Small Business Integrated Marketing: More Focus Is Needed, Especially in the B-To-B Space

Small businesses who operate in the business-to-business space do a lot of things right, but marketing is not one of them. This article will explain why this is the case and explore associated pitfalls and opportunities, as well as give you a definition of b-to-b (business-to-business) marketing and suggest some effective solutions to the problem.Typically, companies with 20 to 100 employees or so who are in manufacturing, distribution, professional services and the like do not have a marketing manager, and rightly so; these firms are simply too small to justify that position. So the president or general manager is responsible for marketing. This doesn’t work very well because that person has more important things to do such as keeping the place running and keeping the doors open. So, there’s little or no time for marketing planning or to implement a plan consistently.First let’s define “marketing” as it applies to the b-to-b space. Simply put, marketing is not advertising. Advertising is part of marketing, but a small part.The correct definition of b-to-b marketing is that it’s the integration and orchestration of all of the tactics that go into bringing a product or service to market: marketing research and competitive analysis; face-to-face selling; online support including an optimized website with an SEO (search engine optimization) strategy; downloadable white papers and how-to’s; email marketing; trade shows; sales lead generation; a customer retention strategy; sales tools such as brochures and literature and testimonials; online and offline press and publicity. You get the idea: it’s not just advertising.Most small business owners and general managers know they should be doing something to generate business other than shove their salespeople out the door. But they don’t get around to those other things, meaning marketing. Suddenly a year has gone by and their sales and market share have suffered. So they scramble to do something like build a new website or try some online advertising. But they have no plan. As the saying goes, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”On the other hand, with a well-crafted marketing and advertising plan the business can actually have a strategy to develop a consistent market presence, generate sales leads, create a better brand and retain existing customers. But can the business afford to do this, and how does it get done?The first part of the answer is, they can’t afford to not put a marketing plan in place because their market is full of competitors who can and will beat them in the marketing arena. It’s a market-share battleground out there and the best marketer wins.Another argument for investing in an integrated marketing plan is this: companies pay for legal, IT and accounting services, right? Marketing expertise is no different.In terms of cost, it comes down to needs. If there hasn’t been a formal marketing plan in place for some time and if the company doesn’t know where it stands in terms of its status (market share, perception etc.), some research will be needed and a marketing plan should be developed.The plan will comprise three main components: the company’s business objectives; its sales and marketing strategies; and the tactics and media spend necessary to achieve the objectives. Depending on where the company goes to get this done, the cost will probably be between $3,000 and $7,500 for a plan. Then the plan must be implemented.Where does a company go to get this done? For smaller businesses, it’s best to avoid larger ad agencies; those with 50 employees and above. They’ll want to work with big marketing budgets, say, $500,000 at minimum. It’s also better to work with an agency that specializes in the b-to-b space; they understand the integration referred to above. While it’s handy if the agency is local, it doesn’t have to be. It’s more important that the agency is a good fit for the company.Another alternative is to contract a good b-to-b marketing consultant to do your research and draft your marketing plan. But have the second step lined up, too: an agency who can implement the plan, ideally a smaller agency specializing in b-to-b marketing. Check their work and get referrals from their clients.Whatever route you choose, make sure the firm you choose is very knowledgeable in the online space. Today, almost all marketing in the b-to-b space occurs online: information gathering and downloads of white papers and how-to’s; organic search results, online ads, web engagement, SEO, email marketing, press, articles, etc.Actually, this is good news since online marketing and the analytics associated with it are far less costly than the traditional methods b-to-b marketers have been used to such as trade magazines, lavish literature, direct mail and trade shows (not that those traditional tactics should be abandoned.)So what is the cost for a full-blown integrated marketing plan, media spending and implementation-management by an agency or a consultant?The best budgeting method is the “task method”, meaning determining what tasks need to be done considering your market circumstances, then assigning costs to those tasks and their associated media. It varies by company. That’s something a good marketing agency can do for you. If you have a very limited budget a good agency can develop your plan and focus on its most critical tasks, working with a first-year budget as small as $50,000.But a full-blown integrated marketing-media plan is highly recommended if you want to be a market leader. As a rule of thumb, the higher your gross sales, the less you’ll pay as a percentage of your sales. Roughly, if you’re a smaller company, say, sales of $5 million or so, count on spending about three percent of your gross sales, or about $150,000. At $10 million in sales, perhaps two percent, or $200,000. At $20 million, probably between one and two percent, so about $300,000.One thing is certain: a well-planned and well-implemented b-to-b marketing and advertising plan with a strong online component pays off. It helps you compete better for market dominance. However, marketing planning and implementation takes focus, consistency and the help of professionals.

Politics And Politicians

I hate politics and politicians! What have they done for you lately?We need balance – not extremes. Our government is supposed to represent its citizens and “provide for the common good” – not focus on special interest groups that try to influence legislation and regulations that support their unique agenda. Libertarians have a lot of good points – such as smaller government – but not their extreme view of gun and drug “freedoms”. Progressives also have some good points – such as social “protections” – but not the extreme views on abortion and gay “rights.” Politicians often pay attention to irrelevant issues. Like when we are at war (2 or 3!) and have debt that our kids and grandkids will never be able to pay off, and 10% unemployment, etc., etc. What do they focus on? Trivial stuff – like when Congress considered banning shopping bags that are purchased to save plastic and paper bags – that were found to have some lead in them. Did anyone ever ask Congress to do something about the lead in the solder in your copper water pipes?But we have a kind of system of government that, in the long term, seems to work. Some things are bad and some are good – about the “greatest democracy in the world.” Winston Churchill once said “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” The U.S. is considered by many to have an ideal model of democracy, but it is imperfect and democracy itself has its own inherent problems and limitations. Some things are necessary – like Defense, Environment, Health and Safety, Civil Rights, etc. – which we need to do right at the national level because they can’t be done effectively at the individual or state level. The U.S. federal government’s organization and processes are archaic and inefficient – but sometimes it seems to work – for example, the “Stimulus Package/Bill” in 2009 actually did help the country recover from a serious recession (despite some its shortcomings and problems). Others don’t seem to work well or belong at the national level – like the unbelievably complex, convoluted and inequitable tax code (more on that separately).There are lots of examples of stupid, unproductive, and irrelevant political actions. Here are just a few of my favorites:• Earmarks – those projects for specific congressional districts or states that are funded by tacking them onto unrelated congressional bills in exchange for votes – so called “pork barrel.” So, if you look at a major funding bill – that may be essential, such as the Defense Department budget – you will find hundreds of earmarks attached to it to fund a lot of strange, arcane, and sometimes useless projects (like the famous “bridge to nowhere” or local airports with almost no passengers, etc.). These projects may bring some federal money back to their districts, but they are in many, if not most cases, funding pet projects of political contributors. The individual requests in many cases are relatively small (at least by Washington standards) – perhaps a few $ million – but there are thousands of them every year. Collectively they can amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. And without a line item veto by Congress or the President, these projects get funded automatically when the major bill passes. How’s that for representative government spending your money?


• Political Priorities – The Congress and the President are often involved in the absurdities and travesties of what they view as political priorities – at our expense. For example, pursuing a constitutional amendment against gay marriage while passing a law exempting gun manufacturers and dealers from all potential liabilities – including illegal sales to criminals! That’s just screwed up!! Who thinks up this stuff – and who do they think they are representing?• Gerrymandering – Our elected Congress works very hard to get re-elected – on our dime. From Wikipedia: “Gerrymandering is a practice of political corruption that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected, and neutral districts.” With the manipulation of election districts, it is possible for minority parties to win a majority of districts in an election – or neutralize a strong district of a majority party. This is a process that is facilitated by the mandated re-assessment of congressional representation after every 10 year census – and it can neutralize your vote! There are no uniform electoral districts. Your representatives design the election districts to protect incumbents. For example:o “In 2004, not one of California’s 173 state legislative and federal congressional seats changed party-hands.”
o “No House member from Tennessee ever lost a bid for re-election during 1980-2005.”Other developed countries have established processes for “defining constituency boundaries” by objective third-party organizations. But politics in the U.S. is not that progressive – so much for “one person, one vote.”• Subsidies – Our government, which we pay for, thanks to our politicians, provides substantial subsidies to some very profitable industries – at our expense. Here are a couple of examples:Agriculture – Agriculture is obviously very important to an economy, so what is wrong with federal programs to support it? First, a few facts (from The Cato Institute): “The U.S. Department of Agriculture distributes between $10 billion and $30 billion in cash subsidies to farmers and owners of farmland each year… More than 800,000 farmers and landowners receive subsidies, but the payments are heavily tilted toward the largest producers… Although policymakers love to discuss the plight of the small farmer, the bulk of federal farm subsidies goes to the largest farms. For example, the largest 10 percent of recipients have received 72 percent of all subsidy payments in recent years. Numerous large corporations and even some wealthy celebrities receive farm subsidies because they are the owners of farmland… In 2008, Congress overrode a presidential veto to enact farm legislation that extended existing supports and created new subsidy programs… The 2008 farm bill added a new sugar-to-ethanol program under which the government buys excess imported sugar that might put downward pressure on inflated domestic sugar prices. The program defends domestic sugar growers’ 85 percent of the U.S. sugar market, and it provides for the government to sell excess sugar, at a loss if need be, to ethanol producers… Since 2000 the USDA has paid $1.3 billion in farm subsidies to people who own land that is no longer used for farming.” Agricultural subsidies in the U.S. comprise 11% of farm production.So, why are subsidies to farmers bad? Simply, because they don’t achieve the intended results. Most of the money goes to large, profitable farms and corporations. They can upset the natural balance between supply and demand – by facilitating over-production – which can unrealistically affect the prices of food commodities and farm land. “Perhaps the biggest scandal with regard to farm subsidies is that congressional agriculture committees are loaded with members who are active farmers and farmland owners. Those members have a direct financial stake whenever Congress votes to increase subsidies, which is an obvious conflict of interest.”Other countries have experimented with eliminating agricultural subsidies – with some success. New Zealand is one example. “New Zealand’s farmers have cut costs, diversified their land use, sought nonfarm income, and developed niche markets such as kiwifruit… New Zealand farm productivity, profitability, and output have soared since the reforms.”Oil – The largest, most profitable industry in the U.S. – and worldwide – receives federal subsidies! Why?? Technically they are tax breaks, but only because of the way our Congress writes the rules and defines the terms. The subsidies/tax breaks to the U.S. oil industry amounts to about $4 billion each year. This includes a “depletion allowance” that treats oil reserves as capital equipment – in addition to very favorable terms for writing off exploration costs. But the major oil companies have been making more than 10 times that in profits each year. Do they really need incentives to explore for oil – when the world market price for oil has been in the neighborhood of 3-5 times the cost of production for decades? And what is the attitude of our politicians? – “we’re only talking about four billion dollars.”!!• Social Security – One of my pet peeves has been the most sacred of all federal government programs. For over 70 years, Social Security has been “an insurance program for everyone”. But up until 1984, government employees, including Members of Congress, did not pay into the Social Security program – when all of us “citizens” were required to by law. The Social Security program, which has been going broke for decades, was good enough for “the people”, but not for the government employees and politicians who are supposed to be serving them. So now it is an example of how a political abuse can be fixed. However, the benefits for federal employees are still very attractive – and not typical of industry jobs. In addition to now participating in Social Security, federal employees have a defined benefit pension plan (which no longer exists in most of industry today) as well as a “Thrift Savings Plan” – the equivalent of a 401K plan – with up to a 5% match. Members of Congress are eligible for full pension at age 62 after only five years of service – and they are eligible at age 50 if they’ve served 20 years. So our “public servants” have more rewarding benefits than most taxpayers receive.


And there is more – much more!!So, how can the “greatest country in the world” be so screwed up (at least at times)? I blame it on the politicians and the uninformed/uninterested electorate. Other countries must just be worse. Part of the problem is that the public is often not well informed – or just doesn’t care. How do you communicate important political issues so that the general public really understands – the complete facts and truth? Most news and views are at too high a level (e.g., small “sound bites” – or talk show opinions) so that they leave either a limited or wrong impression. For example, issues like abortion and stem cell research are highly controversial and emotional and don’t really get covered objectively.Is there a solution? It would be nice if we could focus on real/important issues and attract intelligent, sincere people into politics. What kinds of people want to run for political office? – ego-centrics, power hungry, self promotional – are these the type of people we want to represent us?? Why would you trust a politician with your life and welfare? But that is what we have – at least in many cases. And what are the financial implications? How can really good political leaders afford to be politicians? Even with the elevated salaries and benefits for politicians (at least at the Congressional level), the cost of the life style in Washington, DC is far too expensive to be covered by federal payments. So, they must either be independently wealthy – or seek an opportunity to capitalize on their political position – either during or after their term in office. What would make a constituent think that their representative is working in their best interest?
I don’t have a solution. That’s why I hate politics and politicians.All Rights Reserved © 2011 Henry P. Mitchell

Web Hosting – A Guide for Beginners

So you’re looking to learn about web hosting and what it has to offer or you may not know much about web hosting? There is no shame in not knowing this information. Everyone has to start at the beginning at some point. On that note, lets begin learning about web hosting.First off, what is web hosting and how does it work?Web hosting is the business practice of providing space and bandwidth on a high-powered computer server that is connected to the Internet at very high speeds. Hosting companies maintain large networks of high-powered web server computers in a physical location known as a data center. These computer servers are connected to a very fast, and generally redundant, Internet connection. The data centers have primary and backup power, a fast connection to the Internet, and a security monitoring staff.The web hosting companies provide a share of disk space and available bandwidth to a customer for a monthly fee. Once the customer is signed up, they can upload files to their personal space on the web server and the information is then viewable to anyone interested on the Internet. The monthly fee the web hosting company charges is much less than what it would cost to run a server out of your own home or data center. This is the reason these companies exist. They take care of all the hardware, software, and other technical needs for you.Types of web hostingThere are many different types of web hosting offers, but the main three are shared, reseller, and dedicated. Each type of hosting is for a different purpose.Shared Web HostingShared web hosting is the most popular form of hosting. Shared hosting is a portion of disk space and bandwidth provided to you by the web hosting company on a high-powered server. There are many other web sites hosted on this server, and the hosting company is likely to have quite a few of these servers in a large data center. The resources of the server are shared by as many other websites as are allocated to that computer.Shared web hosting is the best form of web hosting if you are looking for a great price and don’t have more than a couple thousand daily visitors to your site.Reseller Web HostingReseller web hosting is a popular, low-cost solution to starting your own web hosting business. There are two types of reseller hosting, private-label and a reseller of services.The private-label is the best type of reseller plan because it allows you to retain full control over your customer’s websites. A private-label plan allows the reseller to keep the full monthly payment of the web-hosting customer, but the reseller must pay a monthly fee to the larger hosting company for the reseller space. The more hosting accounts a private-label reseller can sell, the higher the profit for them. Private-label hosting allows you to host many more websites than if you were using shared hosting for each. This is a great solution for someone who has many sites they need to host in one location to save money.


The reseller of services plans resell the regular web hosting plans of a larger web hosting company, but you get a discounted price for providing the customer and earn a monthly fee for as long as they remain a customer. This plan does not allow control over customer web sites and you only keep a portion of the potentially monthly revenue.Dedicated Web HostingDedicated web hosting is the most powerful and cost effective solution of hosting a busy web site without resorting to buying your own equipment and paying hundreds of dollars per month for a fast Internet connection. Dedicated hosting consists of single server with no one else hosting on that computer. This allows for the greatest of configuration options. Anyone who has a busy website will find dedicated hosting is the necessary choice.Web Hosting ConsiderationsWondering about all the other information listed in web hosting plans? In this section, I will explain the most important considerations in choosing a good web host.PriceThe price of web hosting services is one of the most important. There are many hosting companies out there with cheap hosting packages, but they may be lacking in other areas. Don’t let the price of a hosting package fool you. There are some hosting companies out there who have great prices and the other features are just as good. Price may be one of the most important decisions of a web hosting plan, but there is much more to consider in choosing a quality web host.Disk Space / Storage SpaceDisk space is the amount of physical storage space a web host gives to you to store your web files. Hosting companies these days have plans with disk space being measured mostly in terms of gigabytes, but some are still offering plans in the megabytes for storage space. Depending on your needs for file storage space, you may need more or less. Generally the more disk space offered, the better.Bandwidth / Data TransferThe amount of bandwidth available can make a big difference in choosing a quality hosting plan. In general, the more bandwidth a hosting company makes available to you, the better. This means you can support more traffic to your web site as your business grows. Be wary of web hosting companies that offer unlimited or unmetered bandwidth. While many of these are legitimate offers, there are some out there who are overselling their bandwidth in hopes the average user won’t use much.Customer SupportIn any business, it is very important to provide exception customer service. Web hosting is no exception to this. Many of the hosting companies are available all day and night in case you have a problem with your web site, but there are some who are just available specific hours of the day. If your web site goes down in the middle of the night when they’re not available, this means lost revenue for a business. You should make sure the web host you select is always available for support.Money Back GuaranteeMost web hosting companies will provide a thirty-day money back guarantee. Some will provide one even long, but be wary of the ones who offer no money back guarantee. I would not purchase web hosting services from a company who does not offer at least a 30 day money back guarantee, unless they have proven themselves to be a leader in the industry and have an excellent reputation.Operating SystemAn operating system is a piece of software that controls the interaction between the computer user and the physical hardware of the machine. A vast majority of all web sites on the Internet run on the Linux operation system. Linux is generally much more stable than Windows. Stability is critical in running a web site. For this reason, I prefer to host my web sites on the Linux operating system. Some sites have specific requirements that only the Windows operating system can satisfy, but there are always alternatives to those requirements.BackupA good web hosting company will have a regular schedule to backup the data on all the web servers. The more often the data is backed up, the better. At the very least, a web hosting company should backup web site files daily.Control PanelThe control panel is the point of contact the web site administrator will have between the host server and their own machine connected via the Internet. It is essential to have a well organized and easy to use control panel interface. My favorite control panel is cPanel, which is one of the leading web hosting control panels out there today. Plesk is another good one, and many companies will create their own control panel for you to use. Most web hosting companies will provide a link to a demo of the control panel they use with their hosting plans. The control panel used is a matter of preference, but it should be user friendly.EmailEmail is essential part of communication on the Internet. Most web hosting companies out there will give you more email addresses and more space to hold email messages than you will ever need. What you need to watch out for is the companies that have decided to be a little strict on their email accounts and only offer a small number or a small amount of message space.UptimeUptime is a term used to describe how often the average web site hosted by a company is available online. No company should be expected to provide an exact 100% uptime. This is impossible due to things such as hardware, software, and power failures. A vast majority of the companies are very good with uptime, and they guarantee it. It is still a good idea to be conscious of the uptimes posted by the company. If it is not at least 99.5%, it is probably not worth hosting with that company.


StatisticsAs a webmaster, it is nice to know how many visitors you’ve had, where they came from, how long they stay on your site, and how much bandwidth they’ve used. This information is collected by the web server and is placed in a log file. A statistics software package can read this data and provide meaningful information to the webmaster. The information gathered from these logs can be very valuable in improved services to the viewers of the web site.FTPFTP stands for file transfer protocol. It is a way of quickly uploading or downloading many files to and from a web server. Most web hosting companies will allow their customers access to their web hosting accounts via FTP. FTP is very useful and is a great feature to have when paying for a web hosting account.ScriptingSince the World Wide Web began, many scripting languages have been created and have evolved into the dynamic and interactive environment we enjoy today. A scripting language is a way of adding functionality to a web site, whether it be to calculate numbers or to load information from an external database. Scripting languages have made electronic commerce possible. Some of these languages include PHP, ASP, JSP, Coldfusion, VBscript, Javascript, and Perl. I won’t go into the details of these in this article for the sake of complexity. If you know how to use these languages, you should know what to look for in a web server for them.DatabasesA database is a place to store data that can be used in a large variety of ways. Databases are used on the Internet for applications such as shopping carts, message boards, and product catalogues. The more databases the web hosting provider allows you to create, the most applications you can deploy on your web server. Databases are used by the more advanced web master, but information is freely available online should you be interested.ConclusionsWeb hosting can be a very difficult decision with the many thousands of hosting companies out there. It is critical to find a plan that fits your needs and to have a good hosting company. I hope this article was useful in making your decision about which company to host with. Happy Hosting!

Motorsports Engineering Schools in North Carolina

If you’re interested in a career in racing or automotive technology, you might be considering a motorsports engineering school or program. Great decision! The specialized education that a motorsports engineering program provides will give you a leg up on your future career prospects, and set you on the fast track to a great career in racing!Here, we’re highlighting motorsports engineering schools located in the great state of North Carolina.One of the biggest advantages to attending a school in North Carolina is the close proximity to the heart of racing country. NASCAR is the fastest growing type of racing in this country, and there’s no shortage of interest in NASCAR in North Carolina, especially in the Charlotte area. All of the major NASCAR race shops and many of the main manufacturers for the industry are located in or near Charlotte, making it the perfect place to look for an internship and future job.


NASCAR Technical Institute, UNC-Charlotte, Belmont Abbey College, Central Piedmont Community College, and Forsyth Technical Community College are all located in North Carolina. Most are in or near Charlotte.The University of North Carolina – Charlotte is located, obviously, in Charlotte and it is one of the best motorsports engineering schools in the country. It is one of the few schools that offer a bachelors of science degree in motorsports engineering, and it offers required specialized education in motorsports along with applied knowledge in both laboratory and real-world settings.Belmont Abbey College offers motorsports management minor, which is a bit less technical than a major motorsports engineering program like UNC-Charlotte’s degree. Central Piedmont Community College offers a high school for college credit with a certificate program in automotive systems with a specialization in motorsports that can be applied to a major four-year college.


Forsyth Technical Community College offers an associate of applied science (AAS) degree in race car technology, while the NASCAR Technical Institute, which has multiple locations, offers technical certificate programs that relate to motorsports technology.Any of these programs will help get you on the right track towards a career in racing and motorsports, along with giving you a variety of applied technical knowledge and skills that you can use in a number of different career paths. A motorsports education is the first step to realizing your dreams in racing, and attending a program in the heart of racing country is a great step in a positive direction.