bookmark_borderCut Expenses And Manage Business

Change Your Plastic Options

If you own a small web site that doesn’t do tons of online business, then chances are you don’t need a merchant account. These can be costly, and probably won’t pay for itself unless you do a robust business. But instead of losing business by not accepting credit cards, you can use one of the other options such as Paypal or Clickbank. 2checkout.com is another good option for the few countries not accepted by clickbank.

With these types of payment systems, clients can use their credit cards, and once the transaction is complete, the money is instantly deposited in your online account. Then you will simply need to transfer it to your bank account. You can even run your own affiliate programme with these services.

They are good and not expensive. You pay per sale rather than annoying monthly charges.

You will need to do some comparisons before switching services. Make sure that the transaction fees won’t cost more than the fees you are currently paying.

Change Your Calling Options

What are you paying for long distance phone calls? Depending on the company, it’s possible that you could save hundreds per year if you switched to another. Because of stiff competition, you should be able to go online and find the perfect rate for your needs.

And if you hold a lot of business meetings on the phone, don’t forget to check into teleconferencing or web conferencing as a less expensive solution!

Change Your Internet Options

The days are gone when you have to pay a fortune for an ISP server. In addition to the big boys, there are a great many smaller ISPs that will just as good of a job–if not better–for your business.

The key is negotiation and research.

Start by looking online by typing in search terms as “affordable ISP,” and “cheap Internet Service.” Once you’ve found a few, begin to compare rates and services.

Now, if you already pay twice as much with one of the larger companies, call them up and tell them that unless they can lower your rate, you’ll have no option than to switch to another company.

Many times, they will compensate you in the form of free months, or downright lower your fee. If they won’t budge, then you’ve already researched your other options, so make the move!

Can you see by just taking some time and looking at these areas how you can feasibly save hundreds of dollars per year in your small business? Get creative and figure out other ways to save.

bookmark_borderSecret Digital Marketing Weapon for Your Business

It seems paradoxical the more you give away, the more people are willing to pay for your services but it’s true. This exact approach has worked quickly and effectively for me for years. The key is that it’s got to be good and of high relevance to your target audience. This builds people’s confidence that you consistently know your stuff and that you can be counted on for long-term value. People soon realize that if you’re willing to give away such valuable expertise, think how great the solutions they pay for will be!

So how do you share your expertise with your target audience? Through writing and speaking. And it starts with being able to get your core ideas down on paper in a way that catches your audience’s attention and compels them to action.

If the idea of writing an article or giving a speech feels overwhelming, stay with me. I’m going to show you how easy it can be if you follow a basic formula that works every time.

Brainstorm a short list of things that your clients struggle with. What problems drive them to you? Why are they willing to pay good money for your services? Remember, it’s not about you it’s about them, their pain, and their needs. This is now your list of topics for articles and talks.

Pick one topic and answer the following questions:

  • What’s the problem?
  • What’s the lost opportunity?
  • Why is this important to address?
  • What will happen if it’s ignored?
  • What’s your solution?
  • What tips do you have for implementing your solution?
  • What example can you use to illustrate your point?

Formula for Digital Marketing Success:

Attitude: Be enthusiastic and passionate about your value proposition to the marketplace. You know that what you offer can make a difference and have an impact on your clients. When it comes to your own marketing, if you feel good about yourself and you have self-confidence because you are doing everything for the benefit of your clients, you’ll become more attractive to prospective clients.

Belief: You don’t have to have a degree in marketing to get great marketing results. But you do have to believe in yourself and your actions. I call it a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe that can’t do something, you’re right – you won’t do it. On the other hand, if you believe that you can learn what it takes to get better marketing results you will.

If you’re persistent in pursuing your business and your small business marketing with a positive attitude and belief that you can, sooner or later you’ll find what works for you. You’ll discover the marketing strategies and tactics that allow you to begin attracting attention and bringing in new clients consistently! I know because it’s happening for me.

bookmark_borderMistakes People Make Using Roller Banner Stands

Design Them Ineffectively

If you are not highly skilled in design, its best to leave it to a professional, an ineffectively designed roller banner will not have your desired effect. Here are some design points worth check listing:

Don’t clutter your banner with information, too much text will stop people being able to grasp your message in time, so you should aim to make them as simple as possible. It’s also important to ensure the text you do include is big enough to be easily read. Also make sure you don’t include any spelling mistakes, so double check all text and ask someone else to proofread in case you missed anything.

It is very important you include your logo on your roller banner! Your logo and core message should both be at the top of the banner as it is where most people first look.

Using colour is important to ensure your banner stand attracts attention, but using too many colours will create confusion and won’t represent your brand, instead keep to your brand colours and be mindful of background colours to make sure text is easily readable.

Include a tag line or slogan as this will help you to build brand identity and gives your roller banner a core message.

Contact details also need to be included at the bottom in big and bold text to ensure your customers can easily read and write down your details if you are unable to talk at the exhibition. Brand colours and fonts should remain consistent and your social media channels should be included as a way customers can instantly connect with you and offers them an alternative way of them contacting you.

Position them incorrectly

For your roller banner to be successful, you must position it correctly, not only to ensure its visibility is not reduced, but also to give maximum effectiveness. Banner stands are effective at entrances, to attract visitors and display useful information such as signalling the entrance and giving directions at exhibitions and events. Roller banners are also useful to display information beside promoted products. Another important aspect to think about is where do visitors tend to spend time and wait? For example, you could position your banner where queues are frequent such as along checkouts, or where people sit.

Using poor quality images

Another mistake some make is using poor quality images on their roller banners. Perhaps because they don’t have any suitable pictures of their own or don’t want to spend money on using stock images.

It is well worth it to have a photographer take pictures of your business and products/services so that you have a professional representation of your business and a source of images you can use for all types of media. Paying for stock images are also a great option if you don’t want to pay for a photographer or hire a studio, many websites offer royalty free images and provide you with thousands of professional photographs.

Also when using images off the internet they may not be the right resolution, resulting in a pixelated blurry print. This will give an unprofessional appearance of your business and the message on the roller banner will lose credibility.

Another issue here is using irrelevant images, often that relate to the business but not the core message of the roller banner perhaps in order to fill empty space. It’s best to check you need every image that you have used and that they support your core message, dealing with any extras it is most effective for them to be taken off.

bookmark_borderFacing Fears as an Entrepreneur

Fear is such a huge issue in people going out on their own. I have heard from the CEO of a real-estate based network marketing company that even though he has people packing out company seminars, that maybe 2-5% of people will actually go out and apply the knowledge by putting offers on real estate. He is convinced that the rest are paralyzed by fear.

Here are some of the techniques I have used as I learned them from the successful people I know:

Think about what you do want. When you find yourself spinning the wheels in your mind over and again about your worst case scenario, turn it around and focus on what you DO want. Visualize yourself getting what you do want. See the new house. See yourself talking to the interested person as they become a part of your business. You get what you focus on.

Change the voice. When you hear yourself telling you that you’re not good enough – you’re going to fail. Just change the voice from yours to that of Mickey Mouse or Jim Cary or something that would hold little weight with you anyway! Who cares if Mickey Mouse thinks you’re not good enough?

Voice them to a trusted friend or associate. Hopefully you have been able to find some level of support in your enterprise. Ideally, you have a significant other that supports you. If not, then you should have some kind of support network from your team, upline, or corporate that you can talk to. Some people may tell you that it is silly you could even believe that you’re not good enough. For me, my wife has been a constant source of support. However, don’t go looking for support to all those people who doubted you and told you it was crazy to go out on your own.

Have a personal development library. I draw tremendous support from my library. It is not just filled with how to resources, but also stories of others who conquered their fears. I couldn’t begin to list the many sources I have, but if you email me I can recommend something based on your own description of your circumstances.

Go ahead and do it. Sometimes just making the smallest step will help get you going enough that the fear of not doing something can go away. An example would be neglecting to write an article such as this one out of fear of failure. Just starting it can create enough momentum to see it through.

bookmark_borderContent Marketing

Enter the experts

The short answer is, if you’ve done something successfully a number of times, you can claim the title of expert. However, there is also the axiom “Those who can do and those who can’t, teach.” There are many so-called experts who generate lots of content, but they’ve not had a project assignment in quite some time.

Noise makers

Everybody with access to a keyboard or a camera is doing some level of content marketing, even if it’s only for themselves and their Twitter friends. Everybody’s pulling out a cell phone to snap pictures of something—the first snowfall, the first crocuses, their dog grabbing a burger off the kitchen table.

Those photos become content posted to social media and join the digital noise that competes with content that Solopreneur consultants and other business leaders upload and post with the goal of appealing to potential customers. Launching and sustaining a content marketing campaign is an uphill battle for small operators with limited budgets.

Branding is not personal

A certain group of raven-haired sisters (and their mother) in L.A. County have done remarkably well with the personal branding concept, but that doesn’t hold for the rest of us. Unless you were lucky enough to have held a job that allowed you to publicly build a reputation amongst prospective customers, or you descend from a prominent or celebrity family, the differences that you (and I) emphasize to prospective customers are often perceived as minor and not distinctive competitive advantages. We are all the same, only different.

bookmark_borderCustomer Journey Planning

Tools that can help you optimise your customer journey

In today’s world your customers have never lived with such a short attention span. It is a noisy eCommerce world and time has never been a more precious commodity to the savvy shopper.

It is commonly stated that you have 5 seconds in which to first grab your potential customers’ attention when they first get to your site.

Then if you succeed at that and you sell what they want they need to be able to navigate to the checkout in just 3 clicks.

Any more on either of these and your chances of losing them to your competitors increase dramatically.

They key to being able to stop those high bounce rates is data, or more specifically knowledge.

You need to know what your customers are doing and more importantly what they struggle with.

The good news is that there are so many tools available to you as a business owner now that have made collecting relevant data easier than ever.

Google Analytics for example is a fantastic free tool which will show you a fantastic breakdown of traffic on your site, including pages which have the highest drop out rate for your visitors.

Optimizely is another fantastic tool which enables you to run A/B tests on your site to take away guesswork on a number of areas on your website, leaving you with the true numbers of actual customer behaviour.

The most neglected aspect of your customer journey

There are obviously multiple elements to consider in the customer journey from when they first discover your brand to when they are repeat customers of yours.

The eCommerce average for customers dropping out on the cart page however is 68.81% as reported by the Baymard Institute.

For this reason I strongly believe that the shopping cart is often the most neglected element of the customer journey and if optimised would result in the largest increase in revenue for your business.

The 3 questions you need to ask when it comes to your checkout are:

  1. Have you been clear with you customers up to this point? (Do not surprise them at the checkout with any hidden fees, taxes or charges. The price they see should be the price they pay)
  2. Is your checkout simple? (One page if possible)
  3. Can a customer trust your checkout? (Do you have an SSL certificate in place along with payment card logos and the appropriate payment security badges)

Interestingly all three of these points above can be fixed or addressed very quickly and simply with some design changes or by purchasing an SSL certificate.

So these are my top 3 tips to ensure that your checkout is starting with the best chance of converting your potential customers.

Of course there are other areas you can optimise but these are the best places to get started.

How to get the advantage on your competition

As mentioned throughout the article, you are not alone if you are guilty of neglecting the customer journey.

The good news is I guarantee the majority of your competitors are doing it too.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with BarclayCard about this very subject and as they are the market leaders when it comes to innovation and they genuinely see the potential in eCommerce businesses.

We worked together on an article to help you better plan your customers’ journey.

Utilising the information we have provided you should be able to safely say that you now have a plan for your customer journey, and you have put tools and best practices in place to retain a larger number of your customers right up to the point of completing the sale.

 

bookmark_borderAnalytics Marketing

Google Analytics is one of the best tools you can utilise and keeps track of many things for you and even supplies live reports and traffic intake whenever you need. You simply cannot be successful without measuring your market data, as you risk only guessing the habits of your audience, and not knowing exactly what they’re looking for. In this article, we will be going through a number of ways you can boost your analytical expertise, improving your content marketing by margins.

  1. Keep track habitually – Make it your top priority to check your analytics every single day. This includes checking your reports daily. Doing this ensures you are easily keeping track of what your audience is interested in, as these reports show all your top pages and numbers them into a top ten. Listing these pages allows you to see what number of traffic is leading where, and if you do this multiple times throughout the day, you can market accordingly to where your traffic is entering.
  2. Understand your audience – One of the main, and best reasons, to invest in a data driven marketing strategy is to keep track of exactly who is interested in what. A well-thought marketing campaign can solidify your company or product and bring your audience closer to your brand. Using an analytical program can help you understand a number of things, such as how your audience reacts to your existing content, their favourite types of content, and their preferred method of receiving said content.
  3. Aim towards non-targeted audience – This entry may seem odd, but you will understand exactly what I’m getting at if you’ve been reading thus far. We’ve stated that it’s important to understand the customer, but it is also important to understand those who aren’t interested in your product. By understanding those who aren’t interested in your product, you can tweak your campaigns to include them in your demographic, further increasing your traffic and customers.
  4. Test outside of analytics – Despite this tip going against the article itself, it is still a useful and helpful method that even major companies use today. Statistics and facts can give an abundance of information on any subject, which is exactly where analytics programs come into play. But utilising other methods can be just as helpful. It can pay off to conduct surveys, or group testing towards an audience due to the fact that there can be more information put in by them. In turn, this can result in an emotional response, giving you more information than a simple analytical report could.
  5. Link social engagements – Using social media can be an extremely helpful tool to use to your advantage. Facebook and Twitter are the two biggest social platforms in the industry, and if you use these to your best advantage, then your traffic will boost by massive margins. Linking the social engagements to your analytics program will allow you to keep track of all your social media posts, giving you traffic information for them as well. Using this tool to your leisure will allow you to see what is popular with your social media audience, giving you an even bigger opportunity to market to an entire different audience.

bookmark_borderEntrepreneurial Difference

Think about your own childhood and youth. Did you sell lemonade in the front yard? Rake leaves or shovel snow for a few extra bucks from neighbors? A lot of us did.

Unfortunately, the drive and ambition associated with those youthful undertakings are often not developed or encouraged by our school systems, parents, and society as a whole.

For generations, people were raised to think that success required doing well in school, going to college, and pursuing a career with intentions of making a long-term commitment to a company. We see this in the older ranks of the baby boomer generation and our parents. Did your parents work for an employer for 20-plus years, whether they were happy and fulfilled or not?

Work often overshadowed any urge to go the independent route, since society often frowned at mavericks who followed their own path. Compound that negative stigma from a by-gone era with the fact that the 40-hour per week commitment to one’s employer left little time to even turn a hobby into a part-time business or to express the entrepreneurial creativity in other ways. People just went to work.

Now don’t get me wrong, many people pursued the entrepreneur’s route in earlier generations, but not to the extent they are today. This trend is, in part, due to the fact that times have changed and companies no longer employ people from college to retirement nor do employees feel the loyalty to stay. It is not frowned upon to leave an employer after a year or two, as it was in the past. The trend can also be attributed to a growing desire to feel self fulfilled and enjoy life (including work), even though as a society we work many more hours per year than our European counterparts who recognize the importance of “holiday” or vacations (and even siestas).

For these two reasons, there is an epidemic of people starting businesses in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Women start 424 new enterprises every day. Nearly half (46%) of new female business owners fled corporate America for the freedom to set their own hours according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. In addition, 65% of women who have started businesses in the past decade honed their skills from being managers in big corporations.

Now you may ask, what are these attributes that distinguish entrepreneurs from other people? While this is not scientific, it is based on years of interaction and observation with business people.

Entrepreneurs are courageous. As Julia Cameron expresses it in her book, The Artist’s Way, “Leap and the net will appear.” That’s what entrepreneurs do. They trust and take calculated risks to start the business and then every day after that. This was my mantra when I was leaving my former employer after 17 years.

Entrepreneurs are passionate. They believe in what they are doing and pursue their vision with gusto. They immerse themselves fully into the project or idea.

Entrepreneurs are tenacious. A study of 1,165 self-made female millionaires over a three-year span shows “their defining characteristic to be perseverance,” according to Thomas J. Stanley, author of the book Millionaire Woman Next Door: The Many Journeys of Successful American Businesswomen. He concedes that women are more goal-oriented and have had to work harder than men. Anyone who makes cold calls and adheres to a good follow-up program knows it takes tenacity and perseverance.

Entrepreneurs are visionary. The true entrepreneur sees a big picture…a goal at the end of the rainbow and then devises a plan to get there. They are proactive about conveying their vision and enrolling others in it.

Entrepreneurs are creative. The very nature of taking an idea and turning it into something of value requires creativity. Whether your idea is the development of a product, launch of a service business, or even the creation of an event or program for a non-profit, creativity is the root of all entrepreneurial efforts starting with the vision itself… all the way through the implementation.

So, are you an entrepreneur? If you’ve ever had a dream or an idea that you wanted to pursue with passion and are willing to take the action to make it real, I’d say you’re off to the right start. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur at heart and just never pursued your dream because you’re scared? I encourage you to move toward your passion rather than let your fear rule you. I did when I quit my commercial real estate job after 17 years and I haven’t looked back. In addition to the universe, there are people to support you such as your family, friends and coaches. If you have all of the other qualities, and only fear is holding you back, go for it. Remember, what’s the worst that can happen? Believe in yourself and others will too.

bookmark_borderDouble Down on Marketing

Make marketing an investment

The first step to growing your marketing budget is thinking about it differently. People used to think of their marketing budget as a line item expense that they wrote checks for throughout the year. It was almost like rent – a normal cost of doing business. The mistake these startups made was that they treated marketing like an expense. It’s time to start thinking of your marketing as an investment that you expect to yield a return.

Like any investment you would make in the stock market, your marketing investment should generate a specific monetary return in an expected period of time. For our purposes, we’re looking for short term investments that will produce enough working capital to re-invest quickly to grow our marketing.

Grow marketing, grow customers

We all know that marketing attracts the customers we need to generate more sales. For this reason, if we want to grow our position in the market we’re going to need to grow our marketing budget as fast as possible to grow our customer base. The key to growing the budget lies in generating cash flow from the returns on our marketing investment.

Short Term Returns

People used to take the long view of their marketing budgets – planning them a year out. This “set it and forget it” approach may work well for Ron Popeil, but smart marketers throw that line of thinking out the window. Instead, we budget our marketing based on months, or quarters at the longest. By looking for marketing opportunities that provide short term returns we create opportunities to increase our marketing budget rapidly with the additional capital we’ve generated.

The faster we can provide a return on our marketing the faster we can put that money to work in the next cycle. The faster we put that money to work, the more money we generate from additional customers. The math is straightforward, but getting there can be a little tricky.

Finding the winning hand

It would be easy if we already knew what marketing strategies returned quickly and could just double up our bets on those efforts. Unfortunately we don’t know what works until we try it, which costs money and time. Finding this winning hand to double down on can become a job unto itself.

A popular way to test different messages and reach your target population quickly is Internet advertising. Unlike TV, radio or print, Internet-based campaigns are relatively cheap and highly trackable. Use the Internet to test out different messages, advertise on different Web sites, and gather feedback quickly from customers about what works. You can then apply your findings toward riskier (and more expensive) media.

Your goal here is to find the campaigns that will give you the opportunity to invest significantly more dollars with a nice short term return. If it’s the right campaign, you will be able to spend incrementally more every month, constantly rolling last month’s proceeds into next month’s increased marketing budget.

Don’t shotgun

The last thing you want to do is try a “shotgun” approach toward marketing where you try everything at once and wait to see what happens. This can get very confusing because you often don’t know what’s working and what isn’t. Instead, focus on a few strategies at once, measure them completely, and then try a few more.

Double down

Once you’ve found some strategies that work now it’s time to put your money down. Invest heavily in those campaigns and keep plowing the returns back into the same winning hand. This is how you scale your marketing to create the types of campaigns that move markets and win customers.

Fast growth companies are always looking for ways to exponentially increase their marketing spend, but only on campaigns that have a demonstrated track record for success. Next time when you come to the table with the big boys, look for that winning hand, double down on your bet and clear out the competition!

bookmark_borderHow an Outside Event Planner Can Save Business Money

First, let’s assume your marketing team is like every other marketing team on the planet. They’re busy managing multiple complex projects with competing timelines. If you task them with coordinating an event, they’ll be handling the details in between fielding sales team emails, writing a script for the radio ad, and setting up a content calendar for the next three months.

Meanwhile, an outside event manager is focused on your event. She takes the detail work off the shoulders of the marketing team but still collaborates with them on the big picture marketing goals.

While your in-house marketers are generalists, your event manager is a specialist. All of her energy and talent goes into a meticulously planned event that surpasses your goals.

Everyone has heard the axiom, practice makes perfect. While your in-house team might organize one or two events a year, an event planning professional has dozens or even hundreds of successful events under her belt. She knows what works and what doesn’t and brings you the benefit of her expertise.

Experienced event planners know where costs can be cut without skimping on quality. They use their expertise to make sure every dollar you spend gives you the highest possible return on investment.

In addition to her expert knowledge, she comes prepared with a roster of vendors, venues, caterers and other service providers who can make sure your event goes off without a hitch. She knows the best in the business and will bring them in where they can be most effective for your event. Sometimes she can even turn those preexisting relationships into discounts or special deals for you.

Sure, your marketing team might know all about the latest trends in inbound marketing or how to use big data, but do they have their finger on the pulse of the event industry? Do they know what the next hot trend is and how to best capitalize on it for your business? Probably not.

A professional event planner makes it her job to know where the industry is going and what is likely to work in the future. She’ll make sure that your event exceeds attendee expectations by delivering the latest and greatest the industry has to offer.

That translates to a better overall attendee experience. Attendees walk away more engaged, better informed, and more likely to buy.