If You Build It, Will “They” Come?

baseball diamond Coors Field

Building a Website for Your Small Business

Iowa cornfield. Baseball diamond. Field of Dreams movie reference.

What does it have to do with building a website?

It’s the analogy I’ve used for the past 5 years or so when small business owners talk about the importance of getting a website up and running.

The dream of an official website is half the fun. The costs associated with building and then maintaining a website are often forgotten in the start-up budget. The learning curve is steep.

It’s true that your website is the new address that goes on your business card. No longer do people really care about your physical address; they really want to know if you have a presence on the web.

But first, you need to make some decisions about your website.

You need a domain name.
Your domain name is your web address that you own for as long as you pay the annual fees.
That’s an annual cost that should be under $20.

You need a web host.
Your web host is where all your web files, pictures, content, etc., are stored.
That’s an annual (under $100) or monthly cost (under $10).

You need software to build your site.
The choices are endless.
As are the costs.

This is where the help of a professional comes into play. This is also where you can save a ton of time by spending a reasonable amount of money so you don’t have to learn something new.

Or you can dive in and build it yourself.

The most important things we want you to consider are these:

  • Your budget
  • Your time

Is getting a website built right now, the best use of your time and money for your business?

Or would you be better off spending time out in the public and on the phone marketing your business?

Your website will be beneficial in the long run. It is a tool that can:

  • Add credibility.
  • Showcase your portfolio.
  • Highlight your services.

Take an honest look at where you are in business and make a good business decision.

The website will not jumpstart your business. You have to do that. It will enhance your business as you grow.

We use Bluehost and WordPress.

If you are still undecided, we offer a free 30 minute phone consultation and we’ll give you our honest feedback about whether you really need a website right now.

Already have a website and want to make it better?

Here is a great article from Clickin Moms about understanding and using google analytics with your website:
Is your website effective?

Bluehost is an affiliate link.
Photo :: Source

Start with One

one dollar bill

January is the month that is notorious for setting high expectations usually in the form of New Year’s resolutions.

Followed by February when many people to resolve not to make anymore New Year’s resolutions.

If you are one of those people who make resolutions each year, stick to them and succeed – virtual high five to you.

But for many, resolutions or goals set in January create more stress and are easily forgotten after a few weeks.

New Clients in 2013

Maybe you want 10 new clients. maybe you want 50. It doesn’t matter what your number is.

Or maybe your goal is a financial number – to earn $xxxxx dollars this year.

Long term goals are great. We should all have them. But many times those long term goals must be broken down into smaller, bite-sized goals. Daily goals help you get to those quarterly and annual goals.

Here’s my suggestion and it applies to whatever business goal you have set:

Start with One…

One really can be a magical number.

One day at a time.

One phone call at a time.

One email at a time.

One appointment at a time.

One new client at a time.

If you make it your job to connect with people, you will get those appointments that will bring you one step closer to a new client which will, in turn, bring you one step closer to your financial goal.

With this simple strategy, you will see your business grow in 2013!

Laura will share some great calendar and scheduling tips next week.

Photo :: Source

5 Steps to Marketing in Your Business Community

Participating in your local business community is a great way to help others and promote your own small business at the same time. In an earlier post, we talked about building relationships.  Let’s take it a step further with a few ideas on how to specifically market your business and find new clients.

1. Make a Plan

Make a list of local businesses that allow others to leave behind information. Think of establishments that have community bulletin boards or a table with local papers and fliers. Coffee shops, nail salons, doctor’s and dentist’s offices are all good examples. Also list businesses that are complementary to yours or who serve the same type of clients.

2. Design a Marketing Piece

This will be your “leave behind” piece. A business card is fine, but even better is a flier or a 4×6 card that briefly explains what you do. Better still, include a short term offer or special that will peak interest and encourage potential clients to pick up the phone.

3. Print Out Just Enough Copies for this Round

…perhaps a dozen per business establishment.  Your special offer will change in a few weeks and that gives you another opportunity to drop into businesses and leave new information.

4. Be Ready to Tell Other Business Owners and Their Staff What You Do

Most of the time this explanation will come up as part of a conversation. But sometimes you will need to open with a sentence or two describing your business and the services or products you offer. Ask if you can leave your fliers and offer them the same special, or a deal tailored just for them.  These fellow business owners have the potential to be your biggest supporters and referral sources.

5. Ask How You Can Help

Continue to spread the word about your fellow neighborhood businesses.  Send them referrals and they will be more willing to do the same for you. If your businesses are complementary, figure out if there is a way you can partner with one another with a more formalized referral program.

The benefits to being an integral part of your business community are many. The key is simply getting out there and getting to know who you work alongside!

Photo :: Source

5 Steps to Building Relationships in Your Community

Building relationships in your town or city is one of the best ways to find new clients. In fact, there are many benefits to getting to know other business owners.

My friend, Karen Grosz, says that the key to networking is to make it your main goal to help other people instead of focusing on how others can help you.

Here are 5 steps you to help you become more comfortable meeting and learning about others in your community:

1. Practice introducing yourself.

Many new business owners find it difficult to make an initial contact. So rehearse! Stick out your hand to your imaginary acquaintance, tell them your name and ask for theirs.

2. Remind yourself that this is about them, not you.

The person you are meeting might just end up being a new friend, great referral source, a mentor, someone who has an incredibly interesting story to share.

3. Begin the conversation by asking questions.

Find out about their business, what products or services they offer, who they serve, how they got started in business and what they love about what they do.

4. Offer to help!

It may be as simple as promising to think about who you know that could use their services. Take a few of their business cards and then pass them on to your friends.

5. Let them know you will be back.

Don’t feel compelled to buy something right now, instead remember to stop back by when you next need this business’s product or service…or just stop back by to say hello and find out how things are going.

Next time, we’ll talk more about how to network and promote your business during these meetings.  For now, get out there and meet the business people in your community!

Photo :: Source

Asip Ink: Designing a Growing Home Business

Katy Asip is a talented entrepreneur whose business has grown steadily over the past 6 years. She is the perfect example of a successful, small business woman who has learned to work and grow her business alongside of her family. Katy has an artistic eye and a flair for both the cute and classic. I’ve been a loyal customer for years! Today, Katy shares with us her tips for running a home based business.

Tell us about your business and the services you offer.

My business is Asip Ink. I design and print personalized stationery, custom invitations and a line of inspirational greeting cards called “Love Notes”

How did you come up with the idea?

I didn’t start out with a business in mind. I was doing volunteer work for a start-up charity in Atlanta. We needed thank you notes and letterhead for our organization so I learned how to do make them. Next, I began making notecards and notepads for friends as gifts. Before I knew it, friends were asking me to make notecards for them to give as gifts. Little by little I grew the concept into a business.

What do you like best about being a small business owner?

I love making my own hours and schedule. I have a family, so it is so nice to have the flexibility to do carpool or doctors’ appointments when my kids need me to. I can tailor my schedule to match my family schedule. I also love working at home. I can have dinner cooking or laundry in while I am working.

What are the frustrations?

When I get super busy I can get overwhelmed. I often think “it’s only me,” but I’m guessing most women have a lot on their plates and often feel the same way.

I have learned to use my less busy times of the year – winter and summer – to stock up on cash and carry inventory, organize my workspace and work on fine-tuning marketing tools. These are the things that I cannot focus on when I am slammed with orders.

Also, I invested in a couple of tools which make my business run so much smoother. I purchased an excellent printer which means less wasted paper, ink and time! An excellent paper cutter saves so much time. So, what may seem like an extravagant expense can save time and money in the long run.

Lastly, I have dedicated time in my office during the day, but I never work at night.

How have you grown your business?

I do several craft show and markets a year and I always make new contacts at these. I have a very large email distribution list and though I don’t send too many emails, it is a good way to stay on customers’ radar. I have a website, asipink.com, which my customers share with friends. My business has grown through word of mouth and the internet.

What advice do you have for others who have a great idea and dream of turning it into a successful business?

I would say the easiest part of having my own business is that every day I am doing something I truly love. If you have a talent or passion it is fun to make money doing what you love. Shape your business so that you are doing the things you love…and hire someone to do the things you don’t!

You can find Katy’s work at asipink.com or contact her at kasip@mac.com

Finding Your First Clients – Part Three

This is part three in a three part series of how to find clients in your new business. We’re using photo organizers as examples but you can use this method in any business that offers a service. Decide what you’re offering and use this same formula. Click to read part one or part two.

Have your potential pig list in front of you?

Good job.

Today is the day you call your chosen pigs.

It’s not everyone’s lucky day at the pet store. You will be taking excellent care of your guinea pigs. But you also want to be sure that these guinea pigs are right for you and your business.

Examples of 3 Ideal Guinea Pigs:

Guinea pig #1 will be a fabulous test case for you to develop a system to organize, file and backup digital photos. Print the best, file the rest. Show this guinea pig how they can do it themselves every month. Better yet, they can hire you to come over and do it for them each month.

Record everything you do. How many pictures, the size of the hard drive, what you upload to the cloud, the service you use, cost of backup, cost of external hard drive, your time.

After pig #1 finishes hugging you and doing the happy dance, create a package for exactly this type of service. Ask pig #1 to tell everyone how you helped them. Let her sing your praises and do some marketing for you. For every referral she sends your way, offer an hour of backup service. (Or one hour of whatever service she’d like.) Let her bank the referrals. Keep a record to let your pig know she has a year to cash in on your services. Win-win.

Pig #2 needs your help because the milestone graduation, wedding or baby’s birth has been overwhelming her with a zillion other details. How to organize and display the pictures has been low on the list. She’s tired. You are here to gather all the photos from various people and cameras and get them all in one place. With pig #2’s input you will create a plan.

You might suggest a photo storyboard, or two or three suitable for framing. A canvas print for that one favorite shot–you know the perfect place she can hang it. A digital album completed and uploaded so family and friends can order a copy. Throw in a digital slideshow on dvd or uploaded to a web service so everyone can watch no matter where they live. Don’t forget the final step of backing everything up in 3 places. Again, record each step in your business pricing strategy notebook just like you did with pig #1.

Same ending for pig #2–offer a referral program and ask her to share with everyone she knows. No limit for this referral program. 12 new clients means a year of free backup services from you. Win-win.

Pig #3 has a box of photos and memorabilia. Maybe they are old black and whites or irreplaceable prints or slides that need sorted, organized and preserved pronto. Walk through the organization process. Spend time with her reviewing and choosing the best of the best. Get them scanned and labeled and stored properly. Make a traditional heirloom album or a modern digital album with the heritage photos. Or both. Back up to the cloud. Show her how other family members can have access. Create a slideshow. A framed print. Work with her to capture the stories before they’re lost.

Same ending–ask for referral names. Explain your referral program and other services you offer so you can work together again. You may consider giving the introductory rates exclusively to your guinea pigs for the first year. Creating these strong marketing partnerships can be invaluable as you grow your business!

Now what?

  • Send each guinea pig a handwritten thank you note.
  • Be sure to give them a stack of business cards, flyers or postcards so they can give people your information.
  • Ask them if they would be so kind as to write a testimonial about you and the services you provided.

Congrats!

High five yourself. Fist bumps all around. You have just completed 3 significant photo organizing projects. You have created a marketing team of 3 raving pigs fans who will mention your name every time someone takes a picture, talks about pictures, shows pictures on their phone or iPad. You get the picture. 😉

You now have photo organizing clients under your belt. You have experience. You can create meaningful packages with solid pricing because you kept track of the time it took for each of these projects.

Now…call some potential clients today and tell them about your fantastic new business!

Read part one of this series here
Read part two of this series here

Finding Your First Clients – Part Two

This is part two in a three part series of how to find clients in your new business. We’re using photo organizers as examples but you can use this method in any business that offers a service. Decide what you’re offering and use this same formula. Click to read part one and part three.

Before you can call your guinea pigs, there is something very important we need to talk about.

Pricing

It’s the elephant in the room.

Photo :: Source

One that can squash your guinea pigs new clients before you even get started.

We need to talk about introductory vs. regular pricing in any new business.

Now is a very good time to figure out your pricing strategy. This is often the first obstacle that shows itself in new business. You know what you want to charge. You know what you dream of earning in your new business. But…

…what if people won’t pay.

…what if you’re not worth it.

…what if they find someone who charges less?

A whole lot of “buts” get in the way of pricing your services. Your goal should be to provide extraordinary service to each and every client. That has nothing to do with most or least expensive. It has to do with quality service.

BUT…

You do need to make money. You need to price your services competitively in the market you live in. You need to be paid for cost of goods sold AND your time.

That’s where the guinea pig strategy comes in. It’s your beta test to help you figure out your pricing. It’s also the best opportunity to communicate what your prices will be and what your introductory prices are for your guinea pigs. It’s the perfect time to give these special pigs an extra special deal!

Your introductory rate could be 50% off your regular rates. Plus your cost of any supplies and materials.

Or it could be free. Plus your cost of any supplies and materials.

Or you could tell them they can wait until you are finished and then pay you whatever they think your services were worth.

Or you could offer to let them pay whatever they could afford.

The point here is to customize your introductory offer based on regular rates that you say out loud. The guinea pigs need to know the value of your services with a dollar amount from the very beginning.

It could be a package of 10 hours at $50 per hour which is $500. When people buy a package or block of time from you, they get 20% off which means the package will be $400.

For the guinea pig, the introductory package might be just $200.

You ultimately decide on the introductory pricing based on your relationship with each guinea pig.

Here’s some sample dialogue:

You know the new business I just started? I need a few guinea pigs to help me in this start-up phase. While I know my rates will be competitive and fair, right now I want to work out my systems with people I know, like you! Will you help me?

Now, stop and listen. Watch their body language. Don’t overwhelm them. Answer their questions. Assure them that you will keep things simple throughout the process.

“I’m so excited you are going to let me work on your ___________ (fill in blank with project related to your services.) For you, I’ll do this at an introductory rate of _________.

Once they say YES, what’s next?

Schedule a specific time for the next step. You have your calendar in front of you, right?

Here’s the conversation when setting up your first appointment:

“Let’s schedule the first step right now. What’s a good day when I can come over and get all your pictures in one big box/off your computer/from the wedding? I’ll sort them, organize them and then make a couple of surprises for you. Promise it won’t be hard and you will LOVE the end result.”

If your guinea pig has control issues then change the conversation to this:

“I’ll come over, sit beside you and walk you through each step. I’ll help you make decisions about the pile/the box/what’s on your computer.”

Be sure to set some urgency to start working immediately. You are not offering for them to be a guinea pig in 6 months or a year. You need their help right now.

“I need to do it in the next week or so. Once I really get the business going, I won’t have the time to help my relatives/friends. Take advantage of me now! If you really can’t, then I’ll ask someone else. But I’d rather do it with you. I’m only doing this with 3 people so I can do all my research and create the best packages for new customers.”

Tomorrow you will be ready to put all this into action. Stay tuned.

Read part one here
Read part three here

Finding Your First Clients – Part One

This is the first in a three part series of how to find clients in your new business. We’re using photo organizers as examples but you can use this method in any business that offers a service. Decide what you’re offering and use this same formula. Click to read part two and part three.

How many guinea pigs does a start-up business need?

three guinea pigs

Photo :: Source

I think you start with three.

One is too lonely.

Five is a crowd.

Three is a good number for so many reasons. More on that later.

For now, start with three.

I just realized you could call them your “Three Little Pigs” but only in your head. And you can label a file folder with that if you want.

Choose your pigs wisely.

  1. Choose a guinea pig with a boatload of digital photos and a slight or big fear of technology.
  2. Choose a guinea pig with a recent or upcoming life event that you could swoop in and help with.
  3. Choose a guinea pig who has inherited boxes of photos recently or years ago and has yet to open the box and tackle what’s inside.

Why pick pigs like those described above?

We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

For today, just make a list of your potential pigs that fit the criteria above.

Read part two here
Read part three here