Two smart ways to get more online traffic

By Rhonda Campbell

get more website traffic image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like most businesses, operating an online enterprise is, in large part, a numbers or traffic game. Sale high end products or services, and you’d be doing well to have a visitor-traffic-to-sale conversion rate of two to three percent. For less pricey items, a conversion rate of three to four percent is considered to be average.


But, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Sell 20 products a month that are priced at $1,000 each and you might find yourself going over the top financially, especially if you’re a salesperson with low overhead (i.e. Internet costs, home office, postage for shipping). Sell products that cost below $50 and you’re going to need to land a lot more sales.

First you need more website traffic
To do that, you have to attract more visitors to your virtual storefront. Pretty simple, huh?

There are two ways that you could attract more online visitors: SEO or organic methods. Take the SEO approach and you can count on having to implement:

• Keyword research
• Strategies to study and stay apace with search engine rule changes, including updated Google algorithms
• Valuable inbound links
• Content mapping
• Targeted content

Other options open to you with the SEO approach follow:

• Paid traffic
• Social media ads
• Banner ads on relevant websites
• Press releases

Using the non-SEO organic method requires you to develop rich relationships with online visitors. Getting a sale isn’t your number one priority. To build these highly rewarding relationships, you must provide information or content that is not readily available on the Internet. Examples of this content include:

• Pictures that you take yourself
• Personal videos
• Instructional videos on your products, videos that add a touch that only you could give (some video gamers have become rich taking this approach)
• Reports based on research work that you administered from start to finish (attach a membership fee to the reports and you could develop an additional income source)
• Feature interviews (ask the right probing questions and you could set yourself apart)

Key to website marketing approach
Regardless of the approach that you take, be consistent. Make website visitors feel like they are incredibly important to you. Ask followers and supporters at social media sites to follow your blog. You also might want to consider using a combination of both approaches as you grow your online presence. Also:

• Monitor metrics (guessing is not the best way to run a profitable business)
• Offer discounts to customers who refer two or more customers your way
• Develop a multi-approach to stay in touch with customers and prospects (i.e. weekly newsletters, podcasts, YouTube channel updates)


If your sales don’t grow as the numbers of visitors to your business website increase, revise your sales page and marketing content. As a tip, you could generate a lot more content if you work with a marketing agency, as agencies work with dozens of freelance writers. But, that approach can increase your content costs. To lower the cost of content creation, consider working with experienced and reputable freelance writers one-on-one (think 1099). Also, don’t be shy about running surveys to find out why contacts aren’t making a purchase. Survey services include Survey Monkey, Zoomerang and Checkbox.

Posted in Growing Business | 1 Comment

How to Succeed as a Self-Published Author

picture of Valerie Coleman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEET Valerie J. Lewis Coleman:  Valerie J. Lewis Coleman (PenOfTheWriter.net and QueenVPublishing.com) has helped thousands of women across the world find relational fulfillment. With over twenty years of experience in family and relationships, this expert has given advice on various issues including identifying the four types of male hunters, avoiding seventy percent of men who only want the goody box and winning the heart of Mr. Right-For-You. As she assists others with building strong relationships, she shares how she overcame personal struggles and offers proven techniques to help you get off the crazy cycle of relational demise in her bestselling novel The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box! To learn more about Valerie, her self-published books and overcoming relational matters, visit TheGoodyBoxBook.com.

As a multi best-selling author and award-winning publisher, Valerie has helped thousands of aspiring authors navigate the mysterious labyrinth of self-publishing. Having published more than thirty books, Valerie has launched writing careers for experts as well as inmates and high school students through the Passionate Pens program. To learn more about Valerie, read her Write Money Incorporated feature interview directly below. 

valerie lewis coleman pen of the writer conference

WMI:    What were you doing before you launched Pen of the Writer?

VC:      Prior to launching PenOfTheWriter, I worked as a senior industrial engineer for Delphi Automotive Systems (formerly General Motors). I saved the company millions of dollars by improving systems, reducing costs and eliminating wastes. I transitioned those problem-solving skills to the book business to help aspiring authors save thousands of dollars, mountains of frustration and hours of research by showing them how to make publishing quick, easy and affordable.

WMI:    How much time did you devote to building a business plan before you started your company? What process did you follow when building the business plan?

VC:      I did not have a formal business plan with a competitive analysis, marketing strategies and financials. I have a strategic plan comprised of annual objectives, monthly goals and potential opportunities. I review the plan every month with my accountability partner, Dr. Karen MR Townsend.

WMI:    Looking back, what would you have done differently to create a smoother transition from the corporate world into self-employment?

VC:      My facility closed and relocated my position to Mexico. No hablo Española muy bien. Since I was thrust into full-time entrepreneurism, I would have preferred to go out on my terms with at least three years of salary in savings.

WMI:    When and why did you launch Pen of the Writer?

VC:      Pen of the Writer was officially launched in 2006; however, I had been coaching aspiring authors for years prior to that. My purpose is to help people make better choices to improve their quality of life. As I assisted Vanessa Miller with the launch her self-publishing company, I met tons of people who did not understand business, let alone the book business. They were spending way too much money for inferior products and thus, unable to make a profit. Shady companies were robbing them blind of their money and their dreams. Compelled to make a difference, I created Pen of the Writer to be a reliable resource with relevant, useable information.

WMI:    What was your initial vision for Pen of the Writer?

VC:      Lao Tzu said, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” My vision for Pen of the Writer is to teach people how to successfully self-publish books by minimizing costs and maximizing profit to create a quality product comparable to those of traditional publishing houses.

WMI:    Tell us about the services that your company offers. Also, who is your target audience?

VC:      My ideal client is the person who 1) Wants to write and publish a book, but doesn’t know how; 2) Has published a book, but wants to improve the quality and cost and 3) Wants a cost-effective option to vanity and subsidy publishing. To meet the varying needs of aspiring authors, we offer a range of services:

Do-It-Yourself Options

Self-Publishing Made Easy Journals—These how-to guides step you through the mysterious labyrinth of self-publishing. Master the secrets of writing from an editor’s perspective, avoid dishonest publishers and understand how to make publishing quick, easy and affordable!

Because Your Words Matter— Nigeria, Uganda, London, Toronto, Japan. I spend quite a bit of time coaching clients from across the world. The Because Your Words Matter eCourse makes me accessible every minute of the day to aspiring authors; stateside and abroad. This virtual DIY and coaching program launches this spring!

Show-Me-How-to-Do-It Options

Coaching—For the writer who wants to take the do-it-yourself approach to master self-publishing, let our staff take you by the hand. We’ll walk with you through the process and guide you through the serpentine maze of the book business.

Publisher on Call—If a gentle nudge is all you need to finish your book, then Publisher on Call is for you. Weekly consultations with our lead publisher allow you to obtain insider information at a fraction of the investment of coaching. And the first fifteen minutes are free!

Rate My Publisher—Although our imprint, Queen V Publishing, is a world-renowned publishing company, we realize that our services are not the best fit for everyone. To help you choose a reputable publisher, let Pen of the Writer conduct an in-depth analysis. You provide us with the name of the publishing company you’re considering. We’ll research the company, get answers to the tough questions and arm you with the pros and cons to make an informed decision.

Print My Book!—Since inception, Pen of the Writer has collaborated with more than 250 printers worldwide. We decoded the confusing and complex technical language of book printers to save clients thousands of dollars. Let us confirm your printing needs, shop your book project and then provide you with the top quotes.

Conferences—The first step to successful publishing is studying the art and business of writing. Pen of the Writer has created several conferences to take you from pen to paper to published!

Do-It-for-Me Options

We offer two imprints and multiple plans for your book-publishing needs:

Queen V Publishing is our answer to those who want the benefits of self-publishing without the hassle. We’ll put our experts to work for you.

Passionate Pens is our fundraising program for schools, churches and organizations. We’ll instruct your audience on the basics of the publishing business, coordinate the compilation of an anthology and then provide your organization with quality books to sell for a profit!

dayton ohio book conference

WMI:    You organize three writer conferences a year. Just what is involved in putting a writer’s conference together?

VC:      This question is an entire interview of its own. Event planning looks easy when done well; however, lots of behind-the-scenes work is required to make it run without a flaw. An effective conference for writers considers the expectations of several audiences: aspiring authors, speakers, sponsors, vendors and volunteers. Many conference planners neglect at least one, if not all, of the groups required to make the event a success. Another critical aspect of a conference for writers is stellar marketing and promotions. You can create the most wonderful event, confirm the industry’s premier speakers and still fall short of the glory if no one attends.

WMI:    What can writers and readers expect from the 2015 writers conferences?

VC:      The Dayton Book Expo is celebrating six years on April 25. Dayton Metro Library is collaborating with us to promote the event, confirm authors and host its annual The Big Read. The day includes sessions for aspiring authors, activities for kids and signings by sixty authors. The twelfth annual Pen to Paper Literary Symposium will be held on October 3 in Dayton. The purpose of this conference is to provide attendees with the foundation for self-publishing including:

  • Establishing Your Publishing Company
  • Judging a Book by Its Cover and Content
  • Pricing Your Book to Sell
  • Copyright 101
  • Millionaire Mindset for the Self-Published Author

The Write On! Workshop—which normally occurs the last Saturday in March—will not be hosted this year as I have been confirmed to present in Detroit that day. This conference focuses on the art of writing. It delves into identifying your audience, recognizing why you are writing (fix a problem, entertain, encourage, etc.) and a series of interactive exercises including creating a chapter outline, writing prompts and overcoming writer’s block.

WMI:    You’ve also written and published books: The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box, Blending Families An Anthology, Tainted Mirror An Anthology and Self-Publishing Made Easy. When was your first book published and what three key marketing strategies have you learned since your first title hit the market?

VC:      Blended Families An Anthology released in 2006. Published to provide biblical principles and practical tools for stepfamilies, this book has been #1 on Amazon.com in the parenting-stepfamily category and topped several other best-sellers’ lists.

I have learned much since the launch of my first book. The following strategies have proven quite valuable:

  1. You have to connect with your audience face-to-face and on social media. Most authors are introverts who hide behind the computer attempting to sell books. Although digital marketing is essential, meeting potential readers, speaking engagements and networking provide quantum leaps toward success.
  2. Honest reviews from real, unbiased readers go a long way. Sites likecom, GoodReads.com and ReadersFavorite.com help authors boost exposure and gain new readers.
  3. Think beyond bookstores (which are filled with competitive titles) for book sales. Daycares, schools, hospitals, military bases and trade shows are great venues.

WMI:    An influx of powerful African American literature occurred during the Harlem Renaissance which produced writers like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Countee Cullen. These writers’ voices continue to inspire and empower readers. Today we’re seeing larger numbers of African American stories being published, particularly stories that focus on romance and relationships. What legacy do you think currently published books will leave on the human landscape over time, fifty or more years from now?

VC:      My hope is that African American authors—and authors in general—take pride in their work, invest in professional editing and publish the highest quality books possible so that the legacy is one of pride and not embarrassment; satisfaction and not shame.

WMI:    Social media networks, press releases, interviews, etc. provide a myriad of marketing opportunities. Share three to four specific marketing strategies/action steps authors can take to get more exposure for their books.

VC:      At speaking engagements, trade shows and drive-up windows, I give potential readers an eight-page booklet that I created using Microsoft Publisher. The booklet includes the cover image, synopsis, reviews, the first chapter and then a call-to-action. This tool has won over many would-be readers. Collaborating with authors of like genre—and work ethic—has positioned me to meet readers, sell books, generate leads and reduce costs. Many authors fail to see their book as a marketing tool. From the title, cover image and of course, the content, every aspect of the product must be perfect. I added a call-to-action at the end of The Goody Box Book asking readers to write a review, buy copies for friends and invite me to conduct a workshop or book club discussion.

WMI:    You’ve been managing Pen of the Writer for over a decade. To keep your business going, you have to generate cash inflow. Tell us about two to three effective cash inflow generating strategies you’ve found effective.

VC:      As a subject matter expert, event planners often contract with me to facilitate workshops, keynotes and seminars. In addition to the speaking fee, back-of-the-room sales of my books and I Love Myself T-shirts generate revenue. Although the process is labor intensive, publishing books for clients is another income stream (Queen V Publishing). Once Because Your Words Matter launches, I anticipate the service will create residual income for years.

WMI:    In addition to being a business owner, you’re also a wife and mother. How do you balance it all?

VC:      I wish that I could puff my chest to boast the ‘S’ on my Superwoman costume, but I have a team of people who help me. My husband is quite supportive of my business. He helps with household chores, cooks and promotes me on social media. Since my sons are grown with families of their own, I have ample time to be productive.

WMI:    Please give us a brief synopsis of The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box.

VC:      The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box–Relationship advice that your father didn’t tell you and your mother didn’t know

Successful. Beautiful. Intelligent. Yet a satisfying relationship eludes Debra Hampton. At thirty-five years old, she can’t figure out why her philosophy on men—and what they want from women—isn’t working. She’s trapped in a cycle of shattered relationships, until a friend refers her to a relationship guru. After some resistance, Debra finds refuge in his counsel as he helps her navigate through the storms of rejection and failed love. Once he reveals the error of her ways, will Debra master the forbidden secrets to attract her soul mate or continue to keep love at bay?

goody box novel cover image

WMI:    How have you managed to keep The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box relevant in the eyes of readers since it was published?

VC:      Because I wrote The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box for you and every woman whose first love is supposed to be her father, its timeless message permeates the hearts of readers. As a result, a considerable amount of sales comes from referrals. I keep the I-love-myself-too-much-to-give-you-my-goody-box message in front of people by posting relationship advice on social media, hosting contests and conducting workshops.

WMI:    Blended Families, Tainted Mirror and A Kingdom Waiting are anthologies. Why did you decide to take this approach (developing an anthology) when developing these books?

VC:      I published these anthologies for several reasons: 1) To obtain a variety of perspectives to better convey the message: Blended Families An Anthology is about managing life in a step family; Tainted Mirror An Anthology delves into how to overcome physical and virtual restrainers that hold us hostage; A Kingdom Waiting illustrates the resiliency of youth; 2) To create a vehicle for aspiring authors to become published and 3) To maximize exposure by having multiple people promoting the titles.

WMI:    Being that the anthologies include stories from several writers, offering readers diverse point of views, was it easier to build reader interests in the anthologies than in The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box? Please explain.

VC:      The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box has proven to be much easier to promote and sell. More people are interested in real relationship advice that leads to fulfilling relationships than the messages of the other titles which are quite specific. Another consideration is that The Goody Box Book is fiction while the other titles are nonfiction.

WMI:    Is Lord, Help Me to Hold Out non-fiction or fiction? What is the inspiration behind the book?

VC:      Lord, Help Me to Hold Out is a fiction written by Joy Marino. The manuscript went through extensive developmental editing during the publishing process. In lieu of an additional fee for the substantial edit, Joy agreed to list me as co-author. Her inspiration for writing this book was to show women the importance of choosing wisely with respect to men.

WMI:    Please share a few tips from Self-Publishing Made Easy that help to make writing, publishing and marketing a book less challenging.

VC:      The Self-Publishing Made Easy Journals are chocked full of information, charts and activities to help writers transition to authors.

Create a POWER Team—Publishing consumes about thirty percent of your time, energy and money expended to complete your book. To expedite the process and minimize disruptions, I recommend creating a network of supporters. Your POWER (Pen Of the WritER) Team should consist of people who have your best interest at heart and will give you honest, timely feedback. Knowledge of the book business is not a requirement; however, include at least one business person and two avid readers.

Organizing your thoughts—With all that you want to say, where do you start? When are you finished? How do you eat the elephant? Regardless of genre, creating a chapter outline helps pinpoint your effort for maximum results. My tool of choice is the Bubble Map Technique because it takes the mammoth project of writing and chops it into manageable, bite-sized chunks.

Competitive Analysis—As a self-published author, your book must effectively compete with traditionally published books including exterior/interior quality and pricing. Using superior competition as a benchmark positions you for excellence. Corral a couple of members from your POWER Team to conduct a competitive analysis at a bookstore like Barnes and Noble (libraries are also great for this assessment). Peruse the section with books of the same genre as yours. Grab twenty to thirty books, a cup of java and then find a secluded area. Analyze the page count and retail price. For the books that appeal most to you, note pertinent information about:

  • Cover design (front, back and spine)
  • Graphic designer
  • Editor
  • Illustrator
  • Publisher

WMI:    What’s next for Valerie J. Lewis Coleman? Where do you see yourself and Pen of the Writer three to five years from now?

VC:      Five years from now, I will have helped over 10,000 writers become published authors. My calendar will be filled with international speaking engagements. The Goody Box Book brand will have grown to include an audio book (releases later this year), the sequel and a version for teens. My company will be self-sufficient generating a six-figure, annual revenue.

Like this feature interview? Please share it with with your social media followers!

Posted in Feature Business Leader Interviews | Leave a comment

Real content marketing tools and tricks

By Eric Bradford

be yourself positive sayingWe’ve reached a point of content oversaturation. According to Statistic Brain, approximately 190 million Tweets are made each day, over 1.3 billion people are active on Facebook each month (the vote is still out on what percentage of these users are “real” people) and a whopping 92 billion YouTube views are made each month.

Standing out in the content marketing crowd

That’s a lot of text, images, videos and shares. We are neck deep into the data age. Another shift that we are seeing is a greater movement from manufacturing to service oriented business initiatives. The right content marketing strategies could spotlight your company’s services and introduce your products to thousands, millions or billions of consumers.

During the Internet’s early days, you could publish a dozen or more articles or blog posts a week, enhancing this content with press releases and one to two weekly business videos. Today, that could very easily equate to a weak content marketing strategy. Why? It’s the same strategy that thousands of other companies are taking, which is what has brought us to content oversaturation.

So, how do you distinguish your business from the crowd?

Business Insider puts it this way, “Branding, among its many traits, is also about differentiation. That doesn’t mean you should start wearing bow ties, but positioning yourself so that you do stand out.” The American Bar Association tells its student attorneys that, “It’s important to build your own personal brand and your “unique selling proposition.”

Have you ever walked down New York’s jam-packed 7th Avenue on a Friday evening, the time of day when employees are just leaving the office? Pedestrians look like one big mass of people until your gaze catches sight of a woman dressed in a sharply designed brightly colored skirt suit, the silky fabric causing you to wonder if the suit is imported.

Clearly, this isn’t a suit that came off a mainstream store shelf. The fact that the woman is walking with her head erect, confidence boosting her mood, doesn’t hurt. Before long, you’re coaching yourself not to stare at the woman, her suit, her stride, but you stare anyway.

Upgrading your content marketing strategy

Your business content marketing efforts should set your content apart in similar fashion. Pulling this off requires nothing less than the best content. You have to genuinely care about your readers. Instead of focusing on what readers can do for you (i.e. more ad clicks), focus on how you can use content to teach, inspire, guide or encourage readers.

Tips to consider while upgrading your content marketing strategy include subscribing to popular news feeds, digital business periodicals and blogs. This will help you to develop a keen eye for what’s trending in the business world. You could also use mobile apps developed by companies like Electric Web Marketing, FIKSU and Appency.

Marketing app companies should identify your target audience, determine that you are a good fit for the services that they offer and use a multi-platform (i.e. social media, SEO, press releases, public speaking) marketing approach. A multi-platform marketing approach can get your products in front of more members of your target audience. For example, if your products target recent college grads, you could build and offer a free download of a new, unique and exciting app to each person who purchases your new novel.

Include hard-to-find statistics in videos and written content. Consider adding infographics to your content marketing strategy, as infographics help you share loads of valuable data in short spaces. Videos that appeal to human emotion, thought, sound and vision are great. Check out these 10 tools that American Express shares that you could use to create and market videos.

Regardless of the video creation and marketing tool that you use, focus on being unique. A great way to pull this off is to create the videos of yourself, your team, events your attend, etc. Not only will your videos be unique, you’ll own the rights to them. As with any other tool, avoid over-using videos. It might not seem like it now, but in a few years, consumers might tire of having one video after another pushed out to them online or on their smartphone.

Absolutely avoid copying content from other sources. Even if you cite other sources, it’s a good idea to steer clear of rewording or rewriting existing content.

Ask yourself if the content that you develop fascinates, educates, inspires or intrigues you. If it doesn’t, there’s a chance that readers won’t be fascinated or intrigued by the content either. Some experts advise business owners to steer clear of automated content management systems. However, if you combine automated systems with real-time posts, you may be okay. Great posts may qualify for press release attention, especially if the posts include quotes or interview material from industry leaders.

This isn’t often shared, especially in the age of social media, but it’s a damn good idea to build your own content management systems and databases. You could do this by creating a customized newsletter database (one that you own) and direct email database (to send information about coupons and discounts). Why is this important?

Should social media networks close or slow down (think MySpace), you’ll still have the consumer contact data that you own. Be patient. Even if it takes you two years to build 5,000 contacts in your private business database, that’s 5,000 more than 0. Also, encourage shares. The more shares your content gets, the high value search engines place on the content, which equals higher search engine rankings.

Posted in Growing Business | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Stop worrying about your business

By Rhonda Campbell

It’s an illusion that worrying leads to success. To grow your small business, find out which action steps lead to a stronger bottom line. Make those action steps a part of your daily habits, not stress and late night floor pacing.

small business worrying

It’s not a stretch to say that, after being in business for six months, you found something to start worrying about. It happened despite your best intentions.

Remember how you worried whether or not you’d filed legal business documents correctly? After all, there are enough details in operating agreements, company bylaws, patent and copyright applications, real estate purchasing or leasing agreements and state and federal tax forms to keep the most resolute person up at night.

Give yourself a pat on the back. You scaled the “paperwork” hurdle. You can scale the hurdles that you are currently facing too.

Mary Kay Ash said, “Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.” 

You can reduce your small business worrying by taking the right action. AOL co-founder, Steve Case, hit the nail on the head when he said, “In the end, a vision without the ability to execute it is probably a hallucination.”

Chief of these actions is reading up on action steps that you lack experience in. If you read a reputable tip or take a 20 to 30 minute training in a specific area (i.e. marketing writing, effective landing page design, bookkeeping), don’t be surprised if your confidence increases.

When your confidence increases, you’ll take on challenges that you used to shy away from. The Small Business Administration (SBA) Learning Center, Skill Path and the OCC are some places that list business training programs.

After you implement action steps, measure the results of your efforts. What’s the benefit? It reduces the level of unknown that you deal with as the owner of a small business. Measuring tools include:

  • Surveys
  • Opinion Polls
  • Visitor Stats
  • Social Media Shares
  • Call Tracking
  • CRM Platforms
  • Google Analytics

Tweak marketing and sales efforts as needed. Follow changes that you make up with another ROI pulse check.

Also, keep the lines of communication open between other business leaders. This includes executives who work for shareholders at large corporations. Don’t go it alone.

Be vulnerable enough to ask the best questions. Be prepared to give the best answers when other leaders hit you up for advice. Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn shares that, “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”

Work with top notch It pros. Secure your tech systems. Regularly communicate to your team the importance of protecting customer and business data. For example, you could send an email to your team that alerts them about phishing and other scams that target email addresses and telephone numbers. Government organizations like the FDIC provide more phishing examples and insight.

Don’t assume that you’re getting it right. Test your IT systems in real time.

Stop worrying by investing in your small business future. Set 10 percent or more of your earnings in a growth account. Build money reserves that will cover your small business expenses for 9 to 12 months at a minimum. More is better.

If you still find yourself worrying about your small business, write down what’s keeping you up at night. Be specific. Create a list of three to four action steps you can take in the short and long term to address the concern. Remember. If the problem exists, so too does the answer.

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Find real solopreneur success

By Erica Simpson

successful solopreneur“Go it alone,” is an oft felt sentiment that you probably feel as a solopreneur. But, you don’t have to go it alone if you take the right approach. In fact, “alone” might be the last thing that you find yourself.

The term solopreneur came into vogue during the 21st century. Independent spirits have been starting their own enterprises for much longer. Early inventors and solopreneurs like North African cosmetics architects, Nero Claudius Caesar (created with inventing ice cream) and Cai Lun (noted for inventing paper) didn’t realize the far reach of their works. Over the years, these free spirits have impacted the lives of millions.

Does your business benefit enough people?

Some aspired out of need. Think Madame CJ Walker, America’s first self-made woman millionaire. Others like Henry Ford and Garrett Morgan were led by curiosity and a rich appetite for newness. Similar to your products, or services the products and/or services that Ford and Morgan developed were meant to be used by masses of consumers.

You’ve heard it before, so here it is again – to succeed as a business owner, you must have a product or service that benefits others . . . a whole lot of “others”. Do this and you could enjoy tremendous word-of-mouth sales. Stories about your products and/or services could also get splashed across the front page of major media outlets, leading to more sales.

This one might catch you by surprise. Develop a product or service that benefit masses of consumers and you’re confidence about what your business can soar. You  need that.

Don’t shatter your solopreneur confidence

Dr. Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal says that high confidence helps you to “persist in the face of ambiguity and failure, and remain confident in meeting challenges as you pursue business success. You recognize opportunities and initiate action.”

If you market products or services that you know are less than top notch, your confidence as a solopreneur can erode. Ever find yourself second guessing a business decision? Ever find yourself spending hours weighing potential outcomes of new opportunities you’ve been presented?

These are symptoms of low confidence. Your chance to avoid this setback is to seek the guidance and advice of other successful solopreneurs, inventors and business owners. Get help from experienced attorneys and patent filers when registering your inventions with patent and trademark offices.

Only work with reputable marketers and advertisers. A rouge marketer or advertiser can definitely introduce your business to hundreds of thousands, potentially millions, of people. That’s no doubt. They can also ruin your reputation, leaving you to pick up the pieces after your come crashing down off the highest of highs, after your business goes from selling thousands of products a week to selling zero products a month. . . . All because your reputation was ruined.

Developing top-notch products and services that truly benefit masses of consumers, maintaining high confidence and smart marketing are parts of success as a solopreneur. So too is building and managing good, clean financial records.

More steps that lead to success as a solopreneur

Intuit shares that “bookkeeping is the core of any business.” Don’t have rock solid bookkeeping skills? Consider taking an online course, signing up for a low cost bookkeeping course at a local community college or hiring an experienced bookkeeper. Just make sure that whoever you hire is passionate about your business, wants to see you succeed . . .  really succeed.

To get (and keep) word about your business in the public, design a fast loading, content rich and visually appealing website. Create awesome landing pages and link them to press releases, digital catalogs, postcards and other marketing materials.

If you’re just starting out as a solopreneur, try carrying business cards, a foldable brochure and product samples with you everywhere (and I do mean everywhere) that you go. Hand your business cards, brochures and samples to everyone you meet. Forget worrying about how many of those people will end up actually doing business with you.

Focus on spreading the word. Because you’ve already knocked out the first step of becoming a successful solopreneur (developing a top notch product or service), spreading the word should be a cinch.

Posted in Staying Motivated and Inspired | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

College business degree or work?

By Rhonda Campbell

business degrees and startupsWhich of these two, a business degree or experience working a corporate job, help you most to launch and operate your own successful business? Both come with challenges, including time and financial challenges.

Daniel Boorstin said, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” If this is true, getting a college business degree is invaluable if you’re starting a business.

That could be why the master’s in business administration degree has not lost its luster. About a quarter of all master’s degrees in the United States are a MBA, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Accounting, marketing, leadership foundations, technology and operations management, strategy and international economies are courses built into prestigious MBA programs.

Learning on the job could cost you years

It could take you years to learn how to create budgets that help you manage cash flows, the one thing that has sunk many a startup. A college business degree helps you to think about issues you might otherwise not consider until it’s too late.

For example, a college business degree teaches you the importance of managing human capital, assessing and managing risks and taking advantage of tools that advance your marketing efforts. A business degree also teaches you how to weigh options before making hard decisions and how to make the most of time. Entrepreneur reports that one business owner used his MBA to “reduce the time it takes him to consider potential transactions from two weeks to a single day. ”

Lifehacker‘s Thorin Klosowski said that networking is a real plus associated with a MBA. Specifically, “Grad school is often about meeting people more than it is advancing your education. So make sure you take the time to meet people, spend time with different people, and, for lack of a better word, network with as many people as possible. You will tap into them at some point for postgraduate projects, and they’ll do the same with you.”

Another college degree isn’t going to give you everything you need

Yet, school can’t teach or prepare you for everything you’ll encounter as a busy entrepreneur. It’s this sentiment that may be behind Oscar Wilde’s declaration, “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

Sitting through challenging graduate business courses won’t show you different leadership styles in action. Pouring over thick textbooks won’t let you see how prospects respond to different types of sales letters that you write. But, working a managerial corporate job could.

Selena Cuffe, Heritage Link Brands’ CEO, shares in Inc. that a corporate job, “provides you with critical training and baseline skills that can serve you well as an entrepreneur.” Honing your emotional intelligence, how to communicate with people from different backgrounds, dealing with hard downturns without emptying  your bank accounts and what to look for in teams and leaders of organizational streams aren’t learned in the classroom. A corporate job can help you to pick up these skills without spending tens of thousands on college degrees and without exposing your company to undue financial and legal risks.

Work at a sustainable and powerful company and you could also gain the tools to keep your business growing decades after you launch it. Jeetu Patel tells Fast Company that, “Well-run large companies inherently teach you how to build a lasting business.”

Get the best of both worlds

Other advantages of working a corporate job are operational discipline, including how to manage innovation smartly. If you work a corporate job in a new division or department, you can also get a real feel for what it’s like to start a business (howbeit a line of business) from the ground up.

You could gain the advantages of a college business degree and experience working a corporate job if you start your company on a part-time basis. This will give you financial security, not to mention provide you the resources to grow your savings. You’ll need this extra money after you start your company on a full-time basis.

Instead of earning a college business degree, consider earning graduate business certifications (i.e. project management, innovation and entrepreneurship) in areas you don’t currently have experience in. If you do decide to get a business degree, see if your employer will pick up the costs via their tuition assistance program.

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Guy I met at the gym

By Rhonda Campbell

lifting weights to get fitI was proud of myself for taking off for the gym as early as I did, especially considering the fact that I stayed up late last night watching The Vow and All Is Lost on DVD. Little did I know that a great lesson was waiting for me at the gym.

Getting in a good workout at the gym

Treadmill, jogging on the gym floor, riding the exercise bike and pumping iron were on the agenda, in that order. As I was nearing my jog, a guy entered the gym. By appearances, he was in his mid-60s with a head full of salt and pepper hair. He  had on sneakers, sweat pants and a sweat jacket. Like everyone else, I assumed he had come to the gym to get in a rigorous, healthy workout.

Three wide screen televisions broadcasts current news and sports at the front of the gym. Not keeping with tradition, on this morning, music didn’t play on the loud speakers overhead. Instead ESPN sportscasters recapped the Packers vs. Seahawks game, scarcely giving attention to the Patriots win over the Colts. A CNN anchor talked about the tension in Yemen on the other television screen.

My attention averted from football playoffs and the upcoming Super Bowl contenders to Middle East conflicts. But, I couldn’t stop glancing at the 60ish guy. Oh. Did he have a lot to teach me.

He’d gone straight to a nautilus machine and sat. He too watched the television screens.

A surprising gym workout lesson

Despite the desire to run faster, my pace slowed. I lifted my thighs higher and picked up the pace, but I knew that my morning run was winding down. That’s when I hopped on the exercise bike, but not for long. I’d forgotten my seat cushion. I wasn’t about to ride the bike for 15 minutes or longer and make my butt sore for one to two days. Once is enough.

The first weight machine I used created a burn in my shoulders, just what I was looking for. The burn let me know that my work was paying off.

I couldn’t help glancing at the guy with the salt and pepper hair. He looked fit, like he worked out regularly.  But, he just sat at the nautilus machine, people working out around him.

Three weight machines into my toning exercises, I looked at the guy and was surprised to discover that he was sleeping, mouth open and head titled slightly back. If someone had bumped into him, it may have startled him, shifting him out of thinking that he was napping on his favorite living room recliner.

Finally ready to workout at the gym

It took a few minutes for the guy to wake. He roused himself away from sleep with a shake of his head. Then, taking hold of the nautilus machine handles, he pushed up two reps, paused and pushed up another four to five reps.

Less than a minute later, he was gone, having grabbed his jacket and exited the gym as pretty as he pleased. From the time he entered the gym to his exit, it all took about 20 minutes.

I couldn’t help wondering why the guy had even bothered to travel to the gym. Why had he gotten dressed in workout clothes only to take a nap?

working out at gym

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I knew it, I was thinking about times when I got prepared to start a project, meet a challenge or step away from a comfort zone. During those times, I’d enrolled in a course, searched for information online, uttered a series of positive affirmations and developed a plan of action so that I could achieve a personal goal.

But, that’s as far as I’d gotten. That’s as far as I’d pushed myself.

Result? A lot of thought, planning and preparation with ziltch result.

You have to do more than just show up

I can’t thank the guy at the gym enough. He taught me that just showing up is not enough. He taught me that preparing to start and finish a task is not enough. He taught me that desiring comfort over the possibility of being met with (and having to do what it takes to overcome) resistance (internal and external) won’t get me over the hump.

To win requires consistent, persistent action. It may not always feel good, but if it’s the right action, it will produce rewarding results.

What  about you?

quote to get going at gym and abroadHow about you? What are you busy preparing to do but not actually doing? What have you signed up for but not taking enough action to complete? Are you always between projects? Are you always in school but never applying what you’ve learned at a paying job (or as the successful leader of your own company)?

Do you often talk about replacing negative habits with positive thoughts and actions, but you never get around to making those changes? Instead of taking advantageous action are you often just making excuses?

If so, I encourage you to revisit what you truly want. Let positive desire propel you to act for the first time. You’re going to need it. As the guy at the gym clearly taught me, dressing up, planning and preparing to do something is simply not enough.

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