If you’re a small firm hoping to boost your business, perhaps you’ve considered an online ad. And then reconsidered, after checking out the cost of paying someone to design your ad. Well, it’s time to threeconsider. Because a new service called PlaceLocal lets you to build your own online ad and run it at the website of your area paper or TV station for only a few hundred bucks. Just go to PlaceLocal and plug in your name and location. The site scours the web for relevant information: your address, phone number, photos of your business and customer comments from Yelp, etc. You select the content you want, then PlaceLocal puts together a simple display ad. If you like it, you can check out and choose a PlaceLocal media partner where you’d like your ad to appear. It’s a cool idea. Although it won’t be putting the Mad Men out of business tomorrow. PlaceLocal has just a handful of media partners so far. And its search software doesn’t always hit the bull’s eye when finding content relevant to your business. We tried building an ad for our local dive bar, which is the sort of place you might take a parole violator for a going-back-to-prison party. But among the comments PlaceLocal suggested for our ad were: “The variety of fish on the menu is impressive indeed.”
Hire employees (without higher pay). This is a bad time to look for work. But it’s a good time to look for workers, especially if you’re a small business, say experts. The thinking goes this way: in a tight labor market, small firms can’t compete with the big bucks offered by big companies. But in a slack market like now (one out of five Americans is either unemployed or underemployed) a small business can attract quality people by dangling the sort of nonsalary perks that large businesses can’t or won’t offer. Like flexible hours, bonus plans, profit sharing or stock options. Or all the cheese-flavored microwave popcorn you can eat. (You choose your nonsalary perks, we’ll choose ours.)
More stimulus in the pipeline. If you do want to hire new people and you’re willing to go the traditional route (i.e. pay actual money) you may soon have a better shot at borrowing the bucks you need to do that. The Small Business Lending Fund Act was approved by the House Financial Services Committee. The act would give $30 billion to community banks and encourage them to lend it to small businesses. Will they? What do you think? The $700 billion TARP bonanza for big banks didn’t motivate them to offer more credit. So why should TARP Jr. be any different? Community banks are struggling: the FDIC has 775 of them on its list of banks in trouble. So, if you’re of a skeptical bent, you might suspect these shaky banks would use their shipment of federal cash to shore up their bottom lines. Anything’s possible.