Archives for October 2009

Taking A Step Back So You Can Move Forward

Recently I posted on the effect of emotions on your business. For about the last month or so I’ve been taking a serious step back from my business and this blog. You may wonder how since there’s been several posts and tons of things going on over here and mostly it’s due to automation. I’ve been scheduling my blog posts and even the entire Brand Booster 21 is work that Ed and I have already completed. By the time we enjoy the series (which will help you with your brand right away), all we’ll have to do is sit back and enjoy the posts and comment as we go along.

We planned it this way because this was something extra we figured we could bring to the readers here at SBB. I’m always in the background here planning, researching, and keeping a heads up on information that I can bring to you. Plus a partnership with Ed has been way more than either of us expected, more on that later.

The main reason that I decided to pre-schedule everything is because I’m putting together more stuff in the background here, but mostly because personally we have a HUGE week here in our family life. My daughter has had 2 years of treatments including a stem cell transplant, chemo, radiation, blood transfusions, and more. It’s been a rough 2 years, and right in the midst of it is when I took over here at the site.  This week we have a PET/CT Scan happening along with bloodwork, heart and lung tests and then… the results.  I have a strong Faith in God so I know she’ll be quite fine, and there is alot of people praying for my baby girl (she’s 17 but I still call her my baby).

At the same time the last few days I’ve taken a step back this week and haven’t even been looking at emails. I’ve been thinking about where I should go with this site and my business. What steps I should take and which I should let drop. I find taking a step back helps me also recover the excitement of getting back at it.

During my step back I will often drive out to the beach alone and just sit for an hour, it truly helps. sunset

How about you, how often do you take a step back so you can move foward?

How Good Are You At Making Profitable Business Decisions?

iStock_000009579139XSmallEvery decision affects your business, even the super tiny small ones. I personally made a BIG decision to let go of the writing business. It took up so much of my time and I even had 2 assistants helping me with it. This has left me completely wide open to bring better resources to this blog and I’m not spinning around in circles any longer.

Being a good decision maker can help you in business and life. It’s been said that highly confident people make decisions clearly and stick to them rather than changing their minds or being indecisive.

And even if decision making doesn’t come naturally to you, it is a skill which can be built on.

Here are a few tips to help you:

#1 – Start small. Even making small everyday decisions will help you accomplish the bigger goal. Small decisions such as what food to eat at a restaurant are not to be underestimated. A good way to start is the next time you’re eating out, look at the menu and decide what you’d like to eat. Then put the menu down and don’t change your mind. Don’t ask your companions what they’re having and base your decision on that – make the decision on your own and then stick to it.

Small steps like this can be empowering and help you to tackle the bigger decisions to come in the future.

#2 – Approach decisions logically.
Many of us tend to make emotion-based decisions rather than logical ones. In business this can spell disaster. A good way to help you approach decisions in a logical manner may be to write down a list of pros and cons.

Simply grab a sheet of paper and label one side pros and one side cons. Then list all the good and bad points of your choice. Logically think through your comments and then make your decision. This way you can leave emotions out of the equation and concentrate purely on the facts.

#3 – Cut yourself some slack.
Making decisions is a skill which can be learned but even pros don’t always make the right choices. Realize that making decisions effectively takes confidence and is a great first step, but your decisions may not always be the right decisions. If you happen to make the wrong decision, give yourself a break and take comfort in the fact that you thought out your decision clearly and logically and made the best choice possible at the time.

Being a good decision maker takes time and practice. However, it’s a worthwhile skill to develop. Making decisions regularly may help build your confidence level and also help people know where they stand with you – two great entrepreneurial qualities.

If It Ain’t Real, Don’t Peddle It!

brandrealityIf you’ve ever read any of my articles, you’ll know that I equate brand with reputation. I don’t think it matters one little bit what you try to do to “spin” a good story about what your company is (or wishes it was). Unless that story is a genuine experience you are powerless to change anything.

Of course, there are countless companies out there who are ‘attempting’ to change a certain perception, but at the end of the day the only people that they are fooling are themselves. Place branding comes to mind. (Place = city, town, country etc.) I find it laughable how many cities whose images are that of a polluted, downtrodden grey community, feel they can turn everything around simply by slapping on a new logo complete with a snazzy slogan and creative advertising. They honestly feel that the spin my friends will bring to town the elusive tourists and investors.

Just like great advertising kills bad products, great advertising will also kill bad brands. How would you appreciate it if you were compelled to visit one of these cities based on the supposed “re-branding” (poor definition). The boarded up downtown, the smell in the air will send you packing. You will quickly realize that the destination attributes were spun. Once, home you will tell ten people of your impression, and in the world of social media, how fast do you think that city’s reputation will be trashed? Many politicians and similarly some CEO’s want the quick solution. They don’t want to hear that you have to fix the problem FIRST then you go about promoting it. In our world today, perception is reality.

If your brand has a lot to be desired, I’m afraid you’re going to have to fix it first. All that money for new logos and advertising will be wasted otherwise.

Of course, you could choose to do nothing. Blame the recession. We all know that just below the surface there lies a problem – the great news is it’s not hopeless – it just takes a leader to make the brand real again.

The Effect of Your Emotions on Your Business

For the last 2 years I’ve been in and out of the hospital with my daughter, thankfully she’s well today and we’re all moving forward as a family. When life throws us for a big loop it’s important that you keep in mind that you are human and emotions are part of that.

But… Business and emotions don’t really seem to mix very well. As emotions are a daily part of our lives, short of becoming robotic, you may be faced with the two intermingling at some point in your career.

Here are a few tips to help you stay on track and overcome emotions in your business life.

#1 – Take a deep breath – If you’re having a bad day or particular difficulties at home, it may not be easy to switch back into business mode, but it can be done. Breathing is an effective strategy for all sorts of issues such as panic attacks, anger control or simply switching back to a positive state.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a short break and find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted for a few minutes. Then take a few deep breaths. Involve your whole body in the process. See your stomach inflate like a balloon as you breathe in slowly for a count of seven to ten and then slowly let the “balloon” deflate as you breathe out slowly for a count to seven to ten.

It may help to visualize the stress and negative emotions leaving your body as you breathe out – many people will associate this with the color black, such as a black burst of air leaving their body. Then see calmness and peace entering your body as you breathe in – you may associate this with a gold or green burst of air entering your body.

Deep breathing is not a gimmick or fluffy strategy; it’s a proven technique that psychotherapists use on a regular basis for many different ailments, and it may help you even in the most stressful of times.

#2 – Take control back – We all have moments of panic or feeling completely down and out, but it’s important that during these difficult times we take back control. After a few deep breathing exercises, tell yourself that you’re in control of your situation. You now have to concentrate on business and work but you will allow yourself time to focus on other issues once you have finished your work.

This way, you’re giving yourself a “break” to completely forget about the issue while you concentrate on work. The issue will still be waiting for you when you finish so it’s really not conducive to anyone to focus on it all day – by analyzing the issue in this manner you’ll feel more in control of your emotions and better able to separate them from your business.

#3 – Give yourself a break – It’s not easy to run a business and deal with personal problems at the same time. Give yourself some slack and realize that you’re only human and that you’re doing your best. If at all possible, take a short physical break from your business. Sometimes changing the scenery or a little time away is all it takes. Use this time to either concentrate on the positive aspects of your life or to simply unwind completely and not think about the business at all. It’s amazing what effect a change of pace can have, even if just for a day or two.

The reality of life is we all struggle with emotional overload from time to time and being 100% positive is not realistic. Follow the strategies listed here and do your best to stay positive and you’ll stand a better chance of keeping emotions at bay in your business.

Coming Out From Behind My Brand: The Dreaded Video

featuredvideoOk so it wasn’t so bad putting it together, the hardest part was to get my makeup on for the video. But just wanted to quickly share with you a couple things and to introduce video here at the site, and my new glasses. 🙂

Recently Ed wrote about Coming out from behind your brand so I decided that it was due time to get a video up. Ed has a very strong brand and often times people even think this site is his own baby, but it’s mine. It doesn’t surprise me since Ed has what, 25 years experience in Branding?! THAT is the person I want to learn from and continue to develop a strong brand with.

Anyhow, I have an announcement in the video and I promise the video is super short. You can see the video in the new FEATURED VIDEO section.

Oh and do you like my new glasses? I’m not so sure about BLACK. Kinda late though.

Thinking an Online Store: 15 Tips To Get You Started

With the Internet all around us, selling your product, service or even both is much easier and affordable than ever before.

But at the same time…

It’s vital to study all of your options first, before falling victim to one of many pitfalls. From finding yourself “trapped” in a contract with services you don’t need to building a website that doesn’t attract the customers nor convert them into buyers, you could wind up in the middle of a mess.

Here are 15 tips to setting up your first (or second or third or fourth…) online store, all while maximizing your profit potential.

1. Start with THE best offer

Before creating your online store, it’s imperative to have an offer which will blow your customers away. It’s time to figure out what your target buyers really want, and make your product or service revolve around that.

After that is accomplished, get busy crafting an influential  unique selling position (USP – what makes you different than your competitors), to go along with the can’t-believe-it value, and double-check your method of delivery.

2. What’s in a name?

When it comes to the Internet, consider your domain name as being the big sign outside your store broadcasting your business to the entire world. It is how many prospects will remember your site. While making your domain name easy to remember, you can also make sure it provides an accurate description of what your business has to offer.

3. Choose a website host with your success in mind

There are no two website hosts which are exactly the same. Some are just better suited for ecommerce purposes than others for example. Consider what you need for your own site, and start comparing notes.

A website builder like Internet Based Family makes building your online store a breeze. There’s even a built in shopping cart, so no more worries about compatibility issues. Plus, there’s really no need to worry about webmaster slavery ever again. Adding new products, or anything else for that matter, can be done without having to know how to code.

4. Maximum usability design

While thinking of your site’s image and design, consider it from the point of view of the user. Can they find what they need quickly? Have you provided enough product information for them to make an informed purchase? Is the order button easy to see?

Remember some of your personal online shopping experiences. Take note of the biggies, such as Amazon while also considering some of those you vowed to stay away from at any cost.

5. Creative copy conversions

Creative copy, from the headline right on down has a lot of responsibility on an online shopping page. Attractive headlines to keep buyers on the page, accurate descriptions with a little pizzazz added in. All the important aspects of success on a page, right down to the calling out to action “Click here to order”.

6. Great Services

When planning an online store, you can’t do it without a shopping cart to receive and process orders. Shop around for one, but be sure to remember the importance of reliability, affordability, the ability to manage affiliates and providing fantastic customer service.

7. A growing business needs a merchant account

To receive payments online, a merchant account is a must. PayPal is fine in the beginning. It’s important to remember that you may eventually need to upgrade and process credit cards directly. Ask about any online merchant accounts your financial institution may have to offer.

8. Balancing act between need and want

There is any number of options available to you, and it can get out of hand. With each set of options however comes a new price. It’s important to keep your budget as well as needs in mind, so you aren’t tempted to pay more than what is required.

9. Search Engine Optimization or SEO

Now that your store will be on the internet, making it easy for search engines to find you as well as rank your site high for level for relevant keywords. By the way, Internet Based Family can provide you with tools and free training to help you site rank well with search engines.

10. Systems you can use

You’ll have the need to update your website often, with new products and updates, so it’s important your site uses a system which will let you these things easily, as well as handling orders as well. If you’re calling on your webmaster to do each task on your site, it won’t be long before you end up overwhelmed with the online store.

11. Capturing leads

You’ll have many customers who won’t make a purchase the first time they see your site. In this case, you want to retrieve at least some contact information – their email address for example, in order to keep them updated on offers and other information they may find useful.

12. Keep it simple

Online stores covered in animations, images and graphics simply slow down your site’s loading time and can annoy potential buyers. Stay with the minimum elements to keep your visitors’ attention on your call to action.

13. Keep costs front and center

Marketing Sherpa has quoted 60% of buyers online will abandon their online shopping order at the shopping cart stage. This can be avoided by hidden charges. All costs should be stated upfront, where possible, so your customers don`t end up being caught off guard at check out time.

14. Interactivity works

Amazon.com is one of the most interactive sites there is. There are a number of steps you can perform, from submitting ratings or reviews to enquiring about other buyers. This is a positive note for online stores, as shoppers like this type of interactivity.

15. Always leave the best for last…

Your online store is up and running, but your work is far from complete. Now it`s time for marketing, using such methods as article marketing, sending press releases, video marketing and social networking.

It’s Not the Idea – It’s What You Do with It

Many people struggle with finding just the right business idea to pursue. The idea IS important, particularly for businesses requiring large investment, but I’d say that it’s what you do with the idea that matters most.

  • Just because you want to open an Italian restaurant and some Italian restaurants can do very well, doesn’t mean your Italian restaurant will be hit.
  • You may want to sell ebooks to homeschoolers because you see other people selling them, but demand doesn’t necessarily equal success.
  • A lot of people use a personal trainer, but deciding to offer your services as one, may not translate into more clients than you can handle.

Not to put a damper on your business plans, of course. The point is, it doesn’t matter what your business does as long as you stand out from the crowd and connect with a healthy supply of target customers.

If you’re looking for business ideas, go here.

But if you’re looking to attract the right kind of people to your offers, differentiate and brand your business.

Now this may start to sound like a basic Business 101 lesson, but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t do this or don’t go far enough with it.

Target Market: It all begins with a deep (really deep) analysis of your target market. Who are they (age, sex, income, career, family status, etc.), but more importantly, what are their beliefs, fears, needs. What makes them tick?

Unique Selling Position (USP): Here’s where people really struggle. They come up with ideas on what makes their business appealing, but not necessarily what makes it unique. In other words: What makes your target market want to come to you, instead of your competitor?

What you discover in those 2 exercises should be a part of every aspect of your business from your products and service to your sales copy and communications.

After all, we can all set up dog-walking businesses, but those who differentiate will get the fiercely loyal clients. A dog walker who also trains pets, can reach a clientele of extremely busy people who might be struggling with a naughty pet. Or perhaps, a dog walker who offers grooming services to posh pets will reach another clientele. If you can successfully reach a specific area of your target market that readily spend money and your competitors ignore, you’ve got it made.

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