Monthly Archives: March 2008

Steps to Offline Networking Success

The second in the pair of articles on Networking Success, this article will cover the basic steps in offline networking success. Offline networking is faster than online networking, but takes more from you in some ways. This list does not need to be completed all at once, in fact, some tasks are periodic. If your time is lmited, then work through the list a little at a time.

  1. Choose an offline venue – this may be an ongoing organization, or a one time event. A future article will go into this in more detail.
  2. Sign up, register, or join. Select what you can realistically afford – offline, a little money will get results, and more money will get more results. This means you can select a lower cost option – half size booth, limited membership, etc, and still gain from it while staying within your budget.
  3. Get to know the organizers – do this in an unselfish manner, offering to help, or just introducing yourself to them.
  4. Prepare good marketing materials – this is especially important for events. Print business cards, brochures if appropriate, get promos if you can afford them (choose wisely). Be prepared at all times when networking opportunities present, so that you can leave someone with something to remember you by.
  5. Get to know others around you – in a group, get to know the members. At an event, get to know the other vendors.
  6. Learn about what the venue offers. Take the time to invest in gaining the benefits. Go to meetings, work the events, put out your brochures, etc. Make the effort to USE the resources offered.
  7. Step outside your comfort zone, a little at a time. There is no need to do it all at once, just stretch a little each time. It gets easier with practice.
  8. Find ways to help people. Helpful people get more business.
  9. Remember, your goal is to build personal relationships that can help you succeed. Relationships come first, both for customers, and associates.

Assemble good resources, and choose good outlets, and it becomes more effective. It still takes time, but you’ll see results after you give it a sincere effort. Be willing to show up – and keep showing up. Set aside the time for regular appearances, and the benefits will come.

Steps to Online Networking Success

In an effort to simplify the networking process and help it be more easily understood, this article will cover the basic steps in online networking success. The steps are each fairly simple, but they do take some time. This list does not need to be completed all at once, in fact, some tasks are periodic. If your time is lmited, then work through the list a little at a time.

  1. Choose a venue. A future article will go into this in more detail.
  2. Register for an account. If the venue offers more than one membership level, start with the free one, and see whether it gets any results. In a good venue, a free one will benefit you some, a paid account will benefit you more.
  3. Go through the “getting started” steps. Most have some kind of benefits that require some effort on your part – setting up a profile, linking your website or blog, uploading a photo, etc.
  4. As you do each step, think about which items you are doing might be repeatable. If you need a photo, get one. You’ll use it over and over. If you need a business description, save a copy, because you will need that again. I suggest you get a copy of Notesbrowser and keep a copy of each thing you create to fill your profile. This will make it faster to network in a new venue.
  5. Browse through the profiles of other people. Do this as regularly as you feel like, just enough to see if there are other people you want to connect with. Do NOT spam them!
  6. If the venue offers a way to submit articles, then set a schedule to do that on – once a month is good if your time is limited, once a week is more powerful.
  7. If the venue offers forums (most do), then locate those that have topics of interest to you, and join in.
  8. Write a good signature line that includes your URL, and a statement about what you offer.
  9. Lurk in forums if you wish, but you won’t get far if you just lurk. Eventually, you need to introduce your self (not with an ad!), and engage in friendly conversation. Drop a sig line on each post.
  10. Find ways to help people. Helpful people get more business.
  11. Remember, your goal is to build personal relationships that can help you succeed. Relationships come first, both for customers, and associates.

If you get some good elements assembled, networking online becomes much more efficient. Then go through the steps, over and over. Give yourself some time each day for networking, but don’t let it consume your life and interfere with successful business progress.

Less Rhetoric More Reality

You hear the same things over and over in internet marketing. You hear them so many times that you figure there MUST be some truth in it, or so many people would not be saying it! It never occurs to you that so many people would be either dishonest, or deceived. Yet they are!

The vast majority of internet marketing books are filled with half-truths, and outright misinformation. They are perpetuated by greed, and inexperience. Greed on the part of the people who knowingly promote them, inexperience on the part of people who want to be honest, but do not yet realize that what they are promoting isn’t going to work unless they are dishonest.

I’d like to see more truth in the online marketing arena. Less repeated rhetoric that people recite by rote, with no real understanding of what they are saying. We see this in the distributorship arena also, where upline repeats what their upline said, because they really haven’t the experience to know what does and does not work yet.

This kind of scam has always been around, but at no other time in history has it been so powerful. The internet is FULL of information. If you do a net search for the term “internet marketing”, the top positions are held almost 100% by people repeating the same old stuff that does not work. You can go 10, 20, 30 pages deep, and never see anything different. So while there is plenty of information, there is almost no GOOD information.

Every person that puts out false or misleading information does so with a motive. That motive is not to help you, it is to profit from you. They all say pretty much the same thing – that they failed and failed and finally succeeded by the methods they are recommending, that they just want to help people so they are letting it go for the amazingly low price of whatever. But they really don’t want to help you. They want your money.

The internet marketing arena needs more reality. More voices of experience with integrity, who are out there to help people succeed, not out there for what they can get.  It needs more thinking people, and fewer drones who repeat the same lines without thinking about what they mean.

For those who are teaching something different, the challenge is huge. It is almost impossible to get into the visible listings, and it is very hard to succeed by telling the truth, when the lie sounds so much easier, and when so many people are repeating the lie. To make a go of that, you need to find others who are on the same quest (there are not many), and you need to persevere with dogged determination.

If you are looking for good marketing information, do a net search on the terms “bad marketing”. You’ll get more truth than you will from searching for internet marketing directly.

They Wait, and Watch – Paying Your Dues in Networking

I’ve heard from people that they do not have time to wait on network marketing. They complain that they were on some forums or that they attended some networking meetings, but never got anything out of it. Generally, there were a few key reasons why it did not work, but the two principal ones are:

  1. They expected to be able to go in, advertise their business, get a flood of response, and walk out.
  2. They left and stopped going when their expectations were not realized.

Under those circumstances, it never will work. You’ve got to pay your dues – you’ve got to be patient, and kind. You have to be interested in other people, develop relationships, and find ways to be helpful (even if it is just offering a little advice on something you know about).

If you don’t do that, and if you don’t KEEP going, you are wasting your time.

Networking is HUGELY powerful! We are talking BEYOND virtually any other form of marketing! And it is generally highly cost effective. But it takes time to get started. It is only after you’ve paid your dues in TIME that it starts to pay off. And then it starts slow, and, like a snowball rolling downhill, gains an awesome force and momentum!

You see, when you go and introduce yourself, everybody is nice, welcomes you, and asks you what you do. You tell them, they tell you what they do, you exchange business cards, and both of you go home and either file the card and forget it, or throw it away and forget the person who gave it to you. You did that, didn’t you? Everybody else is just like you!

Go back again! Do it all over again! Only this time the people will greet you like they know you, even if they forgot your name. You’ll notice that the next time only SOME of the people you met the first time are there. The ones who are there are watching you, counting the fact that you are there again, weighing it in the balance. This time they’ll still forget you, and forget what you do.

Keep going. They are still watching you. But after you’ve been there 6-8 times, after you’ve been there more than you’ve NOT been there, after you’ve kept on introducing yourself, kept on stating your business name and what you do, something starts to happen. It is slow at first, but they begin treating you not like someone new, or a piece of furniture, or even someone nice to chat with, but like a BUSINESS PERSON! And there is a difference!

See, in networking groups, there are the “wannabes”, and the “real” business people. Wannabes come and go. They hit and run. They are inconsistent. Real business people are stickers. They are dedicated. They last. Their business hangs in there.

So many people come in and introduce a new business, and then disappear. So when someone new comes in, everyone waits, and watches. They are going to let you prove yourself before they consider you to really be one of them.

Once you cross that bridge though, you’ll get a call from someone who says they were referred by someone in the group. Someone in the group will finally talk to you about their needs in a way that gives you the opportunity to do business. Once that happens, word gets around. It happens again. Little by little, it grows.

You may think you do not have time for networking, but I’m telling you that you don’t have time NOT to do it! With it, your business will show significant growth within a year, and you’ll be able to see that the momentum really WILL be there. Without it, in a year, you’ll still be working hard for every single customer or client. Me, I’d rather have them come to me, pre-sold. Saves me tons of time and marketing expense!

So if you are on a shoestring budget, find ways to effectively network. We’ll be giving a step-by-step breakdown for online and offline networking in a few days. It’s worth the effort.

Initial Marketing Goals

One of the biggest mistakes that new marketers make, is in thinking that the marketing process is about their desires, and feeling that they must tell everyone what they want to get what they want.

This leads to overeager actions which are interpreted as rudeness, inconsiderateness, and inexperience. You can always recognize the new marketer on the forums when they post their ad as an introduction – they are not the same thing! You can recognize them when they blast an ad every time they are allowed, or worse, in spite of forum rules prohibiting ads.

They create a newsletter and get signups and blast ads to them. They greet people and try to tell them what a great thing they have in the first sentence. They beat the streets leaving brochures behind with only a “hi, I’m so and so, I do such and such, call me if you need it.” They appear at trade shows, and feel that if nobody buys anything, that everybody hates them.

The fact is, it isn’t about you. It isn’t about what you want at all. It is about what your customers want. And until you help them know that what THEY want is more important than what YOU want, for YOU as well as for THEM, you can forget developing a loyal client or customer base!

When you only want to talk to someone if they are interested in your product, you are missing a great opportunity. If, on the other hand, you show some interest in the PERSON, as an individual, and come to know them, all kinds of unexpected benefits come, and many of them are financial. In fact, many of them come at you out of the blue, and you wonder how it has happened that fortune has smiled so upon you – when in fact, it was because you were nice to that person, who remembered you, and recommended you to someone else, who came to you presold!

We offer a free service, which serves as an introduction to our skills, and allows us to demonstrate first hand how we look out for our clients’ interests. Not all businesses can do that, but for those who can, this is the ideal way to “give first”.

For product sales, if you discuss a person’s needs, and put aside your desire for the commission long enough to consider their point of view, you are more likely to make a sale in the long term than if your eyes glaze over and you lose interest the minute they say THEY are not interested.

Once you gain their interest, it is STILL about their needs more than yours. Have you ever recommended a LESS expensive option? Have you helped a client analyze their needs, and helped them figure out the cost/benefit on the options they are considering? You may miss making a bigger sale in the short term, but you’ll profit more in the long term as they come back again, and refer their friends, because they knew you really did put their needs first.

Get into the mind of the customer – not to manipulate them, but to help them in the best way. Do that, and marketing goals become very clear, and efforts become very effective. There are those who will tell you they do not have time for that, while they feel they do have time to blast useless ads and try to bully people into buying what they want them to buy. In fact, doing it right takes less time than doing it wrong, and when you do it right, it builds momentum – it grows upon itself until the efforts of marketing are minimal compared to the results it returns.

Give it a try at the next trade show – hold up a mirror so they can try on jewelry, sympathize with their budget woes, give them something to giggle about, help them know when your product is NOT right for them, talk about their problems in relation to your expertise in a conversational way,  and let them know you care about them as a human being. Then see what happens – both how your customers respond, and how you feel.

Betcha something good happens!

How Does Self Image Affect Business Success?

I’m writing this in response to one of the searches listed in my stats tracking, which lead them to this site. It is not a question I have answered before, but I feel a desire to do so, by way of encouraging people who see themselves as physically unimpressive, or worse, unappealing. I’ve been there, but no longer am, so I speak from a position of identification with that feeling.

First of all, let’s clarify what a good self-image IS, and what it is NOT:

  • It is who you feel you are, at a deep down level.
  • It is your estimation of your worth, to God and Man.
  • It is NOT your wardrobe.
  • It is NOT how you look.
  • It is NOT whether you wear makeup, have your hair professionally styled, or whether you use electrolysis.
  • It is NOT how much you weight.
  • It is NOT how old you are!
  • It has nothing to do with your physical capabilities or limitations.
  • It has less to do with talent than it has to do with effort.

Someone with a good sense of self-worth may put on make-up every morning before they go out into the world, but if they had to rush a child to the ER in the middle of the night, they’d not stand around fussing about having not had time to brush their hair. A jewelry store owner might wear jewelry because they enjoy it, and in that sense, it is part of who they are, but they’d never feel the need to apologize for their sense of style if they had good self-worth.

When you have a good sense of self-worth, you are accepting, first of all, of yourself. You have confidence in what you give to the world, even if it is just a smile or kindness.

In business, you have to have confidence in your skills. Of course, you also have to understand where the limits to your skills are, so that you offer good value, and do not get in over your head, or get a client into trouble due to your inexperience. But you have to feel that you are good at what you do.

If you know that, and can confidently present it to prospective clients or customers, the rest does not matter one bit!

Ok, so there ARE some people who judge me initially by my appearance. I am very casual, my hair is graying, I’m overweight, and I drive an old car. But it is also true that I really do not want to work with people who judge me because of those things – I would not be able to market their product well, and a business relationship would not be a good match. My clients are the greatest people in the world, and they DON’T judge me for anything but my ability to help them in a professional manner. Most of them become good friends. My down to earth image is actually part of my marketing advantage!

I work in a personalized service arena. It is also one where artistic ability is important, so I cannot wear torn or unkempt clothing. But casual is fine, as long as it is neat and tidy.

But the arena I work in is also often presented as expensive, and technically complex. When I show up in jogging shoes and jeans,  it helps my clients to feel that I’ll be straight with them, and that I am very approachable when they have questions.

I’ve turned any disadvantages of my appearance into advantages for the clientele we want to work with. I could not have done that if I did not have a good concept of who I am, what I am capable of, and what I am worth both as a human being, and monetarily as a professional.

And that is what I mean when I tell people that business success is about true professionalism in your work, rather than what you look like. It doesn’t mean being a slob. It just means putting the effort and attention where it matters most – in your work, and in your relationship with your clients or customers.

Now here is what I feel the key is: If you are working for someone else, doing something you do not fit very well, then you have to fuss over appearing to be something you are not comfortable with. And that is not the best course to success! When you are doing something you truly love, within your real strengths, you don’t have to fuss, because it is enough to be yourself.  Sure, you’ll have to develop new skills and learn new things, but the biggest selling point you’ll have is you!

Make your strengths your greatest advantage. And turn your disadvantages into advantages by choosing to work at things that suit you, and in a way that minimizes the disadvantages or makes them a positive thing.

Life’s Little Luxuries No More

When both parents work from home, reality changes. Some things get quite a bit harder. Little things that we took for granted are no longer possible.

  • When we want to take time off, there is no vacation pay. If we get sick, there is no sick pay. We can’t take time off unless we are caught up, and financially ahead.
  • Home is no longer the place where you do not have to worry about work. Work is part of every moment, there, filtering its way through your day.
  • Hobbies have to be replaced with work tasks. There isn’t time to paint, or read very much for recreation, or to watch movies, or indulge in other time wasters. Those pastimes have to give way to paying endeavors. A lot of those are fun, so it isn’t pure drudgery, but we still have to choose wisely.

Daily decisions are different.  We have to choose for business and family, and somehow balance the two. Sometimes we can’t do things we’d like, because we are self-employed. Kevin cannot go to Scout Camp with Alex and Erik this year. There is no way we can afford for him to take a week off. With a deadline looming, I had to choose carefully before going to a women’s church luncheon today. It is just the reality of balancing live where the time you put in, or do NOT put in, affects your ability to meet payroll a week later.

It is easy to take some things for granted when you are employed by someone else. That equation changes when you are solely responsible for every bit you earn though.

It isn’t all bad. By making extraordinary sacrifices now, we are building something better. And the rewards are purely wonderful. I’d go into detail, only I don’t want my site to be banned by family friendly websites! In between all the work, there is good interaction with the family, and working with our clients is purely a joy.

Working from home IS a lot about what you give up. But it is equally about what you gain. Benefits that I’d not trade for anything!

What it Means to Love What You Do

Imagine getting up in the morning with your job on your mind, and a sense of excitement permeating the air. You know you have to shower and get breakfast, but those are mere details to get out of the way, not delay tactics to avoid work.

Imagine feeling like that every day.

When you choose the right career or business, it can be like that more days than it is not. For work at home moms, every day can be a delightful balance between kids you love, and work you love.

Ok, so it isn’t all sunshine and roses. But then, nothing is. But loving what you do makes work very worthwhile. It keeps you going over the rough spots – helps you keep on keeping on when it seems like it isn’t ever going to get you anywhere. Every business has those spots, so getting through them is a milestone to success.

It is more important to choose something you love and are good at than it is to choose something lucrative. Mere money is not enough to get you up every day to face a mire of tasks you hate. But enjoyment is enough to compel you to come back and figure out how to make what you love into a profitable venture.

Every task in your business won’t be fun. But there should be enough fun things to balance the drudge work. Every business takes HARD work, and more dedication than any of us realize when we are starting out. But work that provides enjoyable moments scattered through the day seems less like work than an endless repetition of things we do not enjoy.

When was the last time you thought that going to bed at night was an annoyance? When was the last time you felt like you’d rather finish a creative employment task than watch a movie? When was the last time you were excited about learning something new that helped you earn more?

If you haven’t felt those things, then you haven’t experienced the excitement that comes from doing work you truly love. My brother is not self-employed, but he said of his work, “Sometimes I have so much fun a this that I can’t believe they actually pay me to do it!” My father was the same. They are both loggers. Not something most people consider to be fun, but they loved their work.

As a teen and young adult, I’d have never figured that I’d love the work I do now, but I really do! Sure, there are many days when I am discouraged, and many tasks that I’d love to procrastinate. But overall, I love this, because I’m good at it, and I can genuinely help other people achieve meaningful goals. It gets me up every morning excited to see what is in my inbox.

If you aren’t feeling that a good deal of the time, then what are you going to change in order to get it?

The Last of the Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers are a generation that I’ve never particularly identified with. My husband, who is 6 years older than I, never has either.

Recently I read an article about Baby Boomers. It said that they are starting to retire now, and that the next 15 years would see the further retirement of more of them. I thought that was a bit close to my age range. Sure enough, later the article said that the outside date for Baby Boomers is 1964.

I was born in 1964.

Now, I don’t know where that information came from, or whether it is even accurate. Can’t say I even feel any sense of anything at the news. It never meant anything before, and frankly, it doesn’t mean anything now!

The retirement of the largest age group does present some interesting implications for some businesses. I’m not sure it does with mine.

The Baby Boomers were the first to say they did not trust anyone over the age of 30. I definitely don’t identify with that… nor did I ever. One wonders whether they do! One wonders whether they are not now saying they don’t trust anyone under the age of 50.

Personally, I’d trust a 50 something dedicated entrepreneur over a 30 something overeager corporate climber any day. But then, since I am not really a Baby Boomer, and never really tried to be, I couldn’t speak for the real ones.

Looking Out for Client Interests When Customers Stop Spending

As a web service provider, I share a responsibility for the well-being of many of my clients’ businesses. When recession hits, I can either schlump along hoping that things will get better, or I can learn enough to help my clients pull through. By helping them, I better my business along with theirs.

In order for that effort to be successful, I have to learn some things:

  • I have to be familiar enough with my clients’ target markets to understand how they are likely to react in regards to the product or service that my clients sell.
  • I have to learn strategies for cost effective optimization, so they can be implemented when need is great, but money is tight.
  • I have to think creatively and logically, to help them find product or service adaptations to help my clients successfully adjust their business to keep it healthy. Generally, if I understand their business well, I can help them with this.
  • I need to help them devise ways to alter their marketing to reflect the changes, or to change their target market enough to help compensate for loss of revenue from their current market.

Mostly, it is a matter of learning how customers think in relation to various products or services when money is tight, and then thinking of ways to help a business compensate.

It is also important that I keep in communication with my clients, offer help when needed, and help them spot trends early that may indicate that a recession is affecting their business. Sometimes they will know something is off, but a good stats analysis can help them define where the problem is – whether people have stopped visiting their site, or whether they are still visiting, but just not buying.

To a certain degree, whether my clients survive in a poor economy, is partly due to my efforts.

Scheduling and Being Scheduled

When you live by the dictates of other people’s whims, it is difficult to schedule. Sometimes there is no help for being overloaded, and getting behind!

We keep being advised to hold our clients to a schedule. If we worked with a different clientele, perhaps we could. But our clients are less able to keep to a rigid schedule because they themselves are sole-proprietors. They often have to balance emergencies in their own business, with no one to fall back on. The web work gets set aside, as lower priority.

We understand that. We really do! Which is one reason our policies have developed to accommodate that. One of our selling points is that the client sets the schedule more than we do. But we did have to change the way we explain things to them!

Generally I try to keep about half of my day unscheduled, and unplanned. Most mornings I wake to find that my inbox is full of plans for the rest of the day, and sometimes for a few more days as well! As much as possible, I try to get their work done quickly. But if it has not been scheduled ahead, it just has to go in the queue. Some clients aren’t so understanding about that!

But really, if they delay, and delay, and I have no idea of when the work is coming in, they cannot complain if I am overbooked when they finally turn it in.

The solution for us has been to communicate better with our clients, both before the contract is signed, and after. Letting them know when they turn something in, whether we are caught up, or running behind. I suspect our business will always be a feast or famine business, and we won’t be able to easily offload work onto other people. It is just the nature of working with very small businesses.

In spite of the problems, I really like working with our clients. They are amazing people, hard working, and perfectly willing to be reasonable as long as our emails are not filled with excuses.

While I cannot demand that they keep to a schedule, I can help them understand that they must work within my schedule once the work is turned in.

Spotting Growth Potentials in a Weak Economy

Many of my colleagues are noticing a slowdown in some types of work, as people assess their resources and put off purchasing upgrade services. Even within a slow economy, there are growth potentials. Finding them can help a business weather the storm, and be one of the survivors instead of one of the sinkers.

It is important that you begin the process with the basics in place – good optimization which was prioritized to your level of growth, combined with a solid marketing plan. If you go into an economic slump with those elements in place, you already have the edge. If you don’t, then trying to put those in place when you are already hurting is very difficult. It is easier to maintain a position if you are already on top than it is to fight your way up against a double challenge.

This means, if you feel that a recession is coming, get a good marketing assessment, make sure your site is performing well NOW, and implement a long term marketing plan to keep it growing. Once that is done, you can watch for signs of flagging customer response within your market, and you’ll be well positioned to respond in effective ways.

Certain things gain ground when the economy is tight, and having a basic understanding of how the market changes can help you be prepared to adjust should the need arise:

  • Frugal solutions
  • Cost effective marketing services – IF they can be proven to work, or carry a guarantee
  • Work at Home solutions – the spirit of gambling increases in this arena, but so do the sincere startups.
  • Businesses that have been coasting as a sideline may need to pull their weight, requiring purchase of services.
  • Do it Yourself options increase in popularity.
  • Free informational and instructional resources gain ground.
  • Necessities continue to be purchased, though at a lower price.
  • Some kinds of entertainment gain ground due to escapism behaviors, but prices may need to be lowered.
  • There is more scope for creative solutions, but people are less willing to pay for it.
  • Guarantees, reliability, durability, proof of efficacy, full value, payment plans, and other factors become more important, so offering them can increase salability of your product or service.

People don’t STOP buying in a weak economy. They spend less, or they economize more, but they do still buy. The key is to analyze your business, and determine where the money is transferred to, or where people want to economize, and then offer them that option.

Refusal to change, or changing in the wrong way, will kill your business. The earlier you adapt, the more likely you are to continue to adapt, and hold your ground against your competition. Watch your business trends. If you have declines where you usually hold steady, or plateaus where you usually gain, taking into account seasonal trends, then you may need to assess the changes within your target market, and find a way to adjust your product or service offerings to the needs of your customers – or find a way to attract a new customer base that is migrating from another area in the market.

You’ll also need to adjust your marketing materials to reflect the differences in what you are offering, and who you are trying to attract. Most changes are subtle, not dramatic, but they make a big difference in how people respond. Marketing assistance IS available that is affordable, provably effective, and which can help you make those small changes in a way that pays for itself and more.

So far several of our clients have discussed the potential recession issue with us. And those who are watching for it have largely just gone through a series of marketing adjustments anyway. They are not seeing signs of flagging business, but rather, are experiencing growth due to the prior changes in their marketing and website promotional strategies. They are already well-positioned to hold their own, because they optimized their site and developed a solid marketing plan prior to facing potential downturns in customer purchasing.

There is no reason yet to make a pending recession a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you own a business, it is certainly time to prepare if you have not done so, and to keep a sharp eye out for changes if you are already prepared.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.