Developing E-business Foor Small Businesses in Africa

Developing E-Business For Small Businesses In Africa

By: Godwin C. Nwaogwugwu

(E-Business Consultant)

(http://www.imoonline.org/gcforum.htm)

Published March 7, 2007

In simple terms, E-business (doing business on the Internet) can enable small scale businesses in emerging markets gain greater bargaining power in the global economic exchange despite their limited capital, and mobility. The world economy is moving online. Today people are meeting online and eventually getting married, people who do not have the capital to establish physical stores are getting rich maintaining only online shops, small musicians who find it difficult getting producers are uploading their tracks on ‘Napster’ (http://www.napster.com/choose/index.html) to be downloaded by millions of people around the world, even politicians are using video-sharing tools like ‘Youtube’ (http://www.youtube.com/) to reach potential voters, etc. Therefore, the action or inaction of African businesses to take advantage of e-business will determine how much they grow in the coming years.

E-readiness Ranking

Every year Economist come up with a table of e-readiness ranking from a selected number of countries. It is not surprising that African countries often rank lowest in most e-readiness reports. That is not very promising considering that most investors today will be interested not only on the investment climate and infrastructure in a country but also on e-readiness indices such as national connectivity, e-leadership, information security, human capital, and e-business climate.

Interpreting E-readiness Indices

There are many indices used to measure e-readiness. The most common ones are:

• Connectivity: Addresses the ability to exchange information, goods and services with the rest of the world.

• E-leadership: Addresses the commitment of a national government to partner with industry leaders to create conditions favorable to electronic transactions.

• Information security: Addresses issues concerning the protection of personal data, intellectual property, and effective privacy laws.

• Human Capital: Emphasis on developing competent manpower including IT managers who can manage complex technology tasks, policy analysts who can make informed inputs on government policies and regulations that are capable of stifling technology growth; local content creators who can either customize or adapt global technologies to the specific business needs in the country, software and hardware engineers.

Beyond the indices, e-business also requires a larger population of end-users or consumers who don’t have to understand how the technology works, but can use the technology.

How Small Businesses In Africa Can Benefit From E-business:

Individual Action:

Even in challenging environments such as Africa, small businesses can still benefit from e-business. Simple information websites with product and contact information, as a first step can open new doors for small businesses locally and internationally. Hospitality industries stand to gain more exposure and market through e-business. Tourists and people in the Diaspora are excellent target customers for hotel and tourism information for online reservations.

Group Action:

Business associations, Chambers Of Commerce, Cooperative societies, and NGOs in Africa can bridge the economy of scale on the technology required for e-business by setting up online malls showcasing a pool of their members’ sites, products and services. Through the online mall people in the Diaspora may order local goods for friends or family. These associations can also help to guarantee the quality of products advertised on the site, as well as the credibility of its members to ensure fraudulent people do not seize the opportunity. Only certified members and certified products will make it on the site. ‘Ghana Mall’, for instance, sells goods made by Ghanaian artisans internationally. It also rakes in some $500 million a year in goods and cash that are sent to the country from abroad. Funds to develop such malls can be sort as grants from multilateral agencies as the World Bank Group’s Small and Medium Enterprise Department (http://www.ifc.org/sme)

Payment:

No doubt, credit card acceptance is the heart of e-commerce, but technological hindrances and doing business in local currency can drive up transaction costs. There are rules and protocols to gain access to international card association systems, which currently do not favor African countries. The amounts of online transactions originating from most African countries hardly meet the rules required by the international card associations. So there must be a way around it. Therefore, banks in Africa need to establish special ‘Merchant Accounts’ for small businesses to enable them accept secured payments in foreign currencies processed in the same way as credit cards. Online payments will still have to go through SWIFT, encryptions, or other secured sites, as PayPal to ensure adequate security.

Shipping:

Most national and international courier services are currently equipped to handle shipping to any location in the world. Business organizations can enter into partnership agreements with these postal and shipping agencies to either enjoy special shipping rates or develop more efficient shipping methods that can guarantee delivery. In addition, the Customs department should make available list of prohibited items, duties and fees to the business organizations. One workable model is to post their personnel at the post offices to facilitate the inspection of goods.

Government’s Role

As a private-sector crusader, I dislike prescribing any solution that will depend on governments. But E-commerce requires vendor credibility. Apart from technology, the greatest impediment African businesses face in embracing e-business is fraud. This is where the governments should play important role. Law-makers should strengthen existing laws to stem out corruption in their countries. People who thrive on advance fee fraud should be put out of business. It is possible! Anything that works through technology can be stopped through technology. It’s simply a digital war amongst programmers (it’s like the virus and anti-virus battle among programmers). Moreover, the world wants to see trials, prosecutions and convictions to believe that African countries are serious in their war against corruption.

How This Will Work

For this to work it must exist as one bundle. A customer does not want to be bothered by the backend technology and how it works. They want an easy-to-use, time-saving, front-end screen. As for now, cross-continental partnerships will play a major role in helping businesses in Africa cross the e-commerce threshold, as African businesses will still need international partnerships to help complete orders. PeopLink (http://www.peoplink.org/EN/) offers such a partnership. They have developed free, downloadable tools to help small businesses build virtual product catalogs, which they then upload to a searchable catalog on their database, thereby offering small businesses the opportunity to benefit from collective marketing power.

One Stop Tech Support Centers:

Technology investors should also consider going into one-stop tech support centers. For instance, in Ghana BusyInternet (http://www.busyinternet.com/) is such a one-stop IT center with a cyber café, call booths, video conferencing services, document services, web hosting, space rental and other tech support for e-businesses.

Exploring E-business will help small businesses in Africa increase their market share in the global marketplace? There should be a concerted effort to make this happen. The World Bank developed a collection of free tools called ‘SMEToolkit’ to help small business develop such potentials. This can be found at: http://www.smetoolkit.org/

You can read more articles by this writer at:

http://www.imoonline.org

http://www.exposureworld.net

Godwin C. Nwaogwugwu
http://www.articlesbase.com/ecommerce-articles/developing-ebusiness-foor-small-businesses-in-africa-113986.html

Shopping Cart Scripts Review

OsCommerce is an open source software to create online shops. Many hosting providers include osCommerce into their Fantastico bundle. Even the default version is full of various features while add-ons may expand the script abilities to an enormous extent. While osCommerce is positioned as easy to install and configure, this is not always true. In order to utilize all the advantages of osCommerce you’d better find a qualified integrator of this product who will tune everything the way you need it.

OsCommerce shopping cart allow you to add multiple products and organize them, run discounts and promotions, set prices in different currencies and accept payments through all most popular methods.

X-Cart is another popular and powerful solution. This shopping cart script has more than 100 features and it has a very demanded module that allows to deliver software products online.

X-Cart payment gateway supports over 60 different methods and the cart itself is very comfortable and easy to configure. The developers of the script offer installation and configuration services so that you can have a turn-key project in the end.

X-Cart is a commercial script offered in two varieties – Pro and Gold. The only difference between them is that the Pro version allows you to set up unique accounts for different merchants.

CubeCart is an open source script which is very similar to osCommerce and other shopping cart solutions alike. CubeCart needs your hosting to support PHP and MySQL. The script has extended configuration capabilities and can be connected to different payment gateways including PayPal and VeriSign.

Zen Cart is an open source product developed by a group of shop owners who know what they need in product implementing this into Zen Cart. Designers, programmers and ecommerce consultants help them on the way. This is probably one of the most user-friendly shopping cart scripts, though the functionality is still to be extended.

Shopping cart script named Agora is also quite a popular solution which is like osCommerce is often bundled into hosting providers’ Fantastico installation packs. It is one of the best shopping carts for beginners and has enough features to satisfy advanced users as well. Agora is famous for the excellent tutorials and support forums. Even if your HTML knowledge is not your strong side, it is quite possible you’ll be able to set up a nice online shop if you use Agora.

Of course, it’s up to you what to choose. It could be a wise decision to try all of the products described above and maybe some else to understand which of them offers the features you really need to create the online shop you think will be fantastic. Sometimes open source projects are more suitable than commercial ones. Sometimes it’s the other way round.

Kevin Dark
http://www.articlesbase.com/ecommerce-articles/shopping-cart-scripts-review-81468.html

Online and the Credit Crunch

Recent statistics, published by analysts IMRG, show British shoppers spent £26.5 billion online in the first six months of 2008. That is 17p in every pound a rise of 38 per cent from the same period in 2007. Although August 2008 saw a 10% drop in sales over July internet shopping transactions were still up 15.6% compared to last year and shoppers spent more than £4.4 billion.

Given the credit crunch and all that it means or may mean for business what does that indicate?

Well, according to the pundits, online sales are expected to remain strong despite the slowdown in the economy. They say that customers are being tempted into online shopping by rising fuel costs, falling disposable income and because they believe online retailing is more sustainable. Additionally price comparison sites lead online shoppers to the cheapest deals so consumers can buy essentials more cheaply online. This leaves a bit more to spend on leisure, holidays, electronics and other ‘non-essentials’.

According to Mike Petevinos, head of consulting for retail analysts Capgemini UK:

“Whilst online retail is not immune to the credit crunch, it is showing greater resilience than the high street. The online channel continues to grow its share of retail spend thanks to the traditional drivers of convenience and choice but these drivers appear to be magnified by the current economic environment. The ability to research and make more informed sensitivity is a key advantage of the online channel. The results for August demonstrate the maturing of e-retail. Online sales are starting to mirror more closely seasonal retail patterns, experiencing a dip in August for the second year running. We predict between 30 and 50 percent of all retail will be online in the next 5 years. This is because, as online reaches 20% of all retail sales, retailers experience a tipping point which forces them to seriously rethink the future viability of their business model. We have seen this happen for books, music/DVDs and electricals and as the industry as a whole reaches this tipping point in 2008, more categories are sure to follow.”

IMRG and Capgemini are not alone in their predictions. Verdict, the retail analysts also forecast that online retail sales would reach £44.9bn by 2012.

Verdict say: “some of this is ‘cannibalisation’ – people buying via their computers what they would previously have gone to shops for. There is still a need and place for physical locations – the key is to ensure that synergies with online retailing are exploited to drive footfall to stores, but having an Internet presence is vital. Giving the consumer choice by establishing strong links between the in-store and online offer is now essential and online will find itself extremely well-placed to capitalise on the falling consumer confidence and lower levels of disposable income currently impacting the retail market.”

PayPal also predict similar numbers. They say that by 2010, one in five purchases will take place on the internet and that online consumer spending will reach £39 billion by 2010. The company has warned businesses to start trading online now or risk missing out on potentially huge profits. Carl Olav Scheible, Head of Merchant Services at PayPal said: “Over the past few years we’ve seen the internet gradually eating away at the high street. By 2010, we expect substantial sums previously spent on the high street to have moved online.”

So, if you are involved in retail what do you need to do to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the web?

Here are our suggestions.

Get an ecommerce website

D’uh. Yes it is true. Some retailers don’t have a site and many don’t have an ecommerce site. Yet compared with the cost of rent and rates the costs for a really good site are very small.

Economize and optimise

We have mentioned search engine optimization frequently in our newsletters and in times of economic uncertainty it’s even more important to maximize good traffic. And optimization is not just about the traffic received, page views and time on site it’s also about the funnel all the way through the site to the checkout and payment.

Sponsor a click

Plenty of people are fearful of pay per click and have ‘wasted’ a lot of money on it. OK, if you want to be a DIY plumber and electrician go ahead, but remember to call in the professionals once the bodge is likely to ‘set the house on fire and flood it too!’

Actually it’s pure direct marketing and anyone can understand the principles:

– Price £100
– Margin 50% = £50
– Cost of sales marketing allowance 50% = £25
– Conversion rate for leads 10%
– Maximum average cost per lead £2.50

but it’s pulling the right levers that make it work.

Affiliate – get people to join your club

As we said previously “Like all marketing programmes, affiliate marketing is no panacea and requires dedication and hard work from all the parties, but there is plenty of research to show that when it is done properly it has very good ROI for all parties involved.”

Affiliate marketing has one more benefit in troubled times it allows you to grow your business with no upfront cost – you only pay per sale.

Don’t fail – use email

Your customer list is one of your most valuable assets and email marketing is very cost effective. Use it not just to “sell, sell, sell” but to build a relationship with your customers, add value with interesting offers and cement their loyalty.

Make them smile – go mobile

57 billion text messages were sent in 2007 in the UK. In May 2008 6.5 billion were sent. That’s looking like over 70 billion messages in 2008. As we say on our texting page use text marketing if:

– You like to be able to communicate instantly with your customers and contacts.
– You think any of your customers have ever forgotten an important occasion.
– You want to increase brand awareness and provide additional revenue streams for your business.
– You want an edge that the vast majority of other advertisers just don’t use.

Service the customer perfectly

Online customer service can be dire and yet service is what keeps customers coming back for more.

When you are online can you easily find the price, terms, address and phone number or email address of the company? Are they hidden away? Does that annoy you? If it annoys you the surely it’s the same for your customers?

Make it easy for them to be able to communicate with you directly and quickly. That’s by phone, email, online chat and even the good old fashioned mail.

Even more important make sure your staff know what they’re talking about and that you provide quick delivery, simple refund procedures and a feeling that they are special and not just ££££ signs in your till.

Richard D S Hill

How to Earn Money Online Fast and Easy

Do you want to know how to earn money online fast and easy? Rest assured, there are many, if not millions of different ways to earn money from home using the internet. Here are just three ways to earn money online.

1. Selling information products

This is by far one of the best ways to earn money on the internet. If you are knowledgeable in a particular area and there is a high demand for your knowledge and know-how, you may have stumbled upon one of the best ways to earn money online: selling information products. They generally offer very high profit margins on the sales that you generate, and once you’ve got the product, it is just a matter of selling it to earn money fast and easy.

In order to get started with this money-making strategy you’ll need the product and a website. You will also need to generate visitors (traffic) to your website and convert

that traffic into paying customers. If you happened to find a topic that many people are eager to pay money to learn more about, selling informational products is a great way to earn money.

2. Affiliate Marketing

You don’t even need to create your own product (or have a product created at all) in order to earn a ton of money on the internet. You can actually earn a lot of money fast and easy by selling affiliate products. Affiliate marketing is where you receive a commission in return for referring people to a given product or service. These products or services are provided entirely by another company that pays you commission.

It’s very easy to become an affiliate and you‘ll never be laid off or loose your job. You can join an affiliate network for free (in most cases), advertise to promote products to customers, get paid commissions from affiliate networks for referring customers to them. How do you get customers? Well that can be as straightforward as advertising on the major search engines.

3. Running an Ecommerce Store

If you like to sell stuff, then running an ecommerce store might be another option to earn money from home for you. It may take time building the store and attracting web traffic (visitors) to your website, but once you have a regular stream of customers, this is a terrific way to earn money on the internet very quickly. When it comes to the question of

the main advantage of having an ecommerce store, as opposed to selling informational products, is that most people who visit your ecommerce website are already wanting to buy something that is offered for sale there.

So the big question is which way to earn money online is right for you? The answer to that important question should definitely be the way to make money online that appeals to you most, based on your objectives and circumstances. I hope that you find this information helpful and good luck in your search to earn money online.

Boris R
http://www.articlesbase.com/ecommerce-articles/how-to-earn-money-online-fast-and-easy-756701.html

An Analysis Of Lenox (LNX)

Below is a letter from Mr. John L. Morgan, beneficial owner of approximately 7% of Lenox (LNX), to Ms. Susan E. Engel, Chairwoman and CEO of Lenox.

Dear Susan,

When your board offered me a directorship on September 18, 2006, we discussed the reasons that made it unacceptable. At that time, I reiterated that I could best serve the shareholders of Lenox Group by assuming a leadership role on the Board of Directors and playing an active role in formulating and guiding the strategic direction of the Company. Furthermore, I expressed my intention to not make changes in the management or Board of Directors. My views were based on information I had at that time.

The Board’s rejection of my offer to help the Company create a successful strategy has given me a different perspective. I now feel that the Board has decided to pursue a course of action that is not in the best interests of the shareholders and is a continuation of the strategies that have failed to create value over the past ten years.

The management team and Board of Directors continue to behave like the Company is a large, successful Company that has margin for making more mistakes. I do not agree. My offer to assist the Company in changing its strategy to benefit shareholders has been rejected although I proposed to work with the existing management and Board of Directors. You have made your position clear and I hope this letter will do the same for me and other likeminded shareholders.

Very truly yours,

John L. Morgan

The Ownership Situation

First, let me explain the ownership situation. The reporting persons are John L. Morgan, Kirk A. MacKenzie, Jack A. Norqual, and Rush River Group. Rush River Group is a limited liability corporation (LLC) of which Morgan, MacKenzie, and Norqual are members.

Rush River was formed in December 1998 in Minnesota and “its principal business activities involve investing in equity securities of privately owned and publicly traded companies, as well as other types of securities.” As far as I can tell, the only members of Rush River are the three aforementioned men: Morgan, MacKenzie, and Norqual.

According to a recent SEC filing, Morgan beneficially owned 6.1% of the outstanding shares of common stock in Lenox, Rush River owned 0.79%, MacKenzie owned 0.07%, and Norqual owned 0.07%.

Please keep in mind that this 7% stake in Lenox is controlled by Mr. Morgan; but, not Winmark Corporation (WINA), a publicly-held franchisor of retail stores. This is an important distinction to keep in mind (especially since Winmark is a public company).

Morgan is the Chairman and CEO of Winmark; MacKenzie is the Vice Chairman. However, their stake in Lenox has nothing to do with Winmark. In fact, last time I checked, Winmark did not have any material investments in marketable securities.

The reported position amounts to 989,300 shares of Lenox. Shares of Lenox last closed at $6.23 a share. So, the position would be worth a little over $6.16 million. Since Winmark only has a market cap of $126 million, I want to make it clear Winmark does not have a position in Lenox – Morgan does. He just happens to be the Chairman and CEO of Winmark. I hope this clears up any possible confusion about Winmark.

Lenox

Now, I can move on to discussing the truly interesting aspect of this news, Lenox itself.

Lenox is the result of a September 2005 merger between Department 56 and Lenox Incorporated. Prior to the merger, Department 56 was known for its “Village Series of collectible, handcrafted, lighted ceramic and porcelain houses, buildings and related accessories that depict nostalgic scenes”. That last sentence was taken directly from the company’s 10-K, simply because I couldn’t write a better description myself. I assume most of you have seen the series. Even if you haven’t, I’m sure you can imagine the concept of a little porcelain Christmas scene.

Obviously, the Lenox name is much better known than the Department 56 name. Therefore, when Department 56 acquired Lenox, it changed its name to Lenox.

In its 10-K, the company calls the Lenox acquisition a “transformational event”. This term is too often applied to mergers that are far from transformational. In this case, however, it’s a perfectly accurate description.

Whether the transformation is for better or worse is debatable; however, the fact that the merger has transformed the company is not debatable. To put the size of this transaction in perspective, consider this: Today, Lenox (the combined company) has a market cap of $88 million. In September 2005, Department 56 paid $204 million to acquire Lenox Group. Immediately, this should tell you two things. One, the acquisition was probably quite large relative to the existing business. Two, the combined company’s stock price has tanked.

Both of these statements are true. Even when shares of Department 56 were a lot more expensive, the Lenox acquisition was very large relative to the existing business when considered from the perspective of market cap, enterprise value, sales, and just about any other meaningful measure of the size of a business.

Obviously, the combined company’s stock price has been falling hard since the merger. After all, the enterprise value of the entire company is not much greater than the amount Department 56 paid for the Lenox business.

The market is assigning a value of close to zero to the newly acquired Lenox business. This is remarkable considering the fact that Department 56 rarely traded at a lofty multiple when it was a stand alone business. In fact, the company’s shares often traded at a P/E multiple in the high single digits or low double digits throughout the past decade.

The New Business

You probably already know what Lenox does. If you don’t, a quote from the company’s 10-K does a good job of explaining what the newly acquired business does:

“The company sells dinnerware, crystal stemware and giftware, stainless steel flatware, and silver-plated and metal giftware under the Lenox and Gorham brands. Dansk is the company’s contemporary tabletop, houseware and giftware brand. The company sells premium causal dinnerware and fine china dinnerware, giftware and collectibles under the Lenox trademark, and sterling silver flatware and sterling silver giftware under the Gorham and Kirk Stieff trademarks. The company believes that it is the largest domestic marketer of fine tabletop products.”

I’m sure you noticed a bad omen in the above paragraph. One of the company’s brands (Dansk) is described as the company’s “contemporary” brand to differentiate it from the other two brands. Obviously, having fine products that are not considered contemporary is a bit of a problem.

In fact, it may be a very large problem in the years ahead. Overall, it seems the market is moving away from formal dinning and towards more upscale casual dinning. This is not a new phenomenon; nor, is it likely to be a short-lived one.

On the other side of the scales, you do have the simple, undeniable fact that the company has one of the best brand names in its industry. It is also a big player in a very small industry. Those are both advantages that are difficult (if not impossible) to duplicate. For a $200 million business, Lenox has a lot of history – and perhaps, a lot of potential.

The Old Business

A big part of the problem with the performance of the company’s shares (both over the short-term and the long-term) has been the performance of Department 56. In 2005, sales from Department 56’s Village Series declined 21%, “which was consistent with the longer term trend” according to the company’s 10-K. In fact, sales had clearly been declining each and every year from 1999-2005. Furthermore, sales in 2004 were substantially less than sales in 1996. So, even though there wasn’t a continuous, straight-line decline in sales over the past ten years, the general trend for sales of the Village series has been decidedly negative for a full decade now.

To combat the “substantial attrition of the Gift and Specialty channel” the company has settled on two strategies intended to both “offset the decline of the Village business” and “to grow revenues long term”. Those strategies are “expanding the company’s channels of distribution outside its traditional Gift and Specialty channel” and “expanding the company’s product offering to include year-round gift products.” The former strategy sounds promising; the latter strategy sounds implausible.

Lenox is already moving to implement both strategies. In fact, the company made a small acquisition that should help expand Lenox’s year-round product offerings. But, I remain highly skeptical of attempts to transform the gift products business into anything other than a highly seasonal business.

The Acquisition

At the time it was announced, I thought the Lenox acquisition sounded like an interesting move for the company. Department 56’s operations looked lean; the operations at Lenox did not. Furthermore, the price paid for Lenox didn’t look unreasonable, especially when compared to the kinds of prices many public companies have often paid to make such large (“transformational”) acquisitions.

In September 2005, Department 56 acquired Lenox in a $204 million deal (including $7.6 million in transaction costs). Department 56 funded the acquisition “through a $275 million senior secured credit facility consisting of a $175 million revolving credit facility and a $100 million term loan”.

As mentioned earlier, the combined company adopted the more recognizable Lenox name.

Restructuring

As a result of the merger, the company closed approximately half of the stores belonging to its new Lenox subsidiary. In total, the company closed 31 Lenox retail stores. As of February 1st, 2006, this left the company with only 36 retail stores. Six stores were operated under the Department 56 name; the remaining 30 stores were operated under the Lenox name.

After the merger, the company consolidated some of its operations. For instance, Lenox sold its Langhorne, Pennsylvannia facility when it moved certain operations to Bristol, Pennsylvannia. The company has used the cash proceeds of such sales to pay down debt incurred in the Lenox acquisition.

New Concept Stores

Lenox plans to launch a new mall-based chain of stores that will sell all of the company’s brands (Department 56, Lenox, Gorham, and Dansk). The company plans to open three “All The Hoopla” stores during 2006. A fourth store will be opened in 2007.

Opportunities

The combination of Department 56 and Lenox presents several interesting opportunities. Perhaps most importantly, there’s the hope that Lenox will become a leaner operation. Aside from any cost-savings made possible by the merger, there is also the simple fact that Department 56 was always a leaner operation than Lenox, and that the management at the new company might be more adept (or more determined) to keep costs down.

There is also some promise to the idea of selling all of the company’s brands together. To a large extent, the distribution channels are similar. The “All The Hoopla” concept proves the company is committed to this bundling of its products. However, it’s hard to see how the company’s products are going to be much of a draw on their own. Is there really enough demand for these Lenox operated retail stores? The company’s current plans call for a very limited launch. So, the price of failure would not be very great. Obviously, a success here would greatly benefit the company in the long run.

Conclusion

Lenox is an interesting opportunity. The business looks very cheap based on averages of past sales, EBIT, pre-tax earnings, etc. However, Lenox is now an entirely different company. The old Department 56 business faces rapidly declining sales. Neither Lenox nor Department 56 looked like a very promising business at the time of the merger. Today, they don’t look a whole lot more promising together.

On the other hand, it’s important to look past the company’s recent results (which include a large write-off). It will take time to see the full effects of the merger. At present, it’s difficult to judge either company independently, because of the acquisition.

Still, this is clearly a cheap business by most measures. There are problems at Lenox (as there were problems at Department 56). But, if the business can be run right, it should reward shareholders who buy at today’s extraordinarily low levels.

Morgan’s letter presents both the hope that there will be change and the realization that such change will not be easy. Clearly, the company’s past performance has been unacceptable. The stock has never been as cheap as it is today; but, the problems have been just as bad.

Lenox offers an interesting opportunity for patient investors. Nonetheless, being a Lenox shareholder is certain to frustrate you even if it does eventually reward you.

Geoff Gannon
http://www.articlesbase.com/advice-articles/an-analysis-of-lenox-lnx-60645.html

How to Market on the Internet-a Quick-start Approach

Knowing how to market on the Internet in this day and age can prove to be vital to both an online or brick and mortar business. Effective Internet marketing requires an all-inclusive plan that synergizes your company’s business model and sales goals with both its website function and appearance, while focusing on its target market through a proper choice of media and design. Some of the pertinent components of Internet marketing typically include having a website that consists of text, images, and possibly even an audio/video element that is used to inform existing and potential customers of the features and benefits of the company’s products and/or services. And as a side note, remember that once you’ve attained a good quality plan, having a successful Internet campaign can definitely improve your website search engine ranking, which is seemingly the one thing that nearly all online businesses strive for in today’s e-commerce world. So, if you are considering diving into the sea of Internet marketing but do not have specific experience in this type of marketing, it may definitely be worthwhile to consider hiring a consultant to assist you in your advertising undertaking.

Marketing on the Web links together the creative and methodological aspects of the Internet, including site design, development, promotion, and sales. The Internet has brought many exclusive benefits to marketing, one of which is lower costs for the dissemination of information and media to a worldwide audience. An added plus is that the targeted consumer is typically browsing the Internet alone, so the marketing messages can reach him or her personally. Therefore, it is highly recommended that Internet marketing be made a part of your business plan and marketing strategy.

Please keep in mind while utilizing some of the steps in this quick guide to learning how to market on the Internet, that Internet marketing requires customers to use newer technologies rather than traditional media. Some of your potential customers, depending on their computer capabilities, may or may not be ready for your stellar website that’s chock full of short videos and great graphics; while others may be chomping at the bit for something exactly like what you have to offer. Internet marketing is now giving standard radio marketing a run for its money in terms of market share. Web marketing experts agree that anyone who is interested in doing business on the Internet should definitely take time to learn about what it is they are getting into. The decision to use Internet marketing as part of a company’s overall marketing approach is wholly up to the company of course, but as a general rule, marketing via the web is becoming an increasingly important part of nearly every company’s marketing scheme. techniques.

elisee

5 Questions For Entrepreneurs Looking For Online Opportunities

If you want to be your own boss and work from home, you will have to find an internet home business that will be profitable, enjoyable, and one that will last. Ecommerce is still a relatively new medium for small businesses, so there are plenty of opportunities out there for those who have business skills, sales skills, administration skills, and computer skills. Even if you don’t have much job experience, you can still start your own internet home business.

What types of home businesses are there on the internet?

Plenty. There are jobs for web designers, graphic designers, consultants, writers, editors, affiliate programs, data entry, customer service, sales, web hosting, and much more. You can even sell products online through auction sites and from your web site.

What are the start-up costs for an internet home business?

The start-up costs will depend on what type of business you want to start. Most of the start-up costs will consist of basic office supplies, computer equipment, internet connection, advertising costs, and your time.

If you are selling items online, then you will also have shipping and packaging costs.

Most online businesses can be started for very little cost. This is why they are so popular.

How much time will be needed to run a home business?

You will be spending your time marketing your business, learning more about customers, and creating advertising materials. It is up to you how much time you want to devote to the business.

What type of educational background will be needed to run a home business?

You do not need a business degree from Harvard in order to run an internet home business. Conducting research before starting your business will be enough to get you started. Running a business is an ongoing learning process. You will have to stay tuned to your market to see how it changes so that your business can grow and expand. You will have to try different marketing strategies, read success stories of others and try to learn from them, and you will have to set concrete business and financial goals for yourself in order to see your business grow.

If you have work experience and can use it as a means to help your business, then you are ahead of the game. Use whatever experiences you have to give your internet home business the best possible chance for success.

What types of advertising should I focus on?

The best way to get your business noticed online is through your web site. If you offer quality content, an easy ordering form or link to another company, and an easy way to get around your site, then you will make money.

But how will people know your web site exists? This can be done through newsletters, email campaigns, blog postings, forums, paid internet advertising, and through word of mouth.

Do not neglect your web site. Keep updating it with fresh content and information that will keep customers returning to the site again and again.

Brian Wynn
http://www.articlesbase.com/affiliate-programs-articles/5-questions-for-entrepreneurs-looking-for-online-opportunities-79283.html

Seo: the True Definition of Search Engine Optimization

The true definition of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be stated as a highly specialized process of building a successful website. Moreover Search Engine Optimization can easily be defined as: The practice of obtaining high search engine rankings by performing keyword research, modifying the HTML code to reflect such keywords and building relationships with other websites to promote your site via a linking campaign. For more details about it visit www.seo-prediction.com. SEO can also target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search engines.

Our actions are reliant on search engine optimization, Google top ten ranking requirements, quality content distribution, and a diverse set of proven activities that help generate good and quality traffic on the website through:
• Blog promotion
• Forum promotion
• RSS Feed Distribution and Optimization
• SEO Article development and submission
• Press Release optimization
Services Offered by SEO India & Services are prescribed below:

Web Designing: SEO India & Services is a leading service provider in Web site Design and Development in India, serving clients worldwide. We aim at delivering competent Website Development and e- commerce solutions. SEO India & Services excels at providing single point of contact by fulfilling all your e-business needs.

Banner designing: SEO India & Services provides a wide assortment of banner designs, in all file formats, that fall within the guidelines of major search engine and directory sites. Select the banner type that’s best for you or contact us to get a specific estimate for your project.

SEO & SEM: Search engine optimization (SEO) may be defined as a set of methodologies that help improve the visibility of a website in search engine listings. Along with SEO services, SEO India & Services also provides complete web promotion services globally, that includes Search Engine Marketing (SEM), SEO consulting services, market research, as well as advertising campaigns. For more details visit www.huge-niche-keywords.com. We target our SEO services to provide guaranteed top rankings to your website in major search engines and increase traffic to your website, thereby helping you to promote your business globally.

PPC (Pay per Click): PPC is an advertising technique generally used on website, advertising network and search engines. In this method through a bidding process, advertisers can get good position on the search engine results page (SERPS) for specific keyword or phrases that he likes according to his business need.

Internet Marketing: Internet Marketing includes SEO and additional online marketing tools you can use to gain the attention of potential customers and the search engines. Each of the marketing techniques works to drive motivated traffic to your website and allow you to compete more effectively.

E-Commerce Solutions: E-Commerce is nothing but exchange of goods and services for money, being conducted via electronic medium like the Internet. Companies scale up to online mode of operations using web as, it is much more efficient and faster than as compared to the contemporary stores.
Email Customer Support: Our E-mail customer support expertise in using eCRM solutions. With our advanced ticketing system, inbound email traffic and web form queries are managed proficiently.

Live Chat: Our Live chat services fortify customer loyalty and increases customer satisfaction levels. It improves an executive’s productivity while decreases the cost of customer support. The customers receive instant solutions to their queries.

Vinod Kumar

How Well Do You Know Your Seo?

I thought that it would be a good idea to spend some time reviewing what you’ve learned in the past few months through the SEO Elite newsletter. One thing to remember in any learning process is that unless you apply what you’ve picked up on a daily basis, you’re not going to benefit from your investment. It doesn’t matter how expensive or valuable that advice is; even simple, common sense tips are rendered meaningless by a lack of application. To help you recap what you’ve learned so far, I’ve prepared a short quiz (20 questions) on the most important SEO topics. I hope that at the end of it, you will be able to better evaluate your current SEO efforts, and should be able to pinpoint the areas where you need to improve. The quiz is divided into 3 sections (On-page optimization, link building and general SEO), and is geared towards the basics – so hopefully you should all be doing pretty well in it. The answers are at the end, but please don’t peek: Let’s get started.

SEO Elite Refresher Quiz #1
On-Page Optimization

1. Your website sells Green Widgets – what is the best Title tag for your main page?
a. Get Green Widgets, Buy Green Widgets, Green Widgets, Green Widget
b. We have Cheap Green Widgets with great prices and selection
c. Buy Green Widgets | Discount Widgets
d. Home | Greenwidgets.com

2. Your site map has more than 100 links to your pages. Do you:
a. Create a hierarchy of links, and split up the site map into multiple pages.
b. Keep adding new links, no problem.
c. Add a second page to your site map and add new links to that.
d. Stop adding links to your site map completely.

3. How many words should you consider writing in a page of pure content (such as an article, a blog post or a product review)?
a. 100-200
b. 500-800
c. 200-400
d. 800+

4. What is the optimum keyword density you should aim for?
a. 2%-5%.
b. Keep the content normal, but stuff the page with hidden text in alt tags, meta tags and “white-on-white” text to maximize keyword density.
c. As much as possible, while keeping the content human-readable.
d. Forget keyword density – search engines pay very little attention to it any more. Just focus on writing content that people will want to link to.

5. What should you put inside meta tags?
a. Put your full keyword list in the meta keywords tag, and put your most important keywords in the meta description tag.
b. Ignore the meta tags – search engines don’t use them.
c. Write a short description of your website in the meta description tag, and put your most important keywords in the meta keywords tag.
d. Put your most important keywords in the meta keywords tag and don’t use a meta description tag.

6. How should you use images on your site?
a. Use the alt tag to accurately describe the each image, and include descriptive content around each image.
b. Put your most important keyword in an alt tags followed by the word “graphic”.
c. Just use them wherever it is necessary from an aesthetic perspective, without regard for alt tags because they aren’t really that important.
d. Use alt tags to “hide” your full keyword list so you can increase your page’s keyword density.

7. Which style tag is preferred by the W3C for emphasizing important text?
a. <b>
b. <strong>
c. <heavy>
d. <bold>

Link Building

8. What types of websites are most trusted by search engines (authority sites)?
a. High PR websites.
b. .edu and .gov websites.
c. Low PR websites with lots of backlinks.
d. Medium to High PR websites with lots of backlinks from other high ranking websites.
e. Both b and d

9. Which of these sites will provide the most valuable link?
a. A PR 7 website.
b. A PR 5 site closely related to your niche with strong backlinks from .edu and .gov (trusted) domains.
c. A website with hundreds of pages of duplicate content that is banned in the search engines.
d. A PR 6 website loosely related to your niche but with few ‘trusted’ backlinks.

10. Suppose that you were offered the following 4 choices as a link – which one would be the most valuable?
a. An optimized contextual link (a link as part of a page’s content with proper anchor text) from a closely related PR 5 site’s main page content.
b. A link on the links page of an unrelated PR 7 site – shared with 50 other links (and their two line descriptions).
c. A link on the links page of closely related PR 6 site – shared with 20 other links.
d. A PR 6 link from a directory page with 10 other links only.

11. If you were building links for greenwidgets.com, what would be your strategy in choosing anchor text?
a. Buy high PR links from closely related sites that offer traffic as well as link wealth.
b. Use organic marketing tactics to encourage natural link growth using your site’s content.
c. Submit articles to article directories and link to your site’s inner pages in those articles to build ‘deep’ links.
d. All of the above.

12. Which of these four is the most important in assessing a link?
a. The anchor text.
b. The PR of the page you’re getting the links from.
c. The number of outgoing links on the link page.
d. The title tag of the link page.

13. How many links should you get for your site in the first 6 months (on average)?
a. 50-70 links a month.
b. 100+ links a month.
c. As many quality links as you can.
d. 25-40 a month.

General SEO

14. What does PageRank technically measure?
a. The linking power carried by a particular link.
b. How many external, inbound links point to a particular page.
c. The number and quality of the links pointing to a particular page.
d. Your ranking position in the search engines.

15. What does the term “Sandbox” describe in reference to Google’s SERPs?
a. The ranking factors affecting all new websites that are targeting highly competitive keywords before targeting less competitive keywords.
b. Google’s system for penalizing sites exhibiting an overly-optimizing back-link structure.
c. Google’s penalty for building too many links too quickly.
d. Google’s play area for their staff during lunch break.

16. What is the best way for websites with very little content (like ecommerce stores) rank highly for competitive product terms?
a. They have a lot of natural links (one-way, contextual) with optimal anchor text from a wide variety of websites.
b. Their pages are stuffed with keywords and “white text”.
c. They use content-generating software to spam the search engines and attain false rankings.
d. They pay a lot of money to get high PR links.

17. Which of these will NOT get your site penalized in Google?
a. Thousands of automatically-generated pages built only for the search engines.
b. Building quality links at a steady pace.
c. Scraping (stealing) content from other websites.
d. Getting links from websites that Google considers to be from a ‘bad’ link neighborhood.

18. Which of these five methods will not give you an accurate estimate of the search demand in a niche?
a. Overture search term figures
b. WordTracker.com numbers
c. Nichebot.com
d. Statcounter.com

19. When designing the site structure of a website, which of the following statements is NOT a good idea?
a. Make a site map that points to each page on the site.
b. Attempt to make all pages accessible from the home page by at most 3 clicks.
c. Link all of your inner pages to all of your other websites.
d. Create a category structure that goes from broad to narrow.

20. Which is
the best method of getting traffic to your site?
a. Pay-per-click ads.
b. Pay for high PR links so that you get a PR yourself, which will help boost your own search engine rankings.
c. Submit your website to search engines and popular directories, and focus on creating content.
d. Create quality content that people in your niche would want to link to, and then promote that content through article syndication, blogs and forums.
e. All of the above.

Ok, now that you’ve answered all the 20 questions, compare your answers to the answer sheet below. This was a fairly basic quiz, so if you get less than 10 right, you should seriously consider reviewing the material in this newsletter. However, if you got more than 15 right, congratulations – you’ve got the basics right. Make sure that you apply these principles to your websites as well, otherwise you wont see good rankings.

Answers Key:
1-c; 2-a; 3-b; 4-d; 5-c; 6-a; 7-b; 8-e; 9-b; 10-a; 11-d; 12-a; 13-c; 14-c; 15-a; 16-a; 17-b; 18-d; 19-c; 20-e.

Mike Benner

New York International Auto Show Impacts City’s Economy

In the auto industry, one marketing strategy is the showcasing of one’s cars in a motor show. These events provide car manufacturers with a venue to unveil their new or redesigned vehicles to get them noticed by the public. And one such event is the New York International Auto Show – the largest of its kind in the United States in terms of the number of attendees.

Aside from being benefiting car manufacturers and auto enthusiasts, the event also greatly benefited the city where it is held. Recently, the organizers of last year’s New York International Auto Show reported that the event generated over $181 million for the Big Apple. The amount was revealed after BBC Research and Consulting conducted a study on the impact of the event on the city’s economy as commissioned by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association (GNYDA).

Mark Scheinberg, the president of the GNYDA, has this to say after the result of the study was revealed: “For over 106 years, the New York International Automobile Show has been a vital component of New York City’s economy, and today, we’re proud to announce that the 2006 event surpassed all expectations and positively impacted our city’s economy more than ever.” Furthermore, according to Scheinberg, more than 1,200 workers are needed to ensure that the event will be properly set.

Aside from the wages of these workers, the attendees, exhibitors, and press people adds to the revenues of the city’s economy by staying on the city’s hotels. “Creating a valuable marketing event for our industry and providing an economic boon for this city have always been a top priority of ours,” added Scheinberg.

According to the study conducted, the direct impact of the show to the city’s economy is $112 million. This amount is generated by attendees’ spending money on lodging, entertainment, parking, eating and drinking, transportation, and retail by attendees and exhibitors. Since last year’s event has more than 1.2 million people in attendance throughout the show, the amount they spend on the aforementioned areas is not surprising.

Aside from the $112 million direct impact that the event had on the economy of the city, indirect impact accounts to $69 million. Indirect impact pertains to show related spending which generates $620,000 for the city for every million spent by the exhibitors.

With last year’s show positively affecting the city’s economy because if its success, experts expect that this year’s installment of the event will generate even more revenues for the city. With more and more car makers looking to showcase their automobiles at the country’s largest motor show, it would seem that the Big Apple’s economy will once again benefit from the event as much as a Ford engine benefits from a Ford cold air intake system.

Lauren Woods
http://www.articlesbase.com/automotive-articles/new-york-international-auto-show-impacts-citys-economy-119841.html