Tag Archives: marketing

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Weathering the Storm – What to do to Stay on Top in a Down Economy

Weathering the Storm -What to do to Stay on Top in a Down Economy

By Robert Imbriale,
The Motivational Marketer

Business owners from coast to coast are worried, scared, and some are even considering closing up shop because of what they see as uncertain times ahead. While it’s true that there will be many business closings ahead, your business doesn’t have to be one of them.

What’s behind much of the fear and worry is the constant barrage of bad news about industry giants failing at an alarming rate. And, it’s not just the what’s in the news. Our conversations have also turned negative about anything related to the economy.

What has happened to many business owners is that they have taken what they have heard or read about in the news and given it more attention than it truly deserves. That has created doubt, which soon becomes fear, and not long after that, you’ll find these same business owners throwing in the towel and shutting their doors forever.

And then there’s the trickle-down effect to consider. When one business fails, other business owners then begin to look at that failure to support their beliefs that things are as bad as they are hearing about in the news.

If your business is going to succeed, the first thing you need to do is shift your attention away from all of this and instead focus on things that are indeed more positive. I’m not suggesting that you ignore it all, but try to at least get a new perspective on it all.

For instance, yesterday, I was at the local packing and shipping store where business was booming. In fact, the owner told me he was having a great holiday season, despite what the fact that if you believe what you’re hearing about in the news would make you think this could simply not be possible.
I’m sure that you won’t see a story about this business in the news, either, so don’t go looking for it.

Now, I’m not trying to blame the news media for all our troubles. These companies are nothing more than businesses that respond to what their customers buy. We buy bad news hundreds of times more than good news. If we bought only good news, that what you’d see more of. So it’s not entirely the media’s fault.

Closer to home, I started to look for signs that things weren’t quite as bad as I’d heard. Sure enough, there is the landscape crew out on my front lawn, so I asked him how his business was doing. It was slower, but he was still getting big landscaping jobs, one totaling more than $125,000.00!
In my own business, I’m seeing more and more clients contacting me for my executive level coaching services because they are looking to make this coming year better than the previous one!

“What?” People actually not looking at things from a negative perspective? Well, they’ll see, you think to yourself because you “know” they just can’t be right.

Then you look a little deeper at what’s really happening right now and what you begin to see is that this is the perfect time to be positive about the future.

Think about it this way. When the economy was bubbling hot, houses became almost unaffordable as prices rose to record-setting highs. Yes, cheap money was indeed behind all of that, but had it continued to go the way it was going, in just a decade from now, the average home in this country might have topped a million dollars!

Things are simply adjusting and getting back to more reasonable levels. And, as in any adjustment period, it’s going to be a little uncomfortable for a little while. And, there is a lot you can do right now to take advantage of all the changes.

Here are some suggestions for you.

First, go out of your way to find stories of success. Find people who are now talking about better times ahead instead of hanging around people who can only parrot what they hear in the news.

Then, start creating your plans for this next year by putting down on paper everything you wish to have and do in the next 12 months. Go ahead and be bold here because big dreams are what create big results.

Next, create, find, invent a way to get yourself around people who are positive, upbeat, and who are seeing all the opportunities that are now being created that could never have been if things had stayed the way they were. Engage in conversations of success and what you want your business to do, and what you’re planning for the next year.

This is where a good coach can be extremely valuable to you and your business, and it’s a worthwhile investment if you simply can’t find anybody to motivate you and hold you accountable.

If you do these simple steps, what you’ll find is that things aren’t quite as bad as they are made to appear, and in fact, there are many places that are thriving right now.

Think about this. Each and every day billions and billions of dollars changes hands on the Internet. That number may be lower than it once was when it broke all previous records, but it has not stopped! It’s just lower, and nothing more.

Your job is simply to find new and innovative ways to tap into the money stream that is flowing and will continue to flow, no matter how bad things may get out there.

Realize that millionaires are made in good times and bad. It’s not about what’s going on out there as much as it is about how you think about and what you do about it.

Your success comes from seeing things that other people can’t or won’t see. Every smart and successful business owner sees things as they want them to be rather than as they are.

They put their focus on what they are trying to create instead of what they are getting because they realize that what they are getting right now is simply a result of what they did, or failed to do, in the past. What they get tomorrow and beyond will be the result of what they do today and everyday going forward.

In a nutshell, you can, and you should be planning for a great year ahead. You should be thinking about how you want your business to look a year from today, and start working on those plans right now.

If you’ll do these things, and I mean really do them, instead of just giving them lip service, I know you’ll be pleased with the results you’ll get in the coming year, regardless of how bad the media tells us things are out there.

Remember, drama is what sells newspapers, not stories of success. Go ahead and buck the trend, plan ahead, and create a business that will stand the test of what’s ahead… and cash in as all your competitor’s go out of business because they got scared and their customers now start buying from you!

Think about it. You can either struggle in the coming year, or you can thrive, and it’s really all up to you.

About the Author

Robert Imbriale is the author of the best-selling book, Motivational Marketing. He is a successful business coach, and seminar leader who has helped hundreds of thousands of business owners create bigger, more successful businesses, and he can help you too. Tell him what your biggest challenge is with your business right now! Go to http://www.AskRobertImbriale.com If you would like to have Robert help you with your business, you can reach him at 1-800-541-3816 or at http://www.RobertImbriale.com

Video Testimonials Convert Browsers into Leads

shella-video-testimonial-picture

Shella giving a video testimonial after my juggling show

Hi again. If you are a small business owner, 99% of the time you really must have a website (very very few exceptions to this rule).

And, if you MUST have a website, you’ll want to design it to produce the results you want. The following brief article is a quick introduction for SERVICE based businesses more than PRODUCT based businesses, even though the principles apply to both.

As you can imagine, it is helpful to provide what sales psychologists call “social proof,” which is a fancy way to call testimonials. Written testimonials are about 10% helpful. Add pictures and you double their effectiveness to 20%. Ultimately, they are good to have but not very effective. However, video testimonials are 100% helpful in converting viewers/browsers into leads.

What that means is that browsers are persuaded enough to give you their contact information, moving from a browser to a very warm if not “hot and fresh” lead. Then, it is your job to make sure that either you or your sales team views those emails or new entries into your CRM (Client Relationship Management) software online and immediately call them or email them or both.

Why video testimonials?

Browsers are FAR more likely to watch well edited video testimonial interview clips than they are to read anything. Written ad copy is certain essential for websites… for those 2% who are actually “readers.” Give them a free e-book that is one long fun story about how your clients received benefits from working with you. 98% of web visitors don’t read anymore online, they scan. Don’t you?

Busy professionals who are likely to hire you are not very likely to sit and read. If you are doing online marketing that sends people (strangers) to your page (versus offline marketing that expose people to you either in person or via TV, etc.,) you’ve got 7-10 seconds to convince someone to stay on your page if they don’t know you yet. A video will keep them there, give them eye candy, and convince them based on the BENEFITS received from your coaching clients and speaking engagement participants.

BENEFITS SELL, FEATURES TELL.

Your “welcome to my website intro” is basically a feature of what you are like when speaking either one-on-one or in front of a group. It will need to showcase the benefits of hiring you versus others. It gives watchers a sense of your “energy,” so they’ll know what to expect when they talk to you. It would be helpful to even add some unique content to the video each week, as it will be a good reason to draw prospective clients to the site to get a freebie, but, you’ll need to wrap it up with a benefit driven testimonial clips from your most fanatical clients.

Finally, the people giving the testimonials must speak extemporaniously– i.e. they can’t sound scripted. If they have any hint of a script, it will damage their perceived sincerity. Too many infomercials on TV or radio sound very scripted, and we tend to simply not believe them.

Remember, everyone is tuned into the WIFM station, and you need to answer that question quickly when you first engage someone whether online or offline. What’s In It For Me? Do a video testimonial 60 to 90 second clip, add it to the end of each of your pep talks, and see your conversion rates skyrocket. Now those pep talks are actually effective promotional tools.

Now, I don’t practice what I preach on my own site, http://www.PhilanthropicEntrepreneur.com… I’m in the process of obtaining those video testimonials from my clients… but, I don’t do nearly as much coaching as I used to… I’m working on other projects. So, my own site is not optimized according to the best practices that I am recently learning about! Yes, the cobbler has no shoes!

Visit my site in early 2009 and I will have upgraded with a great intro video and video testimonials for my marketing consulting / entrepreneurial coaching as well as my inspirational speaking / comedy juggling presentations …. and likely a brand new design.   The above photo is from a video testimonial after one of my comedy juggling shows at a church school in West Hollywood, CA.  You’ll see her testimonial and dozens more once I edit them all into a tight video that is fun to watch.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you agree or disagree and why…

Top 10 Ways to Ruin Your Small Business Plan

Hi there. If you are in the process of writing your business plan, you’re in luck. If you avoid the following common errors, you are far likelier to reach your goals.

1. Make basic mistakes: If you leave out key info or get basic facts wrong, you’ll mess up your entire business plan. Your readers will then begin looking for other obvious mistakes in your research and will discredit your ability to understand your position in the market and how to reach your target audience. Do your homework so you’re familiar with standard industry practices. Educate yourself about distribution channels, price mark-ups, regulations, and legal and accounting matters. One error can ruin all your projections and assumptions.

2. Underestimate the competition: The worst thing you can say in a business plan is “There is no competition.” No matter how unique or terrific your product or service, if you don’t have competition, it means there’s no market for what you’re selling. Be sure to consider potential future competition once you’ve proven the concept.

3. Overestimate sales: When you launch a product or service that’s better, faster, or cheaper than the competitions’, it’s natural to assume customers will beat a path to your door. They won’t. Be realistic, even conservative, about how difficult it will be to build a customer base and how long it will take.

4. Plan more than one business at a time: Even though your business may eventually have a number of revenue streams, concentrate on one part of it at a time. Show you can be successful in one area before branching out.

5. Go it alone: Nobody can build a successful business alone. Strategic alliances, particularly with strong existing businesses, can improve your chances of success. And if you want your business to grow, you’ll need to attract and keep capable management and personnel. Show you can work well and creatively with others to leverage your resources.

6. Use “phantom” numbers: Don’t use financial projections just because they sound good. Don’t use “boilerplate” numbers: industry averages might not apply in your situation. Be able to substantiate where you got your numbers and why you made your financial assumptions. Always overestimate expenses and underestimate income.

7. Forget a “Sources and Use of Funds” statement: Financing sources want to see exactly how much money you’ll need, how you intend to use it, what money you’re contributing, and whether you are expecting to get funds from other sources. If you don’t include this information in a clear, concise format, you’ll confuse potential investors or lenders.

8. Omit an exit strategy: While you may plan on running your business forever, others who invest in your company want to know how they’ll get their money out. It’s usually not enough for them to just get an annual return; they will want a way to make their original investment “liquid.”

9. Lie: This is the best way to get a business plan rejected, increase the chances of your business failing, and ruin your reputation. While every business plan is developed with a certain degree of optimism, when the plan becomes fiction, you’re in trouble.

10. Under-develop the psychographic profile of your ideal client/customer: Money comes from people making decisions. If you don’t thoroughly understand the decision-making process of your preferred client or customer (the person who is most likely to buy what you are offering), you are setting yourself up for low ROIs of your marketing capital.

A largely untapped resource to help small business owners

Hi there. If you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur, or just thinking about starting a business, you’ll want to see what the Small Business Administration of our government has to offer you, often at no charge, that will help you start or grow your business. What a pitch! Basically, the government is saying “We’ll help you make more money and never charge you a dime!” Can you beat that? And yet, I’m amazed at how many small business owners DON’T use the services of their local Small Business Development Center (SBDC)!

For 54 years, the US Small Business Administration has been a key resource for small businesses across our nation, funding local SBDCs and providing an amazing amount of helpful online and printed content. I urge you to take advantage of the many products and services your local SBDC provides. If you are looking for financing, business counseling, federal procurement opportunities (where the federal government buys from you), or you need help attaining the certifications necessary to compete in today’s marketplace, then you’ll want to stop by your local Center. You can locate yours by visiting http://www.SBDCnetwork.com

Like most any non-profit or government organization, when you work with an individual in that group they may be great or they may be less than great. It is hit-or-miss. But, just know that it is worth finding that “diamond in the rough,” that person whose talent and sincere interest in your success actually makes the difference. So, don’t be disheartened like I was many years ago when I made my first appointment with an SBDC counselor in Pennsylvania who turned out to be a dud. Since then, I’ve not only had amazing counselors but have become one myself, so I know that these positions do attract very effective business counselors.

It is easy to get excited about serving the small business community. People walk into our offices with such energy and hope and talent that you know they will do whatever it takes to succeed! And it usually requires that kind of attitude and persistence in order to make any new business work or to begin to dominate the market and grow your existing business.

Small businesses like yours are the lifeblood of our economy. Did you know that? Small business owners create between 60 to 80 percent of the new jobs in America. It isn’t the big businesses that make up most of the GDP, it is the work of small business owners. They help drive our economy, transform communities, create jobs, and e3nable people to realize their dreams. What dream businesses do you want to start?

At the SBDCs, our goal is to help small businesses by giving the mthe tools they need to succeed. Curious about what we can do? Visit:  http://www.SBDCnetwork.com to learn more. Whether you are starting or expanding a small businesses and need help developing a business plan, targeting clients that make you more money for your time, or establishing a budget or need additional training (don’t you just LOVE to do bookkeeping!) (tee-hee), or you need technical or financial assistance, the SBDCs are here to help.

You see, the role of government is to create an environment in which the entrepreneur can flourish, in which minds can expand, in which technologies can reach new frontiers. Serious, hard-working and successful small business owners create wealth for themselves, their investors, and their employees. Their creativity, hard work, and productivity have combined to produce the most vibrant economy in the world (it’s only the banks that have made it unstable lately).

Your local SBDC (Small Business Development Center), one of over 1,000 offices nationwide, are accessible via one of America’s largest resource vaults for supporting small business owners at  http://www.SBDCnetwork.com Register for free, watch some training videos, write a business plan, apply for a loan, and a whole lot more. We’re here to help.

Small business plan – build it and they will come

Hi again. This is in some way a continuation from my previous post.

Business is simple. Really. Ask yourself this: how does any business make money? Money comes to you from people. People make a decision to do business with you. Money doesn’t come from owning a lease on a storefront in a high traffic location, from websites, from post cards, from ads. Money comes from people making decisions. When people make decisions to do business with you, to exchange a value that they want for the cash in their pocket, you have successfully transacted a business relationship, both an immediate profitable transaction as well as a long term relationship (long term if you are following the NEW RULES). Now more than ever before in the history of business, devleoping a long term relationship with your preferred or ideal clients is crucial to your success.

There is no magic formula for writing a small business plan, but, you’ll see similarities in nearly every guide book or course available. In fact, I’ve spent years researching and reviewing the industry’s best books, programs, instructors, and general theories and principles. You need to ask yourself the right questions in the right order in order to develop a step-by-step plan. Once you’ve thoroughly answered all the necessary questions for your particular type of business, you’ll have a bullet proof plan that will not only make sure you launch your business’s marketing campaigns successfully, but, also give you confidence and clarity in making decisions based on your knowledge of what is most likely to bring you the greatest profit in the shortest amount of time.

Plus, if you are looking to raise capital to either start a new business or do a turn around or expansion of an existing business, you’re far more likely to get all the money you need since it will be obvious to those with money to lend or invest that you’ve done your homework. Did you know that the 2nd more common reason that small businesses fail is that they start their business under capitalized. In other words, it took longer and was more expensive to get started than the business owners predicted, and they simply ran out of money. How can you avoid this very common mistake?

The answer is obvious: start out with a lot more money available to you than you think you’ll ever need. Keep in mind that 67% of the Inc 500 businesses started with less than $25,000 cash. So, you don’t necessarily need a lot of money in order to grow rapidly. But, compare that statistic with another: over 85% of start ups that are still standing after 4 years all had a business plan.

A good business coach can help you identify government agencies like the Small Business Development Centers who help you apply for SBA-guaranteed low interest loans.  Visit http://www.SBDCnetwork.com to find your local SBDC.  You can also find out some foundations who give out NO interest loans to start ups. A good business coach will help you gain confidence to network with those in the venture capital and angel investor circles as well as make presentations that ultimately establishes relationships with individual and institutional investors who end up depositing large checks into your bank account, thus enabling you to launch your business with confidence, clarity, and fully capitalized.

Consider that the average mistake of a small business owner costs them about $15,000, hiring a coach or a consultant for a lot less than that for a few hours can make a huge difference. In writing an effective small business plan, you need not have all the answers, you just need to recruit those who can help you get all the answers. You’ll need to understand how to do your homework both online, in business libraries, and with consultants who have specialized knowledge that will greatly increase your chances of succeeding in your marketing campaigns to generate new business.

Small businesses can succeed even during bad economic times

Hi again.  I’d like to offer you some strategies to help your small business grow even during our current recession.  Basically, there are opportunities for most industries to turn lemons into lemonade.

As a consultant for many years to both private clients and clients of Small Business Development Centers, I’ve seen some businesses succeed while others fail.  I’ve noticed that the ones who succeed, even during touch economic times, are usually the ones who do their homework… they take the time to study the market.  They have developed their strategies and documented those strategies in a thorough business plan.

Basically, failing to plan is planning to fail.  Successful business people do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.  Are you unwilling to take a few hours each week and dedicate them to studying economic trends that affect your business?  Or, are you “planning to fail” like all of the other people around you who work blindly in their local, national, or international market.  Now is the time to do MORE studying and less WATCHING of the news!  Get out of your TV room and into your local college library.

First, I’d like to applaud your interest in doing whatever it takes to successfully start or grow your own business, especially in a challenging economy that we now face here in the US, and congradulate you for having the courage to change your life for the better.  Running your own business can be both rewarding and challenging, and researching and writing and effective business plan will go a long way to making sure you are a success.  When you research and write a plan, you’re doing the kind of work that Fortune 1000 companies do in order to increase their profits year after year.  You’ll gain clarity and confidence in making decisions based on the knowledge and understanding of principles that make the best businesses successful.

So, welcome to the new rules.  You’ve got to be more savvy and more careful in this new economy.  You’ll need to map out a step by step process for you to move from where you are to where you want to be.  If you don’t have a “entrepreneur coach” or “business coach,” you’ll want to hire one who has been down the road you need to take.   I’d recommend that you check out the local franchise owner from a company for whom I used to work as an Membership Advisor.   Visit them at http://www.onecoach.com.

One of the key things I learned from the highly successful founders of OneCoach is that your own mindset, belief systems, confidence, and decision making habits, often unconscious, can lead your business down a path of success or failure.  If you don’t make consistently the right decision, you’re going to doom your business even if you have a product or service in high demand with little competition.

“Know thyself” is a command from the philosophers that applies equally to entrepreneurs.  Know what your tendencies are, how emotionally involved you are in your business to see if you are making decisions based on emotions of fear or hope or greed instead of making wise rational objective decisions.  You’ll want to get in the habit of consulting with people more often than you ever have been before.  Just like in real estate the motto is “location, location, location,” in developing the best strategies to take your business to where you want it to be, you need to “consult, consult, consult.”  Make sense?

You’ll also want to look into business plan writing software.  I’d recommend Business Plan Pro by Palo Alto.  Get their latest version if you want to pay full price or get last year’s version for a discount.  I’ve found killer deals on business plan software in the clearance section of Office Depot:  last year’s software at 1/3 the cost!  Software will guide you through all the number crunching and create automatic and pretty looking reports for you.  And it will ask you not all, but, MOST of the questions you’ll need to have solid and thorough answers to before you start any marketing campaign.

You’ll also want to do some market research and start following the blogs of the nations best economists.  I’d recommend the book Basic Economics.  I don’t recall the subtitle off hand but I’ll look it up and post it for you.

Just as much as you want to learn what the best practices are for your particular industry, i.e. learn from the most successful people around you, you’ll also want to find out from failed business owners what took them out of the game.  This information can often be even more valuable.  Learn from others’ mistakes.  Now, sometimes, when asked, people don’t truly know all the factors that lead to their failure … or for that matter, their success.  So, take what they say with a grain of salt.  But, still, you’ll want to ask.

You may have heard that the Small Business Administration, a Federal government agency, has reported that about 60% of all small businesses fail within the first 4 years.  So, you’re probably asking, “How can I beat the odds?”  In this blog, we’ll cover all the common mistakes and help you navigate the waters so you don’t drown.  You’ll also learn from me all the logical but often overlooked marketing and sales strategies that can lead to an increase in the return of your investment of time and money.
Without sales, and the marketing process necessary to get those sales, you’re business will not last.  I will teach you in simple plain language exactly what homework you’ll need to do in order to develop effective marketing strategies.  When you understand your own strengths and weaknesses as it relates to your business, that is, your own personality from an objective point of view of a good psychologist, and when you understand the psychology of your preferred client or customer, you’ll know exactly what to do and what not to do to generate the greatest profit form the lowest risk of marketing investment.  The strategies are simple.  They simply take time to develop and test.

If you are like most small business owners, though.  You simply won’t take the time to do it… and that is why you are most likely not to have a profitable business as the economy weakens.  I strongly recommend that you start planning now, as the economy isn’t going to get any better any time soon.  I’m confident, since I’ve been doing my homework.

Too often, small business owners act like foolish generals of an army:  they send out their troops with no plan, no understanding of the battlefield, no weapons, no ammo, and no defenses.  Just how likely is it that they are goign to win a war like that?  Instead, you’ll want to research and write your plan, raise capital if you need to, and establish relationships with all the right people… partners, vendors, and clients.  Actually, it is a lot simpler than you think.

But, if you haven’t been in the habit of doing even simple things, things that you KNOW you need to be doing, what is the liklihood that you are going to start doing them?  That’s why you need to hire a coach, hire a business plan writer, hire a market research firm, and work with as many of the free service providers made available to you in your local community, like the SBDCs and SCORE counselors.  Attend their low cost workshops and sign up for their free counseling.  To find the local SBDC near you, visit:  http://www.SBDCnetwork.com

Create a team that will help you recession-proof your business.  Become the smart general that plans, prepares, recruits, edifies, protects, and feeds its army.  Then your business can “Be all it can be.”  :O)