According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are now more than 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States generating approximately $222 billion in revenue for the economy. Despite the numbers, and the fact that this segment is growing exponentially, few resources and information are readily available today to help Latino entrepreneurs start, run and grow their businesses.

Because more and more Hispanic SMBs are now online with some type of Internet presence, there is a need to provide best practices and sound advice on how to monetize and build successful online businesses. This document address that need in five easy steps. It provides insights into:

o Monetizing your online presence

o Leveraging Blogs and Wikipedia for marketing purposes

o Free content sources for your site and

o Cost-effective, proven web site traffic-building tactics

Rather than a “deep dive” into each of these topics (each of which could be the subject of its own White Paper), this document is intended to provide a uniquely Hispanic angle to the opportunities that the Internet offers today to the Latino entrepreneur.

I. Turning your content into Dinero with Search & Affiliate Marketing

One of the hardest things for U.S. companies of all sizes is to produce content that is relevant to Hispanic online audiences. I cannot tell you how many times in the last few years I ran into Marketing executives of Fortune 500 companies that asked me things like: “Do you know anybody that can produce good copy in English for the Hispanic market?” Or “Do you know if Spanglish is appropriate for X segment of the Latino demographic?”

Meanwhile more and more Hispanic entrepreneurs are publishing sites that, unbeknownst to them, could generate new revenue flows for their businesses. You see, it turns out that there are thousand of advertisers out there that are willing to pay money to reach your site’s visitors and the way this is done today is through Paid Search and Affiliate Marketing. Let’s look at each of these so that we can begin to understand how you could to turn your content into Dinero:

Paid Search

The model is actually quite simple. The way search engines such as Google generate a good part of their revenues is by charging advertisers for clicks from their search results to the advertisers’ site. This is what is commonly known as “paid search”. Yahoo! and Microsoft’s MSN are also players in this space.

Search engines evolved this concept to the embedding these key words on third party sites and to share some of the revenues with the site’s owner. So how does this work exactly? Let’s say that an airline is interested in reaching consumers that are interested in flying to Mexico. Meanwhile you run a site with content about Mexico. You can open a Google AdSense account and by simply adding a line of code to your web site, Google will add a text link to the airline’s site. Any time a visitor to your site clicks on the text link, both Google and you make money. How much? On a single click probably not much more than a few cents. The game however gets interesting as you build traffic to your site. A couple of things you should know:

o With Google in particular, you have to accumulate at least $100 in AdSense commissions before they pay you. If your site has very low traffic, this could take months.

o If you click on the words yourself, Google will close your account pronto! They know when you do it and so resist the temptation por favor.

o Not every click through pays the same. I have seen Google pay $1.00 plus on a single click. It’s all function of how much their advertisers are willing to pay for those clicks. It is demand and supply and you as a publisher do not always know how they come up with your commission. Don’t worry about it; just be happy that you get paid.

o Lastly, Google is not the only player in the space (just the biggest one). Yahoo! is also an option for you.

Affiliate Marketing

Online Affiliate Marketing, like paid key words, is also a pay-per-performance revenue model. Basically, advertisers pay large affiliate networks (such as Commission Junction and LinkShare) for conversions generated by sites that belong to the network. Que? It works like this: the affiliate network provides your site with banners and text links to sites of merchants that offer products of interest to your visitors. Whenever one of your visitors clicks on the banner or text and actually ends up ‘converting’ (i.e. buying a product, registering et cetera), the affiliate network pays you a commission.

Example: you have a site for home based entrepreneurs. You set up an account with an affiliate network and they provide you with banners for a PC manufacturer. Clearly a PC is a product that could interest the owner of a home-based business. And so if one of your visitors clicks on the banner and ends up buying a PC from the advertiser, the affiliate network will pay you a commission.

Now, this model is great for the advertiser because they are only paying out if a conversion takes place. If there are no sales, they are still getting millions of free impressions from the publishers in the network. So the question is: why is this so great for me? One reason is because if you have unused real estate in your site and decent traffic, you may earn some revenue which was not there before.

Naturally, it is a lot easier to make money from a program like Google’s AdSense than it is from affiliate marketing and that explains in part why the former is so much more popular than the latter.

One consideration in either case is the possible impact to the aesthetics of your site if you add key words or banners to it. This is not for you if your company has with a fancy Flash site.

II. Blogging Yourself to Fama

So what’s all the ruido about Blogs? It is simple: Blogs have made it possible for every day people like you and me to become publishers and content providers. This, coupled with the ease with which you can set one up, is why they have become so popular. So why are they important for a Hispanic business owner? Well, it just so happens that you may know more about a specific subject than just about anyone else and someone out there is interested in that knowledge and your opinion.

Blogs then are a great tool for you to become a recognized, visible subject matter expert. Even if your blog does not establish a huge following, it can give the credibility that often times is so important in getting new customers. Now, I will be honest, if your business is a landscaping business chances are that running a Blog will not help you much in getting new customers. You may still want to maintain a Blog for your own benefit, but it will not be a lead generator for you.

On the other hand, if you are in one of many services professions – specially one that is marketing to large corporations or other audiences that you know are online – then a Blog is a great tool for establishing yourself as an authority in your field.

As an added benefit, a Blog can help you drive traffic to your site since you would normally point a link to your site from your blog. This is particularly effective if over time your Blog begins developing a following. You will find that over time other bloggers will begin linking to your Blog, which means increased awareness and traffic for your business. By the way, you can also monetize your Blog like you would any other site by adding Google AdWords to your Blog,

Ready to start your Blog? Set one up quickly and easily with free services like Blogger.com.

III. Content? It’s Gratis !

You’ve heard it before: “Content is King.” And it is true: nothing keeps customers glued to your site like good, relevant, up to date content. Your site may be good for a visit or two but if you really want customers to build a relationship with your company and your brand, you need that fresh content.

Problem is that most of us are not exactly content production machines. Many of us seem to us struggle with producing even the copy for the company’s brochure. If we were in the business of producing great content every day, we would be running Univision or Telemundo.

Here’s the good news: online content syndication has changed all that and today your site can benefit from frequently updated, relevant news and content pushed to your site without you moving a finger.

So how does that work? Simple: you can add news and content to your site by simply adding some html code from news “syndicators” like Yahoo! and Google. Take the home page of HispanicSMB.com for example. The news on the home page are updated several times a day but the content is “pushed” by Yahoo! News without any work on my part. The best thing is that you pick the subject – any subject – and whenever the wires and PR distribution services release a news item related to your preferred subject, your page is updated “automagically”!.

Let’s say your site is all about tortillas and you want the greatest and latest news about tortillas on your site. Simply visit news.yahoo.com, do a search on “tortillas” and on the results page look for the XML icon. Copy and paste the code behind this icon onto your site and listo!! Google News also offers this feature.

Want more? Now major news and media giants like Reuters are getting into the game and have started to offer free video feeds for 3rd party sites.

Of course nowadays everybody is getting into the content game (as we discussed above) and so you are not limited to big news sources to enrich your site with great content. You can also add Blog feeds to your site and use great content from others in your site. Por que no?

IV. Wikipedia: More than Colaboración

Many people think of Wikipedia simply as an online encyclopedia; a place for the kids to do their homework. Turns out it is much more than that: it could be one of your best online marketing tools. Why? because Wikipedia is not “owned” by any one individual editor and this means that provided you have somewhat of a brand or story behind your company or its owners, there is an opportunity to let this great tool tell the world about it.

Let’s take for example the now famous Homies figurines. Now, I love the Homies, but I would say that they are hardly in the same category as Cesar Chavez or Einstein (both extensively written up in Wikipedia). But sure enough there is a complete entry in Wikipedia about the Homies, complete with a hyperlink to the product’s official web site.

Now, I am not sure who actually added the entry. All I can I say is that searches for Jarritos, Goya Foods and Fernando Espuelas all returned comprehensive write ups. Now, a word of caution, “vanity” Wikipedia entries are not allowed and so this tactic may not be appropriate for every company and entrepreneur out there. But provided that your company has an up and coming brand or you are an up and coming entrepreneur, then this may be the right thing for you.

To get started, simply create a Wikipedia account (it is free) and start familiarizing yourself with this fascinating collaboration tool and all it has to offer.

V. Build Traffic the Cheapo Way

Ah … the million dollar question: so, how do I build great, sustainable traffic to my site .. without spending tons of money? Well, by now you probably know that it is not easy, unless you happen to be sitting on the next mega-viral, social networking site. The good news is that it is possible. However much like building your business, it will take some work and some time. Also keep in mind that that the most effective tactics will do no good unless your product and or content are any good. But assuming that there’s a market / audience for your goods, here are some tactics that could bring you incremental traffic and business to your site:

o Search. We all want to be on that top search results spot in Google and Yahoo!. But the truth is that it is not that easy and in fact an entire industry has blossomed around helping companies get a top search engine ranking. However there are a couple of things you can do to help your search position. First, be sure to re-submit your site at least 2-3 times a year. Search engines are constantly changing the algorithms that assign a site its ranking and so it is a good practice to re-submit your site every now and then.

Another good practice is to reach out to those few that have the top rankings in the search results page and request a link from their site to yours. Here’s a great example: as of November 2006 a Google search for “hispanic small businesses” yielded the smallbusinessnotes.com site as the top result. This is the position I have always wanted for my site but in lieu of getting this spot we managed to get a hyperlink from that site to ours thus getting some nice “flow through” traffic.

Curious about paid search? Assuming that you have a budget, I will say that it works and that its performance based model is better than conventional banner advertising. If you want to try it out, both Yahoo! and Google offer trial promotions that will reward you up to $75 in clicks in exchange for a one time $5 set up-fee. This is a super bargain and a great way to “test drive” paid search. I sometimes post the addresses to these offers in the HispanicSMB.com Blog.

o Foros. Consumers love forums. They love posting, replying and generating controversy. Forums are where a good part of the Word of Mouth takes place in the Internet. They are also a great, free way to drive highly targeted traffic to your site. Simply sign up for one of the major portals, select the most appropriate forum dealing with your product or service and simply post a short friendly comment about your offering with a hyperlink to your site. Please keep in mind two things: a) some forums have restrictions on inclusion of hyperlinks to 3rd party sites and b) if you post on a high traffic site your posting will rapidly disappear under newer topics and so you must do this periodically and consistently in order for the clicks to sustain.

o Links Exchange. This is a highly effective, yet time consuming, tactic for increasing traffic to your site. In addition to delivering incremental traffic to your site, incoming links are important because they improve your search engine ranking. Search Engine Marketing experts will tell you that one of the key variables in search engines’ algorithms is “popularity” as measured by the number and importance of the sites that link to your site. And so getting others (sites and Blogs alike) to link to your site is well worth it. Please remember that whenever requesting a link to your site, the other party will invariably ask that you do in kind and so if you do not have one already, be sure to set up a ‘links’ page on your site (provided it does not ruin its aesthetics). Lastly, please stay away from link exchange networks: they rarely ever deliver quality traffic.

o PR. Used to be that in order to get your name out there in front of the world you had hire a top notch PR agency. And while this is still true if you want to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or La Opinión, there are some tactics that work very well for the business owner on a budget. First, pick a subject for your press release. It could be a new product, geographic expansion or maybe even a new star hire. Next, write the press release. Here you may need some help, but if you go online and read a few of them you may just be able to hack it yourself. Next, is the key part: distribution. One of the best options is PRweb.com which for well under $100 will distribute your press release around the country, regionally or locally (your choice) through Google News and Yahoo! News amongst others. Because so many sites syndicate Google and Yahoo! news you will find that coverage can be quite good. PRWeb.com will naturally also include your press release in their site and so you can use the unique address (URL) of your press release and forward it to local or regional media who may pick up the story.

The business world has recently been inundated with the buzz about Twitter, a web-based social networking application assisting those who wish to keep in touch with customers, clients and friends. Remarkably, it’s already allowed some entrepreneurs to double their clientele while efficiently enhancing their word of mouth marketing. The following will provide a thumb-nail sketch of the most important steps and tips for effectively using Twitter.

Getting Started
I highly suggest making your username, your business name. This will add a branding element in addition to Google ranking your Twitter account for your company searches, thus increases your prospects’ chances of finding you online. For your profile image, use a picture of yourself so that followers can associate your image with the company name. This is especially true if you as the owner are doing the tweeting. When designing your profile background, use one of the templates provided by sites like Twitterbacks or FreeTwitterDesign. Customize your account as much as possible by creating relevant a username, image and background to convey your brand.

Using Tweetdeck
After creating your account and customizing your profile, it’s vital to supplement your account with a management tool or application. Tweetdeck is probably the most used site for this which allows you to update and use Twitter more efficiently. Having thousands of followers necessitates the ability to filter the multitude of conversations. For example, it can allow you to just see a handful of your friends’ tweets even though you may be following 5,000 people. It also lets your search for a group of people based on keywords specific to a given business. The possibilities are virtually endless with this capability when you consider a local business seeking to track a certain town or zip code.

Personality
So many businesses fail because their customers do not know, like, and trust them. Today in 2009 it has never been easier for small business owners to integrate their personal touch with their product by using the internet and social media sites like Twitter. The less personable you seem, the less likely consumers will believe you. Consequently, you should also feel free to tweet non-business updates that allow your customers to acclimate themselves with your true character and interests.

Building Value
Don’t expect to have thousands of followers from week one. Rather, focus on building true customer loyalty and satisfaction by what they take away from your updates. Your goal is to garner a core group of fans who end up telling their friends about who you are and what you have to offer. One example of this is by you giving free advice, tutorials or samples to consumers that need your product or service. It strengthens your reputations and integrity if done with sincere honesty. In the long run these customers will remember you when their need arises, thus equating to more sales and greater revenue.

Summary
Twitter offers businesses a new way to connect with consumers and build customer loyalty. It’s important to take the right steps to make your profile and workflow receptive to new customers. Properly fill out your profile, use a Twitter application like Tweetdeck, and create a strategy for your business to make the best use of this new social platform.

eBay is the world’s largest online marketplace, with around 181 million customers. 43% of all internet users in the UK visit the site every month, with an average user spending almost two hours on eBay every single month.

It’s no wonder that a lot of small businesses look at eBay as a way of getting into online sales. It’s not all plain sailing though, and many businesses have found that it can be time consuming and unprofitable.

There are some pointers that can make trading on eBay profitable, interesting and fun. Have you noticed how some sellers can get significantly more bids and higher prices, whilst other sellers offer the same items at lower prices and get little or no interest?

It isn’t down to luck. But put in a effort and planning, and you too can become a successful and profitable eBay trader.

I’ve written this article with an English audience in mind. The legal implications of selling on eBay are from an English perspective. However, most of the concepts will be the same around the world.

Know the Law

If you sell products to consumers, you need to be aware of the Distance Selling Regulations and the E-Commerce Regulations which give protection to consumers who shop via the Internet.

These regulations provide protection to consumers in the following ways:

  1. Consumers have the right to receive information about goods and services, in writing, before deciding to buy;
  2. A cooling off period of seven working days in which the consumer can withdraw from the contract;
  3. Protection from credit card fraud.

Get using eBay

If you haven’t registered on eBay, get yourself a user name and start trading. Give yourself a sensible sounding user name that will add credibility to whatever it is you are going to be selling. Register yourself as a business user as this will give you easier access to more business functions within eBay later on, and register yourself as a Seller as well as a Buyer.

Browse some of the listings, notice how different people list their items. If you see a listing that you like – because of the description, the detail, the photographs, the layout – print a copy off. You may well want to do something similar yourself when it is time for listing your own items.

Get yourself a PayPal account and register yourself as a seller, so that you can receive payments.

Buy a few small items on eBay. Get comfortable with the process. Bid on items in auctions, and buy items using the ‘Buy It Now’ facility.

When you have received your goods, promptly leave good feedback for the seller. They should reciprocate and give you good feedback in return. The more positive feedback you get the better, as this will help your credibility when you start to sell yourself.

Sell a few bits and bobs on eBay as well. It’s a great time to clear the decks of jumble that you’ve picked up over the years.

Research Your Product, Research Your Market Place

Do you know what you want to sell? Who else is selling a similar product? What price are people paying for similar goods? Is your product easy to deliver?

If you have no idea of what products you want to sell, get a copy of The Trader and Exchange and Mart. It will provide you with a whole list of suppliers and could spawn off some other ideas of what you want to sell.

Consider your product. It isn’t always necessary to pick a product you know about, but there are a few things that you should consider.

Firstly, how are you going to get it to your customer? If it is a big, bulky package, or if it weighs more than 25kg, it is going to cost a lot to get it delivered. It is also going to be difficult to collect it from a customer if there is a fault with the product. Is the package fragile? If so, expect problems with deliveries – no matter how well you think you can package it up.

If your item is too big or bulky to post, phone up a couple of parcel carriers to get some quotes. Use a reputable parcel carrier like ByBox, Initial City Link or Amtrak. If your item isn’t so fragile, consider carriers such as DHL and ParcelForce.

Consider how you will resolve warranty problems. Do you have a supplier who has the facilities and resources to help you, or are you on your own?

The next step is to research your market and find out who is selling something similar on eBay. This is fairly easy as eBay itself provides some useful tools to help you get going, with the Advanced Search function.

Once you click on the Advanced Search function, you can start specifying what you are looking for in much more detail. You can exclude words from your search, you can specify a minimum and a maximum price, you can specify business or private sellers, whether the items should be new or used, and you can specify a range of how many bids the item should have in order to be included in the search.

More interestingly, from a viewpoint of someone wanting to research a specific product on eBay, you can specify Completed Listings only. This means you can see how many similar products to yours have been offered on eBay over the past month, what they sold for, if they sold and the number of people who bid on them.

I recently wanted to sell a car on eBay, and wanted to see what similar cars had sold for over the past few weeks. Using the eBay Advanced Search option, I requested a search for cars similar to mine, within a similar price range.

Very quickly, I was able to ascertain what other cars had been offered, how many bids each auction got and whether the cars sold or not.

It’s a great tool – you can identify if your particular marketplace is saturated or if you are one of only a few sellers.

Now look at these auctions in more detail to find out clues as to why some sold for more than others. You’ll soon notice a pattern:

  1. Lots of photographs and well written information with prominent contact details do well, with lots of interest, lots of bids and a good sale price.
  2. Listings lacking one or more of the above attract less interest.
  3. Animated cartoons, musical effects, difficult to read fonts, or a poor description in two or three lines and typed ENTIRELY IN CAPITAL LETTERS do worst of all.

This is a big eBay secret: spend time on your listing, make yourself look professional. You’ll reap the rewards.

If you now know your product, your market and your competition, you’re a big step along the way. But can you make money? It’s time to…

Forecast!

Forecast your sales to ensure you can make a profit. Take into account:

– Delivery Costs – to the customer, and to you in the first place

– Warranty Failure Costs

– The time it takes to manage the sale and after sale

Then you can identify your break even price. Compare this with the average price of bids on eBay for the products you are planning to sell and see what the difference is.

Test, Test, Test

Before you buy a huge bulk of product, try and test the market with a small sample. This may mean you having to buy your product at a higher price, but it’s an awful lot cheaper than importing containers of product in from China – only to find you can’t sell it!

Get some really good quality photographs and then put your small sample of products on eBay.

How to make the most of your eBay listing

We’ve already discovered a few things about what makes a good listing and what makes a bad one. Now it’s your turn to create your own sales pitch.

Start with an attention grabbing headline and subtitle. In eBay, headlines and subtitles are important. When you search for items on eBay, eBay searches the headlines and subtitles for matching words and phrases, so you need to make sure that all the relevant search words are included.

Here are some examples of good and bad headlines:

Good: Compact, lightweight folding bike/bicycle

Bad: Folding Bike

‘Folding Bike’ is bad because it doesn’t pick up on anyone looking for ‘folding bicycle’. If people are looking for a folding bike, they also want something that is compact and lightweight, so if your folding bike is compact and lightweight, put this in the headline as well, so that you get picked up on people looking for ‘compact bike’, ‘lightweight folding bicycle’ and so on.

Good: Smoothie/Smoothy Maker and Juicer with Recipes
Bad: Smoothie Maker

‘Smoothie Maker’ doesn’t say very much – there is nothing to differentiate your product from hundreds of others. But smoothies can make juice, so add that in. The handbook from a smoothie maker includes recipes, so add that too. And as for the the alternative spelling of smoothie? ‘Smoothie’ is an easy word to mis-spell, so if you include the most likely alternative, you’ll get picked up if someone searches for ‘Smoothy Maker’. None of your competitors will, dramatically increasing your chances of a sale.

Once you’ve worked out a headline, write your description. Don’t start writing it on the eBay web site – use Word to start with – then cut and paste your description onto eBay.

There are some ‘magic words’ which work well on eBay. If yo

eCollaboration is not a common term, it’s part of a family of terms under ebusiness which is using information and communication technology to utilise the internet to save money and grow your business. eCollaboration is the part that deals with the communications and working together in business. This can be either through working with customers/suppliers or working with team members.

It’s enormously important for several reasons, the first is cost, and using these technologies effectively can help you save money. Secondly, it can improve your image; these technologies allow you to do many of the things which larger companies do and take for granted every day. It also helps you grow your business because it can help you work effectively with other companies and other groups of people to win business and deliver that business once you’ve won it.

There is a wide range of technology which falls into this category, there’s communication technology i.e. voice over IP, instant messaging and conferencing. There are sharing tools like email which we all use every day. There are also other forms of sharing tools, things that help you synchronise one PC to another which enables us to all have access to the same files and there are other tools which help us share calendars etc. Then there is real time collaborations which enable people to work together when not in the same location i.e. web conferencing and video conferencing.

If you only have a small business you may be worried about the cost and time factor, because a lot of the solutions are now web service based, you’re effectively renting these powerful applications through the internet. Being web based means that you don’t need to buy the software and the hardware and have it physically sat in the corner of the office. Because it’s all on demand now, you have access just as and when you need it, starting it at the beginning of a project and stopping it at the end of it. This can be especially beneficial to a small business because of the flexibility it offers as many smaller businesses may not be sure what direction they’ll be going in over the next few years. A lot of eCollaboration technology will be free.

We’ve all heard the phrase you don’t get something for nothing, so you’re probably a little hesitant about all these ‘free’ services you can find online. Don’t worry though, In general most of them will be safe, but most of them will be teasers so only available at a limited functionality or for a limited amount of people or a limited amount of time. The idea of these is to get you to sign up to the full package. It is for this reason they are unlikely to be malicious. If you’re unsure about a product, or about its name, its best to check it out first. There are a few ways to go about this, there are several expert organisation which specialise in helping in these situations or you could see if it has an online review, a simple search of the product name should be sufficient and, if nothing else, provide you with a forum where someone else is already talking about the product. If any have a questionable reputation it is likely someone would have posted something online.

At the end of the day it’s your call, a lot of this may seem scary and new. We fear what we don’t understand but taking the time to understand eCollaboration can help your business. Remember you’re not alone, whatever questions or concerns you have, and the chances are many other people will have them too. The internet is a wonderful tool, try typing in some of your questions into a search engine and you’ll find dozens of articles, forums and chat rooms with people that can help you. Alternatively, there are several organisations out there which are designed to help small businesses; the most obvious would be Business Link which set up by the Government with the sole purpose of helping small businesses. Alternatively try the National B2B centre which is another free service, they are publicly funded so all their advice is completely free and impartial. This technology is designed to help and grow your businesses and if used correctly it can save you time and money.