A weekly look at the latest products and services designed to help you run a better business.
Everyone likes presents on their birthday -- including your customers. Creating a "birthday club" could ensure that you have many happy returning customers.
Birthday Connections, a new service launched by Moving Targets, a Perkasie, Pa.-based direct-mail marketing company, allows small-business owners to create and send birthday offers based on specific demographics and geographic areas.
Such birthday programs are ideal for restaurants, nail salons, and other types of retail businesses that have limited ad budgets and not enough time or expertise for new marketing campaigns. Birthday Connections works with business owners to define a range of people they want to reach. Using Moving Target's database technology, Birthday Connections can compile a mailing list for customers in a certain ZIP code, age range, gender, or even income bracket.
Business owners then create the terms of their offer -- whether it be a free dessert or a 25 percent discount during the month of the customer's birthday -- and then choose the format for delivery, either a birthday card or a letter. Companies can also choose to use a pre-designed card or have Birthday Connections create a custom one for them with their company logo.
Birthday Connections then mails the offers around the month of each resident's birthday. Based on market testing results, Birthday Connections will help business owners create the best offer for their company.
Birthday Connections also provides business owners with flexible terms of service. There is no contract and no set-up fees, so the service can be cancelled at any time, and there is not a minimum for the amount of mailings ordered. According to Jay Siff, CEO of Birthday Connections, the service particularly appeals to business owners because they choose the criteria for their offer and they set their own budget.
"It also gives small business owners a way to compete with a big corporate entity on a local basis by doing things focused right in their backyard," Siff said. The service costs $1.73 for each birthday card ordered, and $1.51 for a birthday letter. For more information, visit www.birthdayconnections.com.
Need to brush up on your Microsoft Office skills? In Pictures, a host for online tutoring materials, this week released five new tutorials for Microsoft Office 2007 programs on its website, www.inpics.net. Visitors to the site can learn about the new features and capabilities of Microsoft Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Publisher free of charge.
InPics, which operates by a sponsorship from Visilearn, a Frederick, Md.-based provider of computer-learning materials, offers visitors step-by-step instructions accompanied by screen shots. Users do not have to download any additional software to follow the tutorial.
InPics tutorials also have a task list feature designed for frequent users of a program who don't need an entire tutorial, but may need a reminder about how to perform a certain task. Besides Microsoft Office, InPics has tutorials for other software programs such as Adobe's Dreamweaver and Photoshop. Users can also sign up for e-mail notifications when new tutorials become available on the site.
Comerica Expands Small-Business Network
Comerica Bank this week announced that it is expanding its small-business banking network to accommodate the growing number of small businesses on the West Coast. The bank has opened new offices in three California counties -- San Mateo, West Los Angeles, and the San Fernando Valley -- and plans to open eight new banking centers in California as well as three in Arizona by the end of 2007.
In order to cater more to small-business customers, Comerica has also hired bankers to specialize in financial services for small businesses, company officials said. Additionally, new services have been added to Comerica's Small Business Administration Lending Division.
"Small businesses are a leading source for job growth, and our new small-business offices are centrally located to better service the needs of growing small businesses in California's metropolitan markets," Peggy Bradshaw, Comerica's national director of Small Business Banking, said in a statement.
According to company officials, the new banking centers in California will offer free business checking accounts as well as free checking for employees who work at companies with on-the-job banking. For more information, visit www.comerica.com.