Archive for January, 2012
This is a guest post by Mariana Ashley
Tax Act, H&R Block and Turbo Tax have been heavily promoting their services for the past month. This can only mean one thing— tax filing season is here. While some may have spent a lot of capital getting their start-ups off the ground, entrepreneurs and small business owners alike may just be able to write-off most of their business-related expenses by claiming an array of deductions this tax season. To learn some deductions you are most likely eligible to place on your tax return, continue reading below.
1. At Home Business. If you run your business through your home, you may very well qualify for a Home Office Deduction. This is usually the easiest one to qualify for, but all too often people forget that it even exists. There are two different ways that one can qualify. The first is assigning at least one room within your house (for example a spare bedroom or den) as your principle place of work, meaning you do all of your business there. This also means that your designated room can’t have multiple-uses: i.e. family game room or act as guest bedroom. This is called the “regular and exclusive use.” Then there’s the “principal place of business” deduction. This allows small business owners who own multiple offices to claim a deduction only if the company’s “headquarters” reside within the individual’s home. This can sometimes be a difficult deduction to claim as strict documentation, receipts and ledgers are generally required to show proof that the business’ main transactions occur within the home.
*The key to the Home Office deduction is that you have to actually live in the home. Do not try and abuse the system. Because if something does not calculate right, you will be subject to an audit and you can get heavily penalized if things don’t check out right. Not sure what we’re talking about? Instead of buying a price office space at a corporate building, some small business owners buy extremely cheap homes and condos and make it “seem” as if they live there by adding furniture and food in the fridge just so that they get to claim deductible. Risky move.
2. Travel and Entertainment Costs. If you’ve spent quite a bit of your expenses burning gas to go meet clients across town, jetsetting to meet suppliers in another city, or you’ve emptied your pocketbook trying to wine and dine investors, you should be able to get some of your money back by claiming an Auto, Travel or Entertainment deductible respectively. As long as you can prove that “matters of business” was discussed before or after the meal for example you should be able to earn this deductible without complications. How to show proof? Most keep their receipts, date it, and write a short note about what was discussed that day and with whom.
3. Advertising Costs. The money you spent printing out fliers, making business cards, sponsoring your local sporting team and putting ads in the newspaper can also be claimed as a deductible as long as the ads are directly linked to your business.
4. Office Supplies Cost. We’re not necessarily talking about legal notepads and pens and pencils, but if you had to purchase some “bigger” office supplies to improve the functionality and performance of your business—perhaps a computer, video recorder or a digital camera for example—you may be eligible to get a deductible on these items as well. As long as the piece of equipment is utilized 50% of the time to conduct actual work and you have the proper receipts, you should be able to qualify.
Of course these aren’t the only deductibles that you may be entitled to. Make sure to do additional research so that you can be better prepared to file your taxes and get the breaks you’ve earned.
Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.
Constructing a digital media campaign that sells and grabs attention by no means classifies as an easy task. Creativity, out of the box thinking and a need to stand out must drive your digital media campaign to grab eyeballs and win hearts all at the same time. Here are the 5 C’s that will help you build a successful digital campaign….
Content is King
“Content is King” said Yaro Starak and as an avid blogger, educationist, writer and information marketer I couldn’t agree more. In fact as a teacher of marketing something I truly believe is that the core of your offering be it a product or service should be good, the rest…brand building, brand loyalty, burgeoning sales all follow in good time.
To put the need for compelling content in digital media campaigns in proper perspective, a recent global study, the TNS Digital Life 2012 Report has revealed that 50 per cent of digital campaigns fall on deaf ears resulting in tremendous waste of the marketing budget.
So if you thought regular updates, posts, promotional offers and trivia were what you needed to capture, engage and retain consumer interest then you couldn’t be more wrong. Customers want to engage in digital campaigns that capture their imagination, strike a chord and have the ability to make people sit up and take notice.
The recent viral marketing success of the Indian song “Kolaveri di” is an example of truly riveting content which drew the attention of people across the globe. The Tanglish (Tamil-English) song became an instant hit and today has versions in every Indian language as well as several foreign languages.
Conventional is Passé
Conventional is boring, predictable and passé. This is primarily because trending on the digital medium is real. It can be tracked; monitored, measured and assessed which is why unconventionality can make a brand can stand out. If you simply follow trend chances are a brand could get lost in the trend.
If you want to advertise then picking a model who looks like the flavor of the season on the ramp this year is making a conventional choice. However, picking real women even users of your products or services is an unconventional choice that you can make and give a real and human face to your brand and digital media campaign.
Coverage is the Key That too 360 Degree
The digital space today is vibrant and burgeoning with multiple platforms like messaging, gaming, publishing, search engines, content streaming, peer-to-peer sharing, web-based e-commerce enterprises, and personal web pages. In crafting a digital media campaign you need to realize that success cannot be built on only one platform, you need to use multiple platforms for 360 degree coverage, widen the net to get a bigger catch in terms of audience.
Consumption That’s Quick and Easy Will Get You There
Connect with people in the fastest and quickest way possible. Take the Smartphone route.
Mobile phones today are the fastest and quickest way for people to access and consume information. Digital media campaigns that focus on speed and efficiency will improve the affordability and accessibility of media and capture the interest of more and more people with ease.
Make consumption quick and easy to grab that space in the customer’s head!
Campaigns that connect with people have an edge, this is the biggest lesson I’ve learnt from one of my favorite advertising campaigns (which is not a digital campaign though), the Amul butter campaign. A topical copy which mirrors important events in India it has managed to hold the interest of audiences simply because it “connects” people with the socio-economic happenings in India.
Encourage people to socialize, communicate and share their brand preferences, thoughts and complaints to “connect” with them and watch your brand grow.
Building a campaign that becomes an online rage is every marketers dream. I hope these tips will help you create a winning digital media campaign.
Branding is applied psychology and in this lays its allure and impact. I have written extensively about branding and brand building and I believe there is a key to succeeding at branding as a function of marketing. That key is creativity!
Well creative and innovative branding is something that definitely stands out in a milieu of products and services clamoring for customer attention. Here are my top 8 creative brand building strategies for small business owners in 2012….
Give Your Brand a Human Face
Who are the people behind your brand? Give your brand a human face by highlighting them to grab eyeballs and laugh all the way to the bank. If you find this a little hard to believe then stop and think about the most prominent and successful advertising campaigns we have seen.
People…be they celebrities or real customers who feature in advertisements and promotional endeavors are really what make a successful sales appeal. But as times change and celebs become over exposed in brand building endeavors I would say give your brand a human face.
I suggested this to a friend who runs a social venture whose flagship product is single flora gourmet honey produced by small farmers across India. I feel her struggle to build a brand might not remain a struggle if the labels on her honey bottles have even a picture, name and one line about how producing this bottle of honey has empowered the farmer and his family.
Everyone Loves a Story
The allure of storytelling has long held audiences across the globe captive. Story telling is a great way of educating people and getting messages across so why not use it in brand building?
A workable solution for all small businesses even if they don’t have a huge advertising budget is using puppets to tell the story of their brand. Another way could be using You Tube to feature videos that tell little stories about your brand.
Story telling sessions by book shops and libraries have been around for a long time but there’s no reason why a short story cannot help you build a brand!
Build a Brand with a Heart
Support a cause because now and in times to come every business will have to give back to society. In fact most economic problems we are facing today are born out of our unwillingness to create social wealth and are unquenchable thirst for more and more personal wealth.
No matter how small your business may be you can always find a cause to support it. A bakery or restaurant that donates excess food to the poor, a venture that makes products through disadvantaged groups of people are all doing exactly what I am suggesting…building a brand with a heart.
Stand for something! Find a cause to support today!
Think Out of the Box Promotion
Graffiti, street paintings, tribal art and traditional forms of art and entertainment like puppetry are some out of the box promotional strategies worth trying out. Not only will they help you stand out in the crowd but they also don’t cost a lot.
Get a Business Review
Looking to make your presence felt and don’t quite know how to? Get a business review. Most reviews done by newspapers are free and even if some reviewers do charge they won’t cost as much as an advertising campaign.
To get your business reviewed right here, fill up the contact form.
Be Open to Interviews
Many people like to know more about who founded this business, how and why….the best way to be known for how you set up your venture, what you market and how you plan to take things further is through interviews.
If you have a creative venture and would like to be featured on my blog do contact me. Check out the “Entrepreneur Spotlight” section to know more about how I would feature you.
Connect With People
Connecting with people is the best way to build a brand and it doesn’t have to cost a bomb…Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, free SMS platforms and blogs can be your people connect platform.
Come Up With Freebies
Give away free stuff or float a contest…I recently told a friend who is a dietary consultant that she can create a book of recipes which she can give away to customers. Her clients are expectant mothers, fussy eaters and people with weight management issues and a recipe book would definitely help her take her brand forward.
To sign off I would say…brand building in 2012 need not cost a lot but one thing is certain…it must be creative and cutting edge. I hope these strategies work for your small business and I would love to hear about your experiences with them!