Fiscal Cliff Legislation Passed – No Need for a Parachute

If you were like me, chances are you were wondering if it was time to don a parachute as the reality of diving off the fiscal cliff was becoming more likely to happen every day. However, Congress approved an 11th hour agreement and President Obama made it official with his signature earlier last week. So what does that mean to us?  Good news and bad news.

First the bad news, everyone’s taxes went up by the 2% payroll tax holiday that expired and did not get extended to 2013.  So beware as your first paycheck of the year will be less as these additional social security taxes are taken out of your pay. You will be paying 6.2% social security taxes instead of the 4.2% that you paid in 2011 and 2012, and you will pay it on all earned wages up to $113,700. This means approximately $19 a week in additional taxes will be withheld for those making around $50,000 a year.  If you are self-employed this affects you also, as your rates went up from 13.2% to 15.2% for the self-employment tax on your business income.

Income tax rates also increased, but only on high income individuals.  The top income tax rate went from 35% to 39.6% for those individuals making more than $400,000 and for families making more than $450,000.

The agreement also reinstates the phase out of itemized deductions and the personal exemption for individuals with income over $250,000 and couples with income over $300,000. These items reduce tax benefits, therefore increasing the taxes paid by high income people.

Regarding the alternative minimum tax (AMT), the agreement included an AMT “patch” that increased the exemption amount for 2012 from $45,000 to $78,750 for married filers and more importantly, will continuously be adjusted for inflation going forward so a “patch” will not be required each year. YEAH! This was one item that if it did not pass, would have had an immense impact – increasing the taxes for 30 million taxpayers!  I am so glad they came up with a permanent fix.  Well, as permanent as anything is in Washington!

Top tax rates on capital gains and dividends increased to 20% for those high income individuals, starting at the $400,000/$450,000 income level. This was considerably less than President Obama’s proposed rate of 39.6%.
More good news is that the $1,000 child tax credit and the enhanced American Opportunity Tax Credit for college tuition will be extended. These credits are extended for five years.

On the estate tax front, the inflation adjusted $5 million exemption will continue, but with an increase in the tax rates from 35% to 40% for the larger estates.

There was some good news for businesses too.  The agreement keeps in place the Sec 179 and 50% bonus depreciation that allow businesses to depreciate asset purchases much quicker than normal depreciation methods.  The Sec 179 election allows businesses to expense up to $500,000 of equipment purchases with the $2 million phase out.  Several business credits were extended also, including the Research and Development Credit, Work Opportunity Tax Credit and other renewable energy credits.
Needless to say, after a long wait we are very glad to have some certainty related to taxes.  This new tax legislation will help us to better navigate the lay of the land, and store our parachute for a while …as there is no fiscal cliff in sight.

Kathi Koenig, CPA



Partner – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith, P.C.

kkoenig@mhcscpa.com
www.mhcscpa.com

Keep Your Business Visible in 2013

If you haven’t already, it’s time to finish scheduling your marketing plans for 2013
Will you exhibit or attend trade shows? Which networking events are a good use of your time?
(ie: prosperous!) What are your plans to thank customers for their business and referrals? How do you stay visible after the sale?

Chances are, if you don’t have a specific plan and schedule, you will be scrambling at the last minute & will likely lose some effectiveness due to hurried decisions.

Here are some tips:

Trade show exhibits – make sure the attendees are a target audience for you. Plan your display, marketing materials & promotions to attract them to your booth! Aim for decisions that day or make it very easy for them to find you after the show. You don’t want them guessing…”Now, who was that so & so we saw at the trade show?” What can you send with them that will keep them considering your products and services? (December 2012 blog had more details about exhibiting at trade shows)

Networking events – once you visit enough of them, choose which ones fit you and what your business has to offer. Then plan to arrive early, stay late and don’t just sit down & eat! Plan to actually get to know others; have talking points ready. These events are not just about collecting the most business cards. This is your chance to learn about another’s business, determine if you can connect them to a lead & also qualify them as a possible client for you. Keep in mind you want to be remembered, so know your tagline & be prepared with something you can hand out to make them think of you later and check out your website or store.

Thank current customers – saying “Thank You” goes a long way, because sadly, many business people no longer say it.  It can be as simple as an email or as elaborate as a gift dropped off.

Remember, the best way to get referrals is to give them first. That is a great way to show your appreciation plus it builds trust and shows you are truly interested in the potential customer’s success. Once you start receiving referrals, be sure to recognize who thought enough of you to give your information out.

Your logo and message on promotional products and gifts will help improve your efforts at trade shows, networking events and customer appreciation! Think of the value when that potential customer is looking at your name and information every day!

Work with someone who cares how your money is spent – ensuring your logo/message is presented in the highest regard!  Contact Primary Source to see how promotional products will boost your marketing efforts. You can even see actual examples and discuss effective ways to promote your business or event by visiting our showroom at 104th & Hickman in Urbandale.

Mary Anne Kennedy    
Maryanne@PrimarySourcePromotion.com

Primary Source, Inc.   
Promotional Products with a Purpose!
10441 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA  50322
http://www.primarysourcepromotion.com/
515.727.8774


If it isn’t Broken…..

Your New Year can absolutely be about building, growing, progressing and branching into more directions with your current processes and goals in place.

As you think about 2013, do you instantly think “I need to do something NEW because what I was doing isn’t working. What can I do differently?’ I am so overwhelmed with the commercials on TV about weight loss programs. It only makes me want to eat more and sign up for everything to make me better. And for the most part, I live a pretty conscious life when it comes to my health. (YES I KNOW, I have areas I could work on harder…but for sake of argument, let’s go with this theory. )So what does that say about our world.  Pretty good marketing I guess. We are always wanting to be BETTER! Here is another perspective, by Whitney Johnson in the Harvard Business Review. But are we really that BAD?  There is nothing wrong with holding ourselves accountable and improving on what we have. But we don’t always have to START fresh. We can build on what we have achieved or developed.

Start, (ironically, we do have to START even on things we are just enhancing) by looking at your achievements in your business and personal life in 2012 or maybe you can even go back  a few more years than that,  good for you.

  • Think about why those achievements were important and the process you took to get there.
    • Did you implement some new processes in your office that really helped streamline the workflow for yourself and others?
    • What effect did that then have on their workflow that they then implemented, which then helped others being efficient?
    • Do you see the domino effect? And in this case, it is a good domino scenario, things improved because of what you did or changed.
  • Now, what can you do to further that progress?
    • With the ever changing world of technology, is there a product, an APP or a device that would help streamline things even more? Or maybe enhance something that came out of the original implementing?
      • How would that take shape?
      • Would it allow a few extra ‘bonus’ hours off a month for the employees?
      • Would it allow you extra time to go market your business instead of working in the office?
      • Could it save the company money!! Bookkeeping in order, receivable on time, payable handled promptly! No lost customers due to delays, etc.
      • Could you MAKE the company money! Could you start a new branch of service with the improved efficiencies?

You can see where I am going with this. You have done a lot of great things in the past. Don’t forget that or minimize that. Enhance it! Brainstorm on those improvements and move forward with them. Branch into directions that your progress will now allow.

Keep your eyes  open, your mind clear and your progressing rolling.
 
So let’s START the year off, improving upon and enhancing what
YOU already do well. Give yourself a pat on the back, and move forward. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, work with it!

If you need help enhancing your processes, call me. I can show you the value in what you are doing and help you develop additional improvements. I work with small businesses to put processes in place that support the needs of the company, in the bookkeeping or any department.

Tammy Stifel
515.988.7532
Bookkeeping and Process Organizing

tammy@organizerforu.com
OrganizerForU



A little more about us:

OrganizerForU
is Des Moines’ only Bookkeeping and Business Process Organizer. With 20
years of hands-on experience in the small business world, the team at
OrganizerForU can help assess, implement and transform your business,
your books and your life! The majority of our services assist in the
areas of bookkeeping departments, however, we understand how that is the
hub of a business. We can help in all areas of business processes and
organizational management to make all the departments work efficiently.

Our experience has taught us that there are many gaps in the process
of communicating between management and the employees. Perception is
there is no “safe zone” to express concerns, which can impede the
everyday workflow. OrganizerForU acts as a ‘mediator’ between management
and employees to design solutions for small business efficiency. We
work as a guide, an advisor and as a project manager. Our goal is to be a
valued partner in your business.  OrganizerForU will identify your
business’ challenges and struggles primarily in the accounting
departments. Through research and personal attention, we work with you
and your employees to develop strategies that will create efficient systems and processes
in addition to clear lines of communication. All of these improvements
ultimately lead to a positive, productive and profitable company.

If
your business doesn’t have a process or system in place, or if your
current system isn’t working, Tammy can help. Check out our website and click on the SERVICES tab to see what we can do for you.

“Content is KING.” A 3-Part Series on Engaging your Audience.


When it comes to ramping up a marketing campaign, one of the biggest challenges small businesses and non-profits face is coming up with useful content to send out. Yes, you could send the latest sales pitch or plea for donation, but if customers aren’t ready to part with their money, what value does that newsletter issue bring them?





In this 3-part blog series, I will give you tools and ideas for creating compelling content that will provide value to your target market and keep them engaged in your message each time see and hear it. Roll up your sleeves, cause…HERE WE GO!



Tip #1 Share Your Secrets:


As a business owner or organization leader, you have a wealth of secrets to success that have brought you to where you are. Everyone loves to be in the know, so share some of those insights with your audience. A few examples of “secrets” that could serve as valuable content:





  • Restaurants or other foodservice businesses could share a few favorite recipes with their fans. The chef could share recipes of items on the menu or provide exclusive dishes to readers. Even general cooking tips — remedies for an over-salted recipe, perhaps — can keep an audience coming back for more.
  • Craft stores could provide do-it-yourself guides to some of the finished products they offer. Crafty customers will love the new challenges and will come into the store to purchase the materials they need.
  • Liquor retailers can list drink mixes or offer wine pairings for special meals, particularly around the holidays.
  • Consultants can use their newsletters to share advice with fellow business owners on best practices for growing a business.


In these examples, the “meat” of the message will feature content the reader can use in his or her own life or business. But that does not mean your entire message has to be devoid of a sales pitch. You can add a “sell” piece with a coupon or special that can offer a percentage off the products and service mentioned in the advertising.




Tip #2 Share Knowledge:


Those in other consumer-oriented businesses might be thinking, what kind of tips can I offer? There are plenty of opportunities for you to provide knowledge-boosting content to your subscriber base. Good content comes from within




  • Accountants can share their knowledge with customers. Finances and taxes are always a big concern for people, so share ways to get financially organized and better prepared to deal with the IRS come tax time.



  • A boutique could offer up unique gift ideas for that hard-to-shop-for customer. Think outside the box (pun intended) for gift ideas, particularly around holidays.



  • Spas can give readers home relaxation tips or ways they can keep that professional manicure looking good.



  • Home furnishing stores can provide customers with great tips on how to better decorate their home or how to find great values to make their house look great.



  • Consignment stores can offer tips for getting their used stuff cleaned up and ready to sell.



  • A doggy supply store could offer tips on pet health, hygiene for dogs, and dieting ideas for the overweight pup. Also, list special events to get people — and their pets — into the store.



The takeaway here: Think about YOUR business and ask what benefits you provide to your customers and clients. Then use your advertising communications to highlight those benefits to your customers in an informative manner.



Look into the Future: Next month, I will talk about Relying on your Customers’ Expertise and Turning Questions into Content! Stay Tuned!!



Need help coming up with content? Call Renee @ 515.259.0577 for a FREE consultation and brainstorming session!



515-259-0577 – office
316-644-7029 – cell
renee@trioagency.com
www.facebook.com/trioagency
www.trioagency.blogspot.com
www.trioagency.com

About TRIO Marketing|Branding|Advertising
TRIO is a full-service marketing communications company providing a wide array of integrated marketing services to meet all of your business and marketing needs. At TRIO, we understand that each client is unique; therefore we provide customized solutions based on your goals and growth objectives. All of our recommendations are made specifically for you and your business.

TRIO Marketing|Branding|Advertising delivers an effective blend of creative talent and strategic thinking, delivering results that increase the bottom line of our client partners. We utilize our network of local experts in the community to execute the campaigns on the basis of design, printing and mailing.

Our Services include:



  • Marketing, Branding, Public Relations and Advertising Consulting
  • Strategic Annual Marketing Plan Development
  • Integrated and Interactive Marketing Services including E-mail and SMS Marketing
  • Promotional Products
  • Media Negotiation, Placement & Spot Traffic Management
  • Print Design & Production
  • Web Development & Search Engine Optimization
  • Direct Mail Services
  • One-on-One Business Development/Sales Team Coaching

At TRIO, we work hard to combine marketing talent and technology with outstanding customer service to build long-term partnerships with you and your business. Our strategies are delivered on time and in a cost-effective manner to achieve maximum response and grow your business.

CoOportunity –What is it?

You have heard of a Co-Op… We live in an agricultural state.  It’s those grain elevators in every community where farmers deliver their grain and it is all stored together.  Farmers are the owners of their co-ops and share in the decision making for the Co-Op.

Beginning in January, 2014, The Affordable Care Act will put in place ‘The Exchange’, where individuals and families will be able to purchase health insurance.  Along with the Federal plans that will be available within the Exchange, in Iowa and Nebraska, CoOportunity will exist with alternative options to the Federal plans. 
 
‘Co-Ops were established by the Affordable Care Act to foster the creation of new consumer-governed, non-profit health plans.’(www.cooportunityhealth.com)  The program provides funding to capitalize approved CO-Op’s through LOANS for the organizations.  The organization of CO-Op’s will help drive cost savings, enhance competition in the newly created health insurance marketplace. 
 
The goal of the Iowa-Nebraska Co-op is ‘to create a truly non-profit health insurance alternative that puts the physical and economic needs of its members first.’ To CoOpportunity, ‘consumer driven’ isn’t just lip service.  People who purchase through them are ‘members’ and are able to guide key decisions about plans, products and prices.  To date, CoOpportunity, along with the other 23 Co-ops that have been approved by the federal government are in a start-up phase.  All federally approved Co-Ops  participating within the Exchange will be required to begin announcing their plan designs and rate options approximately March, 2013 and be prepared to sell their products beginning in October, 2013 for a January 1, 2014 initial effective date.

For more information regarding The Affordable Care Act, CO-Ops, or healthcare for individuals & families, Medicare eligible individuals and small business, please contact me at jvanahn@heartland-insgroup.com or visit my website at www.health-insadvisor.com

Janis Van Ahn, Owner

10546 Justin Drive
Urbandale, IA 50233
http://health-insadvisor.com/
jvanahn@heartland-insgroup.com




Do You Have an Internet Policy?

When was the last time you reviewed your Internet Policy? Do you have employees who are using the Internet at the office? I would assume most of you would answer “Yes”. Do you know how to handle the employee who is abusing their Internet rights? These are all common questions! If you already have a policy, it should be clearly communicated – early and often. If you don’t have a policy or know how to enforce it, you might need to seek professional advice from your Human Resources Consultant.

According to a survey by International Data Corporation (IDC), up to 40 percent of Internet access at the office is spent on non-work related browsing. In addition, 64 percent of employees say they use the Internet for personal interest during working hours. Forty-one percent said they surf the Internet at work for more than three hours per week. Angus Reid Group, September 2000 reported that 75 percent of employees check news/sport headlines. These statistics are staggering and all result in lost productivity for your company. In addition, depending what sites these employees are visiting, it could constitute an ethical or security breach.
 
How do you control Internet use at the office?
First, you need to have a written employee policy that clearly defines the parameters and the consequences. HR On-Call, LLC can help you to create this policy. You may elect to have a zero tolerance policy for non-business Internet usage, or you may allow it to some degree. Regardless, a human resources professional who is trained in writing employment policy is your best resource. It is important to let workers know that their Internet use will be monitored and gives them no expectation of privacy or confidentiality. It is wise to have employees sign an agreement or better yet…. include this in your Employee Handbook so that there is clear understanding of the expectations.

While you don’t want to spend your days and hours monitoring employees’ computer habits, you do want to make it clear that non-business Internet use is costly for your company and is not acceptable. Start with a policy that is clearly defined. Then communicate it loud and clear.

For additional information about policies in your organization, please contact HR On-Call at
 515-401-2233 or Susan@HROn-Call.com



Susan Arnold
HR On-Call, LLC.
515.401.2233

Trade Show Exhibitor Tips

If you are one of the many companies exhibiting at a trade show this fall or winter, read on. You may make or break your trade show success in the first few seconds of people walking by. Exhibiting at a trade show is many, many first impressions! Here are a few tips to help make great first impressions.

Consider your exhibit: It should be neat & well thought out. There needs to be height in your display; consider a sign or table-top banner. You must have company branding on your exhibit, material and promotional products.

Consider yourself: It is a given that you will be dressed according to your profession and a step up from the attendees. A branded shirt is ideal; a professional name tag at the minimum. Be careful of your body language; no crossed arms, eating or texting while attendees are filing past your exhibit.

Consider your approach:
Do not stand behind your exhibit. Most exhibit spaces have a couple chairs provided, but those are not for you to sit! You need to be out in front of your table, greeting and welcoming.  

Consider your presentation: Yes, you should have your 30-second “commercial” ready that explains what problem or need your products and services can fulfill. But you will get more mileage out of asking questions and learning about the people who come to your exhibit. Some people call that “qualifying” a prospective customer.

I think it works best if you are sincerely learning about them and their company – you will easily uncover what you may be able to do for them. You are laying the groundwork for that person to see you are sincere, helpful & trustworthy.

If you are a business owner who sends employees to exhibit & represent your company, make sure they have instructions and even check up on how they do. Remember the hundreds of first impressions are representing you and your company. Keep in mind that as you may be sizing up potential customers, they are sizing YOU up to determine if they want to do business with you.  

12 Mistakes Exhibitors Make In Their Trade Show Exhibit

For specific ideas to jazz up your trade show display plus promotional ideas to lure people to your exhibit, CONTACT Mary Anne Kennedy Maryanne@PrimarySourcePromotion.com.

Mary Anne Kennedy    
Maryanne@PrimarySourcePromotion.com

Primary Source, Inc.   
Promotional Products with a Purpose!
10441 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA  50322
http://www.primarysourcepromotion.com/
515.727.8774

K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Silly

As you begin the new year, think about a new organized process. If you feel you are already pretty organized, ask your co-workers or employees or family members. They may have areas in the office process or home tasks, that they feel need  to be more organized. If the office seems to have tasks that don’t get completed or if you get home and the flyers you receive in the mail have taken up permanent residency  on your counter-top, some organization is needed in your future..

Or when you go to your home office, the filing is just stacked, rather than in the nice office filing cabinets that your purchased. It may be time to take a few of these tasks, and create an organized process.

When thinking about organizing, think K.I.S.S. meaning, Keep It Simple Silly. The more simple you keep the system in which you organize, the easier it will be to keep it that way,  and the ease of others to find what is needed OR handle it for you.

Here are some simple steps to get you started:
 
When setting up your system,


  • Use standard categories

    • For Example:

      • Mail for John
      • Mail for Sue
      • Monthly Filing folders for bills paid
      • Office Supplies


  • Don’t subdivide them into individual items.

    • For Example:

      • Office supplies do not need to be itemized into separate categories like pens, paper, printer ink, etc. Detailing the categories down to the item is not an efficient use of time and will complicate your profit and loss statements.
      • Mail for John that needs attention
      • Mail for Sue that needs attention
      • Because obviously those items need the attention of that person, and then they can determine who to handle beyond that.


  • Use those beautiful filing cabinets your bought.

    • It is a good feeling when you go to find something and it is right where it should be.


  • If you are organizing a ‘Ready To Go’ area for those hectic mornings, each person should have their own container or area, close to the door.

    • Work assignments, put in your briefcase
    • School paperwork, put in the backpack for that child
    • Errands to run, go in the container for the person that is handling that task.
You can be organized in many areas of your life, personal and business. You can organize everything from making sure you have all the items you need to take with you with each day, (by setting a basket by the door for each person to put the items in), to the files on your computer desktop (which is a huge pet peeve of mine, causes mind clutter…click to see more). 

The goal to being organized is to SIMPLIFY  your  life. It shouldn’t complicate it or cause issues for others that may have to interact with any part of it.

Find one task a week to organize. By the end of 2013, your efficiency will be measurably better.

If you are needing assistance, more guidelines or someone to just do it for you, contact us. We can help!

As we close another year, I hope that you have found time to make memories and appreciate all the blessings in your life. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tammy Stifel
515.988.7532
Bookkeeping and Process Organizing

tammy@organizerforu.com
OrganizerForU





A little more about us:

OrganizerForU is Des Moines’ only Bookkeeping and Business Process Organizer. With 20 years of hands-on experience in the small business world, the team at OrganizerForU can help assess, implement and transform your business, your books and your life! The majority of our services assist in the areas of bookkeeping departments, however, we understand how that is the hub of a business. We can help in all areas of business processes and organizational management to make all the departments work efficiently.

Our experience has taught us that there are many gaps in the process of communicating between management and the employees. Perception is there is no “safe zone” to express concerns, which can impede the everyday workflow. OrganizerForU acts as a ‘mediator’ between management and employees to design solutions for small business efficiency. We work as a guide, an advisor and as a project manager. Our goal is to be a valued partner in your business.  OrganizerForU will identify your business’ challenges and struggles primarily in the accounting departments. Through research and personal attention, we work with you and your employees to develop strategies that will create efficient systems and processes in addition to clear lines of communication. All of these improvements ultimately lead to a positive, productive and profitable company.

If your business doesn’t have a process or system in place, or if your current system isn’t working, Tammy can help. Check out our website and click on the SERVICES tab to see what we can do for you.

Going Over the Fiscal Cliff – Is There Any Way to Land on Your Feet?

We have all heard the news coverage of the so-called “fiscal cliff” coming at the end of this year.  Basically, by design, many provisions in our federal income tax system have an expiration date of December 31, 2012.  Without corrective action by our legislators, many negative tax changes will happen automatically.  Among its effects is an increase in the marginal income taxes for most taxpayers, an increase in long-term capital gains rates and an expiration of the special tax benefits of certain corporate dividends.

But the key question is – are you prepared to act on this?

Here are a few ways to minimize the cliff’s effect on your financial affairs.

  1. If you have unrealized long term capital gain assets in your portfolio, are you prepared to sell them to lock in the current 15% federal rate?
  2. Have you been considering a Roth conversion of your IRA? If so, 2012 may be the last, best year to do so, given lower tax rates this year and the 2013 imposition of the new Medicare surtax on income.
  3. If you have sold property this year under the installment method, have you considered electing to tax all of the proceeds this year?  You have until your return is filed next year to make such a decision, but start thinking about it, and planning for it now.
  4. If your business is a “C” corporation or an “S” corporation that was previously a “C” corporation, ask your tax advisor if you have should pay out dividends while they are still taxed at a 15% tax rate.
  5. Finally, be on the lookout for news developments on remedies for the fiscal cliff and watch for updates from your CPA.

There is no way to know what changes, if any, will be enacted so stay alert and with the advice of your tax advisor, be prepared to act, perhaps with very little notice.   And with any luck at all, even if we go over the fiscal cliff (and especially if congressional  negotiations reduces it  to a fiscal slope), chances are we will be able to land on our feet.

Kathi Koenig, CPA



Partner – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith, P.C.

kkoenig@mhcscpa.com

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Collecting Email Addresses: A Step-By-Step Guide


Whether you’re a bookstore, a non-profit arts organization, a wine consultant, or an accountant, you need a steady stream of business, referrals, or response from the people that keep your doors open.



That starts with staying in regular communication with your target market. When you build an ongoing dialogue with them, you increase the trust and comfort level they have with you. They look forward to hearing from you. It becomes second nature for them to think of you. You’ll stay top of mind with them and as a result, they’ll become more loyal to you, spend more with you, donate more frequently, and be more likely to refer you to their friends or colleagues.



Sounds great, right? One of the easiest, most effective ways to build that dialogue is with email marketing — by using email newsletters and promotions that you send regularly.



That’s why you should have a list of your customers’, clients’, or members’ email addresses: it’s a real asset to your business. And it’s so easy to quickly build it and at little cost.



Here’s How: Here are some things you can do to build a permission-based list, wherever you go, however your organization interacts with the public.


At your office or place of business: 

  • Ask every customer if they want to receive your email newsletter.
  • Request customer email addresses on your POS, online ordering, or checkout system.
  • Add space to your comment cards or surveys for people to sign up.
  • Put tent cards, wall, or counter displays in your place of business. Use a teaser, if applicable, about getting the inside scoop or exclusive offers from you.
  • Use a fishbowl on your counter to collect newsletter sign-up forms or business cards. Offer a weekly or monthly prize, like discounts or gifts from your establishment or other local vendors. Announce the winners in your newsletter, and add everyone in the bowl to your mailing list (be sure to include a disclaimer on the sign up sheet that says “winner will be notified by email” to ensure they provide you with the correct address.)


If you’re online and use social media:



  • Add a “Join My Mailing List” app to your website and your Facebook Page so people can join your list.



  • Ask your Facebook fans and Twitter followers to sign up for your list by providing a link to your sign-up form on your website.
  • Share your latest issue on your favorite social network and let those not on your mailing list see the great content you’re sending on a regular basis.

When you’re at events, in the field, or networking:



  • Bring a sign-up sheet


  • to every public event you exhibit at or participate in: fairs, open houses, fundraising events, craft shows — any place where dozens of people will encounter you.
  • Leave postage-paid sign-up cards behind when you visit clients or at networking events so people can mail it back to you. Just write your address on the back and stamp it — it won’t cost them a penny to join.

If you already use email marketing or other outgoing communications:



  • Make it easy for recipients to tell their friends about your emails with a “forward to a friend” link.


  • Staple a sign-up card to customers’ receipts, or include it in the envelope if you mail them bills.

So, now you say, “I Have a List…Now What?” Here’s what to do!



  • Ask your customers or members


  • what they want to hear about from you — consider using an Online Survey to collect this information quickly and easily.
  • Consider segmenting, which lets you subdivide your master mailing list into smaller lists that group people together by their interests. It allows you to create truly targeted communications that speak directly to them.
  • Host an event like a class, seminar, demonstration, client/member appreciation party, or fundraiser to establish a bigger presence in your community, get publicity, and attract new people. Don’t forget to ask attendees if you can add them to your mailing list.
  • Collect people’s birthday or anniversary dates. Every month, send a special discount or offer to those celebrating their big day. (See…even big brands do it!)


Email communications are a very low-cost, high-impact way to engage with and have a conversation with your customers (and prospects). There are several online companies that offer Email Communications and TRIO is now a Constant Contact Partner! If you have ever wanted to try it, or learn more about Constant Contact, sign up here: http://www.constantcontact.com/index.jsp?pn=trioagency  Don’t want to do it yourself? I would be honored to help you increase your business with Email Marketing.



Merry Christmas, and we’ll talk next year!





Renee Schneider, President
TRIO Marketing|Branding|Advertising, L.L.C

 

515-259-0577 – office
316-644-7029 – cell
renee@trioagency.com
www.facebook.com/trioagency
www.trioagency.blogspot.com
www.trioagency.com



About TRIO Marketing|Branding|Advertising
TRIO is a full-service marketing communications company providing a wide array of integrated marketing services to meet all of your business and marketing needs. At TRIO, we understand that each client is unique; therefore we provide customized solutions based on your goals and growth objectives. All of our recommendations are made specifically for you and your business.

TRIO Marketing|Branding|Advertising delivers an effective blend of creative talent and strategic thinking, delivering results that increase the bottom line of our client partners. We utilize our network of local experts in the community to execute the campaigns on the basis of design, printing and mailing.

Our Services include:



  • Marketing, Branding, Public Relations and Advertising Consulting
  • Strategic Annual Marketing Plan Development
  • Integrated and Interactive Marketing Services including E-mail and SMS Marketing
  • Promotional Products
  • Media Negotiation, Placement & Spot Traffic Management
  • Print Design & Production
  • Web Development & Search Engine Optimization
  • Direct Mail Services
  • One-on-One Business Development/Sales Team Coaching

At TRIO, we work hard to combine marketing talent and technology with outstanding customer service to build long-term partnerships with you and your business. Our strategies are delivered on time and in a cost-effective manner to achieve maximum response and grow your business.


How Will Healthcare Reform Affect Me?

This is a question I received daily if not twice and three times during the past 45 days of Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare as well as when I met with individuals.  Due to the same question repeatedly, I thought there must be others who are wondering.  So as I tell everyone “this is the Cool Whip version” – meaning the top of the sundae, not a lot of detail but a basic understanding of two parts of Healthcare Reform.

For those already enrolled in Medicare or set to enroll between now and 2020, it SEEMS there will be no changes in your benefit options.  You will have the option of Medicare Supplement plus a Prescription Drug Card OR the Medicare Advantage plans.  There has been question about the president ‘doing away’ with Medicare Advantage.  I suppose anything is possible, but the language surrounding Advantage plans clearly states that if an Advantage plan ceases to do business, those enrolled have a guaranteed acceptance into ANY other plan available with no medical questions.

For those of us below the Baby Boomer generation, I am confident we will see changes in Medicare.  

  • Maybe Medicare eligibility will be moved from age 65 to age 67
  • Maybe more cost sharing will happen between the Supplement and the consumer, taking more of the burden off of Medicare.  (here is the part that people don’t realize…. If a Medicare recipient who has a supplement goes into the hospital for a surgery – for whatever amount of money it costs… MEDICARE picks up ALL costs except (in 2013) $1,184.  This amount is then typically picked up by the Supplement).  That isn’t much paid by the supplement and, well a WHOLE LOT paid by Medicare

For individuals, there is a more immediate change on the horizon.  The “Exchange” will be a place on the Internet where individuals and families may purchase insurance and quite possibly be eligible for a subsidy or tax relief by doing so.  There are SO many points to explore that are well below the ‘Cool Whip’ for today’s ‘sundae’ of a discussion.
 

Know this… March 2013 language will begin to appear explaining the exchange.  We, independent insurance agents, look to be involved to assist and support individuals and small business owners in this transition.  There will also be language about Co-op plans that will compete with the federal plans within the exchange.  Iowa looks to be one of the first with this opportunity.  

Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns you may have related to the Exchange.  “Providing Knowledge to Make Informed Choices” is very important to me.  I look forward to diving deeper into the ‘sundae’ of the Healthcare Reform discussion.

Janis Van Ahn is an Independent Insurance Agent, first working 15 years as support staff in various health insurance agencies and three years ago starting Health Insurance Advisor, LLC, an insurance agency specializing in health insurance for individuals, Medicare eligible persons and small business.  Contact Janis at jvanahn@health-insadvisor.co

Janis Van Ahn, Owner

10546 Justin Drive
Urbandale, IA 50233
http://health-insadvisor.com/
jvanahn@heartland-insgroup.com

Job Descriptions!

3 Reasons to have a job description:

  1. To inform employees
  2. Outline expectations from the employer
  3. Support the company’s workplace compliance efforts

There are several tips & techniques that can be found on the internet or in business books about what to include in your job description. While this might be a good starting point… it is also important to include various laws against discrimination and rights and pay. If you are not familiar with these laws, this is an excellent time to partner with a Human Resources Consultant, who is. 

Compliance laws are second nature to human resources professionals. HR On-Call, LLC can quickly and efficiently ensure you have your job descriptions clearly stated and are compliant with the laws to help protect your organization and its employees.

Be aware of the laws that should be included in your job descriptions. They are as follows:  

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – protects against discrimination because of disability as long as the person can perform the essential functions of the job. 
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)helps classify exempt and nonexempt positions.
  • Equal Pay Act – Job descriptions must be clear about the skills, responsibility, efforts required and work conditions, so that if a pay discrepancy is brought into question, the job description shows the nature of each job.
  • Title Vll of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – makes it unlawful to discriminate any form of hiring or compensation due to race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The job description will show qualifications and requirements and set the standard for performance. 
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act – determines the safety of the job. The job description should include unusual conditions or safety practices so that potential employees know what to expect.  
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act – employers cannot discriminate on the basis of age. As long as the candidate has the work experience, skills, physical and personal characteristics necessary for the job, age is not a factor.
  • Employment Security Act – Job descriptions are often used in employment termination cases, so they should be accurate and inclusive.


The bottom line: job descriptions are important and if you are distributing them to employees they need to be compliant to protect you and your company!  For additional information about job descriptions or other HR  concerns, please contact HR On-Call at 515-401-2233 or Susan@HROn-Call.com.


Susan Arnold
HR On-Call, LLC.
515.401.2233

It’s Time to Start Your End-of-Year Procedures…


Did you pay Employees in 2012?

If NO, you can skip this EMPLOYEE section.
If YES, see below;

  • Do you process payroll in your office? If NO, skip this section. If YES continue on;
  • Do you have your red IRS W3/W2 forms? The IRS copies will need to be on red ink forms. These can also be e-filed thru Quickbooks. You might compare the time spent e-filing (time spent following the procedure to e-file) vs. the cost of purchasing, printing and mailing. The W2 forms for the employees are most likely blank on front side, but perforated, with IRS required instructions on back for the employee’s information.  They can be printed using your local office printer, in most cases. You might refer back and compare to what you did last year. And then be sure to make qualities notes to refer back to next year.

Did you pay for services considered Subcontractor/Independent Contractor?
(Review requirements (IRS) or contact your CPA.)

If NO, skip this section.
If YES, see below;

  • Do you have a completed W9 for this Contractor?
  • If NO, you will need to get the form (IRS online) get it completed and signed by the Contractor ASAP.
    • SUGGESTION: EVEN if you are UNSURE how much you are going to pay a subcontractor during a calendar year, you still need the required forms on file. Don’t hand them payment until you have the forms to avoid this year-end situation.  
    • Check with the IRS guidelines or contact your CPA for information on this form and other forms you may be required to have on hand for this type of service provider.
  • Is your software, i.e.; QuickBooks, programmed to acknowledge the expense account, as a 1099 category? If unsure or no, you will need to change that in ‘preferences’ or ask you Bookkeeper for assistance. Make a note for your next appointment with your Bookkeeper, to review these categories. If not programmed correctly, the amount will not print on the required forms.
  • Do you have the forms you need to process the 1096/1099 IRS copy and the Contractor copy? The IRS copies will need to be on red ink forms. You can also use Quickbooks e-file service for a small fee. (Contact Quickbooks for details on the fee.) You might compare the cost of e-file procedure vs. the cost of purchasing, printing and mailing these forms. The Contractor forms can be


Do you need a Year-End module for your software, most likely QuickBooks?

If NO, then you should be all ready and prepared to process this information per the IRS/State requirements.  Nice job!
If YES, this will need to be purchased ASAP.

  • Contact your software company and get that installed, and possibly consider purchasing your forms from them at that same time.  You can get forms from your local office supply stores, but you will want to be sure you get the correct forms, the accurate amount, and plan for mistakes and wasted forms.

Bottom-line; don’t wait until the last minute. These companies get busy with all requests for year-end processing. With a little planning, you can start the New Year on track for 2013 goals, without regretting being unorganized in 2012.

For assistance with the above items or other bookkeeping needs or process organizing, contact us at OrganizerForU. We have the perfect solution for you.

Tammy Stifel
515.988.7532
Bookkeeping and Process Organizing

tammy@organizerforu.com
OrganizerForU

Marketing Plan Writing 101

In the world of marketing, it is already 2013. If you haven’t started planning your marketing for next year, what are you waiting for?? Not sure where to begin? That’s OK. Below is what should be included in your marketing plan! Now…get brainstorming (and if you need a brainstorming partner, give me a call!)

Begin by asking yourself 3 questions: 1.) Do you have a marketing plan from 2012? 2.) Did you follow the plan? 3.) If yes…did it work? Why or why not? Those three questions will help you a lot when planning for 2013.

OK. Let’s begin.

Always start with a Situation Summary. A Situation Summary is a one-page summary of your current business landscape and your historical data. This is a place to tell your story (i.e., where you do great, where your opportunities are). What is your financial situation (profit or loss)? Be sure to include industry forecasts and trends so get a “big picture” view.

Next, include a Competitive Analysis. This should also be one or two pages that summarize your current competitors. Be sure to include obvious ones and not-so-obvious ones, like DIY for example. What are your competitors’ marketing tactics; where are they winning market share; what are their weaknesses? You want to keep a close eye on your competitors, but DON’T COPY their marketing strategies.

Who is your Target Market? Every demographic has a different buying behavior, so it is important to know how and when to talk to them! Include a one-page detailed summary, but expand into multiple target market segments if you need to. You may have more than one demographic you are marketing to! To make this easier, pick one of your PERFECT customers and paint a “picture” of that person. Tell their story and BOOM! You have your target market demographic and psychographic (behavior) profile!

 

Most marketing plans have 1-3 Objectives, which are usually revenue targets. What do you want to accomplish next year in your business?  Are they S.M.A.R.T. Objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound)? Here is an example: Increase revenue by 12% from our existing product lines before December 31, 2013, while maintaining current profit margins of 35%.” Do you have non-revenue objectives to include (i.e. improving your reputation)?

How will you accomplish your objective/s? Next, list Strategies to carry out through the year. Each objective should have 2-3 strategies to achieve it, i.e. using the previous sample objective of increasing revenue by 12%

  • Increase average unit price
  • Increase awareness among potential new customers
  • Increase number of transactions per customer

Then, now comes the fun part! What specific mediums are you going to utilize to carry out your strategies? You can have an unlimited number of Tactics per strategy, however your budget needs to be considered! Remember to include timing (or a marketing calendar) in your plan so you can stay on track! Here are a list of my favorite tactics (in no particular order)! 

  • Newspaper

  • Television

  • Radio

  • Magazines

  • Sponsorships

  • Public Relations (FREE!)

  • Social Media (Kinda FREE!)

  • Website

  • Point-of-purchase

  • Marketing Collateral

  • Networking (Low-cost!)

  • Memberships

  • Cold-calling (FREE!)

  • Strategic Alliances (FREE!)

  • E-Newsletters (Low-cost!)

  • Seminars and Events

  • Trade Shows

  • Referral Program

  • Direct Mail

  • Promotional Products

Before you start spending money with every sales person who calls on you, determine a REAL Budget! Every tactic has a price for execution and be considerate of what your company can AFFORD to invest, incase your marketing plan fails to give you an impressive ROI (sorry, Charlie…not all marketing works all the time!) Ask yourself this…Will the amount you set forth achieve your objective? Do you need to re-think your budget or objectives?

Last, but definitely MOST IMPORTANT! How will you know if your marketing plan (i.e. your MONEY!) is working if you don’t < b>Test and Measure it! Determine what your expectations are for your plan? If you know where you are starting from (review your situation summary) then you can easily track improvements in sales from your bookkeeping software. Set up an easy to follow lead tracking system, conversion rate tracker, etc and test and measure all year! If you know what is working…do more of it. And, if you know what is NOT working, you can replace it with something that works better!

There you have it. Marketing Plan Writing 101. Congratulations! Your diploma will be arriving soon, and your sales are sure to increase because you have taken the time to THINK, PLAN and EXECUTE a marketing strategy for your business.

Don’t want to write your own plan? Call me at 515-259-0577 or email me at renee@trioagency.com and I will develop your plan for you!


Until next time,

Renee

Renee Schneider, Owner
TRIO Marketing | Branding | Advertising

515-259-0577 – office
316-644-7029 – cell
renee@trioagency.com
www.facebook.com/trioagency
www.trioagency.blogspot.com
www.trioagency.com

About TRIO Marketing|Branding|Advertising
TRIO is a full-service marketing communications company
providing a wide array of integrated marketing services to meet all of
your business and marketing needs. At TRIO, we understand that each
client is unique; therefore we provide customized solutions based on
your goals and growth objectives. All of our recommendations are made
specifically for you and your business.

TRIO Marketing|Branding|Advertising delivers an effective blend of
creative talent and strategic thinking, delivering results that increase
the bottom line of our client partners. We utilize our network of local
experts in the community to execute the campaigns on the basis of
design, printing and mailing.

Our Services include:

  • Marketing, Branding, Public Relations and Advertising Consulting
  • Strategic Annual Marketing Plan Development
  • Integrated and Interactive Marketing Services including E-mail and SMS Marketing
  • Promotional Products
  • Media Negotiation, Placement & Spot Traffic Management
  • Print Design & Production
  • Web Development & Search Engine Optimization
  • Direct Mail Services
  • One-on-One Business Development/Sales Team Coaching

At TRIO, we work hard to combine
marketing talent and technology with outstanding customer service to
build long-term partnerships with you and your business. Our strategies
are delivered on time and in a cost-effective manner to achieve maximum
response and grow your business.