Content, Content, Content!

October 15, 2012 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Communicating for Success, Featured

A good friend of mine was recently driving around with a real estate agent, looking for a spot to open a new store. The agent kept saying, “Location, location, location.” In real estate, that’s the key, since you want people to see your store and shop there. If we were driving around in cyberspace, I would be saying, “Content, content, content.” Why?

Ann Handley, co-author of Content Rules, writes:

“Today, you have an unprecedented opportunity to create a treasury of free, easy-to-use, almost infinitely customizable content that tells the story of your product and your business, and positions you as an expert people will want to do business with.”

The Web is more or less nothing but content — from websites and blogs to articles and videos and the list goes on. Here are some facts to ponder from Joe DiDonato, Elearning! Media Group Editor-at-Large:

  • Technology renews itself every 12-18 months.
  • There are 3,000 books published every day.
  • The amount of new technical data is doubling every year

The point is, in order to have your content stand out, it needs to immediately grab the reader’s attention and then hold it.

The “grab” part is often easier then the “hold.” What makes content stand out from the endless chatter on the Web? The same reasons that are true for you are also true for your readers.

Here are a few points about what makes content outstanding:

Content must be relevant: Great content needs to speak to you about what’s happening now. If you are looking into how to write better content, for example, then this article is relevant. If you need to know how to make coq au vin, you should go to the Food Network website.

Content must be useful: Too much content on the Web is utterly useless. I’m not just talking about the low-quality stuff that pollutes the Internet. I’m talking about all the content that’s just mediocre or un-enlightening. The stuff that doesn’t tell me anything I can really use in my daily life. There’s lots of content about things, ideas, reactions, and opinions, and none of it is really helpful, except for the people who are telling me how to do something I need to do. Helpful content always finds readers.

relevant contentContent must be well-written: Outstanding content better be well-written or no one will read it, even if it’s relevant and useful. This is the toughest rule to follow. Really good writing is hard, and that’s why we have professional writers. So be honest with yourself: Either you write well enough to make your content work or you don’t. If you don’t, then hire a good content writer. This is especially true for busy entrepreneurs and business owners. If you can’t devote the necessary time to update your business’ website with useful content for your readers or customers, be honest with yourself and hire a pro.

Find the right topics: Don’t forget that the foundation of outstanding content is a fresh and interesting topic idea. No matter how relevant, useful and well-produced your content is, if a very similar article, blog post or video already exists, its potential is limited right off the bat. Always strive to find new and exciting things to showcase in your content. Here are a few ideas on how to find interesting content ideas from Handley and her co-author, C.C. Chapman, in their book Content Rules:

Chat with customers. Ask customers a single question, such as ‘What’s your biggest marketing challenge?’ or ‘What’s a strategy you used to grow your business this year?’

Interview luminaries. Q & A interviews with thought leaders, strategic partners, or flat-out interesting creative thinkers make for compelling text, audio, or video content. […]

Trawl industry news. Share an opinion about a recent news story that’s affecting your industry or audience. Be timely; you could benefit from the extra boost of being one of the first to comment on the topic.

Go behind the scenes. Show things that your readers or followers don’t usually get to see. Share photos that give an insider’s view of your company, or tease some new, compelling content, product or event that you’ll be launching soon.

Go to an event. Take session notes, conduct interviews, or take photos. Real-time blog or tweet the sessions that offer value to your community, and share with your audience what you learned, enjoyed, or were surprised at.

Share best practices or productivity tips. People are always looking for efficiencies, and this type of content is always highly useful and shareable. […]

What do you think makes content outstanding? How do you find great content ideas? We’d love to hear in the comments!

David Grebow is a freelance small business journalist for Vistaprint, a world leader in custom websites, business cards, and other marketing products for businesses all across the globe. David holds an MBA from Harvard and has been published in Harvard Business Review and The Economist.

Building your Personal Brand

October 9, 2012 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under How to Market and Brand

When building your personal brand, it can sometimes seem like a painfully slow process, but that slow as molasses feeling is often deceiving. Don’t believe me? Try saying something stupid or callous and see how quick that spontaneous comment is etched in stone for all eternity!

Personal BrandThat’s why you should carefully consider several things before you ever begin trying to build your personal brand. The list can vary somewhat, depending upon the niche you’re branding yourself for, of course. For our purposes, we’re going to talk about someone that works in a particular field, that is trying to brand themselves as an authority in that field.

Here are some things to consider in the planning of your personal branding campaign:

Audience

Just as in any other online effort, it’s crucial to know who you’re talking to. Setting aside the obvious aspect of language, you’ll still often need to consider things like literacy level, gender, cultural background, technical comprehension of a topic and their interests. That may sound very simple, but this is probably the most critical and complex aspect of planning your branding efforts. Know your audience… demographics can be an invaluable tool.

Brand credibility

Whether you’re posting things you’ve found that you think may be of interest to your friends and followers, or making original comments and statements, you need to consider the fact that people will assign a value to you, based upon what you share.

Posting a link to an article that is offensive, politically slanted, poorly written or just plain stupid will often cause people to assume that it was okay with you, or you wouldn’t have shared it. The same holds true for original comments. Assuming the brand you’re trying to build is one of a positive nature, be very cautious about what you say online – anywhere.

If you concentrate on posting information that’s reliable, you’ll be on the right track. Making statements such as predictions can be risky, even if they eventually prove to be accurate. Such things are usually better left until after you’ve established yourself as an authority.

Hook

I use this term in a slightly different context than is normal in marketing circles. I’m referring to the memorable aspect of your brand, which can be a logo, avatar, tagline or catch-phrase. Burger King’s “Have it your way”, or GEICO’s gecko spokesman are typical examples. A hook isn’t essential for personal branding, but it can be helpful if it’s sufficiently memorable for the right reasons.

Brand voice and tone

This can vary dramatically, from niche to niche, as well as from audience to audience. The point is that your voice needs to be carefully selected and remain consistent. Striking a good balance between likable, approachable and authoritative isn’t always an easy task, but when you find that sweet-spot, it can pay big dividends.

Originality

This can sometimes be difficult, as more and more information in a given topic area is published every day. But regurgitated opinions don’t attract much interest and they certainly won’t build your brand. If you want to be seen as someone worth listening to, you’ll need to offer something of greater value than the others in your field. That may be new information or simply a different interpretation.

This can take quite a lot of initiative and innovation, as well as sound judgment of what’s really of value to your audience. Again, it’s a sweet-spot that’s well worth the effort to find.

The bottom line

As is the case with any marketing effort, it’s critical to deliver the right message to the right people in the right way at the right time. Don’t lose sight of the fact that any brand-building effort is exactly that… you’re marketing yourself to your audience. And just like any other marketing effort, it will be most effective when it’s undetectable as marketing.  Don’t oversell. When others arrive at the perception of your value of their own accord, it’s a much more durable effect.

Fulfilling all the above points should help you establish your personal brand well, but don’t expect it to happen overnight, and don’t rush it. The decision of you being seen as the brand in a niche is not yours… it belongs solely to your audience.

I’d love to hear any comments you may have on personal branding. Think I’ve missed something? Share it!

Are You Confident or Arrogant?

January 23, 2012 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Entrepreneur Mindset, Featured

There is a huge difference between being confident or arrogant.  This is a fine line that we often walk as we manage in our personal and business relationships. For the purposes of this post, I will focus on professional relationships but the information does apply personally too.

It is completely true that we must have confidence in our abilities in order to gain and keep the trust and respect of our prospects and customers.  If we become too forceful about the value that we feel we are delivering, that can be perceived as arrogance which will be off-putting to people.

your ability to be transparent shows if you are confident or arrogant

In this era of full-disclosure and social networking, whether that is through Instant Messaging or other well-known social networks, it is critical that we are above-board with regard to our accomplishments and skills.  One of the easiest ways to demonstrate your expertise is to reveal the value of the knowledge you’ve gained by sharing it openly with colleagues, where this is practical and do-able.

confident or arrogantIt isn’t enough to say to others that you are the best at what you do.  The ONLY way that your colleagues, prospects and customers will come to believe that you are an expert in your field, as you claim, is through their perception of who you are and by the  information you share openly to back up your claims.   If someone asks you why you are saying what you are saying, this does not mean that they don’t believe you or are challenging what you are sharing.   The way you handle yourself will show people if you are confident or arrogant.

I’m not suggesting that you should give away all that you know without compensation.  What will gain more respect and higher quality referrals will be to display a spirit of collaboration when you are in group settings or in pre-sales discussions.

whether confident or arrogant, remember that you are not always right

Even though you have spent years doing what you’re doing, you will be viewed as either confident or arrogant based on your willingness to accept the possibility that you still have something to learn and letting people see that this is the case.  Face it, people are inherently innovative and it is possible that someone has discovered something that can enhance your previously earned wisdom. 

The ability to hear a message without the background noise of your own filters is not easy for some folks.  When you KNOW you are the best at something and a new person inquires about the wisdom you are sharing, check your ego before responding.   The way that you respond will inform those directly involved in the conversation, as well as those looking on, as to whether you are confident or arrogant.

You can easily avoid confrontations by keeping an open mind.  If you feel that the person asking the question has less knowledge than you, do not react to their inexperience with a phrase like:

I’ve been doing this for years so I know what I’m talking about.

Kick your ego to the curb by admitting, to yourself, that nothing is static in our world.  Try to actively listen so you can learn more about their position.  You can experiment with statements such as:

I hadn’t thought of that.  Can you tell me more about it, please?

The first part of this phrasing validates the speaker by giving them credit for their idea.  The second part lets them know you are interested in what they have to say and leaves the door open for them to discuss it with you.

People will notice whether you are confident or arrogant, especially  if you have a genuine interest in learning more about them and what they have to say.  A good rule of thumb which I’ve discovered is that it is much better to be interested than it is to be interesting.  Besides, you actually might learn something new!

mean what you say!

Overly confident people rarely have the ability to truly appreciate someone else’s expertise, especially if it approaches their own.  If you are in this position and find yourself congratulating someone, make sure that your praise is sincerely offered because insincerity has potential to undermine the less experienced person with whom you are in conversation.

Always focus on building or improving your relationships by being honest.  Sarcasm or self-deprecating humor is a tactic that is sometimes used by arrogant people to draw attention away from others and to themselves, so be careful about how and when this is used.  If you can’t offer praise authentically, wait until you actually feel that emotion before dishing out your Kudos so the recipient knows whether you are being confident or arrogant when it is offered.

make yourself easy to approach

Your relationships will be enhanced and define you as being either confident or arrogant based on your ability to set aside your judgments that someone younger or having less experience automatically knows less about your subject than you do.  This will also make you seem more approachable. 

When you position yourself as an authority in your field, people will gladly follow you and have more respect for you because they want what you have.  They may not have decided yet whether you are confident or arrogant, and their decision is based on their perceptions of you.

As I used to quip:

She puts on her pantyhose one leg at a time too…  :)

When given the opportunity, provide your fans and followers with some personal information about how you arrived at your position of authority in your area of expertise.  I do not recommend being overly dramatic, as this will turn some people off.  What I’m suggesting is that it is totally OK let people know about things that bug you or mistakes you’ve made along your way. 

In the spirit of authenticity, always ensure that you are differentiating between what is your opinion and what is a fact, based on your knowledge. 

It is too much work to be perfect and it is probably an unobtainable goal anyway.  Your admirers need to know you are human in order to truly value the expertise that you have to share.

confident or arrogant?

confident or arrogantLeaders and mentors understand the responsibility of the characteristics that have attracted people to them.  Marketers sometimes appear to have problems weighing the balance between being confident or arrogant and, sadly, some do not even recognize that this is an opportunity for them to change and gain higher respect. 

It is my opinion that confidence and ego have the power to make or break your patterns of success.  As useful as it is to have an ego to propel you, that same ego will cause people to stop listening to you if you stomp on them in public or stifle their ideas by telling them they are wrong.

People will quickly spot whether you are being confident or arrogant. Truly confident people don’t have to prove that they are good at what they do for it is obvious without declarations.  Such people have a very firm BELIEF in their own capabilities, as well as a CLEAR UNDERSTANDING about their own strengths and weaknesses. 

An individual with a properly balanced ego will embrace what others feel is risky because that person believes in themself and knows that they have the ability to manage the risks and make it work.  Thus, these sorts of people will often take leaps of faith that would totally freak out a less confident professional.  But this can be inspiring to onlookers.

Having talent and being good at something is a gift.  Don’t abuse your power by diminishing those around you, no matter how much you know. 

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How to Create Blog Content that Attracts Subscribers

January 17, 2012 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under PLR Products

The goal for any blog is to build a following. There are many different ways to attract new visitors to your blog, but convincing them to become repeat readers and subscribers requires one thing – great content.

Some of the results of more subscribers are:

· More profitability. Whether you are selling your own products and services, promoting affiliate products, or selling advertising, regular readers are more likely to buy from you.

· More social sharing. Your subscribers will be the first to Tweet, Like, and +1 your posts.

· More social proof. It’s natural for people to follow the crowd and the more followers you have the more follow worthy you become.

· A built-in audience. There’s something particularly satisfying about knowing that when you’ve taken the time and effort to produce a quality post, there are subscribers waiting to read it.

Crowd having fun

Here are some tips on creating subscribe-worthy content.

Find Your Voice and Communicate it Consistently

Articles that reflect your personality will connect with your audience. They’ll enjoy reading your content because it reflects who you are and what you’re about. People who feel a more personal connection and who can relate to you and your writing will be more likely to subscribe.

If you outsource any of your content, be careful not to give up your voice. Carefully select a ghostwriter who can write in your voice. Alternatively you can have your writer do the research and provide just an outline so you can finish the post yourself, in your own voice. And of course, when using PLR modify the articles to fit your personality and writing style.

Pay Attention to the Numbers

As you’re writing content for your blog pay attention to the blog posts that get the most traffic. Look at which blog posts are linked to most often and also how many comments they receive. Finally, use analytics to determine which keywords are bringing visitors to your site. The numbers indicated which content fits your audience and will help you gain subscribers.

Provide Value

Try to create content that provides consistent value. Value can be in the form of entertainment, information and education, or resources. For example, if your website is about organization and time management, checklists and how-to videos might provide excellent value to your readers. The more you can become a constant source of value, the more people will subscribe to your blog. They want to have immediate and easy access to all the information you create and share.

Present Yourself as a Credible Authority

Think about the blogs that you subscribe to. Chances are you subscribe to them at least in part because you trust the information they’re providing you. You consider the authors to be experts in their topic. As a blogger you can gain the same credibility and following by establishing yourself as an expert in your chosen field. Build authority by:

· Speaking confidently about your topic.

· Connecting with experts in your industry.

· Quoting relevant data and resources when appropriate.

· Recommending quality products and services.

· Creating an easy to use and read blog.

· Providing thoughtful responses to your commenters.

· Showing how much you enjoy your blog, topic, readers and audience.

Creating content that readers will subscribe to is part science, part passion, and part attention to detail. Create a content plan that reflects your audience’s needs and interests, pay attention to their feedback and the data, and most of all put your whole self into your blog. The subscribers will follow.

Guest Author

attract subscribersLinda Stacy offers blogging and PLR tips and resources at LindaStacy.com.

I’m Not Really a Waitress …

April 29, 2011 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Featured, Marj Wyatt's Musings

When I launched my wordpress website design business a few years ago, my enthusiasm for helping people make money online caused me to develop a business model for myself that involved a lot of personal time with my clients.  They seemed to appreciate the level of service that I offered for reasonable rates and it was fun for me to learn about the various businesses people were trying to bring online.  I’ve never had to advertise.  My business has grown solely by word-of-mouth and referrals, which is no accident.

Lately, it seems like new clients have expectations that exceed their budgets.  It remains true that my all inclusive wordpress website design and consulting services are rare and I totally understand what it feels like to not know how to do what needs to be done where skills are lacking.  Wherever possible, I extend myself to help out.  I”m recently reminded that the speed with which I isolate and resolve problems seems to be projecting the idea that , because I make it look easy, it is.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard a new client tell me that they don’t want to know how something works and that is why they’ve hired me.  I also can’t count the number of times that clients have protested my resistance to continuing without additional compensation.  A handful have been presumptuous enough to question why it would take so long to do.   Excuse me?

With all due respect, if you don’t know what it takes to get something done and you don’t want to take the time to learn how to do it yourself, don’t challenge the person who does know how to do it when they tell you how long it will take to do what you need to have done!

I like living with the belief that all people are reasonable and that they are also willing to parlay a little give and take in our business agreement.  Recently, a handful of  new clients and prospects have come my way who are much happier with the “take” part of the equation, however.  These same people have had no qualms expressing their opinions about wordpress website design services that I should deliver for free or at an unreasonably low price when the simple truth is that they don’t want to pay fairly for the services they are requesting and they are upset about the fact that they are unable to convince me that I should perform those services within their limited budget because they are low on cash.

For those of you who are reading this and are feeling a twinge of guilt about making similar demands of your website services professionals, please ask yourself these questions:

  1. If you wanted to buy a luxury car and couldn’t afford it, would ranting at the salesperson change the facts?
  2. If that sales person felt sorry for you and went the extra mile to find a financial program that lowered your monthly expense, would you blame them for the fact that the payment was still out of your reach?

wordpress website designWhen I chose an entrepreneurial career, I was happy to leave my IT Executive role behind in Corporate America because I was weary of leading teams whose contributions to the company’s success were repeatedly diminished by some top-level executive who viewed IT as a necessary evil.  It would seem that I’m growing weary of explaining to new clients and prospects that the skills and knowledge that I’ve gathered throughout my professional life are worth much more than a waitress’ wage.

Yet, referrals keep coming in from my large base of previously satisfied clients.  Several times a week, new business comes in through my website at http://virtuallymarj.com.  Generally speaking, life is good and I enjoy working with the many nice people on my client roster.  I also enjoy taking on a good challenge now and then so I guess I’ll continue growing my wordpress website design business  and keeping it fun by choosing to work with clients who are willing to take advice, understand the value that I bring to their efforts and are willing to pay fairly.  :)

Mixing Friendship and Business is a Bad for Business

March 24, 2011 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Entrepreneur Mindset, Featured

For the past two years, I’ve been in a business relationship with a client whom I felt had also become my friend.  After extracting more than twice the amount of labor than was allocated under the terms of our monthly retainer agreement for WordPress Website Development services over several months, these local clients have reminded me that mixing friendship with business is a bad idea.

In an effort to overcome my disappointment about their denial about what is owed for my services … or even discuss a compromise, I decided to write a post to advise and educate small business owners on better ways to structure contracts with clients who expect to receive benefits prior to payment.

Qualifying Business Prospects

As a former Realtor, one of the refrains that they drilled into my head during training was that Buyers were Liars.  We were taught to qualify people for mortgages prior to investing time and energy in setting up showings or writing contracts.  This is easy to do when you can “spin” your request for qualification as a service that will benefit the Buyer but it is not so easy to do in other service businesses.

The difficulty may lie in the fact that most small business owners cannot afford to use expensive credit checking services.  Thus, the qualification process involves interpersonal communication that almost seems intrusive while qualifying a prospect for their ability to pay.

In a perfect world, you would take 100% of the payment up-front but that is a hard sell.  In lieu of that, insist on a retainer of no less than 50% of the total contract price and establish milestones that pay the remaining 50% for each deliverable at the time of acceptance.  You may want to consider using an escrow service to ensure that you will be paid as tasks are completed.  If you are in the middle of their project and they begin to tell you they are having trouble paying their bills, stop working on their project.  Retainers are non-refundable.  You cannot recover the time you’ve spent once it is gone.

Get it in Writing!

If there is no written contract to enforce a business agreement, things can easily go wrong.  At the very least, put the request into an email message after you’ve agreed to deliverables and pricing.  Don’t begin work on the project until you have an email reply that acknowledges the agreement.

Stick to Business

Since time is the commodity that service providers trade, don’t allow yourself to get engaged in personal discussions with your clients during the project.  Clients will act friendly and they will say anything to get what they want.  Inevitably, they will try to gain your sympathy and convince you that they will pay you later when they want more than they can afford.  In my experience, this never happens when the bill comes due and the friendship that you felt was merely the tool they used to get what they wanted.

Negotiate Before You Do the Work

mixing friendship with business is bad for businessIf a services client requests work that you know will take more time than the payment arrangement allows for, take notes about their request and tell them that you’ll have to get back to them with a price.  Regardless of their insistence, don’t lift a finger to get the work done until you have reached an agreement about compensation and received an additional retainer payment.  This is business and you are delivering value.

I repeat:  Don’t budge if they say they will pay you later.  They won’t.

Don’t be Afraid to Walk Away

As the saying goes, when one door closes another is opened.  If you feel that your client is difficult to work with and they are exhibiting signs of ambivalence about your requests for payment, this is a sign that you need to move on to another client who understands that this is your business.  You are not their employee and you owe them nothing.  You are an independent business owner and it isn’t your job to save them at your expense, no matter how nice they seem.

Don’t Get Distracted by the Noise

When a client knows they are wrong, they will endeavor to assign blame to you for their irresponsibility.  If you get caught up in their accusations, you’ll get distracted from the goal of being compensated for the work that you’ve done.  Acknowledge that you have heard what they are saying but do not engage in a debate about why you are demanding to be paid and do not involve yourself with explanations about your actions as you pursue payment.  You did the work.  In a business relationship, you deserve to be paid.

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Don’t Should on Yourself!

November 30, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Business Basics, Featured

A wise man with whom I worked during my earlier years once came up with a profound New Year’s resolution at our annual marketing support meeting.  The entire group laughed out loud when he said his resolution was to never say “it should work” again.

There does seem to be a resurgence of people not thinking through the answers to questions that are asked.  Responses like this are pointless:

It should have been there by now.” or “That should have worked.”

Normally, a long explanation about how the process is supposed to work follows comments like these.  All kidding aside, it almost seems like an assumption has been made that I wouldn’t have done something simple, like checking my spam folder or reading instructions.  As the support person drones on about how their process works, I’m thinking, “If your system worked the way you’ve described it, I wouldn’t have picked up the phone to find out what was wrong.”

Customer Relationship Management | GetIncomeBlog.comCommunicating is such a critical component of business.  Whether it is written or verbal, our phrasing has a lot to do with how the other side of the conversation receives our responses.  We need to empathize with the caller and, above all, treat them professionally.  Without our customers, we have no business.  This applies to ALL business models … assuming the business is legitimate.

Even though this may sound cliché, there really is no such thing as a dumb question.  Entrepreneurs who are operating a truly customer-facing business must learn how to respond appropriately to their customer’s questions.  Here are some suggestions for improving your customer communications:

  1. Smile before picking up the phone.
  2. Establish set time frames during work days for taking calls to ensure minimal disruption..
  3. Draft agenda topics for scheduled meetings and allocate time limits to the topics.  Distribute the agenda to all invitees in advance of the meeting.  Be flexible to requests to alter or rearrange the agenda and time frames.
  4. Don’t make customers wait more than 24-hours for a response to their email or voicemail.
  5. Set “office hours” so your customers are respectful of your personal boundaries.  Inform active customers of your vacation plans.   If you have a dedicated business line, update your announcement to reflect any extended time away from your office so potential new business doesn’t think you are non-responsive.
  6. Ensure that you understand your customer’s problem statement before suggesting a solution.  They’ve been immersed in it long enough to determine it is a problem.  Sometimes you must back them up to the beginning so you can be of better assistance to them.
  7. Remain calm and be empathetic.  Understand that your customer may have struggled for hours before calling you and that they could be tense as a result.
  8. Set expectations properly if your customer’s issue cannot be handled during the call.
  9. Publish an FAQ page on your website and refer people to it first.  Whether you have a product or service, if you’ve been in business a while you know what questions are most frequent.
  10. If your product is digital, prepare documentation that assumes the least amount of knowledge while making it complete enough for advanced users.

Most of this blog’s readers are aware that I have a service business and that one of my services is WordPress Website Development. Many of my clients are unfamiliar with the software and part of my service fees include one-on-one training.  I welcome client calls because I love teaching people things that will make them feel more self-sufficient and confident with the products and services they have purchased from me.  Because I also enjoy the clients with whom I work as people, I have to monitor the gab time with some of them because we have so much fun just talking.

Where the Hell is Matt?

In these times of entrepreneurship and light-speed marketing, I’m frequently reviewing things that other people are doing online.  YouTube is a great place to locate innovative marketing techniques.  It is also a great place to wonder how people came up with their ideas but some things are better left unexplained … especially a video like this!

Make Your Business Fun!

Here is a video where Matt explains his business and how he has grown his ideas into something that not only is more fun but also is profitable. It is carrying a beneficial message to our world too.

Last weekend, I attended a reception for a well known nature photographer named Thomas Mangelsen.  He autographed my purchase with this message:

Dance while you can.  Scream when you must.

There is wisdom in those words, and Matt’s video and business plan reinforces them somehow.

Here is another favorite quote of mine by one of this world’s most famous writers, Mark Twain:

“Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like its heaven on earth.”

For those of you in the USA, have an awesome Thanksgiving.  For all my other readers, enjoy the day!

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The Proposal …

November 23, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Business Basics, Small Business

In my business, potential clients sometimes ask for me to submit a detailed proposal that outlines deliverables and costs for milestones on a project.  This usually follows a lengthy phone conversation.  This is not an unreasonable request but preparing these proposals takes time that cannot be spent on other business activities and exposes details about my strategies and methods so my quandary is what level of commitment to ask of the prospect in exchange prior to delivering the document.  Although it is part of doing business, nobody likes paperwork.

Project Proposal GetIncomeBlog.comWhen I launched my business, I submitted detailed proposals without a second thought.  However, I modified my approach after a potential client failed to acknowledge the receipt of the proposal and ignored my requests for follow-up and negotiation until he contacted me to share a listing he had placed on a freelance site which was a verbatim copy of everything I had written in my proposal.  I was shocked.  He seemed pleased about the fact that he had sourced the project at a lower rate than I had proposed.  He has returned with new requests since then but I’ve declined.

My proposals now include a time limitation for pricing and a copyright notification that is intended to discourage prospects from using my content to shop their projects around.  In spite of these measures, there still are people who promise to meet with me after the proposal is sent, fail to return calls or emails for a while, and send a cryptic email saying that they “going another direction” with their project after a couple of weeks.  This is disappointing … and suspicious.

This isn’t a sour grapes post.  I certainly don’t expect to win every contract but I honestly don’t know how to handle prospects who leverage my copyrighted content to shop around for better pricing.  It is a bona fide conundrum.

These are the possible solutions that I’ve come up with:

  1. Withhold the delivery of all proposals until a mutually agreed to meeting time where we can walk through and discuss each point/price.
  2. Charge a flat fee for preparing and delivering detailed proposals and estimates that covers the cost of my time.
  3. Propose only an hourly rate for all projects in the future and track time, which is a big headache for me.
  4. Join the Circus and escape it all.  :)

Well, the last one isn’t really an option but it is fun to muse about sometimes.

Are You Email Marketing or Spamming?

Email marketing is a proven method of developing a relationship with your customers and, if that relationship is properly developed and nurtured, a way to generate affiliate cash flow when you need it.  All that is well and good, but when your opt-out doesn’t result in being opted out, email marketing campaigns can result in driving business away.

One of the inboxes that I own began receiving email from Elizabeth Jackson.  Since I used to know an Elizabeth Jackson, I was enthused to see her name.  It was disappointing to find an advertisement for Work At Home jobs when I opened the email.

I used the option to unsubscribe, more than a dozen times during the past 3 months, and I continued to get email from Elizabeth Jackson from different email addresses.  Each time, I opted out again.  Further research today helped me deduce that Elizabeth Jackson is a fictitious name used to “protect the affiliates” who are promoting a certain CPA campaign offered by Clickbooth, to get income.  Clickbooth advertises themselves as the “exclusive CPA Network” who is ranked #1 by Website Magazine.

Ok, that is all legal but my question today is, who is protecting me, or others who didn’t invite these CPA email offers?

SPAM and the Consumer

email-marketing-or-spam-postPrior to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, I was forced to close a business email account that was being overwhelmed by no less than 50+ messages an hour in a language I couldn’t even read!  Things have gotten better, for sure, but it is possible to be in compliance of that act and still be doing nothing other than irritating customers or prospects.  Case in Point:  Elizabeth Jackson.

Here are some CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 cliff notes:

  1. It is an opt-out law and, for most purposes, permission of the e-mail recipient is not required.  If a recipient wants to unsubscribe or opt-out, however, you’d better stop sending e-mails you are at risk of being subject to severe civil and criminal penalties.
  2. Fraudulent or deceptive subjects, headers, return addresses, etc., are prohibited.
  3. Sending sexually explicit email without clear markings is a criminal act.
  4. Email marketers must have a functional opt-out system that is easy for consumers to use and is operational for at least 30-days following each mailing.
  5. Email messages should include a physical address of the company in the email.
  6. Spammers AND those who procure their services are culpable and both can be prosecuted.
  7. Personal emails, and perhaps non-profit emails, are not addressed by the act.  It applies to all US businesses who are sending commercial email of a transactional nature.

SPAM and the Business Owner

Looking over the guidelines again, a smile came to my face.  I do feel that some of the earnings claims in subject lines from a few of the internet marketing lists that I’ve joined are nothing other than deceptive, in spite of their disclaimers.  This is especially true when the click through leads to a product or service that was not developed by the sender.  But I am a perpetual student of marketing methods and completely understand that this is how affiliate programs work.  :)

Email marketing is a good business strategy, especially for affiliate marketers.  At Flippa, sites with lists are worth more than other sites at the time of sale.  Thus, whether your motivation in launching a site is to build a Niche Empire or develop a site to later sell for profit, building an email marketing list is very important!

CAN-SPAM Loopholes

An apparent loophole in the CAN-SPAM Act, which is always exploited by senders of unsolicited email, allows email marketers have up to 10-days to complete an unsubscribe request.  Although those business owners are adhering to the letter of the law, I find it absurd.  All the autoresponders that I have ever used or recommended facilitate immediate removal from a list.

Pick Up The Phone!

In my desperation to stop getting three more months of unsolicited email from Elizabeth Jackson, whom I now know is a fake person, I was prepared to send a snail mail letter but I dug deep enough to find a phone number to call.  I did allude to the CAN-SPAM act during my call, which may have inspired them to be more attentive, but that remains to be seen.  Regardless, it was comforting to actually speak with someone who listened to my concerns and gathered up the email addresses that I wanted to eradicate from their lists.

The phone seems to have gone out of fashion but the truth remains that consumers sometimes need a phone number to call.  Business owners might conclude that including a phone number on your primary sales page footers or within the terms and conditions page at your site is a good idea for owners of affiliate programs.  After all, the program owner is equally exposed to the fines and penalties outlined in the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, and they are legally obligated to manage the affiliates who are issuing email marketing messages on their behalf.

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