May 21, 2013: Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (NOHCC) members learned how to market their businesses better and manage their time more efficiently and cheaply during a presentation at the organization’s May meeting held at the Herzing University-Toledo campus.
Representatives from TOAST.net, a Toledo-based Internet service provider founded in 1996, showed NOHCC members trends, tips, and tricks that can help them communicate better with customers, run their operations more smoothly, and market to a broader array of buyers.
“I think small business owners are so busy sometimes that they feel they don’t have time to utilize business development through web services,” said Robert Torres, NOHCC executive director. “Services like TOAST.net allow you to target certain markets in a way that fits small businesses through the Internet.”
The NOHCC executive director pointed out many Latino small business owners are experts in their given profession—whether a contractor, insurance agent, or some other industry. But the business side of things such as marketing and sales fall to the wayside when they’re trying to keep jobs completed on time, handling payroll, or other immediate concerns.
“They showed us how easy it actually is to run their own website for an inexpensive price,” said Torres. “I think a lot of the small businesses will realize the importance of being able to market their services over the Internet to a much broader group. When you compare Black Friday to Cyber Monday now, you see that Internet business is huge. As Latino businesses, we need to tap into that. Some of the markets we need to enter are outside of our region.”
Kevin David, TOAST.net owner and CEO, advised the group not to ignore Windows updates on their business computers. He stated that a few minutes spent each day to keep computers running with the latest upgrades would protect them “from spammers, viruses, and hackers.”
“Make it a regular routine,” he advised.
David also encouraged business owners to use a Cloud-based backup system for all of their vital information.
“Hard drives crash and I’m sure all of you have experienced that at one time or another,” he said. “Or something gets deleted. The nice thing about having this is it gets backed up and it’s there all the time. Even if your computer gets stolen, you can still get the info as long as you know your password.”
He also advised Hispanic chamber members they could use free Cloud-based software to perform many business-related functions without having to buy expensive programs such as Microsoft Office—putting together presentations, documents, and even spreadsheets. He used Google Docs and a G-mail email account as an example.
“It’s not going to have every word-processing function, but most people only use ten percent of the capabilities of (Microsoft) Word and it will have those ten percent,” he said.
The main thrust of the presentation involved helping small business owners to take and use all the Internet has to offer to make their business more successful.
David showed NOHCC members a new device on the market known as a “mobile hot-spot,” which can be plugged into a laptop computer to give Internet access from a job site or other location. The device is sold for $60 and requires a monthly subscription costing $15 to $50, depending on the amount of data usage.
But there is no long-term contract involved, which makes it even appealing to families when they go on vacation—because it can be used on the road to stay “plugged in” or keep kids entertained on a Smartphone, tablet, or laptop while traveling.
“You need it for three months? Use it for three months and then turn it off,” he advised. “You could even use it at your cottage, boat, or campgrounds along a lake—wherever you go.”
David also told Hispanic business owners there is no need to pay for many commonly-used software programs—including anti-virus and accounting software.
“Microsoft Essentials anti-virus software is free,” he said, also pointing out that free accounting programs can be found at www.mint.com. David also suggested they use online bill pay services through their local bank to reduce paperwork and mailing costs, because statements can be printed at the end of the year for tax purposes.
He also promoted online file sharing services such as flickr.com as a way to store photos without risking a computer crashing. David told the group that particular Internet service is offering one free terabyte of online storage—the equivalent of 500,000 digital photos.
David even spent a few minutes showing Hispanic chamber members how they can use free online resources to build, update, and manage their company website.
Such new services allow a business owner to use their own pictures or stock photos that are provided copyright-free to give good visual content to the website. He even gave advice on how to pick an effective domain name—even one that is unrelated to the name of the business, but makes it easier to find their services during a web-based search.
“Try not to get a long one or a domain name that’s hard to spell,” David said. “Amazon, Google, and the like—those are easy to find, easy to spell, very effective. It doesn’t even have to match your company name. I’ve even seen one called Big Yellow Truck.”
David also advised Hispanic chamber members to avoid expensive splashy rolling graphics and
animation on a website—because it adds little to marketing and sales.
“Sure it looks cool and might impress your friends,” he said. “You never really need it. Why are people coming to your website? They want to find your phone number, they want to find your address, and they want to take care of business, see what services you have to offer. Unless you’re in the business of entertainment, you don’t need to have all this crazy animation, extra razzle-dazzle. It takes a long time to load and doesn’t work on cell phones.”
David also advised Hispanic business owners that an Internet service provider can give them a lot of statistical information that can be used to better market a website, such as the quantity and source of page visitors, other websites that have linked to a given business site, search engine strings and most-used key words, and a particular site’s most popular pages.
David also offered advice on providing interesting and fresh content on a business website, such as frequently-answered questions, articles, and blogs. He also talked about inexpensive ways to use providers for email marketing, search engine optimization, social media, and selling directly to additional customers on specialized sites such as eBay and Craig’s List.
The TOAST.net owner also spoke of whether it’s worth it to market their website or business through web-based map services and if a Smartphone app might help draw extra customers. Much of what he talked about is available as free content on the TOAST.net website.
The NOHCC executive director called the presentation a win-win for chamber members, who learn about a support service to help manage their business, as well as the presenter who gets in front of potential new customers.
“Because we’re looking at a service such as TOAST.net that has not even tapped into the Latino market,” explained Torres. “So they’re looking at how to take this little experiment with the Hispanic chamber and then broaden it to other markets. They’re a national company but have yet to tap into the Latino community. We can be a test pool to where they can take it market it to Latino businesses.”