Starting a Computer Business? Bookmark These 8 Web Sites
When talking with those starting a computer business, we're often asked for advice and referrals to other businesses and organizations.
What are resources that keep coming up over and over again?
- zapdata (zapdata.com): Owned by Dun and Bradstreet, zapdata is a great place to quickly figure out the size of your target market. For example, in under a minute you can find that there are 2,373 dentist offices within the greater Atlanta, Georgia area. And if you eliminate the industry constraint for dentists, you’ll find 32,235 potential small business clients with 10-99 employees in the same geographic region. Of course, zapdata makes its money when you decide to rent their mailing lists... which are surprisingly affordable, even for small tests. If you're located outside of the USA, go to the main Dun and Bradstreet Web site (dnb.com) and select your country from the drop-down list at the top of the page. (Editor’s Note: While great for market research, the second record count, with 32,235 entries, is way too large to be a cost-effective target market for most small computer businesses to reach with a single one-size-fits-all campaign.)
- infoUSA (infousa.com): If you’re starting a computer business, infoUSA, a competitor of zapdata, is also a great place to do some quick market size research within the USA or Canada. Not surprisingly, infoUSA has an almost identical number of dentist offices (2,291) in the greater Atlanta, Georgia area. Knock out the dentist industry constraint and infoUSA reports 36,588 potential small business clients with 10-99 employees in the greater Atlanta, Georgia area. Again, a tool like this is great for quick, free market research. (Editor’s Note: But again, before you start a marketing campaign, understand that for a small computer business, the 36,588 potential small business clients may be very difficult to reach with a single, one-size-fits-all campaign.)
- Toastmasters International (toastmasters.org): Regardless of whether you're doing one-on-one ad hoc training, making a sales presentation, or giving a talk on data security to the local Chamber of Commerce, you need to communicate clearly and confidently. With 12,800 local chapters in 113 countries, there's likely to be a very friendly Toastmasters International chapter already waiting to help you improve your public speaking skills, generally at a very nominal cost.
- amazon (amazon.com): When the PC business was in its infancy back in the 1980s, owners of computer businesses turned to authoritative sources like PC Magazine, Computer Reseller News, and Computer Shopper for objective, professional product reviews. This way you could, in theory, avoid bad products and the resulting embarrassment in front of clients. Today, if you’re starting a computer business, you can get access to dozens, in some cases hundreds, of user product reviews on tens of thousands of hardware devices, software applications, and peripheral devices. Within Amazon reviews, you can drill down on categories by tag, search by rating, sort by date order, and sort by the most helpful positive and negative reviews. Even if you purchase products through distribution, keep Amazon handy in your Bookmarks.
- DSL Reports (dslreports.com): When clients ask for help selecting broadband Internet access, or when you just need to get some metrics on existing Internet access service, make sure you have DSL Reports in your Bookmarks. The site also has a very active discussion forum, with both extremely knowledgeable users and many ISP customer service reps.
- Microsoft Action Pack Solution Provider Program (partner.microsoft.com): Formerly known as the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription, the Microsoft Action Pack Solution Provider program is a very cost-effective way to get you and your staff trained on the latest Microsoft platforms that are most in demand with small businesses. Just a heads-up, though: each Microsoft international subsidiary has its own separate partner program Web site. So you’ll need to do a little digging to find the URL for your country or region. However your time invested will pay big dividends with this great resource.
- CRN/Channel Web (crn.com): If you only have time to stay on top of one industry trade publication, consider CRN near the top of your list. While crn.com focuses on the USA market, there are other similar publications in several other countries: for example IT in Canada (crncanada.itincanada.ca), CRN UK (www.channelweb.co.uk), and CRN Australia (www.crn.com.au).
- Inc. (inc.com): It can be so easy to get tunnel vision and only focus on the IT side of small businesses. However, in order to succeed as your clients' outsourced virtual CIO, you really need to have a good handle on a wide variety of small business issues. Inc. Magazine, which, just like CRN, can also trace its roots back to the 1980s, should be on your short list of general small business publications worth reading.
Just like other trusted business advisors, your clients depend on you to be their main resource person, when it comes to anything and everything having to do with their IT needs. So you’ve got to know where to turn for answers. Along those lines, use the eight Web sites described in this post as your foundation for starting a computer business off the right way.
Do You Know of a Web Site #9 to Add to this List?
What's in your Web browser's Bookmarks or Favorites list, of must-read resources, for those starting a computer business? Let us know in the Comments below.
And to follow-through on the resources introduced in this post, be sure to download your free special report on How to Start a Computer Consulting Business: 6 Proven Ways to Build Your Initial Client Base.