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A Simple but Costly Mistake

When looking for a business loan it is critical to present a professional appearance to potential lenders. Everyone knows to be organized, thorough and courteous, but many make a common mistake that ensures lenders won’t take them seriously. The fix is inexpensive and simple but if you aren’t aware of the problem it can be a costly mistake.

Many business owners underestimate the need for a custom email address for their company. Often, the first piece of information a lender sees about you and your company is an email address. Your first impression should be that you have taken the time to structure your business communications correctly. Sending business correspondence from a free email service like Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL undermines professional image.

Additionally, creating a simple web site to go along with your domain provides an extra edge of credibility. Savvy lenders, partner companies and consumers will check your site. Having a professional site not only shows that you are a legitimate business, but provides more information about your company. Consider it a low-cost opportunity to present your sales pitch to each visitor to your page. Most companies that sell domain names will also provide hosting, and many will set up a simple page for you.

A custom business domain name and email service is easy to set up. Some solutions cost less than $10 a year. Owning your domain shows lenders that you are running an established and legitimate company, and that you plan to stay that way. Take the time to set up a custom domain for your business emails. Start your conversation with lenders on the right note.

(The following services provide simple, affordable solutions for small to mid-size businesses)

by Sandra Chesnutt

LinkedIn, the most popular social networking site geared towards professionals, has a long-awaited IPO coming soon. Last week, the company filed paperwork with the SEC to officially begin the process of an initial public offering. Currently, LinkedIn is estimated to be worth $2.51 billion, a number that is expected to grow as the company becomes publicly traded.

If social networking isn’t your thing . . . maybe it should be.

Think of LinkedIn as the next step in the evolution of managing business contacts. LinkedIn is to your Outlook contacts, as Outlook was to your Rolodex. Except now, you have access to key introductions that you never knew your personal network had. As a small business owner, you are already strapped for time so adding another thing to your list sounds daunting. Wouldn’t you love to connect with new prospective business partners, customers and employees without having to “meet for coffee” with your entire network to find out who they know? LinkedIn is a resource to find, talk with and influence your industry. As of December 31, 2010, there are over 90 million registered users of LinkedIn. Now that the site has gained traction, it’s time start a free account and reap the benefit.

What can it do for me?

A new business opportunity might be looking – Be findable. Remember the Rolodex –> Outlook –> LinkedIn metaphor? Think of LinkedIn as the world’s biggest Rolodex – and you and your connections are an invitation-only part of it. You personally, your company, me, everyone can be in this giant Rolodex. Some entries are robust and engaging, others are lackluster. Just as a warm introduction gets more traction than a cold call, a thoughtfully prepared LinkedIn profile with a robust group of connections will help you attract the contacts you need.

Keep in mind people are looking at your “Rolodex entry” as a summary of your career and as way to non-intrusively connect with and learn about you, even if they do not have your email address (The LinkedIn message system includes inter-network message sharing). Even when your contact information changes over the years, people can easily find you without your email address and vice versa. Personally, I don’t consider myself prepared for a phone call or meeting until I have done my Linkedin homework. My link: www.linkedin.com/in/sandrachesnutt

Link to the right person for the job. Talented job seekers now actively use the extended LinkedIn network and LinkedIn Jobs module (www.LinkedIn.com/jobs) – at all levels. Searching for new employees through LinkedIn gives the added bonus of allowing you to investigate a candidate’s connections, work experience, and to an extent their character, conveniently displayed within their LinkedIn profile. We have found some of our best hires directly through Linkedin.

Get free PR. As easy as it is for you to use LinkedIn to size up job candidates, you can be sure potential partners, employees, and contacts are sizing up your business. If you are nowhere to be found, what does that say about your business savvy and industry presence? Make it easy for people to get the correct message about you – from you.

Become an Influencer. LinkedIn also gives small businesses the opportunity to engage prospects on the same footing as larger businesses. Forget press releases and outsourced public relations. Participating in and guiding industry-focused discussions on LinkedIn is an affordable and credible way to build your brand.

Begin discussions and give insight that is meaningful to your business. You can impact your client’s, prospect’s and potential employee’s awareness of you. Try searching LinkedIn Groups for discussions related to your business or industry. One caution, don’t seek attention. Being annoying is one way to make an impression and improve stickiness, but certainly not the one you wanted!

Finally, you can’t afford not to participate in LinkedIn. Ignoring LinkedIn reduces your company’s ability to make impressions on your targets. And we all know, out of sight, out of mind.

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