Online and E-commerce for Your Small Business

social-media-graphicsThe answer is, “Yes, your small business needs to be online.”

That means having an online presence and considering e-commerce operations. E-commerce typically means selling products online but I tend to think of it as something bigger. There are service companies that allow you to schedule your appointments online. And paying your bill has long been an available online activity.

If you are like many small business owners, you first need to understand your options and then select and put one or more options into action. To help you with this, Extension across the country has developed resources for you. Check with your local Extension office.

You can also check out the powerofbusiness.net website. Information on these topics can be found in several locations including our blog, the archived “live chats,” in the “tips” section, and in past issues of the newsletter.  And don’t forget to check out the three online marketing free workbooks found right on the front page.

Another useful site is the National e-Commerce Extension Initiative. A variety of short information briefs are there to introduce you to various online possibilities.

Examples of the kind of help Extension provides include:

So as we close in on a new year, make this your year for starting and expanding your online presence. 

Adding Facebook to Your Marketing

The use of online marketing tools is rapidly growing.  And the largest, and still growing, is Facebook.

If you haven’t thought about how online marketing can be a part of your world, you need to take action. The time to think about it is over.  Oh, not everyone needs to be online but the list of who might not benefit is getting smaller and smaller.

Facebook is the largest player in this arena. James Barnes, Assistant Professor, Mississippi State University Extension, is actively studying it, along with it capacity to place Facebook ads.

Watch the First Friday chat as James talks about the experiences of companies he has assisted in using Facebook and Facebook Ads. Listen to the stories and tips he shares. And check out his program, Mississippi Bricks to Clicks.”

 

You can also find short informational briefs James has prepared at:

Barnes, J. and K. Coatney. 2015. “Facebook ‘Farming’ for Rural Organizations“, The Daily Yonder: Keep It Rural, March 30th.

Barnes, J. and K. Coatney. 2014. “Regional Economic Development and Marketing Rural Tourism Events Using Facebook: The Woodville Deer and Wildlife Case“, Mississippi State University Extension, Publication 2855.

Barnes, J. 2014. “Social Media Marketing: Facebook”, National eCommerce Extension Initiative, eBiz: Tips for Marketing Your Business, Southern Rural Development Center.

Make sure your marketing plans are reaching your intended audiences. Today that includes Facebook and other online tools.

Could I be an Entrepreneur?

lemonade stand

Photo (CC 2.0) by Steven Depolo, on Flickr

Lots of people have a desire to start their own business.

At the same time, communities and economic development agencies encourage this as these businesses help build the local economy.

The interest for starting from the owner’s perspective come from a desire for control, to show their creativity and to make money. Communities see them as adding new jobs as well as providing a substantial amount of US sales and GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Yet often people just don’t take the plunge.

One thing holding them back is the fear they don’t have the right stuff to develop a successful business.  It is the myth that entrepreneurs are born and not made.

Kay Cummings, Michigan State University Extension, examines that myth. She outlines what qualities are helpful to the entrepreneur and defines what business skills one should have, either before starting or soon thereafter. Read her article here.

Kay also outlines some of the resources found he her state that can help the aspiring entrepreneur. And she outlines some national efforts as well.

While your state may not have these specific resources, nearly every state has some type of support services for the new business owner.  You just need to go out and find them.  I would suggest you start with your Extension office. They can define the resources available in your state.

Good luck.