Archives for April 2006

BlogTrafficSchool.com Pre-Launch Blog

I’ve just released a brand new blog to track the launch of my upcoming online interactive course to teach people how to grow their blog traffic from 0 to 1000 daily visitors, called Blog Traffic School.

You can find the blog at www.BlogTrafficSchool.com/blog/

If you are interested in how to start an online information product business you will enjoy following the progress of this blog and my new product. I intend to make this project the basis of my business in the future as I move towards information marketing online as my core activity.

Of course if you are keen to learn how to increase your blog readership and promote your blog then you should find my new blog relevant.

Don’t forget to bookmark or subscribe to the RSS feed –

www.BlogTrafficSchool.com/blog/

Listening To Word Of Mouth Marketing On The Street

On my recent trip to Melbourne I found myself walking the streets of the main city area several times. I did my best to be a consumer like everyone else and enjoyed all the delights that a modern and wealthy Australian city has to offer. To cut to the chase – I ate a lot!

Maybe it’s because of my business mind or maybe it’s because I love to observe human behaviour (it’s probably both), I find it very compelling to listen to other peoples conversations. You might call it eavesdropping, but I prefer to call it “market research”. I especially enjoy analysing how word of mouth, from a business point of view, travels from person to person.

Word of mouth marketing as you probably know is the best type of marketing available to any business, as long as it’s positive of course! It’s effective because from the perspective of the participants it’s not really marketing at all. It’s just a conversation. Friends helping each other out by recommending or disqualifying services or products. That’s why it works too – people trust their friends and family and will make purchasing decisions based on referrals from trusted sources.

Other forms of marketing are much more obvious compared to word of mouth and that is why I enjoy listening to “live” word of mouth – I get to experience the actual dialogue and monitor how the messages travels. Advertising is very overt, you know it when you see it or hear it (unless you are dealing with a good salesperson). Word of mouth isn’t always obvious so keeping your ears open when in the public can be a great form of market research (I told you it wasn’t eavesdropping!).

For example while disembarking from my Virgin Blue flight in Brisbane I heard one lady talking to another lady, I think her mother, and she said something along the lines of the following –

“I’ve never been late with Virgin Blue. Jetstar though I have had problems with.”

Or another instance when two old ladies were in Myer enjoying a day shopping together I noticed that one started to buy tinned cookies as I presume presents (she had about 4 of them!). Her friend seeing her buy the tins then went and bought six tins of her own after the clear recommendation she was seeing (non-verbal word of mouth or peer pressure?).

Throughout my time in Melbourne I heard countless other instances of word of mouth, which, unless you are business minded (or just strange) you probably wouldn’t even think of as business referrals – just conversations. There was the young lady recommending a restaurant she went to. Or the people talking about how good certain comedians were at the comedy festival – and how bad some of the others were.

I wasn’t immune either, on several occasions I talked about one of my favourite eateries and a gourmet chocolate shop on Lygon street, how much I didn’t like my hotel – the Victoria Hotel, and how the weather in Melbourne wasn’t very good.

While all of these stories may seem like passive conversations – people simply chatting – each recommendation or discredit affects the potential buying decisions of the people in the conversation. None of the persons involved may realize it at the time, but in the future when they are thinking of where to go out for dinner on a Saturday night, that cool Asian Fusion restaurant in Noosa recommended by a friend may end up with some new patronage thanks to word of mouth.

Why I tell you this story is to remind you how important word of mouth is and to remember that in most cases you can’t really track it conclusively. Your job as a small business owner is to continue to provide the best service you can and to be remarkable. The more remarkable you are the better you chance of being the subject of a street story – just make sure you do something special that generates positive referrals and not the reverse because word of mouth can make or break your business.

Yaro Starak
Word Of Mouth Conduit

Peaks And Troughs

April is the busiest month for me because it’s the only time when the North American and Australian seasons cross over for one of my businesses. Consequently April is like Christmas and just like the retail industry, I rely on “my Christmas” heavily since there are some fairly dry months ahead (ironically enough – around the real Christmas is the worst time for me).

Like many small business mine goes through peaks and troughs. In a typical 80/20 Rule relationship, I generate 80% of my income in 20% of the months in the year (roughly).

What I don’t like about this pattern is the unpredictability, which is just something you have to get used to as a business owner. I can never be certain if my April will be as good as it has been in the past. Of course on the flip side January has occasionally surprised me with an unusually high bounty. You just never know what is around the corner.

Consequently I’ve learnt that I don’t like being dependent on one source of income. If 100% of my livelihood was based on seasonal fluctuations I don’t think I could stomach the roller coaster ride for long, although I know many small business owners do (you crazy people!). I decided very quickly to diversify and always work on creating more income streams – income streams with different peaks and troughs so as to minimize the overall financial impact of any one “bad season”.

While you can never be 100% confident in your future (such is life), not having all your eggs in one basket, besides being sound logic, feels a lot better too. When you are not dependent on a single income stream in your business, or even a single business, you enjoy more freedom and flexibility. You can pick and choose which clients to work with and which opportunities to chase because even if things don’t work out perfectly it’s not the end of the world. Overall you have enough peaks to balance out the troughs.

Yaro Starak

Welcome To All 9rules Readers

A big hello to any new readers who came through from the 9rules blog network. This website is called Small Business Branding and is all about marketing your small business both online and offline. It is the sister site to Entrepreneur’s Journey, also written by me, Yaro Starak.

Of most interest to you will be the articles section of this site where you will find all the most helpful how-to articles about small business. You will also find a catalogue of all the podcast episodes I have done in the audio section.

If you run a business we’d love to see you join the small business forums, where you can get help from a friendly community of entrepreneurs.

If you would like to learn more about me, the guy behind the blog, please see my about section (including piccies!).

If you enjoy what you read I really hope you bookmark this site, or subscribe through RSS or email. The subscription section will help you do this.

Enjoy your stay!

******

To all my regular readers as you can guess Small Business Branding has joined the 9rules network, which is one of the top blog networks full of amazing blogs. I suggest you check it out and browse through the different member blogs, especially the Business Community.

9rules has no particular member requirements besides a commitment to maintaining a top quality, regularly updated blog. There is no revenue share or financial involvement whatsoever. It’s all about helping increase the exposure of some of the best blogs on the world wide web.

Audio: Interview With Anita Campbell From Small Business Trends

Download PodcastDownload the MP3 [ 32 Minutes – 11 MB]

Anita CampbellToday I have yet another fantastic entrepreneur interview for you in my series of small business podcasts, this time with Anita Campbell, Editor of Small Business Trends and the Small Business Trends newsletter. She is also the host of Small Business Trends Radio show.

Show Notes

  • How Anita went from lawyer to corporate IT to small business consultant
  • About the small business trends radio show
  • How to be a trendwatcher
  • Personal branding
  • Search engine optimization for small business

What Is Your Position In The Marketplace?

When I first started an online business I struggled to define what exactly I offered my customers. My focus was on cashflow – getting dollars coming in – and I really didn’t think too much about presenting a clear positioning statement to the marketplace.

A positioning statement is a single sentence or paragraph that explains exactly what your organization’s purpose for existence is AND very clearly outlines the benefits it provides to customers.

Positioning though is a lot more than a good statement. It should be part of every aspect of your business. Everytime your business comes into contact with the outside world the position it takes in the marketplace and the unique specialization on offer must be clear. Internally staff need to understand what your business is about so their motivation is aligned with your company’s core purpose. Externally all who come in contact with you should instantly understand what it is you do. A scrambled message or weak purpose will have a negative impact on sales and reduce business efficiency.

My Position

When I started my first “real” online business, BetterEdit.com, I was fairly green but I did at least know one thing – I didn’t want to be the guy actually doing the work. I was inspired by an American young entrepreneur who had started an essay proofreading business while he was studying at university. I decided to do the same for Australia, or at least my home town of Brisbane to start with. I knew I could use contractors to complete the proofreading and I would go to work running the business.

My ability to market my service was crucial during the early stages. I tried various marketing methods and while I received some generally encouraging results it was far from anything I could ever consider living off one day, which was my long term goal – to be self sufficient. In an attempt to increase my cashflow I decided to branch out and offer more services. I added transcribing and language translation to go with the proofreading and editing.

I sourced contractors from online directories and freelancing sites using an “on demand” method. Whenever a job came in I would circulate the details and request quotes from contractors. The system wasn’t always very quick and it meant I had to do a lot of emailing each time a job came through. The profit margins weren’t great but definitely good enough to make it worthwhile, work wasn’t very consistent however because I closed a very small percentage of the queries I received.

In that first year if you looked at my website and attempted to determine my business position you would probably have thought something along the lines of “secretarial services agency”. I acted as a middle-man to get quotes from freelancers to complete transcribing, proofreading and language translation. Basically BetterEdit was just like every other secretarial service out there so my only way to compete was based on price, which is the worst way to compete in my opinion.

The one advantage I did have was I knew the web and my search engine optimization skills meant that my website was slowly gaining prominence in the search engines resulting in some overseas customers taking advantage of the Australian dollar prices I offered.

Refining My Position

Over the next four years a few things happened. I learnt about the importance of positioning my business as a specialist (niche marketing) and I grew tired of chasing up contractors for slim margins. The result was a transformation of how I positioned BetterEdit. It went from a general secretarial service to a specialist student editing service positioned in the marketplace as the editing service that “Gets you Better Grades”. My niche became laser focused and the benefit clearly presented.

The result of my positioning evolution has meant that I can charge a premium price for a premium service. I don’t have to compete on price anymore. The business focuses 100% on doing one thing, student editing, and as such as I have built a team of specialist editors around that focus. The service is easier to sell because there are less things to market. Our client fit is a lot better which means that my staff can better meet the needs of an ideal client.

Branding Myself As Royalty

This year I’ve launched a new business to teach people how to build traffic to blogs. While brainstorming domain name ideas I came up with the concept of calling myself the “Blog Traffic King”. I thought it was a bit cheesy at the time but registered the domain BlogTrafficKing.com anyway.

The more I thought about it the more I realized how good the persona Blog Traffic King could be. I went to work and created an image of myself with a clip-art oversized crown to use as my public image for this business (you can see me as the King at BlogTrafficKing.com). While it’s certainly cheesy, branding myself as the blog traffic king clearly demonstrates what it is I specialize in (blog traffic) and using the statement “How to grow your blog from 0 to 1000 daily readers” presents the benefit I provide (focuses the niche on a specific outcome for my customers).

My entire campaign is circulated with this image and positioning statement. The outcome will hopefully see me become synonymous with building blog traffic.

What Is Your Position?

Right now can you clearly present your business positioning statement in one or two sentences? Do you offer a clear benefit to a very specific niche or consumer base? It’s vital that what you present to the outside world clearly separates you from everyone else out there doing the same thing. The perception is more important than the reality.

Yaro Starak
Blog Royalty

Steve Pavlina’s 10 Stupid Small Business Mistakes

Steve Pavlina has published a solid article for all you new or about to be new business owners.

10 Stupid Mistakes Made by the Newly Self-Employed lists ten fundamental truths about starting your own business. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read through Steve’s article. I concur with all he said and I talk from experience too! If you are about to embark down the entrepreneur’s journey his article is well worth a read.

It was good to see another piece from Steve discussing business. He speciality is self development and his blog is full of great content on this subject but of course he is running a business too so it’s nice when his virtual pen brushes towards commerce orientated topics.

I recently completed a three part interview with Steve. If you would like to learn more about him start here – Steve Pavlina Interview – Part 1

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