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6 Ways Small Businesses Can Use Facebook Tabs to Generate Sales, Users 

By Liza Porteus Viana  Jan. 11, 2012

For many small business owners, just enough staff to literally “man the store” poses a challenge in this economy. So when it comes to devoting more time to social media and furthering their brand on platforms like Facebook, entrepreneurs often feel overwhelmed.

But Facebook’s growing popularity and continued dominance in the social media world has business owners realizing a Facebook page can be more important than having their own company website. With this in mind, a new crop of businesses is cropping up to take care of the needs of entrepreneurs looking to expand their presence in the social realm. After all, it’s not just about marketing to the masses– it’s about marketing to the right masses.

“Like with any marketing platform you take on – you wouldn’t throw a $10,000 ad on FOX TV or a $1 million ad and not expect to get anything. What are your goals?” asked social media strategist Kathryn Rose, owner of Kathryn Rose Consulting and author of six books on social media marketing, including The Step-by-Step Guide to Facebook for Business. “It’s not to amass thousands and thousands of fans … what you want to do is get to the right fans and followers.”

Companies like ShortStack and Voices Heard Media are helping small businesses do just that.

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Wary Investors Seeking New Retirement Funding Options

By Liza Porteus Viana  Dec. 21, 2011

Many Americans saw their hard-earned retirement savings virtually disappear during the 2008 financial meltdown—along with their confidence in being able to afford a comfortable retirement.

After all, with the country’s 90-year-old and older population nearly tripling over the past 30 years to 1.9 million 2010, and expected to more than quadruple over the next 40 years, people have good reason to be worried about not having enough money to fund their golden years.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently found that the annual median personal income for people ages 90 and older was $14,760 between 2006–2008 (in 2008 inflation-adjusted dollars); $20,133 for men, and $13,580 for women. Meanwhile, 92.3% of the income received by those 90 and older came from some sort of Social Security income.

“There’s a growing concern people aren’t going to have money to live comfortably or even pay their basic expenses,” saysTom Foster, vice president for The Hartford’s retirement plans. He adds that people are becoming more concerned about funding life after work, noting a 2010 Hartford study that showed that 79% of respondents were concerned about having enough money to live comfortably into retirement, compared to 73.2% in 2006.

The government and private industry has been encouraging the creation and use of tools such as 401(k) annuities and pension-like funds that provide guaranteed lifetime income, despite market volatility.

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6 Tips for Small Businesses Looking to Offer Lifetime Income Plans

By Liza Porteus Viana  Dec. 21, 2011

For many small business owners, offering their employees a retirement plan is often a luxury rather than the norm.

For those that do offer retirement plans, many of those plans often can be accompanied by administrative headaches and burdensome costs. But with many insurance companies and financial firms now offering various types of lifetime guaranteed income plans that allow people to invest more aggressively, small businesses now have more ways to help their workers save for retirement and, hopefully, improve worker recruitment and retention.

Since the 2008 financial meltdown and the use of defined benefit plans dwindles, the government and private industry have been encouraging the creation and use of tools such as 401(k) annuities and pension-like funds that provide guaranteed lifetime income streams immune to market fluctuations.

“It really is investment insurance,” said Michael Preisz, founder of Preisz Associates in Oregon and advisor at the Institutional Retirement Income Council (IRIC). When small businesses hear about these plans, offered by companies like John Hancock, Prudential and The Hartford, “they think it’s too good to be true.”

“When a plan sponsor really understands this and they themselves are 58 and older, they jump in with both feet,” he added. “What we’re finding is, with these kinds of advance tools, when handled properly, we’re seeing employee turnover go down and people staying employed.”

Here are six tips for small businesses owners interested in offering a lifetime guaranteed income plan to their employees:

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Home Health Care Franchises on the Rise as Boomers Age, Costs Rise

By Liza Porteus Viana  Dec. 8, 2011

More than 8,000 people in America are turning 65 each day this year, and the senior population is expected to be around 49 million by the end of this year. By 2025, that number is expected to grow to nearly 72 million.

These are pretty astounding numbers, and for some businesses, they provide big business opportunities.

The gaining baby boomer population combined with increasing health-care costs, health-care reform, cutbacks in Medicare and many people looking for work in the recession, has been a boon to the home health care franchise industry in the U.S.

“People prefer to stay at home versus going to nursing homes,” explained Christine Friedberg, director of FRANdata, a franchise information service. The elderly are also being forced to pay for nursing or assisted living facilities bills out of pocket since Medicare and Medicaid don’t always cover the cost or just partially cover it, she added. “People are shopping around looking for that home health care provider.”

The home health care franchise industry grew by 13% each year from 2006 to 2008, providing services such as home care, non-medical assistance, shopping and companion services and nurse care, according to data released in October 2009 by FRANdata. The majority of brands had been in business for less than five years. According to FRANdata figures, eight established home health care companies began franchising in 2011, three started franchising in 2010, five in 2009, and six every year from 2006 through 2008.

But no one home health care company holds the market share, allowing room for more players to enter the market. With that said, Friedberg expects some mergers and acquisitions activity within the next few years.

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Advice for Women Entrepreneurs Seeking Angel Funding: ‘Just Ask’ 

By Liza Porteus Viana  Oct. 31, 2011

When Ashley Kingsley and Whitney Trujillo, co-CEOs of Daily Deals for Moms, were looking to expand their business in April 2011 after running it on their own for about a year, they thought angel investors were the way to go.

But they weren’t sure on how to go about finding investors who would be interested in their deal site offering discounted deals on clothing, kids activities, and other offerings.

“We just kept reaching out to more and more people. Every time we talked to one person we learned something … it really became this educational series of meetings that led us to really get a good grasp on the next steps to take,” explained Trujillo. “It was a very quick learning curve.”

The pair created a funding proposal and had friends, associates and friends of friends in the social media or related industries offer feedback. They quickly realized it needed a lot of work. So they continued to refine their proposal, offering it up to more people, including business owners who had been through the process, for constructive criticism.

“We got really comfortable with what we were putting out there” Trujillo said. “Ultimately, we got something we knew was good. A lot of people we reached out to were really excited about what we were doing and ultimately ended up investing with us.”

They closed on round one of funding in June, but they noticed they didn’t hear many female voices during the process.

“Every time someone would give us another person to talk to, it was just a constant stream of men. We would have loved to talk to someone who was a woman,” Trujillo said.  “A lot of women in small and medium-sized business don’t go after venture because they don’t know anybody employed in venture. The whole thing is interesting because until you’re in it, you don’t realize how rare it is.”

The University of New Hampshire Center for Venture Research in 2007 released research from 2000-2004 that showed only 8.9% of all proposals presented to angel investor organizations were put forth by women, and that men and women tend to seek out investors of the same gender.

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Faith-Based Marketing Can Tap Into Powerful Consumer Base

By Liza Porteus Viana  Sept. 28, 2011

While big companies such as Forever21 and In-N-Out Burger quietly stamp Bible verse John 3:16 on the bottom of their bags and cups, other companies are more outward in their devotion. But when it comes to integrating faith into your branding or business, it often can be a tricky line to toe.

Regardless of the size of the company, faith-based marketing can help reach an expansive Christian demographic with an estimated purchasing power of around $5.1 trillion a year.

“One of the things that makes the faith-based market unique is they gather weekly as a group to share and fellowship with each other,” said Greg Stielstra, founder of PyroMarketing, a social media marketing agency in Franklin, Tenn.

That means the opportunity for information to spread, including product endorsements, is huge, particularly since people trust recommendations of peers with similar interests. “For Christians in America, their faith in Jesus Christ is a defining characteristic, which makes word of mouth in that community more powerful than it would be for other communities,” Stielstra added.

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What Patent Reform Could Mean for Inventors and Small Business

By Liza Porteus Viana  Aug. 9, 2011

The United States is closer to passing a patent reform bill than it has been in years, but how much will it help small and medium-sized businesses and inventors?

“By working to re-engineer the process of securing IP rights from the ground-up, patent reform will allow small and independent inventors to move their ideas to the market place faster and the entire innovation value chain to function more effectively,” Dave Kappos, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office  (USPTO), said in a speech recently. “If we get this right, we can equip the USPTO with the resources it will require to tackle our backlog of unexamined patent applications—which for far too long has been an enemy of progress.”

While the debt ceiling debate placed patent reform on a back burner in Congress, many are hopeful that passage of the bill – The America Invents Act (H.R. 1249) in the House, and the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (S. 23) in the Senate – will help stimulate the economy. Many groups, particularly larger companies, agree that the bill can help create jobs and spur economic growth. But there are some worries from small businesses and individual inventors, among others, that the legislation places more of a burden on America’s “garage inventor” and give a leg up to bigger businesses with more resources.

Sharon Barner, former deputy director of the USPTO who helped develop the agency’s plan to reduce patent processing time and improve patent quality, and is now a partner at the Chicago office of law firm Foley & Lardner, explained to how the patent application process will change and what inventors and small businesses can expect with the forthcoming reforms.

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How Brands Can Better Connect With Mom Consumers

By Liza Porteus Viana  June 27, 2011

Businesses need moms.

According to the National Association for Moms in Business, mothers have $1.3 trillion in spending power, (equal to that of the entire country of Great Britain), and control 80% of household spending. If companies aren’t capturing this demographic, they are missing a big part of the revenue pie and could be hurting their bottom lines.

And who should know more about how to capture a portion of this massive spending than a mother?

Stacy DeBroff left her demanding legal career in the 1990s to spend more time with her kids. But while writing books and serving as a corporate spokeswoman from 1998-2006, she realized there was a serious disconnect on how brands target this key demographic that holds so much purchasing power.

For example, Debroff was asked by one client during its plastic wrap campaign to stress how users can seal the wrap perfectly over a container by pushing on it with your fingers and moving in a circular motion.

“I said, ‘that’s great, but the way moms really apply plastic wrap to leftovers is to just slap it on. We don’t do any fancy pressing down,’” Debroff said.

She later served as a spokesperson for a toilet paper campaign and the company wanted the product to be called “toilet tissue,” and described it as “soft and durable.” This was a little jarring to Debroff. “Can you imagine turning to a friend and saying, ‘I’m really looking for some durable toilet paper?’” She knew what moms really want is bigger, endless rolls so they don’t have to buy it so frequently. “[Brands] represented to me the disconnect between marketing language and how we as moms think and talk, and really resonate with the things we’re looking for in making product choices.”

With this in mind, Debroff decided to launch her own consulting business in 2006 to help corporations reach the highly-coveted mom audience.

As DeBroff’s business expanded, social media entered the scene giving marketing firms and companies a whole new way to connect with potential customers. When it comes to buying items for their family and household, research shows word of mouth plays a key role in women’s decision-making process. Females tend to trust the voice of those around them – friends, acquaintances, trusted mom bloggers, etc… and social media offers a great platform for companies to spread the word about their brand and products. Not to mention it’s often a less costly avenue than traditional advertising.

“Moms have always been word of mouth, conversation driven,” DeBroff said.

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