How do Certifications affect your Business? Thursday, Sep 18 2014 

Certifications could benefit your business! Your company could greatly benefit from certifications if you invest time to learn, understand, and market the certification(s). Federal, state, and local municipalities have established certification initiatives to assist small businesses in securing contracting opportunities. Certification initiatives have designated contracting goals on each project. As a certified firm, you could be the prime contractor or a subcontractor on the project. As the prime, you have the majority percentage of the total value of the contract. For example, a construction project with a total value of $250,000 could have a designated 20% or $50k goal for a certified business. If your company is certified, then you meet the 20% as a subcontractor or you could be the prime. Conversely using the same scenario. Another company could be the prime and you could be the subcontractor doing 20% of the total value of the contract, which is set-aside ONLY for a certified business.Certified Certifications

 How does a business get certified? All certifications have an application process and they vary from agency to agency. Most applications are available online and some can be submitted electronically while others have to be mailed in. Some certifications have interview task attached.

 Length: The length of being certified varies.  Some certifications have an end date such as the federal 8a Certification – 9 years. Some certifications have an annual re-certification process, which requires submitting information to get initially certified and the submitting updated information that proves that your company still qualifies for the designated certification. Submission information could include business tax returns, personal tax returns, and financial statements.

Cost: The majority of certifications are free, your only cost is the time it will take to package your application. Federal, state and local certifications are free. Third party agencies, or agencies that administer the certification process on behalf on another agency, charge a fee to obtain certifications.  These certifications range between $250 -$350, on average.

 Research: I recommend that you research ALL certifications that your company can qualify for and evaluate. If you decide that certification is an option your company would like to pursue, then consider doing the certifications you select at the same time. Most certifications will ask for the same or similar information – so maximize time and do it all at the same time.

Remember, just because you have a certification does not mean that new business will simply start appearing. Certification is another tool for you to use in your arsenal of marketing strategies.

 

Author:

Tiya Scroggins, MBA

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Marketing Tools for You Monday, Jun 2 2014 

Marketing Tools for You

Let’s face it; marketing your business can be extremely difficult or extremely easy. For small businesses, getting started can be a monster challenge. When looking at very large corporation accounts and media, it is difficult for a beginning or small businesses to imagine how they are able to master or use the same techniques as their largest competitors. Finding simple marketing techniques to assist in the building or supplementing your current techniques are a few steps that can be taken to learn different forms of marketing. Listed below are 6 forms of marketing tools that are a must to affirm the true message of your business.marketing-300x300

1. Voicemail – Develop a message that relays the information of your business in a courteous and pleasing manner. Make sure to include the basics: a Thanks (“Thank You for calling Edwin Hardware…”), your time of operation (“We are open 9-5 Monday thru Saturday”), invite them to leave a message and tell them how “Please leave a message with your name, number, and the reason for your call”), then finally tell them you WILL get back with them. Most importantly CHECK YOUR MESSAGES DAILY (Mainly three times a day: Opening, Midday, and two hours before close of business. Two hours usually gives customers enough time to come to your location before the end of day.)!

2. Brochures – brochures are a type of paper media that benefit companies by telling the customers the mission, main products, contact information, etc. Brochures are extremely beneficial at trade shows and conferences. Key Fact: Make your brochure unique through graphics, di-cuts, or by shapes.

3. Press Release & Newsletters – Press Releases and Newsletters are great ways to show the inside of your business for your customers and community members. Press Releases (“PR”) showcase what you do that is new, interesting, or beneficial to the community. They can be distributed through local, county/parish, or state publishing papers, websites, or television stations. Try Volusion Press Releases for free distribution sites. Newsletters maybe sent out through paper or email mediums. They are an extremely useful way to keep in touch with your customers, send promotions, and support repeat purchases.

 

4. Referrals – Referrals can either make you or break you in some industries. Encourage your customers to leave reviews on products/services. Push word-of-mouth referrals and create brand ambassadors through your extremely satisfied customers. Promotion Idea: Ask your customers for 3-5 referrals and they receive 20-30% off a purchase.

5. Case Studies – Case Studies can be used to establish your company as a professional source of information/knowledge and explain products functions/benefits. Note: Offer your individual case study on your website and social media to assist potential buyers in their decisions.

6. Well-Designed Website – For your website, it must have a logical layout and be aesthetically appealing to your customers. If your website is confusing, it will affect your business. Know your target market, design your website for customers in similar and different to your industry.