9 Powerful Social Networking Sites for Women Entrepreneurs

by A. Michelle Blakeley

What is the real power behind women entrepreneurs? A study by the Center for Women’s Business Research shows that women now own 40 percent of private firms, women-owned businesses generate about $3 trillion in revenue, and employ 16 percent of the workforce; making them significant players in the national economy. In addition, the study found that 85 percent of women surveyed do not believe being a woman is detrimental to their business success, and 32 percent believe being a woman is beneficial.

There is power in being a woman entrepreneur. There is even more power in the collaborations that are formed among women business owners. Whether your product or service is exclusively for women or not, you simply cannot deny the intrinsic inclination to support each other and champion each other’s cause. Why not use that to our advantage? The real power in women entrepreneurs lies in our ability to connect, support and encourage each other straight to the top!

Below are 9 powerful social networking sites for women entrepreneurs. CAUTION: Your business could increase and expand if used wisely.

  • Empower Me! – From blogs to websites to networks and everything in between, there is something for every woman. @talentdiva
  • Diversity Woman – Executive network for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds.
  • International Black Women’s Collaborative – The perfect platform for creating new personal and business connections. Live Local and Think Global!
  • Ladies Who Launch – Find information on successful women entrepreneurs as well as resources for women. Ladies Who Launch is an online and offline social network that provides opportunities for women to move their businesses and personal goals forward. @ladieswholaunch
  • Minority Women on the Rise – profiles successful women entrepreneurs from coast to coast, who are successfully running thriving businesses. @sylviabrowder
  • Pink Magazine – PINK represents more than a color. It´s a badge of honor celebrating a global mission of equity and opportunity – a movement acknowledging all that women are today and will be tomorrow.
  • Savor the Success – is a social network that connects entrepreneurial, professional, and creative women while helping to build big dreams in a real way @savorthesuccess
  • Women Owned – information, tools, networking opportunities and advice that has helped hundreds of thousands of women. Women just like you – starting or growing their business.
  • Women’s Peer Network – Only join if you want to improve your business contacts. @thebizwoman

Remember, use these networks to help develop your personal support team, strong collaborations and collective influence. Connect with the appropriate people, your ideal potential clients, those who serve your ideal potential clients, decision makers and be sure to make a few friends!

Be mindful of the time you spend networking. Have a purpose, listen twice as much as you speak and give until your heart is content. Girl Power!

Do you know of more sites? Please add them to the comments.

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A.Michelle Blakeley is the Founder and CEO of Simplicity, Inc.; a progressive small business development firm. She manages her clients’ business expectations and prevents information overload via Micro Business Therapy™ and Micro Business Action Plans. She is also the host of Simple Truths: Intelligent. Insightful. Informed. on BlogTalkRadio.com.

Virtual Trade Shows: More Cost-Effective Way of Generating Leads?

by Melanie Lindner

Want to save a bundle generating leads? Follow these steps.

Nine Steps For Tackling A Virtual Trade Show

Trade shows are an expensive but necessary part of doing business for David Appelbaum, senior vice president of marketing for BigFix, an Emeryville, Calif.-based information-technology security software maker.

“In the tech industry, you have to participate in trade shows to generate new leads,” says Appelbaum. “The problem is the uneven playing field for small and medium businesses. Bigger firms with a lot of money can get premium booth space, podium presentation time and top advertising on event programs and lanyard name tags. With the cost of your booth rental and all of that extra promotion you could easily spend up to $100,000 per show.”

Traditional trade shows have long been a convention-center-sized hassle. “At a physical show, you have hundreds of vendors in a crowded, noisy exhibit hall with competing messages,” says Appelbaum. “It’s really hard to know who’s worth talking to.” Throw in a recession and it’s little wonder that overall trade show revenue ($12 billion at last count in the U.S.) is expected to contract nearly 7% this year.

In Pictures: Nine Steps For Tackling A Virtual Trade Show

Hence the rise of virtual trade shows, designed to look and function like the real thing but that play out in real time in cyberspace. Entry fee: just $3,000 to $8,000. Better yet, you don’t need to be a computer wizard to participate. Revenue generated by North American web events hit $156 million last year, according to Frost & Sullivan’s 2009 World Web Events Services Market Report.

These virtual events can be designed to look like a convention center (complete with lobby, exhibit hall and networking lounge), a college campus, the top of a skyscraper in Paris, or anywhere else in the world. The savvier the crowd, the more realistic  and compelling the show. “I’ve been doing this for seven years, and one of the biggest changes I’ve seen is the improvement in computer skills of the sponsors and attendees,” says the founder of  an Illinois-based virtual events design firm. “More businesspeople are comfortable navigating through virtual space.”

Show hosts (event producers) pay an event firm $20,000 to $50,000 to create the custom virtual environment; they make the money back by charging exhibitors fees to set up their booths, make presentations and even buy additional, premium advertising.

Getting Started

Before you invest a dime in showcasing at a virtual trade show, get a feel for the environment. (Most shows are free for attendees.) You can also contact the show host (producer) to arrange a demo walk-through. “Browse” the booths and listen to a few seminars to get a feel for the style and length of presentations.

Unlike in the physical world, setting up a booth eats all of 30 minutes and takes no sweat. Some virtual design companies will construct a booth free of charge; all you have to do is set up a brief phone call to lay out the general design, and send them your materials (white papers, logos and audio and video clips) for formatting. If you’d rather do it yourself, you can log onto the web design firm Web site and work within a template wizard that walks you through the process.

Generating Leads

As for placement, “It absolutely helps drive attendees if you pay for prime real estate in the virtual exhibit hall,” says the founder of a virtual design firm. Generally, attendees “enter” the exhibit hall from one main doorway, so getting near that portal is important. Prime placement could run a few thousand dollars more, but it’s still significantly cheaper than a bad spot at a physical show for $25,000.

During designated show days (some events run a single day, others go on for months), have a representative from your company logged in and prepared to engage booth visitors. When an attendee visits your booth, their name appears in a sidebar list of all the people present, and you can greet them in the form of an instant message. When you IM visitors, they immediately see your name, business affiliation and title; for more information, they can click on your name to view your profile.

“Last month I worked my booth while on a flight from Atlanta to Portland,” says Jeff Pedowitz, chief executive of Alpharetta, Ga.-based marketing firm the Pedowitz Group. Pedowitz recently set up a virtual booth at the B-to-B Magazine show, where he says he ginned up some 50 leads for his marketing services. Not a bad return for a $5,000 investment.

Even Santa and NORAD Understand the Value of Social Media Marketing

Just when you might think you’ve heard it all, now small businesses can take a lesson from Santa!A recent article describes a comprehensive social media strategy recently put in place by NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) to track Santa’s progress this holiday season. While obviously meant to be a fun activity, closer reading of the story actually displays a well thought out and comprehensive Social Media Marketing Strategy that small business owners would do well to emulate in their own marketing efforts!

So take a lesson from Santa and consider what Social  Media Marketing can do to help you grow your business.  Visit our website to learn more about Social Media Marketing, and if you need assistance developing your own Social Media Marketing Strategy, please feel free to contact the experts at Strategic Growth Concepts via email at info@StrategicGrowthConcepts.com or via our website by clicking HERE.

NORAD Expands Santa Tracking Web Services

by WWJ Great Lakes IT Report

And here you thought all they did was patrol the skies for the bad guys! Heck no, even the North American Aerospace Defense Command need to have some fun.The NORAD Tracks Santa Web site, www.noradsanta.org, is now live and features fun holiday games and activities that change daily. The Web site is available in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Chinese.On Dec. 24, the Web site will track Santa Claus’ annual trip, streaming videos, captured by NORAD “Santa Cams,” from numerous cities along Santa’s journey.This year, children and the young-at-heart are able to track Santa through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and TroopTube.mil. To follow Santa on any of these Web sites, type in @noradsanta into the search engine and start your tracking.Also new this year: Detroit-based OnStar is partnering with NORAD to provide OnStar subscribers with live Santa updates as they travel in their vehicles on Christmas Eve. Subscribers simply push the blue OnStar button to get status reports on Santa’s whereabouts.Also new and beginning at midnight Mountain time Dec. 24 (2 a.m. Eastern time), visitors to the Web site can watch Santa as he prepares his sleigh, checks his list, and goes through all his preparations to ensure he has a successful journey.

As soon as Santa takes off from the North Pole, children can also track him with up-to-the-minute Google Maps and Google Earth reports.

Santa trackers will begin answering phones and replying to email at 4 a.m. Mountain time (6 a.m. Eastern time) on Christmas Eve. Children of all ages can call the NTS toll free number (877) Hi-NORAD (446-6723) or send an email to noradtrackssanta@gmail.com
 
The NTS program is carried out with the assistance of many corporate partners. Booz Allen Hamilton has designed the NTS Web site. Other sponsors helping with the event include Verizon, who donates the toll-free number, Time Warner, Avaya and PCI provide communications engineering, while OnStar, 5 Star Bank, Pepsi Distributing and First Choice Awards and Gifts keep the trackers happy with food, beverages and souvenir tracking pins.
 
The NTS program began on Dec. 24, 1955, after a phone call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The call was from a local youngster who dialed a misprinted telephone number in a local newspaper advertisement. The commander at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colo. who answered the phone that night gave the youngster the information requested — the whereabouts of Santa. This began the tradition of tracking Santa, a tradition that was carried on by NORAD when it was formed in 1958.
 
The NTS program has grown immensely since first presented on the Internet in 1998. The Web site receives millions of unique visitors from hundreds of countries and territories around the world. In addition, the NTS Operations Center will be occupied for 25 hours with over 1,200 volunteers on Christmas Eve, who will be receiving hundreds of thousands phone calls and emails from families around the world.

The Most Expensive Mistakes Made by Small Business Owners

 By Kevin Hagen, Associated Content, Huffington Post

By avoiding some common costly mistakes, you can significantly improve your chances of making your business a success.

Small business owners may start out with high expectations, but according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, roughly 50 percent of them will fail within the first five years. Reasons for failure can be as varied as the risks involved in starting and managing any business. But there are some common mistakes that small business owners make that if avoided, can lead to the ultimate success and sustainability of their businesses.

Lack of planning. A great idea can be the inspiration for a small business, but the proper planning is what will get that venture off to a good start and keep it on track. As Steve Strauss, author of the “Small Business Bible,” points out, being aware of potential business problems before they arise is one way to avoid them. Every small business needs a realistic and comprehensive business plan, based on accurate and objective information. The plan should include a clear description of the business, the owner’s goals and the keys to success. It should also include an analysis of the competition, a marketing plan to position the business’ products and services, and a budget and cash flow projections.

Borrowing too much. Initial high expectations can work against small business owners when they lead to borrowing too much. It may take some time to start generating profits; large monthly debt payments in the early stages can sap critical cash flow that would be better invested in marketing and developing the business.

Spending too much. While a small business owner needs to have the necessary facilities and resources, spending too much on equipment and furniture, hiring too many employees and renting too much space can place too heavy a load on a start-up business. As pointed out by Nolo, it’s better to start on a shoestring. Then the business can be built up as it starts to generate profits and a positive cash flow.

Insufficient capital. While borrowing too much can sink a small business, insufficient capital can also derail even the best-laid plans. As indicated by Business Know-How, many small business owners underestimate how much money they will need and are forced to close before they have even had a chance to succeed. Small businesses can often take up to a year or more to really get going. It’s vital to have enough working capital to survive that period.

Inadequate pricing. Jay Goltz, writing for CNN Money, describes a home furnishings boutique that had great products and growing revenues, yet it was losing money. Goltz explains that entrepreneurs tend to concentrate on what they love. But every small business owner must also be the CFO. In the case of the home furnishings boutique, not paying sufficient attention to finances resulted in overlooking the need to raise prices.

Not seeking advice. In the Puget Sound Business Journal, Dennis and Margaret Purvine tell of a small business owner who landed a big contract, but because of an unusual pricing model and some onerous terms, the business ended up losing money on the deal. If the small business owner had consulted with an attorney to review the contract, this mistake could have been avoided. A small business owner may be an expert in a chosen field, but a small business needs help from legal, accounting, tax and other experts.
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Let the consultants at Strategic Growth Concepts help you avoid these mistakes and others so your company can continue to achieve growth.  Click HERE to be contacted for a FREE initial consultation.
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