Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Word-of-mouth recommendations: they're a win / win / win

Last week we asked about how you select vendors for your business.

When it comes to identifying and selecting business-to-business vendors, it seems that most business owners rely on word of mouth more than any other method. And that makes sense.

Word-of-mouth recommendations typically come from people you know and trust. Someone you know is sharing their experience with you, directly and in a way that meets your specific needs. By doing so, they are helping you avoid mistakes, which, when you're running a business, can be costly. (They are also adding value to your relationship, for which you may want to reciprocate by offering your recommendations in the future.)

So everybody wins with word-of-mouth recommendations: You get the right help; the referrer earns your good will; and solid companies get more business.

But what do you do when:
  • You don't have time to ask people for recommendations
  • The people you know have no experience with the type of vendor you're seeking
  • You're not aware of all the choices that are available to you
  • You're not even sure what you need

Wouldn't it be great to have a huge database of B2B business performance and recommendation data, searchable by your specific criteria?

That's exactly what we're assembling here at Inside Up.

We've developed a sophisticated but easy way to track businesses' reputations, and deliver bits of that data to you, so you can confidently find the vendors who are the best choice for your growing business.

Think of it as a word-of-mouth recommendation engine, on steroids. With a lot more features added to help you get the information you need to grow your business faster.

By the way, check out this nice third-part validation we received this week.

Word is getting out – Inside Up is the place to go to find trusted vendors for your business!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Inspiration Behind InsideUp

What inspired us to start InsideUp? It's simple: our team of Internet business veterans saw a tremendous need among small businesses to be able to find reliable business service providers efficiently, and for business services firms to use online communities to educate and connect with business prospects, especially with small businesses.

According to a 2007 report published by Visa International, small businesses (businesses with less than 100 employees or less than $25 million in sales) in the U.S. spend $1.68 trillion yearly on business services, or nearly 35% of their total business expenditures.

Our own research at InsideUp has been centered on trying to understand how small businesses find business service vendors. Our research indicates that it takes a tremendous amount of work and time to find reliable and reputable business service providers. A business service provider, mind you, can be anyone from a recruiting company that helps you find staff to the marketing company that implements a direct marketing campaign for you.

InsideUp has taken on the challenge of helping to solve these problems for small businesses and the firms that want to provide business services to them. The Beta release of our community platform is a step forward on an ambitious road to provide a comprehensive online platform where small businesses can connect with business service providers. Lots more to come, so stay tuned…

Monday, December 1, 2008

BizNik: Business Networking that Doesn’t Suck

We've recently been watching an up-and-coming business networking organization called BizNik - and we're not the only ones. In the past year alone, BizNik has been an Official Honoree for the 2008 Webby Awards, Best in Class winner of the 2008 Interactive Media Awards, and Silver Winner of the 2007 W3 Awards.

BizNik believes, as we do at InsideUp, that when you're small, collaboration is a much surer path to success than competition. After all, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are more than 23.3 million small businesses in the U.S. that have just one employee. Networking, therefore, is an essential tool that businesses can use to make connections with clients and vendors.

We especially love BizNik because it combines the power of online networking with local events that are occurring in cities across the country; you get the best of both worlds! With BizNik’s growing membership in cities and towns across the U.S. and around the world, now is a great time to jump in and try business networking.

BizNik makes a point to distinguish itself from other popular online business networking tools, such as LinkedIn and Namyz. BizNik explains that it's "not a place for job seekers. It's about sharing ideas, not for posting resumes. And it's where conversations about business and entrepreneurship are taking place." Plus, as we mentioned, BizNik provides online and offline opportunities to meet and greet fellow small business people.

Keep in mind that whether you network online or in person, there are some networking dos and don'ts that you should be aware of in order to increase your chances of success. According to Mark McGregor, author of "The 10 Commandments of Networking", one of the most important things that you can do when networking is to "drop the 'what's in it for me’ attitude”. For effective networking, including participation in online communities, we at InsideUp feel you have to participate, share, and give; the collective participation will eventually provide rich benefits to all.

Looking for some networking opportunities in your town? In addition to BizNik, check out these sure-fire national resources to get started (if you haven't done so already):
Finally, don't leave home without reading these networking tips from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which include tips on how to improve your appearance (get a haircut) and behavior (don't huddle up with co-workers and friends) while networking.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Four strategies for surviving the recession

There’s little doubt now that we’re in a recession, and many experts say it will likely last through 2009.

What does this mean for you and your business?

While nearly everyone is looking to curtail their spending, and credit figures to be much harder to obtain than it has been, there’s no need to panic. In fact, an economic slowdown can be a great time to pick up market share from your competitors, as they shrink their budgets, and thus their marketing.

Keep in mind too that when things pick up again, as they always do, you want to be well-positioned to accelerate your business along with the larger economy. That may mean down-shifting now so that you’re ready to up-shift in the future.
So here’s what you can do now to help maintain the health of your business, regardless of economic conditions:

- Cut unnecessary expenses. Where can you tighten your budgets? Whether you do it across the board, or surgically, trimming 10 to 20 percent can have a dramatic effect on your bottom line, while you preserve your core competencies and continue to service your existing clients.

- Focus on your ideal client. Rededicate yourself to finding clients who pay promptly, come back again and again, and refer others like themselves. This means examining your current marketing efforts to make sure you’re looking for the right people, in the right places. Ask yourself: How do I define my perfect customer? Where do I find them? Once I have a prospect, how do I qualify them?Once I’ve qualified them, how do I convert prospects to customers?

- Get out and make new contacts. LinkedIn, Facebook and other online networking sites are great, but there’s nothing like face-to-to-face conversations to build your network. You local Chamber of Commerce and groups like BNI are a great place to start.

- Package your products and services in a new way. Sometimes it helps to refresh how you present yourself to the market. Can you create an attractive offer aimed at new clients? Now’s the time to roll it out.