Archives for January 2011

Make Your Own Economy!

brandingMy general feeling is that you can do business one of two ways: You can either let the economy happen to you, or you make your own economy and capture opportunities. I choose the latter.

The last three years have been very good for me. And this year is looking positive already. At the end of last year, I sat down and forged my goals for this coming year. I earmarked two items: earn more consulting business and to harness more paid speaking engagements. If my intention was to let the economy happen to me, then my strategy would be to sit back and see what gels. Let the universe control my fate.

But, as I said my strategy is to make my own economy. This amounts to surrounding myself with positive energy. It also involves putting initiatives in place to help generate the actions i need to achieve my goals. My success hinges on how and when I promote myself. I use specific networking avenues on and offline. Over the years certain media have worked well for me, so naturally I will continue to build on those efforts. My brand personally and professionally are important to my success. The path they have taken empowers me to keep the momentum from waning. With regard to speaking engagements – instead of just waiting to see who might seek me out, I am making my own economy by developing a Branding Event and find the audience for it. My first event will be on Canada’s East Coast. It is scheduled for late summer. I am anxious to see if my model can find an audience and then learn from it.

What can you do to build your own economy? What ever initiatives you choose, you may be surprised that a new revenue stream is entirely possible where one never seemed plausible in the past. Key to your own economy is positive energy. Keep up a strong force to succeed. Any negativity will only through up barriers to your success. When you start to see delays, doubts and risk, be assured that negative influences are at work to defeat you. Your goals are what defines you. Making your own economy gives you the opportunity.

Can you win business using social media?

When people talk about social media, sites like Facebook and Twitter they often talk about return on investment and monetizing it. If I told you I invested 3 hours a week and got a significant return would you believe me? Would you believe me if I told you I was a brick and mortar business and not a social media business?

As a small regional courier company, based in the UK I work in a county that is smaller in size than Brooklyn, New York. In fact someone told me once the whole UK could fit into New York state a few times. Not only do I live in another country, I have less people to do business with 😉

I discovered blogging in 2007 through a site called BT Tradespace, and to this day I still send my blog posts there. I had to write 50 words 3 times a week on my BT Tradespace blog. My first one went “White van in Sheffield on Friday, looking for a load back to London” 13 words. Hmmm, only another 37 to find. I scraped up another 37 words and hit publish. And I did this 3 times a week and after 3 weeks the phone started ringing with bookings. Every time we blogged the phone rang, some days it rang off the hook!

I had these blogs to promote and I had no idea what to with them so in August 2007 I set up a Facebook page and added the feed to the Facebook page so people could see the blogs.

In 2008 I discovered Twitter via a lady called Suzy Miller, and I thought hey – I can promote my blog posts there too. So for 15 minutes every day I would chat to people on Twitter, help those with delivery problems out, ReTweet useful posts and promote my own blog posts. Soon lots of people started to recommend me. I met with local business people for coffee and spoke about Twitter and what it can do for business. I helped other small businesses get started on Twitter and I wrote an ebook that sold 450 copies – “Twitter for Couriers” to help others in my niche industry get started.

2009 was interesting, were noticed by a very large company who needed time sensitive deliveries. We whizzed through the vetting procedures, it was so fast it was like a blur. I was curious, these things take months so I asked why it was so fast and the reply? “We can find all the information we need about you online, through your blogs, your tweets, through Facebook. We have even watched your You Tube video, we just need to meet you to see if you are like that in real life”. And we were, like that in real life that is. Being human and helpful gained us a big contract. Using social media enabled us to be found, followed and then trusted. Trusted enough to deliver time critical items.

2010 was the year of more blogging, guest blogging and gaining more business through social media. People who didn’t know us laughed – “How can a small business win contracts on Twitter? They are not social media experts, they are not even marketing experts, they have poor grammar too…” As if poor grammar ever stopped people from having a conversation! That’s what social media is about, the conversation.

If you are a chatty helpful person then you can do well with social media too.

  • Set up your searches for your keywords, and talk back to people that need help.
  • Direct them to pages on your blog that can help and ask them to ReTweet if they found it useful.
  • If people are in other countries direct them to a Twitter user or blog in their own country for help. You make two new friends that way.
  • Help Journalists in your industry – this has led to press and radio interviews for us
  • Be human, don’t be a business tweet robot, show some of your personality
  • Show other sides to your business – there’s more to us that white vans!

Nearly 20 billion searches a month are performed on Twitter so once a day Tweet out what you do and a link to your website so you are found in the searches. Mine goes out at around 4am in the morning so it can be found but not annoy my regular followers.

Still think you won’t get business from Twitter? If a small regional courier from a country that’s one fifth of the size of New York State can, so can you. You just have to do it.

10 Inexpensive & Easy to Follow Tips for Trade Show Success

Trade shows are often times a necessity for many industries, but can be a daunting task to plan and implement. The upside to doing a trade show is that it is the most cost effective approach to market to a huge crowd. There are many social media and viral efforts for marketing, but trades shows are the only face-to-face marketing today. If you market wisely, trade shows can bring hundreds of motivated potential customers to you. Unfortunately, many exhibitors don’t make the most of their trade show participation because they don’t adhere to these simple rules:

Consult an exhibit or display expert

Believe it or not, there are some cost effective services that assist exhibitors in creating a relatively inexpensive display while increasing marketing potential and getting the message to people passing by. Reputable exhibit firms offer free design consultation and will create the right display while staying within your targeted budget. Don’t spend too much on design. Trim the fat to save money. Sometimes less is more.

Study the Floor Plan

You don’t have to make use of the premium spaces. They are typically at the entrance, expensive and unavailable. Choose areas that can be just as effective. Areas near restrooms, business centers, or food and beverages make awesome locations and are easier on the pockets.

See the Light.

Lighting is very important. Most venues offer booths with electricity. Pay the extra fees for a well-lit display to draw more attention.

Spit Out the Gum!

Train your staff on booth etiquette. Attendees are priority and should be approached and treated in a professional manner. Have the trade show giveaways ready in hand to distribute once a potential customer approaches the exhibit. No gum chewing, eating, sitting, relaxing or personal conversations at the booth. Most of all, NO Texting!

Get Leads & Follow Up

Take advantage of the tracking system that trade shows often have. If they don’t have one, create a system to capture leads. Offer free products through a sweepstakes. Get potential customers to enter to win the product or service you’re offering, by filling out cards with their contact information. Then follow up!

Invest in Great Marketing Materials.

They say pictures are worth a thousand words. Make use of great graphics to get your point across and put it on durable materials. One large image targeted to how your business can help the customer can say a thousand words. It can cost less, but say a lot more.

Dress for Success

Everyone recognizes a clean and professional look. A small investment in logoed apparel for your team can create a nice uniform company image. Printed or embroidered polo shirts, t-shirts or aprons etc. create a polished look.

Roll Out the Carpet

Rent or buy carpet with comfortable padding. Trade show venues usually get rid of carpet remnants after a huge show. This would be a good time to negotiate good carpet to secure for upcoming trade shows.

Accept Credit Cards On Your Phone or iPad

People have been wanting to process credit card payments on the go for years. I still remember the applications and hardware that you have to have before.

As with anything, new technology makes it lighter and easier than ever. Take Square for example. It is a small little card reader that you plug into your phone or iPad.

When you sign up for an account with Square,  you will get the card reader free in the mail. Then you can start processing payments. There are no monthly contracts or fees or merchant account involved. They do take a cut out of each payment and card swipe – that’s to be expected.

Supported phones or devices are iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and selected Android devices.

Secrets to Success in Hiring Interns

Summer is a great time to look for interns to fulfill painstaking duties that have been put on the backburner or just to have assistance to get you above all the paper. Many students are looking to make money and could use the extra credit that goes toward their degree. Hiring interns, however is not one of the most thought provoking ideas for many entrepreneurs. Interns are hired much the same as any other employee with two major exceptions to the rule. First, major training is necessary because of the intern’s inexperience. Second, the hard work of training goes into an individual who’s job has a definite end. Even with what may seem to be disadvantages, hiring interns can prove to be a win-win scenario and a rich opportunity that excels both of you.

Eagerness, Energy and Ideas

Most interns are “fresh out the box” and are willing and eager to learn in order to advance them to the next level even before their career actually starts. Their energy levels are typically higher. Their ideas may seem far-fetched, but keep an open mind with the ideas they bring to the table. Their non-traditional experiences can open doors and present advantageous challenges that can steer old thinking into a new direction. Both you and the intern can benefit by bridging old and new schools.

Hiring Tips

When hiring interns, look for the same characteristics you would in any other candidate. Most interns will not have as much experience under their belts, so look for good attitudes, willingness to learn, commitment, technical experiences, social skills and they should be able to receive constructive criticism well.

Interviews are great for you and the intern. It gives the intern a great start in what to expect as their career unfolds and it grants you the opportunity to assess their professionalism, demeanor and articulacy.
Collect many resumes and look for those who have experience working small jobs, like babysitting and working with community organizations. In these cases you get the best references because the work relationship is usually more intimate.

Where to Find Interns

Do your homework. Actively recruit local high schools, junior colleges, universities and organizations. You can post openings on college websites or develop relationships with counselors in your field of interest. The most organized students sign up early and usually make the best candidates.

Many organizations helping battered women and homeless teens are looking to place individuals, who are in school to obtain their GEDs, as interns. This is a great opportunity to help someone less fortunate learn the tools of the trade and become potential full time employees.

Check with your colleagues. As always, personal references work best.

Exercise Patience – Mold a New Professional

A new relationship can be difficult for an employee, but even tougher on an intern. Practicing patience and understanding is a key ingredient to the success of the intern program. After all, hiring interns will make you hone in on your management skills and in many cases force you to raise the bar.

First, it is essential to spell out expectations early on in the process. If you have a company manual, tweak it for the intern program or create one. Highlight dress code, company ethics, email policies, lunch breaks, office procedures, etc. Look at the program as an opportunity to clone you or help a young professional get her feet wet as their first time in the working world.

Don’t expect too much and set goals that can be measured and are attainable. Build a relationship of trust and be prepared to have the intern shadow you. Monitor performance and give feedback. Stress punctuality and timelessness and test it by setting timelines with assigned tasks.

Communication is crucial. Lay out a specific plan of attack for the needs of your company and spell it out for the intern. Be sure your intern knows specifics and details of the assignment. If his job is to merge mail, pack promotional products or transfer data to Excel, direction should be thought our carefully to enable the intern to present quality work. Be open to answering questions. Work with them to increase their strengths and grow in areas that need work.

Finally, praise them with a job well done. Interns are typically working for credits or minimum wage, so treat them to lunch on occasion. Send them off with a letter of reference to use for their next internship or first job in their field. The result of a successful internship program could be a young professional will have the tools to shine in any industry. Your company can also mold itself into a great place to work in your community.

Why it Makes Sense to Invest With Someone Else’s Money

If you want to invest money in a new business, then chuck those overburdened checking accounts, piggy banks, change purses, mini-safes, and spare mattresses into the fireplace and look no further than your nearest banking institution, friend, or investment firm. Loans are a low-risk endeavor when compared to taking money out of your house or personal savings to front a business venture that has the potential to fail — and leaving you and your finances hanging out to dry. With a loan, you can ensure that your business has everything it needs to thrive while not worrying about your own financial ruin. That way, if business goes south, it might go bankrupt, but you won’t. Here are a number of investing options and why we think they’re worthwhile:

Small Business Loans. Though small business usually require a decent credit history on your part, you have a number of options for financing. Secured loans require a form of collateral assistance (and, as a result, offer low interest rates and flexible repayment options) while unsecured loans, which do not require collateral, can have interest rates as high as credit cards, even. Still, if your company is profitable and you do well with payments, this is a much lower-risk option than fronting the money yourself.

Government Business Loans. A government-backed Small Business Administration loan may be an option for those that want a bit of oversight on their risk. While the government does not exactly provide loans in this instance, it acts as a loan guarantor, agreeing to pay your lender back a certain percentage of the borrowed amount in case you default on your repayment. There are tons of loans available — from start-up funding assistance to expansion assistance –and the government’s funds are vast enough that they’ll have enough to lend to you during bad economic times, as well. Special groups (like women, Native Americans and veterans) have targeted funds.

Angel and Venture Capitalist Funds. It’s the job of venture capital firms to invest — and if your business is fast-growing and particularly “entrepreneurial” in spirit, you’ll probably attract an investor. In exchange for an equity stake in your business and some influence on the decision-making process, venture capitalists commit funds to expand the growth of your business. Consultants determine whether your business proposal is high- or low- risk before deciding on a commitment. VCs also have more money down the road, should you need it.

“Angel” investors put up private money, and typically require high returns on their investments — but they have no “set” limit on the amount of funds they may contribute. They also act as mentors and educators, having already made it big in the corporate world. There are no monthly payments, and you get a large network of contacts and information in exchange for equity.

Gifts/Grants. Friends and family can be surprisingly cooperative when it comes to financing your venture. The funds are usually available quickly, and the contractual obligations are low — although, to be safe, you should write and prepare something in case of fallout.

In addition, there are a number of government grants that can fill in the gaps in your investment money. Your state or local economic development agency probably has money set-aside for projects or ventures tied to a specific cause, and, because the money is essentially “free,” there’s no need to pay back returns or interest. Other investors will love this kind of debt-free funding and potentially rank you higher in their consideration because of it, as well.

Remember: if you intend on making your business successful, you might as well start with a bang. What’s better than using someone else’s?

Additional Resources: For help finding banks, investors and other funding sources check out Funding Universe.

Learn From Others’ Split Testing Results

In my last post, I made a strong case why you should start testing right away – so you have time to build data. But if you really need to refer to data that you don’t have, one of the next best things you can do is – look at other people’s testing results.

One site where you can look at what other people have done, their results and also figure out what to test on your own sites is ABtests.com. You can see the results of ad click through tests, landing page tests, sign up or registration tests. Or, if you’re in the mood for sharing, you can also upload your own test results.

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