All posts in September 2007

  • Mad Hatter Brainstorming

    Business often requires lots of brainstorming. You brainstorm new product ideas, marketing strategies, and potential article subjects among other things. However most business owners don’t know how to brainstorm well-if at all. Brainstorming is when you let your thoughts fly without any restriction and see where they may lead. This is harder than it sounds because we are used to justifying our ideas with logic. We tend to think-well, that won’t work because…but this is where great ideas falter. In the cliched sense, we don’t think out of the box.  In order to facilitate thinking out of the box, I propose a brainstorming method called Mad Hatter Brainstorming. Remember Alice in Wonderland where she attends the Mad Hatter’s tea party and the guests utter what seem like completely illogical statements? Mad Hatter: Would you like a little more tea? Alice : Well, I haven’t had any yet, so I can’t very well take more. March Hare: Ah, you mean you can’t very well take less. Mad Hatter: Yes. You can always take more than nothing. Anything and everything was allowed at the tea-party. There were no restrictions. The idea behind Mad Hatter Brainstorming is that ANYTHING goes! If you could…

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  • How Do I Stand Out in a Crowded Marketplace?

    Dear Shama, I am a photographer in the DFW area and love what I do. The problem is that there are TONS of photographers in the area, and I am not sure how to set myself apart. I have been told my some well wishers that I should leave photography because of the competition and try serving an under served niche. I know they mean well, but I love being a photographer. This is my passion and my business… I just want it to be a successful business. Please Help! -Confused in Dallas Dear Confused in Dallas, Let me first congratulate you for reaching out and trying to get answers before just giving up. So my answer is two part. One-Don’t give up photography if you love it. Clients can spot passion from a mile away. Two-Your well wishers are partially right. You do need to carve out a niche, but that niche can exist WITHIN photography. You may be an excellent all-rounder photographer, but pick one or two areas in photography where you can really "own" the market. For example, you may find that you enjoy taking pictures at weddings most or you may choose something more obscure-like photographing…

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  • Internet Marketing Basics-1,2,3

    There are three basic steps to internet marketing, and each step is crucial for overall success. 1) Create a Solid Platform– Your platform is generally your website. Make sure that it is clear, easy to read, and well organized. Your website only has 1/10th of a second to capture a browser’s attention. If you mess up this step, nothing else will make up for it. You can get thousands of people to your site-but if they don’t stay, it doesn’t matter. A solid platform captures your target market’s attention and makes it easy for them to understand what you do. 2) Optimize– The easiest way to optimize your website is to get professional Search Engine Optimization (SEO) help, but there are also steps you can take yourself. First use Wordtracker to research keywords that your target market may be using to search for your services. These keywords may not always be what you might use to search for yourself. Example-the airline industry might talk in terms of "discount fares" but people looking for discount fares usually type in "cheap tickets." The higher the KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index) is for a particular word or phrase, the better. A high KEI means…

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  • Why Open Door Marketing Always Fails

    Open Door Marketing is a strategy that always fails, and yet it is practiced by small businesses around the world. Open Door Marketing is when a business opens their doors and expects customers and clients to come running in. It doesn’t happen. Even if you are selling the best widget for the lowest price, you still can’t expect people to “find” you. Might some poor soul stumble in? Yes. Will that lead to explosive profits and a stable business? Not even close. Here are three reasons why Open Door Marketing always fails- 1) The Market is Saturated– There are a million widget makers out there. Your target market doesn’t know who is better. It’s your job to show them what makes you different. It is your job to stand out in a busy marketplace. 2) People Don’t have Time– There is too much information out there and too little time. Your target market is not going to spend the time seeking you out. Your job is to make yourself as available as possible to the people looking for your services. Respect their time and respect your business. 3) It Takes Away from your Credibility- You might think not marketing makes…

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  • Please Stop Reading My Blog

    Yes, you read correctly. Please stop reading my blog…if that is all you are doing. Stop reading and collecting information from any blog, site, newsletter-if that is all you are doing. Reading and collecting information is not enough. You have to implement it. I know so many business owners who attend every seminar and read every book in their industry, but they aren’t seeing results. A quick chat with them will reveal that they don’t implement most of the techniques and strategies-if any! My main purpose with this site is to help you do business the smart way (the EASY way) and increase your profits. Most entrepreneurs love learning new things-it’s fun for them. I am no exception to this rule. I am a sponge when it comes to picking up new techniques, strategies, and technologies related to business. And I make it a point to not only apply them to my own business but to share them with you. So, please consider this post a call to action. How much knowledge have you acquired in the past few months? How much of it have you actually implemented? If your answer is "little to none"-please take a moment to ponder…

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  • Free Seminars in Boston!

    Jay Hargis, of HR CleanUp, is offering a FREE Virtual Workforce Seminar Series in Boston.  His goal with these seminars is to help you get better results and reduce your risks when it comes to virtual/remote employees.  If you are a small business owner, virtual employees can help cut costs and increase efficiency.  Workshop #1:  Selecting Virtual Employees:  Tool and techniques for recruiting and selecting employees who will be placed in virtual or satellite offices.  Tuesday, October 16th from 8:00-9:30 a.m. Workshop #2:  Giving Managers the Tools To Manage Virtually:  Do your managers have the tools and experience necessary to manage a remote workforce?  Are they coming to you looking for advice?  This session will help you focus on the tools and techniques that line managers will need in order to manage remote employees.  Tuesday, October 30th from 8:00-9:30 a.m. Workshop #3: Developing and Mentoring Employees Virtually:  How do you develop your talent when not everyone is located in a corporate office?  How can you motivate and develop "at-home" workers.   We will be focusing on developing your employees through virtual mentorship, training, good old fashioned management.  Tuesday, November 13th from 8:00 – 9:30 a.m.  To register for any of the workshops, simply send an…

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  • Why Your Small Business Should Have a Blog

    If someone offered you free marketing, would you reject it? Of course not! If someone offered to strengthen your customer relations and humanize your brand, would you reject that? No way! Then why not leverage the power of internet by starting a business blog? No excuses allowed. This is a channel for free marketing and more- 1) It Shows Leadership–  A good leader leverages all opportunities to communicate with their clients, potential clients, and the community in general. A blog lets you share your thoughts on a regular basis and is a reflection of your personal values. 2) Get Feedback– A blog allows your customers to communicate with you. It helps you understand and address their issues in a direct and relevant manner. Big corporations spend millions of dollars to figure out what their customers think about them. Here is your chance to learn for free! 3) Establishes Expertise– This is your chance to showcase your expertise without overselling. 4) Humanizes your Brand– Every small business has its story. Its what makes your business unique and allows you to compete with the bigger companies. A business blog allows you to share that story! 5) Media Attention- One month after I…

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  • Intuition, Free Brownies, and How to WOW your Customers

    In business school they teach you that every problem should be solved in a logical and analytical fashion. All based on hard facts. Fair enough-but behind all successful decisions (in life and in business), there is something greater at play. There is intuition. It’s the urge to do something that may or may not make logical sense at the time. You may not be able to rationalize it and this urge is more than just an impulse, it’s almost a mini-calling of sorts. Here is the story of my mini-calling. This afternoon I was strolling down Austin’s famous Guadalupe Street. (For those who have never been to Austin-Guadalupe Street is right by The University of Texas and lined with small boutiques and restaurants). This particular afternoon I had my heart set on having Chipotle for lunch and was making no detours. That is until I spotted a new sandwich store tucked between two other restaurants-PotBelly Sandwiches. Intrigued but still in the mood for Chipotle,  I continued to walk past its door. However, I felt a strong urge (intuition) to turn back around and go inside. So I did-almost reluctantly . As I entered the store, I noticed a menu filled…

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  • 5 Steps to Doing Smart Business on eBay

    The most obvious way to use eBay in your own business is to become a merchant and sell your products online. But what if you sell services? Well, then you can just use eBay to generate quick cash for the business by selling the things you no longer need or want. No matter what type of entrepreneur you are, you can still use eBay to generate quick cash. 1) Check out the Competition- Who else is selling what you have on eBay? If there are lots of sellers, you will have to make sure your product really stands out. For example, you want to sell a pair of baby shoes but there are already hundreds of sellers selling the same type of shoes. Now let’s say instead of selling baby shoes you sell "A Pair of Baby Shoes that Look Just like the Ones Shirley Temple Wore in Her First Movie." All of a sudden your shoes are more special. I am not encouraging you to lie or misrepresent your products by any means but words do make a difference. You can sell a red lipstick and label it a red lipstick or you can call it "The Scarlet O’Harra…

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  • 10 Blunders New Small Business Owners Make

    I see new owners and veteran entrepreneurs make these types of mistakes everyday. I have committed most of these mistakes in my earlier days as well. If you are just starting out and can avoid these mistakes-do so! If you have already committed some of these blunders there are ways to fix it and I will address those in a future post. 1. Thinking Everyone is a Customer- The truth is that not everyone wants to buy what you are selling and an even greater truth is that you should not want to sell to those who don’t need your services. Never start a business without a target audience in mind. Who would benefit MOST from your services? Who would YOU be happiest serving? 2. Networking with Everyone– Networking is a lot like dating. Just because someone is interested doesn’t mean you should go for it. Only network with people you truly have a connection with and discerning this does take practice. These types of decisions I often make using my intuition. What does your gut feeling tell you? I once knew a guy who really wanted to see if we could do something in partnership. The first time I…

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  • How to Make Your Business Card Unforgettable

    People will judge a book by its cover and your business by your business card. It is your mini billboard so make sure you make the most of it! Here are some quick tips: 1) Use Strong Card Stock- A business card is a reflection of your business. A flimsy business card means a flimsy business. It also tends to get lost rather easily or torn. Remember, this is something you want people to hold onto for a long time. A 15 point card stock works best. 2) Look for Examples– Always be on the lookout for other good business cards. I have an informal collection of a few that I love. Notice what stands out. What gets your attention? Use the elements you like in your own business cards. 3) The Basics- As a general rule your card should contain: your name, your position, your company name, your contact information (phone number, fax number,website, email address). If you do all your business online, it is not necessary to put your office address on the card. Always keep the information on your cards updated. 4) The Design– A completely white business card is boring but too many colors can be…

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