Market Power Drives Harder Bargains. Can SMEs Compete Globally?


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Is there a widening difference between the profitability of small businesses and large?  Some say there is and blame globalization. Milton Ezrati, contributor for Forbes thinks otherwise:  “The winner-take-all character of global trade seems to get the blame for just about anything unfair or inequitable these days. But it would be a mistake to reach for this easy answer.”  He goes on to say …

Rather than drag out the perennial whipping boy of globalization, a better explanation might well lie with questions of market power. All may have access to the same suppliers, but larger firms, such as Walmart and Amazon, can drive harder bargains on price and delivery terms than smaller or mid-sized firms.

Is America losing its small businesses?  Read more.

How Small Business Owners Can Harness the Power of SEO to Grow Their Brands

It seems like everyone and their mother has climbed aboard the content marketing train, pushing out everything from blog posts to whitepapers to tutorials online. You can quite literally find an answer — or multiple answers, really — to any question that comes to mind. Although helpful in many ways, this wealth of information poses a problem: We’re drowning in the stuff, which makes it that much harder for your audience to find your content.

SEO

If you want audiences to discover your content, SEO needs to be part and parcel of your content journey. Adhering to SEO best practices ensures that any content you produce meets Google’s standards, making it easier for bots to crawl your site, index your content, and rank its relevance. Provided you do it correctly, SEO can provide a significant boost to your content marketing results.

Your other option is paying for ads on Google, which can get costly. Sure, it’ll help promote and validate your company — when an advertisement and an organic listing both show up in search results, consumers feel like a brand has greater authority. But depending on the keyword or phrase, Google Ads can run you anywhere from pennies to $50 per click. And it’s only going to get more expensive over time.

Moving a portion of your advertising budget over to SEO, though, will free you from paying for ads for the life of your business. It also will position your business to show up in organic search results, which can generate more traffic from your target audience in the long term.

Many businesses expect to see results overnight, but that is not how SEO works. A lack of immediate results can lead plenty of SEO newcomers to abandon their efforts after just a few months. What they don’t realize is that it can take two to five years to see a return on the investment. In fact, only 5.7 percent of pages will reach the coveted top 10 of Google’s rankings within a year.

In other words, you should focus on SEO from day one. Here at Boat Planet, we had an SEO strategy long before our website went live. Provided you have a physical address and a domain, you can start building authority with Google. It’s all in how you approach the process.

SEO strategy

Focusing on the Essentials

One of the most important elements of SEO is your choice in keywords. Generally speaking, those keywords fall into one of two categories: competitive and long-tail. For any business on a tighter budget, I’d suggest looking into the latter. Long-tail keywords have less competition, which means you have better odds of ranking higher in search results. They’re also more targeted, so your content is likely to show up in the results of consumers who will, in all probability, do business with you.

This leads us to another element you should consider with SEO: local exposure. For small businesses or brick-and-mortar shops, most of your customers will be local. Instead of wasting your resources on targeting people across the country, gain local exposure by optimizing your SEO with a Google My Business page.

It’s also not a bad idea to work on link building. Apart from keywords, links from third-party websites help to validate your website’s relevance. Consider them “votes” in your favor. If those links are from trusted sources, even better — they can drastically improve your traffic. And here’s a full-circle moment for you: The best way to secure high-quality links is with high-quality content. Make sure your content is worthy of a link.

SEO rocket launch

Taking the First Step

If a small business or startup has the budget for SEO, an outside agency typically handles the entire process. SEO is a complex strategy that requires an up-to-date understanding of Google’s ever-evolving algorithms, so you might want to hire a professional if you’re not an expert.

That said, I’m a strong believer in having at least one person on your team with a basic grasp of SEO. An SEO workshop or online training can expose you to the best practices for researching and finding relevant keywords, structuring a website, optimizing pages, link building, etc.

If you’re ready to take the first step and start taking advantage of SEO tactics today, here are a few good places to begin:

1. Do your research

Carve out some time each week to read something new on the topic of SEO. I’m partial to HubSpot and Neil Patel, but there are plenty of other experts out there who offer insights on SEO best practices. By implementing on-page SEO strategies where they weren’t already present, you can positively affect your content — even your existing content. Also, don’t forget to claim your business listings and keep everything updated using a service such as Yext.

2. Use your experience to help others

In networking, success is based on how much you’re willing to give. The same rule applies here. Develop content that will help others reach a goal, overcome an obstacle, gain a new insight, etc. Not only will this position you as a thought leader, but it also will give you an opportunity to link back to this useful content on your website when giving advice. Online forums like Quora and Trello provide a powerful platform for sharing your knowledge with others.

3. Be generous with links

Take advantage of every opportunity to link back to your website. If you mention other businesses in your content, be sure to reach out and let them know. You might be fortunate to get a link back in the future.

And anytime someone mentions your business online, make sure the publisher includes a link to your website. By that token, you should be doing the same when posting comments on other sites or answering questions online. Include a link back to your business, but try to avoid being overly promotional in the process — you don’t want your post to come across as a shameless plug.

SEO goes hand in hand with content marketing. Done correctly, SEO creates a synergy that drives more traffic to your website. All it takes is a commitment from your team to see it through. Are you ready to get on board?

3 Words That Will Boost Your Persuasive Power

by Bill Lampton, Ph.D.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2019
When you need to ask someone to do something – whether it’s to make a purchase, change the way something is done, or even donate to your kid’s school fundraiser – there are three little words you can use that will make your request much more persuasive.

three persuasive words
Image source: Depositphotos.com

You may have made career changes that challenged you in unprecedented ways. That happened for me when I left my Speech Communication faculty position at the University of Georgia to become a development officer—a softer way of saying fund raiser—for my undergraduate alma mater, Millsaps College.

Asking people—even loyal alumni—for contributions takes tact, and finding the right wording is essential. Fortunately, my supervisor who headed the development office gave me a three-word formula that worked very well. Instead of saying something like “We’re counting on you for a major gift of $10,000,” he taught me to ask, “Could you consider a gift of $10,000?”

Note the huge difference. Phrasing your request this way doesn’t sound coercive at all. You leave freedom of choice to the potential donor. The subtle distinction: you’re not asking the prospect to give, you are asking her to consider.

Through two decades of fundraising, this approach enabled me to bring in many thousands of dollars in charitable contributions that my institutions might have missed otherwise. Equally as important, the gifts came in quite willingly.

How This Approach Will Help You in Business

Let’s say you and your colleagues are frustrated by the 3:00 pm staff meetings you must attend every Friday. You are hesitant to say to the CEO, “We’re not happy with a late Friday meeting.”  Yet you feel comfortable asking: “Could you consider a mid-morning Friday staff meeting instead of mid-afternoon on Friday? The group would be more alert and attentive, and you wouldn’t see us checking our watches every few minutes.”

Suppose your company president wants to merge PR and marketing. You’re tempted to stroll into her office and say, “You’re making a mistake with that merger.” That wording will backfire. Try this: “Could you consider leaving PR and marketing separate, as they are now? I agree with you there are similarities, but I believe morale and productivity will stay stronger with the current division.”

In your business travels, these almost magical three words could help your accommodations. Checking into a hotel: “Could you consider upgrading us to a suite? We’ve had a very long travel day, and we’re going to make a presentation early tomorrow morning. A restful evening in one of your splendid suites will help us so much.” You’ll be amazed at how often this works if space is available.

As a consultant, you won’t get very far by saying, “I’d like to see us extend our contract three months.” You are far more likely to get that extension by asking: “Could you consider adding another three months to our working arrangement? We can accomplish so much more for your organization with that added quarter of service.”

Real estate sales professionals can re-direct attention with: “Could you consider looking at one more house I have in mind for you, even though you said you have definitely decided to buy that lakefront home?”

For another: A common workplace situation finds an employee overloaded with assignments from her supervisor. Her to-do list already appears impossible to accomplish before the assigned deadline.  So when her employer hands her one more task to add to her overflowing list, she is tempted to say: “No way I can take that on, doing plenty of other things already.” However, that statement sounds like insubordination. Substitute this: “Could you consider reviewing with me the projects you have put on my calendar already?”

Note that Stephen Covey heard this identical request from one of his employees when Covey was director of university relations at a large university. As Covey describes the scene in his classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the employee—“a very talented, proactive, creative writer”–asked, “Which of these projects would you like for me to delay or cancel to satisfy your request?”

Examples could continue quite easily, but you get the point by now. By putting the other person “in the driver’s seat,” you indicate your respect for his or her right to decide.

Apply the 3-Word Formula

Now think about your own daily career activities, opportunities, challenges, and conflicts. Identify the situations where you can change your language from confrontational to cooperative.

Can you consider doing this? I hope so, because you will enjoy persuasive success that has escaped you previously.

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., Communication Consultant, Speech Coach, and Keynote Speaker, “Helping Corporations and Leaders Communicate Persuasively.” Call Dr. Lampton: 678-316-4300 or visit his website: http://www.bizcommunicationguy.com

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Garbage In, Energy Out: Synova Power Turns Waste Into Electricity

Plastic waste is a major threat to ocean health but instead of dumping it, it could be a good and cheap fuel for the technology Synova has developed.

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Remember in Back to the Future where Doc rummages through Marty’s garbage for “fuel”?  He dumps it in to a home energy reactor called “Mr. Fusion” mounted to the back of the famous time traveling DeLorean. Sounds like what we need now, given the fact that we are drowning in garbage and hungry for electricity!

Certainly, the concept of turning bio waste into energy has been around for a while. But what about the biggest culprit, plastic? What if you could put bio and petrochemical waste in one end and get electricity out of the other?

We like to say, “If you really want to change the world, put a buck on it!” In other words, make it profitable to improve the world. Synova Power offers a practical, working solution to the world’s garbage crisis. Their power plants remove the inert glass, metal and rock from the garbage, and then uses the remaining bio and plastic waste to produce gas which powers turbines to produce electricity. This has been tried before but it was unsuccessful due to the asphalt-like tar residue build-up which is inherent in waste or tar gasification. It quickly gummed up the turbines and made them inoperable.

Synova has discovered and owns a proprietary solution that cleans up the tars and converts them into gas as well. This gives Synova an exclusive process that promises to be a profitable answer to both the world’s garbage problems and energy demand. Why toss it if you can make power out of it?

But what about the CO2 exhaust from the turbines? It is more than offset by the fossil power foregone from the grid and stoppage of the much more dangerous methane that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere from the bio waste rotting in a landfill. Synova Power plants have a net negative carbon footprint.

They use a chamber devoid of oxygen which allows the waste matter to be heated to the level of gasification without ignition and incineration. The company’s unique tar removal system then allows purification of the gas before it is used to make power or chemicals, creating a carbon-negative substitute for natural gas. After the system is heated to its processing temperature by outside fuels, the system become self-fueling.

We caught up with Giffen Ott, founder and chairman at his New York office to learn more about his new venture.

M&B: How did you get into this solution?

Ott: I was appalled at the growing gyres of trash in our oceans and wanted to do something about it. Producing more value from waste was a potential way of paying for sanitation in areas where they have been unwilling to pay the price of sanitary disposal. Disposal fees in the developing world are typically in the single digits, versus an average of $51/ton in the USA and even much higher in the EU or Japan. I was introduced to the concept of applying a classic refinery solution to the core issue of tars, the issue which has kept gasification from delivering on its promise. We found the Dutch national renewable energy laboratories (the Energy Center of the Netherlands) were working on this approach and teamed up with them to commercialize the technology.

M&B: Where are your first plants?

Ott: First plants are in Portugal and India, and we have developed plants soon commencing construction in Southeast Asia (primary contributor of plastic in the oceans) and Europe (where the technology was developed).

M&B: Where are your next plants?

Ott: The U.S.A. is ultimately our largest market, and we have new projects underway on both coasts as well as new projects in Southeast Asia and Europe.

M&B: Do you have a waiting list?

Ott: Yes, we have hundreds that we have preliminarily prequalified and are tracking. Roughly 70 percent of the world has no sanitary solution to their waste, and they are drowning in it. We offer the first affordable solution. Even in the wealthier countries, where we bury or burn that which cannot be mechanically recycled, there is a growing desire to create more value from the waste, a process we facilitate.

M&B: What is your biggest challenge bringing this solution to the market? (lead times, permits, pushback, etc.?)

Ott: An advanced solution like ours is completely different from incineration and more like recycling at the molecular level. Most countries do not have a precedent for this, and if we are not careful, we can find ourselves waiting for regulatory frameworks to be adopted.

By the way, we are recycling friendly — we do not need to “cherry pick” our feedstock — with the intention of molecularly recycling the plastic compounds and biomass which cannot or will not be mechanically recycled.

M&B: Where is the biggest demand coming from for Synova plants currently?

Ott: We see demand with a sense of urgency from all six of the populated continents. Modern conveniences like food delivery or web retail and the consumption that generally comes with rising GDP are overwhelming existing solutions, most egregiously in places with booming populations like Southeast Asia.

M&B: How many homes can a Synova Plant power? What are the limits?

Ott: Our three standard sizes can power the equivalent of 1,100; 5,700 and 16,500 average U.S. homes, respectively. There is no real upper limit on the technology’s ability to scale, but we favor a distributed model to reduce truck traffic. A huge amount of CO2 is currently spent hauling waste long distances, and we can stop that.

M&B: How long does it take a plant to pay for itself and be in the black?

Ott: Breakeven in most markets ranges from four to six years. Unique features of the technology mean it uses far less steel, is relatively passive, and its primary energy for the process comes from ash that others waste. These combine to make it cost effective at a distributed scale.

M&B: What happens to the tar? Does it gasify? Does it get burned too? Are there any residual chemicals beside CO2 in the turbine exhaust?

Ott: Waste or biomass contains three categories of impurities: particulate, tars and “acid gases” (e.g., sulfur, nitrogen). We remove all three, in separate streams, which allows us to recover the tars. Tars are a “family” of molecules which simply did not get fully broken down before they left the gasifier, and they contain roughly 15 percent of the latent energy of the feedstock. We recirculate them to the gasifier in a way that assures they are broken down to result in pure hydrogen and carbon molecules, without wasting energy. The end result is an exhaust steam that is clean like natural gas, but with a beneficial (negative) carbon footprint.

M&B: What is your vision for the future?

Ott: While our first units offer power, the technology was designed to provide a green feedstock for the production of liquid fuels, chemicals or renewable natural gas. The molecules we produce can be synthesized into these things today and will be featured on future plants.

Conclusion

While it’s not quite “Mr. Fusion” yet, Ott’s relatively new venture is certainly taking an important step in the right direction. Synova Power has demonstrated the technology works with several plants and is now deploying commercial plants, with a growing waiting list. Obviously, reducing waste benefits our world in many ways. And reducing energy costs is a financial benefit Synova offers. In other words, they put a buck on it!

Find out more at  www.synovapower.com.