Monthly Archives: December 2011

Content Marketing Opportunities

A recent survey shows that more and more corporations and small businesses are including Content Marketing in their marketing plans and strategies. It also shows that the number one barrier to successfully implementing Content Marketing in a company is the lack of writing talent within the company. Smart marketers now have an opportunity to capitalize on this lack in two potential ways:

1. Because so many companies are challenged where writing is concerned, those companies who DO have good writers on board have an opportunity to naturally take the lead. We have told our clients for the last 5 years that the most valuable skill a business owner can have, is the ability to write well, and this survey bears that out.

2. Good writers should smell a niche that is in need of filling. Good writing is valuable, and companies who know that will pay well for good writing.

So… that said, let’s get into two definitions, to help you know how you can take advantage of one, or both, of these opportunities.

Content Marketing

Content Marketing is marketing through the use of articles or images with descriptions, videos, etc. The easiest method of that, and the most attractive to search engines at this time, is articles. This does NOT mean submitting articles to article directories – that strategy is outdated and a useless effort now. What it means is building content on your own website real-estate, in ways that help it get seen on a broad platform. Simplest is to either create a blog which links to your website or feeds into your website, OR, embed a blog inside your website (with RSS feeds and pinging). Then you feed the blog into Twitter, and feed Twitter into FaceBook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, wherever you have a profile set up that accepts Twitter status feeds.

Content Marketing can take place through a newsletter also, but that is less powerful long term, unless you archive the newsletter in an openly accessible manner on your website (so it becomes part of a search marketing strategy).

Content Marketing is dependent upon GOOD WRITING. PLR articles DO NOT COUNT. EVER. They fail on all counts. So, let’s define good writing.

Good Writing

Good writing is original. Always completely original. It is written from the heart, and it has a personality. It is never clinical and written to be sterile and opinion-free. It has a distinctive perspective. It gives something valuable also – that may be helpfulness, humor, a story, etc. But it gives something that makes the person go away feeling glad they read it.

Good writing is never “500 words long”. It is however many words are needed to accurately and enjoyably address the topic. Editing for length removes the personality, and that is DEADLY. For this article, if I had only wanted to make a basic point, I could have written a conclusion after the third paragraph. But I didn’t want to just say what was happening, I wanted to make it clear just what makes it work, and HOW to use the opportunity well. Two different lengths, for two different purposes.

Of course, if the intended target market has the attention span of a flea, then by all means, keep it short and light. But if you want to appeal to people who think, make it the length it needs to be to do it well.

Helpful writing always has the “ah-ha” factor. The key to making the instructions work, that you might not find elsewhere. Something that makes them say, “Oh, NOW I get it.”, or “Hey, I can DO that!”. In this article, we didn’t just say there was an opening for good content writing, we define what that is, so anyone reading this can know not just WHAT to do, but HOW to do it well.

Good Content Marketing finds an angle that no one else has covered in quite the same way. It answers the questions about your business or product line that your customers are asking over and over – and it answers them in a way your competition is not doing. In virtually EVERY industry, there are things that the industry would rather not talk about openly. If you do, then YOU get all the traffic that is seeking those answers (and it can be considerable).

Good Content Marketing is engaging, and FUN. Perhaps one of the best content marketing articles we ever wrote, was for a dealer in Antique Carpets. The article was titled “Your Very Own Magic Carpet“. The article made an antique carpet instantly appealing, by playing on the hidden thought that nearly everyone has in regard to an Antique Oriental Carpet. It made people want an antique carpet.

If you can get inside the head of the potential customer, and write things they enjoy reading, and WANT to read, then content marketing can be an ongoing, perpetual form of very powerful marketing, because once an article is written and posted, it goes on working for you permanently.

Many companies now realize this, but do not have the skills in-house to do the writing. If you can hone your creative skills, there can be decent money in writing articles. Well written content articles start at $50 each, and go up from there. Way up. But don’t expect to charge a boodle if you don’t have the reputation and track record to back it up!

If you happen to be on the end of having to pay for articles, then do what you can afford, and hire someone who writes things you ENJOY reading.

Content marketing is, without doubt, the most powerful method of online marketing that we have ever encountered, in more than 12 years of building and marketing websites. It isn’t likely to go away any time soon, so it is worth investing in.

Overlooked Aspects of Branding

When we talk to a client about branding, the response we get is often “Oh, I have a logo.” But a logo isn’t branding. It really isn’t even the START of branding.

Branding is far more comprehensive. It is as much an emotional thing as a visual one. It includes all of these things, and probably a few more that I haven’t thought how to articulate yet:

1. The logo – yes, this is part of it. A very small part.
2. The business name. More about HOW you do what you do, than WHAT you do.
3. The business slogan. It sets a mood, and sends a message. It may not say anything about the product. Think about top brand slogans. Coke’s slogan isn’t “brown fizzy sweet drink”. And Nike never says “shoes we’d like you to think are really cool”. And McDonalds would never say “assembly line hamburgers”. Their branding is the attitude. Our logo is “Come in from the cold”. Not a thing about web design… but a message about how our customers feel.
4. The way you write your content for your ads and website. The very style of writing – is it formal, casual, humorous, warm, professional, etc?
5. The way your website or ads are laid out and organized. Again, all of this sends a message which should be consistent with your branding.
6. The names you choose for your website links, your products, the variations for your products, etc. Are you going to call them “small, medium, large”, or are you going to call them “teeny, well fed, enormo”.
7. The way that you market, and where you market. It should be consistent with the branding and primary message you are trying to send.
8. The packaging and presentation of the product. More than just slapping a label with your logo on the package, the entire package should echo the branding mood, including the wrapping, label layout, and other materials.
9. The way in which you interact with the customer, from how you answer emails, to your signature line, to the way you answer the phone or the way you dress when you meet them in person. All of this is part of your branding.

So in order to create good branding, you really need to know what the primary message IS. Is it a sense of fun, a sense of helpfulness, a sense of comfortable conformity, or a sense of being on the edge of losing control? All are appropriate for various products and target markets, and you want to be sure that YOUR message fits yours. Then EVERYTHING you do in relation to presenting your product becomes an extension of that message.

Branding is, in a sense, defining a personality for the business. When it is a likable and consistent personality, people respond. When things are disjointed and don’t quite coordinate, they feel like they are in the presence of someone who is either deceptive or who has a mental illness – neither impression is a good one for persuading customers to trust you with their money.

When we work with small businesses that have a single owner operator, we find that the business owner is the single most important influence on branding. The personality of the owner is what will determine, to a large extent, the messages that are being sent, and to whom. Usually a business owner can’t even articulate these things. But if a professional service provider pays attention to the business owner, they can quickly determine what those messages are, and how to best present them. Because with a very small business, the owner IS the business, so you are really trying, in a way, to capture the brand of the OWNER.

If you are a small business owner, make sure that your branding carries through your entire business, through everything you present to the customer and all of your interactions with the customer.

But most of all, have some fun with it! Branding, done well, is great fun, and a terrific creative project where you get to think about appropriate and enjoyable ways to include your messages in everything you do.

Check out our new Cottage Industry Consulting and Development services at

“Healthy” Foods that Aren’t


Periodically, a new study will be released by some research institute or other, telling us that something else we love isn’t good for us. The medical community will gradually adopt the rhetoric, and repeat the party line about this thing being bad for us because this or that study showed it to be so. Then the manufacturers of those things we love will release a special version of it which supposedly eliminates the risk. As long as there is money in telling us things are bad for us, the trend is unlikely to continue.

There are deceptions in this at multiple levels – from the origins of the study (someone paid for it to be done – someone who wanted a specific result, so they could sell us something to “fix” it), to the supposed solutions. The “problems” they tell us about weren’t even problems to begin with, merely the way that the food industry had already messed up the foods we are eating. The solutions are the thing we are discussing today.

Any time a trend in food is started, a food manufacturer  (isn’t it sad that we should call them that – you don’t “manufacture” food, you grow it, and prepare it) will produce some kind of food to capitalize on the trend. And then, pretty soon, the studies are reversed, and maybe that thing wasn’t so bad after all because now people who are doing it are in WORSE health than those who ate the bad thing to start with. And the answer to that is simple – the minute the commercial food industry enters the arena, trying to make specialty foods “convenient”, they destroy the foods that were supposed to help.

We now have a whole host of foods that we can buy, which are sold under the guise of being healthy, which in fact, are anything but. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Low Fat – At first, low fat meant they ATE LESS FAT. But that wasn’t very much fun. So food manufacturers started enhancing them – putting other things in to make them behave more like they had fat in them. Guar gum, emulsifiers, thickening agents, soy lecithin, and all sorts of things with unpronounceable chemical names. Things that aren’t even FOOD. Now, Low Fat foods are nasty concoctions that are almost all deadlier than the fat that they eliminated. Fat isn’t in fact bad. Unnatural fats, fats with chemical preservatives, fats that have chemicals in them to keep them from going rancid, or fats from plants that are not actually food in the first place. THOSE are bad fats. But good, whole, clean fat from meat and dairy, and that occurs naturally in vegetables and grains, are good food. Remember, Trans Fats are a manufacturing CAUSED problem – they only happen from trying to fry things in oil from plants we should not be extracting oils from in the first place.

Low Carb – Low carb originally meant to reduce the amount of PROCESSED carbohydrates in the diet. A good idea. Carbohydrates again, are something that is not bad at all – they are the staff of life. Refined carbs are nasty stuff – and should be replaced with true whole grains and whole fresh fruits and veggies. As soon as the trend gained ground, food manufacturers began releasing “low carb” versions of things (many of which, through slight of hand, weren’t even lower in carbohydrate), but they are SO loaded with chemicals and artificial substances, that they do far more harm than the less altered refined foods they were replacing. So again, we have a manufactured problem with a manufactured solution that causes more harm than the original problem, and both of which miss the point. Which is that carbohydrates are good for you, just eat good whole food that hasn’t been mucked about with by some company trying to “save time” for you.

SugarFree – So first off, sugar is not evil. If you over-consume it, then it is going to cause problems. But it is a fairly inert nutrient, that the body uses fairly directly, and it has no side effects in and of itself. It is not chemically altered or adulterated. A teaspoon of sugar in your herbal tea is just fine. A tablespoonful in each of five cups of coffee each day is going to cause problems! But someone decided sugar was bad when people began to lose all sight of reason in the amounts they use, and because sugar has been slipped into so many processed foods (especially those that are “low fat”). And now, you probably think it is evil, since you are told so at every turn – but remember, the people who are telling you that sugar is evil are people who are SELLING sugar substitutes – you may think they are objective doctors and health advocates. They aren’t. They are PAID to say it, by people who want to sell you something else. Artificial sweeteners are, to a one, MORE harmful than sugar, and not just a little bit worse either – exponentially worse. This includes all the “ols”, such as sorbitol, xylitol, erythorbitol, etc. And things like Stevia are not good for you in large amounts either. Agave and Honey are just natural forms of sugar, and they have the SAME effect on the body as sugar does – they just have well-paid marketing people who are publishing “sugar is bad and we are not” articles to make you think that they are somehow better (they aren’t bad – but if you overindulge, they’ll harm you too). And then we have the CHEMICALS that are added to most of the prepared foods that use artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes. So Sugar Free foods are either: a. No different in health benefit from those containing sugar; b. More harmful because of the harm from the sugar substitute; c. WAY more harmful because of the added chemicals.  Sugar isn’t GOOD for you. But it isn’t BAD for you either. If you like honey or agave or stevia, fine, enjoy them. But don’t fool yourself into thinking they are any better for you, because they aren’t.

Dairy Free – So let’s establish the health issues with real milk first. Lactose intolerance is often caused by digestive disorders, which are primarily caused by chemicals in our food and water supply (yeah, the chlorine in your tap water… that). And milk with artificial hormones and antibiotics in it is very harsh on the digestive tract. Plus, pasteurized and homogenized milk contains proteins that are much more difficult to digest than raw milk. So… again we have a series of sensitivities CAUSED by modern production methods. And then we have the food industry’s solution… Almond milk, Soy milk, Rice milk, and various other unnatural concoctions that first of all, do NOT have even CLOSE to the nutritional content of actual milk, and second, which are so full of chemicals and extracted processed substances that your body can’t even use it as well as it does processed milk! And foods that should have dairy, but do not, invariably have other substances that are much worse for us, in order to mimic the presence of milk in the food. Give me a cow. I’ll milk my own, thank you.

Gluten Free – People who have wheat sensitivities do so for a REASON. This is typically because of damage done from chemicals in food and water, and then from autoimmune disease which is a result of longstanding chemical damage, or from overexposure to specific proteins due to processing of grains. There is a close relationship between Crohn’s and Celiac – both are usually manifestations of the same problem. So the problems are caused by the same people who now want to hand us a “ready to eat” solution. Many people feel better when they begin to eliminate wheat from their diet. And then they find that their disease is progressing anyway. Now they need to eliminate corn, and then something else. They find that they go rapidly from Celiac (which they thought they could control simply by eliminating wheat) to Crohn’s (which involves an escalation of food sensitivities and intolerances and full blown auto-immune disease). Now, don’t get me wrong here. Truly gluten free homemade foods are not a problem. If you are actually eating things that are in fact good foods. But what happened is that the food manufacturers stuck their little noses into it again, and started creating convenient gluten free packaged foods. Sorry guys, but those things will make you sick! They aren’t healthier than foods with gluten in them – in fact, they are probably a primary reason why your disease is still progressing. The answer here is to get back to clean foods, and let your body heal. If you do, there is a strong chance you’ll be able to enjoy wheat products again, after you’ve healed up.

Whole Grain – Bet you thought that “whole grain” bread was good for you? It isn’t what it says it is. First off, it isn’t whole grain at all. It can be called that when it is only part of the grain. Whole grain includes the germ, which goes rancid too quickly for grocery store shelves, so all processed baked goods and packaged flours are not whole grain at all. They are better than white flour, but they will not supply the nutrients to provide the benefits from TRUE whole grain – which can help balance blood sugar, reduce cardio-vascular disease, reduce persistent obesity, slow the effects of aging, and a host of other nifty things. Not exactly UNhealthy. But not HEALTHY either. And any prepackaged baked goods, whole grain or not, typically contain a lethal cocktail of preservatives.

Salt-Free and Low Salt – Another instance where salt was unfairly blamed for a manufacturing problem. The problem with salt is not that it is bad. It is not. You NEED salt to live! In fact, if you transition to a healthy clean food diet, you’ll find you have to ADD salt, especially in warmer months, because your diet won’t have enough. The problem is that prepared foods absorb salt, and we lose the ability to taste it, so they put in more. And more. So much that it is in EVERYTHING. And they  don’t just stick to sodium chloride (simple table salt), they put in all kinds of other flavor enhancers that include sodium in some form or other, all of them far more harmful than salt, but for which salt takes the blame. The only thing they use more of unnecessarily in foods, is SUGAR. So taking salt OUT of some of those canned foods would be a good thing, right? But that isn’t what they do. They take OUT the salt, and replace it with a SALT SUBSTITUTE. And those are FAR more dangerous than salt! But there is no money in taking salt out. There is only money in persuading you that you need something to replace what you didn’t need in the first place. Sad.

High Fiber – Forget the studies that say that high fiber is good for you and that oat bran helps your heart. They lied. High fiber FOODS, CAN be good for you, and so can oat bran, IF it comes with the rest of the fresh oat grain. Oat bran is just a food processing by-product that nobody had a use for, which they figured they could sell better if they could persuade people it was good for them (so they paid for a research firm to find a way to make it look like it was healthy). But it isn’t. Oat bran is as good for you as sawdust – it is inert, has no nutritional value, and your gut cannot break it down. So it WILL relieve constipation. But it won’t make you healthier. What WILL make you healthier, is fresh vegetables (not canned and fiberless), fresh fruits (with lots of natural fiber), fresh whole grains (with the germ intact), nuts, and mushrooms. REAL FOOD, that just happens to have fiber along with a high complex nutrient load. THAT is healthy food. Fiber isn’t.

Empty Organics – Organic potato chips are still potato chips – potato slices cooked in fat, and stored beyond the point of freshness. They have some simple carb in them, and little else. Organic cookies made from white flour, and treated with an “organic preservative” are still processed white flour and poison (organic poison is still poison). The organic label is meaningless if the food that it is put onto is the same old refined and processed stuff from which needed nutrients have been removed. Organic garbage is still garbage, and it is not, nor never will be, healthy.

Cage Free Eggs, Free Range Eggs, Veggie-Fed Eggs, Natural Eggs, Farm Fresh Eggs – All of these are meaningless names. First of all, eggs are very good food, IF the chickens are raised right. Chickens naturally eat greens, grains, and grubs (or bugs… yes, bugs). They do not naturally consume medications or antibiotics, they do not naturally consume soybean meal, fishmeal, cottonseed meal, or other industrial waste, and they do not eat preservatives, pesticides, or herbicides by choice. This is what is in chicken feed. They DO naturally scratch through horse manure, they gobble rabbit manure with delight (many animals do), and they think that cow patties are a wonderful place to kick up a rumpus looking for tasty edibles (the best worms are usually under them… oh, didn’t I mention that chickens like worms?). We’ll just pretend that we are ok with that, because there really isn’t anything you can do to stop chickens from doing that, at least, not when they are HEALTHY chickens, who are going to lay HEALTHY eggs for you. Cage free means that they are kept in a pen, not a cage. It doesn’t mean they are frolicking lose in the pasture. Free Range (commercially) means they have a miniscule yard to run around in beside their huge crowded poultry barn – for small farmers it means they eat on pasture during the daytime and are fed chicken feed at night (yes, the same nasty stuff that passes for chicken feed that the industrial chicken producers use). Vegi-fed is another unnatural term, with no good meaning. No chicken is 100% veggie fed unless they are raised in such tight confinement that they never see a fly or compost insect in their lives – chickens are omnivores, they eat bugs if they can find them, and most industrial layer houses are fertile ground for breeding bugs – layers of litter and chicken manure all over the floor. And “vegi-fed” chickens are usually fed with a nasty mixture of industrial vegetable waste products and processed soy. Natural eggs just means a chicken laid them. Farm Fresh Eggs means you probably got it within a week or two of it leaving the chicken if you bought it at the farm, but if you bought it at the store, it was laid months ago – and even if you buy them from your local small farm, chances are, they are still feeding them nasty chicken feed, so if you need clean eggs, make sure you ask, and find someone who feeds the chickens clean food.

Just because someone says it is healthy, doesn’t mean it is. There’s a marketing ploy for everything, and the food industry has teamed up with the medical profession in some very devious ways to persuade you that you should eat what they want to sell you, and that there is some benefit to paying the price they want to charge.

If it isn’t clean chemical free food, and if it isn’t real food, without the nutrients stripped out and chemicals put in, then it ISN’T healthy. No matter WHO says it is.

The Humble Brown Button Mushroom


It was the most commonly cultivated commercial mushroom until mid-20th century. Now, most people don’t even know that it exists.

Sometime in the early part of the 20th century, a mushroom farmer who grew brown button mushrooms for the commercial markets decided to propagate a mutant mushroom. Sometimes amidst all those brown mushrooms, there would be one that was pure white. He began to propagate them. He did it because he thought it would be a neat idea, and he thought that customers might buy them. And buy them they did. They liked the looks of those lovely white mushrooms more than the old brown ones – they didn’t TASTE any better (in fact, the browns have a better flavor to some people), but they looked so pretty that people just could not resist reaching for them when given the choice. Soon, the white mushroom completely dominated the mushroom markets, and the humble brown mushroom faded into near oblivion.

Of course, you could not raise white mushrooms in natural light – or they would get brownish on top, spoiling the whole point of their pristine glory. So mushrooms began to be grown in the dark. And after a while, people forgot that mushrooms could be grown any other way, even though virtually all other species of edible mushrooms do best with some form of natural light, be it full sunlight, or deep shade, or somewhere in between.

They also lost things they did not realize they were losing. Because the rich brown mushroom was not the same as that poor white mutant. The brown one was rich in nutrients. The white one was a poor substitute, leading to the popular myth that mushrooms are not very nutritious. If you judge all mushrooms by those nasty white things, then they are right.  Other mushrooms though, those which have not been messed with, are high in protein, niacin, some are high in vitamin D, and other essential nutrients.

Some people now know nothing other than those white and gray musty tasting lumps that pass themselves off as mushrooms. They think that gray slimy things in a can of soup are the only thing that goes by the name of “mushroom”. And it is a sad thing. Because the world is full of mushrooms, and there are literally thousands of options that are better tasting, and better for you, that that empty little bubble headed ghost of a mushroom.

Even the mushrooms that are naturally white are more nutritious. And there are a lot of them.

The insubstantial mutant is responsible for more than that though. The rich brown button mushroom is loaded with nutrients and components that benefit your health. It helps with healing skin, avoiding problems such as ovarian cysts (and PCOS), or uterine fibroids. It also helps your body to alleviate damage done by chemicals to your intestines, circulatory system, pulmonary system, and skin. It supports regulation of the immune system to strengthen the immune system while also minimizing problems with auto-immune disease. That little brown button is a healthy food that promotes good health beyond the mere nutrients that it supplies. The benefits are strong enough to feel the difference if consumed twice a week.

The white button mushroom has merely a shadow of those benefits. Oh, it does help. But not enough to do more than slow down the damage to your body, and then a nearly insignificant amount. It does not have the power to reverse it, heal it, or slow it down enough to actually notice except in one minor thing – it can help to reduce damage to the intestines from chemical exposure from modern foods, and even then, it is not enough to do more than help a little. It makes a passing attempt on its way through, to slap a bandaid on one thing – while the little brown button mushroom gets busy in earnest and heals the damage instead.

So we have a lovely pretender, masquerading as food, completely replacing a smudged looking brown mushroom that held part of the key to good health in its matrix.

But this really isn’t about mushrooms. Because the brown button mushroom is only one example of trading the real for the fake.

White flour has replaced whole wheat flour – giving us a dead food devoid of the rich bounty that fresh whole wheat provides. Removing all the abundant nutrients which heal the body and give one energy.

Dead and embalmed foods have replaced fresh foods, giving the illusion of nutrition, but failing to deliver the wholesome elements that help us to age more slowly, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid deterioration in our nervous systems as we age.

Unripe and overaged produce, bred to be tough enough to withstand extended shipping distances, and coated in chemicals to make it appear fresh and appetizing, has replaced garden fresh local produce that is alive and all but bursting with nutrients. Produce is marketed as “healthy”, but it is only a shell of what it needs to be to deliver on that promise.

We’ve done it to ourselves. We know those things are not healthy, and yet we reach for the white flour because it looks prettier and feels smoother. We choose the most uniform tomato, even if it is embalmed. We select chemical laden foods because we don’t want to take the time to cook fresh foods.

And then we wonder why we are tired, overweight, mentally fatigued, moody, disease ridden and ill.

We wonder why we are suddenly told that traditionally healthy foods like bread, juice, animal fats, and mushrooms are unhealthy. They are unhealthy because they are no longer REAL bread, clean juice and lard, or nutritious mushrooms.

The solution is simple. Eat foods that are real, not just fake foods calling themselves real.

Try growing some humble brown mushrooms in shady windowsill, and see what you’ve been missing. Then maybe you might want to try growing a few sprouts in your kitchen, or milling a little fresh flour to bake a loaf of real bread.

The majority of those troublesome health problems that we take for granted in the US as part of the age we live in are optional. I don’t know about you, but if I have the choice (and I do), I’m opting OUT.

NOTE: I was diagnosed with Crohn’s prior to writing this post. This post was written when I was recovering. As of 1 year after writing this, I no longer have auto-immune disease, and no longer have Crohn’s. Mushrooms have been part of this – Paddy Straw, Shiitake, Elm Oyster, Portobello Shaggy Parasols, and Puffballs are the only mushrooms I’ve had access to during this time.

Making Automation Work for Small Business

Automation is the bane of our existence. We ask for help from any company out there and we have to ramble our way through phone menus that drive us nuts, or support menus on the internet that have everything but the option that we need.

Gotta love those menus that pre-determine your needs: Would you like to make a payment? Would you like to check your balance? Would you like to speak to a sales representative? No option for talking to a real person.

No, I want to speak to a human being because your system screwed up my account and I want it fixed.

But they didn’t give you that option, so you are effectively shut out.

Automation gone bad. Big companies can sometimes get away with it, because they are the 800 lb gorilla, which is gonna be there even if you don’t like the way they automate parts of their business.

For a small business, that would kill you! People expect a person to answer the phone – or at least an answering machine with a real person promising to call back. Small businesses are EXPECTED to be personal.

Making the leap from “I do it all myself” to intelligent automation as a business grows can be tough. There’s a single rule though, that can make it far more effective, and help you avoid the pitfalls before you even reach them.

I say it a lot – so you may have heard it before. But I’ll repeat it anyway for anyone who may have missed it:

Automate the NON-PERSONAL aspects of your business. Keep the PERSONAL stuff PERSONAL.

Smart automation is a win-win, because it automates repetitive tasks which SHOULD be automated, saving you time so that you now have the ability to DO the personal stuff yourself. Plus it makes the results MORE CONSISTENT, and your product or service becomes more predictable. Higher quality results, not lower quality.

If you get it backward though, and just try to automate the thing you feel is taking up the most time (which it actually may not be), and it happens to be a thing that requires personal attention, your whole business appeal gets messed up, and you degrade the quality of service to the point of disaster.

Another important point, one that I have not said much before, is that when you do automate, especially if that automation involves customer interaction with the automation, make sure there is a REAL PERSON who is still accessible.

I don’t mean a support que or online chat. I mean that if they want to pick up the phone and call, or email you, that someone on the other end answers who is familiar with your product or service, and who KNOWS THE CUSTOMER. When a small business tries to behave like a big business, customers leave. The one major selling point with small businesses is that people really LIKE it when they feel like the business owner knows them. So having access to a friendly and helpful person who has a vested interest in the business, available on the other end of the phone or email is essential.

The last point is one of economics. Weigh the cost-benefit of every investment in automation. There is no point in investing hundreds, or thousands of dollars to automate a task that is not a money maker. I don’t mean that every task needs to generate revenue directly, rather, that if you have TIME, and no SALES, then investing in something to speed up operations is dumb. Increasing the efficiency of production only helps if you are making sales.

When you get to the point where investing in automation IS smart, because you could EARN more if you had the time to do so, And then you want to look at your operations and see where a smart investment would increase revenue enough to pay for itself and then some. Some types of automation never will pay for themselves for small businesses, other types are a no-brainer when you reach a certain sales volume – and those are the ones you want to implement at the right time.

Don’t get caught up in hype, or think that just because everyone else has it you have to have it too. A local NRCS office with a staff of four people, charged with managment and disbursment of grants in the amount of $50,000 per year, with a fairly low volume of traffic in the office or on the phone, spent $164,000 to install an automated phone system. This, when they had a receptionist, and KEPT the receptionist on the payroll once the system was installed. Bad move. They feel they can do that because it isn’t their money, and they don’t have to show a profit, or even any kind of justification for the expense. You can’t afford such stupidity – you haven’t got other people to suck it off of to pay for it.

Automate smart, and it will pay you back, and your customers will continue to feel they are getting what they need. Do it wrong, and they’ll wander off to someone who understood better than you how to do it intelligently.

Our company is now offering Cottage Industry Consulting, and can assist you in making good automation choices for your small business.

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.