A Guide To Building Your Business Through Social Networks

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 6:21pm by Site Administrator

According to recent data in The Economist, nearly 80% of businesses in the U.S. are staffed by fewer than 10 people. Small business owners make up the bulk of entrepreneurship in America, and are tasked with finding cost-effective ways to grow their businesses. Social media outlets may formerly have been thought of as toys that twenty-somethings use to stay connected. But now applications like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are proving they give small business owners the unique opportunity to develop a sense of community within their customer base.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a fairly simple concept that is often misunderstood. The use of certain keywords on your website and in your social media interactions drives your Google search ranking higher. Devoting the time to research and use these keywords pays off in brand awareness and sales. Like any marketing campaign, capitalizing on SEO and social media networks requires clear strategy; without it, your competitors may leave you in the dust.

Benefits to Small Businesses

Companies who have success with social media redefine the traditional approach to promotion. Paid media (advertising) and owned media (your website) should seamlessly converge with what is known as earned media: Facebook likes, tweets and retweets, customer commentary and SEO. To put it simply: today’s best small businesses maximize their advertising dollar by building a community of faithful customers – social media successes are a business’s best friend. Things that once seemed intangible, such as Facebook likes, Yelp reviews, and tweets, are now proof that customers respond to your brand. In turn, these same customers reward your business with public approval and open ended discussions of your business. Not only can you put this direct input into practice, your potential customers can turn to the resources and quickly get what your business is all about.

This doesn’t mean you just “flick on the social media light” and wait for results. You need to spend time developing a lasting online presence. This can mean directly responding to negative feedback, offering online-only perks, or just playfully updating your fans, keeping your business on their minds. Whatever your tailored approach is, you need to make sure it is consistent and engaging. Social media success will always depends upon your level of involvement.

Show Me the Metrics

Any marketer worth their salt knows that measurable results define a successful campaign. With these emerging technologies, it is sometimes difficult to establish useful metrics to justify your marketing budget. The use of social media challenges marketers to expand their definition of return on investment (ROI) to include the positive effects of brand awareness.

While they may find it confusing when Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and FourSquare continually tweak platforms and user interfaces, 72% of small business owners are aware of the need to grasp technologies. Now not all small businesses can directly benefit from the four major social media tools. Before you get really involved in media metrics, make sure you understand how your business operates, what makes it successful, etc. Only then can you understand which tools to approach and the best ways to benefit from them.

But for most models, the ability to establish community within a customer group helps refine customer service response and brand promotion, which ultimately converts to hard sales data. Low-cost social media efforts create an avenue to drive traffic to your website and allow you to offer incentives and promotions without direct marketing costs.

Getting Started

Boosting your social presence starts with simply using the right technology.  A thorough company will want to consider a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, Pinterest pages, a Google+ group, or even a blog. The best way to decide if a tool works for you is to look at the sorts of businesses using a given tool. Is their online presence successful? What is it about a particular tool that makes their business standout?

Consider the following scenario: a client approaches a social media consultant simply hoping to increase likes on their Facebook page. Further discussion reveals that, in fact, what the client really wants is to build out their mailing list in an effort to solidify public understanding of their product. While an admirable goal, the client’s fuzzy grasp of what Facebook likes actually do for their business shows that they have no clear vision of how to best accomplish goals through social media. Instead, the business should not have simply limited themselves to Facebook. Specific goals require specific social media solutions that can only be articulated after properly researching a number of distinct options.

Social Media Musts
 

  • Here are some invaluable lessons you need to know in order to truly capitalize on social media:

    • Add plug-ins to your website that encourage social media sharing. Facebook and Twitter share buttons not only allow your readers to communicate their responses to you, they also let you share your messages with potential customers.

    • When building business pages on Facebook or Google+, ask your family and friends to help with promotion. While this can further your social presence, make sure your business page always comes off as completely professional. Never treat it like your own personal profile!

    • Don’t forget that the vast majority of social media sites have specific rules you need to know and adhere to – if you don’t, you risk being suspended or banned from a given site. This could mean months of your time and expense down the drain!

    • Take notice of customers who faithfully interact and reward them. Consider a “Fan of the Week” promotion with a coupon for services.

    • Tweet regularly. Try posting blog announcements, special incentives to purchase, and useful information, such as a link to a relevant article published elsewhere. Strive to provide consistent content and respond directly to customers who address you on Twitter.

    • When your social media sources are activated, send out a newsletter to your customer base announcing the new contact channels. Include buttons to ensure one-click access to these sources.

    • Mention your social media sites in traditional advertising.

    • Attract new followers with incentives that make them feel special. A discount or free service can drive traffic to your product, and the feeling of inclusiveness can make a first-time customer a regular customer.

    • Directly address your public. Get patrons and potential patrons interested with polls or direct questions on the social media platform of your choosing. Such options work like free, highly specific market studies. No business can afford to pass up on such data opportunities.

    • Seriously consider investing in paid ad options on social media, such as Facebook Ads. Low-cost advertising can produce high traffic and provide excellent demographic metrics.

When it comes down to it, a small business in today’s climate needs to embrace  information-centric customers and the social media they love. Any business that can’t get with the program will end up in technology’s dustbin.

 

8 Sites Every Small Business Owner Should Bookmark

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 2:32pm by Sandy Jones

A small business owner juggles many things a day, such as making sure the business is running smoothly, optimizing an online presence, redesigning a webpage, and making big decisions on the fly. Luckily, there are many invaluable resources out there for small businesses, which will guide you through anything from getting your business idea off the ground, to finding ways advertise for free, to designing a corporate website. Here are some websites that are great bookmarks for every small business owner, entrepreneur, or business professional.

  1. Entrepreneur.com

    Celebrating entrepreneurs since 1973, this online magazine is a great resource to consult to help build and grow your business. You’ll find topics on innovative business practices, tips on new tools and business technologies to optimize business procedures, and answers to any legal or financial questions. The site caters to entrepreneurs and small business owners who are trying to get their businesses to a new level. It’s a resource worth bookmarking when you need inspiration, how-to, or just want to read about creative business ideas.

  2. Smallbiztrends.com

    An award-winning online publication for small business owners, this resource provides business information, tips, and advice while also keeping you up-to-date on the latest trends and news for your business. With more than 200 freelance writers and guest experts, you’ll surely learn new ways to improve your business. Reaching four million readers annually, the site is quoted regularly in media and is a well-known entrepreneurship platform for discussion and curating new business ideas.

  3. StartupNation.com

    A free service founded by leading entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, this site is a leading online resource dedicated to helping small businesses grow and network. With expert blogs, member-to-member networking, helpful forums, and step-by-step advice, it seeks to be a comprehensive source for entrepreneurial success.

  4. Inc.com

    In 2012, Inc. Magazine won an ASME magazine award for General Excellence. It strives to provide everything you need to know to start and grow your business. Covering sales, marketing, technology, management, and financial advice, it pro provocative articles gathered from the web, as well as original content. You’ll find videos, hottest stories from LinkedIn, interviews with leading executives, and even in depth tutorials on writing a business plan and implementing new marketing strategies.

  5. Business.USA.gov

    On October 28, 2011, the President challenged government agencies to go beyond their organizational boundaries and help America’s business community in a new way: providing a "no wrong door" medium where small businesses and exporters could quickly connect to services and information relevant to them, regardless of where the information is located, anywhere in the world. Federal agencies added their resources onto BusinessUSA, consolidating information onto the site, which helps reduce confusion and simplifies the format. Put in simple terms, the website is a collection of inputs from federal agencies that are committed to helping business owners succeed. Though it is still in its beta format, in the coming weeks, it would be an invaluable resource for anyone looking for reliable business-related information.

  6. BusinessWeek

    News, data charts, advice, analytics, 24-hour support, and around the clock updates are all provided by BusinessWeek. The publication was awarded The Arts & Business Innovation Award and has nearly 310,000 professional service subscriptions. With a radio broadcast, in depth articles, stock market analysis, and even a live television channel, the company behind BusinessWeek, Bloomberg, is a great source for any business professional. You’ll find stories on politics and policy, global economic trends, and a special section dedicated to small businesses. Slideshows, multi-media channels, charts, and photo essays also help condense vast amounts of information into a better visual interpretation.

  7. Forbes

    One of the best business news sources in the world, the magazine and online publication is available in many countries, providing not only small businesses but large corporation business executives with real-time reporting, unbiased commentary, expert analysis, and investing advice.

  8. Fortune

    An affiliated publication of CNN Money, Fortune is the online home that serves as CNN’s exclusive business site. It covers personal finance, retirement advice, small business articles, and analysis of today’s most current markets and technologies. It also provides helpful market data alerts, widgets, calculators, and videos to help you grow your business in all aspects.

 

Take a Chance Gambling With Entrepreneurship

Monday, June 4, 2012 at 6:21pm by Sandy Jones

Have you ever spent hours imagining a design for a sports car or wanted to invent something that would change the way people communicate? Perhaps you have a tendency to always “work smarter, not harder” and make things more efficient. These are strong signs that you might have what it takes to become an entrepreneur.

 

Elements of Entrepreneurship

  • The first element of entrepreneurship is the motivation or desire to be one. As mentioned above, entrepreneurs tend to have a desire to make everything they do better, faster, or more efficient. This is what innovation is all about — the desire for improvement. Identifying this trait is the first key to unlocking the potential for great contributions to our world.
  • After you’ve decided to act on your entrepreneurial nature, draw up a business plan. This process is very similar to writing a good essay. Research, brainstorming, organization; all of those elements are used to create a solid business plan that outlines exactly what you intend to do with your ideas. From this statement, you will have a solid foundation to begin your business.
  • After determining what area of business you want to affect, the next step is to come up with your marketing strategy. What good is an innovated product if nobody knows it exists or why it would be beneficial for them? A marketing strategy answers the question of who you intend to market to and why. Evaluate your audience and compare it to the demand. Knowing where to plug into the market of consumers is the most important part of a successful entrepreneurial endeavor.

 

Types of Business Plans

When evaluating a business plan, you have a few options for where to launch your business from.

  • Home: Many a computer software developer started out working from the comfort of his own home. If your business model is small enough, such as remote management, writing a book, or researching something, your product can be used, marketed, and sold straight from home, reducing overhead costs dramatically.
  • Online: For projects strictly related to computers — software, applications, social networks, website development, etc. — you can utilize the benefits of online management. Supposing multiple entrepreneurs are working with you in the "company," you can share the project data and resources via cloud computing or more basic file sharing. This allows more flexibility to include people from different areas while still keeping overhead costs to a minimum.
  • Small businesses: In some cases, your entrepreneurial pursuit may include a small building. Perhaps you want to start a unique coffee shop or a specialty repair shop. You would need to find a space to rent or buy and strategize about location and appeal. This definitely increases the overhead, but marketing will be somewhat simpler.

 

Successful Entrepreneurs

Several successful entrepreneurs have paved the way for millions more to follow in their footsteps. These individuals have proven how a little innovation and planning can go a long way in making your destiny brighter.

  • Burton M. Goldfield
  • Goldfield was recently selected as a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year 2012 program on June 2, 2012 according to a Market Watch press release from The Wall Street Journal. As CEO of TriNet, Goldfield has created a company that focuses on human resources assistance for other businesses and entrepreneurs. His contributions have allowed others to pursue their own dreams of innovation.

  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • The face of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg is one of the youngest, most successful entrepreneurs of this time. The 24-year-old dropped out of Harvard, and according to an article by entrepreneur.com, the social network monger has only held one job: CEO of Facebook. The social network was launched in February 2004 and has since exploded in popularity, putting his net worth at more than $17 billion.

  • SpaceX
  • SpaceX is proof that Americans will take over where the government leaves off if deemed necessary. PayPal inventor Elon Musk has the only way to get to the space station now. His company is the first private company to make the roundtrip flight. It seemed our space explorations were temporarily put on hold with the retirement of NASA, but Musk has brought those dreams back to life. The internet and space entrepreneur intends to further his reaches in space and encourages more people in the private sector to dream just as big.

 

10 Green Businesses that Made It Big

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 4:13am by Site Administrator

Decades ago, many people didn’t care about environmentally-friendly businesses and what they had to offer. Promises of natural ingredients, sustainable practices, and social responsibility were not a priority for the average shopper. But the times have changed and people have turned a new leaf to the idea of going green and are using more natural, sustainable products. Check out these 10 green businesses that made it big.

  1. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day

    Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day is a popular line of earth-friendly home care products and supplies. The products were inspired by an Iowan mother of nine, Mrs. Thelma A. Meyer, who wanted to develop cleaners that "smell like a garden, but clean like the dickens." The phosphate-free and biodegradable products come in a variety of delectable scents and have earned their place as a top-selling household product line.

  2. Tom’s of Maine

    Tom’s of Maine is an eco-friendly manufacturer of personal care products that uses only natural ingredients. Known for their natural fluoride toothpaste and aluminum-free deodorant, Tom’s of Maine has earned a reputation for producing some of the best natural, sustainable, and environmentally-responsible items on the market today.

  3. Seventh Generation

    Seventh Generation is a Vermont-based manufacturer of household and personal care products that have become a favorite among conscious cleaners. Seventh Generation was established in 1988 and has been committed to making safe and sustainable products ever since. The brand continues to grow in terms of revenue and environmental responsibility, earning multiple awards for its business strategies and contributions to Mother Nature.

  4. Burt’s Bees

    Burt’s Bees is one of the most well-known and successful natural personal care brands in the country. From their beloved beeswax lip balms to their natural lotions and potions, Burt’s Bees has a very loyal following that continues to grow year after year. The multi-million dollar enterprise began on a much smaller scale. In 1984, creators Burt Shavitz and Roxanne Quimby started the mom-and-pop company, which only produced beeswax candles at the time. Quimby expanded the brand with natural soaps, perfumes, and their best-selling lip balm. Burt’s Bees was an instant success that was capitalized by their $925 million buyout by Clorox in 2007.

  5. Method

    Method is a San Francisco-based company that produces naturally-derived, biodegradable household and personal care products. This green company was founded by former roommates Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan. Their vision of developing a safe, yet powerful line of cleaners that are fragrant and stylishly designed came to fruition in 2001. Method is one of the fast-growing private companies in America and their eco-friendly practices continue to gain recognition.

  6. Whole Foods

    Whole Foods is a supermarket chain that prides itself on selling natural and organic products. Based in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods got its start as a small natural foods store, called SaferWay. Since its humble beginnings in the early ’80s, Whole Foods has expanded into a massive chain that dominates the natural food supermarket industry. Whole Foods has also succeeded in its social responsibility, earning a top ranking as the Green Power Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2006.

  7. Aveda

    Aveda is an environmentally-friendly manufacturer and distributor of cosmetic products, based in Blaine, Minn. Aveda’s personal care products use non-toxic, plant-derived ingredients that are safe and sustainable. Aveda was founded by Horst Rechelbacher in 1978 and his affinity for natural, healing ingredients led him to create Aveda’s first shampoo. Rechelbacher has since sold Aveda to Estée Lauder, but the separate entity has maintained its commitment to producing natural products for people to enjoy.

  8. Zipcar

    Zipcar is the world’s largest car sharing company that gives drivers a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly alternative to car ownership and car rentals. This American membership car service has taken off with tourists, car-less college students, and those who just need a car for the day.

  9. Trader Joe’s

    Trader Joe’s is a specialty retail grocery store that has spanned across nine states, bringing exotic, natural foods to people. There are more than 365 stores across the country and the number is expected to grow as the chain expands to other states. Trader Joe’s has earned a reputation for being a socially-responsible and eco-friendly store that emphasizes the use of its reusable grocery bags and offers sustainable food.

  10. American Apparel

    American Apparel is a Los Angeles-based clothing manufacturer that prides itself on being sweatshop-free and made in the U.S.A. The successful clothing retailer is most widely known for its basic, solid-color t-shirts and underwear, but has added several garment pieces, accessories, and bedding to the mix. The socially-responsible brand continues to intrigue shoppers with its risquée advertising and bold messages.

10 Worst Celebrity Business Ventures of All Time

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 4:21am by Site Administrator

A celebrity’s stamp of approval can do wonders for a business. But when a celebrity decides to take a business into their own hands, there’s no guarantee it will succeed. Even with the biggest names and the highest hopes, celebrity businesses have proven to be just as much of a crapshoot as the next. Here are the 10 worst celebrity business ventures of all time:

  1. Kim Basinger’s tourist attraction

    Actress Kim Basinger made a bad business move when she decided to purchase the town of Braselton, Ga., to make it a tourist attraction with movie studios and a film festival. Needless to say, the idea never caught on and Basinger’s $20 million purchase went to waste. She sold Braselton for $1 million and went back to what she does best — acting.

  2. Supermodels’ Fashion Café

    In 1995, supermodels Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, Elle MacPherson, Naomi Campbell, and others opened Fashion Café at New York’s Rockefeller Plaza. The restaurant’s fashion-centered theme included display cases of outfits worn by the models and fashion show footage on the TVs, but the oddest part of all was the all-American menu filled with burgers, chicken wings, and pizza. Believe it or not, eating junk food while surrounded by images of skinny models didn’t thrill customers, and the restaurant closed its doors in 1998.

  3. Lenny Dykstra’s Player’s Club magazine

    Former New York Mets player Lenny Dykstra may have won on the ball field, but he struck out one too many times with his personal businesses. Dykstra dabbled in several different businesses and managed to drive all of them into bankruptcy. One of his biggest business failures was the financial magazine Player’s Club. The magazine was geared toward professional athletes looking for financial advice. Ironically, Dykstra was having his own financial crisis. He was accused of credit card fraud, as well as failing to pay printing costs and rent on the magazine’s Manhattan offices. Dykstra eventually filed for bankruptcy and lost all of his businesses.

  4. Hulk Hogan’s Pastamania

    Wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan stepped into the ring of restaurant ownership when he opened up Pastamania, a fast-food restaurant in Minnesota’s Mall of America. Hogan fans could feast on different pasta dishes named after the wrestler, such as "Hulk-a-Roos" and "Hulk-U’s." Although Pastamania was promoted by the World Championship Wrestling, the restaurant didn’t take off as expected and it went under less than a year after opening.

  5. Britney Spears’ Nyla Restaurant

    Britney Spears thought it would be a good idea to merge her two favorite places, New York and Louisiana, by opening up a restaurant called Nyla in Manhattan’s Dylan Hotel. The Cajun-infused restaurant opened in 2002, serving Southern favorites like fried chicken and fried okra. Despite its star-studded support, Nyla got bad reviews and violated several health codes. Spears severed her relationship with the restaurant after a short six months.

  6. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s promotion of Planet Hollywood

    The ’90s dream team of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Sylvester Stallone teamed up to promote the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain. Unlike Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood didn’t meet the mark. Despite the celebrity backing, the restaurant did not turn a profit. The company was forced to file for bankruptcy two times and Schwarzenegger eventually cut ties.

  7. Heidi Montag’s Heidiwood

    The Hills starlet Heidi Montag has made some regrettable decisions throughout her career, but one of her biggest offenses was launching her own clothing line, called Heidiwood. The fashion line featured poorly-made and barely-there pieces that didn’t quite resonate with shoppers. The clothing retailer, Anchor Blue, pulled the plug on Heidiwood less than a year after its creation.

  8. Steven Spielberg’s Dive! Restaurant

    Steven Spielberg has directed some of the most successful movies in history, but directing a restaurant business was a whole other story. Spielberg and Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg launched Dive!, a submarine-shaped restaurant that took customers on a simulated dive and served submarine themed dishes. Despite the clever concept, Dive! sunk in sales and never really developed a loyal fan base. Dive! hit rock bottom in 1999.

  9. The Kardashian’s credit card

    Almost everything the Kardashians touch turns to gold, but that definitely wasn’t the case with the Kardashian Kard. The sisters truly maxed out with their glitzy prepaid debit card that was aimed at teenagers and young adults. The problem was that the Kardashian Kard came with ridiculously high fees and a controversial marketing scheme. After selling a pathetic total of 250 cards, the Kardashians pulled the plug on their card and spurred a $75 million breach-of-contract lawsuit.

  10. Suzanne Somers’ meal prep business

    Suzanne Somer’s Kitchen, a self-serve meal prep company, really missed the mark with customers. The queen of the Thighmaster teamed up with Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown Jr. to launch the DIY family-dinner business that allowed customers to pick their ingredients and prepare meals at the store to take home. Somers and Brown butted heads on the original concept of the business. She insisted on using organic-only food, but Brown disagreed. Suzanne’s Kitchen went up in flames after less than three months.

The 12 Strangest Celebrity Businesses

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 4:14am by Site Administrator

Celebrities are always looking for ways to keep the cash coming in. They never know when they’ll be between projects and need to buy a helicopter or new mansion or 20-carat diamond. To prepare for these unexpected emergencies, many stars try their hand at running a side business or two. Starting clothing lines, restaurants, and production companies are some of the most common, but other celebrities think outside of the box. Way outside of the box. These 12 bigshots got into some industries that don’t exactly fit their famous personalities — or the demands of consumers.

  1. MC Hammer’s search engine

    The rapper who brought us "U Can’t Touch This" and "2 Legit 2 Quit" is now trying to give us a new way to look him up on the Internet. His search engine, called WireDoo, is still not ready for a beta release, but Hammer says it has a "deep search" function that will make it better than Google by bringing up topics related to your keywords. Hopefully Hammer has done his research — though if he did, he probably used Google, which isn’t exactly a good sign.

  2. Gene Simmons’ KISS Kasket

    Merchandising is a huge racket for bands, but no one takes the business of cashing in on your celebrity as seriously as Gene Simmons. The KISS frontman started off selling the KISS-themed coffin online in 2001 and launched the newest versions of the "KISS Kasket" early in 2011. They each cost around $5,000 and there isn’t a huge market for them, but some die-hard fans have purchased them and Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell was buried in one.

  3. Kim Basinger’s town

    Some big-time actors buy islands for pleasure and privacy purposes, but Basinger, a former Bond girl, purchased a whole town as an unexpected business venture in 1989. Braselton, Georgia, located about 50 miles north of Atlanta was sold to Basinger by the Braselton family for $20 million, and she hoped to make it into a tourist attraction and bring a film festival there. Sadly, none of her ideas were realized and she ended up selling the town in 1993 and filing for bankruptcy.

  4. Raquel Welch’s line of wigs

    While other celebrities are trying to make their clothing lines stand out from the rest, Welch went a completely different direction and created a name for herself in the wig industry. You probably didn’t even realize there was a wig industry. Welch, considered a legendary sex symbol in the ’60s and ’70s, has dabbled in other beauty products and accessories but her high-quality wigs are what have really put her ahead of the rest.

  5. Andrew Shue’s mommy blogger network

    This actor is most recognized for his role on Melrose Place but in 2006, he made a switch to the business where the real money is: the Internet. Shue and a partner created CafeMom, a social networking site for moms to share worries, tips, and stories. Sure, Shue isn’t a mom himself, but he saw an untapped market and clearly understands how to make the ladies go crazy. By the next year, CafeMom had the most traffic among women of any website, and by 2009, it was profitable.

  6. Kendra Wilkinson’s stripper poles

    At least Wilkinson, the former girlfriend of Hugh Hefner and current wife of some NFL player, is sticking to what she knows. The Playboy model became the producer of stripper poles and workout videos to go with them. She calls them "sport poles" but we all know what they’re really used for. The poles are supposed to be sturdy and connect to the ceiling so you can spin and slide on them in order to get that stripper-worthy body you’ve been dreaming of.

  1. Venus Williams’ interior design

    It made sense when Williams started a line of tennis clothing. We understood when she wrote a book about how awesome she is and how you can be awesome, too. But you might be surprised to know she also owns an interior design company. Florida, where the company has its headquarters, was surprised, as well, considering Williams didn’t have a license or certification. The company is now licensed and legal and Williams no longer calls herself a certified designer, but does offer at least a meet-and-greet with each client. The other Williams sister is also thinking of a career change — Serena is actually studying to become a nail technician.

  2. Paul Newman’s salad dressing

    The old ladies of America would probably be sad to know that many young people only know Newman for his salad dressing and food line. But before he was dressing up salads, he was a dreamy actor who won several Golden Globes, an Emmy, and an Oscar. He co-founded the company, Newman’s Own, after he and a friend made salad dressing to give as gifts. Everyone loved the dressing so much, the pair made it into a business and slapped Newman’s face onto the label. The company now makes a variety of food items, from pizza sauce to cookies, and all the profit after taxes goes to charities.

  3. 50 Cent VitaminWater

    When 50 Cent leaves the club each night after celebrating someone’s birthday with Bacardi, he likes to rehydrate with VitaminWater. Since buying a minority stake in the company, he thinks you should drink it, too. Fiddy started appearing in ads for the brand and even helped create his own flavor: Formula 50. It tastes like grape, because you can’t spell "grape" without "rap." The recording artist now considers himself the "Air Jordan of VitaminWater," whatever that means.

  4. Marilyn Manson’s absinthe

    If you were curious what Manson’s drink of choice is, now you know. After discovering the spirit with Johnny Depp (who knew they were friends?), Manson now won’t drink any alcohol but absinthe. It was banned in the U.S. until 2007, and Manson decided to jump into the newly opened market. His 66.6% proof beverage, called Mansinthe, is produced in Switzerland and can be bought online by anyone wanting to experience the green fairy.

  5. Donald Trump’s cologne

    Is there any business that the Donald doesn’t have a hand in? Since every celebrity alive seems to have their own fragrance, of course Trump had to get in on the action. He released Donald Trump, The Fragrance in 2004, a product for the man who wants to experience the luxury and success Trump enjoys on a daily basis. The makers of the product say the main scent in the cologne is a secret exotic plant, but it’s probably just businessman sweat and comb-over products. The business mogul also introduced a new scent recently named Success by Trump, but getting anyone to buy these fragrances will be the real success by Trump.

  6. Joe Jackson’s grills

    To cash in on the excitement surrounding the 2010 World Cup, Jackson, father of Michael Jackson, teamed up with an international soccer star to sell barbecue grills. These weren’t just any barbecue grills, though. Clearly futbol fans won’t be satisfied unless their grills are shaped and painted like soccer balls. No word on how much profit was made from that venture, but it probably wasn’t any less successful than his other recent attempts at making money.

52 Creative Ideas for Finding New Clients

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 2:13am by Site Administrator

As a bootstrapper, you know that clients equal business. Without them, you’d just be another one-man (or woman) shop with an office trying not to go into debt. Fighting for and retaining clients against your competition can be a struggle, just like recruiting new employees or searching for a job yourself is a frustrating battle. With this list, we want to help you take a step back from the front lines and get a little creative. Read below for more than 50 ideas on how to find new clients the smart way.

Online Tools and Resources

Utilize the Internet to connect you to clever tools and resources that will help you find new clients.

  1. Make sure your website is in working order: If you hand someone a business card, they probably won’t call you right away, but they will check out your website. If you have an amateur online set up, you won’t come across as cutting edge or professional enough, even if your physical office space is in great shape.
  2. Start blogging: In addition to setting up a professional looking website, start a blog on which you regularly post articles about your field. You can dispense free advice or discuss industry news in a more casual setting than if you met face to face with a new client. You’ll increase your online profile by reaching out to readers all over the world.
  3. Maintain a strong presence online: Regularly visit other blogs and websites in your field and comment on different posts and message boards. Most sites will allow you to link back to your own blog or website. Becoming a known fixture online is free advertising, and others will come to recognize your level of expertise.
  4. Hot Gigs: This online staffing exchange can help you find new clients looking for qualified vendors and project managers.
  5. Word of Mouth Marketing Association: This online community supports entrepreneurs by allowing them access to a job board where they can find new clients. Business owners can also read articles, share tips and meet up at events through the organization.
  6. Web Designers: 5 Steps to Dozens of New Clients: This detailed article from Interspire.com reveals 5 Internet-based tricks and tools that Web designers can use to win over new clients.
  7. Free Tips from the Marketing Mentor: The Marketing Mentor Ilise Benun sends out free tips to subscribers who want advice on attracting new clients.
  8. YouTube: Direct a YouTube video that showcases your company’s services in a creative way. You can embed the video in your website or blog, e-mail it to friends, family and clients, or just wait and see how popular it becomes on its own.

For Freelancers

Freelancers in search of new clients should check out these job boards, which post resumes, offer tips for finding new gigs and encourage networking throughout the freelancing community.

  1. 37signals Gig Board: Clients can search this job board for freelancing help with copywriting, Web design, programming and other techie tasks.
  2. Writerlance: This site is "connecting writers with buyers." Sign up to start placing your bid on quality projects.
  3. Guru.com: Guru.com boasts that it is "the world’s largest online service marketplace." Register your skills here to meet new clients.
  4. sologig: Sologig posts "superior projects" for "independent talent." Browse through the job listings and place your bid on top projects which could lead to long lasting client relationships.
  5. Freelancers Network: This UK-based network is worth checking out if you live in the area or feel like you can compete with British professionals from home.
  6. iFreelance: Use this site to find new gigs and start an ongoing business relationship with new clients.
  7. eLance: Web programming, design, writing, sales and other jobs are available here. Register online for a clever way to meet new clients.

Marketing Strategies

Without a solid marketing strategy, you’ll never be able to reach out to quality clients. This list documents clever ways to modify your marketing plan so that your business achieves maximum exposure.

  1. Create an e-mail campaign: Web-based tools like Breeze can help you design and create attractive e-mail campaigns that you can use to announce your business deals, special events and other news-worthy items that will attract new business.
  2. Find New Clients: Check out this article by Bernadette Doyle to learn how to successfully market yourself and your company so that you become attractive to your specific audience.
  3. New Client Marketing Institute: Turn to this website for free how-to articles that will help improve your marketing strategies and attract clients.
  4. MarketingProfs.com: This online networking community of marketing professionals hosts a job board, blog, information about upcoming special events, and features lots of valuable marketing resources and forums that promote communication among business owners.
  5. CPA Marketing Challenge: Clients Quick and Easy: This guide offers fail-proof advice on how to attract clients you’ll work with forever.
  6. shoutlet: This social media marketing tool allows entrepreneurs to manage contacts, newsletters, mailing lists, tracking tools, and digital content storage capabilities.
  7. New Clients Now! Marketing Strategies for Freelance Success: Freelancers have unique marketing needs, and this article reveals simple but effective secrets for success.
  8. Entrepreneur.com: Utilize this valuable resource for all kinds of articles and advice on marketing, attracting new clients and other topics related to owning a growing business.
  9. As your business grows, advertise to existing clients: Just because you’ve had the same client for 5 years doesn’t mean they remain aware of your company’s most recent progress. Continue to market to existing clients by notifying them of new services, special deals and more.
  10. Become an industry expert: Check out this article from Write2Market.com for tips on how to gain publicity and a new client base by becoming a go-to expert in your field.
  11. The Freelancer’s New Client Primer: Great tips supplied in this article include perfecting the art of selling, building rapport among industry professionals and developing a relationship strategy.
  12. CafePress.com: Design and order your own promotional items to hand out at trade shows or to give as gifts for existing clients.

Networking Ideas

Let these tools and guides inspire you to tap into all of your contact resources to network, network, network.

  1. Reconnect With Your Alma Mater: Ework.com writer Rob Einaudi urges professionals to go back to school in the search for new clients. He notes that "many alumni associations have large databases containing a wealth of useful information and contacts."
  2. Keep your portfolio in the trunk of your car: You never know when a new opportunity might strike. While it’s best not to show up to a wedding with a bulging binder under your arm, make sure you have a few examples of some of your best work, and keep the phone numbers of references handy in case a new business relationship materializes.
  3. LinkedIn: This popular online social network connects professionals, students and alumni. Become a member and set up your own profile to strengthen existing business relationships or start new ones.
  4. Capazoo: This online social networking community supports blogs, videos and music files so that you can reach your customers more creatively.
  5. Doostang: This career hub doubles as a networking site for those looking to expand their audience and professional contacts. Doostang is currently invite-only, so ask around to see if you can score an invitation.
  6. Gather: Members of this social network can post photos, engage in group chats, upload videos and make new contacts.
  7. Attending Trade Fairs/Exhibitions to Meet New Clients: Discover what other professionals have to say about networking with potential clients at trade shows.
  8. 10 Tips for Successful Business Networking: Nervous about getting out in the real world to meet new people? Use this guide to arm yourself with solid networking strategies.
  9. Networking Tips: How to Work a Room: Check out this article from the University of California – Berkeley’s career center. Great tips include: "check your attitude", "practice and perfect your self-introduction" and "risk rejection".
  10. Meetup: Meetup connects people who share the same interests, business-related or otherwise, and encourages them to organize real world events to network, communicate and foster new relationships.
  11. Business Networking for Entrepreneurs: This resource from About.com has lots of clever ideas for giving your networking skills a boost. Learn about "the importance of being memorable" and "how to cultivate a network of endless referrals."
  12. Ryze: This popular business networking site connects users to new clients and business partners through its professional online community.
  13. How to Network: For Introverts: This article from BusinessPundits.com coaxes shy business professionals into the profitable world of business marketing.
  14. 8 Networking Tips: Ideas like "brainstorm for contacts" and making sure to follow up are simple but extremely effective strategies that will help you find new clients.

Guides

Read these articles and guides for quality information on seeking out and retaining profitable clients.

  1. How to Attract New Clients to Your Work at Home Business: Work-at-home professionals sometimes don’t get as much respect as entrepreneurs who operate out of a traditional office. Use this guide to develop a marketing plan that will bring clients to your home office.
  2. How to Land New Clients Fast: This step-by-step article urges business owners to "be bold, be creative" and "give up your fears, doubts and insecurities" before actively pursuing new clients.
  3. 101 Ideas to Get More Freelance Work and Generate New Client Leads: Save this resource from FreelanceSwitch to get lots of clever ideas for bulking up your business and fostering relationships with newly acquired clients.
  4. Five Ways to Cross-Promote to Attract More Customers While Spending Less: Start a partnership with another company in your field or active in a different industry to sponsor an event, engage in product sharing or refer customers back and forth.
  5. CareerJournal.com: This "executive career site" from the Wall Street Journal includes a job board, a collection of business-related tools and many other resources to help your business grow.
  6. Small Business Resource Center: Nielsen’s Professional Network publishes this online collection of articles, tools, job classifieds and other resources to increase your presence among potential clients.
  7. Target Ideal Buyers to Get More Customers: This post from the StreetSmart Marketer blog dispenses critical advice for recognizing "ideal buyers," who are "easier to sell…more profitable" and "likely to become the best clients."
  8. Business Planning: Pitching successful campaigns to clients all starts with a solid business plan. Use this guide to develop an effective, workable strategy that will attract the clients you want.
  9. 21 Strategies to Attract New Clients: This article is full of ideas for bringing new clients into your office.

Get Involved

The following ideas will help you get out of the office and get involved with the community.

  1. Leverage Your Hobbies: MsMoney.com suggests that entrepreneurs take a look at what interests them outside of work, and then take steps to pursue it professionally. Rob Einaudi writes, "if you are an avid skier, perhaps a ski resort, tour company, or retailer you frequent could use your services. The fact that you already "speak their language" will make you a top candidate."
  2. Volunteering: Use a site like Volunteer Match to find volunteering opportunities that match your interest and are located in your area. Volunteering is a great way to meet individuals from all walks of life and develop with them a special bond.
  3. Donate your services: If you don’t have time to give up your weekends or evenings to helping with a volunteering project, consider donating your services, whether it’s printing services, marketing assistance or legal help to a charity in your area. You’ll enter into a whole new world of valuable networking and new business opportunities.
  4. Join a professional organization: Join up with the local chapter of your field’s professional organization. You’ll meet other professionals at all levels at special events, lectures and more.

Review of “Escape from Corporate America”

Friday, May 27, 2011 at 5:20pm by Site Administrator

Pamela Skillings has produced the “how-to” book for anyone who dreads going to their miserable job. Escape from Corporate America outlines what the downtrodden toiler needs to do to actually get up out of his or her cubicle and chase down his or her dreams. Everyone has been there before; you hate your job but you feel like you’ll stuck there forever. Skillings has verbalized our collective feelings in her easy-to-read guide.

Outlining the reasons that we feel helpless and powerless when we toil away in cubicle land, Skillings has provided the kick in the pants many of us need to regain control over our work life. She doesn’t leave you feeling worse about yourself, which is what many of these types of books wind up doing. On the contrary, she addresses our feelings and then makes us realize that we have the capability to actually make the life changing move.

Immediately, Skillings connects with her readers as she says, “I wrote this book because I know exactly how you feel.” We learn that she was a high-powered mover and shaker in the corporate world but felt that her creativity was being sapped on a daily basis. Tired of just thinking about changing careers and idly threatening to do so, she talked to the right people that could help her go through with it. She is not trying to act like she’s better than us because she actually did the make the big move, rather she keeps her humility in tact as she continually sympathizes with our situation. Over and over, she asks why else would we be reading this book if we weren’t ready to grab hold of our lives and leave Corporate America behind us?

Escape from Corporate America is not a rant about what’s wrong with big business. She doesn’t trash capitalism or anything like that. She even cites some great companies to work for. The essence of her message is that as individuals we have to make changes to better suit ourselves. The message is clear that Corporate America isn’t going to look out for the little guy and take care of us through all our travails. Only we can provide the sense of fulfillment that we crave. Beautifully juxtaposing the corporate world and the salvation that awaits us when we do leave adds the extra incentive we need to make our move.

 

Skillings would be better suited make a more stark contrast between the two worlds presented in her offering. Sometimes, the reader feels unsure about how bad Corporate America really is. Nobody wants to sit and read outright bashing of establishment, but sometimes it helps to keep the blood flowing if there are two sides. It also helps when one side is so atrocious that we loathe their existence. Skillings lacks this clarity at times.

Escape from Corporate America is a must-read if you’re considering changing careers and working for yourself. At times, this book can be your best friend when everyone else is telling you that you’re crazy for going down this road. Skillings has come up with a homerun.

To buy the book and read more words of wisdom from Skillings, check out her motivational blog.

 

 

100 Best DIY Sites on the Web

Saturday, February 26, 2011 at 6:06pm by Site Administrator

DIY offers a great way to take on personal projects and make things your own. Although often DIY focuses primarily on home improvement, the DIY ethic expands out to arts, technology, and so much more. Check out these categories and more in our list of DIY sites that’s sure to get you inspired to get up and make something yourself.

Home Improvement

In these sites, you’ll find fun and useful projects to take on at home.

  1. DoItYourself: Check out this site’s featured projects for detailed DIY instructions.
  2. Mike Holigan’s How-To Library: On this site, you’ll find loads of information for home building and remodeling.
  3. DIY Homes: Learn about home improvement, repair and more from this site.
  4. Acme How to: Learn how to do just about anything in your home, from plumbing to pest control.
  5. HammerZone: Learn the art of handymanlyness on HammerZone.
  6. DIY Fix It: On this site, you’ll get access to loads of guides and answers to your DIY questions.
  7. HGTV: This site offers a great source for home improvement inspiration.
  8. Home Improvement: Learn how to buy materials, save money, and more with this site.
  9. Home Tips: Check out DIY projects for health and safety, plumbing, and so much more on Home Tips.
  10. Home Doctor: Find DIY tips and projects on this home improvement site.
  11. Hometime: Get step-by-step guides and more on this site.
  12. Ask the Builder: On this site, you’ll get tips from home improvement guru Tim Carter.
  13. HomeImprove: Find tips and ideas for home repair, remodeling, and more on this site.
  14. Easy2DIY: Check out this site for animated tutorials that walk you through each project.
  15. Bob Vila: Get DIY help from the master himself.
  16. Curbly: Find cool design ideas in this DIY design community.
  17. DIYnot: This DIY site is complete with a wiki, forum, and books.
  18. Ikea Hacker: Ikea Hacker offers great ideas for getting more out of your Ikea furniture.
  19. DIYonline: This site makes it easy to create your own design online.
  20. DIY Ideas: Get inspiration for your home and garden with this site.

Arts & Crafts

Whether you want to learn how to make your own macro lens, or just find a knitting pattern, these sites will have what you’re looking for.

  1. DIY Photography: Learn how to achieve looks and create your own studio gear with this site.
  2. Love You Deer: Check out DIY clothing, arts, and crafts on this site.
  3. Max is Now: Max is Now offers a great source for arts and DIY.
  4. DIY Design It Yourself: Use this site to design your own books, Tshirts, and more.
  5. Photojojo: Check out Photojojo to find fun photography hacks and DIY projects.
  6. We Make Money Not Art: Check out DIY art projects and much more on this site.
  7. Craftster: Find out what other crafters are up to in these forums.
  8. Craftform: Showcase your work and check out what others have done on Craftform.
  9. I-Craft: On this site, you can find your favorite crafts and save them in your craft box.
  10. wiseNeedle: Get yarn reviews, advice, and more for knitters here.
  11. Crafter’s Community: Find seasonal crafts, resources, and lots more on this site.
  12. Get Crafty: Get Crafty features forums, how-tos, guides, and more cool crafty stuff.
  13. Make Stuff: The crafts and projects on Make Stuff range from seasonal projects to gardening.
  14. Craftown: Visit this crafters resource center for loads of projects and illustrated lessons.
  15. Knitty: Check out Knitty for "little purls of wisdom."
  16. Craftzine: Figure out what to do with leftover Easter Peeps, plastic bags, and more.
  17. Chic Knits: This site offers knitting patterns for clothes that don’t look anything like your Grandma’s wardrobe.
  18. My Craft Book: Find easy and fun crafts on this site.

Tech

Find everything you want to know about hacking gadgets, electronics, and more from these sites.

  1. Makezine: Learn how to make your own fun electronic and tech toys with this site.
  2. Freedom to Tinker: Check out this site to learn how to modify and repair tech devices.
  3. Hack This Site!: Test your hacking skills on the challenges presented in this site.
  4. Popular Mechanics: This online magazine offers information on everything from green living to buying a car.
  5. I-Hacked: Find new and exciting ways to make technology work for you with I-Hacked.
  6. Gadget Hacks: Check out this site to get connected with all sorts of sites that offer hacking projects.
  7. Layada: Visit this site to find all sorts of fun tech hacks.
  8. Console Hacks: This site lists some of the best published hacks for consoles.
  9. Hacked Gadgets: Visit Hacked Gadgets to learn how to get more out of your gadgets.
  10. Inventgeek: This site celebrates reinvention, offering loads of fun and useful DIY projects.
  11. DIY:Happy: Hack gadgets, software and more with DIY:happy’s guides.
  12. Wired How-To Wiki: On this collaborative site, you’ll find tech projects, hacks, tricks, and tips.
  13. Hack a Day: This site features a new hack every day.
  14. MakeUseOf: Check out web apps, tools, and more on this DIY site.
  15. DIY Live: Learn how to create and do things with technology using DIY Live.
  16. Hack N Mod: Take on these awesome hacks, mods, and projects.
  17. Zedomax: Find super-cool DIYs, hacks, and more on Zedomax.

Lifehacking

These sites present great ways to apply the DIY principle to everyday life.

  1. Lifehackery: Check out Lifehackery to turn everyday objects into useful things.
  2. DIY Planner: This community likes to take productivity into their own hands.
  3. Productivity 101: Increase your personal productivity using tips and tools from this site.
  4. Instigator Blog: Make more out of your ideas with the help of this blog.
  5. 43 Folders: This blog, created by Merlin Mann, focuses on organization, productivity, and getting things done.
  6. Life Optimizer: Become more successful and productive with this site.
  7. Lifehacker: The Lifehacker blog offers lots of technology and productivity hacks designed to make your life easier.
  8. Ririan Project: Check out this personal development blog to find out how you can apply DIY principles to your life.
  9. Dumb Little Man: Here you’ll find loads of tips for productivity, projects, frugality, and more.
  10. Aim for Awesome!: Find tips for awesome personal development on this site.
  11. FlyLady: Aimed at housewives, FlyLady aims to help you get control of your home.
  12. Business Hackers: Here you’ll find loads of information on how you can get work done quickly.
  13. LifeDev: Take a DIY approach to life development using this site.
  14. The Next 45 Years: Visit The Next 45 Years to learn about Lifehacking for the future.
  15. HackCollege: HackCollege features all of the hacks a college student might want to know about-from "college drinking games to study skills."
  16. Get Rich Slowly: JD at Get Rich Slowly has lots of great ideas and advice for DIY frugality.
  17. The Optimized Life: Use the tips you’ll find on this site to make your life the best it can be.
  18. Frugal Hacks: This site turns DIY into frugality.
  19. Zen Habits: Hack your life to zen with this site.
  20. LifeClever: This site is always helpful, whether they’re teaching you to organize your workspace or just find cheap gas.
  21. Mind Hacks: Get a look at what’s going on inside your mind, and take it to the next level with this site.
  22. Write to Done: Learn how to hack writing with this incredibly helpful blog.
  23. Wise Bread: Follow this site for great tips on DIY frugality.
  24. Biz Plan Hacks: Use the tips from this site to make life as a business owner easier.
  25. Christian Lifehacking: This blog features lifehack tips and tools focused on Christianity.
  26. Lifehack: Lifehack’s posts focus on organization, inspiration, and productivity.
  27. Study Hacks: This site offers lifehack advice for students.

General

Check out these sites to find anything and everything DIY.

  1. DIY Life: Check out DIY Life for projects ranging from tech to home improvement.
  2. wikiHow: Visit wikiHow to make use of the world’s largest collaborative how-to manual.
  3. Instructables: Find out how to do projects from your peers on Instructables.
  4. Hackszine: On Hackszine, you’ll find everything from Facebook to food.
  5. Hints-n-Tips: Check out this site to find practical information for just about every topic out there.
  6. SoYouWanna: Learn what you want to do on this advice site.
  7. ReadyMade: On ReadyMade, you’ll learn how to make items for your home and more.
  8. Daily DIY: Make and modify everyday items to create something great on this site.
  9. Do It 101: Check out this site to learn about gardening, technology, health, and more.
  10. ElephantStaircase: ElephantStaircase boasts a wiki as well as a number of different project pages.
  11. How To Do Things: Learn how to do things ranging from raising earthworms to how to buy sod.
  12. DIY Chatroom: Although this forum primarily focuses on home improvement, you’ll find great tips for computer repairs and upgrades as well as automotive repairs.
  13. The Do-It-Yourself Channel: Visit Propeller’s DIY channel to find instructional information from around the web.
  14. How2pointoh: Check out this blog for projects ranging from magnetic potholders to time lapsing.
  15. Wikia DIY Culture: Find arts, crafts, games, and lots more in this source.
  16. DIY Network: Find products, advice, and more for DIY projects through this network.
  17. HowStuffWorks: Although it’s not exclusively a how-to site, HowStuffWorks will give you the insight you need to complete your DIY projects.
  18. eHow: On this site, you’ll find out how to do nearly anything you can imagine.

100 Tiny Tips to Create and Maintain Loyal Customers

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 4:27pm by Site Administrator

The struggle to attract and retain key customers is a constant one, but business owners and freelancers have lots of tools and resources to help them when marketing themselves and their businesses. Web-based solutions produce hassle-free services and efficient communication options, while networking events and online opportunities are perfect for making new contacts. This list is full of ideas to improve your branding techniques, e-mail etiquette, website design and other hacks to help you figure out ways to keep customers from flirting with the competition.

Where to Find Them

You’ll never beef up your client roster if you don’t know where to find new customers. Maintaining a presence on select sites and at certain events will increase your profile too.

  1. Conventions: Get yourself an invite to conventions that market to your target audience. Everyone’s already in the mood to network anyway. Just don’t forget to bring your business cards.
  2. Airports: If you travel on a week day, you’ll probably notice that a good percentage of your fellow passengers are business travelers. Strike up a conversation with someone about their business, and you may find yourself gaining access to a whole new demographic, region or industry.
  3. Volunteer events: Whether you’ve got your eye on snagging the nonprofit as a future client or just want to meet people from a range of backgrounds while showing off your community efforts, volunteer events and fundraisers are a great way to meet customers.
  4. LinkedIn: This popular social networking site connects professionals and alumni to forge profitable relationships.
  5. Ryze: Ryze "helps you expand your business network."
  6. Xing: Xing is a sleek social networking site that offers professional contact management, a business accelerator and other cool apps.
  7. Facebook: Get on Facebook to market yourself to a particular demographic, keep track of customers and set up groups.
  8. MeetUp: Members of this site organize get togethers based on interest and location.
  9. Chamber of Commerce: Visit your chamber of commerce to gain access to their business mailing lists. You’ll have names and contact information for some of the leading professionals in your area.
  10. Industry-related seminars: Even though you might think you wouldn’t be able to learn anything new from a seminar, attend anyway so that you can meet your target audience and offer them supplemental advice and services.
  11. Guru: Guru is an online "marketplace" for freelancers. You might be able to find new customers willing to trade services or share mailing lists.
  12. Elance: Elance is another freelancer-oriented site that connects business professionals and jump starts new partnerships.

Networking Tips

Once you’ve met your target audience, you’ve got a small window of opportunity to make an impression. Check out these networking tips that will make you and your business more attractive.

  1. Business cards: Never leave home without your business cards. Visit this site to design some for free.
  2. Pass out coupons: Attach a coupon to your business card to encourage future contact.
  3. Stand out: This post from Freelance Switch gives freelancers plenty of quality ideas for standing out in a competitive field.
  4. Host your own networking event: Under the guise of bringing together your friends and business associates, plan a happy hour to meet new customers for yourself.
  5. Pass out free stuff: This tip works especially well if you’re hosting the event. Pass out promotional items that boast your logo as prizes or to put in goody bags.
  6. Sponsor a contest: Sponsor a contest in your community that awards the winner a temporary gig designing one of your products or an invite at an industry-related convention. Write up a press release for the paper and advertise at schools, churches, community centers and more.
  7. Engage others: Whether it’s by introducing yourself to the "loners" or starting up a group conversation, bring different groups together. You’ll be remembered as someone who’s inclusive and knows a lot of people (even if you really don’t.)
  8. Make notes: Make plenty of notes to help you remember the people you meet. You can jot down a few key words on the back of someone’s business card which will give you something personal to say when you follow up.
  9. Know your competition: If you don’t know your competition ahead of time, you may wind up handing out coupons or pitching a project to the wrong person.
  10. Follow up: In the world of networking, the follow up is key. Send an e-mail, a coupon or a handwritten note.

Website Tricks

Make sure your website is user-friendly and attractive otherwise your future clients will leave you for someone sleeker and more organized.

  1. Update your blog: Your business blog keeps customers in the know about upcoming projects and the daily grind at your office. Use this guide to ensure maximum blog usability.
  2. Create a simple navigation system: Designing a clear, simple navigation system will help customers find out information about your company easily and quickly.
  3. Write an "about" page: Don’t forget to publish a short bio about yourself and the history of the company. Your new customers will want to do a background check before they enlist your services, and it’s best if they hear the truth from you.
  4. Link with CSS: The website NetMechanic.com encourages Web designers to set up their links with CSS. Follow the tutorial to find out how.
  5. Make searching for information easy: Include a search box that allows visitors to search for information and archives on your site easily.
  6. Give customers access to their own account information: Let your customers have secure, online access to their account information, including billing statements, deadlines, services requested and more.
  7. Set up 24/7 support: A live chat software program will give customers online support anytime they need it.
  8. Link your homepage to your logo: This tip isn’t just about website usability: any action you can take to promote your logo is a smart move.
  9. Advertise security: If you want customers to buy products from your website, you need to convince them that your site is secure.
  10. Encourage feedback: Set up a feedback form on your site to let your customers know you care what they think and are dedicated to making improvements.

Spoiling Them

There’s no better way to keep your clients loyal than to spoil them. From sending out a birthday surprise to sharing your contacts, check out this list of fresh ideas.

  1. Celebrate their anniversary: When a customer has reached the one year mark of doing business with you, give them a break on their monthly invoice or attach a free service or coupons to their regular services.
  2. Host free clinics and workshops: Educate your clients by offering them clinics and workshops that teach them how to perform simple tasks that you normally do for free anyway. Just don’t give away your major secrets!
  3. Remember their birthday: Send a perky e-mail or have flowers delivered to a customer’s office on their birthday. Chances are, everyone else will be doing the same thing, and if you don’t, you’ll stand out: in a bad way.
  4. Send a thank you gift when a customer renews a contract: Don’t act like a renewed contract is expected. Even if it’s coming from one of your most loyal customers, make it a big deal and take them out to a special lunch.
  5. Allow them to pre-order new services: If you’re about to launch a new product that will undoubtedly sell out, give your loyal customers first dibs. Let them pre-order the item or hold on to a few to send as gifts.
  6. Share your mailing list: You may not want to give out your top secret contacts, but sharing a few key e-mail addresses and phone numbers from your Rolodex will make them feel special. They may even return the favor.
  7. Nominate them for awards: Nominate your top clients for community awards to show off their business talents and community spirit. They won’t be able to thank you enough for the personal gratification and free PR.
  8. Provide plenty of perks: The next time someone sends you free tickets to the symphony or a heavily discounted reservation at a bed and breakfast, consider passing them on to your best customers.
  9. Give them space: Your customers might feel too pressured or overwhelmed if you’re constantly throwing specials and reminders in their face.
  10. Get personal: Blogger Eric J. Adams suggests cultivating a personal relationship with your customers in order to inspire loyalty. Keep it simple, though: Adams cautions, "don’t expect too much from your newfound intimacy; two minutes of chitchat will only go so far."
  11. Gift giving Dos and Don’ts: Before you shower your customer with gifts during holiday time, read this post to anticipate appropriate gift ideas.
  12. Make house calls: No, we don’t mean showing up to your customer’s house in the middle of the night with a contract that needs to be signed, but making occasional trips to their office to deliver confidential agreements will earn you brownie points.
  13. Emphasize quality: Always pledge to do whatever it takes to deliver quality products and services to your client. They’ll move on to the competition if you start offering defective merchandise, hiring lazy employees or missing deadlines.

Being Attentive

Customers like to assume that they’re your number one priority. Even if you’re juggling a large client roster, make sure to check in on each customer every once in a while to give them the personal attention they expect.

  1. Encourage partnerships: Put your clients in touch with each other and encourage them to make partnerships of their own. They’ll see you as a leader in your field and a "go to" person for meeting new people and starting up projects.
  2. Hand out your cell phone number: This isn’t always a smart idea, so make sure you give out your cell phone number to very close customers only. They’ll feel honored to have gotten such a sacred number.
  3. Send handwritten notes: Quick e-mails are okay, but if you really want to spoil your clients, send them a handwritten note as a follow up or to thank them for their business.
  4. Send out holiday greetings: Whether it’s a well-designed e-mail at Thanksgiving or a funny card for St. Patrick’s Day, show your clients that you care all year round.
  5. Follow up after a service call: After a customer receives a service from your company, make a phone call, send an e-mail or mail them a feedback form to find out if they’re satisfied with the results.
  6. Give them plenty of notice: If you’re going to be out of town or unavailable, let your clients know way ahead of time. Give them alternative contact numbers in case they have an emergency when you’re gone, and make sure they’re well taken care of before you take a vacation.
  7. Hire interns: If you can’t afford to hire a full-time employee to write thank you notes and monitor customer satisfaction, hire an intern to do the grunt work instead of failing to do it altogether.
  8. Design effective e-mail campaigns: Periodically send out well-designed e-mail campaigns to touch base with your customers, update them on specials and introduce them to new hires.
  9. Show them how current events affect their services: If the economy is bad, let your customers know how gas prices will affect your business or if you expect to cut back on certain goods and services. Giving your customers insight into how your business works will make them feel included.
  10. Communicate during a project: Give your customers updates regarding their project, especially if you think you might need more time on a deadline. They’ll be more understanding if you talk to them ahead of time than if you wait until you’re already behind schedule.
  11. Train employees to be customer service professionals: Even if you don’t have a separate customer service department, take the time to train your employees to work with your customers in a variety of crisis management situations and phone skills.
  12. Don’t go into hiding when a problem erupts: If you’re approached with a client problem, don’t stop answering the phones. Tackle the issue head on and take responsibility when necessary.
  13. Continue to make improvements: Asking for feedback isn’t any good if you don’t actually make improvements and listen to your customer’s complaints. Showing them results means showing them you care.
  14. Prioritize: Use a smart Web-based system like Neptune to help you prioritize and keep track of how much time you spend on each customer.

Exclusive Specials

Give your customers exclusive access to specials and deals they wouldn’t receive with any other business.

  1. Throw an annual party for your regulars: Everyone loves a party. Gather all your regular customers together and treat them to a special dinner. Better yet, invite them over to your home for a more intimate party.
  2. Go above and beyond: If you’re in the print making business and find out that your loyal customer’s daughter needs a sign for her softball championship, see if you can offer a discounted price for the job, or even design one for free.
  3. Give your customers VIP online access: When customers shop online, give them a special promo code or discount.
  4. Sign on specials: Award new customers with "sign on specials" after they make their first purchase. Give them a free gift or a discounted price for the first few months.
  5. Reward your best customers: Try out these ideas from Starbucks customer Ron Lieber, who suggests throwing members-only parties and offering free coffee.
  6. Customized gifts: Don’t limit yourself to creating promotional products for your business only. With a program like Qoop, you can create stickers, posters, keychains, calendars and more for your customers, featuring their business logo or photos from company events and fundraisers.
  7. Free upgrades: Whether or not it’s a special occasion, periodically reward special clients with free upgrades, like same day shipping or including bonus products.
  8. Offer reduced cost shipping: Give your frequent customers a break when it comes to shipping prices. E-mail them a members only code to enter into the online shopping register at checkout.
  9. Free samples: Free samples not only make your customers feel spoiled, they also promote a new product.

Hassle-Free Services

Making things easy for your customers will keep them coming back for more. From interactive calendars to quick and easy accounting software, these tools will make your business transactions run more smoothly.

  1. MOO: MOO lets you design promotional items and print images that will come in handy when you want to advertise a new product or send a greeting card.
  2. Harvest: This time tracking tool will help ensure that you don’t overcharge clients.
  3. Escrow: If you sell products from your website, use this program to protect yourself and your clients from fraud.
  4. Box: Keep all of your customers’ files safe by working with this Web-based file sharing system. You won’t have to worry about misplacing important documents or losing contracts anymore.
  5. BillMyClients.com: This user-friendly bill pay system sends invoices through e-mail or the USPS quickly and securely.
  6. FreshBooks: This popular online invoicing and time tracking system will help you manage your finances more accurately.
  7. Spongecell Calendar: Create and share a Web-based calendar so that you customers have easy access to your schedule.
  8. LogMeIn: Business owners can stay connected to their work and their customers by managing files, conducting online meetings and more with LogMeIn.
  9. PunchyTime: This time tracker offers an easy, fun way to keep track of your employee’s time as they network with clients, work on projects and even do business after hours.
  10. Breeze: Another way to keep in touch is to update your clients with e-mail campaigns designed with Breeze.
  11. Dimewise: This economical, remote access financial solution will allow you to organize invoices and reports securely and accurately.
  12. Veetro Help Desk Software: Set up your own help desk to assist customers with technical problems.
  13. Backpack: Backpack helps you "organize your business and share information with your team," including anxious customers who want up-to-date info. on their latest projects.
  14. Vstore: This free software gives business owners the tools they need to set up shop online. You can customize different designs to reflect your website’s theme and online store.
  15. Veetro Management Reports: This smart software program helps business owners create reports with "real-time statistical reporting on all aspects of…business performance." Your customers will love being able to access organized, accurate information about their accounts and your company.
  16. Google Alerts: Set up Google Alerts so that you’ll be notified whenever one of your customers is featured in a story online. You can send them the link or congratulate them on the new press.

Effective, Convenient Communication

Keep your customers engaged by promoting effective, convenient communication. This list features Web conferencing tools, project management software and more.

  1. TokBox: Use this live video chat application to talk to your customers in real-time without having to drive to meetings.
  2. HyperOffice: Share files and receive customer input on special projects when you work with HyperOffice.
  3. activeCollab: This program helps you "eliminate stress" and "manage success." You’ll be able to involve your customers in whatever project you’re working on through customizable design options, website integration and more.
  4. ShareItNow 4.9.02: Use ShareItNow to share items on your desktop with clients for easy project management and collaboration.
  5. Zoho Web Conferencing: Instead of zooming all over town for different meetings, encourage your customers to use this simple Web conferencing solution.
  6. Campfire: Campfire is an application that features Web-based group chats, fire sharing and image sharing, so that you can work with customers online anytime.
  7. EyeOS: This open source tool goes beyond project management. Open up your operating system to customers and vendors, so that you can conduct meetings, design presentations and access all your files from any computer with an Internet connection.
  8. Skype: This popular online voice messaging service is great for quick communiques with customers.
  9. Meebo: Meebo combines your buddy lists from instant messaging services like AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk and others. You can log onto your account anywhere, not just your home computer.
  10. Basecamp: This popular application organizes all kinds of information and communication histories within your company and client list. It’s password protected, ensuring a secure system.
  11. Wikis: Set up a community portal for information sharing and open communication by creating wikis on your company website.
  12. Userplane: This collection of online communication applications includes a Webchat services, Mediaplayer and more, allowing you to chat via text, voice or video.
  13. Google Talk: This very simple instant communications solution is a popular Google app that has file transfer capabilities, Gmail notifications and more.
  14. Communication tips for the technology age: Review this post titled "Is it Time to Consider New Ways to Communicate?" to come up with cutting edge communication techniques for savvy customers.
  15. Don’t disappear on the weekends: If you’re the owner of a business, customers expect you to put in more time than your regular employees. Freelance Switch encourages you to "communicate promptly, even on the weekend."
  16. Brush up on e-mail etiquette: E-mail is becoming the official way to communicate in professional circles, and even if you think you have perfect grammar and plenty of tech savvy, your e-mail etiquette could need a makeover. Check here for tips.
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