Friday, July 29, 2011

How to make customers love you

Today's entry comes to us courtesy of Intern Jon and deals with a topic every business owner must take to heart: how to make customers love your business - and keep coming back!
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How to Make Customers Love You

Whenever I hear the word “Starbucks,” I think of a cozy little nook at the corner of a street, filled to the brim with up-and-coming novelists and misunderstood artists.  The entire store is overcome with a soothing ambiance accompanied by a polite and friendly staff.  Only lastly do I think of Starbucks’ products – the coffee.  The point is: Starbucks, as well as many other businesses, has successfully positioned itself into providing not only a popular product but also a positive holistic experience for the consumer – a highly successful tactic into making customers not only needing you, but loving you.  One of the biggest problems that certain businesses face is a lack of personal love from its consumers, which separates the Wal-Marts from the Targets.  You may need to go to Wal-Mart but would instead love to go to Target.  That sense of love and devotion from the consumer is what ultimately drives people back time and time again.  Here are some tips from the Fox News Small Business Center to, as they say, “win the devotion that makes for loyal customers.”

1. Never Assume – Do not assume your customers want something when there is no actual demand for it.  Start small but strong and “build your product, service, or value proposition around the wants, needs and desires of your target customer.”
2. Always Deliver – Make sure to deliver the product time and time again.  If there is a problem, be honest to the consumer and straightforward as to how it will be dealt with.
3. Personalize Loyalty Programs – Personalizing deals for individual loyal customers instead of gravitating toward the masses ensures loyalty and is even more appealing to those customers to come back again and again.
4. Train Your Staff – The staff is likely the only faces consumers will directly have contact with, meaning that the staff can easily boost or destroy the company’s reputation.  A friendly and helpful staff goes just as far in the consumers’ memories as the product purchased.
5. Say “Thank You” – If nothing else, a simple periodic thank you to customers shows a genuine interest in the customers.
6. Stay Connected – A periodic newsletter or email bulletin extends the experience of your business to outside the physical store.
7. Play Favorites – As Fox Business Center keenly states, “new customers are critical to growth, but you must ensure that current or long-standing customers get VIP treatment as well.”  Long-term customers have likely already found an avenue of “love” with the business and it is more than important to keep or increase their love.

Tips gathered from: http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/marketing-sales/2011/06/20/seven-ways-to-make-your-customers-love/ 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New: Refer a Member program

At The Chamber, our biggest advocate for this organization is you.  Many of our new members, the lifeblood of this organization, come from recommendations from already existing members who are happy with what we have done and can do for their business.

To that end, we are pleased to unveil our Refer a Member program.  The idea is simple: fill out the form with the contact information of the business you are referring to Chamber membership, and leave your contact information as well.  If the business that you refer joins, you can get $50 off your next Chamber dues invoice.

The idea here is simple - we want to reward our members.  As I said before, we know that our main goal is to help you and your business to make more money.  As such, we wanted to say thank you and reward any member that refers another.

To make the referral, just visit our Refer a Member page.  If you have any questions about this, or other ways you can become a Chamber member, just E-mail me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Daily Briefing, 7/28/2011

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

In Bethlehem, members of the Eagles began arriving for training camp yesterday.  PPL and Chrin unveiled a new gas to electricity plant in Glendon.  Lehigh County has refinanced some of its bonds, saving $4 million in debt service.  In an effort to raise capital to pay some of its debt, the Lehigh Valley International Airport is taking offers to sell some of its excess land.

A vote on Speaker Boehner's debt relief plan is set for today, although Senate Democrats have already said they will not pass it.  Thanks to additional tax revenue, however, the US may have enough money to pay its bills through August 10.

That's it for now!  Have a good one, and we'll see you later.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Congressional Resignation

As we noted earlier today, Oregon Congressman David Wu announced his resignation.  Wu had previously been accused of a variety of erratic behavior, including bulldozing through airport security at a Portland airport in order to campaign with people getting off a plane.  Wu has said his resignation will be effective once the debt ceiling issue has been resolved.

Wu's resignation makes him the six member of the US Legislative body to resign this session, and the fourth to do so in scandal.  Here's a look at the other five:

  • Senator John Ensign (R-NV):  Ensign was taken down by a scandal related to his affair with the wife of one of his top aides.  After the affair, Ensign allegedly helped secure a new lobbying position for his aide and helped to steer work to that lobbying firm.  His parents also gave Cynthia Hampton (with whom Ensign had the affair) a $96,000 gift.  Ensign was replaced via Gubernatorial appointment by Congressman Dean Heller.
  • Congressman Chris Lee (R-NY):  Lee was found to be seeking extra-marital relations on Craig's List and engaged in conversations with other women.  This scandal came complete with shirtless pictures of Lee.  After his resignation, allegations emerged that said Lee behaved inappropriately with male staffers.  After his resignation, Democrat Kathleen Hochul won the seat in an upset.
  • Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA):  Harman is one of two to resign without a major scandal.  Harman resigned to head the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  She was succeeded in a special election by Democrat Janice Hahn.
  • Congressman Dean Heller (R-NV):  Heller also resigned without scandal, leaving his seat to fill the Senate vacancy created by John Ensign's resignation.  A Special Election will be held to fill this seat.
  • Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY):  The married liberal firebrand resigned after multiple allegations of flirtatious and sexually charged pictures & texts that he exchanged with other women.  

Social Media among college students

We have another post from Samantha McFarland, one of the many interns we have working at The Chamber.  This posts discusses Social Media (different for this blog, right?) but with a twist - from the perspective of a college student.  What's really interesting here is just that - Samantha's perspective on Social Media, one that is without question shared by most of those in her age-group.  Enjoy!

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Social media is an evolving world that is here to stay. No matter if one is for the use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or foursquare, to name a few, it is inevitable to ignore it. From interning at the chamber, I see and use the Easton Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook and the importance it holds for small businesses in the Easton area. It is an interactive site where pictures can be seen, news about upcoming events can quickly be shared, and comments or messages give the chance for instant interaction between multiple parties.

I am a 21 year old, soon to be senior in college, and I use Facebook for not only social/personal usage but also as a primary outlet to get news. For example, when the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed I found out through Facebook, which, then led me to put on the news and Google the event. (More people are frequently using Google for instant answers). I even found out about the Casey Anthony verdict whether I cared to or not, because of Facebook.

For young people, social media is a large portion of our everyday lives. From the facebook statistics website, I found that there are more than 750 million active users and 50% of those users log on to Facebook everyday, spending over 700 billion minuets per month on the site.  This little bit of information is a crucial aspect for businesses to use facebook as one of their main advertising outlets. It is cost efficient and effectively reach the masses.

How prevalent the use of social media is for college students and young adults, I think, depends on the type of person they are. Most people that have smartphones, like the iPhone, droid, or blackberry, tend to be connected to the internet at all times. These are usually the people that use social media more frequently due to the instant internet accessibility.  Also, the more social media is used by a group of friends,  the more likely one is to use the media; there is more of a reason to check Facebook and/or Twitter to see what their friends are up to. It is an easy was to keep in contact with old friends from high school that one might have lost touch with, or even to keep in touch with distant family.

Not only is social media used for social purposes, but now almost every news channel, like CNN and FOX, has a Facebook and Twitter. This allows those networks to quickly distribute breaking news at anytime, making them seem like a more reliable news source than their competitor. These websites are very user friendly and easy to navigate which factors into the contribution of social media extreme usage.  Social media is a new world that is becoming, if it already is not, one of the most effective means to reach a large group of people for awareness for not only business, but anything. We now live in an “always on” world, where people really do not stop working even after they leave the office. In some way people are always connected, at any time can be, and are expected to be.

Facebook statistics website:
http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics



Daily Briefing, 7/27/2011

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

The US Post office is set to close 3,700 facilities around the country, including one in South Bethlehem.  The Lehigh Valley International Airport saw a 7% traffic increase in June.  Sands Bethlehem showed a strong second quarter in 2011, including a boost in revenues over the same time last year.  Coll Recycling is opening a facility in South Whitehall, creating 75 new jobs.

Senator Toomey reintroduced legislation that would require that the US prioritize its debt payments in the event that the debt ceiling isn't raised by August 2.

In debt related news, there is still no deal and none appears to be forthcoming.  Speaker Boehner's plan has been rejected by many rank-and-file Republicans, forcing a delay on its vote until Thursday.  A new survey of economist's shows that a majority believe that the US credit ratings will be downgraded.  In other news, the Great Recession has widened the average wealth gap between whites and other minorities to its highest point in 25 years.  After numerous instances of "erratic behavior" and allegations of unwanted sexual advances towards the daughter of a campaign donor, Congressman David Wu (D-OR) is resigning from Congress once a debt limit deal is reached.  Wu becomes the fifth member to resign from this Congress and the 4th to resign in disgrace following a scandal.

We'll leave you some good news today: according to reports, Al-Qaeda appears to be on the verge of collapse.

We have two events today: Iron Pigs night with the East Penn & Western Lehigh Chambers of Commerce and the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Chamber of Commerce's annual picnic.

That's it for now!  Have a good one, and we'll see you later.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How a debt default would affect you

The United States appears to have a mere week left before we hit our deficit ceiling and become unable to pay our bills - indeed, a senior White House official told ABC News that they believe there is now a 50/50 chance of such a default.

Such a default would have significant consequences for the US economy.  Here are just some of the things that can happen:


  • Increase interest rates across the boar for loans, causing mortgages, car loans and credit card interest rates to increase.
  • Small business owners will have a more difficult time getting a loan, as credit will tighten.
  • Military men and women will get limited, or no pay.
  • Government contracts may be laid off.
  • Student loans will be harder to obtain (and have higher interest rates).
  • Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid payments may be delayed or stopped.
  • Government employees may be furloughed.
An important note here: A debt default has never happened in the United States, so no one really knows for sure what will happen.  Unfortunately, it is getting increasingly likely that we will get an answer in one week. 

Sources:

Daily Briefing, 7/26/2011

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

Plans to widen Route 22 appear to be re-accelerating - the construction now might be possible in the next 5-6 years.  The NFL lock-out ended yesterday; as a result, the Eagles will be coming to Lehigh University, starting tomorrow.  After changing its mind twice, Northampton County voted to purchase land for preservation in Upper Mount Bethel township.

After another day without progress in the talks to raise the deficit ceiling, President Obama and Speaker Boehner addressed the nation yesterday.  According to a new report, Texas Governor Rick Perry is likely to jump into the Presidential race in August.

We have one Chamber event today: a "Pretty in Pink" Scholarship Fundraiser for the Women's Business Council.

That's it for now!  Have a good one, and we'll see you later.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vote for a Dog Park for Allentown!

We were asked by our friends at the City of Allentown to pass along this information.  The city is trying to win a $100,000 prize (not a small chunk of change!) for a new dog park.  Check out the information below to learn more.
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ALLENTOWN APPEALS FOR DOG PARK VOTES

Voting is easy and the City of Allentown needs the public’s help to win the PetSafe Bark For Your Park contest!

Out of more than 500 cities across the country, Allentown is among 15 to reach the finals of the $100,000 winner take all contest.

City Department of Parks & Recreation Director Greg A. Weitzel showed Mayor Ed Pawlowski how to register on line and cast a vote during a news conference this afternoon in City Council Chambers.

In order to advance to become one of the 15 finalist cities, the Department of Parks and Recreation put together a 2-minute video.  Thanks to the support of more than 40 residents from across the city who were present at the video filming, the department was able to showcase all of the required criteria for the contest: community support for a dog park, the impact that a dog park would have, and the master plan and location for a dog park.

In this final phase of the contest, votes are cast on the internet for the best video.  Each email address can vote once per day at two locations: www.barkforyourpark.com and www.facebook.com/petsafebrand
Voting ends August 3rd.

“The city with the most votes wins, so let’s bark loudly for our park,” said Pawlowski.  “It only takes a minute or two and the reward is huge.”

Allentown-based video production company PostSputnik produced the video.  Langan Engineering designed the master plan for the proposed dog park, which is to be located in Trout Creek Park East.

“The support from the Allentown community has been fantastic,” said Weitzel.  “The public’s effort during the first and second portion of the last leg of the competition was extremely gratifying.  With their assistance, I believe Allentown has a great chance to win.”

How to win an online contest

Earlier today, we posted a link at the request of the City of Allentown.  The City is trying to win $100,000 that would go towards the building of a new dog park.  Contests like these are great for both the participants and the hosts.  For hosts, they can generate awareness, build Social Media followings and get great press.  For the non-profit participants, these contests are a chance to win great prizes or money.  But, if used properly, there is more to it than that.

Online contests give participants the opportunity to build and organize their community, expand their overall reach and hopefully generate additional donations.  They cannot be won easily - by their very nature, these contests bit entrants against each other, so the odds are always good that you will be outworked or out-organized.  That being said, with some thought and practice, these contests can be won.  Here are some thoughts on how.

1.  You can't enter if you aren't ready:  You cannot hope to just jump into a contest if you have ten Facebook fans, twenty E-mails and no twitter account.  If you want to enter a contest like this, you absolutely have to make sure you have reached a critical mass of online supporters - otherwise, you will embarrass yourself.  Always remember that, as hard as you are working, there are others who are working harder and have more help.


2.  Have a plan:  Don't think you can enter something like this without having a plan.  How frequently are you going to communicate with your supporters?  What other groups can you talk to?  What incentives can you provide to groups who help to share your message?  What marketing materials have you assembled, and when are you going to use them?  Winning a contest like this is a big undertaking - and having a set plan can help you win it.


3.  Who are your friends?  No matter how many supporters you have, odds are that you cannot win a contest like this on your own.  Accordingly: who are your friends?  Who can you talk to that will help to share your message?  Are there customers/non-profits that can share your contest efforts on your behalf?  Do you have friends that will advertise for you or share the contest with their E-mail lists?  Make sure you develop a comprehensive group of contacts and ask them to help you win.


4.  Daily updates:  In some form or fashion, you have to remind people on a daily basis to vote - this is particularly important, since most contests allow you to vote daily.  That being said, you cannot go too crazy or you will turn off your supporters.  This advice is somewhat contradictory, but you do have to try and walk a fine line of reminding people and not annoying them.


5.  If you win, celebrate:  You won?  GREAT!  This is a huge day.  Make sure you send out a press release and let your supporters know about the victory.  Create a YouTube video that has pictures of the people you will now help; show the site of the field that will be turned into a park, etc.  Above all else, make sure to thank your supporters and express your appreciation.


6.  If you lose, solicit:  That's okay - if 25 non-profits enter a contest, 24 are going to lose, and odds are, you will be one of them.  It is important, again, to thank your supporters, but do more than that.  Tell those who voted how much you appreciate their support, then ask them, would they make a contribution to the cause, shop in your business at a discounted rate for today only, etc?  These contests can help build momentum; don't let that momentum fall away.


So, what do you think about the above?  Any other tips or tricks you'd like to share with us?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 7/25/2011

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

In national news, there is still no deal on raising the federal debt ceiling, causing futures to drop and likely having ramifications in the stock market later today.  Congressman David Wu (D-OR) is facing calls for an investigation and resignation after allegations of an "unwanted sexual encounter."  Americans are living longer, with the average life expectancy hitting 78.2 years in 2009.

That's it for now!  Have a good one, and we'll be back later today.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This Week With(out) Tony - Allentown Restaurant Week!

Our Hamilton District has been hoping with a lot of great events - and in This Week With Tony, Leslie and I talk about the upcoming Allentown Restaurant Week, July 25 - July 31.

As always, This Week With Tony is sponsored by our friends at M&T Bank.


Job Openings

Here are this week's job openings.  A reminder - if you are a Chamber Member and would like to post a job opening that you have (at no charge), just E-mail me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.
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Lehigh Valley Children's Centers - Marketing & Communications Manager


Responsibilities:
The Marketing & Communications Manager is responsible for promoting the Lehigh Valley Children’s Centers bran, increasing public awareness of LVCC programs, attracting customers, and educating the public about the importance of early education.  This is accomplished through effective communications with the public, current LVCC families, LVCC staff, elected officials, donors and partner agencies

Qualifications:  Minimum 2 years’ experience in the following:

  • Multi task oriented
  • Excellent verbal & written communication skills
  • Proficiency in digital photography & videography
  • Internet marketing and social networking experience
  • Experience planning and executing advertising campaigns
  • Experience in purchasing design and printing services
  • Microsoft Office including Word, Excel, Outlook & PowerPoint
  • Able to lift 40 lbs.
  • Bachelor’s Degree in English, Communications or Marketing preferred 

Salary: Dependent upon experience
To apply:

Email your resume to: hr@lvcconline.org or fax to: 610-820-5338 Attn: Jennifer Munson or
Mail to: 1501 Lehigh Street
Suite 208
Allentown, PA 18103
Attn: Human Resources


Daily Briefing, 7/21/2011

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

In Northampton County, Gracedale needs $20 million in capital improvements.  In Bethlehem, City Council voted to apply for a gaming grant to help fund the operation of the LOOP bus.

The space shuttle Atlantis landed earlier this morning, marking the end of the Space Shuttle program.  Little progress has occurred in the ongoing talks to lift the federal deficit ceiling.  Football fans, fear not: NFL players and owners may be close to a deal.

We have three Chamber events today: a mixer at 24/7 fitness, another Summer in the City event in Downtown Allentown and a grand opening at Phoenicia's in Easton.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lessons of Apple's rise

Apple is one of the largest companies in the world, and after releasing new sales figures yesterday, those numbers continue to grow.  Apple hit new records for its stock price, quarterly profit & revenue and iPhone/iPad sales.

This monstrous growth is even more impressive when you consider that much of it came in the middle of a recession/slow growing economy.  There are many different reasons for Apple's success (far too many to be listed in this blog entry), but there are also a few lessons that any business can learn from Apple's rise.  Here are a few important points.

1)  Be first:  Speed kills.  Before there was any other tablet or smart-phone like the iPhone, there simple was the iPhone.  Apple beat all of its competitors to a lucrative market, a position that it has yet to truly relinquish. Takeaway: What can you offer that no one else does?  And how can you position yourself in the market for success?

2)  Be different:  Apple wasn't just first; it was totally unique.  Even at the risk of cannibalizing its own products (iPad sales are coming at the extend of Mac sales), Apple released a series of products (iPod, iPhone, iPad) that were totally different, or a vast improvement, on anything else available on the market.  Takeaway: Think about the products/services in your industry, and ask yourself, what can you do that can make you stand above the competition?

3)  Supply matters:  The iPad sold  9.25 million units last quarter, largely a result of Apple solving its supply problems (according to the article, shipping of an iPad is now 1-3 days after an order - at one point, it was up to six weeks).  If you cannot get a product to a customer quickly, especially in this on-demand society, it won't sell as well.  Takeaway: Do you have enough supplies to make your product sell, and sell quickly?  If you are a service business, do you have enough staff/capacity to properly and promptly perform the service you are selling?

4)  The Halo effect:  Apple refers to a "Halo effect" - whereby buyers of some of their products (iPad, iPhone, iPod) go on to purchase more expensive products at a later date (like a Mac) due to overall satisfaction with their brand.  Virtually business offers just one product anymore - how can you take advantage of a Halo effect?  Takeaway: Never stop at just one sale.  Instead, make sure your customers are fully aware of all of the products and services you offer - create your own brand, and your own halo effect.

Daily Briefing, 7/20/2011

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

Lehigh Valley Home Sales dropped 27.8% from June of last year.  Another freshman member of the Easton Area School District, Jennifer Holzberger, is resigning from the School Board.  In the Saucon Valley, Hellertown and Lower Saucon want to examine merging their police departments.  

The "cut, cap and balance" deficit plan passed the House of Representatives yesterday; it will likely not pass in the Senate, and President Obama has promised a veto.  President Obama did say that he was generally supportive of the "Gang of Six" plan to reduce the deficit by $3.6-$3.7 billion.  A new national poll shows that Americans are angrier/more dissatisfied with the federal government then they have been in nearly twenty years.

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The latest on the debt crisis

The debt crisis continues in the Capitol today, with a few different news items to report:

  • Tea Party members bring forward a bill today that would make significant cuts to entitlement programs and pass a balanced budget Constitutional amendment - and, in doing so, raise the debt ceiling $2.4 trillion.  The bill is dead on arrival in the Senate and the White House has promised a veto.
  • The former "Gang of Six" (bipartisan group of six Senators) will privately unveil their deficit reduction plan to 40-50 Senators.  The plan reforms the revenue code, makes spending cuts that would close the deficit by $3.6-3.7 billion.
  • Former President Bill Clinton has begun to advocate for President Obama to unilaterally increase the deficit ceiling, arguing that such a ceiling is unconstitutional.
  • Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) has said that the Senate will remain in session until an agreement is reached.
The drama continues.

Daily Briefing, 7/19/2011

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

Rich Daugherty, Chairman of the Lehigh County Democratic Committee, has said he will challenge Charlie Dent for the 15th Congressional District.  A heat wave is expected to hit the Valley for the rest of the week.  Upper Macungie is considering withdrawing from the Berks Lehigh regional police department.

A panel established by Governor Corbett came out with its recommendations yesterday to generate $2.7 billion for roads and bridges.

In Britain, the Murdoch will be testifying in front of British Parliament on Tuesday in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.  According to some reports, Rupert Murdoch may be considering stepping down in the wake of the scandal.  The House of Representatives will vote later today on the proposed "cut, cap and balance" plan, sponsored by Tea Party-Republicans.

That's it for now!  Have a good one and we'll see you later.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Google+ invites, anyone?

The latest entrant into the world of Social Media is Google.  As you may know, Google recently unveiled its new Social Network, Google+.  Despite being in invite-only stages right now, the service has already broken ten million users, an impressive feet.

This isn't Google's first attempt at Social Media - previously, it had Google Wave & Google Buzz - and neither ever gained the traction that Google+ already achieved.  Some have referred to it as a "Facebook Killer" (that's REALLY premature), but there is no question that + appears to be on its way to becoming a major player in the Social Media field.

What we are going to try and do here is help our members get on Google+.  As I said before, it is still invite only, but I'm on it and I know others who are as well.  If you are interested in an invite, and are a Chamber member, please E-mail me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.  If you are a Chamber member and willing to help out by donating invites, please E-mail me as well!

Hopefully, we can bring a few of you to Google+!

FREE Mixer at Westend Racquet, Swim & Fitness Club, this Thursday, July 21

We have another free mixer coming up this Thursday, July 21, 5-7pm at Westend Racquet, Swim & Fitness Club.  This mixer will have some really great amenities, including:

  • Complimentary beer, wine & food from Outback Steakhouse. 
  • Everyone who attends will receive an Outback Steakhouse Beach Ball and Frisbee; a free Outback appetizer card and a free 30-day membership to the 24-7 Fitness Clubs! (Complimentary membership includes up to 6 personal training sessions with a certified personal trainer to get you started.)
  • A contest to win a free one-year 24-7 Fitness Club Membership and/or one of two $50 Outback Steak House Gift Certificates.
This one sounds really great.  See you there!
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Updpate 2:30:  MORE FOOD.  BETTER FOOD!


Hot news!  The Outback Steakhousehas just upgraded the menu to include:

Sirloin Steaks
Grilled Chicken
Cesar Salad
Rice Pilaf and Cheese Cake!

Complimentary beer provided by Allentown Beverage.  We'll have good wine too!

Jim

Daily Briefing, 7/16/2011

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

In national news, negotiations between Democrats and Republicans have yielded little progress. Moody's has suggested that, to avoid future crises, the US eliminate the debt ceiling altogether.  President Obama will nominate Richard Cordray, former Attorney General of Ohio, to head the new Consumer Protection Bureau.

That's actually it for today - slow news day on Monday, as usual.  Anyway, have a great day, and we'll be back later.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guest Blog Post: The need for a home warranty

Today's guest blog post comes to you courtesy of Mike Reis at Gateway Funding and discusses the real need, especially in this economy, of buying a home warranty.  Enjoy!


Daily Briefing, 7/15/2011

Good morning everyone!  Here is your Friday Daily Briefing.

A Morning Call story reviews the possible effects on South Bethlehem if the NFL lock-out does not resolve itself in time for training camp to open at Lehigh.  Lehigh Valley Health Network is opening a new facility for families to stay in while their loved ones are in the hospital.  The Boyd Theatre in Bethlehem will be closed for repairs for the remainder of 2011, but will open again in 2012.

S&P also warned the United States that a credit downgrade was possible if lawmakers didn't come up with an agreement to raise the debt ceiling.  Meanwhile, President Obama has scheduled a press conference for 11am today.

We have two Chamber events today: a Breakfast Seminar Training series in Allentown and a Trefoil TTA Training on Emergency Response.

That's it for now - have a good one, and we'll see you later!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Daily Briefing, 7/14/2011

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

A new plan has been recommended that will give the Lehigh Valley International Airport four years to pay its debt to a former property owner.  Olympus has announced a new round of layoffs that will affect its employees in Center Valley.  There is mixed news on the home sales front: sales increased 15.5% from a month ago, but dropped 26% compared with sales from June 2010.  Local hospitals are dealing with shortages of certain drugs.

In state-wide news, Republican Majority Leader Mike Turzai has proposed legislation to privatize liquor stores in Pennsylvania.

Debt talks ended abruptly yesterday, as President Obama allegedly walked out after being repeatedly interrupted by Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA).  A new round of talks is scheduled for later today.  Meanwhile, Moody's has put the U.S. credit rating on review for a possible downgrade.

We have three Chamber events today: a mixer at the Sam Adams Grille at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Fogelsville, a Grand Opening/Ribbon Cutting at Mami's Place in Easton and Summer in the City in Downtown Allentown.

That's it for now - have a good one, and we'll see you later.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How to prevent your phone from getting hacked

One of the top stories in the media right now is how reporters of News of the World allegedly hacked into the phones of many celebrities and crime victims, including (and certainly not limited to) Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of England.  The schedule shut down News of the World and forced Rupert Murdoch's media empire to drop its bid for BSkyB, a British TV outlet.

The scandal continues to explode, but it also points out a very significant vulnerability - you frequently hear about computer hacking, but only recently has phone hacking become an issue.  Yes, your phone can get hacked.  Here are some ways to prevent that:

1)  Put on a password:  Most phones have an option to have you enter a password.  This will enable you to add the most basic layer of security to your phone.

2)  Use a unique password:  You'd be amazed at how many passwords are 0000 or 1234 - in fact, the most common password in the world is 123456.  Change your password to something more unique!

3)  Enable "find my phone" programs:  Many platforms have programs that enable you to locate your phone, send a message to it if it is lost (enabling a Good Samaritan to call you and return it), or nuke all of your  data if the phone is stolen.  For my iPhone, I use Apple's Find My iPhone program.

4)  Disable Bluetooth connections: If you aren't using a Bluetooth connection, disable it entirely - leaving it open is like leaving a window unlocked.  Plus, it drains your battery.

5)  Careful where you store information:  Don't put a sensitive information in a non-secure format.  If your phone gets stolen, you are in trouble.

6)  Be careful with public wifi:  It can easily allow your computer, or cell phone, to be hacked.

Sources:

Daily Briefing, 7/13/2011

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

Air Products turned on a 15-acre solar farm yesterday.  The state is still trying to determine if they are going to set up a health insurance exchange, which health care reform gives them the right to do.  A panel set up on the Marcellus Shale industry is set to release its report within the next two weeks.

A new national poll shows Mitt Romney continuing to lead the Republican Presidential field, with Michelle Bachmann in second.  Debt ceiling negotiations continue, although the two sides appear to be even further apart. As a result, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed giving the President the ability to raise the debt ceiling unless overridden by Congress with a 2/3 vote.

We have one Chamber event today: the Greater Northern Chamber of Commerce is holding their annual picnic.

And that's it for now!  Have a good one, and we'll be back later.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why do people follow brands on Facebook? And what can you learn?

I came across a great blog entry from Hubspot - the content is great and it absolutely has potential implications for your business and how you use Social Media.

The entry is a treasure-trove of data on why people follow brands on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.  According to the research:


  • Regardless of the platform, a plurality of people follow a brand to get coupons/special discounts, followed by current customers, then interesting content.
  • Most people like between 2-5 brands on Facebook.
  • 97% of people have said that an online experience later influenced a purchase.
Yes, this survey was for brands, not small businesses, but I think there are a few very valuable take-aways for small businesses:

1)  If someone follows your brand, they don't necessarily want to hear about a product or service you offer - instead, they want a deal/discount.  If you cannot give them that, you have to give them interesting content that will somehow enhance their lives.
2)  Of course Social Media is great for recruiting new customers, but, your already existing customers may are perfectly ready and willing to follow you on Facebook.  How are you connecting those customers to your Facebook page?
3)  Space is limited - if a majority of people don't follow more than five brands, then you have to be good, because the competition is stiff.  
4)  Similarly, Social Media will influence purchasing patterns, but positively or negatively - to that end, make sure that if you use Social Media, you do so in a manner that will enhance your brand!

Dealing with changes to the Earned Income Tax law

As you may know, Pennsylvania recently passed changes to Act 32, the law which governs how taxes are collected across the state.  These are changes that every business must know in order to adjust their payroll in 2012.  As a result, The Chamber is working to promote the following free seminars that can help you prepare for these changes.  The details are below:
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EVERY business must comply with the new Earned Income Tax collection law---
Are you ready? Your Chamber wants to help!  

PA Act32 requires employers to make certain changes in the amount of employees’ paycheck withholdings, as well as  where -and when -to remit the tax.
To be ready for January 2012, please come to one of these FREE seminars!
Northampton County Schedule –August 2011
(Lehigh County Schedule will be available soon)


Round One                                                                               Location
Thursday, August 4                   10:00 a.m.                    Pen Argyl High School
                                                                                    501 West Laurel Avenue
                                                                                    Pen Argyl, PA  18072

                                                  2:00 p.m.                    Easton Middle School
                                                                                    1010 Echo Trail
                                                                        Easton, PA  18040
                                   
Monday, August 15                  10:00 a.m.                    Bethlehem East Hills Middle School
                                                                                    2005 Chester Road
                                                                                    Bethlehem, PA  18017

                                                  2:00 p.m.                    Bethlehem NE Middle School
                                                                                    1170 Fernwood Street
                                                                                    Bethlehem, PA  18018

Thursday, August 18                 10:00 a.m.                    Nazareth Middle School
                                                                                    94 Friedenstahl Avenue
                                                                                    Nazareth, PA  18064

                                                  2:00 p.m.                    Northampton High School
                                                                                    1619 Laubach Avenue
                                                                                    Northampton, PA  18067

Friday, August 19                     10:00 a.m.                    Saucon Valley High School
                                                                                    2100 Polk Valley Road
                                                                                    Hellertown, PA  18055

Daily Briefing, 7/12/2011

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

Phillipsburg Council President Randy Piazza has been charged with harassment.  The weather isn't going to be pretty this week, with temperatures hitting as high as 92 degrees today and hanging in the mid 80s for the rest of the week.  In Macungie, Borough officials have reached out to Lower Macungie to begin conversations about regionalizing police services.

In Pennsylvania news, a new website that has state financial and spending information will be available in 2013.

In national news, a new report shows that 17% of 16-24 year olds who are looking for a job can't find one.

We have one Chamber event today: a TrefoilTTA training on Emergency Response.

That's it for now - have a good one, and we'll see you later.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Great business resources

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of taking a "Start Your Own Business" class, hosted by Lehigh Valley SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives).  The class was great - it had a lot of really useful information, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is considering starting their own business.

Among the many resources they made available were some websites that have a treasure trove of data that can be immensly helpful to you and your business.  Below are a few of those sites:


  • PA Open For Business:  Contains a variety of information about how to open a business in Pennsylvania, including links to possible grant and loan programs.
  • Lehigh Valley Financing:  Run by the Small Business Development Center, this site has info on how to finance your business dream.
  • Census:  It may seem obvious, but make sure you check out the Census website - it has every bit of general demographic data you could ask for.  Best of all, you can customize your search to specifically where you are looking.
  • ZIPskinny:  Type in any zip code and this site will give you a great (and easily readable) breakdown of the its demographics.  You can also compare one zip code to another, make charts, check out schools and more.  

Sam Adams Grille Mixer at the Holiday Inn, Fogelsville

We have a great, free mixer coming up that I thought was worth highlighting.  On Thursday, July 14, from 5-7pm, The Chamber will be hosting a mixer at the Sam Adams Grille in the Holiday Inn, Fogelsville.  Complete with food, drinks and a money machine (yes, you read that right), this should be a great event.  Indeed, this is one of the half-dozen or so free networking events that we offer to Chamber members.  Some come, eat, meet and mingle!

Check out the description below for more info!

Daily Briefing, 7/11/2011

Good morning everyone, and we hope you had a great weekend!  Here is your Daily Briefing.

In Bethlehem, the Downtown Bethlehem Association & The Chamber are working on a cross-promotional effort that pairs Center City & South Side merchants.  In state-wide news, a new poll shows trouble for President Obama in Pennsylvania, with the President showing a 46-48% approval rating.  The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency has announced that it will be able to make an additional $50 million in aid.  In national news, debt reduction talks continue between the President and Republicans, with negotiations set to continue every day until a deal is done.

We have one Chamber event today: First Monday at Sangria in downtown Allentown.

That's it for now!  Have a good one and we'll see you soon.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Guest Blog Infographic: How Logistics Helped Gain America's Freedom

We've been big fans of all the Guest Blog Posts that you have sent to us, and now, Derby Supply Chain Solutions has taken a new spin on it - they have created a Guest Blog Infographic that shows the role of logistics in winning America's freedom.

This infographic was created by 3PL Provider Derby Supply Chain Solutions

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Welcome, New Members!

Welcome to this month's New Members!  As always, if you are interested in Chamber Membership, please E-mail me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.
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BMS Machine, Inc.
1002 Walnut Street, Allentown, PA 18102
MACHINE SHOPS


BoxStarz LLC
(484) 269-8173
456 Northampton Street, Easton, PA 18042
RETAIL SALES


Business Owners Trade Alliance (BOTA)
(866) 200-4623
3440 Lehigh Street, Suite 228, Allentown, PA 18103
http://www.businessownerstrade.com
BUSINESS CONSULTANTS, DEVELOPERS & INCUBATORS


Carl W. Peter Agency
(610) 298-2444
P.O. Box 472, New Tripoli, PA 18066
www.cwpeteragency.com
INSURANCE


Coopersburg Sports
(610) 282-1360
120 E. Station Avenue, Coopersburg, PA 18036
http://www.coopersburgsports.com
SPORTING GOODS


Dale Barker Ceramic Tile
(610) 966-8205
5912 Glen Road, Coopersburg, PA 18036
SLATE & TILE DISTRIBUTORS


Ferguson Enterprises
4623 Harriet Lane, Bethlehem, PA 18017
PLUMBING, HEATING & AIR CONDITIONING


GenOn Energy
(724) 597-8684
121 Champion Way, Suite 200, Canonsburg, PA 15317
www.genon.com
ENERGY


Gerald K. Millheim DMD PC
(610) 837-7656
303 Allen Street, Bath, PA 18014
www.geraldmillheim.com
DENTISTS, ORAL SURGEONS & ORTHODONTISTS


Honeycomb Salon
(610) 432-4600
1235 Whitehall Mall, Whitehall, PA 18052
SALONS, SPAS & BEAUTY SUPPLIES


Human Touch Home Health Care
(484) 664-2940
540 West Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA 18101
http://www.humantouchhealth.com
HEALTH CARE SERVICES


Junior League of the Lehigh Valley - PA - Inc.
(610) 866-8852
2200 Avenue A, Suite 101, Bethlehem, PA 18017
www.jllvpa.org
NON-PROFIT & NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


Kratzer Supply
(610) 797-2090
1805 East Susquehanna Street, Allentown, PA 18103
LANDSCAPE ACHITECTS, CONTRACTORS & DESIGNERS


La Bella Via
41 Third Street, Phillipsburg, NJ 08865
RESTAURANTS & CAFES


Leaf Cigar Bar & Restaurant
90 Mort Drive, Easton, PA 18040
http://leafcigarbar.com
RESTAURANTS & CAFES


Lehigh Insurance Agency
(610) 868-8762
1737 Schoenersville Road, Bethlehem, PA 18018
http://www.lehighagency.com
INSURANCE


Libra Consulting Corporation
2059 Sherbrooke Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18015
CONSULTING SERVICES & TRAINING


National Plastics & MFG. Co., Inc.
11 McFadden Road, Easton, PA 18045
www.natplasticsinc.com
MANUFACTURING


New York Life - Jennifer Scattene
(610) 597-9466
919 Chester Street, Bethlehem, PA 18017
FINANCIAL SERVICES


OLP Services Inc.
(610) 250-9883
503 Zucksville Road, Easton, PA 18040
www.olpsvc.com
ENERGY


Passport Health
(610) 882-2419
Gateway Professional Center Building, Bethlehem, PA 18017
http://www.passporthealthnepabny.com
HEALTH CARE SERVICES


Rodale Catering and Events
(610) 967-8515
1134 Pennsylvania Avenue, Emmaus, PA 18091
http://www.rodalecatering.com
CATERING


Rosgill Consulting
610-751-7074
454 Jenna Lane, Easton, PA 18045
http://www.rossgillconsulting.com
WEB DESIGN, CONSULTING & HOSTING


RT Consulting & Engineering
610-866-7202
65 East Elizabeth Avenue, Bethlehem, PA 18018
http://www.rtconsultingengineering.com
ENGINEERING


Salon Lore
(610) 691-3574
1278 Birchwood Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18017
SALONS, SPAS & BEAUTY SUPPLIES


Seamless Acquisitions LLC
(610) 588-5584
380 Springfield Drive, Bangor, PA 18013
INVESTORS


SophistiKate
574 Main Street, Suite 100, Bethlehem, PA 18018
www.sophistikatebethlehem.com
RETAIL SALES


Stations Cafe
(610) 625-5200
563 Main Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018
http://www.stationscafe.com
RESTAURANTS & CAFES


Stellar Stone Fabrications, LLC
1804 Union Bolevard, Allentown, PA 18109
www.stellarstonefabrications.com
COUNTERTOPS


The Karoly Law Firm
(610) 820-9790
1555 North 18th Street, Allentown, PA 18104
www.karolyfirm.com
ATTORNEYS, JUDGES & LEGAL SERVICES


Tri State Bank Manufacturing and Repair
610-837-9828
391 South Walnut Street, Bath, PA 18014
MANUFACTURING


Tubiello-Harr & Associates LLC
110 North Main Street, Coopersburg, PA 18036
www.t-hallc.com
ACCOUNTING & BILLING SERVICES


Unlimited Restoration Inc.
(484) 576-3114
379 Cherry Street, Pottstown, PA 19464
http://www.urinow.com
CLEANING SVCS, EQUIPMENT, RESTORATION y SUPPLIES


Waste Management/Grand Central Sanitary Landfill
(610) 863-2402
Waste Management of PA, Pen Argyl, PA 18072
www.wm.com
WASTE & RECYCLING