In a slump? Revive your business in 5 easy steps.

in a slump?It is inevitable, your networking group will dissolve, a hot new competitor will come along, or your largest client will ditch you without warning. Odds are at some point you’ll find your previously “well-oiled machine” smack in the middle of a slump. You weren’t coasting either, it just happened. And when it does, you’ve got to do something about it. Here are a few tips for reviving your business:

#1. Stop Complaining
When business isn’t going well, it’s a common practice to blame it on someone, something, or the economy. Don’t waste your time; blame won’t get you new projects or clients.

#2. Re-group
Admit that billable hours have declined, but DON’T DWELL on it. Instead, dust off your business plan, analyze your marketing/advertising mix, and evaluate the effectiveness of your sales efforts. What worked in the past that you stopped doing? Look for new avenues to get your message out. For example, Internet Based Radio stations are springing up everywhere, and their talk show hosts are always looking for interesting guests.

#3. Brainstorm for Action Items
Change, even if it isn’t perfect, will modify the dynamic of a situation and help to propel your business out of its slump. Gather with your advisory board/trusted friends/mentors or whoever it is you meet with to discuss business and BRAINSTORM. Make a possibility list – throw any perceived limitations out the window and shoot for the moon. You may not have the budget for a full-page ad in the Fort Worth Business Press, but the discussion of advertising might just spark another idea that is feasible.

#4. Create EXCITING New Goals
Take the best ideas from your brainstorming session, turn them into shiny new goals, then assign a time-line for completion to each one. For example, you might commit to completing a certain number of telephone calls each week to previous clients, telling them about a new offer. Get excited about these goals, take them seriously, and set appropriate rewards for yourself and those assisting you.

#5. Take Action
Sitting around tormenting yourself, whining to your spouse, or stewing with friends, obviously isn’t going to resolve your slump. It’s up to YOU to make things happen. You’ve done it before; there’s no question that you can do it again.

Slumps happen – that’s part of being in business. But if you think smart, stay POSITIVE, and keep your attention focused on satisfying your customers, odds are you’ll rally and overcome your challenges.

How to Get Started with Email Marketing

Getting Started With Email MarketingIf you have read about the benefits of email marketing but you’re not sure where to begin, a good place to start is by answering some fundamental questions about your business, your customers, and your goals, including:

  • Who is your primary target audience? 
    This is typically the same as for your business, but don’t forget to include your referral partners, suppliers, strategic alliances, and your mom – she likes to brag on your success.
  • What are your goals for email marketing? 
    Increased sales? Increase brand awareness? Drip Marketing? To establish yourself as an expert in your field?
  • What type of content or free offer would entice your target audience to subscribe to your email list?
    Free tips? Exclusive discounts? A special report or white paper?
  • What ongoing messaging can you share with your audience that will be of VALUE to them?
     Information about your industry or field of expertise? Specials? Exclusive access/announcements?
  • Which email marketing program will you use to manage your list and messages? 
    There are multiple options in the marketplace including my personal favorite, MailChimp. 
  • How will you display your sign-up widget? 
    A separate squeeze page? A site-wide opt-in box?
  • How will you measure your success?
    New subscribers? Increased sales conversions?
  • What are your key benchmarks and how often will your measure your success? 
    Example: A 25% increase in site traffic or 15% increase in the number of direct messages from clients and potential clients. How often: after 90 days? Monthly?

Free Offer Ideas

One of the toughest aspects of starting an email marketing program is getting people to opt into your distribution list. A great way to entice them to sign up via your website is to give them something of value. I suggest sitting down with a business associate and brainstorming ideas. Here is a handy “seed” list to kick-start your brainstorming session:

  • Offer a free or discounted consultation
  • Offer an eBook, White Paper, or Special Report
  • Special Discounts or Coupons
  • Have a contest with a valuable prize
  • Write an industry survey and offer to share the results
  • Create a video series or interview series

Relevancy and SEO Defined

Do you ever wonder how relevancy is determined by Google? Why some websites quickly rise in the SERPs (search engine result pages) and others don’t?

How-is-relevancy-determinedThe Google algorithm, which is used to determine relevancy, considers 500 million variables and two billion terms. That’s way too much information for the average small business owner to keep up with. Instead, try focusing on these top five factors influencing SEO:

  1. Content & Keyword Relevancy
  2. Traffic Levels
  3. Quality back-links to your site
  4. Fresh and unique content
  5. Domain age

SEO Defined: “SEO is the process of designing and modifying websites, as well as updating on-site content in order to gain top positions in the Search Engines for specific keyword searches.”

SEO basics include:

  • Adding and improving website content to ensure it is targeting the right audience and keywords.
  • Improving site structure and navigation to make it ‘Google Spider’ friendly.
  • Optimizing the HTML source code
  • Link Building

 Link building defined: “Link Building refers to the process of getting high-quality in-bound (one-way) links to your website in order to improve your search rankings and listings.”

Link building involves: 

  • Creating and distributing relevant content (ie. articles, blog posts, etc.) to press release networks, article banks, social bookmarking sites, and other Social Media channels.
  • Researching and sending link requests to quality, relevant sites. (ie. Blog rolls)
  • Using Social Media and Blogs to ignite search listings and build one-way links back to your site.

How To Create Easy To Remember, Strong Passwords

This method truly is brilliant! I have to give props where they are due: my husband Sam taught me a variation of this method a couple of years ago. :) Basically you use a combination of numbers, symbols, and upper/lower case letters.

What makes a password strong is the combination of different alphanumeric, special characters, and capitalization that you use, and of course the length of the password.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to remember and type an epistle when I fill out a password field. And, ideally, I don’t want to use the same password on many sites, because if one is compromised then my entire life is unlocked.

I want to show you here how to choose very strong passwords for every website that you use, that are different for each website, and are each only 9 characters in length max.

A study found that an 8-character password that’s constructed in the manner I’m going to show you has 7.2 quadrillion different combinations, and will take 83.5 days to crack if the hacker can try 1 billion different passwords per second.

Step 1: Pick 2 Starting Characters
To make it easy to remember, all your passwords are going to start with the same characters. But these are not just any characters. Pick 2 characters from the list of special characters that you see above the numbers on your keyboard and to the left of the Enter key.

These characters are: ~`!@#$%^&*()_-+={}[]:;”‘<>?/|\

Pick any two of them as your password starting characters. To show you an example as you read through the steps, let’s pick $ and % (pick your own two). In my example, all my passwords are going to start with $%.

Step 2: Pick 2 Ending Characters
In exactly the same way as above, pick two different special characters that will be at the end of your passwords. Don’t pick the same characters as your starting characters.

For the purposes of my example, let’s pick * and ^. Hence, all my passwords are going to end with *^.

Step 3: Construct The Middle Part Using The Website Name
This is the fun part. Take the first 6 characters of the website domain name where you want to use the password. If the domain name is shorter than 6 characters, then use the full domain name.

In my example, let’s create a password www.microsoft.com. The first 6 characters of the domain name is “micros”. Now we’re going to substitute some characters and capitalize others. Substitute the following characters: a becomes @, e becomes 3, i becomes 1, o becomes 0, and u becomes ^. Now we have “m1cr0s“.

Now, decide on a standard for yourself regarding which character(s) you’re going to capitalize. For this example, let’s say we’re always going to capitalize the 3rd consonant. So now we have “m1cR0s”. The next step is to drop the last character (“s” in our case), and append the Ending Characters (*^) that you picked in Step 2. Our password is now “m1cR0*^“.

The last step is to add the Starting Characters (Step 1) to the beginning of the password. The final password is “$%m1cR0*^“.

A Few More Examples

  • Domain: www.twitter.com, Password: “$%tw1Tt*^”.
  • Domain: www.facebook.com, Password: “$%f@c3B*^”.
  • Domain: www.ebay.com: Password: “$%3b@*^”

Remember Pick your own 2 starting characters and your own 2 ending characters, don’t just use the same ones I used in the example. In addition, make your own capitalization rule (you can capitalize more than 1 character if you want to. You can also use more than the first 6 characters of the domain name if you want to. It just means your passwords will be slightly longer.

Is This Password Strong?
Yes, it is very strong. With this method you’re potentially using any of 30 special characters, 10 numerals, and 26 lower case and 26 uppercase characters. Unless a hacker happens to have a water-cooled supercomputer in his briefcase, he will not be able to crack your password.

Making It Even Stronger
If you’re concerned that some hackers might know about this password construction method, simply pick 3 starting characters and/or 3 ending characters, or as many as you like. Any slight variation of the method makes your passwords even more secure.

This article was written by Dewald Pretorius from Socialoomph.com.

If you have questions or need help picking a strong, easy to remember password please don’t hesitate to give me a call, or shoot me an email. I’m happy to help you with this very important issue.

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

How to Organize Your Computer Files

I‘ve been successfully organizing large amounts of data for years and I developed the following method while working at Verizon as a research analyst. I continue to use it and teach it to my clients, today. The key to organizing the files on your computer begins with how you name your files.

Rule #1 – Name your files and folders: General to Specific

Rule #2 – Start with the full 4-digit year

Rule #3 – Be consistent

Example: I write a series of reports each month for a client called MLC; I’ve been writing these reports for over two years, and since I enjoy this client and project I hope to continue writing these reports for years to come. By using the following file naming method it’s easy to keep my files organized and to quickly retrieve old reports at a moment’s notice. Here are three sample files created for my client “MLC”:

  • 2010_01_MLC_Report_ABCcompany.pdf
  • 2010_01_MLC_Report_AcmeCorp.pdf
  • 2010_02_MLC_Invoice_JanVAservices.pdf

Always start with the four-digit year, followed by the two-digit month, followed by the client, followed by what (report, invoice, etc.), then end with the specific subject of the file.

Once you get used to consistently using this file naming convention, scanning your filing system and retrieving data is much easier and quicker!

Why do internet start-up businesses fail?

The US Small Business Association (sba.gov) claims >50% of start-ups will not survive their first five years in business. In the internet space, this percentage may be even larger considering the low barriers to entry and low costs of starting an online business.

Don’t be another statistic! Reviews these nine reasons businesses fail and take affirmative action!

  • Saturated Market – Who is your competition? How much competition do you have? Many businesses fail because they do not take the time, or know how to, conduct a   competitor analysis.
  • Lack of Planning and Organization – The cure to this is solid strategic planning, developing systems and processes for ALL your business activities,  and effective marketing planning.
  • Poor Management / Leadership / Team – Are you trying to do everything yourself including the accounting, sales, marketing, management, human resources AND produce products? Are you trying to run a professional business with unskilled, or even unavailable, team members? 
  • Insufficient Capital – Not enough money to sufficiently fund start-up costs or to adequately plan for long-term needs.
  • Location – obviously this applies primarily to local based businesses, but for internet marketers WHERE you market online can also have a huge impact on your success. 
  • Over expansion – Businesses trying to grow too quick. Remember the “dot com bubble” (1995-2000)? Many of those ventures received “angel investor” funding, hired a ton of staff, then discovered they didn’t have sufficient market demand to sustain their payroll expenses. 
  • Poor Products – Does your product meet the needs of your customer? The key here is understanding: What does your customer consider value?
  • Ineffective Marketing and Promotion – Often this is skipped because business owners feel they can’t afford to spend money on advertising. Which is why I study, use, and teach “low-cost to no-cost” internet marketing techniques.
  • Inadequate USP (unique selling proposition) – This is the way you market yourself, the verbiage you use on your site, and your unique branding. It is critical you differentiate yourself from the competition!

The best way to differentiate yourself from your competition is to first conduct a thorough competitor analysis. If you are going to avoid being another generic business, you simply have to answer these questions:

  • What are your competitors doing?
  • How are they marketing themselves?
  • What keywords are they bidding on?
  • Are they utilizing social media channels?