Here at the Hill Library we hope to contribute to the success of small businesses by helping them to make well-informed decisions. This blog supports that mission by providing access to business research reports, tools, and tactics – and by highlighting ways to use Hill Library sites like HillSearch, BizToolkit, and the Biz Info Library.

In our ideal world, we’d be blogging to all 26 million businesses in the U.S. about how they can make better decisions with just a little research. Sadly, we currently have readership numbers somewhere, um, below that mark.

Maybe your business has experienced a similar conundrum. You’ve got a great product or service, but not a lot of people know about it. Maybe you’ve also heard that starting a blog is a good way to tell the world about what you do.

If you’ve heard that, and have started a blog or are thinking about starting a blog, maybe we can help. Over the next weeks and months we’ll be putting together a plan to increase the readership of the Hill Library Blog. We’ll tell you about our plan, and tell you what works and what fails miserably. You can use this information to make decisions about building your own blog, or if you’ve got a popular blog already maybe you can offer some advice to the rest of us.
We’ll learn as we go – and we’ll tell you about it. Hopefully this process will help a small business or two make a better business decision, which is what the Hill Library is all about.
So stay tuned (look for blog posts labeled “Blog Building”) – and thanks so much to our pioneer readers!

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Hot Off the Presses, and Into Our Library

Industry trade journals! The mother’s milk of staying current with trends and statistics and competitors, and a true strength of the Hill Library’s business collection. We subscribe to over 700 of these publications in print, and because of how frequently they are published, and how tightly they can focus on a specific industry or niche or segment, we’re always keeping an eye out for more intriguing titles that can help entrepreneurs find the information they need.

Every once in a while, we like to update our blog-reading public on the titles we’ve recently acquired, and I’d like to take the opportunity to do that again now. Here are the names of some trade magazines we’ve added to our august collection in the first quarter of 2008:

·          Biomass Magazine.
·          Economic Letter : Insights from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
·          Gift Shop.
·          Pulse : the Official Magazine of the International SPA Association.
·          Cheklist : the International Magazine for Check Cashers.
·          National Defense.
·          Today’s Garden Center.
·          BioCycle.
·          Confection & Snack Retailing.
·          Fresh Americas.
·          Medical Tourism.
·          The LOHAS journal [Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability Journal]
·          Food & Beverage Packaging.

While most trade journals maintain some presence on the Internet, rarely do they make the full text of all articles from past issues available online for free, or make them easily searchable. So sometimes the print versions of these publications can be the only way to track down that article or study or survey that will help your business succeed. If you’re in the Saint Paul area, come by and pay us a visit to see these journals; otherwise, check with a library in your area to see about accessing some of these titles.

As an added bonus, to make your searching even easier: references to any outstanding articles published in the above journals — state-of-the-industry reports, top companies lists, forecasts, buyer’s guides, salary surveys, etc. — will now be included in the Hill Library Special Issues Index.

And by-the-by: in addition to the trade journals we’ve added in the last three months, we’ve also behaved the way a library sometimes behaves and, you know, bought some new books. Stay tuned for an update on our new book acquisitions soon.

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Business Web Site of the Week – Industries at a Glance

Keeping up on your industry is important at any stage of business. The Census Bureau provides excellent coverage of most industries, but another government source, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, can be of use as well.

The BLS Industries at a Glance tool provides current statistics on dozens of industries. Organized by broad industry heading (and NAICS code), the site reports on each industry’s workforce, employment projections, industry price indexes, and productivity.

Use this tool to get a feel for how an industry is currently operating and where the BLS thinks that industry will be in the years to come.

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Hill Library Trends Newsletter – March 2008

This is the first in a new series we’re now offering online: The Hill Library Trends Newsletter. This free monthly newsletter covers the latest happenings in the library, business, and technology industries. Geared to the industry professional, the newsletter pulls interesting nuggets from blogs and other online sources. Use it to keep up-to-date on what’s going on in the research, business, and technology fields, without sinking your limited time into the process.

In this month’s issue, covering March 2008, copyright is declared dead, librarians are
scientifically compared to opium addicts, and it is announced that the Internet will end at 3:14am on January 19, 2038. Seriously.

If you like this newsletter, sign up to receive monthly notices about it via RSS. Or, get RSS updates about all of our blog posts – you’ll be glad you did!

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Emerging Minorities and Technology

Felipe Korzenny is a giant in multicultural marketing, and a good friend of the Hill Library. His research team at Florida State University recently came out with an in-depth report (Multicultural Marketing Equation: Online Technology Ownership) on how five different cultural groups use technology and technology devices. Some findings from the report:

  • Emerging minorities are innovative with technology use and highly willing to branch out into using new technologies.
  • English-speaking Hispanics are the group most likely to have a blog. Almost 20% currently have a blog and an additional 10% plan to have one within the year.
  • Hispanic Spanish-speakers have Web sites (35% of respondents) and create podcasts (15% of respondents) more than any other group. The study draws a connection between these technologies and a culture that places a high value on connectedness.
  • Non-Hispanic Whites lag behind in numerous areas, including having or planning to have a personal blog or Web site, and ownership of cell phones, MP3 players, and DVD burners.

As Dr. Korzenny concludes:

“Marketers should take notice of the tremendous swell of ownership in the ranks of emerging minorities. It is clear that as levels of acculturation and income increase among emerging minority groups, they stand out as current and potential leading edge technology purchasers. However, there are cultural differences among each of these minority groups that merit close attention. Marketers need to understand these differences as they relate to new technologies, select groups which have the highest interest in the various innovations, and create campaigns which are culturally appropriate.”

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How Apple can help your business expand

Talk about researching your customers! A recent survey of iPhone users delves deep into the demographic and technologic characteristics of this group of consumers. If you’re researching mobile communications, use this report to learn more about how people use the iPhone, the “most publicized new mobile device in recent memory.”

  • Find out why people use the iPhone (reading, but not writing, email is #1)
  • Find out who owns an iPhone (over half of users are under 30)
  • Find difficulties owners face (displaying Web pages is #1 drawback)

In addition to offering statistics like these, the report highlights several areas of success that can be directly applied to your small business strategy in general.

First, partner up. AT&T (the iPhone’s exclusive carrier) has garnered a huge windfall, estimated at $2 billion in revenue per year, directly related to the iPhone’s success. Can you offer your services to, or through, an industry partner? Are there organizations out there whose customers would benefit from your services? Contact them.

Second, use adjacent markets. More than half of people who own iPhones also own iPods, and another 25% use Mac computers. If you develop a new product or service, the first group of people you should target is your existing customers.

Things are looking up for Apple. A recent survey finds that 40% of college students plan to buy a Mac. Undoubtedly this will translate into increased sales of iPods, iPhones, and whatever other products the company comes up with, as well as increased revenue for Apple’s partners. Following Apple’s lead might not be a bad idea for the direction of your business.
(Source: Read Write Web)

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Business Web Site of the Week – Business Filings Databases

Researching private companies is hard. They don’t have to disclose anything to anyone, except their Secretary of State and the IRS. While the IRS is pretty tight-lipped, the SoS Offices can be a good source for basic private company info.

This Business Filings site, maintained by the online legal research firm LLRX, provides links and commentary to every Secretary of State Office in the U.S. If you’re researching a private company and know which state it operates in, use this site to learn more about what can be found online and then jump directly to the proper SoS database to find it.

Not every SoS Web site is created equal, so the amount of data available for free online will vary, but when the alternative is “no information” you can’t really argue with “a little bit of information.”

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Five questions with Rohit Bhargava on his book "Personality Not Included"

Your best friend’s personality is central to how much you like them, how much you look forward to interacting with them, and how you relate to them. We can all agree with that. But cultivating a positive business personality can make your company more attractive, more likeable, and more relatable to your customers, too. According to Rohit Bhargava’s new book “Personality Not Included,”

“Personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for, and the story that your products tell to your customers. Every element of your business, from your interactions with your customers to the packaging of your product is an element of your brand personality, and these are the elements that inspire delight or indifference among your customers.”

Mr. Bhargava is the head of the interactive marketing department at Ogilvy Public Relations, a frequent industry speaker, and excellent blogger (Influential Marketing Blog). In support of his book release, Mr. Bhargava put out an open invitation to anyone in the blogosphere to ask him five questions about business personality. Here is our interview:

Can you define business personality?I defined business personality in the book as “the unique, authentic and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about.”
Could you offer suggestions of something unusual that a small businessperson could do on their Web site to assert their business personality?
Definitely. One big thing is language.  Let’s face it, the writing on most small business sites (and large business sites too) just plain sucks.  It’s total marketingspeak and does little to demonstrate what a brand stands for or even describe it well.  A small business website with a good description of what they do with personality would stand out. 

What are the two most relevant 2.0 technologies small businesses can use to grow their business or define their personality online?
The first is video.  It might not fit your 2.0 technology standard, but I figured I would mention it anyway as relatively few small business sites are using it, but there really is nothing like using video to bring your brand to life in moving pictures, so to speak. The second relevant web2.0 technology is tagging.  Using the right tagging for content (and submitting it to the right sites too) can help a small business to also stand out and also improve their google ranking at the same time.

How much time should a (time-strapped) small businessperson spend on online marketing activities per week?This is a tough one to answer because it really depends on your business. If you are running a roofing business, the majority of your work might come through word of mouth referrals and you may be better off creating a really great brochure or calling card that people can give to one another.  Of course, you could do this online too, but it really depends on your audience and business.  In this day and age, though, I don’t think any small business can afford to ignore the Internet as a channel – so I would say no less than an hour a week.
What is the most important thing to know about your new book?
That it’s worth buying!  No, seriously, the most important thing is that it is a very unique book in its approach because my main intention in writing it was for it to be USEFUL.  To do that, I have lots of stories, I share lots of lists and I have a two part structure where the first part is the theory and the second part is all action guides to help you put the ideas of the book into action.  Hopefully it delivers on the charge to be useful, but you’ll have to let me know that!

You can find a listing of all the other interview questions and answers on Mr. Bhargava’s blog, along with a free copy of the introduction to “Personality Not Included.” Thanks for your time and thoughtful answers, Rohit! 

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How do your customers use the Internet?

Forrester research, provider of ungodly-expensive market research reports, recently unveiled a free social technology profile tool. If you know the age, location, and sex of your target customer, you can use this tool to figure out how that customer probably uses social technologies. Profiles are broken down into the following six headings:

  • Creators – Write blogs or publish video or music online
  • Critics – Post reviews or comments on blogs and edit wikis
  • Collectors – Use RSS feeds and tag online content
  • Joiners – Get involved in social network sites like MySpace or Facebook
  • Spectators – Read blogs or listen to podcasts
  • Inactives – Hate and fear the “Interweb”

If you can figure out how your best customers use the Internet, it’s a short step to figuring out how to better serve those existing customers, or how to best reach out to new ones.

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Business Web Site of the Week – YPulse

A well-planned strategy to reach out to one of the most dynamic groups of consumers, teens and young adults, can be most lucrative if done correctly. YPulse can help you learn more about young people – so when you reach you don’t reach blindly. 

YPulse offers daily news, links, and commentary about Generation Y and is geared to marketing professionals. The site offers insight into youth interest areas and consumer preferences, and explores how today’s youth interact with different types of media.

Scan through recent blog entries, search entries by topic using the headings in the left column, or check out the excellent Directory page for links to Gen-Y media and marketing sites across the Internet. And go forth into youth marketing with eyes wide open.

(Source: NY SBDC Research Network)

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Patrons with accessibility needs please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit.