Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Protecting Your Inventions: Utility vs. Design Paten

If you're planning on patenting your idea, you should be careful in choosing which patent you apply for when protecting your inventions. There are many different kinds of patents, but most likely, you'll be wanting to choose between a utility or design patent.

A design patent lasts for 14 years. This is subject to change, as are most laws. Design patents are mostly used for, well, designs! If you're an architect and come up with a novel design for a new kind of Titanic that can't be sunk, with unique features that no other ship currently possesses then you should apply for a design patent. The design patent makes it illegal for anyone else but yourself to replicate your design, sell it, or use it for the whole fourteen years.
A utility patent lasts for 20 years. This is subject to change, just like the design patent. Utility patents are meant for inventions – so you're trying to protect the actual mechanism of an invention. Utility patents protect the mechanism of the invention and its function, but it poorly protects its design.

You might make a dangerous error in choosing between design and utility if you don't seek expert advice. For example, if you make a new rocket-powered vehicle, but apply for a design patent, the only thing protected is the way your rocket-powered vehicle superficially looks. So if you made a red car with twin rockets, with aesthetic “wings” near the doors, the design patent would stop people from making cars with that design: they can't make cars with twin rockets, and wings on the doors. However, because you only have a design patent, anyone is free to make their own rocket-powered car using your idea—so they could make a blue car, no wings, and mini rockets near the tires, and the patent wouldn't make it illegal. If you chose a utility patent, it would be illegal for them to make any kind of rocket car that uses your methods.

Note: This blog was originally posted on traklight.com by Emily Ely on Oct 6th, 2014

Traklight is the only self-guided software platform that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs identify and protect their intellectual property. Traklight is an innovative software company with a mission to help educate and empower you to be proactive in identifying, protecting, and leveraging your ideas for your startup, invention, or business. Through the use of online IP identification tools and resources, Traklight users can protect their IP, and prevent infringement disputes and subsequent losses of large sums of money. Follow Traklight on Facebook, Twitter, or their blog.

Monday, November 24, 2014

How to build momentum for the holidays

Hopefully you’ve already started thinking about how you’re going to make this year’s holiday season worth celebrating—because without a doubt many of your biggest competitors have already started generating buzz. While you may not their million dollar TV budgets or a Grammy-worthy holiday jingle to do it, you don’t actually need those things to be successful—you just need the right plan in place and the right tools to help you out.
Following are some easy to embrace tips to help your business build momentum as you head into the holiday season:

Develop a schedule to build momentum
Building momentum will be crucial in determining whether or not this year’s holiday season is one worth celebrating. But you can’t build momentum without a plan for how you’re going to do it. Start by creating a schedule. Map out the weeks leading up to and through the holiday season with specific business goals for each of the big days. The specific holidays you plan to target may vary based on your business and your audience.

Pay attention to what people care about
Consider using a survey to collect customer feedback in the fall, before the holiday craze has started. Customers truly appreciate when businesses offer them a chance to provide feedback—and they appreciate it even more when they see the business use that customer feedback to improve product or service offerings, as well as the content and offers you’re sending in your marketing campaigns.

Be a resource; not just a sales pitch
Don’t add to the holiday stress by overwhelming your contacts with salesy content and overly aggressive promotion. Instead, provide them with resources they can actually use this holiday season. This is a best practice year round, but it becomes even more critical at the holidays when inboxes are flooded with sales offer after offer. Doing something as simple as offering advice for preparing their shopping list, tips for throwing a dinner party, or even a special coupon for subscribers only can go a long way.

Pace yourself—and your customers
Make sure you’re giving your customers the chance to ease into the holiday season. It can be helpful to think of things in terms of percentages — for example: in October 30 percent holiday content, in November 50 percent holiday content, and in December70 percent holiday content. By pacing your content, you can help build momentum and excitement for the holidays in a way the best meets the needs of your customers.


Gina Watkins is a leading expert on e-marketing for small business – and has a real passion for helping businesses to succeed. Her ongoing series of dynamic lectures are filled with real-world examples, humor and results-driven wisdom garnered from more than two decades of sales, business development and marketing experience. In addition to owning her own business, she is an award-winning direct marketer, has been featured on WUSA Channel 9's Mind Over Money show, Dr. Gayle Carson’s Women In Business radio show, Morgan State’s Briefcase Radio program, and in numerous other media. In her role as Constant Contact Regional Development Director, she’s presented to more than ten thousand seminar attendees about the keys to success with easy, affordable, highly effective technology tools that grow trusted business relationships.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Get discovered: Two SEO Tips to Get Your Small Business Website Found

Like a prehistoric masterpiece scratched into the far recesses of an undiscovered cave, it doesn’t matter how awe-inspiring your website is if nobody can find it. Search engines are the archeologists of the digital landscape. An estimated 90 percent of consumers searching for local businesses online use search engines like Google® Bing® and Yahoo® to find them. If you want your business website to get discovered, you need to tap into the power of search.
Just about every website owner today understands the basic concept of search engine optimization (SEO): taking steps to attract the attention of search engines in order to drive traffic to your site. Search Engine Land defines SEO as “the process of getting traffic from the ‘free,’ ‘organic,’ ‘editorial,’ or ‘natural’ search results on search engines.” The paid ads you often see at the top of search results don’t figure in.
You’ve likely already taken the fundamental steps to improve your SEO. Your website brims with unique and compelling content. You use relevant keywords all over the place. You optimize title tags and other metadata. You covet backlinks.
But there’s always more SEO-related work you can do to draw visitors to your website. Here are two big SEO tips:
Be social for business

I probably wouldn’t believe you if you told me you spent less than 30 minutes a day (most of it on your phone) tweeting, posting, liking, sharing or pinning. That’s because studies show that adults in the U.S. spend an average of between two and four hours a day on social media sites. As New York Times writer Nick Bilton eloquently put it in “Reclaiming Our (Real) Lives from Social Media”:
“If Hemingway were alive in 2014, he might not have finished what he started writing that day. Realistically, he probably wouldn’t have even put a pen to paper. Instead, he might have ducked into the cafe, pulled out his smartphone and proceeded to waste an entire afternoon on social media. Perhaps he would update his Facebook to discuss the rogue weather, snap a picture of his cafĂ© au lait to post on Instagram and then lose the rest of the afternoon to Twitter.”

What does all that time on social media mean to SEO? Gold. Seven of the top 10 search ranking factors now involve social media, according to recent stats from SearchMetrics, which annually develops a list of search engine ranking factors that shows correlation to rank improvements.

<blockquote>You can drive virtual busloads of traffic to your website by dedicating some of your social networking time to your business.</blockquote>

Figure out where the people you want to do business with are doing their social networking, and get active on those sites. Use your Facebook business page and Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to engage with customers, establish your expertise, and promote your products and services. Give your business a visual presence on Pinterest and Instagram. Seed your social interactions with links to specific (amazing) content on your website, and make getting to your social platforms from your website easy by putting social widgets on your home page.

If you’re consistent and creative with your social marketing strategy, you’re bound to see an increase in traffic to your website.
Research the competition

You can also refine your SEO strategy by analyzing the keywords your competitors use to drive traffic to their websites. You can identify your competitor’s keywords in a few different places on their website:
Keywords in the code: Start by checking out their meta tags, such as the title tag or the keywords tag. Typically, the first keyword in a title tag is usually the most important. To view the code:
1.     Go to the website, and then right-click the page.
2.     Click View Source. A new window opens with the website’s code.
The <title> tag is near the top of the page. If the site includes it, the meta name=”keywords” tag should be a few lines below. Both of these contain your competitor’s keywords.
Keywords in the text: A keyword density checker (search “keyword density checker” in any search engine) can quickly determine which keywords are prominent in your competitors’ website copy. Or, you can simply use “find” (press CTRL-F on your keyboard) to search for specific keywords.
Assuming your competitors follow SEO best practices, you can gain insight into some of the ways they handle SEO for their site in as little as 10 to 15 minutes.
Want to learn more? Here are a few great places to continue your SEO education:

Director of Global SEO at GoDaddy, Jim Christian believes in making things better. He accomplishes this through tireless hours of research, perfecting his gift for search engine marketing. Jim is grateful for the opportunity to pursue his passion while helping people and businesses succeed online. Connect with Jim on Google+. The world’s largest domain name registrar and Web hosting provider, GoDaddy gives small business owners the tools to name their idea, build a beautiful online presence, attract customers and manage their business. To get more tips for your small business—including articles, videos and webinars—check out this resource.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Campaign types to try out this holiday season

The holidays are upon us, and for many small businesses, so is the busiest time of the year. With limited time and resources, you want to be smart about where you are investing your time, and ensure that your marketing efforts will drive the best results. Depending on your business, there are a number of different campaigns you could run during the holiday season. The types of campaign you decide to run will depend on the products and services you offer, and the audience you’re trying to reach. You will also need to consider the type of results you’re looking for, and your overall goals.  To help you get you thinking, here’s a list of campaigns types for you to consider trying out this holiday season.  

Try a local deal
With a local deal, you can create a great offer, like a $25 for $50 voucher, that customers and potential customers can purchase and redeem at a later date. This is a great way to generate new revenue during the holiday season, and can help bring new customers into your store.

Offer an exclusive discount
The key to a great offer is that it’s compelling enough to get people to act. It also needs to bridge the gap between your customer’s needs and your success. With a service like Constant Contact, you can easily add a coupon to any email that customers can print out or redeem from their mobile device.

Plan an event
Hosting a holiday event is the perfect way to thank employees and customers for their continued support all year long. It’s also a great opportunity to bring customers into your store and provide a memorable holiday experience. You don’t need to operate a brick and mortar to host a holiday event though—they can be just as impactful for B2Bs and nonprofits as they are for B2Cs.

Run a contest
Contests are a great way to engage your audience, and can help generate buzz during the holiday season. For example, you can create a sweepstakes and host it on your Facebook Page. Come up with a prize that your customers will love, and encourage them to enter by providing their email address.

Add value
If running a promotion doesn’t fit your business, you can still do something special for your customers by sending a thank you email or offering something of value. There is no better time of year to show your appreciation than the holidays.

Gina Watkins is a leading expert on e-marketing for small business – and has a real passion for helping businesses to succeed. Her ongoing series of dynamic lectures are filled with real-world examples, humor and results-driven wisdom garnered from more than two decades of sales, business development and marketing experience. In addition to owning her own business, she is an award-winning direct marketer, has been featured on WUSA Channel 9's Mind Over Money show, Dr. Gayle Carson’s Women In Business radio show, Morgan State’s Briefcase Radio program, and in numerous other media. In her role as Constant Contact Regional Development Director, she’s presented to more than ten thousand seminar attendees about the keys to success with easy, affordable, highly effective technology tools that grow trusted business relationships.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

‘I’ve heard good things’: Build positive business buzz via customer testimonials on your website

Few phrases make a business owner happier than “I’ve heard good things.” (“Do you accept cash?” would be another.) And kind words about your business -- especially from new customers -- do a heck of a lot more than make you feel good. They make you more successful.

That’s because positive buzz about your business is contagious.

If I tell my Aunt Gladys about the mouthwatering linguini carbonara I had at the new Italian restaurant in town, she’s MUCH more likely to go there the next time she gets a craving for Italiano. Then she’ll probably tell someone else, and so on. And let’s not underestimate the power of social media. My Facebook® friends might be tempted to share the luscious linguini pic I posted. The same pic could score a few Pinterest® pins. And that five-star review I left on Yelp® while waiting for my cannoli to digest? That’s word-of-mouth on digital-age steroids.

A recent survey found that 72 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and more than half of those surveyed said they’re more likely to use a local business based on positive online reviews.

Without a doubt, positive feedback cultivates customer trust and drives sales. For potential customers, it eliminates some of the mystery surrounding what it’s like to do business with you. It breeds confidence. It boosts your credibility factor. That’s why it’s so important to include customer testimonials on your business website.
How do you collect customer testimonials?

1. Just ask. If you’ve got a physical store, you might keep a “We love feedback” sign on your checkout counter next to a simple feedback form and bowl of candy (or granola or rub-on tattoos). Shipping online orders to a select group of repeat customers? Give them a personal call to thank them for their business, and ask if they’re willing to provide a testimonial for your website. Do the same with happy customers you’re engaging with via social media. Research shows that about half of social network users respond to requests for feedback; you can up those odds by reaching out to social followers with whom you’ve established a strong online connection.

2. Add a feedback link to existing customer communications. Do you send emails to your customers? Like monthly newsletters or surveys or promotions? If so, you’ve got a great opportunity to collect customer testimonials. Include a link to a feedback form on your website. You might even add that link to your email signature. And you definitely should include a feedback link on your business’s social media profiles.

3. Use third-party resources and local review sites. People take stock in the opinions of others, which is why business review sites like Yelp® and Angie’s List™ are so popular. (Not surprisingly, reviews with poor grammar and spelling knock credibility down a notch.) Keep tabs on your business’s reviews, and share positive feedback on your website with a link back to the original source.
Make it really easy for customers to testify by offering to email a short feedback form for them to fill out. (Always ask permission to publish your customers’ comments.) And if they’re comfortable with it, ask them to include a photo. Think about how many credibility points you’ll earn with a pic of your happy customer using your product. Or, even better, a video snippet. That. Is. Invaluable. Marketing.

Check out this article for more tips on collecting customer testimonials.

Adding testimonials to your website

Testimonials rank among the features every business website needs. They even carry enough weight to warrant their own page on your site. So, choose a handful of the most inspiring reviews of your business to include on your website. Of course, visitors assume that you’ve cherry-picked the testimonials that put your business in the best light. That’s fine. Those positive sentiments from satisfied customers will still leave a favorable impression

Calling all SBDC professionals! You have exclusive access to all of our training materials referenced in our blog, please visit the Americas SBDC website Members Only area. A complete GoDaddy Training Materials webpage is available under "Partner Resources." To get the login info to the Members Only area please email marketing@americassbdc.org now. Please note only SBDC professionals have access.
A former small business owner and newspaper journalist, and a published nonfiction author, Andrea Rowland helps craft compelling communications for today’s go-getters through her work as an editor at GoDaddy. Connect with Andrea on Google+. The world’s largest domain name registrar and Web hosting provider, GoDaddy gives small business owners the tools to name their idea, build a beautiful online presence, attract customers and manage their business. To get more tips for your small business—including articles, videos and webinars—check out the GoDaddy Training Hub.

Monday, November 10, 2014

5 Reasons Why Veterans Make Excellent Entrepreneurs

The week of November 3-7, 2014 marks National Veterans Small Business Week, honoring veteran business owners. According to the Small Business Administration, “Veteran business owners are responsible for nearly one out of every ten small businesses in America, employ nearly six million workers, generate over 1.5 trillion dollars in receipts each year and are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans”. http://bit.ly/SBAVetBizWeek. So what exactly makes veterans so well suited for entrepreneurship?

 1. Work Ethic

Entrepreneurs work long, hard hours…especially in the start-up phase. Veterans already possess the mental and physical fortitude as well as the discipline to survive the long days and, equally as important, their families have that same ability. It’s important to have the buy-in and understanding of those around you given that entrepreneurial endeavors require sacrifice. Military families know the level of commitment and support needed better than most.  

2. Risk Tolerance

Starting and maintaining your own business is undeniably risky. There are ways to help mitigate the risks but not completely remove them. Veterans already have the skillset to both mitigate and face risk head-on. Both in military life and in entrepreneur life, the ability to create and execute a thought-out operating strategy is essential (as well as the ability to read the current situation and adjust accordingly…see “agility” below). When it comes to risk assessment, gathering intel and then moving to action, veterans have been conditioned at a high level.

3. Agility

Being able to recognize threats and opportunities and respond quickly is a way of life for active military…and a way of life for a successful entrepreneur. Being agile in business, now more than ever, is essential. Those who recognize the shifts in the market and strategically stay current (ahead) of their industry are in an advantageous position. There is a level of “constant awareness” that comes from military experience that translates well to the business world.

4. Leadership

Veterans know how to build and work in teams. They know how to inspire those around them for a mission, a cause, a purpose. A business owner needs to possess these skills to harness the full strength of their team. A strong leader makes the difference between average performance by their staff and “all in” dedication to the goals and to the leader.

5. Determination

The ability to work towards the big picture, for something greater…that vision and dedication is what draws many to the military originally. A veteran has the heart, focus and belief in their country and mission to persevere no matter the obstacles. An entrepreneur must have that same focus and belief in their business to succeed.

Written by: Pasqualina DeLucia, Assistant Director of America's SBDC New Jersey at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, NJ

America’s Small Business Development Center New Jersey at Brookdale Community College, established in 1979, is part of a national network of university/college based centers that provide comprehensive counseling to small business and educational opportunities to small business owners and potential business owners. - See more at: http://www.mosbdc.com

cid:image001.jpg@01CFA658.A8C6AFC0Pasqualina DeLucia
Assistant Director / America’s SBDC NJ
Brookdale Community College
765 Newman Springs Road
Lincroft, New Jersey 07738
732 842-8685

Password Safety

Lesson Highlight: Keep your business accounts secure with strong passwords

On top of that, many people use the same, easy-to-guess password. According to this CBS news story, the most common passwords of 2013 were: “123456,” “password,” and “12345678.”

Online security is an important topic for everyone, including small businesses new to the web. There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your online accounts. How? Create strong, secure passwords. It’s the simplest, and perhaps the most important thing you can do to protect yourself online.

Many people use one password for all their online accounts. That’s like using one key for everything: your home, car, office, etc.
If you are using any of these passwords for your accounts, please speed-read through this post then change your passwords to make them secure. Here are tips from Google’s Safety Center:
  • Longer passwords are harder to crack. On average, people create passwords with less than 8 characters. A shorter password is easier to remember, but it’s also easier for humans and machines to guess.
  • Create a password that uses a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Make sure you have password recovery options set, and keep them up-to-date. If you ever forget your password, most online services offer an option to recover it via email or text message.
  • If write your passwords down on paper, keep them in a very secret place.
Watch the video here:

Friday 15: Small Business Tips, is a series designed to help small businesses like yours make the most of their online presence. If you missed the October post about hiring a company to help with search engine optimization, check it out here: http://asbdcbizblog.blogspot.com/2014/10/hiring-expert-to-manage-your-search.html
You can read the full lessons and view more tips for growing your business online at www.gybo.com/friday15. Don’t forget to sign up to receive new lessons directly in your inbox, and make it a habit to grow your business online with Friday 15.  
On behalf of the entire Get Your Business Online team, I wish you great success growing your business.
Whitney Lemon - Friday 15 Host, Google Small Business Engagement
BIO: Whitney hosts Friday 15: Small Business Tips, Google’s series to help small businesses succeed online, in 15 minutes or less.  Friday 15 is part of Google’s Get Your Business Online program, providing small businesses with a custom domain name and web hosting- free for one year.