Creating an online business plan that helps small and mid-size businesses grow requires more than honing paid-search and search engine optimization strategies. It means focusing on the basics, and finding technology and financial backing to support growth on a limited budget by watching where every penny goes. For companies using AdWords or Bing Ads to market products and services, it might mean rethinking the way they use location-based targeting and mobile bid adjustment tools.
There are 28 million small businesses in the U.S., and small businesses represent almost half of U.S. private-sector jobs, per Google. To help small businesses succeed, Google has initiated several processes to support SMBs. Among them is the Google My Business. This week, Google hosted the On Air Hangout through Google+. Maria Contreras-Sweet, leader of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the representative of small business in President Barack Obama's Cabinet participated in the latest Hangout to provide insight into small business services the SBA offers.
The On Air Hangout through Google+ with Contreras-Sweet earlier this week highlighted ways the SBA can help people start and grow their business. Contreras-Sweet spoke about small business loans such as micro loans for less than $50,000; community advantage loan for less than 150,000; as well as loans for real estate and international expansion. The SBA removed fees on their 7(a) loan guarantees under $150,000. She also spoke about incubators and the grants available to these companies to help small businesses and startups. She also stepped though how technology can help small companies do business for less investment.
Google can't force businesses to use their products -- including AdWords or DoubleClick Search -- but they certainly can make it easy for them to save money, which would make the tools a better choice. The company has been working on free features in an effort to make Hangouts the video conference tool for business to improve long distance communication with others. For those who have yet to see the change, rolling out within the next few days in Gmail an update in which online contacts will move to the top of the chat buddy list. Similar to Facebook's chat tool, it becomes easier to see contacts listed as being online.
Although it seems like a basic function, the new Hangouts feature will help identify friends and business partners by listing them first. While users can still send offline friends and business partners a message -- getting the message the next time they check Hangouts on their computer, phone or table -- users also can pin their favorite contacts to the top of the contact list. Those who don't like the feature can revert to the old chat.
While the move to improve Hangouts through Gmail with a chat improvement may seem insignificant, it's one more step to support businesses, especially small businesses through free services, including Gmail and Google+.