Archives for January 2010

Free Business Resources for You

I’ve had a wonderful morning although the two teenagers are home studying for their exams this week so I’ve had to share the computer today (my laptop died about a month ago and my second computer is now dead.. time for a new one).

Anyhow, I just wanted to share these awesome free business resources with you. 🙂

East Tech, this software is normally $49 but is free until Jan 31st, 2010 – it Securely and permanently erases unwanted data.
http://tinyurl.com/yzy5ajb

Quick Books Simple Start:
http://tinyurl.com/4junwp

Photoshop Alternative (free download):
http://www.gimp.org/downloads

Data Recovery if your Computer Crashes (like mine did ooy!)
http://www.easeus.com/giveaways/drw
expires Feb 1st, 2010

Creates partitions on your hard drive:
http://tinyurl.com/ybg9rn7
expires Feb 1st, 2010

If you haven’t joined us yet, we’d love to have you participate in the Small Spark Contest… it’s not hard, just a small spark:
http://www.smallbusinessbranding.com/1859

PS.. wonder how I get access to these great downloads? I don’t scurry the net, (too busy for that) I use ONE trusted resource.

Got A Niche? Scratch It!

There’s not a whole lot of point speaking to people who don’t want to speak to you. If you are involved in advertising in daily newspapers, general interest publications, direct mail to diverse mailing lists or even billboards, you are probably wasting a good percentage of your advertising dollar. Unless you’re overall goal is awareness, then this is a luxury best avoided.

A better more lucrative approach would be to begin building niche lists. Niches are finely tuned special interest groups of like minded people. Examples of niches would be Harley owners, runners, trekkies, knitters and new moms to mention a few. In my world, start-ups are a niche I’m keen on. Doing everything you can to first identify the niches that are your focus and secondly, start populating those niches. One way of accomplishing this is to have documents available on your website that would be generally desired. Require the users to sign up for this FREE document. Once in, they would next be required to check off “interests” that they have. Each selection would put that individual into that niche, so in essence, they are building the niches for you.

One new revenue stream resulting from this suggestion would be to cross-promote with other businesses that would benefit from one or more of your niches. I would only suggest that you not release the identities of your niche members, as it took a lot of effort to build them and gain their trust. Damaging that trust damages your brand.

Once you get a healthy number of constituents in your niches, now you can start marketing directly to them based on their common interests. Aim your offers at their unique thirst and build a trusting relationship with them. Develop solutions and content your niches crave. With niche marketing, 100% of your advertising dollars are working for you and with the proper systems in place you can detect exactly who is responding to your efforts to contact them.

SBB Small Spark Contest 2010: Building Relationships With Subscribers & Customers

Very few people understand the tremendous value in their list. Very few people get that. They think they do, but they really don’t. They see it primarily as a list of “potential customers”. Your list is so much more than that. It’s an entity of its own. It’s a machine that just needs you to treat it appropriately and set it into motion.

There are many, many ways to make money from a list without sacrificing your integrity or the well-being of your subscribers.

Every Subscriber Counts

You’ve heard the term that the money is in the list. However, many business owners take that to assume that the bigger the list, the more money they’ll make. This may be true, yet what may be more important than having a large opt-in list is using it well.

If you have a list of 1000 names and 10% of them become customers, that’s great – that’s 100 customers. Yet if you have a list of 250 names and 50% of them become customers because you’ve taken extra measures to make sure they’re treated well, then that’s even better. That’s 125 customers and a group of loyal and valued subscribers.

People buy from businesses they like and people they can relate to. They also buy when they feel appreciated, part of a group, and when they feel the need to reciprocate. By making each and every subscriber feel important and valued you make the very most of your list, regardless of the size.

Here’s how to make sure every subscriber feels important.

Use your subscriber’s name – In every communication you have with your audience, make sure you personalize the message. Dear subscriber,” is very impersonal and won’t create the same connection as something like “Dear Anne.” There are applications that can personalize your email and autoresponder messages or you can do the coding yourself, or hire someone.  The point is, find a way to send personal messages to your subscribers. The little details matter and it begins with getting their name on your communications.

Reward your subscribers – Consider analyzing your list and sending special promotions to those who click through often, make purchases or forward your information to others. Some people subscribe to a list just to get the free information you’re offering. They may give you an email address they don’t access often or they may just send all your communications to their junk mail box.

However, other subscribers will be interested in your information. They’ll click though to read your content, they’ll download materials from your website and they’ll express an interest in your products and services. These subscribers are valuable because they’re on the cusp of making a purchase. Taking great care of these subscribers is important. And designing special offers and promotions for them is a great way to make them feel special.

Connect with them personally – Another way to make your subscribers feel special is to take a break from marketing to them and instead include them in your business. You can ask their opinion, give them the opportunity to contribute to your content by writing guest posts or asking questions. You can offer them contests and sweepstakes and give them first dibs at new products or services.

Finally, always be sure to thank your subscribers. Gratitude is wonderful; it’ll change your life and it will let your subscribers know you’re a businessperson who has their priorities in order.

Email Business Writing Etiquette

As the world becomes more and more hurried, it seems that etiquette falls by the wayside. But keeping the rules of business letter writing alive and applying them to your email communications is a great way to present yourself in the most professional light possible and to make your clients and associates feel respected.

Here are a few tips to write professional and polite email business letters.

The salutation and greeting – Remember when you were in school and learned how to write a letter? The first thing you learned was the salutation – the “Dear so and so.” While “Dear sir,” isn’t likely to be the greeting you use in an email, you do still want to include a salutation. Common salutations, if you are communicating with this person for the first time include:

Dear,
Hello,
Thank you,

Grammar for a salutation will include a comma after the salutation or a period at the end depending on the greeting. For example, “Dear Anne,” or “Thank you, Anne.”

Complete words and phrases – While it’s common to use acronyms or text speak like LOL and TTFN, don’t. This is appropriate for friends and family, not for business associates. Even if you become friends with your customers in general keep the use of acronyms to a minimum and even then use them only after your customer or associate has.

Use spell check and proper punctuation – It takes five seconds to hit the spell check button on your email toolbar. If you have frequent misspellings and poor grammar you’re making an indelible impression on your associate or client that you may not be able to remove. Do your best to put your best foot forward in your email communications. A quick spell check and grammar check just tells your client you take the time to communicate effectively and correctly, you’re a professional and your communication with them is important to you.

Keep it short and to the point – respect the time of your associate. That doesn’t mean you jump right into the meat of your email; a friendly sentence or two to inquire about how the person is doing or to introduce yourself is professional and courteous. However, it’s also important to get to the point of your email as quickly as possible.

The closing – Finally, once you’ve wrapped up what you have to say, it’s time for the good old-fashioned closing. Sincerely is considered a bit too old-fashioned in this day and age, but the following are quite acceptable:

Regards
Best
Best regards
Thank you

When writing an email to a client, prospect, or business associate, it is important to make sure you present yourself in the best light possible. That means spending a little extra time on your communications and following a few simple email etiquette rules.

Key Things You Need For Your Subscribers

  • An opt-in form
  • Copy to sell Your Sign Up Form
  • A Thank You Page
  • A Gift For Joining
  • First Follow Up Message

Are you Beyond Doing The Above?

Start setting up your autoresponder to be ready to go for the full year. Plunk in 52 messages, one per week.

THE CHALLENGE

Go through the key things and make sure it’s the absolute BEST that it can be. I’m not perfect either, I’m going to go through my own and decide what is best.  It’s not a hard challenge.. and I will be giving you ideas the entire month on how to better your email marketing. So let’s get started…

THE CHALLENGE DETAILS

It’s not hard, just a small spark!

Contest starts February 1st, 2010

1) Choose ONE aspect of your email marketing that you’d like to improve. Your messages, fixing your thank you page, creating a new resource for subscribers, etc.

2) Post here in the comments below WHAT you are going to do

3) At the end of the month post a comment on your success!

Oh and feel free to post the Small Spark Button onto your website to spread the word. 🙂

PRIZES

The Monthly Winner Will Receive:

  • Report & Checklist – You will get a free copy of the report & checklist so you have your plan in place
  • Articles – 2 Custom Written Articles for your website or blog from All Custom Content
  • Virtual Assistance – 30 Minutes Virtual Assistance – to get your articles listed in some directories and added to your site with Christina Lemmey from MultiMediaVA.com
  • Branding Session30 Minutes Branding Strategy for your Business with Ed Roach from The Branding Experts
  • A Monthly Product from Melissa Ingold
  • Graphics Professional Button for your site from Nola Cooper Classic Creations Design
  • PLRPrivate Label Rights Pack from Alice Seba & Mila Sidman All Private Label Content
  • Free Access to Membership Site Intensive by Kelly McCausey & Lynette Chandler
  • 1 Free Month Access to Your Own Private Conference Room from Ken Chandler Meeting On Now
  • Bonus: Vera will donate $50 To The Monthly Charity
  • Bonus: 1 Month Direct Email Coaching from Vera
  • Bonus: Vera will run for 20 minutes to get healthy and run a more effective business, I may even record it so you can witness the craziness.

THE WINNER

To win, all you need to do is apply the task and then post a comment to how it actually worked for you. I will then turn each month into a report and checklist for purchase which will include exclusive ideas and my own notes on how I fit it into my business each year.

1) Winner will be announced on February 28th, 2010

2) You must email me at vera @ smallbusinessbranding.com within 3 days to claim your prizes

3) Enjoy your prizes!

Good luck to everyone, I hope you utilize the month of February to implement just one small spark into your business.

7 Quick Ideas For Your Ezine

E-mailThe first month of our Small Spark Contest will focus on your ezine (newsletter) for your subscribers and your customers. Due to some recent events happening right now in the industry I need to add this information along with what I already have planned.

The Small Spark Contest will begin February 1st, 2010. But since we’re getting ready to talk about email marketing for the first topic of the contest I wanted to give you some ideas on how to come up with good topics for your ezine.

Ezines are a great way to keep in contact with your opt-in list. The trick is to continually come up with content that provides value and inspires your recipients to open the email newsletter and read the content. The trick, then, is to come up with exciting ezine topics. Here are a few suggestions to inspire and motivate you.

IDEA #1 Check your testing and tracking data to see which newsletters have the highest open rates. And see if there are any commonalities in the articles in each of those popular newsletters. You may find your audience really enjoys reviews or list articles and then you know that those types of content are exciting to your prospects and you can repeat that content in future ezines.

IDEA #2 Look at controversy going on in your industry. Whether your niche is fashion, gossip and entertainment or accounting and finance, or somewhere in between, there is always some sort of controversy brewing somewhere. Use that controversy to draw attention to your ezine, inspire open rates and generate a buzz in your community.

IDEA #3 Check out your forums, blogs, and social networking sites to see what people are talking about. What common questions or comments do people have and how can you spin that into an exciting article?

IDEA #4 Write lists. In almost every single industry, people love to read lists online. They’re easily consumable, infinitely valuable and you can even print them out and use them as a resource for the future. Consider writing a list type article for your next ezine and evaluating the results. Does your open rate increase?  What about your forwards and downloads?

IDEA #5 Review products or services. Like lists, reviews are extremely valuable and they can also help you generate income if you’re an affiliate of the product or services you’re reviewing.

IDEA #6 Comment on late breaking news. Ezine articles can be written and scheduled way in advance however they can be edited and changed on the fly. That means when there is late breaking news in your industry or news that affects your customers and prospects, you can write about it and include it in your ezine.

IDEA #7 Finally, a great way to generate exciting ezine articles is to ask your readers what they want to know. Go directly to the source and ask them what they have questions about, what they’re interested in and how you can help them. In fact, you can print their question and then answer the question so your readers get to be included in your content. Kind of like a Dear Abby format, be sure to get their permission to print their question and use their name.

Exciting ezine content doesn’t have to be difficult or challenging to come up with. Take a look around you. What’s happening that’s relevant to your audience?  What content do they respond to and how can you better help them solve their problems?

Let’s Get Rid of Procrastination

Before we get into our very first Small Spark Challenge I’d like to talk to you about procrastination. Plain and simple, it sucks.

One of the biggest challenges to being self-employed and owning your own business is getting over time management procrastination. It’s just so easy when you’re the boss to let things slide until it’s an emergency and you must absolutely get the task done. Here are a few tips to get out of this habit and start being productive today, not tomorrow.

Challenge yourself to something achievable but challenging. Sometimes we procrastinate because the task seems too large to manage. For example, you have an information product to create and just don’t know where to start. Rather than putting “create information product” on your task list, break the project up into several smaller steps. The first one could be, “Outline information product” or “Choose title for information product.”  These smaller, more attainable goals are easier to accomplish and don’t feel as if they’re looming over your head.

Reward yourself (with a day off). Work hard, play hard is the cliché, right? Well take advantage of it. Make a to-do list at the beginning of the week and promise yourself a day off, where you do something fun, when the list is complete.

It’s easier to commit to this reward if you involve other people. For example, if you make an appointment for a massage on Friday, well you had better have your task list done by Thursday night or you’re going to have to cancel on your masseuse and she’ll never book you an appointment again for cancelling at the last minute. You’re making yourself accountable.

Identify distractions – Find out what you procrastinate with. Do you watch television? Run errands? Surf the net? Facebook? Determine what distracts you. Spend a day or two working, or procrastinating, like you usually do and simply take note of what you do other than work.

Eliminate distractions
– Once you know what you’re using to procrastinate then it’s time to get tough. Eliminate the distractions. For example, if you find that you often let household chores deter you from being productive, schedule a time for household chores. Give yourself thirty minutes at lunchtime to get a chore list completed and then go back to work.

Use tools to help you
– Time-tracking tools, both online and off, are great for helping you stay on task. You can for example use something as simple as an egg timer. Set it for thirty-five minutes. Work for thirty-five minutes and when the timer dings, give yourself ten minutes or so to stretch, walk around the block, put away the clean dishes or something other than work and then go back and set the timer again.

Get creative with these tools and ideas and use them to help you stay on task and stop procrastinating.

Up next… Your very first challenge.

SBB Presents – Small Spark Contest 2010

Do You Have Just ONE Small Spark?

I’m inspired! Are you? Getting the word out about your business doesn’t have to be a big huge task… all you need is ONE spark to get it going and before you know it, it’s grown into something massive.

I’m inspired this year to not only share some easy stuff you can do to get the word out about your business but I’m making it into a FAB contest!

smallspark_468x60

I’ve named it the SBB Small Spark Contest 2010. Not only will you be able to develop your business online easily but you’ll be also a part of something much bigger… I want to help you grow your business but I also want to reward different charities throughout the year.

Each month we cover something productive to do for your business online (ie: email marketing, build traffic, content series, etc). Each participant is required to follow the task for that month. At the end of each month we pick 1 winner who will receive a teaching product that will help them expand on what they’ve learned.

Then each Quarter we will pick from the monthly winners who we feel did the best job of completing the task. At the end of the year in December there will be a final winner picked from all of the Quarterly winners who will be named our Small Spark Champion!

It’s a Challenge, It’s a Contest, It’s a Mission! Are You With Me?

smallspark_125x125_challenger

Everyone who participates in the Challenge are welcome to display this button proudly on their website!

Monthly Winners – Your 1st Assignment is Just Moments Away…

smallspark_125x125_winner

To win, all you need to do is apply the task and then post a comment to how it actually worked for you. I will then turn each month into a report and checklist for purchase which will include exclusive ideas and my own notes on how I fit it into my business each year.

The Monthly Winner Will Receive:

  • Report & Checklist – You will get a free copy of the report & checklist so you have your plan in place
  • Articles – 2 Custom Written Articles for your website or blog from All Custom Content
  • Virtual Assistance – 30 Minutes Virtual Assistance – to get your articles listed in some directories and added to your site with Christina Lemmey from MultiMediaVA.com
  • Branding Session30 Minutes Branding Strategy for your Business with Ed Roach from The Branding Experts
  • A Monthly Product from Melissa Ingold
  • Graphics Professional Button for your site from Nola Cooper Classic Creations Design
  • PLRPrivate Label Rights Pack from Alice Seba & Mila Sidman All Private Label Content
  • Free Access to Membership Site Intensive by Kelly McCausey & Lynette Chandler
  • 1 Free Month Access to Your Own Private Conference Room from Ken Chandler Meeting On Now
  • Bonus: Vera will donate $50 To The Monthly Charity
  • Bonus: 1 Month Direct Email Coaching from Vera
  • Bonus: Vera will run for 20 minutes to get healthy and run a more effective business, I may even record it so you can witness the craziness.

Quarterly Winner – March, June, September, December

smallspark_125x125_winnerEach quarter the winners will be hand picked by our team from the pool of monthly winners, we will research online into their tasks and see what they’ve completed. 😉 The Small Spark Winner will also be able to display the Winner Button proudly on their website.

The Quarterly Winner Will Receive

Report & Checklist for the Quarter – You will get a free copy of the report & checklist so you have your plan in place

  • 5 Custom Written Articles for Blog from All Custom Content
  • 1 Hour Virtual Assistance with Christina Lemmey from MultiMediaVA.com
  • 30 Minutes Branding Strategy for your Business with Ed Roach from The Branding Experts
  • A Product from Melissa Ingold
  • Professional Banner & Button For Your Site from Nola Cooper Classic Creations Design
  • Private Label Rights Pack from Alice Seba & Mila Sidman All Private Label Content
  • Complete Access to Easy Article Marketing with Kelly McCausey & Nicole Dean
  • Bonus: Vera will donate $50 to Charity
  • Bonus: 1 Month Direct Email Coaching from Vera
  • Bonus: Vera will run for 20 minutes, and do 10 push ups to get healthy and run a more effective business, I may even record it so you can witness the craziness.

Year End Winner December 2010 – This is the Small Spark Champion of taking ACTION for your business!

smallspark_125x125_champion

The year end winner will be selected from the Quarterly winners and are required to submit a 400 word article on what they managed to accomplish this year for their business, lessons learned, and how they are moving forward into the next year. The Small Spark Winner will also be able to display the Champion Button proudly on their website.

The Year End Winner Receives

  • Every Report & Checklist for the Year
  • 24 Custom Written Articles for your Blog or Site from All Custom Content
  • 5 Hours Virtual Assistance with Christina Lemmey from MultiMediaVA.com
  • 1 Hour Branding Strategy for your Business with Ed Roach from The Branding Experts
  • A Product from Melissa Ingold
  • Professional Logo, Banner & Button for your site from Nola Cooper Classic Creations Design
  • Private Label Rights Pack from Alice Seba & Mila Sidman All Private Label Content
  • The Entire Blog Mastermind Course from Yaro Starak
  • 1 Full Year Multi Domain Website Hosting from Kelly McCausey’s Reliable Webs
  • Bonus: Vera will donate $200 to Charity
  • Bonus: 6 Months Direct Email Coaching from Vera
  • Bonus: Planning Guide for the Next Year
  • Bonus: Vera will run her very first Marathon to get healthy and run a more effective business, I may even record it so you can witness the craziness.

Don’t let 2010 go by without doing ALL you can for your business, your life & your family!

Sincerely,

Vera Raposo

PS. Would you like to promote our Contest? Just grab these buttons and banners, link them to

http://www.smallbusinessbranding.com/spark & place them on your website. 🙂

smallspark_125x125 smallspark_125x125_challenger

smallspark_468x60

PPS. Would you like to donate a prize? Just email vera (@) smallbusinessbranding.com.

This Months topic…. Email Marketing! 🙂  Get ready your challenge starts in just a few days!

Branding: What’s An SME To Do?

SMEI’ve written a lot about branding small to medium size enterprises over the last several years. I’m sure that many of my readers here at Small Business Branding and my branding blog (Brand Corral) wrestle daily with what to do to strengthen their brands. Most SME’s have very little resources to spend on brand issues. Unlike large firms who have the funds to hire teams of consultants to walk them through sophisticated strategies, SME’s are essentially a do-it-yourself demographic.

I scratch out my living by selling a few hours consultation to small businesses to get them moving in the right direction with a unique positioning strategy. Many take it from there and take a leadership role in their marketplace, while others require a more thorough solution from me. Regardless, one of the hurdles that befuddles SME’s everywhere is their own attitude. Many are often, intimidated by the large competitor with the deep pockets. They bow to that position and proclaim all the reasons why they can’t compete, forgetting that while some of their concerns are valid, they are without a doubt still in business. They are too close to their forests to see the trees that love them and due to the flatness of their business, can and should adopt a positioning strategy that would make that fat-cat competitor cringe. A great idea doesn’t take big bucks to launch – it takes the guts and determination of the SME entrepreneur to take the leadership role.

SME’s have to their advantage the internet. It is and always has been the great leveling field. We all know business people who only have a brochure site in their brand arsenal. They are completely ignoring ALL the other tools that they could embrace to promote and build their brands VERY effectively. What is incredible, is the barrier to implementation here is not money, but effort and ROI expectations. I’m told many times, “That’s great Ed, but it sounds like a lot of work?” or “How’s that going to get me business right now?” Even as recent as a few weeks ago, a client informed me that they finally came to the realization that they have to take blogging seriously. I asked if they considered all the wasted time since I recommended that they do it about a year and half ago. I must admit, that comment was a bit of venting, because I constantly hear why SME’s can’t do something, while visionaries from the skew proclaim why nothing will stop them from reaching their goals.

When I write online, profess from the stage of a speaking gig or share a drink face to face, I am passionate about getting small businesses on track with their brands. I refuse any excuses why they insist on following. If they don’t believe they are the leader then why should their customers? It doesn’t cost any time or money to take the proper attitude and grab their success.

When it’s slow, work on your brand. When you’re busy, work on your brand. When your resting, work on your brand. Define yourself – lead.

The alternative is the competition will define you – gladly.

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