Not talent, not even education

 Calvin CoolidgeNothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination and hard work make the difference. Calvin Coolidge

Get passionate about your work

fired upFor greater success, get passionate about your work, your world
Let’s say you’re a calm, laid-back person. You deal with the world from a take-it-as-it-comes point of view. And it has always worked for you.

But didn’t you ever envy people who seemed to be on fire, enthusiastic and passionate about their work, their pro football team, and their home life?
There’s no question that you can’t change the color of your eyes and other in-born traits. The height of your fire is something else.

In The Welch Way, Jack and Suzy Welch say there’s no question about it. You can stoke up your fire, uncork your passion and get hot! When you do, you can turn clock-watching workers into fired-up people as well.
It’s every leader’s job to make purpose come alive and to turn cynicism into engagement, say the Welches.
Sometimes it takes an event to do it. They tell of a break-even unit of a big manufacturer. The unit had little growth and its people had little motivation. They just plugged along with the work.
When the unit was sold, everything changed. A few slackers were let go, but through great attention to individuals and promises of better things to come, work became fun for those who stayed.
Fortunately, you probably won’t have the buyout situation to contend with but the new owner’s techniques could work for you too. By focusing on individuals, what they are doing and what they could become, you could replace cynicism with excitement.
When you get passionate about what your people are doing, true engagement will be your reward. And theirs.

Starting a Home-based Business

 Is It Right for You?

Hundreds of thousands of individuals decide to start a home-based business each year. Many succeed. About 70 percent of all home based businesses are in operation after two years. Before entering this venture, entrepreneurs should consider several key questions:

  • Can you operate the business alone with little help?
  • Do you have contact with buyers or your services?
  • Is the location such that distributors, sales staff, clients and others can reach it without difficulty?
  • Is start-up and operations capital available for the first year?
  • Can the business really be operated from the home?
  • Do you have separate spaces for storage, records, isolation, parking, etc.?
  • Can a business in the home compete with similar businesses?

As in most businesses, there are advantages and disadvantages to the home-based business. A business in the home permits flexibility of working hours, lower start-up costs and allows family affairs to continue during business hours. There are also disadvantages—zoning restrictions may prohibit business, the IRS may raise tax questions, it may be difficult to get materials and customers to the location and financing the business could be challenging.

The IRS specifies that a home-based business must have its own location away from the family living space that is devoted exclusively to the business. The business must be in regular operation, profits must exceed expenses in order to claim deductions, the business must be conducted almost exclusively in the home and the motive must be profit.

A major challenge in operating a home-based business is isolation from distributors, merchants, clients and interested parties. Modern communications help to alleviate the problem—a computer is a necessity. A fax machine and Internet access are almost certainly necessary for communications within the business community. In addition, separate telephone phone lines must be installed for telephone, fax and Internet access and the business phone needs some type of answering service.

In summary, the business must be run as a business not as an extension of the home. It is essential that the prospective business owner have a good business and financial plan, separate from the family finances, that clearly spells out the present and future of the business.

Be aware that many neighborhoods have deed restrictions forbidding the operation of a business. Some require extra off street parking, others forbid deliveries and signs, etc. It is wise to check with your Home Owners Association and with your local government for a complete survey of your city or county regulations.

It may be difficult to raise capital. The average home-based business requires about $10,000 in start-up costs. Although this may be much less than opening a business outside the home, both the start-up and operating funds should be in hand before beginning the business operation.

Online Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Business

By Holly BerkleyPicture yourself at the ball game cracking through a bag of dry roasted peanuts. You’re on your second handful when that familiar red and white logo pops up on the big screen advertising an ice-cold Coca-Cola. You immediately track down the next vendor with a basket of ice-cold drinks. This is called “pin point marketing.” It is the process of delivering an appropriate message at the right time that produces actual results.

In contrast, let’s say you are enjoying those same peanuts when an advertisement for Toyota Trucks pops up on the same screen. It’s a nice ad, but not nearly as effective. This is an example of “interruptive marketing.” It is not truly targeted because it is not what you are actively looking for at that moment.

What does this scenario have to do with your business? Well, rather than wasting valuable marketing dollars on billboards, 30-second television ads or radio commercials (all examples of “interruptive marketing”) focus your energy on putting your product in front of potential customers while they are looking for it. Unlike when people watch TV or listen to the radio, Internet users are actively looking for a solution to a problem. If you can place your product in their path at the right time, you’ve made a customer. The most cost-effective way to achieve this is by combining your marketing message with important content that users are already actively seeking out.

Start by submitting “how-to” or “industry news” type articles to relevant Web sites in your industry. Unique Web content is important to all size companies. And, buying custom content is expensive and time consuming. As a result most companies are willing to trade a free plug for your Web site or company for an informative, well-written article.

Every article you submit should enhance your company’s position as an expert or industry leader, while providing valuable information at the same time. Content written around your company or product also helps your business gain credibility, which is extremely important for small businesses.  When a potential customer reads your article, you have already established yourself as an expert in that field. By the time the customer clicks over to your Web site or gives you a call, you have a very hot lead.

Perhaps you own a local painting business. Your target customers are most likely looking for home improvement information online, so you could exchange stories and “how to” advice with local carpenters or electricians. Or take it a step further and submit your “expert painting advice” to popular home improvement and real estate Web sites. You can swap content with anyone in your industry that is not a direct competitor. By doing so, you’ll open your company up to a wider audience while building up your credibility.

Also, think about what type of person will be using the Web site you select to post your article. For example, studies show that a mother of two who needs a quick dinner recipe will do a quick search, and then print out the page. So animated banners ads or even a link to your Web site may not be the most effective way to get her attention. On the other hand, adding a clip out coupon to the article would be very effective.

In traditional media, one positive sentence in editorial is worth much more than two paid advertisements. The same is true on the Internet. Getting a free link or product mention on another Web site is an extremely valuable way to gain high quality leads. Combine that free link or product mention with a well-written article and you’ll turn that product mention into a sale.

Holly Berkley is the author of Limited-Budget Online Marketing for Small Business and owner of Berkley Web Strategies, a San Diego-based Web design and online marketing company specializing in helping all size businesses succeed online.

Email Marketing Growth

The Robert Burko published an article about the Top 5 Email Marketing Uses In 2007.

Email marketing experienced another year of explosive growth as more and more businesses around the globe have discovered how easy, affordable and effective email marketing software can be. With so many new businesses putting email marketing software to work as a key component of their marketing mix, there’s been increased activity in almost every vertical market imaginable. From small ‘mom and pop’ stores to large multinational organizations, email marketing appears to be filling a void that has long restricted effective targeted communication.

Here are his top 5 uses:

1. Newsletters
2. Special Promotions / eCoupons
3. Event Announcements
4. eCards
5. Business Updates / Press Releases

Generate Publicity

Generating Publicity for Your Business
One of the most valuable forms of publicity is the news story about your business. Of course getting positive press coverage isn’t as easy as buying an ad. It takes legwork, patience and a lot of persistence, but the payoff is worth it.

Treat the Media with Respect
There’s really no mystery to dealing with the media. Just think of them as prospective clients and your story idea is the item they’ve been waiting for. This means following the same basic rules with the press as you would with a business client or customer.

Learn About the Media Outlet Before You Contact Them
For instance, you wouldn’t call a prospect if you had nothing new to say, so don’t contact the media without honest-to-goodness news. Remember, that just as you have learned who your customers are and what they want, take time to educate yourself about the media outlets you are targeting and frame your story idea to meet their needs.

Send a Media Kit & Press Releases to Key Reporters
Focus the materials you send to help the editors or producers. This means anticipating and answering their questions, labeling photographs and explaining why your story is worthy of coverage. It doesn’t hurt to get a little creative when you send your materials. Being creative doesn’t guarantee that your story will be picked up, however it will get your materials recognized, which, after all, is your first priority.

Request Their Media Kit
Request a media kit from the advertising department of the newspapers, magazines, radio or television stations you will be contacting. Kits give information on reader or viewer demographics and often include an editorial calendar of upcoming special sections or segments and will allow you to tailor your pitch to a specific outlet.

Approaches to Avoid When Dealing with the Media
Do not call a television news station right before airtime or call a newspaper on deadline.  Speak clearly and slowly when leaving a message on voice mail. State your name and company at the beginning of the message and repeat it at the end of the message and give your telephone number twice.

Permission Marketing

Developing a Permission Marketing Strategy
Are your marketing messages getting lost in the clutter of mail, email and advertising? Consider permission marketing, an exciting approach popularized by author and entrepreneur Seth Godin. Unlike conventional marketing strategies where you make a one-time pitch and hope the prospective customer responds favorably, permission marketing is all about building relationships with people who first agree to learn more about your company and its products or services. Because email is the primary vehicle for permission marketing, your costs are substantially lower than with other marketing media.  And the benefits go well beyond “making the sale.”What Can You Offer?
According to Godin, “Consumers will grant a company permission to communicate only if they know what’s in it for them. A company has to reward consumers, explicitly or implicitly, for paying attention to its messages.” In other words, provide something that your customers will want to learn more about, and may be unable to find elsewhere. Some examples include regular e-newsletters with timely news or tips related to your product or service, links to and/or reviews of new and updated Web sites, and problem/solution case studies.

Build Your Target List
Gather contact information for as many potential customer contacts as you think will be interested in being part of your permission marketing list. Sources include industry directories, web sites, current customers and their referrals.  Then, find the group that is most profitable or most likely to influence other customers. Fine-tune your permission marketing approach to them, as these are the people you most want to build relationships with. Group the others in descending order of priority for subsequent marketing.

Prepare Your Pitch
As with any other marketing approach, you should put yourself in the customer’s position.  You may have some valuable information to offer, but your customers will end the relationship before it starts if you don’t grab and hold their attention. Says Godin, “The point of permission marketing is not just to entertain people (although it does need to be entertaining) but also to teach them about your products.”

Think Ahead
Remember that permission marketing builds trust via a two-way relationship with your customers. You need to be ready to talk about their needs and concerns, not simply to get their business. Testing some iterations of your permission marketing strategy with people who can give honest and objective feedback is a great way to make sure you’re on the right track.

Reinforce the Relationship
As your permission marketing program flourishes, there is no telling which directions it will take.  But never forget to remind your customers how and why the “conversation” started. The authors of ClickZ, an on-line email marketing resource, suggest including a simple statement in each email, “ either as the introduction at the top or as part of your remove language. Even desirable content or offers are suspect if the recipients cannot connect the email message to their relationship with the sender.”

Learn More About It
To find more information about Seth Goodin’s book, Permission Marketing, visit his Web site:  http://www.sethgodin.com/permission/. You’ll also find many valuable tips about email marketing at www.clickz.com.

Conducting Market Research

What Information Do You Want to Know and Why?
What information about your current or potential customers will help you serve them better? Demographic data and travel patterns can help you determine the feasibility of opening a new location, while knowledge about their daily schedules can help you set more convenient hours of operation.See What’s Already Been Discovered.
There is probably more published information available about your type of business and target market than you realize. Among the best sources are the U.S. Census Bureau, national and regional business publications, trade organizations and your local chamber of commerce.

Build on What You’re Doing
It’s easy to make market research a part of your day-to-day activities. Retailers can use sales receipts, delivery orders and charge slips to identify where customers live, or monitor inventory trends to gauge the popularity of certain product lines. Tracking orders of daily specials helps restaurant owners determine which dishes are most popular on a weekly or seasonal basis.

Watch the Competition
You can gain some valuable insights by studying the practices of successful competing businesses. No espionage is required. Just be observant about when and where they advertise, the setting and layout of their various locations, operating practices, etc. Remember that their approach may be driven by circumstances substantially different from yours.

Talk to Your Customers
As a small business owner, you’re face-to-face with your customers. Your market research can be as informal as observing customers in the store or doing a survey and as elaborate as conducting a full-scale research program with focus groups and computer-generated maps. A market research firm or ad agency will cost more than a “homemade” strategy, of course, but you will have the benefit of the consultant’s experience and objectivity.

Create a Marketing Plan

Creating a Marketing Plan
A marketing plan is an essential tool for business. Developing one will help you think about what makes your business unique and how to get the message out to desired audiences through a variety of channels.A Marketing Plan is Strategic
Just as you plan for other aspects of your business, such as inventory, production and billing, thinking ahead about your marketing efforts is key to staying competitive. By plotting your marketing strategies ahead of time, your business will run more smoothly and your efforts are more likely to pay off.

A Marketing Plan Helps You Stay Focused
Your marketing plan is a map to guide you toward your goals—one that will get you there on time and with minimum stress. A plan will help you coordinate your efforts and be proactive. With it, you are more likely to be realistic about your time and energy. A plan will help you stay organized and on track throughout the year. Your marketing is more likely to get done when you take the time to identify what you want to do and when you want to do it.

Write it Down
Plan your efforts by first identifying your market and then letting it determine how to proceed. Which events and opportunities will help you accomplish your goals? Is it in your best interest to attend an association meeting that your clients are involved with? Think strategically about where you need to be. Consider what business you’re in and the natural cycles of your industry. A marketing plan may include marketing objectives, strategies, brand positioning, messaging and public relations activities.

Use a Calendar to Keep On Top of Your Marketing Efforts
Once you have identified the events and activities to target, incorporate your marketing plan into your current time management system. Some people find it easiest to use a wall calendar. Others like a desk calendar or a computerized program.

Set Goals & Assess Your Efforts
Think about the marketing ideas you want to implement. Determine how to implement ideas, assign each a date for completion, then work backward from your deadline. Also, be sure to examine your ideas to see whether any can be used to achieve more than one goal. Think about whom you want to reach when you want to reach them and how you’re going to do it. Then mark it on your calendar. When you plan your marketing efforts and merge them smoothly with your other responsibilities and commitments, they are more likely to pay off.