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4 Ways Your Small Business Can Compete With the Big Guns—and Grow

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Small business owners can often feel like they are at a disadvantage when they have to go head-to-head with major corporations in order to find business. However, a small business owner can compete.

After all, most of those big corporations began as small businesses themselves.

1. Focus on relationships, not on transactions.

The lifetime value of your customer will matter far more than any individual transaction will. So your primary focus should always be on treating that customer well—so well, in fact, that he or she will want to come back to you again and again.

As a small business owner you are actually at an advantage here. You’re still small enough to know all of your customers by name, and to give the kind of personalized service that many people long for. People like doing business with people, and you’ve got the time and opportunity to show your human side.

2. Be memorable.

There is a lot of noise out there. Invest time and energy into distinguishing yourself. Create a striking, memorable brand. Make sure your offering stands out from the crowd. Don’t launch anything until you’ve got at least some idea of how you’re going to do that. 

3. Stay away from investors, and stay out of debt.

I’ll say this up front. There are plenty of people who are going to disagree with me here.
However, investors become your new bosses quickly. They want to grow your company all right—grow it fast, so they can sell it. Obtaining an investor is usually not the best way to turn your small business into a big business empire, at least, not if you’re trying to transform your hard work into a legacy.

Banks aren’t much better, and servicing debt has a habit of sucking away your profits.
Allow your sales to finance your business growth instead. Make sure you’re always putting something aside to use on behalf of your business growth so that you can continue to expand.

4. Be religious about developing and executing a marketing plan.

Business plans are like battle plans. They don’t survive your first contact with the enemy. Marketing plans, however, are sheer gold. 

Marketing should be the first task you tackle at the beginning of each day, since marketing is the fuel that will drive your business to greater heights of success. If you make it your priority then you won’t be a “small” business for very long!

Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams

How mugshot removal services works?

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Just how damning is a mugshot, anyway? Ask the so-called "hot felon" who was arrested in July of 2014. This man is attractive, and he looked a little threatening in his mugshot. Soon, the whole world had him labeled as a thug. Even though, as the New York Times pointed out, this man was a father and a worker and a devoted husband, all the world could see were his crimes and his guilt.

Unfortunately, that's common. And, stories like this should prompt you to get serious about mugshot removal, just as soon as you're arrested.

The Mugshot Website Business

There are literally hundreds of mugshot websites crowding the internet right now. Each of these sites might look a little different, but they all tend to work in the same way.

If you're arrested and photographed as part of that arrest, your mugshot will pop up in an online database, along with your name and a few other details about you and your supposed crime. Mugshot websites use crawlers to find that information and copy it.

That scraped information is then put on the mugshot website, and it's supported by all sorts of code that makes these sites irresistible to search engines like Google. These SEO techniques can push mugshot websites to the top of the results page when people search for your name, even if you're trying to generate other content that has more value.

Here's an example of how powerful SEO can be. In a Search Engine Land analysis, websites with a great deal of SEO coding managed to grab the top spot on searches for the term "Nordstrom coupons," even if those sites contained content that had nothing to do with that phrase. Even if the site had typographic or grammar errors, and even if the site wasn't liked by a lot of people, it held the top spot due to crafty coding. And that spot was held tight, no matter what other sites did.

Mugshot websites that use these techniques are just hard to outrank, and even Google hasn't been able to change things. In 2013, for example, the New York Times ran an analysis of the mugshot website industry, and Google claimed to respond by devaluing mugshots in search results. But just months later, all of those gains started to slide away. And now? Mugshots are back on top again. 

Photos are, in part, fueling that rise. Consider this example.



This man was arrested in Oregon, and his mugshot information is the third hit on my Google search result for his name. But check out the little cluster of photos. You'll see that at least one is a mugshot, and if I expand that and look at only images, a ton are mugshots.



That means Google is associating his name with mugshots. What could that be doing to his reputation?

State-By-State Responses
Some legislators have drafted specific legislation that protects people who have been arrested. Georgia has one of the strongest laws out there, as newspapers suggest that the laws in this state specifically prohibit the use of mugshots for a commercial enterprise. That means sites can't scrape Georgia mugshots and ask people for money in order to remove the photos. That's a great deal of protection for Georgia citizens.

But most states have softer laws. In Oregon, for example, the legislature requires mugshot websites to remove images of people who were somehow exonerated for their crimes. In other words, if you were arrested in Oregon and were later proven not guilty, or you went through another legal process to clear your name, the mugshot website must take your photo down.

It all sounds good, but there are a few problems here:
  1. Many people actually are guilty when they're arrested. Sure, your crime might be small. But if you did the deed and you got arrested, you wouldn't be protected.
  2. The law doesn't apply in all states.
  3. You must notify the website administrator to take advantage, and many mugshot websites don't have published contact information.
  4. If you do manage to make contact, the site administrators typically have 30 days to comply with the order, which is an eternity of embarrassment.

So while legislators have tried to work on this issue, it would be silly to lean on the laws to curb a mugshot website problems. Clearly, there's a lot at stake and the laws can't fix the issue in a hurry.

How Mugshot Removal Services Work

Mugshot removal companies take a two-prong approach. First off, they spend a significant amount of time on research. They know who owns the mugshot websites in question, and they know how to contact those website owners. That means they can get in touch with a web master in a hurry, and prompt a change quickly.

Often, that change involves another tricky SEO technique: A robots.txt command. In essence, this piece of code works a little like a cloak of invisibility.

Search engines like Google use crawlers to scoot over the web and take notes about what's new and what's gone. A robots.txt command blocks the crawlers from accessing a specific page. So when the crawlers come back, the page is simply hidden and missing.

Google doesn't disclose how often it crawls a site, but experts suggest that sites with a great deal of traffic (like mugshot websites do) get crawled frequently. That means a robots.txt command could cure a mugshot problem in days or even hours. It's just that fast. All that's required is for a mugshot removal provider to contact a mugshot site administrator, request a robots.txt amendment and presto! Problem solved.


At InternetReputation.com, we've been using techniques just like this for years. And as of January 2015, we've helped more than 17,000 clients overcome their mugshot issues. Would you like to be next? Just contact us, and we'll tell you more. 

Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams

4 Customer Service Policies You Should Evaluate Right Now

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Nobody ever gets out of bed in the morning and says, “I want to build the kind of company who develops a reputation for screwing customers.” Yet every day, companies develop policies which are in danger of creating just such a reputation.

Your company’s future revenue, reputation, and culture are all in the hands of the people at your customer service desk. Yet those people can only carry out the policies you’ve imposed on them.
Here are four policies that probably require your immediate attention.

1. Your Billing Policy

Do your customer service and sales representatives currently work to clearly and concisely explain each and every bill? Do you have any hidden fees or charges (even very small ones)? Is there any mechanism in your company which might cause someone to receive surprise charges, say, for lifetime memberships or extended contracts which they might not want or need?

We’ve all heard stories of companies with bad billing practices. Many of them have been publically denounced as “scammers” or worse.

When you take a person’s credit card number, enter into an ACH agreement with them, or issue them a bill you are literally playing with their lives. Make sure that your policies respect that reality. Billing should be clear, straightforward, easy, and stress free.

2. Your Service Policy

Does your business requires you to have service people on hand to fix technical problems? You’ve got a few reputation landmines that need evaluation.

First, the employees themselves. Do they really work hard to make sure that they aren’t missing the homeowner? Or do they knock oh-so-lightly on the door, then leave a door hanger, walking away from customers who are right there?

Do you charge customers to see service technicians? Are those charges explained up front? Did customers know they might be charged for service when they began doing business with their company?

You never want to hit your customers with a “surprise” or “gotcha” of any kind, especially when they’re having technical problems with something you sold to them.

3. Your Cancellation Policy

Is it easy for customers to tell you that they don’t want to do business with you any more, or do you turn it into a long, drawn out ordeal in which you try to milk a few extra dollars from the customer before they go?

Remember, today’s cancellation could be tomorrow’s repeat business. Customers cancel for a variety of reasons—including temporary cash flow problems. They may come back to you later if you don’t make their lives any harder today.

That’s not to say that you aren’t entitled to what you’re owed if the customer signed a contract. Nor is it to say that you shouldn’t collect the customer’s final bill. I’m just saying that you need to make the entire process as quick, easy, and pain free as you possibly can.

4. Your Refund Policy

Does your customer service team have the ability to issue a painless refund or credit to a customer who is angry? If they don’t, they should. Often a refund is the quickest way to resolve a situation.
Yes, you might lose some revenue. But the customer will walk away happy. Happy customers come back. They don’t go around trashing you on Internet websites or telling all of their family and friends why they’ll never do business with you again. This reputation threat can mean thousands of dollars in lost sales. Ask yourself if it’s worth it.

Of course, there are situations when a refund is not going to be at all appropriate, and your team should be trained on those situations so that you’re not simply giving away the farm to everyone who asks. Once they have this training, however, you can trust them to do a good job of resolving situations.


All of these policies go back to money—and for good reason.  Money is a touchy subject. If consumers feel, at any point, that you’re out to take more than your fair share of their hard-earned dollar then you’re going to be in for some trouble. The bottom line? Craft policies that treat your customers the way you’d like to be treated if you were in their shoes. You’ll be rewarded with more profits, and a stronger company overall. 

Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams

 

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