Down

Over the past 12 months many companies and industries have felt the effects of down-turn in the United States economy and our path towards the current economic recession. Large corporations such as Circuit City and Linens and Things have closed their doors and held large sales to sell any remaining products. As many of the larger business begin to close their doors it can open up many opportunities for smaller new companies and entrepreneurs to setup shop and try to make their way in to a unique niche market.

Despite the recession, there are always opportunities to generate a small second income with a minimal investment and a good deal of effort. The online directory market is still popular because companies need to be found by potential customers who are willing to spend a little money to gain products and services and keep the economy turning. People are still spending money, and it can take a directory of businesses to help people find and be found.

With the eDirectory platform you can create an online networking community where businesses and consumers can come together. One of the most beneficial aspects of the eDirectory software during the current state of the economy is the low startup costs and how your directory will come pre-populated with information of your choice. The eDirectory startup platform offers 3 packages the basic, eCommerse, and Owned License. The basic package can be up and running for less than $1500 and includes the leased license, hosting, portal package, full day on-site training, as well as 1000 business listings to get you started.

This starter package is ample to get you started on making a bit of secondary income during times of economic depression. From there it takes a bit of patience and a lot of hard work to get your directory out to the public and make the public aware of the new products that you are offering to them.

Starter Kits to Meet Current Demands

Since money is tight, is it really a good time to start an online business? You bet, according to Entrepreneur magazine.

“To begin with, internet startups have low overhead and startup costs–as low as $3,000, thanks in part to inexpensive, yet robust e-commerce software and services on the market. What’s more, the business can be set up in a home office attended to at nights and on weekends, allowing new entrepreneurs to keep their day jobs. In addition, many budding entrepreneurs can set up their online businesses in less than one week,” outlines Entrepreneur.com.

What separates successful start-ups from those that fail during economic downturns? Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs co-director and Professor of Management Raffi Amit says entrepreneurs who get started now “will be in a better position because they will be lean and super efficient with less competition.” He notes that a positive side effect of the economy is the ability to negotiate with vendors for better deals, which helps reduce expenses.

We, at eDirectory, are one step ahead.  We are proud to announce our new Starter Kits.  With these, you get the eDirectory software, hosting, our portal package, business listings and on-site training from one of our professional trainers for a very low price.  These kits have the essentials for getting a business off the ground including the personalized advice that you will get from our customized training session.

These offering have been designed to keep your efforts simple.  You purchase the license, we populate your directory with listings and then you get trained on how to sell your directory so that you can get business advertising dollars.

While it will be challenging to compete with the major retailors, with our innovative software and the business know-how that we provide, you will have the essential ingredients during this recession while so many other people wait to ride out the current economic times.

Video Killed the Radio Star

The social media environment is the next wave of effective marketing. Social media is  defined as ‘information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable  publishing technologies that is intended to facilitate communications, influence adn  interaction with peers adn public audiences, typically via the internet and mobile  communications. (Wikipedia, 2009). One of the most popular forms of socail media is making  a video and posting them online.

Almost all internet users have either viewed or posted this form of social media online.  Some of most popular video postings sites on the net today include YouTubeGoogle Video,  Vimeo, and Yahoo Video.  These sites allow users to post videos, some free of charge, as  well as search and view and almost endless variety of videos. One of the nice things many  of these sites allow a video viewer to do is add the video URL or video snippet code to  their own personal site.

The eDirectory software allows many of its members to post videos to thier listings. The  video feature, available via snippet code only, is pre-built into the Showcase business  listings only. Here is an example of what the video snippet code looks like that needs to  be entered into the eDirectory:
[message type="custom"]<object width=”425″ height=”344″><param name=”movie”  value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/lnRJlY2lKC0&hl=en&fs=1″></param><param  name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess”  value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/lnRJlY2lKC0&hl=en&fs=1″  type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true”  width=”425″ height=”344″></embed></object>[/message]
Adding a video into a listing can be a great took to enhance the users experience while  viewing their listing and information about their company. It allows for the user to gain a  large amount of knowledge about the company in a short period of time and can be created to  be catchy and entertaining as well. A video, accompanied with a strong write-up about the  company can be a great partner in highlighting the visitor about the strenghts of the  company and encourage visitors to contact or continue reading about the company.

Forecasting Sales

Sales forecasting is the practice of analyzing so that you can estimate what your sales will be. Key steps that you need to undertake are:

• Understand trends in your industry
• Determine the size of your market
• List your competitors
• Refer to last year’s figures

Understanding trends in your industry

Experience may have taught you that about 20% of your customers account for 80% of your sales. You should identify the 20% and then develop a profile of your market. An example of this would be: 20% of my customers are medium businesses from large cities in the U.S. They are purchasing agents in the Finance industry. While their pockets are deep, they tend to go with the lowest bidder.
Learn about the trends that drive this market by doing research with trade magazines and online sites where this demographic may reside.

Determine the size of your market

Know how big your trading area is and gather as many available statistics of this area that you can. If you’re a retailer, for example, you will want to know how far people tend to travel in order to shop. How much does the average household spend?
Establish the approximate size and location of your planned trading area. Use available statistics to determine the general characteristics of this area. Use local sources to determine unique characteristics about your trading area. You can get detailed information from the Chamber of Commerce or even use your local directory to determine the size and characteristics of your market.

List your competition

Who are the companies that you tend to hear about often? Are you in a crowded space or does your company stand out as being one of the few offering your product or service? You should estimate what percentage of overall sales you will get when compared to your competitors. If you’re a market leader, there is no reason that you should get a nice sized slice of the pie. Determining where you stand against your competitors will help you figure out how to forecast incoming revenue.

Refer to Last Year

You should look at sales revenues from the same months in previous years to use a base to determine incoming sales for the upcoming year. You can adjust these figures with the rate of general growth in your industry. So, if your industry expects a 10% growth in sales, you can use last year’s figures and increase them by 10%. Other factors that can impact last year’s figures can include the economy, different sales size, new products and or/services.

Omaha Stylee

I have decided to resurrect an old topic, because it is so important to drawing immediate attention to your directory. Style Customization! Having a unique look and feel to the directory can help separate you from the competition. One of the most important things to supply to the design team when beginning a style customization to the eDirectory is a quality mockup. A mockup is a layout model of what you would like the final look of the site; it provides a visual presentation of the website structure.

When beginning to create a mockup or when you are searching the internet for a premade template it is important to consider the following list of questions:

  1. What is your business area? (Look for a mockup that fits well in your industry)
  2. Which basic modules do you want customized?
  3. Describe the content you want in the following area: Left Column, Right Column, Middle Column
  4. What are the items you want in the top and bottom navigation bar.
  5. What are your color preferences?

When providing a mockup for the application of a design to the eDirectory we look for the following file types:

  • Photoshop (PSD)
  • PNG Files
  • Zip Files containing the .html / .css files

It is best to include a mockup of the Homepage of the Directory; Front, Results and Detail pages for each module you wish to have customized, as well as pages illustrating the layout of the Advertise with Us page and the Contact Us page. To accompany the specified files, it can help to have a detailed word document further outlining what is in the files.

If you are unsure of the final design of your site there are many reference areas you can use to help you come to a conclusion regarding your design. You can do the following:

  1. Create several rough drafts and compile them into a final solution
  2. Review current websites to help you gather ideas for your own
  3. Review and purchase pre-made templates from sites such as Template Monster, Dream Template, or Theme Forest.
  4. Consult a website designer to discuss your needs and design a completely custom template

Designing the look and feel of your site can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of beginning a new online business and directory because it allows your inner creativity to come out. It also helps you to create a look and feel that you think will draw visitors to your site and take you ahead of the competition.

What is Customer Service?

Simple Question RIGHT?

Wikipedia defines customer service as:
“Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.”

In the marketplace today it seems that more and more companies are abandoning the idea of good old fashioned customer service. I will try and related a couple of personal stories that will contrast the two ways I see service.

Bad Customer Services: (true story)

Recently a co-worker and I went to a major fast food chain with a local advert that was sent to me in the mail. Upon arriving we placed our order and things went horribly wrong. To keep the story short, it took over 10 minutes to PLACE the order. During this time the manager berated her employees in front of us, and made zero attempts to make the situation right for me the customer that had been standing here for over 10 minutes trying to order food, and pay them. We left quite upset over the lack of any customer service.

I then went the extra mile to help the company and reported the incident to the head office. This proved to only show the reason that their was no customer service in the local stores. I was bounced around on the corporate phone system, and when I got a person who said they would help, they took my story and said she will tell someone. Never once did she offer to make the problem whole with me the client. Furthermore she never even asked for my contact details so she could try and followup.

Good Customer Service: (true story)

Just this past sunday, my wife and I were at our local mega pet store picking up some more cat supplies (food, litter, catnip etc). Now, I am a pet person, and so I would love to have a dog, but the apartment we live in only allows 2 pets and our two cats.  Well I was explaining to my wife my love of my previous fish tanks, and so now we are shopping for tanks.

While at the local store, I was looking at my options, and started talking to the local sales guy about the options etc they offered. He turned out to be a big fish guy, and even suggested that a sale at his store might not be the best option. He explained that there are a couple of local shops that would be able to offer me more of a selection and maybe a better price.

When we went to checkout, he was also there helping out on the registers as the lines got backed up, and it was a pleasure to see him going the extra mile for clients. He stopped the lines to go and get a client checking out a product that she forgot to pick up.

So we come back around to the question of the day “What is Customer Service”. If we go purely off the definition, then our first company did not perform any actions to enhance the level of customer satisfaction, where as the second went above and beyond and clearly met my expectations.

Here at eDirectory (ArcaSolutions), we strive to be the second and work hard to avoid the first of our examples. This is seen in our sales process with live chat, phone and email sales assistance. To our support team providing on/off hour support via email, phone, ticketing system. To our custom dev teams, where we assign a personal project manager to your project so you do not have to explain your customization to the next guy each time you call. We clearly are focused on the area of “enhancing the level of customer satisfaction” for each and every customer as part of our DNA.

Now the question comes back around to you as a business owner or even shopper (online/offline). What is customer service to you? Do you really care when you are shopping for your ipod warmer that you may never talk to the store, and their website is kind of sparse with information, or do you need more. What is your customer service experience level needs, and what do you do when you feel your expectations are not met. I welcome you all to head over to our forums, and share your experiences either with your eDirectory product, or with some other company positive or negative. I am very interested about your stories.

We Don’t Need No Education

Content Management System (CMS): “is a computer application used to create, edit, manage, search and publish various kinds of digital media and electronic text. CMSs are frequently used for storing, controlling, versioning, and publishing industry-specific documentation such as news articles, operators’ manuals, technical manuals, sales guides, and marketing brochures.” (Wikipedia, 2009)

Some of the largest CMS systems available today are included in programs such as Joomla, Word Press, Ektron, Dolphin, and Light CMS etc. eDirectory’s CMS capabilities work in the same manor as these, but specializing in the directory website niche. The major advantage of a CMS though is not only the ease at which you can deploy or manage a website, you must also consider the ROI.  A CMS system such as WordPress, Joomla,eDirectory reduces the time to market, but also reduces the need for staff to update and manage the system.  This in turn lowers your development and maintenance costs creating a much higher ROI on the project.

When beginning the process of building a new website that contains an intricate CMS system it is important to be well versed on the ins and outs of the system and the aspects of the CMS that you can control and how those controls relate to the front of the website. The eDirectory system is built on a highly detailed and well organized CMS system called the sitemgr. This sitemgr area allows the directory owner to manage directory members, directory content, and add or remove any of their own unique content they wish to add into one of the site content areas.

One of the most important things a new directory owner can do it is to familiarize themselves with the eDirectory CMS system so once the directory is live to the public they will have been able to add unique content in the site content areas. This will also help you server your customer listing requests and questions much quicker as well. One unique thing the CMS system allows you to do is place your own unique content into certain areas within the directory. This unique content can help visitors to your site understand the meaning of you site and the benefits of adding a paid listing. The constant updates will help visitors see new text content as well as see new listings once they are approved by the sitemgr in the CMS system.