10 Things You Won’t Need in a Zombie Apocalypse

No one ever looks at the bright side of the Zombie Apocalypse. There are so many things you are not going to have to worry about.

1. Axe Body Spray

Everything about you smells delicious.

2. Manners

People are buying from you no matter how you treat them because you have what they need.

3. Marketing

There is no competition so why bother. They need you so they will find you.

4. Books

Why improve? You are already at the top of the intellectual ladder and no one else is getting smarter.

5. A Plan

Thank goodness you will not need another business plan… ever.

6. An Accountant

What are you paying taxes for?

7. Sales

If they want it they will have to pay full price for it. After-all, they were lucky to be able to get it in at all.

8. Vacation Pay

Who are your employees going to complain to anyway? Tell them they are lucky to have a job and to get back to work.

Red rope barrier on red carpet

9. Customer Line-up Cordon

Line-ups are unnecessary because who can wait?

10. Good Management

Because great customer service doesn’t matter.

Of course, the zombie apocalypse is still many years off, so until then remember that Great Customer Service ALWAYS Matters. Hire good people, have a marketing schedule, treat your customers with love, and plan for your success.

When Success Starts – Don’t Depart

When we start feeling that overwhelm – that churning, aching, anguish we get as humans when things start piling up, we often stop doing the work that has to get done. If the pile is the result of wanted growth then be careful you don’t stop growth from happening by giving up every time it feels like there is too much on your plate.

One of the reasons so few people achieve big success is the commitment required to stay the course when success starts taking hold. Success is not easy. It is not just a lot of work up front and a ride at the end. It is not in your DNA or your inheritance. It is a consistent push every day to do what has to get done; and not just the fun things. Everything – every piece of your business must get handled routinely. There are no exceptions.

Today I want to remind you to stay on track. If you really want to make it, if you truly desire to create a bigger business, then ‘stay the course’; you can do it. Here are three things you can do to help get through those overwhelming times and onto the routine of running a bigger business.

1. Stick to the Plan

If you don’t know where you are going you can end up anywhere. That is why you have a plan for your growth, so don’t forget to use it. Review the plan at least monthly and check to see if you are on track. Are you meeting your deadlines? Do you have what you need to move on? Have you stayed focused on the plan or have you been side-tracked by some other fun / shinning / new idea? The plan defines where you want to be in the future and outlines the path you have identified to get you there. During implementation, you will be able to identify the daily ‘to do’ list from this plan that will get you to the immediate and long-term goals.

2. Do the Work

Do your work; the work you are best at; the work that when you do it you add value to the company. Let others do the work that is not yours. If there is no one else in your business but you then start looking at why you are alone. This may be one of the reasons you are not growing. You will have to hire someone before you are ready to have employees. If you know employees are in your big-business vision then start letting go.

To start the ‘letting go’ process look for the three things you do that do not add value to the company. Look for things that take you a long time to do. Things you are not good at and that you do not love to do. Your ‘Yuck Work’. After you have identified just 3, look for ways to offload that work to a contractor. If that is not possible then find a way to automate the work or systematize it so you don’t have to contemplate the process more than once. Reducing your ‘Yuck Work’ gives you more time to focus on the things that truly add value to your company and will help you grow.

3. Prioritize

Pick three ‘Must Do’ goals each day that must be completed by the end of that day. Evaluate if they are the right goals by asking, “Will completing this goal get me closer to my ultimate goal of growth?” If the answer is no then it is not the ‘Must Do’ goal for that day. If you ask this question and you think, “I have to do three other tasks before I can do this, then this is also not a ‘Must Do’ goal. Put those three immediate tasks on your ‘Must Do’ list for the day and then get the bigger goal tomorrow.

Note – If you complete your three ‘Must Do’ goals feel free to move on to other things that you need to get done.

Being successful is simply doing the work that others give up on when things get overwhelming. Make doing the work part of your routine, stay focused on your goals and ensure that the goals you are working on fit the plan you have for your business. You can do this, I believe in you!

Free Can Get You More Sales

Recently I have had several clients developing software applications and mobile apps. I’ve been in the software industry and software implementation in one form or another for over 2 decades so I’ve seen a lot of different models for development and product roll-out. The software I see and use seems to have a very different way of reaching their market: It starts with free.

I’m just taking serious note of it as I have had some friends create a new software program that has some potential for great value and they want to ask $420 a year to use it. When I tested the software and found several bugs and functionality issues I came to the conclusion that although they have something, it is not ready, in my opinion, to be a full offering. Here are a few things I think they have missed with this roll-out of their product, that apply to most businesses and some suggestions I think would gain them more clients up front and potential investors to create the full premium version of the software.

Start with Free

The best way to get people using your product is to offer some portion of it for free. The “Free for Use – Pay for Premium” model is used a lot for some of the biggest and best loved software applications right now. In the software industry it is almost expected. Here are some examples of software programs that have ‘Free for Use’ components and ‘Pay for Premium’ profit models.

Facebook.com and Google.com

Get connected, start relationships, and build a following for free. When you are ready to be in front of your target market on other pages they visit you can pay for ads. I would say Google is the granddaddy of this business model to the scale they have created. For years the founders of Google did not even want to charge. Their investors kept asking, “how are we going to make money if we didn’t charge?”

Well that all worked out for them, the users and the investors, didn’t it?

Hightail.com, Dropbox.com and Anymeeting.com

Hightail (formerly YouSendIt.com), Dropbox, and Anymeeting are all online support software packages that can be used for free. They are completely functional and provide amazing support to a certain level for free. Their profit model comes when people need more.

Hightail will send large files for free. If you want to track the downloads, keep records of your messages, brand your emails, or send extra-large files you can purchase one of their premium packages.

The same applies to Dropbox and Anymeeting. Dropbox is a cloud storage location and Anymeeting is for webinars. Want more storage… Want to record your webinar or host larger groups… that’s when they charge.

TheLadders.com

I admit, I have never used this website but I do know a great deal about it because it was the focus of a book by Bill Murphy (The Intelligent Entrepreneur). I know that they rolled out their software and enticed as many people as possible to use the software for free. Then they transitioned to a paid model.

Here is one way you may be able to use free to get more sales.

  1. Give the software for free to get a large user base
  2. Use the feedback to streamline the product for optimal value for your clients.
  3. Evaluate how clients use the software to create a plan for a premium product.
  4. Leverage the numbers of your current user base to get outside investment.
  5. Use the investment to create a paid segment of your product that answers needs not fulfilled by the free version.
  6. Roll-out the paid product marketing to your current clients first.
  7. Create a marketing campaign to reach new clients and give your current clients bonuses for bringing in new clients.

If you can give something of value to start a relationship with your target market then think about giving all or some of it for free to get more sales later on. It may be the first step to your multi-million dollar enterprise.

3 – 2 – 1 – September! No More Compromises

No More Compromises!” This is what my client said to me this morning. I kicked her butt in gear and she now refuses to compromise on her value, her time, or any other part of her life. She is a powerful leader/celebrity and she’s now leaning in to her purpose.

We can be seen as an amazing, powerful, confident, leader and still not feel valued. If you have ever said this (and meant it) “I can help anyone…” then this may be you.

If you are still looking for ‘anyone’ then you are not valuing your worth. What I mean is, you will spend more time and make less money, help less people and give lower value to your clients with this attitude.

Do you want to stop? Do you want to not only be seen as an amazing, powerful, confident, leader but also live a wealthy, giving, abundant life? Look at these two aspects of your business for clues to changing your business attitude.

Stop sign that says GO

Pricing

If your pricing and products are confusing to your clients it makes it hard for them to make a buying decision. Take for instance a client of mine. Let’s call her Sheila (not her real name). Sheila had a booking page with more than 20 service options, all about the same price but each slightly different. When we evaluated the differences we found that people could not make a decision because they didn’t know what they needed. After all, Sheila is the expert and she will need to tell them what they need most.

Sheila had tried packages, but what they became was a few extra options on the same page – 22 options and still no clear reason to purchase.

The key was to find what all the options had in common. What does she offer to every client at every session? That is the start of all her packages. That is the key to finding a person’s need and then getting them into the perfect support. Sheila found the key and then created three levels of options that did not confuse people about what she was offering. She found their need and then gave them the option that addressed the solution.

That very week she got her first $2000 client (a package that was 13x more than her hourly rate). She didn’t even change her pricing, she just made it easier to buy.

Time

  • Answers the phone at the dinner table,
  • Can’t say no,
  • Feels jaded and angry about volunteer time,
  • Wants to make more money when there is no more time.

Do you know someone like this? Is this you?  Your time is the one resource you cannot earn more of. You get X amount and that is it. So why, when time is so precious, do we often find ourselves wasting it?

If you say, ‘No More Compromises‘ to your time then try these tips:

Time to Respond

Give yourself time to respond to voicemail and email. Set time every day when you will answer calls and check messages. If you are afraid of missing a client, make sure you voicemail is very specific when they can reach you and how. I recommend adding a note your voicemail letting clients know they can email you to  schedule a time to talk. Use your CallerID to answer urgent calls and let everything else go to voicemail when it comes in during times you are trying to do other work.

Think about how this works. If you call a client back and say, “Thanks for letting me call you back, I was right in the middle of helping another customer…” how will that person feel? They will feel like you will give them the attention they deserve when you are working for them.

Time to Volunteer

Make sure you have the time you promise to give. If you don’t you can become very jaded and angry. It will feel like people are using you. I had a client with a video production company. He volunteered for a local charity to create a video for them. He then did a flash-mob video for them. He was then asked to do another project. He was so angry. When I asked him why he said, “Don’t they know how much time this takes and how much time I’ve already given them?”

“I don’t know”, I responded, “do they know?”

It turned out he had never sent them an invoice. It could have been for ‘in-kind’ donation or zeroed-out invoice to show the value of what he had given them. They need to know so they can value your time. This will not add any cost to the charity’s bottom line but it did add value to his gifted time and his self-worth.

We are quickly coming up to the final quarter of 2014. For me, my fiscal year ends September 30 so I am almost complete. Are you going to be able to finish the year saying, “I made big changes that allowed me to help more people, reach more customers, and create a bigger life for me and my family,” or not? No More Compromises! Make your pricing easy to understand and give your time wisely so you can honestly say, “I’ve created something amazing, I get to do more and I’m better off for it.”

You Can’t Grow Because You Can’t Afford To Grow

You Can’t grow because you can’t afford to grow and you have to grow to create the money, hire the people, and do the bigger things so you can afford to grow. It’s a classic circular stall.

Your Transition Point

What does a transition point look like? How do I know what to plan for?

Transition points are the place in your business where you realize you can’t…

–          do any more business,

–          handle any more clients,

–          manufacture any more product,

–          deliver any more services,

–          Etc.

… because you need more resources. These are the resources you cannot afford at the current level.

This is the most misunderstood key to growth. Working to pay for a bigger business and do more sales that you cannot manage without more investment, which you cannot afford without more sales is a dangerous slippery mindset. Growth happens in these three steps:

  1. Invest
  2. Implement
  3. Grow

That means that your transition point happens at the investment stage. You must accept that investment, whether more money or time, or both is your first step.

New work - New business - Transition PointI find that most business owners are stuck at a specific level because they do not have more time or more money. In the words of The Oracle from the movie The Matrix, “Bingo. It is a pickle. No doubt about it.”

Here are the places I look for resources in my business and for my clients. There are thousands. If you start down this mindset of “how can I…” instead of “when I can…” then opportunities will start finding you.

 

Finding Resources

  1. Look for ways of breaking up the goal of your transition into smaller tasks. Starting now with a smaller investment can lead to more resources to use for the next step. For a client of mine this meant strategically getting her product to a new market at least 6 months earlier than planned without all the ‘bells and whistles’ and it gave her more income for her next steps of branding, new packaging, and a new kitchen.
  2. Hire for non-skilled work first. If you are doing work in your business that can be hired-out at a low rate, something that only requires minimal training, then you can free up some of your time resources to put into your transition.
  3. Automate and create systems. This will also free up time for you and the people working for you. If you do anything manually that can be handled by a free or inexpensive app or software then look into making that happen first.
  4. Look at what else you can sell or who else you can sell to, based on what you currently offer. Examples like:
    • A different package size
    • A different market location
    • A different distribution site
    • Deliver online electronically instead of in-person
  5. Can you give someone commission to sell your products? If your products are online then offer an affiliate commission and get your products into new hands. If someone else is doing the sales or some of these sales then you have more time.

The key to these strategies is that they either create more income or save you time that you can put towards your transition. Taking a smaller step will cost you significantly less than going right for your next big step, freeing up capital and time for your big growth steps.

Don’t put off growth for later or it will likely never happen. You must always be in growth mode working towards your transition points.

Tech-Talk Part 3 – More of What You Need to Know – Communication Software

If ‘sell’ is a four-letter word to you then having communications that make it more comfortable for you to invite and offer value will make a difference to your bottom-line. You need to have a way to identify who you are speaking to and you must be able to connect efficiently with groups of people. This is how you leverage your time in your business and keep your costs down.

We know we want to be able to communicate with our clients, prospects, and past clients in a way that gives them what they need and helps us create an experience that is valuable for them. Understanding what to say is a topic for another article, and once you know what that is, how to reach them is the next question we want to address today. I am going to look at three things that you need to identify that will help you decide what tools will be best for you to manage your communications: 1) Your List, 2) History, 3) Costs

1) Your List

When managing your marketing and customer support communications it is important to be able to connect with the right person or group of people with the message they need to hear from you. Having a list or lists of names that you can effectively reach is imperative so your communications tools need to be able to manage those names efficiently for you.

I use 1Shopping Cart (1SC) for my mailing campaigns and my program communications as well as my online purchasing portal. I can group people by their purchase or interest and communicate with those groups of people. This allows my communications to be much more specific and targeted and increases the likelihood of a person reading the message. It also helps ensure that they will receive value, as I am not sending mass emails to everyone one all the time.

For my clients, this allows me to talk directly to people in small groups, like those in my Power of Leadership. I can let them know when their next call or event is. I can offer them specific help with their work, links, and specials, as well as additional information that may have been discussed in our meetings. It makes my communications with them more about them then about selling, and that is more comfortable for me as well as them.

Different software

2) History

The challenge with lists is that we often have lists in different places. My main communications for groups is through 1Shopping Cart (1SC) but I have a database using Microsoft Business Contact Management for Outlook (BCM) to connect to individuals. Of course our social media connections create other lists and all of these are not integrated. The challenge with lists is to have a system for how you connect with people so you are able to follow up later on. Knowing the history of communications with a specific prospect or past client helps you to better meet their needs and turn them into a repeat client.

I rely heavily on BCM to keep track of past conversations with individuals, including offers, personal situations, and conversations we have had. When you speak to thousands of people it helps you to remember what was special about a specific person. It also allows me to throw out business cards after I have them put into the database and keep track of sales and prospects.

I use 1SC to track groups of people. I can look up people by their interest or our past dealings. Someone that has opted-in to a free MP3 may be interested in an upcoming event. Someone that was in a past workshop may be interested in a personal VIP day. I can connect with people individually after I identify who they are and what they may need based on what they have signed up for or purchased in the past.

Whether it is a Contact Management Software (CMS), like my BCM or social media, like Facebook, use the history of your relationship to continue to offer things that are valuable to your clients and prospects moving forward.

 3) Costs

Even if the tool is free, managing the tool effectively is not. Don’t mistaken something that is free online as a way to do business for less. To be able to effectively implement and maintain communications with your clients and prospects every tool must be evaluated for the time and dollars it will cost or save you. If your time is limited and you hate being online, then using free Facebook pages to connect and invite your prospects would be the wrong fit for you unless you hire someone to manage it for you. You see, free just incurred a cost. I find that anything that is free costs me more in time and often does not have the features I need to manage my communications to the level I expect.

For new businesses that are not ready to invest, my recommendation is to write out what you hope to have in place in your business, evaluate what it would cost to invest in the tools (both time and money) and what kind of income your business would have to be making to support that investment. This will give you an idea of when you should look at investing. Also note that making changes to a larger program can be painful. If you have the ability to start with the larger support, that you have identified as a future need for your business, you will have less growing pain by eliminating that transition.

I started with Constant Contact. It is free up to 200 contacts. Unfortunately I never had less than 200 so I started with the basic plan, which was $20 per month. I paid to have it initially set up, lists imported, and my ezine and email templates created. I quickly realized that there were a lot of limiting challenges around this choice and I needed features that could only be found in an application that could both handle email campaigns (including my newsletters) and online purchases. I had to make the change to 1SC which lost me almost 50% of my list, several hundred more dollars to move to the new applications and a $120 per month plan, plus all the sales I felt I had lost because I could not track them easily in the smaller, less expensive choice.

Overall I would suggest that you understand as a small business owner you will likely have several lists to manage. Know which list is critical for which type of communications and how to evaluate & use the history you have with the people on that list.  Most of all, start by knowing what you will want to do with your lists so you can evaluate which software to initially begin with. Understanding your costs up front can save you loses and additional costs in the future.

Some Resources (Both free and paid)

Contact Management Software (CMS) (Microsoft Outlook, Business Contact Management for Outlook, salesforce, Act)

Shopping cart (1Shopping Cart, Infusionsoft)

Payment software (PayPal, Merchant account)

Mailing program (Constant Contact, AWeber Email Marketing, MailChimp Email)

Survey software (Survey Monkey)

Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Hangout)

If you have an application, mobile app, or software you recommend, please let us know. Put your recommendations in the comments below along with a link to the company so we can all check it out.

Tech-Talk Part 2 – More of What You Need to Know – Shopping Carts

In part two of this three-part series I wanted to talk to you about Shopping Carts. Being able to sell to your clients in a way they want to purchase is a great strategy for your business. Selling online is a challenge for some, and it shouldn’t be. There are lots of options, including an online-manual approach. There is always the option to do nothing at all. I want to look at reasons why you may want to offer this option to your clients and how it might help your business as well as talk a little about the different options available.

colourful shopping carts

Related Article: Tech-Talk Part 1 – What You Need to Know – Websites

Why Offer Online Purchasing?

E-commerce allows your clients to purchase from anywhere with options.

Business online is increasing by 20% per year with some 2013 statistics predicting over 1 billion annual online purchases globally1. There is a global trend to purchasing online. I believe that this is a result of increased access and the growth mobile technology, as well as the shear amount of time we spend online. We are using this time to do as much of our chores as possible, like research and purchase a needed item or service. This is not industry dependant. We are seeing online purchases for all business types and all product offerings, from very small, to very large. If your clients are online and they have this need, you are doing them, and your business, a disservice by not offering this option for payment.

Recently I found a business that could not only not accept online purchases, they were unable to purchase online. The challenge for their business was 2 fold, they could only purchase items and services for their business from places that accepted cash or cheques and they could only accept payment in this same format. My clients ask for many different ways to pay;. e-transfers from their bank account to mine (my favourite payment), credit card (the most popular) and PayPal. Strangely, I stopped offering cash or cheque about 4 years ago and no-one has complained (except that first business owner I mentioned). Initially I did not have a merchant account so I could not take credit cards, and that was not an issue since PayPal had a great support for this. I used Constant Contact to manage my communications with clients but this was manual as well. If a purchase came in via email or through an in-person meeting, I would have to add people to different lists to ensure they got the information that they had purchased. There was no automatic communications, no information delivery, no easy way to follow up, and no way to track the connection between my purchases and my communications. It was very separate and time consuming, but it was what I could manage at the beginning of my business.

What is the Business Benefit?

When I started using online purchasing I still sent a manual invoice from PayPal to my clients for payment. I did not have a shopping cart and I did not feel initially I needed it.  Eventually handling multiple purchases automatically became the goal. I liked the sound of the possibility of getting up in the morning and seeing a payment in my inbox from someone I had never met. I knew this was not possible with a manual system and this is why I opted to go to a full online shopping cart. Here were my top reasons for implementing a shopping cart versus taking online payments through PayPal.

  • The shopping cart is integrated with my communications system.
  • I can create auotresponders that delivered services, products, inquiries, scheduling calendars, files, etc. once or over multiple contacts.
  • When people purchased, the data of the purchase is captured by the shopping cart for review.
  • I can manage all my clients differently and offer them things specific to their needs based on how they purchased in the past.
  • I could integrate my merchant account and accept credit cards without having to manage the privacy of my clients’ financial information.
  • I could sell from my website, from stage, at events, in person, or over the phone.
  • I can easily deliver my ezine (newsletter).
  • I can send notices and invitations to special groups of people.
  • Most virtual assistants have skills for managing shopping carts so I could easily offload the work.

What are the Options?

The most important thing to understand is what your use is right now and what you are planning for the use of your shopping cart in the future. You need to be able to evaluate the shopping cart based on how you will use it. Transferring between carts is possible, but what I have heard and experienced is that you will lose between 30 and 50% of your list when you make this transfer. I lost close to 50% of my followers and clients in my switch from Constant Contact (a communications only application) and 1ShoppingCart.com (a full online shopping cart). Privacy policies are strict and to be compliant the best shopping carts require an opt-in for new imported lists as a verification. Even if people love you, they may not opt-in to continue as an active name on your list. This means you cannot contact them via your shopping cart.

Not every shopping cart is the same. There are many global shopping carts that will not integrate with Canadian Banks online. Here is a list of what I was looking for in a shopping cart.

  • Both text and HTML mailing features that look great and are highly functional
  • Easy template creation and use
  • Integration with Canadian merchant accounts
  • Support recurring payments
  • Able to attach a file for mass delivery
  • Put a product on sale without having to create new product profile
  • Quick uptake on understanding how to use it  (none are easy, but some are harder than others)
  • Low cost of initial investment

Other services you may need.

  • M-Commerce (Sales done through a mobile device)
  • Autoresponses based on calendar dates and not sign up dates
  • Up-sell features at checkout

A shopping cart is a monthly investment in the operations of your company, on top of merchant and banking fees. This expense for my company is ~$120 / month. How much income do you have to be making before you invest in this and when is the right time? I would recommend that you make this investment as soon as you know your company is going to need it for its future growth and you are already pushing out online communications and taking online payments.

1 EMarket Services

 

Long Hours in Business and Children – Making It Work for Everyone!

Long hours and children are always a challenge. They need our time, insight, guidance, and love to handle the work of being a kid. Like all relationships (family, friends, co-workers, partners, affiliates, clients, etc.), to ensure a stable understanding we have to find time to invest in them. I think you get this concept as you know the value of investing time in an event to make it perfect for the attendees and you want to ensure you don’t trade that for important time with your kids. Here are three things I believe can help you.

1. You cannot do it alone

If you find you are putting in 17 hours on the day before a conference, that might be OK, but if you are putting in 17 hours a day for weeks before a conference then I would start looking at your support systems. There are many ways to offload work. My 3 favourite are automate, create better systems, and hire someone (or barter services). Let’s just look at hiring.

What are you holding on to that someone else could do quicker, may love to do the work, and may be better at? I have found that people that say they ‘have to’ work for 17 hours are often too afraid to let go of the work because they feel it will not get done properly. This is an issue of systems. Let’s assume you have great systems, so if you say you cannot afford to hire someone then you may not have spent enough time thinking about how you can engage people to help you do the work. Giving someone free access to the conference to take away a few of your tasks is one way that will not require an employee contract. Learn to trade, barter, and delegate are important skills in a manager.

Have other family commit to time with your kids and schedule time to drop in for dinner while your kids are with family. This will help them feel you are committed and love them, even when you are busy.

Get Daycare - Nanny with child playing with toys

Hiring a nanny to bring your kids with you to the worksite is a way many actors find time to be with their kids when they are on the road. I’ve brought a niece or the neighbours daughter to watch my kids when I had to be focused on other work.

Pay your kids to help you with your business. “If you help Mommy get her work done by playing by yourself while I finish this, I will pay you $X”. You can also give them a task to actually get them involved in the business. I remember as a kid collating printing for my girlfriend’s father. We loved being asked and he would pay us so we could go buy an ice cream and still have some money to take home. One of my Mentors pays her kids a percentage of her project profit if they help her get her work done. I hire my kids to shred papers, lick envelopes, wrap gifts, and fill bins.

Put your kids in daycare if they are not already. You cannot run a business from your home and give your kids the attention they need. Those are both full time positions.

2.       You must have great communications

Great communications are important in all your relationship. Let your kids know what you are doing. Let them know exactly how much time you are going to put into it and for how long. Let them know when the event will be over. AND let them know what their reward will be for having to give up time with you. Give them the plan so they can keep track. My daughter loves to look at the calendar. When I am away speaking and traveling, I will call her before bed time and she will look at the calendar to see where I am and when I’m coming home. She will ask me about my day and I will keep answering until she has got enough information to feel she understands and feels included.

3.       Stick to your promises

There will always be exceptions to this, but if that is happening often then obviously you are not making correct assumptions about how to manage your time and you need to stop promising. Call when you are going to be late but better yet, make your promises to your kids as important as your event responsibilities. If I am unsure if I can make it home in time for bedtime or dinner, etc. I let my kids know what I’m doing, why it will take as long as I think it will, what could cost me more time, then I promise a time that I know I will definitely be home, even if it is after they go to bed. Just knowing is better for kids then having no idea at all.

It will not be easy, but planning ahead, getting your kids on board with the plan and sticking to your promises will help you provide the best service possible for your clients and your kids. After all, you’re your kids are the reason you do what you do and you don’t want to treat them any less fair then you would a complete stranger you hope to call client!

Tech-Talk Part 1 – What You Need to Know – Websites

I thought I would do a series of articles on technology. After all I have been in high-tech for over 2 decades and I do know more than most people want to know about technology and how to use it. First let me tell you about my tech-trek (my technology background). Then I want to cover technology for three areas of your business:

  • Websites (Tech-Talk Part 1)
  • Shopping Carts (Tech-Talk Part 2)
  • Communication Software – including webinars, Skype, and teleseminar (Tech-Talk Part 3)

Tech-Trek

When I was in high school we were still using Fortran and punch cards. I learned the Touring language in university, worked on VAX computer systems in College, programmed algorithms and algebraic equations into the first personal computer purchased for the Biophysic lab at the University, ushered out the Cromemco mainframe system for research and followed these introductions with many years of implementing, learning, supporting, and writing manuals & helps systems for hundreds of proprietary software and hardware products.

I loved it and Yes I am a tech-geek at heart.

Old Computers

The old Cromemco looked similar to this with a dot matrix keyboard / printer and no monitor. We were dressed a little more modern in the 1980’s

Tech-Talk Part 1 – Websites

 Why

A website is an absolute necessity for all business today. If a potential client cannot find you online then your business basically does not exist (check out point #3 “No Growth Focus = Decline” in this past article “4 Things That Lead to Business Failure“). Having an online presence is important and a good start. Having an optimized presence  that can be found by search engines in best. If you do not understand what it takes to ‘be found’ or to ‘be optimized for search engines’ then hire someone to implement that for you and create a plan to continue to be found year after year.

Other reasons you will want a website are:

  • Support brand and image recognition
  • For clients to find your business and contact you
  • Provide support and solve problems
  • Connect and stay-in-touch
  • Build a client list
  • Sell services and products

What to Use

For years business owners were at the mercy of web designers as to how their website would be created and managed. Designing a website was an expensive marketing tool for a business sometimes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now there are free tools that make it easier to create something that is consistent and will not go unsupported because the company went under. Unless you are a large company needing a lot of customized function (like a bank needs for security, or a manufacturer may need for regulations management) my recommendation for small business is to always to use WordPress. It has a lot of built in function, it is free to use, there are thousands of applications and widgets you can purchase for a reasonable price, and you can customize it with templates that you can purchase from other coders for little money. Since there are so many people writing code for this application it is also likely to be supported for many years to come.

When I set up my website I purchased a template I liked for about $20, I purchased an image I could use to create my banner (~$35), I paid for my brand creation (~$700), I wrote all my own copy (after paying for training ~$1000), I paid for someone to set up my website (~$500), I purchased my web-hosting (~$125 / year), I purchased my domain name (~$30 with email and privacy per year), I had a members site installed (~$150) and 1ShoppingCart added ($250 + ongoing support) and I use WordPress (Free).

I can do most of my own updating but I still pay for ongoing support to update pages and products. As you can see, depending on what you need, free does not mean without cost.

Minimum information

Let me answer this section in a Q&A format.

  • Do I need to know HTML?
    • That depends on what you are trying to do and whether you have a great team to do the work. There is usually a small amount of HTML that must be understood to manage any customization. For instance, I am writing this blog post in my WordPress editor. It looks like writing in Microsoft Word and is very easy to use. Sometimes I want numbering to do something different than the crude tools of this editor will allow, so I have to go in and manually set the HTML lists to number my way. If you do not know any HTML then make sure you have someone on your team that does (an employee, support company, or contractor).
  • How many pages should my website be?
    • A sales landing page is just one page, a branded website may need 4 or more. My website must have links to Contact / Terms and Conditions / Privacy Policy because of the merchant account I use and the regulations for selling online. Some sites are hundreds of pages. The more pages you have the more it will cost in your time or others to set up and maintain.
  • Do I need a blog?
    • A few years ago when someone asked me “do I have to be on Facebook?” I would answer, maybe not yet, but you likely will need to in the near future. Well now you need to be on social media, Facebook included and I’m thinking the same thing about the blog. I think it would be wise to start with a website that easily has the option to turn on and use the blogging feature if you are not going to start now, but I would encourage you to start writing a blog as soon as you can.
  • What other things can I have on my website?
    • The wonderful thing about using WordPress is there are hundreds of thousands of programmers creating widgets and ad-ons for websites. I’m sure there are many different things you can add to a website that I know nothing about. Here are a few things I have on my websites.
  • Do I need more than one domain name?
    • You will need a domain name that matches your business. It is worth trying to get the name that is your businesses name. If it is unavailable that raises red flags for me around trademark infringement. As for other domain names, I like owning the domains for my products. I buy domains for a year based on brand and product development. If I don’t use them I let them go. I usually own between 15 and 30 domains, including my personal name.

Who Can Help

As you can tell I have been at this for a while and know enough to truly enjoy coding directly in HTML. In fact, when I do my sales pages I do code directly in HTML and it is like a little vacation from my day-to-day activities. That said, when I designed my website layout, wrote the copy, and purchased the domains, I did not set it up myself. I got an expert to set up my hosting, implement the template structure, manage the backups, upload the original content, implement additional widgets, and connect my social media. This saved my 10’s of hours, if not weeks of work.

My recommendation is to know what you need, understand your brand, effectively define the best way to reach your target market, and then hire the expert to implement it.

Everyone Has To Be A Writer

ReadingInLibraryThis is a hard pill to swallow for some, even if you are not a bad writer. As a business owner you will be required to write different types of documents to support your business. I hear people saying, “I’m not a writer”, but I argue that you need to be. You may not have to write at the same level as a published author, but you do have to be able to communicate using the written word.

When we think of a writer we think of these types of activities:

  • blogs
  • articles
  • book
  • marketing campaigns

Additional writing required in business

  • email
  • invitations
  • website copy
  • announcements
  • Facebook or other social media posts
  • texts
  • RFP
  • procedures
  • training instructions
  • messages and memos

I’m sure there are more examples but I think you get my point. Your message must be clear so that the action required by the reader is understood. If you need to make an appointment via email you want to make sure both of you end up at the same place in the same time. Have you ever had this happen:

You send an email with details for a meeting and the person agrees by email. When they read the email they misunderstood the choices which resulted in a missed meeting and a waste of your time. I have had this happen and I try to mitigate this challenge by confirming the meeting email with only the meeting details. Like this:

Confirmed
Date:
Time:
Where:

ReadingInLibrary

So what are the basics you need to know? Here are three that will help you with your writing responsibilities.

Write to a level that everyone can understand

Reading in a Library on top of book stackI used to work in medical research. The doctor I worked for was an amazing woman. She was a PhD and an MD. She had patients, students, research colleagues, and she was the head of the BioPhysics department. Needless to say, she was intelligent, well read, and highly educated. I was young and new to the science we were studying. At a meeting one of her colleagues gave a presentation on his research that he planned on using at an upcoming conference. When he was done she asked me what I thought. I told her I had found it interesting but difficult to follow because I did not know his focus or the foundations of his science. “Exactly” she said, he spoke over your head. Even though the room at the conference will be filled with doctors and attendees that are intelligent, well read, and highly educated they will not have the same background or foundation of understanding. He must speak to the audience at a common level of understanding.

Even if you are writing a research paper, you must write at a common level of understanding so that your audience will have the foundational pieces to put your thoughts and ideas into context.

Have it reviewed

Everything you send out must be reviewed, including your emails and texts. This does not mean you need to hire an editor, but it might. At the very least you need to read through your copy at least once. I like to read it out loud to ensure what I thought I was writing and what I actually wrote are the same thing. You’d be surprised how often I catch errors this way.

If you are sending a document that can be used for legal purposes, like a contract, then having a lawyer or paralegal review it would be wise. For marketing collateral you definitely want to pay an editor to review it. They are trained to look for language that is confusing or wrong. I heard a story recently where the editor recommended a change to a document being used to secure a space for an annual event. The sponsorship-document wording stated an exact year. This meant when the event came up the following year the space they needed may not be available. The person did not take the advice of the editor and the space was not available.

A second example that you may be personally familiar with is the money wasted on professional printing for marketing collateral when you find an error on the final product – like the phone number is wrong. I had this happen to an image I had created. By editing the image I found the error in my website name. Can you imagine people seeing this image and not being able to get to my website because it was misspelled. Your potential clients are not going to go and Google search your website address. Don’t lose clients by making them jump through hoops to understand your intentions.

Easily fixed up front – A pain after the damage is done.

For other documents, having someone read through it may be enough to ensure it is easily understood. If you have a spelling mistake in a Facebook post it will be easily forgiven – as long as it is not a ‘Rob Ford’ sized mistake. Having a spelling mistake in a contract may cost you your income

Read and Practice

If you want to get good at something you have to practice. No one is great at something the very first time they try. I had been writing for over 20 years, but when I started blogging about 5 years ago I was nervous and overwhelmed. What would I write about? How will I find enough information? How will I find the time? The more I wrote the easier it became. This article took 45 minutes to write and 20 minutes for me to review. Then I had it reviewed by another person and updated. About 2 hours in total.

I suggest you also read often. The more I read, the more I have an opinion worth writing about. It gives me more content.

You do not have to be a world-class novelist to write for your business but you do have to know how to write. Even your emails can make a difference to a deal in your business so get good at it and read it over before you send it out. If you want to be known as intelligent, well read, and highly educated then communicate with your audience so they can understand you and then they will get value from what you have to say.