USPS Every Door Direct Mail – Small Business Marketing Just Got Easier (And Whole Lot Cheaper!)

Who says the government doesn’t do anything right? Uncle Sam just increased your small business marketing budget substantially. Introducing: “Every Door Direct Mail,” a new mailing program from your “gruntled” pals at the United States Post Office.Postage is now a whole lot cheaper as low as 14.2 cents per piece. And that postage covers a much, much larger postcard or brochure than a little bitty 4″ x 6″ postcard used to cost you. And as an added bonus with USPS “Every Door Direct Mail,” you don’t need to buy a mailing list.What’s the catch? No catch, but there are a few restrictions.1. You must mail a standard flat oversized piece (no letters) and size restrictions apply.2. You must mail to complete postal routes (subgroups of zip codes about 200 – 800 homes each).3. You need to prepare your bundles according to USPS specs.4. You have to drop them off at the appropriate post office location.5. You are limited to mailing no more than 5,000 pieces per post office on any one day.But there are huge advantages to “Every Door Direct Mail”!1. Postage as low as 14.2 cents a home even for an 11″ x 17″ brochure.2. It is cheaper than bulk mail and arrives at your recipient’s home sooner.3. Addressing is simpler. No need for bar coding.4. You can pick the day of the week to mail so you have more control on when it arrives.5. No need to buy an expensive mail permit.You are targeting your mail by USA geographic areas so if for example you were mailing in my neck of the woods, say Dublin, OH you could target only postal routes on the west side of the Scioto River and just north of the Hilliard, OH city limit. Select the Dublin homes you want to mail and you are on your way to targeting your list (without actually having to pay for a mailing list). The mailman will deliver your”Every Door Direct Mail” to just those postal routes.Be sure to select a direct mail piece that isn’t too small or too large. Popular sizes are 8.5″ x 11″ for postcards and 11″ x 17″ for folded brochures. You may want assistance from your local printing professional until you get the hang of the system before you fully take charge of your USPS “Every Door Direct Mail” program. The paperwork needs to be submitted in a specific way and your postcards or brochures need to be printed and bundled according to specs. But there is no reason you can’t handle it yourself after a while if you prefer to do these things yourself. The cash savings and added effectiveness will make it well worth it.

The Auto Transport Broker and The Piracy of The Truck Driver

Have you ever thought about what it takes to run a profitable business? To tell the truth before owning my own auto transport business I never gave it a second thought. Frankly, I think most people are just like me. Many folks just get up in the morning, drive to work, put in their eight hours and go home. The next day they get up and start all over again; it is like being in a rut.You are probably thinking that is cold! Well, fact of the matter is that is exactly how I used to be. When we hate what we are doing, we just go through the motions. Who cares if there is a profit or not, it does not affect me – we think. All we are there for is to put in our time and collect a paycheck that doesn’t go far enough.You are probably wondering what this all has to do with auto transport and the piracy of the truck driver. Well, as employees we had better start caring about the company profits. Think about it for just a minute. If they do not make a profit, we probably will not have a job for long. Have you ever thought about it that way?Auto transport industry is no different…After talking with a truck driver, today this very point came to mind. Our whole conversation revolved around the economics of running our mutual businesses. There are so many pieces to the puzzle; but, one main reason really took the majority of the talk.Today there are too many auto transport brokers out there not doing their job the right way. Greed has set in and taken over all common sense. Their focus is on their commission today and not that of the customer, trucker or industry. There is no looking at the stability of the business for tomorrow, next week or next year.Doing whatever it takes to secure the order they lie, cheat and bait the customer to earn a few dollars. Now I am not saying it is not right to earn money, not at all. The point is that doing business that way is an injustice to all. How you ask?I could really get on my soapbox here and rant for hours. Instead, let us focus on just one area of concern…the truck driver, or as we call them the owner operator.Owner operators do not work for free either!As a business owner, many expenses occur monthly this is called overhead. There are necessary expenditures that keep the truck, office, drivers and other employees “in business”, or employed.The business owner goes into business to make a profit. Sounds reasonable, right? They know what it costs to replace tires, change the oil and other fluids necessary to keep the big rig safe on the roads. There are permits, fuel taxes and surcharges, insurance costs and fuel costs too. Of course we can not forget there are truck payments, trailer payments, and the savings surplus account for repairs.Next they must price out their loads to cover the driver expense, taxes, meals and sometimes-overnight lodging accommodations. Then there needs to be some sort of profit margin so the company can stay in business for the following month.If the business owner is the truck driver as well, he or she must factor in the personal expenses, too. Most have a husband or wife at home with kids. There is the mortgage, power and water bills, telephone, food, insurance and taxes just like all the rest of us.Auto transport brokers must educate the customer…Part of the job of an auto transport broker is to educate the customer. I do not know about you, but before becoming a broker I knew nothing about the industry. We learned by talking with truck drivers who had years of business experience under their belts. By implementing these principles in my own business we have been able to weather the storm of this new economy when others have not.Let me ask you a question…when is the last time you were able to walk into your local supermarket and tell the cashier what you were going to pay for that loaf of bread? Ha…won’t happen will it? Of course not. The market sets the price us consumers will pay for the product and we either buy it or we don’t, right?When auto transport brokers do their job correctly, the customer will understand how the transport business works. They will understand why the prices are what they are. Sure there will be slight differences between brokers. Healthy competition is expected and good in the marketplace.What is not good is when one sector of the industry turns to piracy. By charging the customer an excessive rate then paying the trucking company less than market rates this upsets the apple cart. It makes for an unbalanced industry and forces good people like you and me out of business.Two years ago, we watched as about 75% of owner operators handed in their keys. Some of these hard-working men and women were our friends. Business owners who had provided our clientele incredible service at equitable prices. We had developed friendships. They are real people, just like us. More than once, I cried myself to sleep after listening to the plight of these people and the causes for their decision.Today something has to change. More honest hearted people need to step up to the plate. Hard working auto transport brokers who own their own business need to get back to the basics. Educate the public that more than just diesel prices drive prices; which by the way is on the rise again.You would not work for free…stop asking these business owners to pay you to ship your car! As a broker we are not for the government stepping in to solve an industry’s problems like is so rampant today.However, as an individual auto transport business owner, I’m taking my stand. Education is key and our clients are well-educated, informed and happy. They are happy because their truck driver has a profitable business driven by fair market value.

Can Virtual PBX Really Change How Small Businesses Are Run?

Everywhere you turn these days it seems like the expression “in the cloud” has taken on some strange magnetic pull or force all its own. Web users, business owners and companies of all sizes, are being bombarded with “cloud” or “virtual” services which are hosted on remote servers far removed from one’s place of business.According to Gartner, a well respected information technology advisory and research company, some of the leading cloud providers now include Amazon, Google, HP, AT&T, IBM and Microsoft. In addition, in a recent survey, Gartner found 19% of companies are using the cloud for most of their production computing and 20% use it for storage.However, these cloud services are just, not for storage or computing, we also have other business services hosted in the clouds. Online or Internet fax is growing in popularity as more and more companies and businesses modernize or update their means of communication in our computer driven world. Then you also have virtual phone and PBX (Private Branch Exchange) services for the home office and companies both big and small.Perhaps, the greatest force driving all these “cloud” services, is our insatiable need to be completely portable and mobile in today’s current wireless environment. We simply need the ability to do our work anywhere and at any time – regardless of location. It may even be argued any company or small business without this ability has already lost a competitive edge or advantage over their competitors.This factor is brought home when one considers the benefits of using a virtual PBX vs a conventional land-line system. Going with a cloud based system gives your company much more flexibility and scalability. You can be completely mobile and wireless, regardless of where your employees or salespersons are located.Then you have to factor in the much lower costs of running a virtual system, there’s no expensive hardware to install or maintain. Set-up is almost instant, and there’s only one low monthly fee to pay. Plus, all of these virtual systems are full-featured – you get voice mail, call waiting, message forwarding, online fax… and even a virtual receptionist to handle all your business communications.One of the major drawbacks for most people has to do with online security. How safe will your company’s vital information be when stored on a remote server? Do I really want my information and communications accessible on the web?We all have heard horror stories of sites being hacked and information stolen, but for the most part, online security has improved greatly over the last few years, and the major “cloud service” companies mentioned above are completely professional. Sad truth, most companies store their data on computers, which can be accessed from the Internet, depending on the security measures you have in place, your information could be MORE safe with one of these services supplied by Google, IBM, Amazon or Microsoft.Regardless, anyone running a home office or a business, must consider using the “cloud” to do their computing and storage. The lower costs, the complete mobility, the ease of use, the complete flexibility/scalability, the greater competitiveness and instant set-up… all have to be factored into one’s decision. It is probably a safe bet that in the future, more businesses and companies will be hosting their computing, storage and virtual PBX phone services in the cloud.

Need A New Website? – How To Vet A Website Design and Development Company

Few things are more important for a business nowadays than having a website that is fully functional, designed properly, and has a good user experience for customers. Customers now more than ever are checking online before making purchases, and learning about businesses on the Internet while considering hiring contractors for services, or buying goods from a variety of vendors small and large.Because of that, it’s critical that no matter the size of your business, you have a strong Internet presence that begins with an eye-catching website that you can be proud of and use to promote your products and services. But how do you go about building one and making it look good?Web DevelopersLuckily – there are web developers whose sole job is to do that for you. It is important, however, to be sure that you pick the right developer and choose the right website company to create a lasting and aesthetically pleasing site that can make you proud and get you where you want to be. Here are a few ways to ensure that you pick the perfect web developer for your business website:Look at a portfolio of their previous websitesThe first and simplest way to pick the right web developer for your business project is to look at a portfolio of their previous work. Any good web developer should have a portfolio online, and with it, you should be able to see what they have done and what they are able to do for you. It will give you a solid idea about whether or not you like their design ideas, and what you may get out of working with them if you choose to use them on your website.Is their web expertise in your form of business?Not all web developers are created equally, in terms of both technical computer training, and their design skills and graphic design opinions. For that reason, it’s important to note that you need to consider whether a particular web developer would be a good design fit for your business needs. If they have a background in high art and fashion concepts on the web, and you have a business that sells lawnmowers and needs a website, for example, you may not be the best fit for a workable and worthwhile site.Price Matters – but so does valueAlways get quotes from web developers about what they may charge you to work on your particular site, but let’s be clear here – while price matters, so does value. Look beyond what you have to pay on a sticker price for a site and figure out how you may gain value out of the site in the long term. In doing so, you can determine whether that price will be of value to you as a long term investment, even though in the short term (and with a strong web developer) that price may be high.Turn around times, feedback, and communicationAlways, always, always meet with a developer face to face before beginning a project. Communication, feedback, and turnaround times matter as the two of you work together on a product that you want. For that reason, it’s critical that you meet with them face to face to ensure you have recourse should something go wrong, and you have a good feedback loop and good communication between the two of you should anything happy or timing be delayed. Communication matters in web development like it does in few other projects for small businesses, so really make it a point to have good communication between you and the developer.Budgeting for the unforeseeableUnforeseeable things will likely happen when creating your website, from delays to other issues surrounding a variety of things. For that reason alone, it’s critical that you make it a point to budget for the unforeseeable – plan on spending even a little bit more than your developer’s quote just in case something goes wrong, or you realize you want more than you initially thought you did. Whatever the case, budget a little bigger on this project – it’s an important one and a critical thing for your business to survive in the 21st century.How to separate the good from the badJust like in any other industry, there are plenty of bad web developers out there. While we discussed looking at a portfolio as in the case above, there are other ways you can pick out good web developers, too. For starters, a web developer that has good ideas about how to link your site with social media apps and networks will be in high demand in this day and age – you will want to be able to connect with someone who is familiar with trends in the industry, and trends regarding websites in your specific industry and business area, as well. In addition, explore their website. Does it have a blog or article section? Do they write about technical website design and exhibit the industry knowledge required of an expert?From there, you will also want to talk to someone who has the educational background necessary to develop websites. It isn’t enough to start developing in your free time and work in your mother’s basement; developers must specifically know about PHP, JavaScript, CSS3 (or later, CSS4 and CSS5) and other important keys to web development that are learned as technical skills in school and through years of work and experience. Your project is important to you – you want a talented and skilled web developer to get the job done on your behalf.All in all, it can be a daunting task to pick the right website developer for your business. Above all, though, when you do it, it’s critical that you take your time and do it right – doing so will ensure that you get the perfect web developer who can give you what you want and, at the end of the day, leave you proud and excited with the result for your business.Knowing that, too, you can rest assured that your customers will not only love the design and layout of your website, but that they will be able to use it seamlessly and properly as they navigate looking to buy your products and more, growing your business and broadening your reputation.


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