Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are You Overpaying Taxes If You Use Tax Preparation Software?

For many business owners the answer to this quandary is tax preparation software. Fill out a fairly simple interview, click “print” and out comes a completed return that will pass muster with the IRS. The answer to all your problems…or is it?

Can One Software Program Cover All Businesses?

Take a moment to consider the wide range of businesses that exist in the United States. Now cut that number down to those that can be categorized as “Internet businesses”. If you were asked to write a business plan to provide web design services to each of these services, how long would it be? It would be huge and completely useless because each business would have different needs. A Internet business selling flowers would have completely different needs from an online bank which would have different needs from a hosting company and so on. The only way you could create a practical plan for all Internet businesses would be to offer a collection of general services they could all use on their sites. Tax preparation software designers have the same problem.

There are over 15,000 pages in the tax code and over 100,000 pages of regulations interpreting those pages. Changes are made to the tax code ever year, and new regulations are issued constantly. If one were to create a list of questions for every tax deduction and credit detailed in those pages, the list of questions would be the size of a phone book! Yet, tax software programmers have somehow boiled it all down to a simple 30-minute interview process? Common sense should tell you that doesn’t make sense.

As practical matter, tax software programs are designed to make sure that you claim a general set of deductions that are applicable to businesses across all industries. Most programs try to mask this fact by asking you to identify your business before proceeding. For a lark, you might try selecting another industry and then running through the interview process. You will find that the interview process is modified a bit, but you are still being asked the same basic tax deduction questions.

If you are only claiming general business tax deductions, you are paying more than you should in taxes. Ask yourself if you have seen any of the following questions in a tax software program interview:

Q. Do you store business inventory in your house?

Hint: You may be able to claim hundreds or thousands of dollars in deductions.

Q. Did you start a pension plan for your employees?

Hint: You may be able to claim a tax credit for the next three years totaling $1,500.

Q. Do you have a home-based business and a second office?

Hint: You may be able to deduct your commuting expenses each day. Yes, commuting expenses.

Q. Do you have business meetings at your home?

Hint: Did you charge your business for the space?

Q. Should you claim the standard mileage rate for your auto or the actual costs?

Hint: The standard mileage rate may not the best option.

Q. Did you modify your business location to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Hint: You may be able to claim a tax credit AND tax deduction for tax savings of $20,000 or more.

Q. Did you refinance your home?

Hint: The points you paid on your original mortgage are fully deductible now, not over the length of the loan.

This represents only the tip of the iceberg of available credits and deductions available to you. Just one of these deductions could save you thousands of dollars in taxes. Yet, you are never going to see these questions raised in a tax software program interview. The tax code and regulations are simply too large to be incorporated into a usable software program.

Your business is unique. You face and overcome issues and problems that are unique to your size, financial situation and particular business needs. Don’t short change yourself by limiting your deductions by using tax software programs.

Richard A. Chapo is with http://www.businesstaxrecovery.com - recovery of business taxes through tax help and tax relief. Visit http://www.businesstaxrecovery.com/articles to read more business tax articles.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Hi! My name is Janice Byer and I am the owner of Docu-Type Administrative & Web Design Services (http://www.docutype.net). I am the winner of several prestigious awards (information is on our website) and have a slew of happy customers, as the testimonials on our site will attest to. My services are professional, creative and in demand.

Now, wasn’t that easy? In one small paragraph, I have shamelessly self-promoted my business and it’s success.

I’ll admit it, I am addicted to shameless self-promotion, and why not? Who better to promote myself and my business than me? And, the opportunity to talk about your business should be the root behind every marketing effort you undertake.

Networking utilizes shameless self-promotion almost constantly. After all, when you visit a networking event, why are you there? To promote your business of course! And, when you are at a designated networking event, it is not the time when you should hold back. Be shameless yet professional, and also be considerate of your fellow networkers. They are there for the same reason you are. So, give them the opportunity to shamelessly self-promote themselves.

Networking is the “right time” to shamelessly self-promote. But, there are times when it is not appropriate. There is a time and a place for everything, including promoting your business.

For instance, if you are a member of a news or discussion group, there are generally rules against promoting your business, unless that is what the list is for. So, don’t take advantage of the captive audience or break the rules. That can actually be bad for business.

However, some lists have designated days of the week or month when you can shamelessly tell the world about what you do and what you have to offer. This is the time to show them what you’ve got.

Opportunities arise at various times when it is good to promote yourself and your business. For instance, I was with my daughter at the library yesterday and the woman there asked if I was excited about my daughter going into grade one and the fact that she will be in school all day. This was the perfect opportunity to tell her that I run my own home-based business and what I do.

Also, a few weeks back we had our water supply guy here filling up our well and we talked about his father’s business. Well, I didn’t give up the chance to say, “Does your father have a website? I can design one for him.” Well, the conversation went from there and I ended up giving him several of my business cards.

My husband is also the owner of a small business; a tow truck and storage business. Well, the other day we had a fellow here delivering gravel for our driveway and, as he is always on the road, I asked him if he sees accidents and such. So, my husband gave him some of his cards and it has paid off already. Yesterday this dump truck drive called to tell my husband about an accident that he had just seen.

And, don’t forget your existing clients. Do they know everything that you offer? I have a wonderful steady administrative client that I told a few times about some of the websites I am designing. Well, he was impressed and now we are in talks to design his website. He didn’t know I did website design until I told him. And, this may be true for you as well. Your clients won’t know everything that you can do for them unless you tell them. They may not need any of your secondary services right away, or at all, but they may know someone who does.

My administrative client, which I mentioned above, has now given my name to some of his customers who need help with their office tasks and web design needs.

As I said before, there is a time and a place for shamelessly self-promoting yourself and your business. Be careful not to sound arrogant and don’t be pushy. But, as a small business owner, you are the best person to tell others about what you offer and you should take advantage of situations that will allow you to do so.

About The Author

Janice Byer is a certified Master Virtual Assistant and owner of Docu-Type Administrative & Web Design Services (http://www.docutype.net). See this and other articles on her website.

jbyer@docutype.net

Dealing With Business Slowdowns

When times are slow for your home-based business, chances are you won't have the luxury of waiting and seeing if things improve. You'll need to take steps quickly to get back on track.

These suggestions will help you get business back to normal:

1) Add Products And Services

During slow times, your very instinct might be to cut corners, but in the case of your catalog of products and services this could spell disaster. Instead, you want to select additions carefully based on the needs and desires of your clients.

Think of it this way: let's say you provide web design services. Your client hires you for the design work, then goes elsewhere to get a logo, hosting, and content. Having to hire four different companies just to complete one project is not cost-effective or time-efficient for your client.

So what if you could offer web design and hosting or web design and everything else necessary as well? Chances are you'd have a definite advantage over your competition.

Even if you don't have the skills or ability to handle those aspects of the project, you could team up with other companies like yourself who also want to boost business and give themselves a competitive edge.

No matter what product or service you primarily provide, you could find ways to provide additional necessities to your clients.

2) Step Up Customer Service

Hopefully, you already provide good service and support to your customers, and you are probably already aware of how critical this is to your business's success. But when times get rough, customer service is even more crucial and you need to go beyond the call of duty to convince clients that their business is important to you.

For example, you may want to guarantee responses within a few hours, instead of a few days. You may want to follow up with thank you cards or phone calls. If a problem does arise, act immediately to take care of it and rectify the situation to the client's satisfaction.

Remember not only is that customer's business at stake, but also the potential business of every single person he or she is acquainted with.

3) Market More

Business is slow; budgets are tight. So what usually gets trimmed first? Marketing. Do you know what the results are? Disaster!

When you conduct marketing, you are not selling yourself to generate business today or even tomorrow. Marketing is an investment in your business's future. In fact, research has shown that most marketing efforts don't pay off for at least six months.

So think about that. Let's say you cut back on marketing in June and you weather the economic down cycle, what's going to happen in December? Absolutely nothing! Because all of your potential clients have been won over by the marketing efforts of your competition which were conducted during the summer.

Instead of cutting back, a slow down is the time to boost marketing. Get back in touch with past clients, attend seminars, pass out fliers. After all, if work is slow, what else are you going to be spending your time doing?

4) Keep A Positive Attitude

Times are hard. Your nerves are on edge. You're feeling the pressure. When a past client calls to ask how things are going, do you tell them the truth and hope they take pity on you? Do you wallow in a self-defeating attitude? NO!

If you want to get through the hard times, you have to keep in mind two things:

A) No one is going to do business with a failing company and

B) Hard times are only temporary.

Let's think about this. If you called up a company about business and the representative says, "It will be great to be finally getting some new clients" or "Things have been horribly slow around here lately" are you going to trust them with your project? No.

The first thing you are going to be wondering is why they haven't been doing well. And that's what your potential clients will wonder about you as well.

So how do you keep from breaking down on the phone with your clients? By remembering that business is a cycle and just as things are bad now, they will turn around and you will be doing well again. The only thing permanent is giving up.

5) Branch Out

When things are slow with your business, you can take the opportunity to do all those things you always wanted to do but never had the time for.

Why not write some articles or an e-book related to your business, then sell them or publish them to earn more money and to further establish your credibility.

Or take a shot at teaching a class on e-commerce, computers, or a topic related to your business at a local college, vocational school, or adult learning center. Even if you don't get paid, the exposure could do great things for your business.

You could also start giving speeches, take some business or technology classes, or take on some part-time work that will give you more experiences that will help you compete in the market when things go back to normal.

Although ups and downs are simply an inevitable part of business, dealing with them effectively can make the difference between staying afloat or going under.

-----------
Vishal P. Rao is the owner of Work at Home Forum, an online community of people who work from home.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Content Ever be Profitable?

THE CURRENT WORRIES

1. Content Suppliers

The Ethos of Free Content

Content Suppliers is the underprivileged sector of the Internet. They all lose money (even sites which offer basic, standardized goods - books, CDs), with the exception of sites profering sex or tourism. No user seems to be grateful for the effort and resources invested in creating and distributing content. The recent breakdown of traditional roles (between publisher and author, record company and singer, etc.) and the direct access the creative artist is gaining to its paying public may change this attitude of ingratitude but hitherto there are scarce signs of that. Moreover, it is either quality of presentation (which only a publisher can afford) or ownership and (often shoddy) dissemination of content by the author. A really qualitative, fully commerce enabled site costs up to 5,000,000 USD, excluding site maintenance and customer and visitor services. Despite these heavy outlays, site designers are constantly criticized for lack of creativity or for too much creativity. More and more is asked of content purveyors and creators. They are exploited by intermediaries, hitch hiker sand other parasites. This is all an off-shoot of the ethos of the Internet as a free content area.

Most of the users like to surf (browse, visit sites) the net without reason or goal in mind. This makes it difficult to apply to the web traditional marketing techniques.

What is the meaning of "targeted audiences" or "market shares" in this context? If a surfer visits sites which deal with aberrant sex and nuclear physics in the same session - what to make of it?

Moreover, the public and legislative backlash against the gathering of surfer's data by Internet ad agencies and other web sites - has led to growing ignorance regarding the profile of Internet users, their demography, habits, preferences and dislikes.

"Free" is a key word on the Internet: it used to belong to the US Government and to a bunch of universities. Users like information, with emphasis on news and data about new products. But they do not like to shop on the net - yet. Only 38% of all surfers made a purchase during 1998.

It would seem that users will not pay for content unless it is unavailable elsewhere or qualitatively rare or made rare. One way to "rarefy" content is to review and rate it.

2. Quality-Rated Content

There is a long term trend of clutter-breaking website-rating and critique. It may have a limited influence on the consumption decisions of some users and on their willingness to pay for content. Browsers already sport "What's New" and "What's Hot" buttons. Most Search Engines and directories recommend specific sites. But users are still cautious. Studies discovered that nouser, no matter how heavy, has consistently re-visited more than 200 sites, a minuscule number. Some recommendation services often produce random - at times, wrong - selections for their users. There are also concerns regarding privacy issues. The backlash against Amazon's "readers circles" is an example. Web Critics, who work today mainly for the printed press, publish their wares on the net and collaborate with intelligent software which hyperlinks to web sites, recommends them and refers users to them. Some web critics (guides) became identified with specific applications - really, expert systems -which incorporate their knowledge and experience. Most volunteer-based directories (such as the "Open Directory" and the late "Go" directory) work this way.

The flip side of the coin of content consumption is investment in content creation, marketing, distribution and maintenance.

3. The Money

Where is the capital needed to finance content likely to come from?

Again, there are two schools:

According to the first, sites will be financed through advertising - and so will search engines and other applications accessed by users.

Certain ASPs (Application Service Providers which rent out access to application software which resides on their servers) are considering this model.

The recent collapse in online advertising rates and click-through rates raised serious doubts regarding the validity and viability of this model. Marketing gurus, such as Seth Godin went as far as declaring "interruption marketing" (=ads and banners) dead.

The second approach is simpler and allows for the existence of non-commercial content.

It proposes to collect negligible sums (cents or fractions of cents) from every user for every visit ("micro-payments"). These accumulated cents will enable the site-owners to update and to maintain them and encourage entrepreneurs to develop new content and invest in it. Certain content aggregators (especially of digital textbooks) have adopted this model (Questia, Fathom).

The adherents of the first school point to the 5 million USD invested in advertising during 1995 and to the 60 million or so invested during 1996.

Its opponents point exactly at the same numbers: ridiculously small when contrasted with more conventional advertising modes. The potential of advertising on the net is limited to 1.5 billion USD annually in 1998, thundered the pessimists. The actual figure was double the prediction but still woefully small and inadequate to support the internet's content development. Compare these figures to the sale of Internet software (4 billion), Internet hardware (3 billion), Internet access provision (4.2 billion in 1995 alone!).

Even if online advertising were to be restored to its erstwhile glory days, other bottlenecks remain. Advertising encourages the consumer to interact and to initiate the delivery of a product to him. This - the delivery phase - is a slow and enervating epilogue to the exciting affair of ordering online. Too many consumers still complain of late delivery of the wrong or defective products.

The solution may lie in the integration of advertising and content. The late Pointcast, for instance, integrated advertising into its news broadcasts, continuously streamed to the user's screen, even when inactive (it had an active screen saver and ticker in a "push technology"). Downloading of digital music, video and text (e-books) leads to the immediate gratification of consumers and increases the efficacy of advertising.

Whatever the case may be, a uniform, agreed upon system of rating as a basis for charging advertisers, is sorely needed. There is also the question of what does the advertiser pay for? The rates of many advertisers (Procter and Gamble, for instance) are based not on the number of hits or impressions (=entries, visits to a site). - but on the number of the times that their advertisement was hit (page views), or clicked through.

Finally, there is the paid subscription model - a flop to judge by the experience of the meagre number of sites of venerable and leading newspapers that are on a subscription basis. Dow Jones (Wall Street Journal) and The Economist. Only two.

All this is not very promising. But one should never forget that the Internet is probably the closest thing we have to an efficient market. As consumers refuse to pay for content, investment will dry up and content will become scarce (through closures of web sites). As scarcity sets in, consumer may reconsider.

Your article deals with the future of the Internet as a medium. Will it be able to support its content creation and distribution operations economically?

If the Internet is a budding medium - then we should derive great benefit from a study of the history of its predecessors.

The Future History of the Internet as a Medium

The internet is simply the latest in a series of networks which revolutionized our lives. A century before the internet, the telegraph, the railways, the radio and the telephone have been similarly heralded as "global" and transforming. Every medium of communications goes through the same evolutionary cycle:

Anarchy

The Public Phase

At this stage, the medium and the resources attached to it are very cheap, accessible, under no regulatory constraints. The public sector steps in : higher education institutions, religious institutions, government, not for profit organizations, non governmental organizations (NGOs), trade unions, etc. Be deviled by limited financial resources, they regard the new medium as a cost effective way of disseminating their messages.

The Internet was not exempt from this phase which ended only a few years ago. It started with a complete computer anarchy manifested in ad hoc networks, local networks, networks of organizations (mainly universities and organs of the government such as DARPA, a part of the defence establishment, in the USA). Non commercial entities jumped on the bandwagon and started sewing these networks together (an activity fully subsidized by government funds). The result was a globe encompassing network of academic institutions. The American Pentagon established the network of all networks, the ARPANET. Other government departments joined the fray, headed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) which withdrew only lately from the Internet.

The Internet (with a different name) became semi-public property - with access granted to the chosen few.

Radio took precisely this course. Radio transmissions started in the USA in 1920. Those were anarchic broadcasts with no discernible regularity. Non commercial organizations and not for profit organizations began their own broadcasts and even created radio broadcasting infrastructure (albeit of the cheap and local kind) dedicated to their audiences. Trade unions, certain educational institution sand religious groups commenced "public radio" broadcasts.

The Commercial Phase

When the users (e.g., listeners in the case of the radio, or owners of PCs and modems in the case of the Internet) reach a critical mass - the business sector is alerted. In the name of capitalist ideology (another religion, really) it demands "privatization" of the medium. This harps on very sensitive strings in every Western soul: the efficient allocation of resources which is the result of competition. Corruption and inefficiency are intuitively associated with the public sector ("Other People's Money" - OPM). This, together with the ulterior motives of members of the ruling political echelons (the infamous American Paranoia), a lack of variety and of catering to the tastes and interests of certain audiences and the automatic equation of private enterprise with democracy lead to a privatization of the young medium.

The end result is the same: the private sector takes over the medium from "below" (makes offers to the owners or operators of the medium that they cannot possibly refuse) - or from "above" (successful lobbying in the corridors of power leads to the appropriate legislation and the medium is "privatized"). Every privatization - especially that of a medium - provokes public opposition. There are (usually founded) suspicions that the interests of the public are compromised and sacrificed on the altar of commercialization and rating. Fears of monopolization and cartelization of the medium are evoked - and proven correct in due course. Otherwise, there is fear of the concentration of control of the medium in a few hands. All these things do happen - but the pace is so slow that the initial fears are forgotten and public attention reverts to fresher issues.

A new Communications Act was enacted in the USA in 1934. It was meant to transform radio frequencies into a national resource to be sold to the private sector which was supposed to use it to transmit radio signals to receivers. In other words: the radio was passed on to private and commercial hands. Public radio was doomed to be marginalized.

The American administration withdrew from its last major involvement in the Internet in April 1995, when the NSF ceased to finance some of the networks and, thus, privatized its hitherto heavy involvement in the net.

A new Communications Act was legislated in 1996. It permitted "organized anarchy". It allowed media operators to invade each other's territories. Phone companies were allowed to transmit video and cable companies were allowed to transmit telephony, for instance. This was all phased over a long period of time - still, it was a revolution whose magnitude is difficult to gauge and whose consequences defy imagination. It carries an equally momentous price tag - official censorship. "Voluntary censorship", to be sure, somewhat toothless standardization and enforcement authorities, to be sure - still, a censorship with its own institutions to boot. The private sector reacted by threatening litigation - but, beneath the surface it is caving in to pressure and temptation, constructing its own censorship codes both in the cable and in the internet media.

Institutionalization

This phase is the next in the Internet's history, though, it seems, few realize it.

It is characterized by enhanced activities of legislation. Legislators, on all levels, discover the medium and lurch at it passionately. Resources which were considered "free", suddenly are transformed to "national treasures not to be dispensed with cheaply, casually and with frivolity".

It is conceivable that certain parts of the Internet will be "nationalized" (for instance, in the form of a licensing requirement) and tendered to the private sector. Legislation will be enacted which will deal with permitted and disallowed content (obscenity ? incitement ? racial or gender bias ?) No medium in the USA (not to mention the wide world) has eschewed such legislation. There are sure to be demands to allocate time (or space, or software, or content, or hardware) to "minorities", to "public affairs", to "community business". This is a tax that the business sector will have to pay to fend off the eager legislator and his nuisance value.

All this is bound to lead to a monopolization of hosts and servers. The important broadcast channels will diminish in number and be subjected to severe content restrictions. Sites which will refuse to succumb to these requirements - will be deleted or neutralized. Content guidelines (euphemism for censorship) exist, even as we write, in all major content providers (CompuServe, AOL, Yahoo!-Geocities, Tripod, Prodigy).

The Bloodbath

This is the phase of consolidation. The number of players is severely reduced. The number of browser types will settle on 2-3 (Netscape, Microsoft and Opera?). Networks will merge to form privately owned mega-networks. Servers will merge to form hyper-servers run on supercomputers in "server farms". The number of ISPs will be considerably cut. 50 companies ruled the greater part of the media markets in the USA in 1983. The number in 1995 was 18. At the end of the century they will number 6.

This is the stage when companies - fighting for financial survival - strive to acquire as many users/listeners/viewers as possible. The programming is shall owed to the lowest (and widest) common denominator. Shallow programming dominates as long as the bloodbath proceeds.

From Rags to Riches

Tough competition produces four processes:

1. A Major Drop in Hardware Prices

This happens in every medium but it doubly applies to a computer-dependent medium, such as the Internet.

Computer technology seems to abide by "Moore's Law" which says that the number of transistors which can be put on a chip doubles every 18 months. As a result of this miniaturization, computing power quadruples every 18 months and an exponential series ensues. Organic-biological-DNA computers, quantum computers, chaos computers - prompted by vast profits and spawned by inventive genius will ensure the continued applicability of Moore's Law.

The Internet is also subject to "Metcalf's Law".

It says that when we connect N computers to a network - we get an increase of N to the second power in its computing processing power. And these N computers are more powerful every year, according to Moore's Law. The growth of computing powers in networks is a multiple of the effects of the two laws. More and more computers with ever increasing computing power get connected and create an exponential 16 times growth in the network's computing power every 18 months.

2. Content Related Fees

This was prevalent in the Net until recently. Even potentially commercial software can still be downloaded for free. In many countries television viewers still pay for television broadcasts - but in the USA and many other countries in the West, the basic package of television channels comes free of charge.

As users / consumers form a habit of using (or consuming) the software - it is commercialized and begins to carry a price tag. This is what happened with the advent of cable television: contents are sold for subscription or per usage (Pay Per View - PPV) fees.

Gradually, this is what will happen to most of the sites and software on the Net. Those which survive will begin to collect usage fees, access fees, subscription fees, downloading fees and other, appropriately named, fees. These fees are bound to be low - but it is the principle that counts. Even a few cents per transaction may accumulate to hefty sums with the traffic which characterizes some web sites on the Net (or, at least its more popular locales).

3. Increased User Friendliness

As long as the computer is less user friendly and less reliable (predictable) than television - less of a black box - its potential (and its future) is limited. Television attracts 3.5 billion users daily. The Internet stands to attract - under the most exuberant scenario - less than one tenth of this number of people. The only reasons for this disparity are (the lack of) user friendliness and reliability. Even browsers, among the most user friendly applications ever -are not sufficiently so. The user still needs to know how to use a keyboard and must possess some basic acquaintance with the operating system. The more mature the medium, the more friendly it becomes. Finally, it will be operated using speech or common language. There will be room left for user "hunches" and built in flexible responses.

4. Social Taxes

Sooner or later, the business sector has to mollify the God of public opinion with offerings of political and social nature. The Internet is an affluent, educated, yuppie medium. It requires literacy and numeracy, live interest in information and its various uses (scientific, commercial, other), a lot of resources (free time, money to invest in hardware, software and connect time). It empowers - and thus deepens the divide between the haves and have-nots, the developed and the developing world, the knowing and the ignorant, the computer illiterate.

In short: the Internet is an elitist medium. Publicly, this is an unhealthy posture. "Internetophobia" is already discernible. People (and politicians) talk about how unsafe the Internet is and about its possible uses for racial, sexist and pornographic purposes. The wider public is in a state of awe.

So, site builders and owners will do well to begin to improve their image: provide free access to schools and community centres, bankroll internet literacy classes, freely distribute contents and software to educational institutions, collaborate with researchers and social scientists and engineers. In short: encourage the view that the Internet is a medium catering to the needs of the community and the underprivileged, a mostly altruist endeavour. This also happens to make good business sense by educating and conditioning a future generation of users. He who visited a site when a student, free of charge - will pay to do so when made an executive. Such a user will also pass on the information within and without his organization. This is called media exposure. The future will, no doubt, will be witness to public Internet terminals, subsidized ISP accounts, free Internet classes and an alternative "non-commercial, public" approach to the Net. This may prove to be one more source of revenue to content creator sand distributors.

About The Author

Sam Vaknin is the author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited" and "After the Rain - How the West Lost the East". He is a columnist in "Central Europe Review", United Press International (UPI) and ebookweb.org and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory, Suite101 and searcheurope.com. Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia.

His web site: http://samvak.tripod.com

Grow Your Business Using B2B Emarketplace - Part II

Selecting the right emarketplace

Although, IT spending has been staying flat for the last several
years, corporate spending in e-business is gaining significant
ground and at present surpasses 20 percent of overall IT budget.

This means, more and more businesses are undertaking ecommerce
initiatives, and as a result increasing sales, streamlining
business processes and dramatically boosting productivity.

Most experts agree that average business, which is slow in
adopting e-business applications, risks loosing its competitive
edge to their more progressive rivals.

Emarketplaces provide with a great opportunity for small to
medium size companies to test online business for a minimal risk.
This is due to the factor that the e-business applications that
come along with an emarketplace membership package are
prohibitively expensive to develop in-house by most companies,
and require large professional workforce to operate. As an
example: product content development with required attributes,
suitable for e-business, itself might feel like a daunting task
for most offline companies.

So, as a company, what should be your first step in starting
e-business through emarketplaces?

Naturally, out of hundreds of emarketplaces available today,
you have to find one that matches all your requirements.
Choosing right kind of emarketplace

In best case scenario, if yours is a large enough company,
you should build your private emarketplace with all the
necessary features specific to your business. The potential
of having your own emarketplace is amazing!

- Ecommerce will add value to your existing business transactions

- Your present suppliers will be able to post most updated information on their products via e-catalog and their storefront

- You can build community from your present buyers and supplier, or invite members on the Internet

- Real time marketplace will allow you to take quick buying and selling decision

- Both buyers and sellers can contact you through Instant Messaging System

- Your entire supply chain process can be managed from one place

- You can issue real time purchase tenders with either limited access only to your community members or open to public

- Sell your stock lots through online auction

- Brand you emarketplace and establish your company as a serious online player within your Industry

However, as I mentioned earlier, if you are not a very big company,
you will probably be better off with a membership in an established
emarketplace.

If you are a manufacturer, wholesaler or a buyer of certain
industry specific products or services, your best choice would be
a vertical emarketplace that caters specially your industry. For
example: if you buy or sell fish, you should look for an emarketplace
that deals with this product only. Another thing that you should
keep in mind is how geographically limited your business is. If you
buy and sell fish within the locality of your state or region, if
available, get an emarketplace that works in your region.

Totally different story, if you carry large number of products
from different industries; for you a horizontal marketplace that
cater a range of industries is a better choice. If you are an
international trader involved in import or export, you should select
a global emarketplace, which has members from the countries you
deal with.

Features that are must

A good emarketplace amasses various features in order to facilitate
smooth transactions of business deals. However, there are some key
attributes that are absolutely necessary for any emarketplace to
become successful; and as a prospective member you should look for
these features and characteristics while choosing an emarketplace
for yourself.

Product catalog based on an industry-standard classification system
While it might not look so important from the surface; to have
accurate, well-defined and timely-updated product content is
extremely crucial for any online business. Since you have to
integrate your product catalog to the aggregated electronic catalog
of the emarketplace, which could be a very complex task, you should
make sure that the classification system that they have is widely
used online; and if necessary you can use same product content with
other emarketplaces or e-procurement applications.

The best option, as I believe, is based on The Universal Standard
Products and Services Classification (UNSPSC), which is a global
coding system that classifies products and services. This
categorization scheme covers the broadest collection of industries
and commodities available today, and designed to facilitate
e-commerce transactions by providing geography-independent common
nomenclature system.

Product search capability within the marketplace and e-catalog
Members of the emarketplace should be able to locate any product
or service, whether in the auctions, marketplaces, or in the catalog
with ease. Advanced search function should allow finding required
items using precise query.

Supply chain process, i.e. request for quote, quotation, purchase
order, billing system, etc.
Efficient supply chain management is the number one strategic priority
for many businesses. In 2001, Cisco System alone had to write off
US $2.5 billion in excess inventories due to poor management of its
numerous outsourcing contractors.
E-marketplaces can help streamlining your supply chain process if
the required features are embedded in their system.

Directory of members
Usually most emarketplaces incorporate a searchable directory of
their members. The members get an added opportunity of creating
new business relations and increasing sales thanks to this feature.

Product content adding and editing interface
In order to make product content adding and maintaining easier
for sellers, the marketplace must have an uncomplicated tool.
The tool could be a wizard-based combination of simple forms.
To integrate larger catalogs speedily and efficiently the
emarketplace should have XML based interface.

Ability to promote products and services
The process of posting an offer for sale of a product or a service
on the marketplace should be simple and easy but sophisticated
enough to create dynamic offer, offer with time limit, variable
pricing based on quantity, etc.

Apart from the above mentioned functionalities that facilitate
conducting e-business, other key characteristics of a quality
e-marketplace should include:

Simplicity – An emarketplace should be easy to learn and use.
Large Community – The quantity of members should be big enough,
so that new participants can expand their business.
Flexibility – Emarketplace functions should be flexible enough
to modify or add with new features when necessary.
Neutrality – The emarketplace should be an unbiased venue for
both sellers and buyers. No member should have any privilege
at the expense of others. Providing an open and transparent
market for all the participants is an important constituent
of the value proposition of an emarketplace.

Cost of doing business through e-marketplace

In general, thanks to the large member base, e-marketplaces
charge a reasonable subscription fee if you would like to
participate in it. Many emarketplaces also charge a nominal
fee for each trade made using their facilities. Other costs
involved, that you should consider, are internal workforce
needed to handle business via emarketplace, catalog
integration and maintaining, etc. In any case, the cost of
doing business through emarketplaces is negligible for most
businesses compare to the gains they make.

Get your partners involved

If you just build a corporate website and don’t spend
required time and money to promote, it won’t bring any
business. Same goes for emarketplace! Mere participation in
an emarketplace also will not produce any significant
benefit if you don’t convince your existing buyers and
suppliers to work with you through your chosen emarketplace.

Nowshade Kabir is the founder, primary developer and present CEO of Rusbiz.com. He has Ph. D. degree in Information Technology. Dr. Kabir has over 12 years of experience in International Trade and has worked as an advisor to several government projects. You can contact him at mailto:nowshade[at]rusbiz.com, http://ezine.rusbiz.com, http://www.rusbiz.com

Making Freelance Writing Niche Types Fit: A Few Niche Types by Definition and Description

Our Freelance Writing Needs Defined

We must make freelance niche types fit our needs, wants,
values and lifestyles, and we also must make ourselves fit
freelance niche types. Of our waking hours, we work more
than we do anything else. I keep this in mind when college
students come to me concerned about what to do for a living,
and I tell them (because I want them happy) to do what they
love. I also tell them (because I believe in the truth) to
do what they are good at.

The same goes for freelance writers. If we are talented, we
have a chance. If we have a severe work ethic we have a
better chance. And if we are devoted enough and relentless
enough (and¡¬™ahem--masochistic enough) about writing for a
living, we will be able to put on our vitaes that we are
indeed professional writers. But in order to do and be so,
we best find the freelance writing niche types or type we
will be spectacular at, staking out a corner in the niche
market, one which we¡¯ll bring passion to every morning as
that damned alarm (later a wonderful thing) sounds.

Niche Defined

From the Italian-derived French for nicchia, "a shell-like
recess in a wall," a niche is an inset, concave enclosure.
It is this little enclosure we freelance writers need to
find, study, practice, and own. It is the small area of
specialty we make ours and offer to those in need. So the
smaller (and therefore the less competitive) the better.

We in the freelance writing business and those of us working
to get into it have plenty of industries to work with:

Advertising

B2B (Business to Business)

B2C (Business to Customer/Client)

Entertainment

Finance

Medicine

Non-profit

Publishing (online/offline)

Recreation

Research/Marketing

Real Estate

Science

Technology

Niche Types Defined

And for every industry there are tens of freelance writing niche types:

Creative Writing- I¡¯ll say again from my lofty loft of
opinions that I believe all writing is creative, as it is
generative. My point is affirmed when we look at all of the
kinds of writing projects a creative freelancer can do or
get into, from magazine articles about bushwackers and
George Bush to books about needlepoint and pine cone needles
and needling family members to¡­

Ghost Writing- Ghost writing is a popular preferred
choice of many clients, even those who have hung out a
writer shingle (or banner) and outsource the assignments,
collect them, pay us (hopefully well), and put their own
names on the work, be it a booklet or a book, a piece of web
copy or a piece of ad copy.

Proposal and Business Plan Writing- For profit or not,
businesses need writers to create proposals that show need
and get that need satisfied¡¬™monetarily. As there is with
all freelance writing niche types, with proposal and plan
writing a freelancer has the skill sets and experience to
prepare documents that will be convincing enough that if the
client needs hot soup sold in hell the writer will be able
to deliver. I have written two successful proposals and a
number of grant proposal reports (that ensured continuation
of the grant). They are somewhat interesting, but only to
those writers with a particular finesse for a cross between
technical and creative/dynamic writing.

PR (Public Relations) Writing- PR writers do concept copy
or concept to completion work in a number of media, writing
ad copy, doing the layout, and designing such items as
brochures, newsletters, press releases, media kits, and
more, to achieve the ultimate goal for the client: name
branding.

Technical Writing- Involving everything technical, from
professional, consumer, and user manuals to white papers,
technical writing depends upon a writer¡¯s ability to
organize, synchronize, structure, and develop the details of
technical content.

Web Content Writing- To meet the client¡¯s goals of web
presence and online branding using highly trafficked,
sticky websites/pages, the web content developer or
producer writes what are known as KRPs, keyword-rich pages.
This particular wave of freelance niche types was discovered
(years ago) to be most beneficial as SEO, search-engine
optimizing/optimized/ optimization, text (or content).

While I also specialize in mental health/disability writing
and creative and memoir writing, web content development is
one of my favorite freelance niche types. To get the
keywordphrase keywordphrase keywordphrase construction
clear, engaging, and entertaining while keeping it from
doing a hideous grammatical/ rhetorical pileup is a
challenge I look forward to every morning.

Hey, it beats the alarm clock jangling, signaling the dread
of having to punch a card at a factory or see the boss off
to work so I can clean her toilets and scrub her floors. Of
course, there's no shame in those jobs­. I did them for
years to get through grad school. But that's more to do
with the other definition of niche: "the status of an
organism within its environment/community, affecting its
survival as a species."

And besides, I love writing so much, much more. It's a
much better fit, one I wish for all of you who adore the
writing process as much as I adore it.*

--------------------------------------------------------

*If this is the case, you definitely need to check out the
pages on my site with web content and writing niche samples,
articles that exemplify good, tight, even humorous writing
and that are about writing at the same time.

Works Consulted

Bly, Robert W.. Secrets of a Freelance Writer: How to Make
$85,000 a Year. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1988.

Hyperdictionary. WEBNOX CORP., 2000-2003
7
Dec. 2004.

Konradt, Brian. “Creating a Specialty.” Write from Home. <
http://www.writefromhome.com/writingtradearticles/145.
htm> 7 Dec. 2004.

N.H.-born prize-winning poet, creative nonfiction writer, memoirist, and award-winning Assoc. Prof. of English, Roxanne is also web content and freelance writer/founder of http://www.roxannewrites.com, a support site for academic, memoir, mental disability, and creative writers who need a nudge, a nod, or just ideas…of which Roxanne has 1,000s, so do stop in for a visit, as this sentence can’t possibly get any longer….

Sunday, February 1, 2009

SEO Web Design - Create Online Business Presence

At present, the demand for SEO web design service is increasing day-by-day as it plays a significant role in creating a successful web presence for online business. A perfect website meets the requirements and vision of the clients highlighting their products and services, and effectively drawing more and more customers.

Entertain, Inform and Bring Customers Back

Search engine optimization and web design services focus on creating informative and appealing websites with high-impact graphics and interactive solutions. Effective search engine optimization can successfully market your website, enabling it to gain a competitive edge, increase online visibility, increase sales revenue, make your business more efficient, and bring in more enquires. Moreover, it offers the highest levels of accessibility and usability.

Benefit from Dynamic Websites

Design and develop a successful website with excellent graphic design and other features. To create a professional image for your company in an eye-catching way, websites are developed with key features - user interface, Flash animation and more. A lot of graphical images, active databases, splash entrance pages, web forms, shopping cart, storefront, auction and product imaging are incorporated to make your simple website e-commerce enabled. SEO web design service package includes:

• Website design and development
• e-business consulting
• Product imaging
• Search engine optimization
• Audio and video integration
• Complete e-commerce website production

Usually, a professional website designer creates an extremely attractive website with SEO in mind by identifying the target market, online competition and the right keywords.

How to Select Experts - Web Design Service and SEO Solutions

A number of web design and development firms offer SEO web design services to make a lasting impression for your business, and thereby ensure it a strong web presence. With so many web design companies around, try to select one with high professional standards and expertise in all aspects of design and SEO works.

Viral SEO Services offers high quality SEO web design services for the clients. Avail of our website SEO solutions to improve your search engine rankings and produce a higher return on your investment.

e commerce web site design company