Monday AM July 28th, 2008

Small businesses look at less expensive ways to market products and services…Households facing foreclosure more than doubles in second quarter compared to year ago…IPOs for first half of year at four-year low…

Economic uncertainties and higher energy costs have small businesses re-evaluating their methods. SmartleadsUSA founder Brad Kent recommends avoiding marketing outside your local trading area, for a start.

image of speaker, click here for audio “For most businesses, if you drive down the street and you see a dry cleaner or a restaurant, an air conditioning contractor, a roofer—most of their business really takes place within five to seven miles of where they’re located. With the price of gasoline these days, people don’t want to drive 15 or 20 miles to go out and eat dinner. They certainly don’t want to drive further than they have to get the local services that are required from the area businesses. And by bringing them back to the old-fashioned ways of marketing–by concentrating on their back yard with specific detail–is really what’s separating the positive marketing standpoints from the negative right now.”

Kent says small businesses should avoid the allure of mass media.

image of speaker, click here for audio“And we talk about mass media—primarily television—the problem with it is, is that if shoots way over the head of the average consumer. It becomes wallpaper. You know, with things like Tivo and all the rest of the bells and whistles, I got to tell you that’s when I’m either presetting—coming home and watching and skipping through the commercials—or that’s when I’m getting up and making a sandwich. When you go out five to seven miles, there’s not too much mass media that’s going to just focus on that area. So what you’re really ending up paying for is a much greater area. For the small guy, I say concentrate on what big companies did before they got big.”

Kent says there are other ways to get the word out–locally—about your product or service.

image of speaker, click here for audio “Have you ever noticed, Ed that when you get a house painted, the first thing a painter does is stake a sign in the front yard and says ‘this house is being painted by me.’ And that has so much more impact than going in a community newspaper, because a community newspaper, I can’t custom-tailor that message.” Ed: “What about some of the community involvement concepts, you know, having your name on the back of the Little League baseball team, or…” “That’s what we call ‘feed-on-the-street’ marketing, and I think idea. You know, a lot of the times you’ll see a heating or air conditioning contractor or a plumber that’s sponsored the local baseball team or local football team, and I say you know you don’t have to have a swollen advertising budget. You’ve literally got hundreds of air conditioning contractors around the country that do something called ‘radius marketing.’ If I just replaced Ed’s air conditioning unit, within a 50 household radius of your home, based on the fact that your house was built at the same time as the rest in your neighborhood, there’s probably a neighbor around you that’s having similar problems. We automatically mail the 50 closest neighbors around that house announcing that we just replaced Ed’s air conditioner and that there’s another special deal available for a neighbor nearby.”

SmartleadsUSA is a Florida-based direct mail technology company.

The Houston Independent School District is hosting a school nurse job fair this afternoon at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center on West 18th Street. The positions are for vacancies for the upcoming school year.

The number of households facing the foreclosure process more than doubled in the second quarter compared to a year ago. RealtyTrac says more than 739,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice during the quarter. That’s one in every 171 U.S. households. Foreclosure filings increased year-over-year in all but two States–North Dakota and Alaska. Nevada, California, Arizona and Florida continued to see the highest foreclosure rates. One in every 43 Nevada households received a filing during the quarter. Cities in California and Florida accounted for 16 of the worst 20 metro foreclosure rates. Stockton, California, had the worst rate, with one in every 25 homes in the town receiving a foreclosure filing. That’s nearly seven times the national average.

The State Department’s inspector general is investigating Iraqi oil contracts. Four Democratic Senators complained that department employees may have encouraged lucrative oil deals between Iraq and several western companies. Any backstage meddling would have violated Bush administration policy, which has been to discourage such deals until Baghdad passes a law that will fairly divide the nation’s oil resources among the various provinces. A Congressional official on Thursday confirmed the probe, speaking on condition of anonymity. It comes about a week after four Democratic Senators called on Harold Geisel, the State Department’s acting inspector general, to investigate the matter. According to a recent investigation by the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, in some cases, State Department and other administration officials encouraged an exploration deal between Texas-based Hunt Oil and Iraq’s Kurdish government.

General Motors says it is extending its employee discount program to a wider group of non-employees as the Detroit automaker deals with a tough sales environment. A GM spokeswoman says the company will allow employees to offer the discount to their friends and extended family through July 31st. She says employee discounts were previously limited to employees and their immediate family. GM, hurt by a weak economy and high gas prices, lost the global sales lead to Toyota in the first half of this year.

PricewaterhouseCoopers says the number of initial public offerings for the first half of the year was at a four-year low because of turbulent market conditions. The number of public offerings in the first half was 42, compared to the 147 IPOs during the same time period last year. Turbulence in the credit markets, coupled with volatility in the stock market, has stood in the way of new offerings. Stocks have plunged this year as financial companies began to take massive financial hits stemming from securities tied to subprime mortgages. The ongoing credit and mortgage crisis has caused many investors to move their investments into cash, and that has stopped many companies from pursuing a public listing.

European Union antitrust regulators have approved Hewlett-Packard’s proposed $13.2 billion purchase of technology services provider Electronic Data Systems. The European commission’s decision says the deal between the two U.S. companies would not hinder competition on the EU market. It said EDS and hp did not compete heavily against each other in the information technology markets they do business in. Hewlett-Packard, based in Palo Alto, California, announced in May it had agreed to buy EDS, based in Plano. HP, maker of personal computers and printers, prizes EDS because it wants to become a much bigger player in technology services.

Standard & Poors has downgraded the debt of some of the nation’s largest air carriers. The debt rating service says Fort Worth-based American Airlines is among the carriers likely to face heavy losses this year because of high fuel prices. United and Northwest Airlines also are in for continuing difficulties. S&P airline analyst Philip Baggaley says airlines are at a greater risk of liquidation. But he also says the airlines in question are large and viable. Airlines have been reducing capacity and raising prices to pay for more expensive fuel, which is now the single largest expense at most carriers. Baggaley points out, however, that they’re in their best cash-generating months right now with the busy summer travel season.

An easing of government rules on the amount of paperwork the food industry has to keep appears to be hampering a federal probe into what caused the recent salmonella outbreak. The industry had successfully lobbied the Bush administration to limit the paperwork. The White House also killed a plan to require the industry to maintain electronic tracking records that could be easily reviewed to search for the source of an outbreak. Companies had complained the proposals were too burdensome and costly. But the changes have slowed the salmonella probe. The outbreak has sickened nearly 1,300 people in the U.S. and Canada. The financial impact is estimated at around a-quarter of a billion dollars in losses. The industry now says it will agree to a better food tracking system, as long as the industry can help design it.

Media owner Belo Corporation says its second-quarter earnings fell 28 percent. The Dallas-based company owns 20 TV stations in 15 markets. Belo cited weak advertising market–especially in auto ads. Belo earned $26.4 million, compared with net income of $36.4 million in the same period a year earlier. Revenue was $189 million, down nearly five percent. The results topped the expectations of analysts polled by Thomson Financial. Belo chief executive Dunia Shive says the company will focus on cutting costs in the current downturn.

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