Archives for October 2009

Productivity Boosters

GreenChecklistLack of productivity is something many of us suffer with. When you work at the office, it’s very easy to get distracted by everything going on around you. And when you work from home, productivity can unfortunately be even more of an issue.

Here are a few tips designed to help anyone who is struggling with their productivity levels.

#1 – Stay focused. This is easier said than done, but one sure way to boost your productivity is by staying focused on one task at a time. Studies have shown that those of us who “multitask” actually get less done. Having your email program open along with several other windows on your computer is very distracting and will take away from your ability to focus on the task at hand.

Try to do one thing at a time. If you’re checking your email, stay focused on that until you finish. If you’re doing your accounts, give yourself a set amount of time to only work on that task before moving on to something else. And if you find that you struggle to stay focused on one task for very long, then simply give yourself a set amount of time to work on that one task. It’s better to give yourself fifteen set minutes to check email than to look up an hour later and realize you haven’t gotten very much done.

Staying focused on one task at a time really does make all the difference to your productivity levels.

#2 – Write a list. Lists can be a very positive tool when used correctly. The trick is to write a realistic list of the things you would like to accomplish during each day. If your list is unrealistic and includes too many tasks, you’ll only feel disappointed when inevitably you haven’t checked off all the tasks at the end of the day.

So stick to a realistic, succinct list. You can always add more to it if you’re very productive on a particular day. Once you have your list then take it one task at a time. Stay focused on each individual task until you finish, then check it off your list.

#3 – Take a break. Now this may not seem very productive at first glance, but did you know that people who take regular short breaks tend to be more productive than their sedentary counterparts?

A quick five to ten minute break every hour or two will help you recharge your batteries and get your energy levels flowing again. During the time do anything that makes you feel better, but ideally you’ll want to completely step away from your desk and do a few stretching exercises. A few deep breathing exercises wouldn’t hurt either.

If you have time and feel up to it, a quick two to three minute stroll will help you feel energized and ready to focus on work once again. And don’t forget to drink some water. It’s a well-known fact that dehydration can lead to sluggishness and simply feeling “not quite right.” Avoid this by regularly drinking water throughout the day.

Staying focused and productive can be simply a matter of breaking down large tasks into manageable ones. It’s easier to do this when you set realistic goals for yourself and stay on track by writing a to-do list that, again, is quite realistic.

Taking care of your health and putting time aside to have regular short breaks will also help your productivity and energy levels overall.

Come Out From Behind Your Brand!

Spotlight

A corporate brand is nothing more than your reputation. As a small business owner, you pour your heart and soul into your business. Your passion for what you do is obvious. Generally, you wear plenty of hats and you ply your magic from the wings or back stage at best. Your participation is pivotal is the success of your business.

Behind the scenes you are the person customers expect to see and you’re the person who directs the show. You step up to every role except one –

CENTER STAGE.

I think you should pocket your humility and step out into the spot light and claim your just rewards. Many small business leaders shy away from the idea of putting themselves out there. Do you realize that in every other way you ARE putting yourself out there already? You have no issues with facing your audience on a one-on-one basis, live in person, right?. Stepping into the spot light makes you into an icon for your brand. It provides a genuine personality that a prospective customer can relate to. It authenticates your brand offering and helps to position the company with a human side.

It puts your money where your mouth is. I had much the same apprehension when I first plopped my photo onto my blog. It made me very tense. It was when I decided that I was a product much like any other that I warmed up to the idea. Now almost four years later, I think it helps my brand. My face and opinion define me to my customers. My expertise and my style of delivery are reflected in how I position my identity. I have been called a person who delivers “straight forward valuable advice” and I believe my brand reflects this.

Give your business a face. Think of it as meeting someone just before the handshake. With your face, potential customers can see themselves doing business with you. Powerful stuff.

5 Often Overlooked Web Spaces For Presenting Marketing Messages

On any given web site (which includes all the processes that goes on behind the scenes), there are always pages that could be monetized or get a marketing message across. Very often, these are what I call utility pages. Stuff that aren’t part of your regular content like blog posts or product description pages, but they exist because you need to confirm an action that the customer or visitor has taken, like the thank you page after subscribing to your newsletter. Many marketers are already aware of the value of this page and have taken steps to insert a message there. But there are other pages that are also overlooked.346/365 - oops!

After login screen

If you have a membership site, blog or forum where you require people to log in to participate, the page they land on is really important. I believe in guiding people and making things as clearly laid out as possible, like presenting a ‘dashboard’ page with quick links to all the key areas of your site. Beyond that, this page should also always have a space where news and offers are prominently displayed. Once they wander into the deeper regions, it would be difficult to get their attention.

After logging out

On 99% of the sites I’ve seen, once people log out, there’s a page that tells them they’ve logged out and probably branded with the logo. That’s it? While logging out does indicate someone is ‘done’ with your site for that session, it doesn’t mean you can’t lead them into something else that might interest them. How about adding an affiliate offer or a free download associated with an affiliate product.

Email confirmation page

Depending on your email newsletter service, some allow you to customize or direct people to your own page after someone confirms their subscription to your mailing list. Many of chosen to shift the freebie download to this page instead of getting people to check their emails once again. If you don’t deliver anything right away – maybe an RSS by email subscription. Add a promotional message there.

Recurring subscription email

This will depend a lot on the shopping cart/subscription system you use. On some systems, you can set it to send out an email every month notifying people of an upcoming payment or upon successful re-bill. Take the opportunity to cement your relationship. Edit that message to thank them and update the email every month to include a link to a small gift just for staying a subscribed member. Your free gift should include links or further recommendations that lead customers deeper into the other products and services you offer.

Mailing list unsubscribe page

If your email list service allows you to edit the unsubscribe page, why not enter a little message there? You could say you’re sorry to see them leave, to part on a good note, you’d like them to have a (insert freebie). Once again, the freebie can and should lead people to other areas or offers you may have. If you don’t have this option, you can do it in an unsubscribe confirmation email. Some providers do that. I find this a little annoying though because once someone unsubscribes, they’ll not want to get another email from you confirmation or not so this email will likely not get opened. It could be worth testing.

Hope this short list gets you thinking. There is a reason why these spaces are overlooked because they aren’t in front of you all the time, like your home page or blog may be. So don’t feel bad if you missed them but how do you find other spaces you may have missed? One of the best ways, is to step through the subscription, order process or registration process as a visitor/customer. Better yet, grab a friend and get them to record themselves as they go through the motions. You’ll often see right away where each screen could be improved to make the process clearer, smoother and where is a perfect spot to add a marketing message.

photo credit: B Rosen

What You Need To Know About Online Business Part 3: Growth & Expansion

You can read this in PDF format here.

The Key to Continuous Growth and Expansion

A business cannot begin, grow to a certain point and then simply remain at that point and continue to thrive.

Growth and expansion are necessary for the business to survive and if that growth and expansion do not happen then the business will fade and crash and burn.

Growth and expansion of business must be controlled by the business owners or managers. If growth is too slow, the business lags behind the competition. If growth is too fast, the business can easily become over extended.

A steady controlled growth is the ideal. Of course, the ideal and the reality are sometimes two very different things.

Sometimes the terms ‘growth and expansion’ are a bit misunderstood. The most obvious meaning of both terms is to get bigger and broader but those meanings are not the only ones that apply.

Growth, for example, can mean gaining knowledge and becoming wiser and expansion can mean broadening the knowledge base from which a company operates.

A small internet based company does not have to grow and expand until it becomes a giant multi-national company in order to survive but the owners and managers of these internet businesses do have to grow by getting smarter and expand by welcoming change with open arms.

Nothing ever just stays the same. Change is the only certainty in the world. What was hot or what worked yesterday is old news today and it will be ancient history tomorrow.

Companies and company owners and managers must grow with and adapt to changes as they happen and on the internet changes happen a lot faster than they do out in the brick and mortar world.

We all agree that growing, adapting and expanding is vital to the survival of any business and maybe especially to Internet business. So the question is: What is the key to growth and expansion of internet based businesses?

When brick and mortar businesses grow and expand, they build bigger buildings and hire more employees but that isn’t exactly an option for an internet based business.

The key to growth and expansion of an internet based business is for the business owner or manager to always and continuously invest in them.

They must be willing to stay on the cutting edge of technology and they must be willing to accept and adapt to changes as they occur.

Internet businesses are not buildings. Internet businesses are people. An internet business cannot grow by investing in a larger building.

It only grows when the person who is driving that business invests in his or her own knowledge and ability.

An internet business cannot expand by investing in hiring more people. An internet business expands when the person who is driving it invests in himself or herself.

The bottom line is this: The key to continuous growth and expansion of an internet based business is continuous investments being made in the owner or manager of the business. The short answer: Invest in yourself.

Invest in Yourself

You have no doubt heard this refrain many times.

“Invest in yourself! Invest in yourself! Invest is yourself!” But what does ‘invest in yourself mean’? Does it mean you should go out and invest in a haircut that costs two hundred bucks? Does it mean that you should go by yourself a designer suit? What does it mean to invest in yourself?

Well, if you can afford it, go get that haircut and buy that designer suit but that is not the kind of investment that we are talking about here.

Your internet business is just you, your computer and your internet connection and you could actually operate your internet business from any commuter on the planet that had an internet connection.

So basically, your business is really only you. Your business is based only upon your own knowledge and your own ability. Those are the ‘company’ assets and those are the ones that need to grow and expand constantly so that your internet business thrives.

Here is a rule that you might want to live by to insure that your internet business is a success and continues to be a success: Invest 5% of your time and income into improving yourself.

Expansion and growth are imperative to survival and expansion and growth of an internet business means expanding and growing the knowledge of the person running the company…that would be YOU.

A tiny investment of only 5% of your time and your income per year in yourself can mean that you will continue to see positive monetary returns for many, many years to come.

You might be sitting there shaking your head and still wondering what is meant by a 5% time and income investment per year in yourself. What is meant is that you must expand your knowledge.

You must stay on top of new technological advancements and you must expand your knowledge base about your own area of expertise. Things change fast. New information becomes available on almost everything under the sun every day of the week.

It is very, very easy to fall behind very, very quickly. And unless you consciously put forth the effort to stay on top of things you will most certainly fall behind. Keeping up is easier than catching up and if you keep up, you can usually find a way to forge ahead.

Yes, you are so busy right now that you could use 48 hour days but taking just about one hour per day out of the 24 that you are allotted and only $5 out of every hundred dollars that you earn and investing that time and money in yourself can increase your future earnings a hundred fold.

There are newsletters, webinars, teleseminars and real brick and mortar seminars that can provide information and cause your knowledge to grow and expand so that your business can also grow and expand but you must be willing to invest in yourself so that you can take advantage of this information…learn it…and apply it to your own internet business.


Self-Investment Tips that Really Work

It is absolutely true that time is the one commodity that most internet entrepreneurs have a very, very short supply of. Still there are ways to use time that would otherwise be of no value to invest in yourself. Here are a few tips that might help:

Use travel time to invest in yourself. By using your iPod or your MP3 player you can use your travel time to expand your knowledge.

  • Set your clock for a half hour earlier and use that time to read and learn.
  • After you stop working in the evening, use your computer to search for new information and ideas.

Of course there are some things that are just going to take your time but you can choose wisely.

  • Attend webinars and teleseminars that are directly related to your niche or your business.
  • Attend real world seminars that are closer to your home and will require less travel time but will provide you with the information that you need.

Resist the Urge of Staying in the Comfort Zone

We all have a comfort zone and all of us are very fond of our personal comfort zone. It is very, very tempting to just stick with doing the things that we have always done and doing them in the same way we have always done them.

However, staying in your comfort zone and refusing to expand your mind and your horizons can cause you and your internet business to fail.

There is an old saying (probably made up by someone who was afraid of trying new things) that says, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, ‘it’ doesn’t have to be broken in order to be improved upon whatever ‘it’ is.

Candle light wasn’t broken but we are all glad that electricity was harnessed. Electric light is still light but it is certainly a big improvement over candle light.

New ideas come along every day in the world of internet business. Some of those ideas are even good ones even if they do reside outside of our own personal comfort zone.

In order to continue to invest in yourself, you must be willing to leave your own comfort zone. Just because what has worked is still working it doesn’t mean that there are not newer, better and more efficient ways of doing things.

Nobody is saying that new is always better. New is not always better but sometimes it is and the only way to tell which is which is by investigating new ideas yourself and then adapting the ones that can help you to your business.

Invest in yourself by increasing your knowledge and don’t be afraid of trying new things and new ways of doing things. These things really are the secrets of success and not just in the world of internet business but in life itself.

How To Create a One Page Business Plan

Many small business owners get overwhelmed when it comes to the necessity of writing their business plan.  It doesn’t have to be as hard as it may seem.

Unless you are looking for major financial funding from a bank or other loan institutions, a simple business plan that includes answers to the following questions will be perfect for your small business purposes.

1.  Where am I now with my business?

2.  Where do I want to be with my business?  If you see your deadlines in front of you as you work your business, you’ll be more likely to meet them.  Break this answer down into a timeline to make it easier, using 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, or whatever times work for your particular business.

If you are looking for a way to get a bit more detailed with your plan or you forsee needing it to request funding later, you may want to devote more time and attention.  You can still easily do this by devoting no more than one page to each section of your business plan.

Page 1 – Overview

Include your vision (possibilities) for the company, the purpose (why you started your business) of creating the company and the mission (plans for achieving) of the company.

Page 2 – Business Information

Here is where you would include information about yourself including name, business name and entity, address and phone number.

You’ll also want to summarize your business objectives on this page.  List your goals and how you plan to reach them.  Including what you’ll do to create a profit and what tools and resources you plan to use to do so.

Page 3 – Market & Customers

Answer the following questions in this section of your plan.
– Target market – Who are they? Where are they? How many?  What do you need to know about them?  Why do they need your service?  Is the market growing?  Give specifics about growth and spending habits.  Do as much research on your market as you can and put it in this section, including any barriers or hard to overcome issues.

Page 4 – Competition

Who are your competitors?  What makes you different and the same as those competitors?  How are you competing with them? With price, quality, etc?  How will your market feel about you compared to your competitors.

Page 5 – Marketing

This is a bit like your competition section because you’ll want to discuss how you will market your business products or services.  What makes your business unique?

No matter which method you use to create your business plan, be sure you are answering each of the questions to make it efficient for it’s purpose.  Whether it’s for you or someone else, the ulitmate goal of a business plan is to keep you on track and focused and working toward growth.  As your business grows don’t forget to update your plan to grow with it as well.

Problogger Checklist Now Available Plus 5 Reasons Creating Discount Codes for Your Website is a Good Thing

Recently when Darren had his Birthday at Problogger he put his book on for half price, so I grabbed a copy. With every single course that I download I put together a Checklist to keep myself on track. I’m also extending that offer to anyone who grabs a copy on my recommendation.

I’ve also already sent out all the checklists to those people who emailed me their receipt. If you haven’t sent me your receipt yet, please do so and I’ll give you access to the checklist. 🙂

That got me thinking about coupon codes, I probably would not have bought the workbook myself for a while. It always takes time and effort to follow a new course and implement the steps.

But because there was a decent discount, I went for it.  Then once I purchased it I almost kicked myself for not getting it sooner. It’s a very good workbook and it will be easy for me to go through it and refer to it in the future.

Do you use discount codes for your products?

Here Are Five Reasons Creating Discount Codes for Your Website is a Good Thing

Discount codes give cost savings to customers while providing valuable data and inventory control to the seller.  Here are five reasons that creating discount codes can benefit an etailer’s business:

• Bring in new customers – When a consumer is ready to buy and knows of multiple sources for the product, price is often the deciding factor.  Consumers are attracted to a good deal.  Offering a discount code to new customers provides an added reason to shop at a particular website over all other options.

• Encourage repeat business – Satisfied customers will be more likely to shop again when they are reminded to do so, and given a compelling reason to return.  A special discount code can be sent via email at specific intervals as a thank-you for past purchases and to encourage repeat business.

• Increase order size – Time-limited offers create a sense of urgency and give customers a reason to buy more than they originally intended.  Discount codes can be offered for a percentage off the purchase price of a second item, for example, or for free shipping on orders totaling a specific amount.

• Tracking – Gathering data on customer trends is imperative for every etailer.  Issuing separate discount codes for different mailings, website promotions and affiliate partners, for instance, provides important information on where customers come from and which marketing campaigns are most effective.  This data can then be used to make decisions about future marketing programs.

• Control inventory flow –
Physical stores manage inventory flow by marking down items they want to move.  Online storefronts can use discount codes for the same purpose.  The discount can be offered across the board, or used to bring in new customers with an interest in that particular product category, or sent to previous customers who bought similar products.

There are several ways discount codes can be applied.  You can generally offer a set dollar amount off the normal price of a product, a percentage off the price of a single item, a discount on the order total, or free shipping on orders that exceed a minimum dollar amount.

  • Discount offers can be extended through a number of vehicles.
  • They can be posted on the landing page of the storefront.
  • They can be emailed to select past or potential customers.
  • They can be introduced on the order summary page to encourage the customer to add items to the shopping cart.
  • Or they can be listed at sites such as currentcodes.com or dealhunting.com.

Many people determine the effectiveness of their marketing strategies by tracking the use of discount codes. The information can help businesses achieve the highest possible ROI and sales at the best available rates.

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