They say the customer is always right. But you need to know what he or she is thinking. ListenUp! Survey, a new online survey tool from Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact, is designed to help small-business owners understand their customer's needs, generate new ideas, and grow their business.

With Listen Up!Survey, business owners do not need to have any technical or market-research skills to create a professional online survey. Constant Contact provides more than 40 survey templates to choose from in five different categories -- customer satisfaction, market research, testing new products and services, nonprofit, and website feedback. Users can also edit any pre-written question, or add their own questions. The final product is presented with a point-and-click interface so that customers can easily check off their answers with the click of their mouse.

ListenUp! Survey provides business owners with an organized report of the survey answers. Users can see data displayed in a graphics format, track overall or individual results, and compile segment data from a specific question. Constant Contact also helps business owners create an email invitation, which invites contacts to take their survey.

"ListenUp! Survey's rich functionality, simplicity, and affordability provide small businesses and organizations with another powerful marketing tool that can make an immediate impact on their business," Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact, said in a statement.

A free 60-day trial of ListenUp! Survey is now available at

Your Own Cyber Tour Guide

When it comes to your company's website, a lasting impression can make all the difference. NetGreeters, a new service launched by Straight Edge Marketing, simulates a "live" person who will greet visitors and help them navigate different areas of the site.

When potential customers or clients go to your website, an image of a person pops up on the screen. This "NetGreeter" creates the experience of having a human tour guide or live customer service representative who speaks to visitors. Companies can decide the kind of personal presentation they want to give, which is then recorded by Straight Edge. NetGreeters can talk about your company's background, or highlight certain aspects of your website. The "live" host will also guide visitors through all the features on the site and will verbally share the information on the page.

The product also gives visitors complete control over how they browse the site. At any time, they can close the image of the NetGreeter, or keep the image there as they access the features they want. "NetGreeters will set companies head and shoulders above the competition by adding a personal, human touch that's missing from websites today," Joe Crawford, CEO and founder of Straight Edge Marketing, a Smyrna, Tenn.-based firm, said in a statement. "Competition has gotten fierce on the Internet, so NetGreeters will bring something brand-new to websites."

For more information, visit

From the Battlefield to the Boardroom

The Small Business Administration this week unveiled a new loan initiative designed to provide veterans, active duty personnel, Reservists and National Guard members and their families access to low-interest loans of up to $500,000 for their own business ventures.

The Patriot Express loan program will offer both the expedited process of an SBA Express loan with the lower maximum interest rates of the agency's regular 7(a) loans, SBA administrator Steven Preston said at the program's official launch in Washington on Wednesday.

Under the program, qualified applicants could be approved in a single day. The loans can then be used for any business expense, including expansions, start-up funding, equipment purchases, working capital, or business-related real-estate purchases.

"This initiative is going to impact a huge section of the American population -- veterans, citizen-soldiers of the Reserve and National Guard, and also their families," Preston said.

The agency will begin accepting applications for the program on June 28.

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