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.

 

7 Businesses That Failed at Twitter

Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 9:13pm by Sandy Jones

The social media revolution has become an integral component of businesses worldwide. However, some businesses may not entirely grasp how they can most effectively use social media to promote their brand. Occasionally, a Twitter or Facebook campaign intended for marketing value goes horribly wrong. Sometimes this is as a result of third party interferences, while other social media flops are merely due to poorly thought out decisions. Either way, Twitter has proven itself as a powerful force behind both negative and positive publicity for a company.

  1. @Sweden

    Prompted by a government initiative, the Swedish Institute and Visit Sweden, two tourism companies in Sweden, hired the advertising company Volontaire to think up a way that Sweden could promote their country to the world. The result was @Sweden, which enlisted a different Swede each week to represent the country’s personal Twitter account. The Twitter handle has been passed down to a variety of selected Swedes, with ages ranging from 18 to 60 years old, and they must meet a few, simple criteria — be interesting, Twitter-literate, and post in English. However, once the account was passed down to Sonja Abrahamsson, the ambitious PR stunt backfired. Abrahamsson, a 27-year-old mother of two, immediately began posting anti-Semitic and otherwise lewd comments that quickly drew public attention and disgust. "Once I asked a co-worker what a jew is. He was ‘part jew’, whatever that means," Abrahamsson wrote, among many other musings on Jewish culture, "He’s like ‘uuuuh… jews are.. uh.. well educated..?’" While the rest of the world saw the faux pas as an embarrassment for Sweden at large, the Swedish government stuck to their original initiative and did not censor any comments.

  2. #Mcdstories

    When McDonald’s began a Twitter campaign using paid-for Tweets that appear at the top of search engines, it nudged the discussion of their brand using hashtags. The first hashtag, "#MeetTheFarmers," did not instigate much discussion, given that most McDonald’s eaters couldn’t care less about the farming process behind a Happy Meal. However, when McDonald’s issued a comment under the hashtag "#McDStories," comments blew up, and not all of them were exactly positive. One user tweeted, "I ate a @McDonalds cheeseburger a few years ago and got food poisoning so bad that I had to get hospitalized. That is my #mcdstories." Another countered with, "Eating a Quarter Pounder value meal makes me feel exactly the same as an hour of violent weeping. #McDStories." McDonald’s social media director Rick Wion immediately set forth to stop the negative publicity by pulling the #McDStories hashtag off of the trending list. However, McDonald’s still bore the scar of about 1,456 Tweets with sarcastic, horrific, and otherwise negative comments under the #McDStories hashtag.

  3. #CamryEffect

    In an effort to create a marketing campaign based around the new Camry being promoted via Superbowl commercials, Toyota created nine accounts — @CamryEffect1 through @CamryEffect9 — that would send promotional messages to anyone tweeting about the Superbowl at large. The tweets encouraged users to enter a contest to win a new Camry. However, instead of creating a buzz, the unsolicited messages were seen as spam and hastily received criticism from Twitter users everywhere. Users were also angry that Twitter verified nine different accounts for Toyota’s usage, and ensuing backlash prompted Twitter to suspend the accounts immediately, ending the failed campaign in its tracks. One user posted, "Does having a verified @Twitter account give @Toyota / @CamryEffect7 the right to spam people? #socialmediafail." Embarrassed, Toyota issued an apology via Digital Marketing and Social Media Manager Kimberley Gardiner shortly thereafter.

  4. #Amazonfail

    Amazon infuriated customers when it removed the sales rankings of many books with homosexual content due to the fact that they were supposedly all intended for mature audiences. When the sales rankings of a book are removed, they are no longer able to appear on the best seller list. They also may be tricky to search for. As a result, books like The Mayor Of Castro Street: The Life And Times Of Harvey Milk were difficult to find even though they are clearly not erotica, simply because there are gay and lesbian themes present. In response, Twitter became ablaze with conversation about the stint with each comment appearing alongside "#amazonfail." Amazon backpedaled, blaming the issue on a "software glitch," but its incensed customers sought to punish the company by degrading it on social media platforms. Finally, Amazon released a formal apology, noting that the problem applied to a multitude of book genres, and not just those with gay and lesbian themes, including health, mind and body, reproductive and sexual medicine, and erotica. Yet, the damage was done, and if you search for #amazonfail on their Twitter feed, you can still see a couple pages of the drama.

  5. @ChryslerAutos

    A foul-mouthed employee with his hands on the company Twitter handle made Chrysler look like a bit of a jerk when he posted the tweet, "I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f***ing drive." The tweet was immediately sent to the feeds of more than 7,000 followers, many of whom retweeted the statement. Chrysler quickly removed the comment and tweeted, "Our apologies – our account was compromised earlier today. We are taking steps to resolve it." The account, operated by social media company New Media Strategies, was initially thought to have been mistaken for a personal account. However, Chrysler expanded on the issue with an in-depth blog post, revealing that the rogue tweeter was actually a disgruntled employee from NMS, and noted that the employee had been terminated. Many felt that the matter wasn’t dealt with very gracefully, especially given that Chrysler had outed themselves as using a separate company to deal with social media when social media platforms are mainly intended to make people feel more personally acquainted with a brand.

  6. @HabitatUK

    Habitat, a home furnishings store, blatantly abused the power of social media by using popular, trending hashtags to promote their brand. The spammy posts were made using not only hashtag topics like "#iPhone" that they knew would have a powerful social media presence, but also tasteless topics concerning the situation in Iran. The result did not gain them more followers, but merely alienated people who did not wish for their feeds to contain misleading hashtag comments. It also effectively showed their customers that they didn’t understand how Twitter works, or didn’t care that their methods for gaining exposure were unethical. The tweets were deleted and Habitat apologized, stating that the tweets were not authorized by the company and were not consistent with their social media strategies. They also addressed a number of tweets that postulated that Habitat was using a third party to deliver tweets to the Twitter community by stating, "In response to speculation, we would like to clarify the hashtags were not uploaded by an agency."

  7. Skittles

    Skittles attempted a social media campaign that turned their entire website into a live feed, combining Skittles’ Twitter, Facebook, YouTube Channel, Wikipedia entry, and photos on Flickr that were tagged as being candy wrappers. The idea was that people would actively discuss Skittles on any of these platforms and it would show up on the website’s main page, providing more incentive for Skittles-related conversation. Instead, the website’s main page became a breeding ground for profane comments and generally unrelated content. Other companies even used Skittles’ page to advertise their own work, taking advantage of anyone else browsing Skittles’ website. Ben Weisman, a marketing expert for the Iris agency which put together Skittles’ website noted that, "Skittles, or any other brand, has to be ready to accept the users’ positive and negative comments." While that may be true, it’s probably not necessary to openly invite negative press via immature Twitter enthusiasts.

Comments (0) | Filed under: Marketing

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.

 

8 Ways to Use Pinterest for Small Business Promotion

Friday, June 1, 2012 at 6:39pm by Sandy Jones

Browsing through a virtual pinboard, you’ll find anything from step by step DIY projects to wedding ideas to this summer’s hottest fashions. Pinterest is an online platform which facilitates discovering new things and organizing your interests into simple categories. Most importantly, it connects millions of users (11 million as of April 2012) and offers a platform for feedback and commentary. There are many ways small businesses can benefit from Pinterest, and free exposure is one of them. Here are 8 other ways Pinterest can be used for promoting your business.

  1. Use original photos and content to drive traffic

    The popular section on Pinterest will show you that original pictures and content are the most popular. As these original and unique pins get repinned and favorited by users, it drives traffic to your Pinterest and/or website. Remember, your content represents your brand, so choose content that reinforces your brand’s philosophy.

  2. Use boards as a virtual inventory catalog

    Use your boards to display your products according to categories so that viewers can easily pin items they see onto their own boards. Pinterest by nature is visually engaging, so use it to your advantage to reach out to customers. Whenever possible, include the cost of the item, which will automatically show up as a banner across the corner of your photograph. This attracts people to your website who are actually interested in buying the pinned product. If you’re promoting a service instead of a product, always link back to your website and post a relevant photograph.

  3. Build a wider following by pinning related content

    Traffic referral is a result of what content you post. With that in mind, if you follow other major brands that are relevant to your business and get a follow back, you gain a bigger network and audience. This is the whole purpose of social networking – sharing other’s ideas and building relationships. Make sure your boards are not just focused on your product, but also incorporate related topics and ideas.

  4. Promote brand and philosophy

    Even though Pinterest is purely visual, it’s important to connect the virtual branding to your business’ physical brand. This means making sure your account displays address, physical location, links to other websites (company website, twitter, facebook), and information. Be sure to incorporate more than just your products, but also highlight tips, tidbits, "behind the scenes" snapshots of your company, and other related content. If you want to display a large amount of content, an interesting way to make it more user-friendly is to create an infographic, which have been very popular on Pinterest.

  5. Introduce members of your company

    To make a business-oriented Pinterest page more dynamic, try introducing members of your company or brand. This way, you can create a more personal interaction with users, encouraging feedback and traffic. If customers can see the inner workings of your company, they may feel more connected and loyal to your brand. Look for ways to pin photos of company events and actual production of your products. Feature interviews of users who liked your product or go with a monthly theme.

  6. Display coupon graphics or create competitions

    Promotional discounts are common on Pinterest. Using a coupon graphic for certain products or services is a great way to drive attention to your product or site. You can also include hashtags in the description to help users easily find your content in searches. Ask your followers to contribute with their own pins, including a unique hashtag (mentioning your brand) in return for discounts or a chance to win a prize. A company that recently ran a competition was Land’s End. The company encouraged participants to create pinboards with their favorite Lands’ End products to win a collection of Lands’ End products. The company linked this competition on their website and ended up being very successful.

  7. Use other social sites to feed Pinterest

    Your business may have many other networking sites, not just Pinterest. A way to gain greater visibility is to add a Pinterest logo with a link to your Pinterest in order to gain more followers. Sometimes a simple link through Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, or company site can generate hundreds of new followers a day.

  8. Engage with followers & get feedback

    Create moments of engagement with your followers. You can do this effectively by participating in conversation: comment on a photo you like on another board, reply to feedback, and answer any questions. An option Pinterest encourages is allowing other contributors to pin on your pinboard. You can create a board just for your fan’s contributions to help spread the word about your products. In addition, fan involvement helps promote your brand across a wider audience.

Comments (0) | Filed under: Marketing

10 Most Recognizable Business Mascots

Monday, January 16, 2012 at 4:28am by Site Administrator

Used to be that a mascot for a business, be it a cartoon character, member of the animal kingdom, or human stand-in, existed only in two-dimensional form on signage and print advertising. These days, with more outlets for advertising than ever before, advertising mascots appear on Facebook pages, tweet on Twitter, and even star in their own sitcoms. Some mascots are so entertaining on their own, you might not know or care about the product they’re trying to sell. Here are 10 of today’s the most recognizable business mascots, mascots designed to brand a service as opposed to a product such as breakfast cereal or pancake syrup.

  1. The GEICO Gecko

    Most recently voiced with a Cockney London accent by actor Jake Wood, this charming and earnest reptile maintains his own blog, sharing updates and photos from his travels around the world.

  2. The GEICO Cavemen

    The joke just doesn’t get old. Articulate quasi-metrosexual Neanderthals repeatedly find themselves the butt of GEICO’s "So easy, a caveman could do it…" tag line. (Honorary mascot mention: Kash aka the stack of cash with googly eyes identified as the money a person saves when using GEICO. Kash’s recurring music cue is also a hoot.)

  3. The AFLAC Duck

    The ad agency responsible for this mascot credits the ducks in the ponds of New York’s Central Park for demonstrating how much "AFLAC" sounds like a quack. That team of creative ducks received payment for their help in the form of several loaves of white bread. Gilbert Gottfried voiced the character for more than a decade, but he was fired in spring 2011 when he made jokes about the recent tsunami and earthquake that company officials deemed "lacking in humor."

  4. The AOL Running Man

    Back in 2009, AOL tried its best to replace the Running Man with a variety of new branding images, including a goldfish, all of which seem to be gone now in 2012. That little yellow guy is still their best icon.

  5. Juan Valdez

    Created in 1959 by a New York ad agency, this fictional character, wearing the traditional dress of an arriero, or mule driver, is directly inspired by Colombia’s real-life coffee farmers. In addition to being the brand symbol for the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, Juan Valdez is a national folk hero, representing the very real demographic of rural coffee farmers that help make Colombia the world’s third-largest producer of coffee.

  6. The Twitter Blue Bird

    Perhaps it’s not surprising given the nature of the Internet, crowd-sourcing, and out-of-date copyright laws, that Twitter paid the designer less than $6 for this now ubiquitous image of a blue bird. That’s just a couple bucks less than what the designer of the Nike swoosh received.

  7. Mayhem

    If fate is a hunter, than Allstate’s Mayhem is looking to mount your head on his wall. He is one of the most frightening and funny mascots in current advertising culture, and very much a product of our uncertain times.

  8. Flo the Progressive Girl

    In television commercial after television commercial, the incessantly bubbly and, well, kinda sexy Flo the Progressive Girl for all of her oddball quirkiness, somehow delivers a consistent message regarding credibility and customer service. And her 2.4 million fans on Facebook can’t all be stalkers, right?

  9. Reddy Kilowatt

    Those of you born later than 1930 may have no idea who this freaky character is. The lightning bolt limbed Reddy was once the super-charged mascot of more than 200 electric power companies promoting electricity as a safe utility for homes and businesses.

  10. William Shatner

    There are no second acts in American lives. Unless your name is William Shatner, who has experienced at least four or five. In addition to starring in two different hit television shows after playing the iconic Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series, Shatner has enjoyed a lucrative career as less of a spokesman and more of a mascot — albeit a very butch, post-modern, self-aware mascot — for a variety of companies, including DirectTV, Smith & Hassler Attorneys at Law, and perhaps most famously, Priceline.com.

The Business Behind Halloween

Friday, October 28, 2011 at 3:03pm by Site Administrator

Embed the image above on your site

Comments (0) | Filed under: Marketing

The Business of Getting Hitched

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 7:07pm by Site Administrator

Embed the image above on your site

Comments (0) | Filed under: Marketing

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.

50 Professional Networks for Freelancers

Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 3:39pm by Site Administrator

When you’re going it alone, it’s vitally important that you get support. The best way to do that in business is to join a professional network. Whether you’re a writer or an accountant, you’re sure to find help in these groups.

Business

If your freelance work relies on business, get connected in these networks.

  1. AccountantsWorld: Freelance accountants can get great deals, news, and lots more from this organization.
  2. Association of Executive Search Consultants: If you’re an executive search freelancer, check out this association.
  3. Direct Marketing Association: Stay relevant and successful with this association.
  4. Association for Financial Professionals: If you’re a freelancer in treasury and cash management or corporate finance, this is the place for you.
  5. United Professional Sales Association: With this network, you’ll get education, a great community, and more.
  6. Institute of Chartered Accountants: Accountants in England and Wales can enjoy this association’s professional development, referrals, and more.
  7. AIPMM: International product marketers should join this network for education, connections, and more.

Technology

The technologically-inclined will fit in great with these networks.

  1. AIGA: Join this professional association to get access to ideas, information, education, and so much more.
  2. Mediabistro: Find jobs, education, news, and lots more on mediabistro.
  3. Association for Computing Machinery: This association offers publications, career resources, and more for freelancers in the advanced computing profession.
  4. The Usability Professionals’ Association: Check out this network’s job bank, exhibits, and more.
  5. Six Apart: Learn how to get more out of your Six Apart blogging platforms and more in this network.
  6. leniche Digital Media: Find tutorials, jobs, and more with this freelance community.
  7. Acoustical Society of America: This acoustics society represents professionals in engineering, robotics, music, psychology, and more.
  8. National Association of Science Writers: Get help with contracts, query letters, and more with this association.
  9. IEEE: This leading technology association offers conferences, publications, education, career assistance and more to freelance technology professionals.
  10. Association of Information Technology Professionals: If you’re an IT professional, be sure to check out this group.
  11. TalkFreelance: In this web development community, you can take advantage of their marketplace, get help, and more.
  12. Graphic Artists Guild: Check out this guild to learn, get jobs, and more.
  13. British Computer Society: British IT Professionals can join this organization for qualifications, development, and more.
  14. Digital Media Association: Stay on top of issues, events, and much more with this community.

Arts

Whether you’re an artist of language or canvas, these groups are great for networking.

  1. International Freelance Photographers Organization: Register with IFPO for credentials, education, and assignments.
  2. The Association of Illustrators: Freelance illustrators should check out this organization for resources, news, and more.
  3. Jewelry Design Professionals’ Network: Share ideas, interaction, and more with this network for professional jewelry designers.
  4. Wedding and Portrait Photographers International: Here you’ll get access to programs, services and more aimed at wedding and portrait photographers.
  5. Writers-Editors Network: Get resources, inspiration, work, and more from this network.
  6. TEFL: Use this network of English language teaching professionals to find a job, guidance, and more.
  7. The Illustrators’ Partnership of America: Join this partnership to get great resources and more.
  8. Photo Marketing Association International: Look to PMAI for conventions, news, and much more.
  9. Society of Professional Journalists: Get in this network’s directory, use their tools, and connect with others.
  10. Freelance Business and Technology Writers Association: Stay on top of news, resources, and more with this association.
  11. Freelance Artists Network: In this network, you’ll join the ranks of talented freelance artists in the fields of portraiture, fine arts, and more.
  12. Editorial Freelancers Association: This network is full of resources, jobs, and more.
  13. Professional Photographers of America: One of the largest professional photography associations, this group will help you find resources, education, and more.

General

These networks are open to just about any freelancer who will join them.

  1. Freelancers.net: Find jobs and more on this UK-centric freelancing network.
  2. LinkedIn: This professional networking site is great for freelancers in any field.
  3. Freelancers Union: Get connected, take action, and even get insurance from this union.
  4. Orkut: Connect with business contacts and more on this networking site.
  5. Minority Professional Network: This network offers a connection for job seeking, promotion, and more.
  6. Freelance Nation: Here you’ll find jobs, business management resources, and much more.
  7. Freelance Community of Interest: Check out this freelancing community for court reporters.
  8. IMDiversity: This professional network for minorities will help you get connected with opportunities.
  9. Ecademy: On Ecademy, you’ll meet new contacts, get business support, and more.
  10. FreelanceSwitch: Get advice, community support, and more from this network and blog.
  11. Freelance Mom Network: Join this community of mothers and entrepreneurs for guidance and more.
  12. Business Know-How: Network, find suppliers, and more in this small business network.
  13. iHispano: Get tools for finding opportunities and more with this network.
  14. Xing: Join this network to put the six degrees of separation theory into practice.
  15. Ryze: Reconnect with friends and business acquaintances with this network.
  16. Your local chamber of commerce: When you’re trying to establish yourself in your local area, perhaps the best network is the one in your own backyard.

25 of the Most Expensive Gifts Known to Man

Friday, January 11, 2008 at 6:21pm by Site Administrator

Even though Christmas season is over, everyone knows the gift giving never stops. From birthdays to Valentine’s day, it’s hard to come up with original ideas for those who already have everything. If you’re looking to impress your loved ones this year, take a look at this list of 25 of the most expensive gifts known to man, from the truly outrageous to the impossibly indulgent.

  1. Bombardier Global Express XRS Executive Jet: $48 million: If you’re constantly booking last-minute plane trips to exotic locations, this may be the gift for you. Back in February, TeamSugar posted Jim Trippon’s annual list of the Most Expensive Valentine’s Day Gifts in the World. The Bombardier Executive Jet topped the list at $48 million, so that you and your honey can fly off into the sunset to celebrate in style.
  2. First G.I. Joe: $200,000: G.I. Joes were meant to be tossed around and buried in the dirt by rough and tough little boys, but the buyer of this action figure will probably want to keep it locked up in a glass case. Setting a world record for the most expensive toy soldier, the buyer purchased the G.I. Joe in 2003 directly from the creator for $200,000.
  3. 3D Motion Simulator: $300,000: Forget Nintendo and Wii gaming systems: what your kids really want this year is a 3D Motion Simulator from FAO Schwartz. At $300,000, it’s included on the Forbes list of the Most Expensive Toys, and this ride "seats eight for CD-ROM-driven excitement, including space trips, roller coasters, slot car races… and more."
  4. The Christian Hammer: $3.5 million: The most expensive Stradivari violin ever auctioned off, this gorgeous instrument is three hundred years old. No word on how well it still plays.
  5. Ferrari Go-Cart: $50,000: If your kids are too young for a real Ferrari, ease them into the luxury auto market with a $50,000 Ferrari go-cart, also from FAO Schwartz. Your children will be the toughest, coolest kids on the block and will put all those Barbie-mobiles to shame.
  6. Marks and Spencer Christmas Basket: $1,500: Christmas baskets are usually last-minute gifts thrown together for your kids’ schoolteacher or the hostess of your next holiday party and can consist of everything from gift certificates to baked goods to scented bath soaps. The British department store chain, Marks and Spencer, decided to up the reputation (and price) of traditional Christmas baskets by offering this gift of champagne, wine and gourmet goodies for a grand total of $1,500. According to The Most Expensive Journal, "the most expensive gift basket appears to have been a limited item" and is no longer offered.
  7. Most Expensive Champagne: $17,625: What would a holiday or birthday celebration be without a little bubbly? If you’re feeling extra generous the next time you’re invited to a party, why not try to get your hands on this bottle, which was sold in 2005 at an auction for over $17,000.
  8. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head: $8,000 each: Luxury department store Neiman Marcus publishes its annual Christmas Book each year to tempt the world’s elite with outrageously expensive gifts and goodies. In 2004, a Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head collector’s set was offered for $8,000 per figure, which were covered in dazzling Swarovski crystals.
  9. Bugatti Veyron: $1.7 million: In 2006, Neiman Marcus included this super charged car in its annual Christmas Book for the price of $1.7 million. According to Wikipedia, the Bugatti Veyron "is the most expensive and fastest accelerating street-legal production car in the world." In other words, it’s just perfect for the speed-obsessed millionaire on your list.
  10. Boeing Business Jet: $35.2 million: In 2002, About.com reported that the Boeing Business Jet was "the most expensive item ever offered" up for sale in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book. With its swank interior and unbeatable reputation, it’s no surprise that the big boys’ toy was a tantalizing item even in its unfinished form.
  11. Neil Lane 15 Carat Diamond Earrings: $750,000: Jim Trippon isn’t just mad about Valentine’s Day: he’s also released his list for the Top Ten Most Expensive Christmas Gifts of 2007. Number two on the list is a pair of Neil Lane 15 carat diamond earrings, sold for a whopping three-quarters of a million dollars. Often considered one of Hollywood’s preferred jewelers-to-the-stars, Neil Lane has designed engagement rings for celebrities like Kate Walsh, Brooke Shields and Kate Hudson.
  12. YSL Crocodile Uptown Bag: $26,995: Wealthy women love luxury purses, and the Yves Saint Laurent crocodile uptown bag is no exception. Customers who don’t mind buying real crocodile skin probably won’t mind the exorbitant price tag either: $26,995 at Neiman Marcus for the 10"H x 14 1/2"W x 6"D tote.
  13. Baby Shiloh 3-Carat White Diamond Pacifier: $17,000: If you’re welcoming a new baby into the family, you’re probably loading up on diapers, bibs and cozy blankets to spoil him or her. If, however, your tastes are a little more extreme, er, expensive, the baby aisle at Target probably won’t cut it. Instead, consider treating your baby like a movie star, or at least like one of their offspring. Shop5thAvenue.com now offers the same 3-carat white diamond pacifier that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie received as a gift for baby Shiloh. Friends and family can personalize the pacifier by choosing different jewels like rubies, sapphires and emeralds and by adding the baby’s initials to the shiny bauble.
  14. Vertu 7.2 Carat Pink and White Diamond Phone: $75,000: $75,000 for a cell phone? Well, it does work in more than 150 countries and features a 24-hour one-touch concierge service just waiting to indulge your every fantasy. According to NeimanMarcus.com, only 100 exist in the entire world, and each phone comes encrusted with 7.2 carat white and pink diamonds set in 18-carat. rose gold. Your jet-setting pre-teen just can’t wait to get her hands on one of these.
  15. Triton 1000: $1.44 million: Perhaps the most bizarre gift featured in the 2007 Neiman Marcus Christmas Book is the Triton 1000 submarine, just in case your holiday plans include plunging into the ocean for research, top-secret military missions or, you know, sightseeing.
  16. 10 Acres in Paradise Valley: $2.3 million: Many people agree that land is the most precious possession, especially as humans continue to overpopulate even the most remote areas. If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway for your family, try bidding on "10 acres of secluded land among the mountains of Paradise Valley in Montana, up for grabs for $2.3 million" and included in the 2007 Christmas Book.
  17. Diamond Studded Lipstick: $62,000: If you think all lipsticks are equal, you are highly mistaken. Spoil your wife or girlfriend this holiday with the lavish gift of $62,000 diamond studded lipstick, courtesy of beauty and cosmetics company Guerlain. Appropriately named KissKiss Gold and Diamonds, Luxist.com reports that "you’ll get a consultation with Guerlain’s artistic director Olivier Echaudemaison and a lipstick shade customized just for you that comes in an 18-karat gold lipstick tube encrusted with 199 conflict-free diamonds, plus rubies and emeralds."
  18. His and Hers Double Portrait in Chocolate: $110,000: This gift is for the truly indulgent. If you long to see a portrait of you and your honey hanging in the hallway, why not have it created in chocolate? Artist Vik Muniz will create a "60" x 48" museum-quality photographic" portrait of any couple that purchases the gift, and all proceeds will be donated to his personal charity, Centro Especial Rio de Janeiro.
  19. Diamond Barbie: Around $85,000: Many little girls find Barbie dolls wrapped up under the Christmas tree, but this extra special doll is a true collector’s item. Named the world’s most expensive Barbie, Diamond Barbie was co-designed by De Beers and "comes with a gown sporting 160 diamonds," as reported by CanUAffordIt.com.
  20. Clive Christian No. 1: $2,350 per ounce: Perfume is a popular holiday gift, but if you want to set yourself and your sweetie apart from conventional gift-givers this season, splurge on a bottle of the world’s most expensive perfume. The blog, The Lifestyles of the Rich, reports that Clive Christian No. 1 is currently the most expensive perfume available, on sale for $2,350 per ounce. The high cost has not deterred buyers, however, as the perfume is sold out online at Nordstrom.com and SaksFifthAvenue.com
  21. World’s Most Expensive Cat: Around $40,000: Cute and cuddly puppies and kittens may suddenly find themselves rescued from pet shops and animal shelters during the holidays, as pets are traditional Christmas presents. This Bengal cat won’t be discovered at the local pound, however, as it is generally regarded as the world’s most expensive cat. Purchased in 1999 for around $40,000, this exotic kitty probably won’t find herself topped with a bow underneath the Christmas tree.
  22. Rothschild Faberge Egg: $18.5 million: Faberge eggs have been a tradition in aristocratic Russian families since the times of Alexander III, but none have received such a high bidding price as the Rothschild Faberge Egg when it was auctioned off at Christie’s this year. Originally "created in 1902 as an engagement gift for Baron Edouard de Rothschild," the pink Faberge egg was sold for $18.5 million to a Russian art collector.
  23. Amour Amour Dog Collar: $1.8 million: Even if your pooch is one of the family, would you spend almost $2 million on a sparkly diamond dog collar to hang around its neck? The Love Dog Diamonds company believes that dogs deserve to lounge around in luxury just as much as their wealthy owners, and the Amour Amour 18-carat white gold dog collar will go perfectly with that fluffy pillow.
  24. Ronde Island: $100 million: Don’t bother mixing with the common riff-raff during holiday resort season; instead, purchase your own island as a gift for your family so that you can enjoy a unique vacation in private luxury. The website Gifts.Infoniac.com advertises the Ronde Island in Grenada in the Caribbean, which, for $100 million, could be yours to enjoy.
  25. World’s Most Expensive Diamond: $7.98 million: If you’re planning to pop the big question during the holidays, why not do it with the world’s most expensive diamond? In November 2007, the Moussaieff Jewellers of London purchased the blue diamond for nearly $8 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong. How could anyone turn down that kind of a proposal?
Next Page »