No Better Time to Start a Business

5 Reasons There's Never Been a
Better Time to Start a Business

Mike Armour

This is the greatest time in history to start a small business.

Sure, money for startups is not easy to come by. The economy, while technically in recovery, stands on wobbly legs. And in some markets, qualified workers are hard to find.

But let me give you five reasons why this is a fabulous time to start a small business.

1. It has never been easier to look big at little cost.

Yellow Pages and newspapers are dying institutions. The web has taken over. The first order of business for any startup is to establish a web presence.

And the marvelous thing about web sites is that you can look just as big and professional as your long-established competitors.

In the heyday of Yellow Page advertising, only the most profitable businesses could afford a full-page ad. The same is still true with newspapers. But on the web, you have just as much display space as a Fortune 100 company. And the cost is nominal. Most web hosting fees are less than a dollar per day.

Moreover, you can use as many pages as you want to showcase your services or products, all at no extra cost. In fact, the more showcase pages the better. Search engines determine your position, in part, by the "depth" of your web site. That is, larger sites are more likely to be given prominence in search results than are those with few pages.

But there is a caveat. You can't just add pages for the sake of adding pages. The pages must be substantive and relevant to your site's theme. Otherwise search engines will penalize you by pushing you further down in the results. (Yes, the search engines are indeed smart enough to figure out whether your pages are substantive and relevant.)

Unless you are in a position to hire a top-flight web designer who has truly mastered search engine optimization (SEO), your site probably will not appear early on in the first page of a Google search. And since most people never page beyond the first ten listings or so on a Google search, you might wonder why you should even bother with a web site.

The answer is, to build credibility. For a small startup, the web site does not serve so much to attract customers, but to confirm to potential customers that you really are a going concern. Your business card and marketing materials should all highlight your web site.

Your purpose is to encourage people to visit the site and gain a positive impression of who you are and what you offer. And as I said, when they check you out, you can look just as established and impressive as the big boys.

2. It has never been easier to create a support staff.

Almost any service that you need to start, build, and promote a business can be out-sourced at reasonable fees. If you can't afford an administrative assistant or hesitate to make a hiring commitment at this juncture, virtual assistants are an inexpensive alternative.

Because of today's technology, your virtual assistants can be anywhere in the country, and your customers will have no idea that the assistant is not sitting in the office right beside you.

The beauty is that you pay virtual assistants only for the hours and services that you need. Some virtual assistants are generalists, ready to answer your phone, take messages, respond to emails, submit your invoices, and handle routine correspondence.

Others are more specialized and can take care of your bookkeeping, write your ad copy, design your email camgaigns, maintain your web page and social network feeds, or take care of any other clerical task on which your business depends.

I know small business owners who have four or five virtual assistants, each one caring for a particular administrative niche for the business. Each assistant may provide only a few hours of service each month for the owner. But because they are all specialists, their combined set of skills transcends anything that the owner is likely to find in hiring a full time assistant.

3. It has never been easier to work efficiently.

Technology has revolutionized the way that routine tasks in a business are managed. The "take-it-anywhere" tablet computer is just the latest piece of technology to advance this revolution. Today any coffee shop can be your work desk.

And software has made it a breeze to create templates that you use time and again for correspondence, marketing, time-tracking, expense recording, or capturing notes from meetings with clients or customers.

The key for any small business owner is to maximize the amount of time that he or she spends generating business and income. With today's technology, it's far less complicated to free up time for activities that directly generate revenue.

As was the case with many of my readers, I cut my administrative teeth on a Selectric typewriter. Later I felt that I had made a massive improvement in efficiency when I bought an electric typewriter which had memory — so much memory that I could even store two or three letters in it!

Can you imagine how much time the simple administration of a business took in those days? By contrast, we not only have powerful software packages today to automate almost any aspect of a business, these programs integrate seamlessly with other software to maximize efficiency. And it's only going to get better.

4. It has never been easier to get your message out.

Harking back to those days of Selectric typewriters, let me describe what it was like to do routine marketing in that era. For a startup you were basically limited to direct mail, newspaper ads, and the Yellow Pages. If you were well-funded, radio advertising and billboards were also a possibility, or even an occasional TV campaign.

To look professional, the direct mail piece had to be produced by a print shop with layout specialists who physically pasted together every element of the mailer. If the piece was multi-colored and involved a great many graphic elements, the print shop staff also had to include talented artists.

You routinely needed one or two weeks' lead time to get the direct mail piece designed, printed, and in the mail. And since so many people were involved in the production, the cost was substantial.

Today, with a relatively inexpensive color printer and some graphic design software, you can turn out the same product in a matter of minutes, or hours at most.

Plus, you also have the venues of advertising on the web, promoting your business via Twitter, building a community of followers on Facebook, or creating awareness of your services on LinkedIn. And other than for your ads on the web, none of this costs you a penny.

Further, if an ad is not working on the web, you can change it out with a few clicks. Not like Yellow Page ads that can be changed once a year or newspaper ads which can normally be changed only with several days' notice.

5. It has never been easier to target your marketing.

It seems that demographic information is captured everywhere. Research on markets and market segments is readily available. Whatever niche your business serves, you can quickly identify the people who are potential customers.

This is one of the reasons that Facebook advertising has become so popular. When people register for Facebook, they provide an extensive amount of personal information, which is posted on their page. Facebook then uses that same information to define target audiences for advertisers.

So when I create Facebook ads for Startups After 50, I specify that the ads are to be displayed only to people who are 48 or older, who reside in the U.S., and who are online at certain hours of the day. That saves me from wasting money for ads that are shown to people who are not likely participants in the Startups After 50 community. I could even narrow it down further to people who reside in certain areas of the country or who have certain levels of education.

In a similar way, Google keeps track of what sites people visit. Then it shows them ads which would seem to be of interest to them, given the sites which they have visited.

While Google ads are more expensive than Facebook ads, they offer the advantage that many or most of the people who will see your ad have already used online searches to look for services or products similar to those which you are promoting. Or you can pay for an ad which appears at the top of Google's displayed results when people search on a particular topic.

Never before have we been able to spend advertising dollars so efficiently.

I could easily add to this list of reasons why this is such a great time to start a business. But in the interest of brevity I'll restrict it to these five.

The bottom line is this. Anytime is a good time to think about starting a business. Today is the best time to actually start one.

This article first appeared in Encore Entrepreneur inbox magazine on July 3, 2014.

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