Thursday, September 30, 2010

Three free webinars!

Hi everyone -

We have three webinars coming up that are COMPLETELY free to Chamber members.  They are all interesting topics that are part of our Business Trends Webinar Series.  For more information on how you can get involved with the series, contact me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Here is the info:

1)  Identity Theft & Employer Liability: Strategies & Solutions To Reduce Risks (10/1, 11:15am):  The rise in Identity Theft is presenting employers with a major problem: they now can be held liable for Identity theft that occurs in the workplace. New Laws create serious responsibility and potential liability for employers nationwide. These laws apply to any business, regardless of size, that collects personal information on employees and/or customers or uses consumer or investigative reports for hiring purposes. The cost of Identity Theft in the workplace can be huge. The cost of a data breach is not only financial, but can also impact your company "brand" significantly. Find out some strategies on how your company can reduce risks & mitigate potential financial damages that can result from a data breach and/or identity theft incident. You'll also see how to increase employee productivity, reduce absenteeism, and even potentially lower health care costs by reducing employee stress on the job, at little or no direct cost to your company.

2)  Office in a Box: The Current & Future Direction of IT Networking Technology (10/14, 11:00am):  Sutus, in partnership with Ironton Telephone, will provide an informative discussion on the current and future direction of IT networking technology and how voice, data and networking tools/needs have converged to effectively change the way businesses deal with their customer base to increase productivity, mobility, cost savings and customer satisfaction in the SMB (small to medium business) environment. Sutus will also discuss how businesses can incorporate all of the above capabilities cost effectively in today’s marketplace.

3)  7 Threats to Business Owners and How to Avoid Them (10/22, 11:00am):  In this webinar, we will review 7 threats to businesses and business owners.  Understanding these threats is vital to your business’ growth and success.  We will discuss strategies to avoid or mitigate these potential hazards.  What was once a danger, can wind up being a distinct advantage over your competitors or an opportunity on which you can capitalize. About the presenter:   Joseph Facchiano, Certified Business Performance Coach, Owner | FocalPoint Business Coaching of Lehigh Valley FocalPoint Business Coaching of Lehigh Valley is your local FocalPoint Business  Coaching franchise. We offer the FocalPoint System powered by Brian Tracy, and delivered by Joseph Facchiano a lifelong resident of the Lehigh Valley with over 29 years of business experience. What does this mean to you? ... We can help you get what you deserve out of your business and achieve your personal goals, (faster than you ever thought possible.

Daily Briefing, 9/30/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing. 

A Morning Call articles reviews how hard cities were hit by the recession, noting that Allentown and Bethlehem residents were hit the hardest in the Valley.  It appears that Gracedale employees and Northampton County have agreed to a new contract, though the contract must still be formally approved by Northampton County Council.  Upper Macungie Township is considering its first tax hike in 16 years.

In national news, Congress has approved stop-gap measures to keep the federal government funded and operating, essentially clearing the way for Congress to dismiss and go home before the November elections.  And here's a subject near and dear to all of our hearts: property taxes.  According to an article by CNNMoney.com, the Northeast pays the highest in property taxes, while the Southeast pays the lowest.

We have one Chamber event today, and its a big one: our 5th Annual Lehigh Valley Mayor's Dinner.

Don't forget to check out our contest where you could win free tickets to Bethlehem Harvest Fest!  See our Facebook or Twitter page for more info.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CONTEST: FREE Tickets to Bethlehem's Harvest Fest!!

We are unveiling our first Chamber Social Media contest, and it's a good one!  As you may know, Bethlehem's Harvest Fest is coming up.  This event, to take place on October 9, features:

  • Beer sampling
  • Wine trail with sampling
  • An open air produce market
  • Great food
  • Historic walking tours
  • Fine arts and crafts vendors
  • Coca Cola Pong Tournament
  • 19th Century brewing demonstrations
  • Harvest Soup contest and sampling
  • Grape Stomping
  • Live music on Main Street and Broad Street
  • Children’s activities at the Smithy with a moonbounce, balloon twister and pumpkin painting
  • Beirgarten and live music in the Sun Inn Courtyard
  • Harvest Pie contest
Tickets are $20, BUT, we are giving away five free tickets.  How, you ask?

Two ways.  Check out our Facebook and Twitter pages.  If you are on Facebook, just hit the "share" button to share the post to your Facebook page.  Here's where you click:

If you are on Twitter, just Retweet this Tweet.

Do either and you are automatically entered!

The contest will be going on for 48 hours - so hurry!!!

Daily Briefing, 9/29/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

The Borough of Freemansburg has asked for $825,000 in gaming money to help cover upgrades to the municipal offices and its police station.  In Bethlehem, the city is running an over $2 million budget surplus.  In Easton, Mayor Sal Panto has extended a smoking ban on Centre Square.

The latest poll in the Senate and Governor's race (seems like we have a new one every day now) shows Pat Toomey leading Joe Sestak by 5% and Tom Corbett leading Dan Onorato by 8%.  In the legislature, negotiations and debate continue on a tax on Marcellus Shale.

The House and Senate appear likely to pass a budget stop-gap measure before Friday, one which is necessary to avoid a government shut-down.  The stop-gap measure appears likely to ignore some of the wishes of the Obama administration.  The head of non-partisan the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, has said that the extension of the Bush tax-cuts will not be as helpful as other options that could help the economy more.

That's it for now!  Have a great day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Small Business Bill: What's in it for You

As we noted earlier today, President Obama signed into law a $42 billion package designed to help small businesses.  Given the obvious impact that this legislation could have on the business community and Chamber members, we wanted to summarize the legislation for you.

The bill, formally called the Small Businesses Jobs Act, aims to create 500,000 jobs.  It's total cost is $42 billion.  The bill primarily seeks to do two things:
  • $12 billion comes in the form of tax breaks for small businesses.  
  • The remaining $30 billion will be used to create a fund within the Treasury Department that will give financial capital to banks with less than $10 billion in assets.  These community banks, of which we certainly have plenty within the Valley, could then lend the money back out to small businesses.  

The bill passed the House and the Senate largely along partisan lines.  Democrats and President Obama argue that the bill will help to stimulate small business capital development and help cut taxes.  Republicans argued that the legislation will add to the national debt and protested that they were not allowed to offer amendments to the bill.  They successfully filibustered the bill in the Senate earlier this summer.

The legislation is predicated on the idea that small businesses are genuinely important to the U.S. Economy, and idea which we certainly support at The Chamber (we have not taken a public policy position on the actual legislation).  Did you know, for instance, that small businesses represent 44% of all U.S. private payroll and employee approximately 60 million Americans?

Regardless of how you stand on the issue, here's to hoping that this legislation actually does some good.

Sources:

Daily Briefing, 9/28/2010

Hello everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

The Lehigh Valley's unemployment dropped to 9.7% despite the loss of 1,000 jobs, as seasonal employees left the workforce.  Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was in Washington, D.C. with President Obama when the President signed the Small Business Jobs Act into law.  The Rising Tide of the Lehigh Valley has unveiled a new $920,000 program to help existing businesses acquire loans for large purchases.  Southwest Airlines purchased AirTran, a discount airline that flies out of Lehigh Valley International Airport, and may open up at LVIA.  It appears that the Bethlehem Area School Board is on its way to approving a Tax Increment Financing deal that will support the redevelopment of SteelStax at the former Bethlehem Steel site.  Easton has announced that it will seek a $7.6 grant that will help beautify Centre Square.

Dan Onorato and Tom Corbett held their first debate in the race for Pennsylvania Governor yesterday.  The debate was held by the Pennsylvania Chamber and moderated by Ted Koppel.  Meanwhile, a new poll has Corbett up by 12 points and Pat Toomey up by 8.

In national news, a U.S. Census report shows a record gap between the rich and the poor in America; according to the survey, the richest 20% of America earn about 50% of all income.  Rahm Emanuel, the President's Chief of Staff, is likely to leave the White House this week to begin his run for Mayor of Chicago.

We have one Chamber event today: the Women's Business Council will be holding their monthly luncheon - this month's topic is "Reiventing Yourself at Any Age."

Business Matters aired yesterday, featuring a debate on race and politics in America.  The show will be available online later today, and you can check out the Business Matters blog for more info.

Whew!  Busy day today.  Anyway, we'll have more later.  See ya!

Monday, September 27, 2010

How to say your sorry

Love may mean never having to say you're sorry, but for the rest of us, at some point, we're going to have to apologize for something we have said or done.  This can be difficult and painful, but it can also frequently turn a negative into a positive and alleviate a big mistake.  However, if you apologize wrong, it can turn a bad mistake into a worse one.  So, here are some tips on how to say you're sorry.

1.  Prepare yourself - it may not be pretty.  An apology won't always have a happy ending.  Prepare yourself for the fact that you aren't always going to instantly make amends - sorry isn't a magic word.


2.  Don't use the word "but" and don't make excuses.  If you try to condition your apology, you fail.  Don't refer to past behavior, don't say, "I'm sorry, but this happened because...."  Don't even use the word "but" to transition - using words like but or however  tends to get people thinking that they are being confrontational.

3.  Get the timing right.  Sometimes, something you say or do can make a person so irate that an apology will only make matters worse.  Other times, a quick apology is the only way to save face.  The timing varies on the situation and the severity of whatever you did wrong, but make sure you get it right!

4.  Be specific about what you did.  Don't say, "I'm sorry for hurting your feelings."  You are basically apologizing for the way the person feels, and that isn't it.  You need to apologize for your specific action, not the reaction that it causes.  Apologizing for hurting someone's feelings can only lead to more hurt feelings.

5.  Ask for another chance.  Make sure that you look to the future when apologizing, state that you will not commit the offense again and ask for another chance.  This can help shift the focus from what you did wrong to what you will do right.

6.  Take full responsibility.  Don't try and blame someone else, even if that really was the case.  It looks weasely and sneaky.  It also looks like you are trying to avoid apologizing, and nothing looks worse than a half-hearted apology.  If something is your fault, swallow your pride and say it.  Take full and total responsibilities for your actions.  "This is my fault, and I take full responsibility for it," can go a long way.

Sources:

Daily Briefing, 9/27/2010

Good morning everyone!  I hope you had a great weekend, and welcome back to work.  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In political news, the Morning Call runs election profiles on Pat Toomey and Joe Sestak.  An Express-Times story notes the funding difficulties faced by local libraries as a result of state cuts, forcing many to further limit their hours and services.  Congrats to Chamber members WFMZ-TV and WLVT PBS 39, who both took home Mid Atlantic Emmy Awards yesterday.

In national news, President Obama will be signing into law a $42 billion bill designed to assist small businesses.  Meanwhile, a new poll shows that 74% of Americans believe we are still in a recession.  Meanwhile, a vote on whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts will now come after the November elections.

Business Matters airs today, featuring a very lively discussion on Race and Politics in America.  The show airs tonight at 8pm on WFMZ-TV.

And let's conclude on a very positive note: the Phillies clinched a playoff spot yesterday.  Woohoo!

Have a great day!  We'll see you later.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Daily Briefing, 8/24/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is your Friday Daily Briefing.

Business on Hamilton Street in Allentown may qualify for up to $30,000 in grant funding that can be used to improve their facades.  The program is being run by the city, Chamber Foundation and Hamilton District Main Street Program.  It is being funded by a $100,000 grant from Wachovia and CDBG funding.  Congrats to Chamber member Artsquest, which is one of five organizations in the state that will be receiving a Governor's Awards for the Arts.

In state-wide news, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown will be in Philadelphia today, raising money for Pat Toomey's Senate campaign.  And, you may have noticed this one already, but as a CNNMoney story points out, bank fees across America are starting to rise.

Slow news day, huh?  That's it for now.  We may or may not be back later today (big staff meeting, so it depends on when we get out).  If not, have a great weekend!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Daily Briefing, 9/23/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is your Thursday Daily Briefing.

A parking study in Emmaus showed that the Borough has plenty of parking in its downtown and that a parking deck is not needed, at least not yet.  Former Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge will speak at DeSales on October 27.  Chamber members Just Born have unveiled a new chocolate peep for Halloween.  The Lehigh Valley Job Fair was held yesterday, with 74 employers seeking to fill about 2,200 job openings.  The event was attended by 4,322.

Another political poll to report (we must be getting close to election season - seems like there is a new poll every day).  This one is for the U.S. Senate and has Pat Toomey leading Joe Sestak 50-43%.

We have one Chamber event today: a seminar with Dan's Camera City on how you can take better photos.

Hmm.  Slow news day.  Well, we'll be back later today, so until then, have a great day and we'll see you soon!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The latest statistics on Social Media

I have a Social Media presentation later today on how your business can create an effective Social Media plan, so that's got me thinking in a Social Media sort of mood.  Here are some fascinating statistics on the continuing explosive growth of Social Media:

Wow.

FYI - Chamber website log-in is down, but a new website is coming!

To those of you who are used to logging into our website, we just wanted to give you a quick heads-up.  We removed the log-in function on the current website.  However, members/non-members can still register for events on line.  When you select an event on the calendar, there is a form that they can download and email/fax back to us.  Credit card processing on-line (for events) has been disabled until the new website launches.

Yes, that's right, we should have a new and dramatically improved website somewhere in November, completely with dramatically increased functionality, online registration and a whole slew of new features.  We are incredibly excited about the new website.

Interview with Tom Corbett



I am very happy to report that we recorded an interview yesterday with Tom Corbett, Attorney General and Republican Candidate for Governor.  The interview will air on Business Matters at a time to be determined.  As usual, the interview was conducted by Tony Iannelli, President & CEO of The Chamber.  We are also in the process of securing an interview with Dan Onorato.

Among the topics discussed:
  • Pension reform, one of the most significant fiscal issues facing the state
  • Marcelus Shale, its enviornmental effects and the corporate giving record from the natural gas industry to Corbett and Onorato
  • The political environment - a new Quinnipiac poll has Corbett up 54-39% on Onorato and with a nearly 2-1 cash advantage
  • 222 Corridor crime fighting
  • Corbett's "no new tax" pledge and the impact this could have on new fees
  • Hazelton immigration ruling
  • Dan Onorato's claims that Attorney General office expenditures going up and if requesting more money makes Corbett hypocrite in pledging no new taxes
As I said, we still don't have a date on the new show but we will let you all know once we have it!

Daily Briefing, 9/22/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

Former attorney John Karoly Jr. has been disbarred by the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court as a result of his conviction on charges of tax evasion, mail fraud and money laundering.  In Allentown, Mayor Ed Pawlowski has been cleared of ethics violations related to construction on his house.  In Bethlehem, City Council approved legislation designed to jump start development at the former Bethlehem Steel site, including the SteelStax project. In Easton, City Council's public safety committee has asked its solicitor for an opinion regarding a possible hand-held cell phone ban while driving. 

A Morning Call story reviews the Pennsylvania Governor's race, noting that Dan Onorato is currently behind in  polling and fund-raising.  In a case of perfect timing, a new Quinnipiac Poll has Corbett up by 15%.  Joe Sestak has announced that he will not attend the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce debate (just for the record, we have no affiliation with this debate).  

In national news, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered legislation that would have repealed the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military.

We have two Chamber events today: A Celtic Fest kick-off and a beer tasting event by the Bethlehem and LeBEAM Chambers of Commerce and a Social Media training class on creating your business' Social Media plan.

Oh, and a day after saying Kolb was the starter, Andy Reid yesterday announced that Michael Vick will be the starting QB for the Eagles.

That's it for now!  Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How do you take a screenshot?

Hi folks!  Alright, so I was all set to launch into a step-by-step presentation of how to take a screenshot, and then remembered an amazing website called Screenr.  Screenr basically allows you to record exactly what is on your screen, with audio, and create a five minute presentation. 

So, using Screenr, I created a two minute presentation on how to take a Screenshot. 


Daily Briefing, 8/21/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing. 

Five firms have stepped forward in Northampton County to help sell Gracedale.  There is mixed news in the Lehigh Valley home sales market:  Home sales in August increased from July, but still remained down 41.7% from the same time last yearSteelStax in Bethlehem has received $4.5 million in corporate pledges. The money will go to fund programming for at risk youth. Rick Orloski (D), a candidate for State Senate against Pat Browne (R), is suing South Whitehall Township for what he calls their illegal ordinance that requires candidates get permits for yard signs. In Easton, city officials and businesses met to discuss parking issues.  In Bethlehem, the city is considering updating their alarm code ordinances and increasing the fee for such an alarm.  And, congrats to Chamber member Kiffle Kitchen Bakery, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary and giving away food (YUM!) to celebrate. 

President Obama was in Philadelphia yesterday, attending a fundraiser for Joe Sestak's Senate campaign.  The fundraiser comes on the heels of a new poll that shows Pat Toomey leading Joe Sestak 45-36%

As noted in a blog entry yesterday, the recession is officially over (in fact, it ended in June 2009), according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

We have two Chamber events today: a "town hall" meeting and mixer with the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Chamber and a grand opening at Canyon River Run Veterinary Clinic in Phillipsburg. 

That's it for now!  We'll be back later today.  See you then!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Good news! The recession is over! Can't you tell?

Great news!  According to many stories in the media, the Great Recession is officially over.  Woohoo!  Start celebrating and spending wildly on credit!

Okay, don't do that.  Of course, this story is good news, but it won't necessarily have an impact on your wallet. 

The official end of the longest recession in since the Great Depression was declared by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  According to the NBER, the recession officially lasted from December 2007 - June 2009.  The NBER does believe that there is the possibility of a Double Dip recession, however.  The NBER also doesn't pretend that this means all economic pain is over - significant troubles remain, but it believes that the economy has been growing since June. 

So what does this report actually mean?  The economy has been growing since June and a double dip recession remains a possibility (one that economists seem to be putting in the 20-40% range).  More than anything else, however, this report is likely to provide a psychological boost. 

What it doesn't mean anything for, however, are the millions of Americans that are currently out of work. At the moment, the unemployment rate is 9.6% across America and 9.3% in Pennsylvania.  Somehow, I don't think the official "end of the recession" means much to them.

Daily Briefing, 9/20/2010

Good morning everyone!  It's another Monday...try to contain your joy.  Anyways, here is today's Daily Briefing.

A poll released yesterday shows Congressman Charlie Dent with an 11% lead on challenger John Callahan

In state-wide news, Gubernatorial candidates Dan Onorato and Tom Corbett discussed their jobs plans for WFMZ.  WFMZ also runs a story on the practice of gerrymandering political districts - a little know process that occurs every ten years that can have massive implications on the political future of Pennsylvania.  A new poll by the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader shows a closer result in the upcoming elections than other polls have shown, with Corbett up a mere 1% on Onorato and Pat Toomey holding a 4% lead on Joe SestakPresident Obama will actually be in Philadelphia today, raising money for Joe Sestak.

Remember the Gulf oil spill?  Good news - according to the government, the well has been closed and the spill is over.  A majority of economists want to see the Bush tax cuts extended for all income brackets, according to a by CNNMoney.com.

That's it for now!  We'll have more later today.  Have a good one!

Friday, September 17, 2010

How to fire someone

While George Clooney makes it look almost like fun in Up in the Air, those of us with real world experience know that letting an employee go is a very awkward, difficult and painful thing. 

There's a reason its so difficult: you are basically taking away someone's livelihood, and deserved or not, this is always a painful experience.  There are ways to do it appropriately, and to make sure that you treat the person you are firing with dignity and respect while helping them transition back to the real world.  Here are some pointers:

  • Make sure that this won't be a surprise:  During the person's employment process, have you been giving them honest, open feedback?  If not, you need to start.  It simply isn't fair to fire someone with no warning (unless circumstances dictate), so make sure that you are giving someone feedback that gives them an opportunity to change.  Warnings during the employment process is also fair and appropriate.
  • Keep good records:  You may have had plenty of conversations with an employee about the behavior that has led to their firing, but if they sue, verbal conversations aren't enough.  You need to keep a clear, written record of the behavior that led to the firing and documentation that you have given the employee ample warning.
  • Be short, and be direct:  Don't beat around the bush.  Don't avoid saying it directly.  Tell someone, upfront, that due to whatever the reason, their employment has been terminated.  If possible, have someone else present in the room, just in case the employee starts making threats.  Let the employee know what their severance package is and what other options within the company that they may have.
  • Get them out:  Do not let an employee hang around the office - in all likelihood, they will poison your office moral (and who can really blame them?).  Get someone out of the office as fast as possible after you let them go.
  • Is it hard on you?  No one cares:  Don't tell the employee you are firing how "hard on you" the decision is.  They are losing their job and are devastated.  They don't care how difficult it is for you, and saying so just seems insensitive.  
  • Be empathetic:  When you are firing someone, you have a job to do.  That being said, you have to treat the person you are firing with dignity and respect.  Respond to their needs and be kind.  Have a box of tissues available if need be.
  • Be ready:  Make sure that you have all your bases covered.  Do you have a legal waver in case someone might sue?  Do you know exactly what the compensation package is?  Has HR and/or legal cleared the firing?  Do you have your letter of termination and anything else that human resources might require?  
  • Listen:  The outgoing employee will likely unload, telling you how unfair the situation is or just how painful it is.  Regardless of how much their words may hurt you, you should be prepared to listen.  Firing someone isn't easy - but cutting someone off who has been fired is just rubbing salt in the wound.





Sources:

Daily Briefing, 9/17/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In the ongoing battle between Bethlehem, Northampton County and the Bethlehem Area School District, Northampton County is now threatening to sue the School District if they do not agree to the Tax Increment Financing plan that would help to develop the SteelStax project.  CACLV announced yesterday that they will purchase and renovate six more homes in the West Ward of Easton.  Also in Easton, residents and some school board members objected to a potential new policy of the Easton Area School Board to ban public comment at the board's workshop meetings.

In national news, a 2009 report shows that the poverty rate climbed to 14.3% in America - meaning that 43.6 million Americans were in poverty.

Today is a busy day in Chamber-world, with three events:  a tailgate mixer from East Penn & Western Lehigh Chambers before the Emmaus vs. Parkland football game, the Small Business Council's monthly breakfast and a Webinar on office technology.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll be back later.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Job Opening - Vitner's Circle


If you are a Chamber Member, we are happy to help you advertise any job opening. Please E-mail a description and contact information to Mike Schlossberg at MikeS@lehighvalleychamber.org. We publish job openings every Thursday and are happy to help you find the talent that you are looking for!

PART-TIME SALES ASSOCIATES / WINEMAKERS


We are looking for enthusiastic and motivated people for positions of part-time sales associates and winemakers at Vintner's Circle Easton.

Responsibilities include:
¨        Retail sales,
¨        Customer service,
¨        Winemaking, and other duties as assigned.

We are looking for people with good communication skills, computer and organizational skills, as well as a passion for wine and a desire to learn our business.

Days and weekend shifts are available. Applicants must be 21 years of age or older.

If this sounds like something you would like to know more about, or if you know someone who is looking for a part-time position, please email us. We are happy to welcome new, eager sales associates / winemakers to our team!

Cheers,

Chantell Laing and Adam Geffner
Your Team at Vintner's Circle Easton


1700 Sullivan Trail
Forks Township
Easton, PA 18040

(610) 438-8660

easton@vintnerscircle.com

Daily Briefing, 9/16/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In Northampton County, County Council President Ron Angle is calling different funding arrangement for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.  Angle was angered by LVEDC's lack of support for a local tax collection company, Berkheimer.  In Allentown, Mayor Pawlowski is considering charging a fee for use of the Lil-Le-Hi Trout Nursery (full disclosure, your blogger is mentioned in the article). Good news for Air Products, as Airgas shareholders voted to give Air Products a leg-up in their ongoing efforts to take over Airgas by ratifying many pro-takeover maneuvers on the company's board.  Independent congressional candidate Jack Towne has a unique campaign office - his car - as a result of the failure of his landlord to get an appropriate permit for a campaign office.  The Easton Area School District has decided to eliminate public comment at its workshop meetings.  Bethlehem is now offering the Bethlehem Area School District additional tax revenue to get the District to approve a tax financing deal that would assist with the development of SteelStax.  Lehigh Valley International Airport may soon be offering flights to Mexico.

In national news, the Morning Call runs a report on the divide in Washington on extending the Bush tax-cuts to all income levels.

We have three Chamber events today:  Our major Energy & Enviornmental Expo and two free after-hours mixers - one at Moravian Hall and one at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Pennsylvania.

That's it for now!  With our E&E conference today, I don't think we're going to have another blog entry later today.  So, have a great day, and we'll see you later!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Five ways your small business can gain more exposure

For small businesses, it all comes down to how much you can get your name in front of people.  Marketing budgets are limited, so getting your name out there is all the more critical.  If you can't successfully market your small business, odds are greater than not that you won't be able to survive.

So, here are five tips to help get your small business out there.

1.  Are you sending out press releases?  This is one of the easiest things you can do to get your name out there.  Papers like the Morning Call, Express Times and East Penn Business Journal are always looking for new stories.  These papers also have community sections where you can talk about events or special sales that you are having.  And speaking of: Don't forget your local community papers.  These papers have a small but a dedicated readership that tend to read the paper front to back.  They are in your community and will probably read your story.

What should you send a press release out about?  Anything.  Send an event advisory when you have a sale.  Make a new hire?  Send it out - papers tend to cover new hires in a "business player" section.  The more detail you can provide, the better, and always make sure to include a good "soundbite" quote or two from yourself.

By the way, if you are a Chamber Member, we have a template press release, event advisory and media list that we can send to you - just E-mail me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.

2.  Help a Reporter Out.  If you are looking for free media exposure, here's the Bible.  Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a service used by over 50,000 journalists from across the world - everything from the largest to the smallest of media outlets.  They send out updates via E-mail three times a day, sorted by category, of reporters who are looking for a source o a particular story.  If a category is something you can speak to, you can contact the reporter and offer to provide expertise, a quote, etc.  The reporter gets a great source, and you get media exposure.  Not much better than that!

3.  Social Media.  As I've said over and over and over again, having a good Social Media strategy is critical to the success of any current small business.  Quite simply, you need one to survive.  Of course, creating a successful Social Media strategy is more than just going online and hoping that everything works out, but creating an active presence is a good start. Check out Facebook and Twitter and see how other companies (and your competitors) are working Social Media.  That should give you a good idea of how to start - and what to do next.


4.  Hire a publicist.  I know what you are thinking.  "I'm a small business.  I can't afford a publicist!"  But what about all the new exposure and business that a publicist or PR specialist can bring in?  "Communication professionals can help businesses recognize, develop and pitch stories that are of interest to the media. Reporters are barraged with story ideas every day. When they receive a press release that is well written and succinct, they are more likely to use that information," said Joan Marcus, President of Joan Marcus Communications.  "A communication professional also can help a business develop a media plan and implement it consistently. This type of regular interaction with the media is critical when a company wishes to raise its profile."  For some money, you get a great investment and more free time to concentrate on running your business, not your media message. 

There are plenty of places to get a list of advertising, marketing and PR professionals.  One such option is the Chamber Member Directory.

5.  Use your Chamber Member Benefits.  Come on now, you didn't think we were going to avoid discussing this one, did you?  By joining the Chamber, you can get up to an additional $3,400 in marketing and promotional value - and that comes at no extra cost to you!  Check out the Chamber Member Benefits that you get for joining.  The exposure is great: you get access to our mailing list, can provide (and take advantage of) member-to-member discounts, 10 free radio ads, Social Media exposure, etc.  E-mail me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org for more info.

Alright!  So, what do you think?  What other benefits are out there that you think we are missing?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 9/15/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is your Wednesday Daily Briefing.

In Bethlehem, it appears that a deal is in the works between the Bethlehem Area School District, Northampton County and the City that would enable work to start again on the SteelStacks project.

In national news, tea-party backed Christine O'Donnell defeated Congressman Mike Castle in Delaware for the Republican Senate nomination.  In California, despite the recent spate of advertisements and insults, former President Bill Clinton endorsed former California Governor Jerry Brown in his attempt to reclaim his old office.

We have one Chamber event today:  a President's Roundtable with Scott Fainor, President & CEO of National Penn Bank.

Wow.  And, that's it.  Not much news today!  Anyway, we'll be back later today with a longer entry.  Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Southen Lehigh Chamber of Commerce Donates $1,130.00 to the Officer David M. Petzold Memorial Foundation

The Southern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce (SLCC) presented a check to Jessica Petzold-Slawter for the Officer David M. Petzold Memorial Foundation in the amount of $1,130.00. The money was raised during their 2nd annual “Casual for a Cause” miniature golf event at Putt U Miniature Golf. The Officer David M. Petzold Memorial Foundation is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to honoring the memory of fallen Officer David Petzold.

Every June, the SLCC hosts a special event to raise funds for a local non-profit organization in the Southern Lehigh area. Chamber members enjoy an evening of networking while raising money for a local non-profit foundation.

The Southern Lehigh Business Organization is a forum and resource for professionals and companies, large or small, to grow their business through open exchange of ideas and collaborative action on issues that impact the economic health and quality of life in our community.

To learn more about the Southern Lehigh Chamber and to find out about future events, contact Marlyn Kissner at marlynk@lehighvalleychamber.org or 610-841-5806.

The Southern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce is a partner of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s mission is to deliver value to its members through superior programs and services; to advocate to advance business interests; unify the Lehigh Valley business community to leverage regional resources and strengthen its collective voice; and to create opportunities for businesses to grow. With nearly 5,000 members who employ more than 141,000 individuals, the Chamber is the 2nd largest in Pennsylvania, and one of the fastest growing in the nation.

ATHENA Awards

As you may have caught in the Express-Times on Saturday, the Women's Business Council of The Chamber has awarded its prestigious Athena Award to two very worthy recipients:  Carmen Twillie Ambar, President of Cedar Crest College, and Jennifer Mann, owners of Shuze in Bethlehem.

The prestigious ATHENA Award, presented annually by The Chamber for the past 25 years, actively supports ATHENA International’s mission to support, develop and honor women leaders, inspire women to achieve their full potential, and create balance in leadership worldwide. The ATHENA Award honors individuals who demonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession, who provide valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community and who actively assist other women in realizing their full leadership potential.

The award lunch itself will be held on October 19, 11:30 - 1:00, at Northampton Country Club.  The price is $30 for members, $60 for non-members, and you can register by E-mailing Colleen at collend@lehighvalleychamber.org

Below is a list of previous award winners.  What's interesting to me is how many notable Lehigh Valley Women have won this award in the past.

Enjoy!

Former Athena Winners

1986    Vivian Ross
1987    Kirsten Anderson
1988    Sally Handlon
1989    Pamela Varkony and Susan Schuehler
1990    Lynn Klein and Janet Popyach
1991    Jane Wells Schooley and Susan McAdoo Barr
1992    Madeline DeGrace and Jamie Musselman
1993    Mary Klunk and Carol Dean Henn
1994    Bertie Musselman and Helene Whitaker
1995    Dr. Dorothy Blaney and Nancy Dischinat
1996    Kathryn Stephanoff and Laurie Gostley-Hackett
1997    Helena Lindquist and Sally Gillispie
1998    Suzanne Kresge and Barbara Caldwell
1999    Yvette Palmer and Edith Ritter
2000    Dr. Diane Scott and Diane Donaher
2001    Lauren Giguere and Donna Taggart
2002    Patricia Levin and Candace Currie
2003    Dr. Elaine C. Thompson and Mary Jo Johnson
2004    State Representative Jennifer Mann
2005    Jeanette Eichenwald
2006    Nancy Conrad, Esq.
2007    Terri Haddad
2008    Merry Landis, and Young ATHENA Kate Hart
2009    Laura Azzalina and Young ATHENA Christine Downing

TRACC/ Easton Area Chamber ATHENA AWARD PAST RECIPIENTS


2008                                    Deborah Moyer
2007                                    Monica Gavin
2006                                    Diane Murphy
2005                                    Judy Mathewson
2004                                    Debra Ghia
2003                                    Elaine Pivinski
2002                                    Shelley Brown
2001                                    Linda Zulli-Trumbauer
2002                                  Barbara Harding
1999                                    Dr. Nayln Marcus
1998                                    Renae Mendall
1996                                    Judith Chase
1995                                    Virginia Gonzalez, Ph.D.
1994                                  Sen. Jeanette Reibman
1993                                  MaryEllen Shuman
1992                                  Martha Marino
1990                              Honorable Kimberly McFadden
1989                                    Joanne Cappellano
1988                                    Janet Falk
1987                                  Donna Mulholland
1985                                    Gretchen Wrenshall

Daily Briefing, 9/14/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In Bethlehem, the dispute continues between Lehigh County, the city, developers and the Bethlehem Area School District about whether or not to use Tax Increment Financing to redevelop Martin Towers.  In Allentown, the city has inducted another landlord into the "Landlord Hall of Shame."  The first debate between Charlie Dent, John Callahan and Jake Towne was held yesterday in Easton.  Four more debates have been scheduled.  Bad news in home sales, as Valley sales dropped 24% compared to August of last year.

Former President Bill Clinton was in Philadelphia yesterday, campaigning for Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato.  In Harrisburg, the troubled city is now being sued over its debt.  In Reading, where the city is facing a $16.5 million debt, the Finance Director has frozen all spending.

In national news, for the third straight year, violent crime in America is downPrimaries are being held today and seven states and the District of Columbia.

We have two Chamber events today:  an event on Succession Planning and Exit Strategies by the Chamber and the Greater Lehigh Valley Manufacturing Executives Networking Association and a State Senate update from Senator Bob Mensch (R-24), sponsored by The Chamber, the Easton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Business and Commerce Association of Forks.

That's it for now!  We'll have more later today.  See you then!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Money Available for Façade Rehab in Seven Lehigh Valley Boroughs


Property owners in seven boroughs in Lehigh and Northampton counties can attend a free workshop to learn about a program that provides grants for facade improvements.

The façade grant program, administered through the Lehigh Valley Borough Business Revitalization Program (BBRP), offers matching reimbursement funds up to $5,000 – dollar for dollar – to be used to improve the outside appearance (façade) of buildings.

The opportunity is limited to owners of businesses and homes within the pre-designated downtown district of the participating communities in the BBRP.

Workshops held the last two weeks of September will (a) show samples of BBRP properties that took advantage of the program and (b) the process for application and reimbursement.

Grants are awarded based on project merit. Projects are scored by a volunteer committee within each community on elements such as quality, design, and level of visual impact. The grants are intended to stimulate private investment in the preservation of historic downtown architecture and foster image-making improvements to properties.

This is the third round of Design Challenge funding that the BBRP has received from the Pennsylvania Dept. of Community & Economic Development to administer the façade program. Both Counties also contribute supplemental funding. To date, every $1.00 invested provided a return on investment of $1.56.

The Borough Business Revitalization Program was established in 2005 as a State-certified regional Main Street Program – a partnership between the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber Foundation, PA’s Dept. of Community & Economic Development, Lehigh and Northampton Counties, and the participating communities. The BBRP aims to mobilize volunteers and the community to assist in strengthening their local economies through promotion of each borough’s physical, economic, cultural, and historical assets.

Contact:
Program Coordinators

sharond@lehighvalleychamber.org - 610-973-4404
Bangor, Bath, Catasauqua, and Pen Argyl

maryd@lehighvalleychamber.org - 610-739-1520
Alburtis, Coopersburg, and Hellertown

Senator Bob Mensch Luncheon

We are very pleased to offer a luncheon with Senator Bob Mensch, held by The Chamber, the Easton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Forks Business & Commerce Association. More information below  Senator Bob Mensch Luncheon 

Daily Briefing, 9/13/2010

Good morning everyone!  It is way, way too early on a Monday morning, but, nonetheless, here is today's Daily Briefing.

The dispute between Victaulic and the Steelworkers Union is over, with the union ratifying Victaulic's proposed contract by a 189-53 vote.  As noted in an Express-Times story, the Women's Business Council of The Chamber has awarded it's annual ATHENA Award.  The winners this year are Carmen Twillie Ambar, President of Cedar Crest College and Jennifer Mann, owner of SHUZE.  More than 2,600 people took part in the Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon for Via - congrats to all who participated!

John Boehner, House Minority Leader, announced that he will support President Obama's proposed tax cuts - if they are the only option - despite the fact that they will exclude taxes for the wealthy.  In an interview yesterday, Austan Goolsbee, the new chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has said that he does not believe unemployment will drop significantly for the remainder of the year.

For my fellow caffeine addicts out there, try not to cry too much:  coffee prices are on the rise.

We have one Chamber-related event today: First Monday in Allentown, which will be held at Sangria in Allentown.

And that's it!  We'll be back later today - see you!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Five things to blog about - when you have nothing to say

Running a blog can be hard work - developing new content, writing down your thoughts in a way that is easy to read, attracting readership, making sure your SEO is optimized - and its even harder when you have nothing to write about!

Blogging frequently is important.  According to a study by HubSpot, 100% of businesses that blogged multiple times a day have generated customers from the blog.  So, even if you aren't sure what to write about, it's important to try to write high-level content that will keep people coming back for more.

But what if you have nothing to say?  What if its a slow day and you just can't think of an interesting topic?  What if its a Monday morning and your creative juices just aren't flowing?  You need inspiration - something to write about.

Well, we're here to help!  Here are five ways that you can try and develop blog topics, even when nothing obvious is available:

1)  What's in the news?  No matter what your industry is, odds are something newsworthy has happened that would be of some interest to the general public.  You probably keep up to date with the news, be it general news (like CNN, the Express Times or the Morning Call) or on your industry-specific news (I'm a Mashable junkie).  Report on the story (with as many links as possible) and bring it back to the interest of the general public. 

2)  Quick video?  Got a webcam on your computer?  Make life real easy for yourself - give a video update.  No more than three minutes, it should just contain some updates about whatever you usually blog about - industry-wide trends, current events, company successes and updates, etc.  You can upload a video to YouTube with relative ease - and embed it in your blog from there.  Even better, YouTube videos don't have to be of professional quality or have slick graphics - just be yourself, at your desk - and you'll appear genuine and hard-working.

3)  Bring in the funnies:  That latest forward that made you laugh?  Found a great YouTube video?  Something great happen the other day at work?  Share it.  Even if it has absolutely nothing to do with your usual blog topics.  People appreciate comedy and humor - and there is nothing wrong with taking a break from your usual content to make your readers laugh.  Monday's are a great day for this - who doesn't need a laugh on Monday?

4)  Daily Briefing format:  You may have read one of our Daily Briefings that we do every day.  If you have, you likely have noticed that the Daily Briefings are a collection of news stories and events that are of interest to our audience.  You may not have the time to produce something similar, but don't forget about the format - find interesting content that is available on the web and link it on your blog.  As always, keep your audience in mind - what stories will interest them?

5)  "Top five tips...":  This entry, like many others, involves me writing about information that I have a level of understanding and expertise in, then sharing it with the rest of you.  We are all experts in our own fields, be it insurance, real estate, retail, whatever.  That being said, what tips do you have that you think would be of interest to your audience?  What can you share with them that will be of interest to your readers and position you as an expert?

So, what do you think?  What else do you have to add to this list?

Daily Briefing, 9/10/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is your Friday Daily Briefing.

In Bethlehem, $60,000 of a $745,000 allocation for Bethlehem's Ice Rink have been reallocated to pay for parking and storm water improvements. Also in Bethlehem, officials announced that work will start next week on the 2nd phase of the South Bethlehem Greenway.  As noted in the Express Times, the Phillipsburg Area Chamber of Commerce will posthumously honor Harold Bellis as its Citizen of the Year.  A new study reports that pollution-related deaths are higher than the national average in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Democratic Gubenatorial candidate Dan Onorato was in Easton yesterday - the topic of his visit was Marcellus Shale drilling.  State Senator Lisa Boscola is calling for a ban on the practice of casino ATMs accepting unemployment benefit cards.  In Hazelton, a federal judge has ruled that the community's controversial immigration laws are not legal.

In national news, a federal judge struck down the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the military, ruling it violates first amendment rights. 

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll be back later.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Five ways to make Facebook less annoying - and make you more productive

I know, I know:  If you hear me say Facebook and Social Media is "important" one more time, your head is going to explode.  Of course, I believe what I am saying - Social Media is vitally necessary.

Still, and I am sure that every one of us can sympathize with this - Social Media in general, and Facebook specifically, can be really annoying.  It can suck your time away (Social Media is the most popular use of the internet, with 22% of all internet time being spent on Social Media sites) and barrage you with information that you couldn't care less about.  How on earth are you supposed to be able to filter information and make it useful to you?

Hopefully, this blog entry will help you out.  Here are five ways that you can customize Facebook to make it more relevant and less time-consuming:

1)  Customize your E-mail notifications:  How many events to you get invited to a day?  How many times a day to you get an E-mail saying that, "Jane Doe is invited you to become a fan of 'Jane Doe's Incredibly Awesome Business!'"?  Too many E-mail's bogging you down?  There's an easy fix.

Just go to Account, then Account Settings, and click on the "Notifications" tab.  From there, you can select what items you get E-mail (or even a text message) notifications about.



2)  Do a "like audit":  Did you "like" a page three years ago, don't care about it any more but are still getting messages and news feed updates from the page?  There's a really easy way to take care of that.  Just head to your own profile, click on the "info" tab and scroll to "Show other pages."  Click on that link, and it should show you all of the pages you have ever liked.  From there, you can visit any page you have liked.  To unlike a page, visit it, then click on "unlike" in the left side-bar.

3)  Hide status updates from a specific application or friend:  Most common complaint about Facebook:  "I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU ARE DOING ON FARMVILLE OR MAFIA WARS!" or the over-sharing person.  "I'm eating an orange."  "I'm in the dining room."  That's great.  In all probability, no one cares.  There is a way to get hide of updates from a certain person or application in your newsfeed.  To do so, bring your mouse so that it is over the offending status.  You will notice a small x in the upper right corner.  Click on that X, and you will see a message that looks like this:

Tada!  Just click on the first button to stop the person's status in your newsfeed (they will not know you did this) or the 2nd button to stop seeing updates from any person a specific application. You can always change these settings in your account settings.

4)  Stop seeing irrelevant or offensive ads:  Facebook's ads are incredibly customized and can be targeted directly to you based on your specific profile information.  Some ads, however, are less than useful, creepy, or downright offensive.  You can get rid of these ads by just clicking the x in the upper-right corner.  You will be asked why - click on the appropriate reason, and that particular ad will be gone.

5)  When all else fails - block the person:  Blocking someone on Facebook means that they will not be able to interact with you or see any of your information.  If you were friends with someone you blocked, you no longer will be.  This also means that you will no longer be able to see any of their information.  No, that person will not get notification that you have blocked them - but, if they realize they can't see you or your information anymore, they will likely figure it out.  To block a person, go to Account, then Privacy Settings, then Block Lists and type in the appropriate name.  Nice and easy!

Whew!  So, what else have you used to make Facebook more productive and less annoying?

Job Openings - Allstate

If you are a Chamber Member, we are happy to help you advertise any job opening. Please E-mail a description and contact information to Mike Schlossberg at mikeS@lehighvalleychamber.org. We publish job openings every Thursday and are happy to help you find the talent that you are looking for!

Allstate
Are you an experienced financial service professional looking to spend more time selling and less time prospecting? Become a Personal Financial Representative with Allstate! 

Who we are
We are looking for the best and brightest industry talent - proven professionals who thrive on helping customers prepare for tomorrow. The Allstate group of companies, which includes Allstate Life Insurance Company, Allstate Life Insurance Company of New York, and Lincoln Benefit Life, has more than 14 million customer households and 13,000 Exclusive Agents representing our Good Hands ®.

Why become an Allstate Personal Financial Representative?
We stand firm in our commitment to helping customers achieve their financial goals, objectives, and lifelong dreams. Our superior brand, large customer base, and unique agent partnership program position Personal Financial Representatives to be introduced as a professional that customers can count on to help them meet their individual protection and retirement needs.

Allstate Support
We'll help you get off to a fast start through comprehensive sales education, while providing financial incentives designed to help you get established. Proven business installation processes and local support will allow you to focus on existing customers (where allowed), all while providing you the resources necessary to help partner agencies identify the right time to introduce you on a favorable basis to Allstate customers. You'll spend less time prospecting and more time selling!

As an Allstate Personal Financial Representative you'll soar to new heights with the following sales support:
- Consumer-centric product portfolio including life insurance, annuities, mutual funds and more.
- Local business development support to help you execute your business plan.
- Allstate Financial Wholesaling support providing in-market sales ideas.
- Marketing support to reach new customers through the Allstate brand.

Take the next steps to becoming an Allstate Personal Financial Representative:
- Contact our Talent Acquisition Team toll free at 1-877-711-1014 or send an email to hsmi1@allstate.com to reach an Allstate recruiter. Visit our website at http://www.allstatepfr.com to learn more about how to spend more time selling and less time prospecting.

Qualified candidates will have at least 3 years of life insurance or financial services sales experience, Life and Health licensing, FINRA Series 6 and 63 (if applicable) licensing, and a track-record of success.

Industry designations and a 4-year degree preferred.

Daily Briefing, 9/9/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In Easton, Mayor Panto has said that he will recommend that the city keep its $990,000 allocation of federal CDBG funding, instead of giving out the funding to community groups, in an attempt to close a $2.6 million budget gap.  In Coplay, the Borough has controversially agreed to work out a dispute over the Coplay Athletic Club in private - an act that may violate the Sunshine Act.  America on Wheels will host a Community Health Forum on November 13.  Lehigh County will be holding its budget hearings, starting on Wednesday, September 15.  County Executive Cunningham has called for a 16% tax increase.

Here is some good news: for the first time since April, job openings are on the rise, despite the still high unemployment rate.  However, the Federal Reserve stated yesterday that there are "widespread signs" that economic growth in the country is slowing.  For you technology buffs, Google unveiled instant searching yesterday, meaning that search results will literally appear as you type them into Google.  Highway deaths dropped to their lowest rate in six decades.

We have one Chamber event today: a Young Professionals Seminar on Ethics and Integrity, keynoted by Barry Fisher of WFMZ-TV.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll be back later.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Top five must-have free internet tools for small businesses

As a small business owner or employee, if you hear "Social Media and The Internet is really important" one more time, odds are high that you may throw something at the speaker.  Yes, of course both are important: if you didn't know that, you wouldn't be in business.  But, we need to be more specific than that.  So, here are five great, free tools that can dramatically help you save time, learn more information and make more money.

1)  Google Alerts: Google Alerts allows you to enter search terms and receive E-mails when Google discovers a new result for that search term.  So, if you enter your name, your company's name, etc., you can be notified when Google discovers a new search result.  You can also customize the options so that you receive notifications instantly, once a day or once a week.  Make sure you get creative with the search results - don't just put in where you work, put put in your location, your business category, your competitors names, etc.  Google Alerts allows you to harness the power of Google and kept in the loop about new happenings.

2)  Google Analytics:  Google Analytics is a great way to determine the effectiveness of your website.  It tracks pageviews, where visitors are coming from and when they arrived, traffic sources, most popular pages or posts, etc.  Installing it is as simple as setting up a Google account and copy/pasting the HTML code.  These are some pretty advanced analytics that can really help you determine your websites effectiveness. 
Also, if you have a blog on blogger (as we do), you have Google Analytics built in.


3)  Google Insights:  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is absolutely critical to the success of any website - and thus, to the success of any business.  That being said, you absolutely HAVE to make sure that you are using the right search terms to capture a website audience.  Google Insights was made for this.  It allows you to test the popularity of search terms, determine the popularity of certain search terms, compare one term against another and see where search terms already lead.  Again, these are extremely robust features that are absolutely critical before working on your own websites SEO.

4)  Website Grader by Hubspot:  Again, in the area of SEO - you have to know how effective your website is before having any ideas of how to make improvements.  Fortunately, Hubspot has an incredible free tool available.  Plug in your website and the website of competing businesses.  Hubspot will then E-mail you a report that does an analysis of your website's SEO and that of your competitors.  The website "grades" your content against others, checks for blog articles and other Social Media content, determines how many pages Google has indexed and makes suggestions for how your website can be improved.  In other words: hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in SEO improvements is now available through this website. 

5)  HootSuite: Keeping track of Social Media newsfeeds, searches, comments, messages, etc. can be an incredibly time consuming and annoying venture.  HootSuite simplifies the process by allowing you to integrate your Facebook Profile & Pages, Twitter feeds and LinkedIn Newsfeed into one account.  You can set up tabs and keep track of what your Social Networks are saying.  You can also use Hootsuite to write messages, shorten links and schedule messages to be sent at a later date.  Believe me, this makes life much easier!

What do you think?  What other tools do you use that can be helpful to small businesses?  Let us know in the comments!