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Monday, January 31, 2005
Chinese Entrepreneurs Buy Franchises
China's new entrepreneurial class is growing -- and companies like McDonald's and KFC are vying to pick the best and brightest for their franchises.

In preparation for entering the World Trade Organization, China is adopting standardized franchise regulations. Now that China seems to be adopting the rule of law, all sorts of good and entirely predictable things are happening on the trade front. Among them: Western companies are no longer afraid they will lose their trade secrets and brands if they offer franchises. In fact, those companies now are actively seeking out Western-educated entrepreneurs in China to become franchisees.

An article in last week's Wall Street Journal profiles this new entrepreneurial movement. The Journal is subscription only, but luckily I found a reprint of the article with open access on the Bain & Company website. The first McDonald's franchisee in China, Meng Sun (a woman by the way) is quoted in the article as saying:
"Before, people in China couldn't imagine being an entrepreneur. They only tried to build large state-owned companies," Ms. Sun says. "But now, it's getting better, as people see that even Bill Gates is an entrepreneur."
All of which goes to show that intellectual property rights and the rule of law that protects them are crucial to a thriving entrepreneurial culture. The reference to Bill Gates has special meaning, also. Recently he was lambasted for suggesting -- in a rather poor choice of analogies -- that those who want to limit intellectual property rights are something like communists. As clumsy as his comments were, and as twisted out of context as they were taken, there is a lot of truth to his words. He said:
"...I'd say that of the world's economies, there's more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist.

And this debate will always be there. I'd be the first to say that the patent system can always be tuned -- including the US patent system. There are some goals to cap some reform elements. But the idea that the United States has led in creating companies, creating jobs, because we've had the best intellectual-property system -- there's no doubt about that in my mind, and when people say they want to be the most competitive economy, they've got to have the incentive system. Intellectual property is the incentive system for the products of the future."
Capitalism has stood the test of time so well because it does not deny human nature. It is human nature for an entrepreneur or business owner to want to know he or she will be rewarded for innovation and industriousness and calculated risk. Even China is figuring out that if you want to grow small businesses, then intellectual property rights and laws protecting them are essential.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
PowerBlog Review: Ask Crabby
Editor's note: Welcome to the fiftieth in our regular weekly series of PowerBlog Reviews of business weblogs.

This week we review a blog that is different from any other blog we've reviewed. Ask Crabby's Gazette is a food blog, about seafood. It's also an eCommerce blog.

You knew eCommerce was coming to blogs, right? All it takes is an enterprising entrepreneur to marry the new form of website to good old fashioned eCommerce. That entrepreneur is Denise O'Berry, a well seasoned (no pun intended) blogger and Internet entrepreneur.

Denise started Ask Crabby's Gazette to complement her online seafood store, Lobster-Crab. As she says, "I wanted a way to interact with people and to be able to dynamically update the content as often as I felt necessary. A blog was the answer to that for me. Plus I felt it gave me an opportunity to reach a broader audience than just having a newsletter and a website."

Ask Crabby's Gazette offers seafood recipes, interesting seafood tidbits and facts, and special offers from the Lobster-Crab store. The offers and ads are well-integrated, being placed next to related content in the blog. Of course, smart etailers know that ads placed in proximity to relevant content have the best click-through and conversion rates.

For instance, at the bottom of a recent post entitled "Where Does Your Shrimp Come From?" Denise offers a mouth-watering text link to the Lobster-Crab store: "Plump Pink Shrimp Order Today, Eat Your Fresh Shrimp Tomorrow!" (That's "plump pink prawns" to all of you outside the U.S., by the way.) Appealing to the senses always helps sell.

Denise stays precisely on point in Ask Crabby's Gazette. Every single post is about seafood -- the blog never deviates. One nice side benefit of this highly targeted content is that the Google AdSense ads are all for seafood, too. On all too many blogs, the AdSense ads seem all over the place and offer little value to readers. But on Ask Crabby's Gazette they work the way they are supposed to, giving readers relevant resources.

Denise offered up some practical advice for entrepreneurs considering using blogs to augment an eCommerce strategy:
"The key to success in any business blogging endeavor is to be helpful to the audience you serve. If you can make their life easier or help them find the resources they need in less time than it would normally take, you can develop a faithful following. Be consistent in communicating with your audience. Gaps in communication can be a sure way to lose that following. I like to prepare ahead with all of my blogs. I search around for useful information I can share and make sure I have enough in my holding queue to keep my blog going for at least two weeks, a month is even better. I use Google Alerts to keep me abreast of what's going on in my topic areas. I'm always on the lookout for day-to-day life experiences that can add value to my blog.

Affiliate programs and advertising will work in a blog if they follow along with the same concept of helping the audience you are serving. Everyone's been through at least one frustrating episode of searching for what you need on the Internet. If all of that can be found in one place, whether it's free, via an ad or affiliate program, it will be a useful resource to readers."
Sounds like great advice.

The Power: The Power of Ask Crabby's Gazette is in the way the blog complements an eCommerce strategy. By combining relevant, frequently-updated content along with ads and special offers, the reader has a good foundation to read and then buy.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Andy Lark with Lessons for Today's Business Communicators
This is another in our series of posts about the New Communications Forum "Blog University" held this past week in Napa, California.

Andy Lark gave a rousing keynote talk. He spoke about how blogging is changing the way companies are communicating about their businesses and relating to their customers.

Andy is an executive with Sun Microsystems (although he soon will be leaving). His pedigree is important because it gives an idea of the emphasis a Fortune 500 company places on blogging.

He started off by showing a Flash presentation entitled "EPIC 2014" portraying one view of the future of media. If you haven't seen this 8-minute presentation, take the time to have a look right now. The premise: in the future, each and every one of us will have a part in creating news and content, and computers will stitch that news together into personalized stories for us. It's wild stuff, for sure, but we're closer to it than you might think.

Setting the tone with that opening video, Andy's talk was free-wheeling, forward-looking and thought-provoking. He covered a huge amount of ground, but I only have room to highlight a few of the many great points he made:
  • The ability of PR professionals to control a company's message and public perception is waning. Power is shifting to the individual, especially individual bloggers. Many more people will be writing about companies and their products, and even more people will be reading those messages. Those messages are not coming from the communications professionals who work for your company, but average citizens over whom you have no control.

  • Press releases as a method of getting out a company's message are on the decline. However, PR flaks are not dead. Their role is simply changing. Rather than creating canned communications, a larger proportion of their time needs to be spent on monitoring blog messages about their companies and clients. Viral marketing campaigns will take a bigger chunk out of marketing budgets. Marketing communications and PR professionals need to know how to use news feeds and feed readers in order to track what is being said about their companies. He says you need to be aware of the top 8 blogs in your industry, you need to read them, and you need to engage and make comments on them.

  • PR professionals also need to find more authentic ways to relate to customers, such as creating official corporate blogs and helping corporate executives communicate with the public in their own voices. He says some CEO bloggers have writing coaches who correct their typos and help with style (you suspected that, right?). Andy warns that companies need to watch out to make sure these blogs are authentic voices -- authenticity matters.

  • He seemed to suggest that 100% transparency when writing a blog is not always realistic or desirable. If you are too open and reveal too much you can lose your competitive advantage. He also noted that in publicly-traded companies, how open you can be depends on the position of the person writing a blog. For instance, a Robert Scoble can be more transparent because he is not a legally-designated "insider" official who is bound by strict SEC laws. However, the vice Chairman of General Motors can't afford to be as open in his Fastlane blog, because he makes all sorts of decisions that if casually revealed could sway the stock price and have serious legal ramifications for him, the company, and its shareholders.
Lots of great stuff from Andy -- I could have listened to him for a lot longer. Read more on Andy's blog. NOTE: The photo was snapped after the conference when Andy took a few minutes to mingle before he headed out. He's engaging and like most Aussies, down to earth.

(UPDATE: A reader emails to tell me that Andy Lark is originally from New Zealand, not Australia. Oh well, at least I was in the right hemisphere.)
Friday, January 28, 2005
More About this Blogging Trend...
The New Communications Forum "Blog University" is now over and I am back in Cleveland.

In case you are concerned that I plan to turn Small Business Trends into a "blog for business" megaphone -- well, I don't. I simply happen to believe that blogging is a key marketing and communications trend for small businesses. Ounce for ounce, small businesses will get more for their marketing buck from blogs than from any other online activity. In that sense, blogging is a relevant trend in the small business market.

Bear with me as I wrap up a couple of posts about the conference. Then I'll move off the topic of blogs and on to more varied fare....
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Live Blogging Day 2 Blog University: More Links
It's Day 2 of Blog University and I am again live blogging. Right now I am listening to the opening keynote by Andrew Lark of Sun Microsystems.

Meanwhile, until I can get a post up on Andy's keynote, let me point you to some other posts about yesterday's sessions:

UPDATE: Jeremy Wright is seated on my left at the "laptop table," typing furiously. All that typing intrigued me. So I pulled up his site and found that Jeremy is live blogging Andy Lark's keynote. I feel like I need to clone myself so that I can take in everything that's happening -- I'm listening to the speaker, trying to take notes, taking the odd digital photo, and reading Jeremy's take on the talk all at the same time.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Live Blogging from Blog University - How to Write a Blog
This is my third live blogging post from the New Communications Forum "Blog University."

Trudy Schuett of the WOLves blog is leading a relaxed, informal discussion about how to write for a blog.

Trudy and I had met up at the Sacramento Airport last evening and drove together to the hotel (the Silverado in Napa). On route we talked about how readers of a blog will actually influence and shape the content of the blog. Through comments, links and emails, readers will tell the blogger what they want to read. Bloggers who pay attention to the feedback are apt to tailor their content to suit the audience interest.

According to one of the participants, Dan Taylor, Managing Director of Mobile Enterprise Alliance: "You don't have to be an expert, either. Most bloggers I've encountered are open to saying 'Hey, I could be wrong.'"

What's a bad blog post? One with the wrong link or that doesn't tell you anything.

As to the appropriate length of a post, the general consensus was "It depends." It depends on the writer's style and the topic -- and also what your readers want to read. Some of Trudy's most popular posts have been very long posts. As Trudy says, "You have to consider each blog post individually."
Live Blogging from Blog University - How to Pitch Bloggers
This is my second post in which I am live blogging from the New Communications Forum "Blog University," here in Napa, California.

Right now Alice Marshall of Technoflak is leading a session on "How to Pitch Bloggers."

She's talking about how PR and corporate marketing professionals should or should not approach individual bloggers to promote products and companies.

Alice points out these important points to remember about pitching bloggers:
  • To identify the blogs which are influential in your target space, check services such as Technorati and Bloglines to discover which blogs are discussing your clients or your company, and its products and markets. Then visit those blogs and check their blogrolls and post links to find other related-topic blogs.

  • The time to develop relationships with influential bloggers is before you need to make a specific pitch. Spend some time commenting on blogs that are key to your client's or company's markets, so that you are not unknown when a need to make a pitch arises.

  • Personalize your message to the blogger. Phrase your email something like this: "I read your post about such-and-such, and it reminded me of this point...."
The group discussion also turned to the topic of paying bloggers to write about particular products and companies. The general consensus: any paid relationship needs to be made obvious and open. How to go about disclosing that relationship is subject to somewhat more difference of opinion, but most people seemed to agree on this basic point: transparency is key.
Live Blogging from Blog University - Blogs vs. Discussion Boards
Today and tomorrow I will be live-blogging from the New Communications Forum "Blog University" in Napa, California. I am out in beautiful California -- quite a nice break from cold gray Cleveland where we have a foot of snow.

Today I will have a series of posts, relating key insights raised by the many talented speakers.

At the moment I am listening to Neville Hobson, who blogs at NevOn, giving an introduction to corporate blogging. He's doing a nice job leading an extremely interactive session, encouraging questions and input from the group -- and getting it! (By the way, I asked and received his enthusiastic permission to "live blog." Otherwise, I wouldn't dream of banging the keyboard while a speaker is talking.)

One of the questions raised by a participant is "My company has had a discussion forum for several years now. What is the difference between a blog and a discussion forum?"

Neville takes the question on, and with input from participants notes:
  • The person who owns the blog can choose the topics that are discussed and direct the discussion, more so than on a message board.

  • You'll find it easier to link to an individual topic or post on a blog, because each post has a "permalink." Whereas, depending on the particular forum technology being used, it can be hard to link to a particular thread.

  • Forums tend to be heavily moderated by the owners, leading to a lack of perceived trust. Blogs on the other hand, tend to be high-trust animals.

  • Blogs can be more user-friendly for the reader, because they are written as conversations with the items appearing front and center on the site. Forums tend to require more drilling down to read them.
Interestingly, the Tinbasher blog was raised as a notable example of a company blog. That's the second time this morning -- Elizabeth Albrycht -- one of the event organizers -- also noted it in her opening remarks. Please let Paul Woodhouse know he's famous! (See our PowerBlog Review of the Tinbasher.)

UPDATE JANUARY 31, 2005: From the Comments section comes a link to this paper about discussion boards and weblogs by James Farmer. Thank you, James!
Monday, January 24, 2005
Trend: Baby Boomers Flood Entrepreneurial Ranks
An article in the Wisconsin Technology Network gives several insightful predictions on trends to watch in 2005. Among them: globalization and outsourcing will continue unabated, and small and medium enterprises will be hot.

The prediction that caught my eye, though, is this one entitled "Boomers bolt":
"Look for Boomers to continue to flood the entrepreneurial ranks. If you want to keep them (and demographic trends suggest you will need to) then be prepared to offer them the right mix of flexibility, challenge and rewards. All-or-nothing approaches to employment particularly for those nearing retirement age simply won't cut it. Many older workers want to continue to work, indeed many will have to, but continuing in high pressure, all consuming roles is not an option they care to pursue. They want to do something fresh and new that allows them to draw on their deep knowledge about their work, their field of expertise, their industry and their company and its culture. New roles need to be created that keep older workers involved meaningfully but which also offer significant flexibility and choice in when and how much they work. Mentoring, consulting, and project-based assignments appeal to older workers burned out by the grind of full-time work but not ready for retirement."
I happen to agree strongly with the writer, Tony DiRomualdo. The rise of the older entrepreneur in the United States is something we have identified as one of the top nine trends influencing the small business market (see "Graying of Small Business" at our sister site, TrendTracker.)

But if so many observers see evidence of this, why do studies indicate that entrepreneurship is the domain of younger people? Why do the statistics not bear out what our observations are telling us?

For instance, the 2004 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor study -- released just last week -- suggests that entrepreneurship is for young adults:
The first observation is that it is young people between 25 and 34 years of age who are the most active entrepreneurial group of the population regardless of the wealth of the country from which they come. After the age of 35, all populations show a steady decline in entrepreneurial activity. While some minor differences can be observed between individual countries, the pattern has remained unchanged since GEM's inception in 1999.
I have a theory about this. My theory is that Baby Boomers often engage in non-traditional forms of entrepreneurship that may not be captured adequately in studies. Older entrepreneurs may engage in part-time endeavors, such as consulting, writing, and other activities more in the nature of part-time employment than entrepreneurship. Also, it is not uncommon to find Baby Boomers investing in entrepreneurial ventures as angel investors, buying franchises, and buying businesses. These activities are entrepreneurial in their essence, but don't fit the pattern of a typical startup. Some of the Baby Boomers involved in the activities may not even identify themselves as entrepreneurs.

Whether my theory is correct remains to be seen. I will continue gathering information about this trend.
Sunday, January 23, 2005
PowerBlog Review: Phosita

Editor's note: Could it possibly be the forty-ninth in our regular weekly series of PowerBlog Reviews of business weblogs already? Yes, it is!

Phosita is an intellectual property blog and part of that special genre known as the law blog, or "blawg." It is the blog of the Oklahoma and Washington based law firm of Dunlap, Codding & Rogers. Douglas Sorocco, along with Melody Wirz, Neal Rogers and Julianna Deligans, are the bloggers.

Phosita has one of the most intriguing "about" sections of any blog out there, because it is a little lesson about the law:

"PHOSITA is everyone and no one in particular. PHOSITA is an intellectual property blawg or patent blog. In patent law, PHOSITA is a mythical person of ordinary skill in the art. Why is PHOSITA important? In order to be patentable, an invention must not be obvious to PHOSITA. This blawg (legal blog) aims to provide intellectual property information, explantion and advice that is of interest to the PHOSITA in all of us."
Law blogs are a unique animal. There are hundreds of them -- maybe more. They tend to be erudite and substantive. Yet they often have a kind of intellectual humor and wit, and can be very entertaining. Take, for instance, this recent post from Phosita about moleskine notebooks, which is not strictly about legal matters but seems right at home on the site:
It's Friday (TGIF) and I must admit, I am part of a cult. I am a Moleskine'ista. There isn't much I can do about it. These little notebooks have been with me all over the world and back. *** I have waived it at irate cabbies, hidden behind it while lounging over coffee, and used it to make a point during a speech. I once waived it so furiously during a seminar that the participants started giggling and offered up a resounding Hallelujah -- I guess I looked like some type of southern preacher with my bible in hand.

Some of the posts cover technical legal issues, and probably will be most meaningful and useful to other lawyers. And apparently they are. Phosita has been named by Managing Intellectual Property as one of the top ten intellectual property blogs on the net.

For non-lawyers, especially existing clients of the firm, a blog like Phosita can be useful, but in a different way. Many lawyers -- not necessarily the ones behind Phosita, but just in general -- can seem intimidating in the typical courtroom or office setting where most clients see them. Reading a post about something as interesting and human as a passion for moleskines helps humanize the attorneys and eventually lead to closer relationships. And along the way, it doesn't hurt to pick up a few tidbits about trademark law, etc.

Phosita has done a nice job integrating its blog with the law firm's website. For instance, each of the attorneys who post on the site are identified by full name, with links to their email addresses and their biographies. The law firm name and addresses are also clearly identified, along with a link to the firm's main website. And on the firm's website, there is a prominent menu item for the blog. The most recent blog post is also reproduced on the website home page. The lawyers have done a better job leveraging their blog for marketing purposes than many marketing professionals!

The Power: The Power of Phosita is in the way it puts a human face on the lawyers behind it. At the same time, it serves as a valuable resource to other attorneys interested in intellectual property law.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Podcasting and The Citizen Broadcasting Trend
Jackie Huba, co-author of "Creating Customer Evangelists," posed an interesting question on her blog earlier this month, "Would you listen or subscribe to a business podcast?"

I responded that yes, I would, saying:
"To really answer it, I think you have to expand the question to include all forms of audio over the Internet.

Last year around this time I saw a prediction that Internet radio would be hot. I was skeptical (actually I laughed). Well, it turns out that 2004 saw a mini-explosion in all things audio-related.

The thing is, varying terminology and related technologies are being used to describe similar end results (i.e., an audio file). When you expand the question in this way, you realize that audio is really hot right now -- but it might be called podcasting, Internet radio, conversations, audio blogging, recorded interviews, MP3 downloads, or other terms. But they are referring to more or less the same end result: an audio file that can be downloaded and listened to."
As you look around you see that the same citizen journalism movement that blogs have brought about, has started to extend to audio. Several factors are fueling this movement: (1) wider availability of broadband connections, (2) cheaper and better computers equipped with speakers and hefty hard disk space, (3) the convergence of telecommunications and computing making it easy to record audio and turn it into a computerized file, and (4) the stunning popularity of the iPod device.

Everywhere you look, it seems, individuals and small businesses are starting their own Internet radio programs and doing podcasts. A small number are focused on business topics.

Some have been at it a while, such as TDavid's Script School, and IT Conversations. Others started last year, including Blogosphere Radio and authors doing 800-CEO-READ podcasts. Still others have started recently with their own business podcasts, including The Vision Thing. Each one has a different focus and different format ... but they are all examples of citizen broadcasting.

As regular readers here know, Steve from Small Business CEO and I started an audio offering over at SMBTrendWire.com. Our niche is small business. So far we have five 45-minute recordings of small business experts on a variety of interesting topics. We do a live audiocast every two weeks, which is also recorded and then becomes available for listening anytime of the day or night using Windows Media. A podcast format is in the works and will be available shortly.

There is a revolution going on in broadcasting -- a citizens' revolution. This citizen broadcasting movement is not just occurring on the Internet. There also appears to be a broader movement influencing traditional radio that "gives radio back to listeners," as Ben McConnell notes. I predict that in much the same way blogs are changing traditional media forever, the citizen broadcasting movement will change traditional radio.

The year 2005 should be interesting for the citizen broadcasting trend.

NOTE: if you do any citizen broadcasting on business topics, I invite you to leave a comment below with the URL where readers can find your audio.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Global Entrepreneurship Study
According to the just-released 2004 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 73 million people worldwide are entrepreneurs. That equates to roughly 9.3% adults, or one in eleven people, out of a total workforce of 784 million.

Many of the findings are similar to past reports, such as:
  • Most entrepreneurs (65%) are opportunity-driven, versus 35% who start a business out of necessity due to lack of jobs. Opportunity-driven entrepreneurs are more prevalent in high-income countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland, etc.

  • Venture capital funding for new businesses is quite rare, with 99.9% of nascent businesses never receiving VC money or angel funding. We've talked about this topic many times before here on Small Business Trends. This year's report contains more detail than ever on the sources of funding. It further substantiates this important point: hunting for venture capital is a waste of time.
There were also some surprising points:
  • The average capital needed to start a business is US$53,673. At first glance this number seemed high to me, but then this money would not be distributed all at once. Instead the money is likely to be doled out over time. Viewed in that light it seems realistic.

  • Many entrepreneurs are already employed as they develop their businesses. My friend Annie, who is from Shanghai, tells me the Chinese have a name for this: "riding in the big boat while carrying the little boat on your back." Apparently this kind of new-business subsidy goes on far more than I would have guessed, with 91% of those in middle-income countries having jobs. In high-income countries the figure is 81% and in low-income countries it is 77%.

Thursday, January 20, 2005
Small Businesses Need Dedicated Trade Associations
Small and medium-sized nanotechnology companies in the United Kingdom have started their own trade association. They feel that academia and large corporations don't represent their interests.

I'm not surprised. In fact it's an issue that's not limited to the nanotechnology industry.

Consider the huge difference in interests between a small 10-employee business and a multi-national 10,000-employee corporation. For instance, small businesses have more sensitivity to regulatory burdens. If a 10-employee firm has to assign one person full-time to complete regulatory paperwork, that's 10% of its workforce. In the 10,000-employee firm, even a dozen employees handling regulatory compliance would hardly be missed.

Small businesses often feel the pressure to move quickly to introduce new products. Even a delay of a few months could mean having to lay off employees, seeing profits disappear, or, worse, running out of operating cash. Large corporations normally don't operate on such a thin edge, and are better equipped to deal with delays caused by regulators.

I could go on, but the point should be clear. Smaller businesses have different interests from large corporations. Having different trade associations to represent different interests isn't such a bad idea. Sometimes, as in the case of the U.K. nanotechnology SMEs, it's a necessity.

[Hat tip to Howard Lovy of the Nanobot blog.]
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Networking Using Blogs
I moderated a panel discussion today about Blogs and RSS for Profit. All the panelists were well-prepared and gave superb insights into why businesses should have blogs.

There is one special feature I would like to highlight -- I think you will find this most interesting. Valdis Krebs, with help from George Nemeth, prepared a network map showing the core blogs in Northeast Ohio based on which blogs link to which other blogs.

Using terminology from Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, the map graphically depicts the blogs that serve as connectors (those who know lots of other bloggers) and mavens (those who know a lot about particular subjects).

The map illustrates the powerful networking capablities of blogs. It also illustrates the word-of-mouth marketing potential of blogs.

As George noted, someone needs to let Virginia Postrel know that hers is the only blog outside of Northeast Ohio that has enough links to be considered among the core local blogosphere. Apparently we're big Virginia Postrel fans here in Cleveland. Now we just need to get her to come to town to speak....

Oh, and if you needed any further evidence of the networking power of blogs, how's this: Paul Woodhouse of The Tinbasher blog in the U.K. attended the session! He is in the process of relocating to the U.S., and through blogging, a number of us were already acquainted with him. So when he came thousands of miles to a foreign country, he already had a ready-made group of business contacts. That's networking!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Marketing Tips
Marketing Sherpa, the excellent marketing resources site, has included our tip about email newsletters in its most recent Marketing Wisdom 2005 collection. We're Tip #1.

We offer an email newsletter because many readers still prefer to receive information that way, in a once a month mailing of some of our best pieces. I know many of you bloggers and early adopters out there think RSS has replaced email. RSS usage is growing fast, true, but our newsletter subscriptions continue to reach record levels.

You can always find our most recent newsletter posted online. The next edition will be coming out in a few days. You can subscribe to the Small Business Trends newsletter here.

Meanwhile, check out Marketing Wisdom 2005. With 105 great tips, you're sure to find a useful tidbit or two.

UPDATE JANUARY 20: Reader Harry Hoover of Hoover Ink writes "...as a small business owner and a marketer who specializes in small business, I find your blog a very good resource. I have been publishing an email newsletter ... since I started up three years ago, and I'm probably going to start a blog this year to complement the newsletter. I agree with your Marketing Sherpa tip...I have always published my e-newsletter on the third Wednesday of each month."
Monday, January 17, 2005
Carnival of the Capitalists Has Arrived
Welcome to the January 17, 2005 edition of Carnival of the Capitalists, the Internet's most intriguing collection of free-market articles. With nearly 45 entries, we've got a huge line-up this week.

Organizing the Carnival entries is always a challenge. Since many of the entries could have fit into multiple categories, I decided the fairest thing was to organize them in alphabetical order by blog name.

  • The Big Picture - Barry Ritholtz points out how the iPod Shuffle is similar to the experience of listening to a typical radio station...and notes the decline of radio continues.

  • Blog Business World - Wayne Hurlbert has another great post about online marketing, this one about viral marketing to get more subscribers to your e-mail newsletter or visitors to your blog or website.

  • BPWrap - A Different Point Of View - Barry Welford references a speech by Bob Lutz, GM Vice Chairman, discussing the subject of managing change. Barry writes that embracing change is good, but change for change's sake is clearly bad, and explores how to tell the difference.

  • BusinessPundit.com - Rob discusses "Information Relevance" and the problem of overwhelming information that we face today, suggesting that an important future skill for business leaders will be to determine quickly if given information is relevant or not.

  • Byrne's Marketview - Byrne says it's easy to read a business book and come away certain you now know how the business world works, but the only way to really solidify your understanding is to make a colossal mistake misapplying what you've learned -- after the first 30% or 40% market loss, everything clicks.

  • Capital Chronicle - In a meaty post, Rawdon Adams writes that behavioral finance can be used to find a way of identifying and aligning to our own risk profile the ideal national GDP growth patterns of the Asian economies. But as always, there is a risk to bear - or preferably diversify away.

  • Cap'n Arbyte's - Kyle Markley writes about the scope of the failure of Tennessee's TennCare public health care system and the economic inevitability of that failure -- and he's not even a resident of Tennessee! Want socialist medicine? Don't use my federal taxes to pay for it, he says.

  • Catallarchy - Patri Friedman urges people to channel their altruistic reactions to the tsunami to causes where the marginal impact of another dollar of aid is greater.

  • CIO Weblog - Steve Shu cites an article presenting a surprising view of outsourcing by employees faced with having their jobs outsourced -- employees in Europe, that is, who are guaranteed other positions after outsourcing occurs.

  • The Comp Expert - Cary Duke discusses how workers compensation system costs could be substantially increased for businesses if the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2001 is allowed to expire this year.

  • Conglomerate - Christine Hurt explores whether Google's IPO auction was a harbinger of change or a technology-era publicity stunt. Writing about Morningstar's IPO, and its decision to cease discussions with Wall Street cohort Morgan Stanley in favor of online IPO pioneer Hambrecht & Co., she says Morningstar will provide investors the opportunity to answer this question.

  • Coyote Blog - Warren Meyer offers a proposal for an alternative way to establish who's eligible to use the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on some highway systems, by auctioning passes.

  • Crossroads Dispatches - Evelyn Rodriguez says that while most wait for pain or illness to precipitate with the stress associated with the rapid pace of a changing global workplace, there's another option. The book, "Full Catastrophe Living" charts out an eight-week program that produces measured effectiveness even in "healthy" employees. She has a suggestion for how she plans to delve into the book and invites others to participate online.

  • Drakeview - John Dmohowski notes that the traditional means of getting to the top of America's largest corporations is changing. And the people getting the top jobs are more diverse, younger and usually from outside.

  • EconLog - Arnold Kling finds frequent flyer miles as interesting as toenail fungus in this entertaining yet thought-provoking post. He opens a discussion about whether having $700 Billion of outstanding frequent flyer miles means they have huge value -- or whether it actually signifies they have little value.

  • EGO - Martin Lindeskog has made a New Year's Resolution to find a new job and eventually return to the United States where he once worked. He is looking for networking and career blogs to aid in his search. Can you help direct him?

  • The Enterprise System Spectator - Frank Scavo notes that Microsoft is offering discounts to encourage PeopleSoft customers to switch but thinks that Microsoft doesn't have much to offer.

  • The Entrepreneurial Mind - Jeff Cornwall answers a reader's question about where to find entrepreneurial opportunities, and points out the right way to find those opportunities.

  • First Call - Rob Thomas declares the new Apple Home Media Server the most overhyped device in years. When he found out what it really was, he felt like he'd "just ended a bad date." Click through the link in his post to see where he predicts this product will end up.

  • Gongol.com - Brian Gongol says "Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack thinks so much of economic-development programs that he's willing to spend my money on them. Even if it might put me out of business." Highlighting the fallacy inherent in many economic development programs, he suggests the state stop taxing small businesses out of existence in order to "create" jobs.

  • Interested-Participant - Mike Pechar writes about a crack (literally) in Airbus's facade: an inspection on several Airbus airplanes detected cracks around small holes inside the airliners' wings. As a result, checks will be performed on the entire worldwide fleet of twin-engine wide-bodied A330s and four-engine wide-bodied A340s. [Suggestion: if you're planning to fly anytime soon, check your itinerary for the equipment.]

  • The Internet Stock Blog - David Jackson posts that TheStreet.com is for sale but is having trouble finding buyers. He dissects the reasons, suggesting that blogs and niche websites pose threats to traditional media by providing more targeted coverage.

  • Libertarian Girl - Libertarian Girl picks up on Mad Anthony's post (see below) about Wal-Mart, suggesting he's right and that the public doesn't decide whether to go to Wal-Mart based on what it pays its employees.

  • Lip-sticking - Yvonne DiVita offers an insightful post about blogging: what is it, how to do it, the top questions non-bloggers ask, and an introduction to some new blogs out there in the blogosphere.

  • Mad Anthony - Mad Anthony of the blog of the same name looks at -- and disagrees with -- a claim by a fund manager who thinks that Wal-Mart's decreased Christmas sales are due to their employee pay policies. Read the post and find out the real reason people don't shop at Wal-Mart.

  • Management Craft - Lisa Haneberg is starting a discussion on her blog about Social Constructionism, which is all about the way people interact and communicate in a business setting to improve results. Check out this post and then return for more on the topic over the coming weeks.

  • Mises Economics Blog - When is it acceptable for a supporter of free markets to accept government money? Robert Murphy had some thoughts, among which that he would never teach at a state college, and then the commentators piled on. Check out the comments on this one.

  • Mobile Technology Weblog - Russell Buckley talks about the new phenomenon of stalking celebrities with camera phones. Everything has a price, especially fame.

  • The New Federalist - Charles Barksdale asks: "How much money did CBS pay Dick Thornburgh and Louis D. Boccardi -- and their associates -- for the 'independent' Rathergate Report? As any good economist knows, it's all about the Benjamins...."

  • Odyssey of the Mind - Travis blogs that religion is more connected to economics than you think. He explores an interesting correlation between free markets and freedom of religion, using the United States as an example.

  • Photon Courier - David Foster blogs about something new in offshoring...US kids in California are getting tutored by teachers in India over the Internet.

  • The Raw Prawn - Adam Crouch blogs about the challenges Boeing faces with a customer base (airlines) in dire financial straits. So what does Boeing do? They find a way to make their customers successful. They're going to do it with the new Boing 7E7.

  • RFID Weblog - Over at my other weblog I've provided a link to a fascinating and substantive interview of Verisign's CEO, Stratton Sclavos. In the interview he talks in detail about some of the latest Internet security issues, as well as Verisign's ambitious plans to create a central database of all electronic product codes. The upshot: one day we'll have the Internet of Things, where every foot of our nation's streets can monitor traffic flow and where shipping containers can search themselves for hazardous material.

  • Roth & Company Tax Update Just in time for tax season, Joe Kristan blogs that the IRS has listed ways to avoid fraudulent tax return preparers. He describes other warning signs the IRS appears to have missed. Hint: meth and taxes don't mix.

  • Scrivener.net - Jim Glass urges that something has to be done about Social Security. He says that those who suggest maintaining the status quo don't realize that in fewer than 15 years either a huge tax increase will be necessary or benefits will have to be dramatically reduced.

  • Slacker Manager - Brendon Connelly issues a call for help in building a new charitable blogging organization based around the Weblogsinc and Gawker models.

  • SmallBusinessBranding Blog - Michael D. Pollock applauds how Jackie Huba, co-author of Creating Customer Evangelists, takes on, and clobbers, some academic heavyweights over their "lying and cheating" approach to marketing. It's a KO in the first round.

  • SMB TrendWire - Steve Rucinski's entry is a 45-minute audiocast consisting of an original interview of economist and professor of entrepreneurship, Dr. John Soper of John Carroll University, that Steve and I conducted. Dr. Soper outlines the key economic trends for small business in 2005.

  • Social Tools Weblog - Jonas Luster writes about Jeremy Ensight being the latest employee to be fired for blogging, saying "employers, like lovers, don't deal well with polyamorous partners...."

  • Talking Story with Say Leadership Coaching - Rosa Say writes that people who are not part of the community can feel isolated and adrift, and community disengagement does matter.

  • TimWorstall.com - The redoubtable Tim Worstall disses a Guardian journalist during a discussion about relative poverty, and suggests that Great Britain is actually close to wiping out absolute poverty.

  • VC & Entrepreneurship Weblog - In a small but significant piece, Torsten Jacobi notes his weblog's policy regarding the separation of advertising and content -- never the two shall be combined.

  • Wordlab - In a post entitled "Abra Cadabra," Abnu traces the history of the company name Cadabra. From Jeff Bezos reject, to a company that is now part of one of the Internet powerhouses, Cadabra lives on but without the name. (Before you click, try to guess which company it is part of today.)

  • The Zero Boss - Jay Allen "rips on bloggers who proclaim they blog only for 'pure' reasons." In a colorful [euphemism for R-rated] post he makes it clear he is grateful for capitalism and for blogs as marketing tools that help him earn a living.

  • Thanks to all participants and to all readers of Carnival of the Capitalists. It's been a lot of work, but also incredibly interesting and enjoyable to read so many fine articles. If I missed anyone's entry, my apologies -- please let me know and I will add it.

    Next week, January 24, 2005, Carnival of the Capitalists will be at the Business Opportunities Weblog. For more information about Carnival of the Capitalists, visit the Carnival home page.
    Sunday, January 16, 2005
    PowerBlog Review: Business Romania

    Editor's note: Welcome to the forty-eighth in our regular weekly series of PowerBlog Reviews of business weblogs.

    I've watched with great interest the growth in English-language Romanian blogs, especially business blogs. Business Romania is an excellent example of this small but growing number. The blog has been on the air since August of 2004.

    Business Romania "writes about the Romanian business landscape, doing business in Romania, investing in Romania business and debating on business issues in Romania." Obviously, the blog is written partly for Romanians who want to keep up on the latest business news and developments, and partly for English-speaking countries that might want to learn more about the country for business purposes.

    The blog is a team effort. Mihai Botea founded it and gets contributions by Iulia Stoicescu, Mihai Seceleanu, Cristi Francu, Tudor Montescu and Mircea Boistean.

    The founder works for a software and Web design company in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. He says Internet access in Romania today is poor making blogging a bit hard to do. Despite these challenges, blogging in Romania is also fun, he says.

    I asked him why there are Romanian business blogs in English, but I can't seem to find a single Polish, Slovenian or Hungarian business blog in English. He says Romanians are early adopters of technology, noting that nearly one third of the population has mobile phones. The Internet is also used extensively in Romania for email, both business and personal.

    Romania is in a state of transition. The communist regime ended in 1989 and Romanians are looking forward to entering the European Union in 2007. Some of us in the U.S. and other non-European countries might not appreciate the significance of entering the European Union. For the countries involved, it is a BIG deal. It's the debutante ball of business. It means the opening of markets and lowering of trade barriers, not to mention being an event of enormous symbolism.

    One of the best features about this blog is the way it often scoops the Romanian mainstream media. In the U.S., all too many blogs consist primarily of cites to news items already covered by big media with no original commentary -- but not at Business Romania. Mihai says:

    "Even though there are business newspapers in Romania, the press cannot always publish all the news. Our blog has been the first one to announce some business movements in Romania that the press could not announce (as they were seen as unofficial rumors at that time) and I think this helped the business community in Romania."
    It is reader input that keeps this blog thriving. Iulia Stoicescu started out as a reader and from there has become one of the most active contributors. Go Iulia!

    The Power: The Power of Business Romania is in the vibrant bridge it creates between Romania and the English-speaking business world in anticipation of entrance into the European Union. And talk about citizen journalism! It provides original business reporting on news items not covered by the media in that country. What a powerful use of the blog medium combined with business purposes.
    Saturday, January 15, 2005
    Workplace Trends 2005
    In 2005 and beyond, an aging Baby Boomer population will be the catalyst for major changes in the workforce. It will spawn the entirely new field of retirement consulting, to help two-income couples discover what to do in their retirements.

    With seniors aged 65 and older the fastest growing segment of the American population, expect to see daycare centers for the elderly crop up on Corporate campuses. Instead of dropping off their children during the workday, employees will bring their aged parents.

    The growing population of senior citizens will also mean new business opportunities. Think errand-running businesses to serve elders.

    It's not just aging Baby Boomers driving workforce changes. Globalization and the Internet are two other catalysts of change. One of the most significant changes is already well underway. A new category of worker is emerging, one that is willing to work more flexible hours to help companies meet the 24/7 demands of today's marketplace. The 8-to-5 routine is going by the wayside. Almost one third of the working population now has flexible work hours. Technology such as cell phones, laptops and other portable tools make it possible.

    To read more about these trends, check out the report "Challenger Future Workplace Trends: 2005 and Beyond" by Challenger Christmas & Gray, the outplacement firm. I emailed them asking if they had any trends predictions and was pleasantly surprised when I got an immediate email with a copy of the report. It makes fascinating reading. And all I can say is that work has changed dramatically since I started in business, and I expect it to change even more over the next decade.

    Editor's Note: This is the fourteenth in our series of articles on 2005 trends predictions. We are comparing and contrasting trends predictions from different sources that will impact the small business market in 2005 and beyond. Here is our running list of trend prediction posts:
    Anti-Trending and Other Trends for 2005
    Entrepreneur's Top Trends for 2005
    Small Business is Itself a Trend
    Top Technology Trends for 2005
    Top Global Consumer Trends
    Inc.'s Trends for Entrepreneurs in 2005
    Top Travel Trends for 2005
    More Top Trends for 2005
    The Small Business Advocate's 2005 Predictions
    Top 2005 eBusiness Trends
    Entrepreneurship Trends for 2005
    Health and Family Trends for 2005
    Powersports Industry Trends for 2005
    Friday, January 14, 2005
    Powersports Industry Trends for 2005
    Editor's note: we are very pleased to present another article by expert guest blogger, John Wyckoff. He explains the trends that powersports dealers and other retailers can expect to see in 2005 in each of the major segments. The powersports market includes motorcycles, watercraft, ATVs, scooters, pocketbikes and utility vehicles.

    By John Wyckoff
    • V-Twins

      Harley-Davidson has dominated the V-Twin market for decades. The custom manufacturers have entered the field with high-quality, reliable, eye catching bikes, albeit at high prices, ranging from about $30,000 to over $100,000. The two big makers of such bikes, Big Dog Motorcycles and American IronHorse, are sold out for just about all of 2005. I expect to see this market continue to grow.

    • Watercraft

      This market has been trending downward for some time. The cause? Mostly caused by the way users abused the environment, thereby triggering adverse legislation. I expect to see some stability as the warm weather approaches. It will take more aggressive dealer input to convince customers to obey both the laws and the social obligations to allow others to enjoy the water too.

    • Scooters

      The "echo" generation (children of the Baby Boomer generation) appears to love scooters. Once they were made and sold primarily in Europe. The narrow roads and limited parking there made scooters practical. In the U.S. scooters have been selling in college towns and high-density urban areas. Now the Japanese companies have raised the bar by producing large displacement (up to 650cc) scooters that can cruise at well over the Interstate speed limit all day. They made these units capable of carrying a large quantity of "stuff" in well-designed storage areas.

    • ATV

      Once again the Feds are getting anxious. The news reports of children getting hurt or killed is the first wave indicating that there will be hearings followed by legislation. Once again the dealers who sell these units must do more to educate their buyers. If the Feds keep up the pressure I expect to see this market flatten out after having grown dramatically for the past decade.

    • Performance Bikes

      "Mine's faster than yours." "Mine can take corners better than yours." These are the buying paradigms of the young, testosterone-driven wannabe racers. The manufacturers have complied. Of the 40 fastest production vehicles in the world, 38 are motorcycles. Insurance companies are well aware of this and are setting the premiums accordingly. These over 1,000cc bikes will continue to sell but I don't see any growth in this market, only a shift in market share based on who has the fastest for that particular period of time.

    • Dirt Bikes

      The dirt bike products are better than ever. More power, better handling, better suspension, superior brakes. The problem? Land closures. That means fewer places to ride. While private land is still available in many parts of the country, events like the enduro, which require miles of terrain, are becoming less available. The other problems are noise and restricted trail use.

      The European makers continue to produce "race ready" off-road bikes. The Japanese and now the Chinese supply most of the units purchased by the hobby or casual rider.

      What will the future hold for this segment? I expect a small decline over the next few years.

    • Touring Bikes

      The race to see who can produce the largest displacement engine is about over. The rider has come to the conclusion that size does matter but that size and associated weight matter in a negative way. Fuel injection, electronic gadgets, cushy adjustable ride have been available for several years. Older riders who are in no hurry to get anywhere ride these bikes.

      The biggest displacement bikes will continue to be relatively steady while the smaller displacement (600cc to 750cc) will gain in sales. They are just as fast and easier to handle in heavy traffic.

    • Mid-sized Bikes

      It seems little manufacturer attention to this segment has been a factor in the rather uninspiring offerings in this market. While popular in other parts of the world, the American market seems to prefer performance or touring bikes. The better performing scooters may be encroaching on this segment too. I don't expect to see much in the way of movement in this small segment.

    • Dual Sport

      This segment of bikes ranging from 250cc up to 1,000cc continues to grow. The bikes either favor road or off-road, depending on the manufacturer's focus. They don't excel in either category. However, the riders have a tendency to be more casual and not as strongly competitive. The western United States with hundreds of miles of dirt roads are ideal territory for dual sport bike riders. Expect continued small increases in sales of this niche.

    • Pocketbikes/Pit Bikes

      This niche has great potential. Professional racers, RV owners and children alike seek it. The price range is as wide as the appeal. Although some are sold outside the usual powersports dealerships those inside the industry have a better chance of survival. These bikes are prone to being abused meaning they require more service. Big boxes and auto parts outlets are ill-equipped to handle after the sale service.

    • Utility Vehicles

      These 4-wheel, side-by-side seating vehicles are in demand by farmers, ranchers, hunters and other enthusiasts. Demand continues to outstrip supply. Yamaha's Rhino has raised the bar with their offering. Kawasaki, John Deer, Polaris and others are beginning to hone in on the demand for creature comforts and performance demanded by the buyers. I expect this market to continue to grow as the supply of product grows.

    • Conclusion

      The year 2005 and 2006 should show continued but small growth overall. The exchange rate, which favors American exports, is an inhibitor. The prices of all imported niche bikes can be expected to increase beyond the inflation rate. That's just my opinion. But as Dennis Miller says: "I could be wrong."

    Like this article? Read more by John Wyckoff:

    How Harley Davidson Lost its "Cool"

    Motorcycle Industry Learns Women Rule

    UPDATE February 8, 2005: For those of you reading this article who sell motorcycles and other powersports units, please note that John's new book just came out: Mind Your Own Business, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports Dealerships.

    Thursday, January 13, 2005
    Blogging for Profits
    On January 19, 2005 I will be moderating an event in Cleveland, Ohio: "Blogs and RSS: Profiting From the New Personal Publishing Tools."
    "In this session, a panel of experienced bloggers shares their secrets for how businesses get real results -- with measurable ROI -- using blogs as part of their marketing strategies. Includes discussions about using blogs to market products, advertising on blogs, using RSS (news feeds), repurposing blog content for email newsletters, using blogs to obtain high search engine rankings, and using blogs for business networking among your target audience. You'll also receive a map of the network of Northeast Ohio blogs -- who links to whom -- and how the network can be used as a marketing vehicle."
    I'll be moderating a terrific panel, including these Northeast Ohio bloggers:

  • George Nemeth - brewedfreshdaily.com

  • Eric Olsen - blogcritics.org

  • Barbara Payne - blogforbusiness.com and biomednews.org

  • Steve Rucinski - smbceo.com and smbtrendwire.com

  • I'm thrilled to announce we also managed to snag Denise Polverine, Editor in Chief of Cleveland.com. Denise and Cleveland.com are pioneering some truly innovative territory with blogs. Cleveland.com is an Advance Internet site, and it just goes to show what having a famous blogging president at the corporate helm can foster.

    We're going to do something else that I haven't seen done at blogging sessions, but which I highly recommend. Valdis Krebs will be preparing one of his fascinating network maps showing how Northeast Ohio blogs are connected with one another. It's something that Valdis, George Nemeth and I have talked about doing for a while now, and I am glad it is finally coming about. If the map does what I think it will, it's going to illustrate how powerful blogs are as networking tools.

    I hope to see you there.

    UPDATE JANUARY 14, 2005: I am also grinning because Chris Seper will be attending! Chris is the technology reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and writes a vibrant must-read blog called Chat Room Live (see our PowerBlog Review), which happens to reside over at Cleveland.com.

    2nd UPDATE: Jim Kukral of BlogKits said he would try to stop by, too, even though he and his wife are expecting a baby that week. Yeah!
    Carnival of the Capitalists Arrives Monday!

    Get information about Carnival of the Capitalists

    Carnival of the Capitalists, that weekly business event that travels from blog to blog, will be arriving here at Small Business Trends next Monday morning, January 17, 2005.

    Carnival of the Capitalists rounds up and showcases business articles from a variety of excellent sites.

    I invite all business bloggers out there to submit a recent post that you would like to see get a little extra visibility. No slackers, now, you hear? I'm expecting to see entries from all of you. So get those fingers typing....

    To submit your entry, please use this handy Carnival of the Capitalists submission form.
    Wednesday, January 12, 2005
    Top Economic Trends for Small Biz
    Dr. John Soper, an economist with John Carroll University, will be speaking with us tomorrow about the economic trends impacting small business in 2005. I can't wait to hear what he predicts. And I hope you'll join us.

    It's another of our 45-minute audio Conversations with small business experts over at SMB TrendWire. Register to listen LIVE to Dr. Soper's trends, and you can even email us questions to ask him.

    Date: Thursday, January 13, 2005

    Time: 4:00 PM, Eastern US time

    And remember, if you miss the LIVE event you can always listen to the recorded archive starting on Friday.

    We hold these Conversations every two weeks. We already have some great recordings from prior events, including:

  • "The Five Entrepreneurial Myths"

  • "Taking Your Small Business Global"

  • "How I Run a Publishing Business with 650 700 Authors from a Home Office"

  • Monday, January 10, 2005
    Health and Family Trends for 2005
    Food and pets figure in greatly in the top 10 trends for family and health in the United States, as predicted by Better Homes and Gardens magazine. If you are a small business owner, consultant, solo entrepreneur, author, home-based business or franchise owner, you may just find a promising new business opportunity among these trends -- not to mention improving your health and well-being:

    • Grain of Truth

      OK, it's not exactly a low-carb diet, but whole grains are less fattening and more nutritious than refined white flour. Whole grains lower cravings for carbs -- and keep the weight off -- as a result.

    • Express Workouts

      Express circuit workouts, like those offered at Curves, the fast-growing women's gym chain, are hot. They combine strength training with fast-paced stations like jumping rope so you get a total-body workout that includes the cardiovascular exercise.

    • Pet Adoption

      We all know that pets can be therapeutic, right? Pet adoption options are a growing trend. More people are choosing to adopt pets from shelters, meaning fewer healthy dogs and cats are being euthanized. Web sites like Petfinder.com are making it easier for people to adopt pets and find rescue dogs.

    • Baby Name Trends

      Biblical names and classic names continue to be popular for babies. For boys it is Michael, Joshua and Matthew. For girls it is Emma, Elizabeth and Hannah.

    • See the USA

      Family vacations that involve staying close to home are very popular. Camping is the most popular outdoor activity. Small towns, beaches and historical sites are also hot.

    • Specialty Pet Food

      Take a walk through the pet food aisle at the supermarket, and it's likely to boggle your mind. There is pet food for overweight cats and aging dogs. In 2005 organic pet foods will grow in popularity as well as natural pet foods designed for pets with allergies.

    • Crafting Goes High Tech

      The Internet is now being used by crafters to trade embroidery designs. Sewing machines now have more computing power than the Apollo spacecraft! Computerized embroidery machines can create incredibly complex patterns. Who would have thought something as low tech as crafting would end up growing in popularity due to technology?

    • Wireless is All the Rage

      Wireless networks are popping up in commercial spaces everywhere -- coffee shops, restaurants and airports. Even city-wide wireless clouds are in the works.

    • Pharmaceutical Drugs Come Under Fire

      It started when the widely-prescribed arthritis medicine Vioxx was taken off the market. Rumors that other FDA-approved drugs may be questioned are cause for concern.

    • Trans-Fats Under Fire

      When hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, it stabilizes the shelf life -- and clogs our arteries. Expect everything under the sun to be trans-fat free by 2006.

    Editor's Note: This is the twelfth in our series of articles on 2005 trends predictions. We are comparing and contrasting trends predictions from different sources that will impact the small business market in 2005 and beyond. Here is our running list of trend prediction posts:
    Anti-Trending and Other Trends for 2005
    Entrepreneur's Top Trends for 2005
    Small Business is Itself a Trend
    Top Technology Trends for 2005
    Top Global Consumer Trends
    Inc.'s Trends for Entrepreneurs in 2005
    Top Travel Trends for 2005
    More Top Trends for 2005
    The Small Business Advocate's 2005 Predictions
    Top 2005 eBusiness Trends
    Entrepreneurship Trends for 2005
    Sunday, January 09, 2005
    PowerBlog Review: MaxBlumberg.com

    Editor's note: we are very pleased to present the forty-seventh in our regular weekly series of PowerBlog Reviews of other weblogs.

    Just when you think there can't possibly be a different approach to a marketing blog, one comes along to prove you wrong. MaxBlumberg's Positioning Game takes a different angle to blogging.

    Oh, this blog certainly writes about marketing topics, and it's all very interesting. But what's unique about it is the "Positioning Game."

    Max Blumberg walks selected small and midsize business owners and managers through a strategic exercise to assist them in properly positioning their business. So how this is different from what any marketing consultant worth his or her salt would do? Well, rarely is the positioning process carried out on a website and open to all to see. That's an unusual, but highly interesting, use of a weblog.

    Readers get to watch the positioning exercise. We get to watch as Max asks questions to understand the situation and as his advice unfolds.

    As of this writing, Max is in the middle of a positioning exercise for a corporate events business. The summary of the output so far from that exercise (it's not completed yet) is here.

    Only on a blog or blog-like site could the Positioning Game take place. You need two-way conversations with readers, chronological format, and ability to easily update the site. Without these features the Positioning Game would be simply too cumbersome.

    The Positioning Game originally started out here on Ecademy, the business networking site.

    Max says he blogs as a way for readers and prospective clients to decide whether they like the way he thinks and his approach to marketing strategy. And as he says "The benefit to readers is that they can get professional opinions on global business news that are normally available only from the large investment banks and expensive research houses."

    Few blogs offer the kind of strategic commentary on marketing issues for big business, that Max also provides on this blog.

    One of the questions I've started asking of PowerBlog Reviewees, is the value they get out of blogging. Max replied by pointing to this exchange with well-known ad copywriter, Bob Bly, in which they chat about the benefits of blogging, and Max concludes that blogs are primarily a means of PR.

    Max himself has a varied, intriguing background. He has been a professional musician, an Accenture consultant, and an entrepreneur who started and sold a large technology distribution business. Currently he is working on his PhD.

    The Power: The Power of the MaxBlumberg.com blog is in its use of the unique attributes of the blog format (two-way conversations with readers, chronological format, easy updating) to solve a strategic marketing challenge for a real live business. It's interesting and instructive all at once.

    Saturday, January 08, 2005
    Entrepreneurship Trends for 2005
    The National Dialogue on Entrepreneurship newsletter (free subscription) has issued its entrepreneurship trends for 2005:
    • Economic Development Becomes More Entrepreneurial - Economic developers are beginning to realize that spurring entrepreneurial activity should be a key part of their programs. "Many states are unveiling new programs, and the federal government is also offering its support."

    • Equity Capital will be More Plentiful - "...the supply of equity capital appears to be growing. Angel investing is on the rise, and established venture capital (VC) firms are doing well. The VC business has stabilized, the initial public offering (IPO) market has rebounded, and firms are aggressively searching for new investment opportunities. Many industry watchers have predicted that early stage investing will likely grow. As always, VC investing will focus heavily on new technology sectors, with software (especially security and storage), and life sciences (especially health care services) garnering much attention."

    • Health Care and Other Benefits Drag on Small Businesses - The cost of providing employee benefits is a growing burden on small business. Aging baby boomers will require retirement benefits and flexible working arrangements.
    The National Dialogue on Entrepreneurship is a quasi-public initiative designed to improve awareness of the benefits of entrepreneurship in the United States.

    Editor's Note: This is the eleventh in our series of articles on 2005 trends predictions. We are comparing and contrasting trends predictions from different sources that will impact the small business market in 2005 and beyond. Here is our running list of trend prediction posts:
    Anti-Trending and Other Trends for 2005
    Entrepreneur's Top Trends for 2005
    Small Business is Itself a Trend
    Top Technology Trends for 2005
    Top Global Consumer Trends
    Inc.'s Trends for Entrepreneurs in 2005
    Top Travel Trends for 2005
    More Top Trends for 2005
    The Small Business Advocate's 2005 Predictions
    Top 2005 eBusiness Trends
    Emails to the Editor...
    You may have noticed the uncharacteristic lack of updating for a few days.

    Here in the Midwest USA we suffered an ice storm, knocking out power. I finally got back online yesterday.

    Then I discovered other "problems," good problems actually.

    Traffic to this site has spiked upward by nearly 30% since the beginning of the year. Newsletter subscription rates have increased 40%. RSS feed subscriptions are up significantly, too.

    Thanks for visiting and subscribing.

    I believe I know some reasons for these increases, and I will write about the reasons very soon. Other small businesses and any company marketing online may find the reasons of interest. They have to do with Google, the long tail, and an exciting new RSS tool that I am beta testing.

    Meanwhile, the number of emails I get is also up. I still have over a dozen unanswered reader emails, which I will try to get to over the next few days. I try to respond to all legitimate emails, even briefly. However, the volume has risen and I'm not sure how much longer I can continue doing so.

    Several people have asked whether I will be summarizing the trends predictions articles I've been running for the past two weeks. The answer is "yes" -- sort of. I will be publishing my own list of 2005 trends affecting small businesses, as soon as I finish a book project I am working on. (Meanwhile, check out our 2004 trends list, which resides over at our companion site, TrendTracker.)

    Other emails ask permission to reproduce articles from Small Business Trends or TrendTracker. The answer there is "yes." All we ask in return is that you mention our site by name and link back to it. You might want to send me a follow-up email with a URL to where the article is reproduced, and I will list it in "Links to this Article." That's especially important for general business sites and other non-blog sites, because they are not reported in the Technorati or Bloglines services that I use to discover links, and I might miss them.

    Thanks again, everyone, and stay warm and dry.
    Wednesday, January 05, 2005
    Top 2005 eBusiness Trends
    Here's a list of Top 10 eBusiness Trends for 2005, from eMarketer.com. It's a far-reaching list, covering many different technologies:
    • Alternative Advertising: Major brand owners are concerned about TV commercials losing eyeballs, and so they will be spending more of their advertising budgets in different arenas. The big winners will be online, including rich media and overall online ad spending. Also, marketers are figuring out how to incorporate the Internet into word-of-mouth marketing. (And many word of mouth campaigns will involve blogs.)

    • RSS: Not only will usage of RSS newsfeeds grow, but marketers will attempt to leverage them for advertising.

    • AOL Changes: AOL has lost 4 million subscribers in two years and will have to change its business. It will begin to make a larger percentage of revenues from online advertising. (Of course, we all know its ISP service is a bit of a dinosaur in these days of cheap, pervasive broadband and great Web browers.)

    • On-Demand TV: Time-shifted viewing and ad-skipping, together with video on demand, are changing the television landscape.

    • Wireless Broadband: We will start to see more video on our cellphones.

    • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): Big-box retailers like Wal-Mart are mandating that vendors implement RFID inventory tracking. (If you want to know more, please visit my other blog, the RFID Weblog.)

    • Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP): Businesses and consumers are finally becoming aware of voice calls over the Internet, in growing numbers.

    • Linux: Linux adoption in the enterprise continues, especially as companies upgrade servers.

    • Cross-Channel Retail: Expect increasing integration of retailer efforts across all platforms: Web, catalog and stores.

    • IT Security: You've heard it before, but the message is the same this year again: security will be a top spending priority among CIOs.

    Editor's Note: This is the tenth in our series of articles on 2005 trends predictions. We are comparing and contrasting trends predictions from different sources that will impact the small business market in 2005 and beyond. Here is our running list of trend prediction posts:
    Anti-Trending and Other Trends for 2005
    Entrepreneur's Top Trends for 2005
    Small Business is Itself a Trend
    Top Technology Trends for 2005
    Top Global Consumer Trends
    Inc.'s Trends for Entrepreneurs in 2005
    Top Travel Trends for 2005
    More Top Trends for 2005
    The Small Business Advocate's 2005 Predictions

    Tuesday, January 04, 2005
    The Small Business Advocate's 2005 Predictions
    Jim Blasingame, the Small Business Advocate, has issued his list of Top Predictions for 2005 in his newsletter (free subscription required). There are a large number of predictions -- 18 to be exact -- but I'll highlight just a few of the most universally relevant predictions:
    • 2005 Prediction: China will resist pressure from the U.S. to allow its currency, the yuan, to float, instead of being pegged to the dollar. Due to its poorly operated credit sector, China considers its growing economy too fragile for the yuan to float.

    • 2005 Prediction: The European Union's economic growth rate will be less than 2.2%. Saddled with systemic socialistic business practices, the EU is struggling to be competitive in the 21st century's global marketplace.

    • 2005 Prediction: The U.S. economy will grow at an annual rate of over 4%.

    • 2005 Prediction: The annual unemployment rate will end the year below 5%.

    • 2005 Prediction: The United States will continue to lead the world in promoting entrepreneurship, but also watch the new entries into the European Union, like Poland, plus India, and yes, China.

    Editor's Note: This is the ninth in our series of articles on 2005 trends predictions. We are comparing and contrasting trends predictions from different sources that will impact the small business market in 2005 and beyond. Here is our running list of trend prediction posts:
    Anti-Trending and Other Trends for 2005
    Entrepreneur's Top Trends for 2005
    Small Business is Itself a Trend
    Top Technology Trends for 2005
    Top Global Consumer Trends
    Inc.'s Trends for Entrepreneurs in 2005
    Top Travel Trends for 2005
    More Top Trends for 2005

    More news... more trends... more insight...

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