The Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Small Online Business

July 11th, 2022 | Posted in Online Business, Uncategorized

If your goal is to start a small online business that replaces and exceeds your current income this may be the most important article you read this year.

Brash, huh?

Here’s the deal: I’ve been working online full time for almost 10 years, since age 19. I’ve had a lot of failures and a lot of successes.

There is no better way to learn how to succeed than to learn from someone who has already done it.

Tip #1: Focus On What’s Important

What’s important? Action.

In the beginning, just get started. Don’t get too caught up in details that don’t matter.

Dealing with the paperwork, business cards, and other ancillaries isn’t absolutely necessary.

It’s an online business for a reason. Save the time, paper, and money and don’t get business cards.

If you happen to meet someone who wants to know more about you or wants to visit your site ask for their e-mail address and actively follow up with them.

Handing out business cards is passive, and even more than that, ineffective.

Other paperwork a lot of people get caught up in is registering a corporation or other business entity. That will be important eventually. But you can (in the US anyway) start a business in your own name with very minimal paperwork (a simple Doing Business As form) and cost.

Consult a tax advisor for specific insights.

Tip #2: Invest In Education

Whatever business you want to start, be it blogging, eBay sales, information product selling, affiliate marketing, or any one of the countless other ways to make money online, there are hords of people who have done it before you.

Sometimes those people will have written about what they did to succeed. In those cases, if their business aligns with what you want to do, don’t be afraid to invest money into their products.

Personally, I have easily spent upwards of $40,000 on non-University education. That includes buying eBooks, print books, seminars, coaching, membership sites, you name it.

As a general rule, the most important skill you can learn, no matter what business you’re starting, is marketing. I don’t make a distinction between online and offline marketing. Once you learn marketing you can use it anywhere, with a few tweaks of course.

I liken it to learning computer programming. The language you learn isn’t as important as the logic behind it. You can adapt to any language.

Tip #3: Ask For Help

If you’re a bit introverted like me you might be shy about asking for help.

Don’t let that be a barrier to your success.

In other words, feel the fear and do it anyway.

You will deal with rejection. Many people won’t respond to your e-mails, phone calls, or tweets.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter.

Starting a business isn’t supposed to be easy. That’s the filter.

I promise you, if you talk to enough people, you will get the help you need. I’ve been quite surprised by just how accessible some people I was initially afraid to contact are.

Bonus hint: I’ve had greater success connecting with ultra successful people than those who are just ultra successful in their heads. 🙂

The key to getting a response is to send very short, very succinct e-mails. Practice the http://five.sentenc.es rule. Keep your e-mail to five sentences and make it clear what you’re asking.

Tip #4: Participate In The Community

Whatever niche you’re in there is a community.

For example, back in the days when I used to sell on eBay, I hung out on a few eBay message boards. I helped people where I could and I got help where I needed.

As an added bonus, when I decided to start selling eBay how to products (I haven’t sold them for over 5 years), guess who helped me launch that business? The same community that I had participated in freely for over a year.

These days, whichever community you should be a part of is larger and more easily accessible. Take advantage of that.

Tip #5: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Your ultimate goal may be to quit your job, but don’t jump the gun.

You will find tons of stories of people who quit their jobs before they had their businesses going, but there’s a reason for that.

People who failed furiously because they didn’t have an income to support themselves in the lean business startup phase don’t usually write about it. And because they don’t write about their failures, you never hear about them.

I want you to quit your job as much as you want to quit your job, but I don’t want you to do it before it’s time.

Karol Gajda is a lifelong entrepreneur who blogs about Freedom, Health, Travel, and Life at RidiculouslyExtraordinary.com. Today he launches his excellent guide, How To Live Anywhere.


A new tool for assessing your Facebook engagement: SumoRank

July 10th, 2022 | Posted in Online Business, Uncategorized

Buzzsumo releases SumoRank, a tool for measuring your Facebook engagement

Buzzsumo, one of the best content marketing tools that allows you to find the most shared content and key influencers within your industry, has this week released a new tool called SumoRank. The tools is aimed at community managers wanting to assess the interaction rates of their company’s Facebook page and find out the best days and times to post.

SumoRank is quick to get started with and offers a more user-friendly and visually appealing interface than Facebook’s own ‘Insights’ tab. Admittedly much of the data that SumoRank gives you can be gleaned from ‘Insights’, but SumoRank does a lot of the work for you, telling you straight up what your most popular time to post is and your most popular day of the week for interactions.

As we’ll see, SumoRank also enables you to benchmark against competitors or review industry trends such as the current decline in Facebook interactions.

Optimise your posts

All this data is perfect for finding out what works well on your page and what isn’t going down as well as you might have thought. Figures for average engagement by post type may prove or disprove your hypothesis that your audience prefer images to links –  looking around different pages has shown me this does actually vary considerably between page, it isn’t the cases that one type is consistently top. Figures for average engagement per character range will also help you establish where posts over 300 characters are good or bad for engaging your audience. Again there is considerable variety here. For Smart Insights, we saw posts with over 300 characters perform considerably better than ones with less characters (except for ones with less than 50), and yet other Facebook pages see their engagement decline rapidly as their posts get longer. It depends on the type of content your audience is looking to consume.

The data it gives on engagement by day posted can again be gleaned from ‘Insights’, but SumoRank presents it in a more accessible way.

If you don’t post frequently at the weekend but are seeing high engagement rates then it might be worth stepping this up somewhat.

The data on engagement by time posted may be somewhat more useful for community managers. If you see a spike during lunchtime hours you might want to time your posts to go out then, whilst similarly if you get good engagements rates well into the evening but never post then you could be missing a trick.

Spy on the competition

The really neat thing about SumoRank is that you can look into the results of almost any Facebook page (They don’t have data for very small Facebook pages), which mean you can get all the engagement stats of the competition. If your competition is doing particularly well you could well learn some lessons from them, as what appeals to their audience may well go down well with yours as well given that you will be targeting the same demographic. An interesting trend I’ve noticed when researching the tool and looking at a lot of Facebook pages engagement stats is that almost every single page has seen it’s engagement rate fall considerably since March this year. This reflects the deliberate reduction in organic page reach by Facebook over this period, which is part of Facebook’s efforts to force brands to pay to boost their posts and make the platform ‘pay to play’.

If you are involved in the running of your brand’s Facebook page, or just want to see how the competition measure up, you can access SumoRank here.


Putting the Cart Before the Smart: 4 Ways to Bend Technology to Your Favor

July 9th, 2022 | Posted in Software, Uncategorized

The smart cart has been dumbed down.

More than a decade ago, retail pundits were practically breathless over the possibilities of magical smart carts that would transform the customer experience. In reality, they were putting the cart before the smart.

While the path of the American shopping cart has been a storied one, its most compelling chapters may just be arriving now, through beacon technology and on-demand home ordering. Still, with everyone holding their own little smart carts in their hands in the forms of smartphones, the key for retailers is not making the cart – or phone – smarter, but designing the technology they deploy with the shopper experience in mind.

Those experiential opportunities are increasingly plentiful. Nearly 70 percent of consumers use their mobile devices to find a brand or product before they go grocery shopping, while 86 percent use their devices to plan their shopping trips, according to research by NinthDecimal, a mobile intelligence consultant. Almost 60 percent of consumers use their phones while grocery shopping.

Still, while the possibilities are plentiful, they are not without limit, as a look into the fleeting opportunities of the grocery cart reveal.

A rolling history

The first grocery carts rolled into the aisles of Piggly Wiggly stores almost 80 years ago. In less than four years, entire supermarkets were being planned around them, with wider aisles and larger checkout counters to accommodate the increased amount of products people were buying. One could credit the shopping cart for 64-ounce detergent packages, and 16-roll toilet paper bundles.

Over the years, the basic design of the shopping cart has not much changed, though its technology – or technological potential – has. From tracers that showed grocers how we shopped to LCD screens that could map out the store and alert us to sales, the cart had been earmarked as a central device for improving the shopping trip. Consider this excerpt from a 2003 USA Today story:

“The smart shopping cart looks like a normal one except for an interactive screen and scanner mounted near the shopper. Once the shopper swipes his store card, his shopping history is available for all kinds of purposes, from presenting a suggested shopping list to alerting him to discounts or reminding him about perishables purchased a month ago.”

Sound familiar? It turns out that hitching the customer experience to the shopping cart is expensive. Instead we have smartphones doing much of that work for us, pretty affordably. They enable beacon technology that can identify a shopper in close range of a specific product, map out a store and deliver a host of other in-the-aisle features.

A central problem remains, however: Retailers have yet to enable the phones to deliver the kinds of relevant experiences that elevate the task of grocery shopping from featureless to fun.

New shopping list

Can a phone, regardless of its smarts, transform the task of selecting just-the-right banana bunch and bone-in chicken breasts into something one can look forward to? The resolution exists not in how much technology a shopper really needs to get the job done, but in what specific experiences the technology can deliver to make the job a pleasure.

At a time when grocers are competing with drug stores, gas stations, mass merchants, online merchants and even some department stores for the grocery dollar, technology alone will not give the supermarket an edge.

However, all the pieces are there to reshape the in-aisle encounter to an event that includes an element of happy surprise. It is up to grocery retailers to build the infrastructure and test what will bring this journey to fruition. My simple suggestions:

Learn how to connect: Let’s all assume we can bypass the smart cart and go straight for the smartphone. How will you use it to connect with the customer in a way that is personally relevant? Beacons are popular, but note that in-store promotions do not necessarily translate to a happy experience, especially if the shopper is in a hurry. Perhaps a greeting at the beginning of the trip that asks, “What brings you here today?” can be used to inform the rest of the trip communications.

Be brand true: A grocer’s personal shopper communications, whether by smartphone or cashier, should hinge on its brand promise, mission and why its shoppers choose that brand. Once this is determined, the company can build a platform so its specially appointed team can hear customers in real time and then craft appropriate experiences to reinforce the brand promise.

Pass it on: A customer message that sits with the marketing team is a message in a vacuum. By developing an in-house system for sharing what the customer says throughout the organization, it can discover unexpected potential in its marketing efforts, product placement and customer interests.

Deliver: As with any experience-enhancing endeavor, the company should ensure it has the budget to deliver on the initiative’s promise. It sounds simple, but sometimes customer reaction differs from what we might expect. A recent case in point involves British grocery chain Waitrose, which offered free coffee or tea to its myWaitrose loyalty members, and ended up getting hordes of free drinkers who bought no groceries ­– irritating lots of paying customers.

No cart, or phone, can outsmart that sort of oversight.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com, where Bryan serves as a retail contributor. You can view the original story here.


Why is CRM the ideal solution for every small business?

July 8th, 2022 | Posted in Software, Uncategorized

CRM is a great tool for customer management!

However, unfortunately, many small businesses have still not started using it. Reason – A myth that CRM software is designed only for the large businesses.

And this is what is keeping most of the SMBs away from using CRM and improving their customer service.

Why is this a frightful situation?

Experts have predicted that by the year 2020, customer service will beat price and product quality and become the first brand differentiator.

That means only those businesses will survive who will be able to understand the Voice of the Customer through the CRM and provide exceptional customer service, along with good product quality and low price.

If now the SMBs do not take up the CRM then, nothing will be able to save them them from meeting the doom after a few years.

What do the small businesses need to understand?

CRM is not just a tool only for the BIG BOYS.

Although earlier CRM was designed to just meet the enterprise needs, today most CRM vendors have involved small business’s growing needs to shape up their solution. In fact this is exactly what Brent Leary, popular CRM thought leader has also commented in Software Advice

There are a lot more CRM choices for small businesses today than there were a few years ago. These products are more affordable, easier to use and the subscription pricing terms are in line with what small businesses are looking for.”

In fact the few small businesses that have taken the CRM have admitted of a hundred percent satisfaction.

According to Software Advice online survey (conducted over 304 large, medium and small businesses who use CRM software) – small businesses (those with 100 employees or fewer) are “very satisfied” (37 percent) or “somewhat satisfied” (33 percent) with their current CRM system.

This clearly proves how well is the CRM performing for the small businesses.

What kind of benefits do the small businesses get from CRM?

  • Customer Data Management
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Customer Interaction Tracking
  • Lead Management
  • Sales Forecasting
  • Sales & Marketing Automation
  • Project Management
  • Workflow Standardization
  • Internal & External Team Collaboration
  • Social Media Management.

It is interesting to see that CRMs are delivering on so many more areas (such as project management, team collaboration, sales and marketing activities) other than customer relationships.

The reason behind this is the objective to expand the scope of CRM from just a Customer Management Tool to a full-fledged Business Management Application.

That is why, sales, marketing and project management features have been integrated to the system. This has made CRM a more significant tool for every business as it has more features and benefits that result into revenue generation and growth.

The right choice of CRM

In order to get the benefit from CRM, it is important to select the right technology. However, due to so many different types of CRM solutions available – it can get confusing for small businesses to make the right selection.

Some of the factors to take note while choosing a CRM are:

1. Ease of Use

2. Mobile functionality

3. Customization

4. Training

5. Frequency of CRM upgradation

6. Open APIs

7. Cloud or On-premise

8. Security Measures

9. Support Service.

In addition to these elements, small businesses should also consider their own goals that they wish to fulfill through the CRM.

Example: if they are looking for CRM to automate most of their routine data entry work, then they should look for a CRM that has a robust automation module.

Michael Kristian, CEO of Asuret (business consulting firm) also has the same point of view –

You need to get a package that’s tailored to your company’s size. At the most basic level you have simple contact management. Then you have contact management with a shared database. You can have sales tracking or opportunity tracking or customer service functionality. Match the capabilities of the software with what your business goals are.

Final Thoughts

Once small businesses have CRM by their side, they will automatically develop a tight grip over their business process. Customer relations will improve which will result into a better and continuous flow of ROI.

It’s just that small businesses need to opt for the CRM that is correct for their business. Right? Or do you think that there is some other factor also that plays a key role in ensuring the success of a CRM?


Top 10 Recommendations to Revitalize Your B2B Marketing

July 7th, 2022 | Posted in Business, Uncategorized

We are coming up to the last holiday weekend of a wonderful summer. The countdown for back-to-school has begun. Corporate team leaders can’t wait to get their teams back in full strength. Managers are gearing up for strategy meetings to make the last quarter of the year count. Let’s just say it’s “get serious, get back to work” time for the majority of us.

For B2B marketers, this is a good time to review what has worked in this year so far and what needs to change before the year is over. The State of Marketing* report offers valuable insights from over 5,000 global marketers. Let’s examine the top 10 recommendations to cover 3 key areas of marketing—The Customer Journey, Mobile and Social.

The Customer Journey

86% of senior level marketers surveyed in the report stress the critical importance of tracking and understanding the customer journey in order to implement an effective marketing strategy. How will you achieve this?

Here are 3 useful recommendations:

  1. Look beyond buyer personas and lifecycle marketing: In our enthusiasm to plan lead generation campaigns based on proper segmentation, we tend to sometimes get carried away with marketing to buyer personas. In the ideal world, every buyer would perfectly fit at least one persona we have thought of. With the increasing demand for personalization, however, B2B marketers need to focus more on the individual behaviours of different buyers instead of planning for broad patterns across different categories.
  2. Trace the customer journey beyond email: Email marketing has stood the test of time as an effective lead generation and nurturing methodology. The limitation of this method when it comes to viewing the customer journey is that email communication is linear and follows a set pattern. You can only trace the customer’s interaction with your brand along that one path of receiving, opening and acting upon email stimulus. In an integrated marketing approach, we need to look beyond email to examine multiple channels, including social, where our customers are spending time. The last thing you want to do is upset a customer by responding officiously to their email while ignoring their much more emotional communication on a social media platform.
  3. Make customer journey mapping a team exercise: You can’t possibly sit in the board room and try to map the full customer journey. There are multiple touchpoints and various people within your organization that can offer keen insights into how your customers react and interact at every stage of the customer journey. A regular brainstorm with your team is a great way to stay updated on what your customers are thinking, feeling, doing, and wanting you to do! Discover the gaps in your marketing strategy where customer experience has suffered, and focus on making improvements rather than trying to sweep those instances away under the carpet.

Mobile

This year is considered the “last call” for joining the mobile marketing train. Experts say it is a ‘now or never’ situation because a majority of the corporate workforce now functions as ‘phablet’ users—or users with smartphones that have tablet-like screens and features. Here are 4 critical steps you need to take with regard to mobile marketing:

  1. Define your mobile marketing strategy: You will see from your customer journey mapping exercise recommended above that one of the most important and frequent customer touchpoints is facilitated via mobile. In the absence of a clear strategy to optimize customer experience at every mobile-enabled interaction, you are losing a huge opportunity to make an impact on the dominant majority of your buyer population.
  2. Use an integrated approach to manage mobile campaigns: It’s no longer enough to have a mobile campaign once in a while. That is like spike marketing—you may get a sudden peak in lead generation but it won’t last. If your customers are on the go and using their mobile devices 24×7, what choice do you have really? Think about it! Mobile campaigns must become a part of your integrated marketing plan, communicating brand messaging consistent with all other channels and media you are using.
  3. Take advantage of location-based mobile content marketing: 67% of global marketers, according to this report are already doing this. If your business is just starting out to test the waters, a location-based mobile marketing campaign is a better way to test and learn before you spread out nationally or globally. Relevant content served up at the right time, in the right place to your mobile buyers will drive traffic to your target location faster, better, easier. It doesn’t necessarily have to be promotion or offer based either. Remember that the customer journey is more than 70% independent research for the vast majority. If your mobile content fits right in and adds value, you will be more successful in helping the buyer complete that last 30% of the decision making process in your favour.
  4. Monitor mobile analytics to devise loyalty programs: This report shows that more than in-store and web-based loyalty programs, mobile loyalty campaigns have an 86% effectiveness rating. That is huge! When planning your loyalty program, take into account the data from your mobile analytics and incentivize loyalty for your mobile buyers.

Social

While social has become an everyday, all the time phenomenon, it is far from easy. With all the automation available, there is still no silver bullet. Here are 8 Techniques that Work for B2B Social Media. You have to work at social relationships steadily and you can’t expect unrealistic returns. Let me remind you of the 5 Laws of Real Social ROI.

  1. Explore new and niche social channels: Mainstream social media channels may or may not work for your B2B audience. Consider niche channels where your target buyer spends time. For example, we created this exclusive, invitation-only LinkedIn Group for B2B thought leaders—feel free to join and exchange ideas with B2B thought leaders.
  2. Dedicate resources for social marketing: It takes time and effort to do this right. Rather than trying to build volume through more fans, allocate capable and trained resources to run your social campaigns selectively on the channels that work.
  3. Focus on engagement and keep testing: Leave the selling to your sales team or even to your website. On social media, your buyers are looking for meaningful content to engage and enlighten. That’s what you need to do consistently. Conversion is always the ultimate goal, but you can’t make that the primary one, especially on social platforms.

How will you refresh and rejuvenate your B2B marketing efforts? Feel free to add to the list of recommendations above. I look forward to hearing from you, so please leave me a comment. If you would like to receive updates and information about B2B lead generation, please click here.