towards. It feeds their ego, it gives them a purpose or meaning and it becomes who they are.

Double Dip Recession?

Posted by emel on December 16, 2012 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

There sure is no shortage of news articles for the pending double dip recession of doom 2013. In fact, if you search for "double dip" in google, it will autofill "double dip recession 2013." This phrase is a little silly to me because it seems obvious that we never came out of the trough. One less thought of indicator I like for the economy is the air conditioning and heating industry. This industry is a good choice because data can be compared along multiple levels: manufacturing, distributor/wholesaler and contractor/retailer. Within HVAC data you would also have information on: new construction of residential and commercial buildings, lending on multiple levels and government programs (could be housing projects or subsidies/rebates/tax credits). Some pretty hard data exists on the life of the equipment and is easy to identify if consumers are prolonging replacement. Air conditioning has become a commodity to the American consumer and a must have.

Many air conditioning contractors are reporting a higher percentage of credit declines than in years past. New construction has come to a complete halt. Average ticket sales are on the decline due to the removal of a federal tax credit for high efficiency systems. Service as a percentage of total revenue for many air conditioning contractors has increased while new system installation has fallen substantially. Defaults on credit owed from retailer to distributor are also on the rise.

Over the past couple of years there has also been steady reports of offshoring and layoffs throughout multiple manufacturers.

This industry tells a pretty clear story of the economy. It would say that "double-dip" is not entirely fair. Hopefully this slogan is scarier sounding than actually is. It could probably get a little worse, but this shouldn't be feared as for many people will results in "no change" in day to day business. It will be sluggish.

Preventing Attrition

Posted by emel on December 12, 2012 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

As a follow-up to the description of attrition and importance of measuring lost revenue, we'll look at how a couple of companies attempt to prevent attrition from occuring.  In plain English, what happens when people attempt to prevent attrition is make it so the customer does not want to stop doing business with them.  This can go a couple of directions. It is a matter of positive and negative reinforcement and one only wins out so long. What some businesses do is not create a product or service so good that the customer couldn't think of shopping at a competitor but make it really difficult to leave. This is the "fine print" in contracts. Hefty early termination fees, ding to credit scores etc. Once the consumer finds a way out, they won't likely go back. The intention shouldn't be to trap a customer. 

It wouldn't seem like banks hold their customers hostage but they are quite good at it. With all the automatic banking, bill pays, direct deposits, etc., which are offered as a service, make it a hassle to switch.  I'm not saying this is right or wrong but it is effective. Additional services like these allow for some short comings elsewhere in the business.

Telecommunication companies are also difficult to stop doing business with. There is often a hefty fee attached to leaving early. This, in large part, is to recoup costs of free devices as part of a service contract.

I believe the overall customer service ratings from businesses like banks and telecommunication companies contribute to the particularly sour taste these methods yield. Their costs are probably justified.

A business to business product model will need to evolve from simply creating a product or service as they had in the past and add side benefits and features to it. They may even need to do this at the customer's request. The product will need to be more liquid and should be focused on the consumer. As a supplier, you may need to sell them a widget and an app for ordering and inventory replenishment for example. Products will need to become more custom with focus on making the consumer more efficient or profitable.

Importance of measuring attrition

Posted by emel on December 10, 2012 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Of the many parts a business should track or measure, attrition is near the top of the list.  Attrition is business that once existed but is now gone. There are many reasons for attrition and the goal by tracking is to identify trends or patterns regarding why a customer stopped buying from your business.  

In order for increased reliability in attrition data, tracking should be done by customer.  This means a system needs to be created in order to track purchases from each customer.  It isn't as difficult as it sounds but may take some creativity.  For many businesses and even large corporations, the strategy is having a cashier ask for your phone number or email address.  Other times it is through rewards programs and "clubs".  Many consumers will let you track them so long as there is something in it for them.  The system may even exist already because of the Quickbooks or other databases/softwares we may be using.  

Once the system is built tracking sales by customer, decisions need to be made on what data to compare.  It comes down to how precise the business needs to be.  Should total purchases be tracked or by product segments?  Should sales be compared on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis?  It won't be the same for all companies.

Through the collected information, one should be able to identify some patterns or trends.  The time at which the attrition started and other factors need to be considered.  Did they leave when a sale ended?  Did adverse weather impact business? Did a competitor open down the street?  If the folks inside the business are not able to determine a pattern or strategies to correct it, consulting the customer is the next course of action. You can call them, email them, send a mailer or even smoke signals.  Reach out and ask them why they stopped buying.  Ask what happened or if anything can be done to correct it.  

In many industries, costs per leads can easily extended into several hundreds and thousands of dollars. It flat out costs a lot to get new business. It is easier and less expensive to keep an existing customer than to get a new one.  Attrition is a part of all businesses and the better one is at managing it, the more profitable they will be.

Negotiations - Interests

Posted by emel on December 3, 2012 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Of the many things to be aware of in a negotiation, the three types of interests are arguably the most important.  The sooner you can identify the three interests, the better positioned you will be for negotiating.  The first type of interests are "shared interests."  No tricky definitions here as these are interests each party has that are the same.  An example of shared interests in populations of people would be: 1. better education 2. low unemployment 3. low crime etc.  Everyone wants these things and of course because they are good.  Workings towards these interests will produce win-win scenarios.  The second "interest" in a negotiation is "differing interests."  If "low unemployment" is a shared interests, a differing interest parties could have would be the resolutions to reach that low unemployment.  Some may argue for tax breaks for the corporations because with less taxation they would hire more workers. Others would argue that tax breaks should be for consumers and their spending will demand more jobs.  The last type of interests in a negotiation are differing interests.  To reach an agreement, one party usually makes a great sacrifice.  These are when the interests are the exact opposite.

This information typically comes out.  They may not make it easy but it is hard to hide.  We usually are busy trying to think of what to say next instead of listening and paying attention to non verbal language.  

Pricing - Best Practices

Posted by emel on November 20, 2012 at 10:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Companies that are reputable and have been around a long time are not deceptive with their pricing.  It is not coincidence that industry, where this is commonplace, have companies with the worst customer service or approval ratings in the world.  I am talking about businesses that have fine print, arbitary fees, advertise "free" when it isn't, etc.  These companies often come in the form of banks, telecommunications or airlines.  It doesn't take much for one to out-do a competitor.  Southwest Airlines has used their "bags fly free" campaign with much success and all they had to do was not charge a bag fee.  

No business, that has a long term strategy of "pulling one over" on their customers, will last long.  Compensating for short comings elsewhere by nickle and diming customers will drive them away quickly.  It can't prosper long-term and it is Busch league.

Consumers can research products with great ease today and are often times able to identify what the actual costs of products are.  There are a variety of ways a consumer can do this, one of the most effective is a simple bench-marking exercise.  If one company can manage to sustain profitability without charging arbitrary fees, surely another can also.  These companies that are more transparent can then sell against their deceptive compeitors.

Deceptive pricing strategies have no place in healthy business.  A company will pay regardless.  If they decide to charge fees that are silly, they will need to employ more customer service reps to handle complaints.  Deceptive pricing can produce deceptive customers.  They are searching for the price bargain which may not even be real.  This type of customer will insist on just about everything while expecting to pay nothing.

Business should be able to charge whatever price their market will demand.  They are best served by showing the value in their products and not positioning themself falsely as the low price option. 

Drive the most new business from your existing customers

Posted by emel on November 4, 2012 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Throughout my sales career, it didn't take long to notice that my biggest opportunity was within my existing customer base.  In a business to business situation, we can hope that we are simply one of a number of vendors that supply them an identical product.  Other times the supplier may need to help make their client grow the business to achieve additional new business revenue.

The same  can be said for business to consumer situations as we see every day how related products pop up on our screens or we receive spam emails selling a related product we just purchased.  I'm not advising spam emails as it can be done in a much more friendly version, just pointing out that many reputable, progressive companies use this strategy.

A business should be thinking less about themself and more about their existing customers.  Thought should be given to additional products or services a consumer would need or want.  Consideration should be given to additional products or services to sell a business along with tools that may make them more profitable and grow.  It doesn't have to be a product, it could be some sort of software, technology, information, processes etc., that will make them better.

In many industries the cost per lead is substantial.  In addition to avoiding this cost a firm will also have a higher close rate due to the relationship that already exists.  

Business will have to be more innovative.  The days of just making a product and placing a price tag on it are over.  They will need to learn to evolve quickly and offer creative solutions to their customers.  It requires much flexibility as the needs and desires or your customer base could cover a wide spectrum.

Giving away content as a way to drive revenue from other products

Posted by emel on November 4, 2012 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

The internet allows small businesses to look at marketing costs in a new light.  It is also much easier to track results and actual ROI without relying on third party information today.  Traditionally, the marketing expense would be viewed as some sort of advertising either through yellowpages, billboards, commercials etc.  While these may be effective, they may not be entirely efficient.  

If a small business has some quality content, even if it is a product, they should consider giving it away.  They should do this if they have a bigger goal or product behind the content.  If a company has only quality content and no products, although visibile, will struggle to drive revenue.  Facebook, Twitter and Google have all struggled to find a product to actually sell.  They weren't quite sure what to do with all of their browsers.  In response to high Amazon rankings, Google has implemented a shopping platform that has great visibility in searches.

Two places a small business could take their free content and achieve high visibility are Amazon and Youtube.  They could list niche products they have good prices and access to or post instructional or "how-to" videos for example.  When the customer receives the nearly free product or content, it would contain additional information to lure them back to the website for the bigger, more profitable product.

I am not suggesting to randomly have freebies but have a plan to convert that customer to a bigger customer through the related products.  Today, advertising should cost many companies next to nothing.  In some cases it can actually be done while turning a small profit.

It could take some time for this free or discounted products to gain some traction towards the bigger goal, however, your brand is being built on a substantial scale along with your customer base.

This method of marketing existing customers with additional products has been proven over time.  In many cases, the most new business a firm generates during the year is from existing customers and not newly acquired accounts.