May 31, 2015

The Similarities Between Mother Nature and Our Economy - The Sun is Shining.

Nature has an unwritten rule: “Survival of the Fittest”.  During fat times species flourish, populations grow and animals get fat.  Then Mother Nature unleashes her fury; there are droughts, hurricanes, volcanoes, tornadoes, earth quakes and asteroids all creating despair.  After the fury and, as again, the sun shines, the strongest, most innovative, most persistent and most prepared survived - weeding out the weak and making for a stronger balance in nature for the times ahead.  Mother Nature’s Fury repeats itself.  We recognize it as a thinning process; as terrible and cruel as it is, we accept it.

Disruptive Innovation
When I was doing volunteer work for SCORE, I frequently spoke to small businesses about the difficulties of a recession using the 'Mother Nature’s Fury' analogy.  Recessions are about survival for many businesses; those that survive will be stronger as they learned to be innovative (even disruptive) and persist.  The survivors will find there is less competition and more opportunity in post recession times..

The sun is shining.

Further Note on Current Times: Even though we are long out of recessionary times, we still have an economy that has a pent up demand and money sitting on the sidelines looking for a place to go. It (the economy) will likely get better in our near future - in spite of what people say, this is not the new norm.


May 30, 2015

Where the Money Goes in Growing Small Businesses - Not to Easy Street

Small businesses have several phases  they go through in their early years much like a puppy or a child.  Each of these phases present different challenges and a different understanding of the numbers as they happen.  I am assuming a successful business startup here; success does not mean Easy Street, it simply means we have a product / service to sell that actually does sell at more than it costs and the business has cash flow.

The first feeling in a successful business startup is truly amazing (remember my definition of  "successful business startup") - the selling - the making of 'all the money' - the satisfaction of  'doing something good' and making the world a better place (seriously).  We feel 'in-the-money' as we are making money for each of the process elements of the product / service.  We feel the 'Magic' and want to do it more - the same feelings we get when we win at a casino (except you are betting on yourself) - you can taste winning.!.  Welcome, you are now an Entrepreneur.

Then the business grows - we have a product that people want and we can sell it.  The results though are not quite what we expect - twice the sales do not generate twice the personal income.  Additionally, we hit some stumbling blocks - all of a sudden we have employee issues, sick days, differences in throughput and a lower commitment than we ourselves have as owners - don't try to pretend this does not exist but also don't let this consume all your time and focus.  Sometimes we think we need to adjust prices to compensate for the additional costs - in reality there are no additional costs - those costs are simply not going to the entrepreneur anymore - you are not getting paid to clean the toilet anymore; someone else is.

Remember: Price has nothing to do with costs except
that it must be higher than cost to be in an ongoing business.

Assuming we can get beyond making a lower percentage on sales (maybe even less money), we then run into the next entrepreneurial stumbling block - hiring sales people.  They will never be as good as you and they are motivated by money, not your businesses success (normally).  This is the point where the entrepreneur must become more of a manager then entrepreneur.  This is difficult as the business is the entrepreneur's child.  Success here has more to do with building an asset and creating wealth than making more money.  What I tell business owners, that are lucky enough to reach this point, is that they will now feel forever broke as they continue to build the asset (the business).  This is one of the most difficult things to comprehend in small business.  They ask, "when I did one, I made $110K/year; now that I am doing 15 why am I only making $130K/year?"

What many entrepreneurs fails to realize is, if they stepped back from the business, they would still make $110K/year and they now have an asset generating cash flow and profits.

Bob Leonard
561-371-4113 (Call My Cell) 

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May 27, 2015

Business Cards That Tell a Story – But the Story First - Then a Lenticular Look

A few years ago I was telling a story to a CEO friend of mine about why the business card is dead as well as why much of postal printing is dead.  He disagreed with me and responded with this: "Bob, I think you are missing the personal interaction that these products provide and will continue to provide".  "We hire a lot of smart kids from Stanford, Berkley, Baylor, USC, Duke, NYU,  etc;  one of the first questions these new hires, ask, almost every time, is 'how do I get my business cards'".

Segway to some history.

Business Cards used to be, very simply, a calling card identifying who you were, who you represented and how to get in touch with you.  They may have had a standard logotype which may have been something as simple as a generic line picture of something related to the holders business; something as simple as a hammer, a horse shoe or even a set of teeth as seen here.  This card was printed, most likely with hand set type on a Relief Letterpress.
Old Business Card

Through the 80s and 90s Lithographic Printing became more and more cost effective and we saw small card printing move from relief letterpress to lithography.  This transition greatly enhanced, arguably, the overall quality and increased the capability to print more intricate images.

Full Color Business Card
In the late 90s and early 00s, a mass of technology, and economies of scale through ganging (grouping) brought both short run and color into everyone’s budget.  Today the two most common methods of business product printing are Digital, for short run quantities less than 500, and offset lithography for quantities over 500.  Color turned the business card from a leave behind identifier to a product/business identifier and promotion tool.  Digital influence has brought the cost down for extremely short run.

Today we see very intricate products that may include holograms or Lenticular Printing; the costs of such has come down so much that today’s business card can tell a short story about a product or service.  Business cards printed with these technologies and features are as much a promotional item as a business card.  As a business card, they are somewhat expensive; as a promotional item, they are inexpensive; as a story teller they are priceless.

These Business Cards tell a story, that a picture ban not do.  This video demonstrates a Lenticular Business Card by LightsOn Graphics, used by a real estate agent to demonstrate what they deliver.

Maybe it is not all about technology after all.

Bob Leonard
561-371-4113 (Call My Cell)
512-593-8830 (in Austin)

EDDM is a services provided by all LightsOn / Time4 offices.

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May 26, 2015

Localizing a User's Web Experience - Scenario Two & Benefits

Localizing your website simply adds to the users experience.  This is now recognized by many of the largest consumer product companies and retailers.  There are still many companies that don't recognize the opportunity of localization.  This is the second in series of Localization Scenarios (click here to read 'Scenario One').

Let's expand on the biggest benefit of Localization, in my opinion - the ability to partner with community businesses.

We will again use Hardware / Home Improvement chains in our example as their opportunities are easiest to for everyone to understand IMO.

Lowe's Needs to Localize MoreAs mentioned in "Scenario One", partnering with local contractors / professionals is already done through these stores at the "Contractor's Desk".  Let's take that same concept and transfer it to the website.  Use Lowe's as an example; on the lumber pages 'partner' (feature) companies that build decks, local carpenters and/or handymen; on the plumbing page, feature plumbers; or on the electrical components page feature electricians.  This adds to the localization of the Lowe's and demonstrates greater partnership with the community.  Best of all, it's a chargeable service (advertising) to the partners (give it away if you want).  The incremental revenue opportunity is huge (think of ALL THE LOCALS - EVERYWHERE). 
  • Gardening Pages: Landscapers, Gardening Architects and Lawn Maintenance
  • Insect Control: Pest Control Companies
  • Plumbing: Plumbers
  • Kitchen Renovation: Renovation Contractors
  • Shingles and gutters: Roofers, Guttering Companies.
Use your imagination here - opportunities are limitless. and collaboration creates winners. If you do not get it, call me; if you do, feel free to steal it and make the local Internet world a better place - Net Better.

And Remember:

Consulting Online Localization

Bob Leonard561-371-4113 (Call My Cell)
512-593-8830 (in Austin)

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May 25, 2015

Sell, Sell, Sell - Business Does Not Occur Until a Sale Occurs

I used to do volunteer counseling and training work for an organization called SCORE, the "Counselors to America's Small Business".  I primarily talked to start-up businesses about the ideas.

What amazed me about many budding entrepreneurs is that they make "going into business" more complex than it needs to be.  Going into business is not about finding a good accountant, not about having a lawyer nor is it about finding the right computer, right sign or right office location.  It is about selling and selling and selling some more - selling cures all and selling makes all (this coming from an engineer).  I don’t need a plan but I need an idea and a set of business cards. Then, what are we going to do – sell, sell, sell that idea! I make only one assumption here, that if you are planning on going into business, say the chocolate business, you know something about chocolate.  If you are lucky enough to be successful at selling, it then becomes time to think (while you are selling more) about those other things you need to do when you are in business - a plan.

So then, I should tell you more about selling.  Yes I will do so will in the very near future.  The thing to remember is selling is a Game of Numbers much more than technique.

Happy Selling.


SCORE is a nonprofit association consisting primarily of retired executives and business owners (almost all volunteer) dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small business start, grow and succeed nationwide. SCORE is a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

May 22, 2015

Fixing the Local Print Business - The Biggest Target

It might be about the local postal store, franchise or independent.  Many years ago someone told me about a company (a start-up at the time) called Mailboxes, Etc. (now The UPS Store)  My original thought was, why use them instead of the post office?  I believed the business concept was flawed - I was way wrong.  Yes, many of these businesses are feeling the strain of the economy and being a franchisee, but the outlook for this group is very positive - just walk into one on any given weekday (especially after 2pm).  The question I have is - can the franchisors bring in higher margin products to more utilize their current foot traffic - and give the franchisee a chance to succeed?

Being a target market for LightsOn Graphics is the wrong phrase; it is much more a prediction. Postal stores provide a convenience that creates foot traffic and business in that it is hyper localized - one stop to send mail, UPS, Fed-X, get the boxes and packing you need to complete your mailing.  They have morphed from a post office box and shipping center to a business center providing copy service, document shredding, limited but critical office supplies, and limited emergency print (copies, business cards).  Just a side note - If you need shredding, buy a shredder.

Offering print and collateral marketing services is a natural expansion to their business; some would say they already do.  I tend to use Postnet in my examples because, not only are they in that postal store target bunch, but they also use a service that, from my research, provides nothing except the satisfaction that they can say, "we have an online print site".  No they don't, but that is just my opinion.  I have interviewed several small printers that use the same system - orderless (like zero) - they stretch to find value in something they pay for every month.  The system they use does provide marketing benefits and a few  convenience tools, but not sales.

Now that the market has been identified, we can start talking about the product and what makes different (better) in both product and concept - see our forthcoming blog entries (or see an earlier taste - Fixing the Local Print Business).

In Review - Targets:
  1. Postal Stores - because this is where the customers are.
  2. Local Quick Printers with poor web presence.
  3. Postal Store Franchisors Postnet, Postal Annex, Goin' Postal, etc.)
  4. Quick Print Franchisors (AlphaGraphics, Minuteman Press, Sir Speedy)
  5. Local Graphic Designers.
  6. Vertical Market providers (newly identified)
Thank You For Reading.!.!


May 21, 2015

Localizing a User's Web Experience - Scenario One & Benefits

Localizing your website simply adds to the users experience.  This is now recognized by many of the largest consumer product companies and retailers.  There are still many companies that don't recognize the opportunity of localization.  This is the first in series of Localization Scenarios.

Localization Champion
Scenario One:
I like to use ACE Hardware in my examples as they are the epitome of "Saving Local" in the hardware business (in my opinion).  This scenario works with all the major players in hardware (Lowe's, Home Depot and True Value) as they have all Localized built into there website - but they could all do better - they all bought localization, but no one told them what they could do with it.

The most obvious benefit of Localization is identifying where the local store is located.  This feature should be located on every page of the website for every product.  Google does this for you if you search "ACE Hardware" before you even get to, but what if they were searching "Lawn Mower"?  I have now found the lawn mower I was looking for, but now, where is the store?  Location information and the phone numbers should be there - without clicking away or back - because Clicks Cost Customers.

Product placement is a huge benefit of Localization.  There is no reason to sell snow blowers in Florida or lawn mowers in Minnesota in in January.  There is a bit of opportunity to get creative here.  Don't waste the users time clicking - Clicks Cost Customers.

The biggest benefit of Localization, in my opinion, comes from the ability to partner with community businesses.  Carpenters, landscapers, plumbers and more; it is already done behind the service desk - move this to the website -  it is a chargeable service!  Imagine the opportunity of listing landscapers on the gardening pages for each of the local franchisees - image the benefit to the website user - imagine the benefits through local business partnerships - Imagine the revenue potential - I want to be there!

See The Following Add-on Articles

Consulting Online Localization
Bob Leonard @LightsOn Ventures

May 19, 2015

What is the Cost of a Click? A Lost Sale...

Have you ever clicked on a Google paid ad (one of those at the top of the search) and the link took you someplace other than the product page you were searching for and expecting?  Some businesses always want to bring you through the front door (my analogy to the home page) and then force you to figure out how to find the product you were searching.  This is obviously the wrong way to do PPC (Pay-Per-Click)  or even Proactive SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Clicks Cost Customers

First, let's understand, we have a buyer; someone who has searched for a very specific product.  The link should take the user directly to the Product Buy Page - never make the user search for the product..  It is too easy for the user to hit the back button and click to the next site.

  • Use specific key words for each product.
  • Link directly to the Product Buy Page being searched (from your PPC)
  • Tweet specific products and include the link to that Product Buy Page (Proactive SEO)   "Butterfly Ping Pong Paddle" is better then "Ping Pong Paddle".  If you sell multiple brands, list those other brands: "Stiga Ping Pong Paddle".  In addition, the specific search should be less expensive than the generic search "Ping Pong Paddle",
  • Never assume the user wants more information or different information than they searched.
  • Never take them to the home page and make them search for the product - take them directly to the Product Buy Page.
There are so many analogies to a brick-and-mortar store - just take the user to the Product Buy Page and make the sale.  After they become a customer, then tell them about all your other products.

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May 14, 2015

Why Collaborative, Cooperative, Complementary Sales Efforts Work

Any time you can build a local team of people who call on like customers, and refer those customers to each other, develop a win – win for all involved.  It’s formalized - structured networking.  Local BNI groups do this better, on a general business basis, than any others I have seen – they say “Givers are Getters”.  The giver, by making the referral, is building trust within the customer by recognizing a need and assisting outside their normal business scope.  The customer, by receiving the referral has saved time by receiving it from someone they already trust thus shortening their search effort (even if they need to evaluate multiple suitors – one down).  Finally, the receiver of the lead, a warm lead, is a sale that is theirs to lose.  It still takes follow up with the lead and making the sale – Sales is all about numbers – I call this an easy number.

LightsOn Graphics, unlike a BNI, brings different locals together under one brand, much like ACE Hardware.  It is a collaborative product that features exclusively local members locally.

Companies with multiple offices should always have a localization component within their website so they can feature the local components of their business (people, services. etc).


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May 10, 2015

The Importance of Tweeting in Your SEO Plan.

When selling, there is nothing more important than getting a handshake, but before you get that handshake, you need to be found.  One of the ways for you to do that is to use your website as your virtual business card and brochure.  But how does your website get found?  One of the ways is to get it to appear high, and multiple times organically on Internet search engines through good SEO.

The first thing you need to do is get all the basic SEO stuff done on your website (Tags, good URL names, key words, back links and blog links).  Then, getting on top, especially in competitive online areas (like real estate - like anything today) requires "Relevance". The more relevance you can attach to your website (or a page within your website), the higher, and more frequent, it will appear.  You can create that relevance with Tweets; it's the best way (easiest way) to create relevance.

Tweet example:

What this Tweet does is relate each of the hashtag (#) words with the URL - creating relevance.  Repeat as directed as frequently as you like (couple times a day) and do so for each product page - Relevance!  Leave room in your Tweets for retweets and use a 3rd party product like to shorten the URLs and track your tweet actions.

Remember, don't lose your buyer - link directly to the product page - besides greater relevance you won't lose customer as Clicks Cost Customers (CCC).

Finally, today's Secret SEO Tip:  When Tweeting "local" include your 7 digit phone number in the tweet - Google filters out 10 digit telephone numbers but allows 7 digits to pass and thus appear.

Twitter DOs
Get on Twitter if you’re not already and if you are start using it!
Post unique content on repetitively.
Post frequently, 3-5 times a day is NOT too much.
Include links in your Tweets like you should have already been doing.
Hashtag (#) key words to create relevance to the link in your Tweet
Post images in your Tweets, when it makes sense; they enhance the search result

Twitter DON'Ts
Don’t Get off track and stop posting to Twitter.
Don’t Think that there is little to no benefit to Twitter any longer.
Don’t Forget to optimize your Twitter profile with hashtags and location information.

Do you have a medium-big ticket item/service you sell online (or want to)?  Do you want real SEO (SEO is not a one time service) that will make you more $$$.  Call me: 561-371-4113

Bob Leonard
561-371-4113 (Call My Cell)
512-593-8830 (in Austin)

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