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This Week in Small Business: Does Yelp Help?

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A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.

Economy 1: Turning the Corner

A Wall Street Journal study of small-business chief executives shows some optimism, and economic confidence is up along with a rise in the stock market. A new survey shows a steady, four-year increase in small-business job growth projections, and Rick Newman says small businesses have finally turned the corner. Housing starts (pdf) increased and new building permits are being issued at the fastest pace since 2008. Existing home sales and prices continued to rise in February, but a report says it’s still cheaper to buy than rent in the country’s top 100 metropolitan areas. Even independent bookstores did better than ever in 2012. Recent good data has economists “falling over themselves” to revise first-quarter growth estimates, but if you really want to know how the economy is doing, keep your eyes on a McDonald’s “eggonomic indicator”: drive-thru windows.

Economy 2: However

January’s jobless rate rose in 25 states. FedEx had a disappointing quarter, Caterpillar reported a slowdown in sales, and even though their ad spending increased 4 percent in 2012, restaurants are reeling from their worst three months since 2010. A consumer metrics wizard displays charts that show that this time around the pain (or economic cynicism) seems to be universal. The Federal Reserve holds firm to its stimulus plan, and Scott Grannis says the central bank is not printing money.

Online: Yelp’s Help

Yelp claims small businesses that advertise on its review platform produce an average $23,000 more a year in revenue. But small businesses still are not spending on online ads, and Cynthia Boris wonders why more are not taking advantage of online marketing. On the other hand, half of what online advertisers think they know about their Web visitors may be wrong. Here are 26 tools to enhance your business blog, eight mistakes to avoid when beginning your blog and eight steps to increase online visibility. Dan Norris says you should use Google Analytics to determine if your content is generating leads, and G.B. Oliver identifies a few recent search phrases that have been trending lately on Google.

Your People: Gloomy

Colleen Stanley says you should stop being in a hurry and say “thanks” once in a while. Venessa Wong explains why Mark Zuckerberg (and other C.E.O.’s) are popular with their employees. Gary Shouldis lists five reasons your business needs an employee manual. Most workers are not saving enough to retire, and a survey finds low-wage workers are gloomy about the future. March Madness will cost businesses $134 million but employers don’t seem concerned. Here are 10 March Madness stars to follow on Instagram. The president shares his N.C.A.A. bracket picks (and the kid president shares his). Booz Allen studies the environmental impact of basketball tournaments.

Women: Silicon Valley Discrimination

Sarah Barrett explains how she became an accidental entrepreneur. Sarah McKinney suggests 10 ways women entrepreneurs and leaders should take action now. Jane Harrow provides a quick guide to 360-degree feedback, especially for women. Vivek Wadhwa says Silicon Valley discriminates against women (but there is hope). Peggy Drexler says there are perks from crying at work.

Management: Problems at Quiznos

Joel Libava reports on the latest problems at Quiznos. A new book offers business lessons from Shakespeare. Ron Ashkenas says there are psychological reasons why stopping activities is so hard to do in organizations. A new report finds that although the incidence of fraud has decreased over all from 2011, 61 percent of companies reported they were hit by fraud at least once. And to put things into perspective, here’s how mom-and-pops fought five-and-dimes back in the Depression.

Cash Flow: The Perfect Vehicle

Wells Fargo topped the list for small-business loans in 2012. Lisa Girard has 10 questions to ask yourself before choosing an office, and here is how to pick the perfect vehicle for your business. Katy A. Limbaugh offers tips for organizing your company’s finances, including: “No business can successfully flourish without a proper projection, planning or budget.” A new financial app will track your business’s health.

Start-Up: Free Online Classes

Roya Wolverson suggests the best age to start a business, and Phyllis Korkki reports that budding entrepreneurs can get an “M.B.A. lite.” Eric T. Wagner says that spending a fortune in time and money to build your brainchild product or service is just one of seven steps to start-up failure, and Mark Suster also has thoughts on the biggest mistakes start-ups make. If you’re still up for starting a company, here are eight free online courses. And these are the best cities for start-ups, according to the Kauffman Foundation.

Ideas: Get Cash From Microsoft

Food scooters might be the next big thing. Or how about a restaurant that serves World War II fare? Or a beverage business? Microsoft is now offering cash to anyone who wants to build apps. British Airways introduces an “innovation lab in the sky.” Nike chooses 10 companies to drive digital sport innovation. This entrepreneurial couple turned their passion for arcade-style video games into profits. MillerCoors awards $150,000 in small-business grants. Ramit Sethi decides to give away two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the United States. The National Small Business Association chooses its Small Business Advocate of the Year.

E-Mail: Expand Your List

Hunter Boyle and Corey Post explain how to expand your e-mail list. A new study says that e-mail volume increased 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 over the same period a year earlier (with open rates the highest on Saturdays and Sundays). A social, e-mail and marketing webinar series is introduced.

Marketing: More Mistakes

Will Stevens explains how to run a content marketing campaign with no budget. John Jantsch says that the best way to guarantee that your new offerings succeed is to develop them with your customers instead of for your customers. Here are three ways that technology can improve customer service, and here are five marketing mistakes that 95 percent of entrepreneurs make.

Health Insurance: Three Years of A.C.A.

The Affordable Care Act has its third anniversary, and all eyes are on Arkansas. Some small businesses have figured out a loophole in the health law. CVS tells employees to reveal personal health information or pay up. A small-business owner wonders if her bakery should offer health insurance. This insanely complicated chart will help you determine if you can get health care. A study finds that the A.C.A. is not causing a big shift to part-time workers.

Taxes: Get Help

Brian Sutter shares five tax-season tips for small-business owners. Deborah Sweeney says that new tax credits and deductions could help small businesses expand this year. A new Internal Revenue Service tax tip explains the home-office deduction.

Around the Country: Flies, Maggots, Rats

A New Jersey poll finds small-business owners oppose a minimum-wage increase. A news anchor reads her own marriage proposal from a teleprompter. A huge oil deposit is found in the Gulf of Mexico. What “Big Ag” does not want you to see: flies, maggots, rats and waste. Stephen Colbert’s sister wins a Congressional primary. Manufacturing improves in the Philadelphia region, and the Philadelphia City Council passes a sick leave bill. A guy who won’t share his ice cream with his girlfriend is analyzed mercilessly.

Around the World: Panic in Cyprus

Cyprus creates a financial panic, but Mike Shedlock believes there is good news for some. Inflation hits a nine-month high in Britain and the government chooses more austerity. The World Start-Up Report provides a 15-minute guide to India’s start-up scene and culture. Jeremy Glass offers a D.I.Y. guide to being a hipster. German investor confidence unexpectedly rose to a three-year high but global steel output fell in February. McDonald’s gives away five million McMuffins in Asia. This kid has a point about tests.

Mobile: Should You Bother With Apps?

The C.E.O. of GetApp.com says that understanding the pricing model is just one thing you need to consider when trying to find the best apps for your small business. But Mariana Simoes believes that most small businesses shouldn’t bother with apps. In a new survey, 63 percent of consumers say they may buy from an e-mail read on a mobile device, while the number who may unsubscribe because of poor mobile display exceeds 30 percent. Fast Company finds the experience of using Square Wallet at Starbucks is “anything but polished.”

Technology: Amazon and the C.I.A.

Anne Czernek sums up the big trends from this year’s SXSW, and here’s how a few smart companies managed to set themselves apart from the crowd. Google introduces a competitor to Evernote, but will it just end up in the company’s graveyard? Microsoft Office “Luddites” explain why they will never give up their DVDs. Amazon may be entering into a deal with the C.I.A. Gerald Dicen has some advice about cyberinsurance for small-business owners. Staples releases an app for small-business owners. Sage sells off its ACT! and SalesLogix businesses. Here are five steps to create a cool, safe place for your data.

Tweet of the Week

@MaxGoldberg – I honestly think my favorite part of owning my own business today is having a landline.

The Week’s Best

Ross Kimbarovsky wonders if you know how to market and sell to squirrels: “The attention span of a human adult, according to BBC News, is nine seconds (The Associated Press reports that in 2012, the average attention span for a human was eight seconds). Nearly one-fifth of all page views in 2012 lasted fewer than four seconds. And to add fuel to the fire, people read only approximately half of the words on a Web page that has fewer than 111 words (and only 28 percent of the words on a Web page that has more than 593 words). If you’re still reading, then you’ve obviously decided that this content had some value and was worth your time.”

This Week’s Question: Do you think Yelp helps?

Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Mystic Maggie

All of the Mystic Maggie Posts are RSS Reader Feeds from around the web. All copyright remains with the original publisher. No copyright is claimed or intended. Where supplied, links back to the original article are included.

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