Update

The new photo at the top of the blog is one I took of the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park.  I will share more in the future as my landscape photography blog/business/book nears its launch.  The blog for my nature photography can be found here: Wishful Images Blog.

Why Article Marketing is Great for Generating Leads

article-marketingLong before the internet rose to its position of importance in marketing, the use of article marketing was considered a useful promotion tool in print media.  Today, the availability of online venues such as websites, ezines and newsletters via email have created an even greater need for well-written articles on a variety of topics.  As a result, article marketing has become a more powerful tool than ever before.

Article marketing is the practice of providing well-written content for distribution to websites and epublishers in exchange for a blurb about the author’s business and contact information.  These “bios” usually include a link to the business owner’s website.

When a business owner offers content for publication, it is equivalent to getting free ad space on countless websites worldwide.  The opportunity for exposure to the right market is significant, while the cost is virtually nil, making it a highly efficient means of business communication.

Unlike using email campaigns for lead generation, which net about a one percent response rate, article marketing targets a willing audience.  Readers either voluntarily visited the website on which the article is published, or have opted in to receive the newsletter or ezine.  This audience is inherently more open to the information contained in the article, and therefore more likely to follow the link to the author’s website to learn more.

Publishers who pick up the articles already have an audience of potential buyers in place.  Readers are interested in the content of the articles, suggesting they may be in the market to purchase products or services related to that content.  By comparison, the cost to purchase a list of such well-qualified leads would be formidable.  Providing an article costs no more than the investment of the time required to write it.

Business owners can further increase the conversion rate by including a link to a particular piece of information in the author’s bio.  Rather than linking to the home page, authors can include a link to an article on their own site that elaborates on the article topic.  Readers will be more likely to seek out additional specific information.

Conversion rates can be improved further by publishing an email address that readers can use to subscribe to the author’s newsletter or website.  Making the desired action as easy as possible increases the reader’s likelihood of doing so.  An auto-response can then be sent to new signa links to specific features of the author’s website.

Providing content to publishers in related fields can be a highly cost-effective means of increasing website traffic, generating qualified leads, and improving both brand awareness and ultimately, sales.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger, nature photographer and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

Are Parties Necessary for Direct Sales Success?

the wish place logoPeople who are considering a home based business in direct sales begin to think about companies that use party plans as a means to generate income.  Party plans encourage prospective customers to host a party in order to earn free or discounted products.  Are parties necessary if you want to work in direct sales?

Not all direct sales companies require their associates to conduct parties.  In fact, some direct sales companies don’t require parties at all.  You may want to look further into companies offering a different plan for marketing if you are not comfortable talking to crowds of people.

Melaleuca, Avon, and World Book, among others, do not require a party plan.  So, are they necessary for success?  Obviously, the answer is no.  Even people that are associated with party plan companies can succeed by using other marketing plans.  It happens every day, you just have to do some research and determine what the other options are.

Direct sales success really depends more on you than on the method of marketing the product to potential customers.  If you don’t believe in the company and the product, it doesn’t matter what you do – you won’t be able to make your home business a success.  Here are some ideas to help you succeed whether you’re using a party plan or not:

1. Familiarize yourself with the business manual you received in your start-up kit.  Make a list of questions you have and then contact your upline sponsor as soon as you can.  Understanding what is expected of you, what you can and cannot do to market the product, and how the company will pay you will make all the difference in how you conduct your business.

2. Follow the instructions given to you during training.  Most likely you will be told to make a list of everyone you know. This will be your master list, the first people you will contact about your new business.  If you don’t complete this task, you’re not going to do the rest.  Swallow your pride and ask for your money back.  This company is not for you.

3. Begin networking with other business owners.  Join the local Chamber of Commerce and get plugged into regular meetings.  You must promote your business if it is to grow, and networking with other business people is a great way to let others know about your company.

4. Schedule specific times during the week to work on the various aspects of your business. If you’re at home, make sure to let friends and family members know that you do not want to be interrupted during your “work” hours.

5. Tell everyone about your business. Don’t assume that they already know about it or that they’re not interested.  You might be surprised to find that more people are interested than you think.

These five points show that you do not have to be involved in home parties in order to succeed in direct sales.  Your success is ultimately up to you, and depends on how serious you are about treating your business as a business.  If you want to see your business grow, you have to act in ways that will cause growth to happen.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger, nature photographer and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

Top Tips for Advertising

marketing tipsAs with any industry in its day-to-day life, such as advertising and business, there are always tips on how best to deal with situations, how best to approach people depending upon the circumstances and the reason for approaching.

For the world of advertising, here are some basic tips that will help you along and help you achieve your desired goal more expediently and effectively.

* Find your target audience.  You will have to do some initial research.  For online advertising you’ll want to use an ad tracker, as this will give you an idea of where your ad is going and what industry setting you get the most views from.

* Know your competitive edge.  What can you offer that others can’t?  Maybe they can offer the same thing but can you find a different spin or edge to make your product more appealing?  Maybe you can go one step further in offering up just a little bit more.  Maybe you have more experience or knowledge.  There are a lot of ways to form a competitive edge.  Know your market and your competitors and be creative.

* Establishing your image can be the best or worst thing for you depending on how you project.  If you project a bad image for yourself or your company, then your sales will most definitely not be where you want them to be.  Always be professional.  Be careful of what you say, whether it be on air or in print.  Use a catchy logo and tag line.  Make your image good and consistent so that it becomes recognizable.

* Spend and make money – many people don’t like this age old adage – You have to spend money to make money.  But it is very true.  You will eventually spend money on advertising, even with free advertising as time alone is money.

The more money you spend, generally the better your reach.  You don’t want to lower your effectiveness in sales by cutting corners.  The cheaper and free advertising may be a good short term solution when you’re starting out but eventually you will want to look into different advertising options that may require more money.

While most advertising is budgeted, don’t be a stick-in-the-mud with that budget.  All industries have “seasonal” times.  Learn the best times and season for your product or service and during these time increase your budget.  Look at places such as Wal-Mart for back to school or holiday sales – they don’t stay within their set advertising budget.

Knowing when your high and low sales points are will be will become a cornerstone in determining when to go over budget.  Keep in mind as well that these seasonal times can change according to economy and market changes.

* Know your market; find your niche.  You do not want to advertise in the wrong “community”.  If you want to sell rodeo tickets you don’t go to a baseball game.  Do your research to find your niches.

* Diversification is a great key to advertising.  You never want to use just one measure of attracting customers.  Generally the wealthiest businesses are the ones that use a many-fold approach in finding new clients and customers.

* Keep in mind that your product or service will not appeal to everyone, no matter what you do.  If you spend the time and money trying to appeal to everyone, you stand a high risk of losing more than you are gaining.  This is especially so when you are a smaller company.

Even the major fast food chains don’t do this.  They have a market and they know who that market is.

While these tips don’t sound too difficult, you would be surprised at just how many people struggle with advertising. The key is always to diversify, be persistent and track your results ruthlessly so that you know what’s working and what isn’t.
julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger, nature photographer and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

Marketing Dos and Don’ts

dos and dontsWhat is worse than not marketing your website?  It is getting bad backlash from doing the wrong thing.  At least if you aren’t marketing you still have the opportunity to do so.  When you are getting a bad rap, people may avoid you like the plague.  Here are some marketing do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you go forward from this point.

DOs

1.  Keep the name of your website short and to the point.  When it comes to reading something on the Internet, shorter is better.  People lose interest quickly and a long name will not be catchy enough to stay on their minds for very long.  This is a business that you want to keep going for a long time.  Choose your words carefully.

2.  Use your signature line in forums and on emails.  The signature line is not just for your name anymore.  Include the name of your business, a brief description of what it is about, and the website link to find your main business page.  Be sure to check with the forum administrators to find out what you can and can’t do as far as trying to get free advertising.

3.  Do advertise offline to the local community.  The local community is another sphere of influence that will help the word spread about your business.  If money is an issue, advertise in church directories, newsletters, advertising books for special events, and the word of mouth method.  Talking to people in the beauty shop, barber shop, church, and the Rotary Club meeting can earn you hundreds more visitors to the site.

4.  Learn all that you can about search engine optimization.  The idea is to be ranked somewhere on the first page of search results for as many search engines as you can.  Most people only look on the first page because they assume correctly that they are the best places to find the information needed.

DON’Ts

1.  If you ignore the rules of posting information about your business on forums, they will boot you out.  This type of blatant solicitation is prohibited on most forums.  They let you use your signature line but adhere to the rules of what you can say.

2.  Adding a lot of extra frills to your website page will not make it more attractive to the search engines.  People who visit may like the bells and whistles but they won’t find you to admire them if you are consistently placed low in the page rankings.

3. Take a long time to respond to customer service issues.  When customers send you email about a broken product or have a question, answer promptly.  If you do not they will tell everyone that they know about your rotten service.  That type of word of mouth marketing you can do without.

Marketing strategies will either help or hurt you.  It takes time to see what works best so try as many as you can.  Remember that the object is to attract customers, not anger them.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

Frugal Marketing 101

frugal 2When you’re building a business on a budget, getting started may seem like an insurmountable task.  But with hard work and determination, you can do it.  Once you’ve got everything in place, it’s time to get to work on marketing your business.

Small business owners often feel that they do not have the resources to market themselves, so they just set up shop and hope for the best.  This is one of the reasons that so many small businesses fail.  If no one knows that you exist, how are you going to make any money?

You don’t have to spend a lot of money for your marketing to be successful.  If you’re willing to take promotion into your own hands, you can get good results without going broke.  In fact, there are some marketing methods that do not cost a dime.  Here are some cheap and free ways to get the word out about your business:

* Write and distribute press releases.  There are websites where you can submit them for free for anyone to read, but it’s also important to send them directly to media outlets.  This could get your business featured in a story in the paper or a magazine, or maybe even the television news.

* Write articles about your field of expertise and submit them to online article directories.  You can add a resource box with a short bio and link to your website.  Webmasters can access these articles and add them to their sites as long as they keep them as-is, so this will give you publicity and links to your website.

* Seek out joint ventures with other small businesses.  This could be a good source of publicity, and you can split advertising costs.

* Try bartering for advertising.  If you run a cleaning service, for example, see if the local newspaper will allow you to clean offices in exchange for ad space.

* Distribute lots and lots of business cards.  Business cards are a staple for any businessperson, whether a small business owner or the head of a multinational corporation.  Hand them out to anyone you discuss business with, leave them at local business that cater to clients who might be interested in your products or services, and drop them in any correspondence you send.

* Donate items for fundraising raffles and other types of giveaways.  This is a nice gesture of goodwill, and your business name will be featured on tickets and promotional materials.

Marketing does not have to be expensive to be effective.  There is room for some amount of marketing in any budget, because some methods come at no cost except your time.  So there’s no reason that you can’t get the word out about your business, no matter how little you have to spend.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

Paid Advertising Versus Free Advertising

advertisingAdvertising can be a very big topic among small business owners.  It is not uncommon for small business owners to feel a little lost when it comes to advertising.  There are so many choices out there that it can be a little confusing when trying to figure out the best advertising options.

Some business owners may feel that paid advertising will be their best option and seek out those choices.  Others may be on a small budget that does not allow for much paid advertising.  Because of this, they turn to free advertising.

Each group may be wondering if they are making the right choice and if they should keep doing what they are doing.  In this article we will talk about the differences between the two types of advertising and give you the pros and cons of each.

Paid advertising includes things such as ads in magazines, newspapers, on websites, blogs, ezines, pay-per-clicks and so forth.  The benefit is, of course, the exposure that paid advertising can bring.  Unfortunately, the cost of these ads can get expensive, especially if the ad will be seen by a large audience.

Free advertising includes things such as social networking, commenting on blogs, article distribution, sending out press releases, posting on forums, and so forth.  The main benefit of free advertising is that a business can receive a lot of exposure without paying out of pocket.

On the other hand, it can take up a lot of time to actively participate in free advertising and it is hard to say if it will bring in the exposure the business is hoping for.  Sometimes a business can get lucky and their free ad will generate lots of traffic, but that isn’t something a business should depend on.

While some business owners may think they need to decide between the two, a third option is take part in a little of both types.  A business owner can set a dollar budget for paid advertising and a time budget for free advertising.

By doing a little of both, the business owner has the potential for increased exposure while staying on a fixed budget.

The website’s statistics program will help the business owner stay on top of where their traffic is coming from and help them decide where to continue investing their time and money.

Another option is to use an ad tracking system, which will automatically track the each of your ad’s clicks and conversion rates.

Advertising is an essential part of owning a business.  Without it, a business is going to have a very hard time finding new customers.  By getting creative and participating in both free and paid advertising, a business owner can develop an advertising plan that truly works for them.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

How a Blog Can Help Grow Your Business

blogHaving a website for your home based business is almost a necessity in today’s high tech, internet-crazy world.  Having a website might not be enough, though.  Take a look to see how a web log, or “blog”, can help grow your direct sales business as well.

Many direct sales businesses offer their sales associates a website that links directly back to the parent company’s site. You might even have taken a bold step and chosen to purchase a domain name and created your own business website.  Those are both good ideas, but perhaps you should also add a blog to your arsenal of online marketing tools.

You want to use every available option when promoting your direct sales business, whether offline or online.  You wouldn’t think of starting a new home business without purchasing business cards.  Why would you consider having one without using a blog to help generate leads and possibly recruit new team members?

A blog can be effective for promoting your business. It can also help you meet new prospects, either as customer or as part of your downline.  Blogs can also be a creative outlet when you’ve had to deal with the restrictions of some direct sales companies.  A blog can truly help your business reach a new level.

Before you jump on the blog bandwagon, however, you need to read and understand your company’s policy about using the internet for marketing.  If they do not allow personal internet advertising it would be better to set this idea aside.  Use whatever means they allow to do your marketing.

Consider your goals for having a blog and write them down.  Know what you want to accomplish with your blog before you write your first sentence.  Think about the people that will be reading your blog, usually your prospective customers or downline, then design your blog with them in mind.  Find an area to focus on – whether sales, recruiting, or training – and build your blog around that focus area.

Blogging about your direct sales business gives you an outlet to discuss new products and specials that will be coming up, and gives your team members and customers a sneak peak at new items before they are available.  Blogs also allow you to share things that may be related to your business but not a direct part of it.  For instance, if your products relate to cooking, use your blog to post recipes for your readers to enjoy.  Try to remember who your target market is and provide them with things they will find valuable.

It is easy to see why blogging has become so popular.  Millions of people use their blog to express themselves every day.  Why not take advantage of this tool and use it to help your direct sales business grow?  All it takes is a little bit of time and thought, and a desire to offer your customers and team members another outlet to success.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.