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.

Customer Value

customerIt drives me crazy the way some companies treat their customers – as well as their employees even.  An employee who isn’t treated with respect may not treat a customer with respect and then there goes all value of even having a business, right out the window.  All I can say is, if you want your business to fail, then forget about customer value.  And if you want to succeed, then customer value should be your highest priority.

A profitable business has and shows respect not only to their employees but to their customers as well.  In showing this respect you build a “bank”, and in that bank you can find return respect, appreciation, friendliness and willingness.  All this adds to the recipe of having positive customer value.  Having this value is a cornerstone to achieving repeat customers and less hassle.  It saves time for all involved.  If a manager or CEO or whoever can show that they care, then that gets passed on down the line to an employee straight to the customer.

Customers are the only reason a business stays alive.  I don’t imagine that a business owner would ever go and buy enough of their own products to keep themselves afloat, so they have to rely on someone else.  If you show no appreciation for the person who visits your store or online store front, even if nothing is purchased, then you need to step back and reconsider why you are doing what you are doing and either shut down business or provide what any customer needs.

Keep in mind that as soon as anyone walks into you store, they are immediately a customer, with or without a purchase.  There is no rhyme or reason to have to continually find new business because of the loss of customers.  To do so only means more costs to run your business and these are unnecessary costs that only inflate your overhead, giving less profit.

Develop relationships, be courteous, make them important to you and let them know that.  There are so many ways to show appreciation to get value.  Why not have a customer appreciation day a couple of times a year?  Maybe it will be an in-store party complete with a cakewalk and prizes.  Why save this only for grand openings?  Maybe at holiday times, spend the extra bit of profit to buy little holiday-related cheers to hand out, or simple “thank you for doing business with us” notes that aren’t printed on the back of a receipt.

If you want your business to succeed, then cater to those who will come to visit.  Think about what you want when you walk into a store.  Keep in mind what you dislike about the treatment you may receive from other businesses, and know not to do that.  Put out a suggestion box, and it make conspicuous.  All these things show you care, and the end line will be that you build value in your customers which promotes repeat transactions as well as free, positive advertising via word of mouth.

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 StatLeader 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.

Buy Similar Domain Names

website designDomain names need to be chosen carefully.  Your business and your domain name are intertwined.  It represents you and who you want to be in the market.  When choosing a domain name is it a wise idea to purchase others that are similar to the one that you chose for yourself.

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of this question.  Whether you should buy other domain names that are close depends on how well your name was chosen.  Just like you conduct research before choosing a niche for your business, do the same before choosing a domain name.

Domain names can be triggered by keyword searches.  If part of your domain name contains a keyword that is popular in search engine searches it could be a future winner.  Ideally, you want your domain name to appear on the first page of a search.

A winning domain name will have others trying to get as close to it as possible without infringing.  Buying those domain names yourself means that they will have to come to you for those names.  You may want to use those names in the future for other websites that you will create.  Having names that are similar will ensure that others can find your sites with their keyword searches.

If your domain becomes a household name, the other domains will become even more valuable to you in the future.  You will have the option of selling them for a fair amount of money or holding on to them.  Selling them will mean that someone else will get to ride your popularity with a name similar to yours.

One reason to buy similar domain names is for misspellings.  Do you know what homophones are?  They are words that sound alike but are spelled differently.  If you are doing a podcast or talking about your business website to someone and tell them your domain name, it is possible that they could misspell it when they type it into the URL address space.

If someone misspells it, that person could be directed to another website.  Thinking it is your site they could recommend it to someone else or buy from that site.  It could end up being a costly faux pas on your part.

When you enter your own address, purposely misspell it and see what comes up.  If there are no matches, then you might be safe — for now.  You may want to think of all the spellings that could come up and buy those domains as well to avoid this problem in the future.

There is a lot to know about domain names besides just coming up with the names.  Before you choose your name, look into all the possibilities so that you are sure that a good name that can’t be duplicated is chosen.

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 StatLeader 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.

Don’t Let Your Subscribers Forget About You

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You’ve accomplished the most difficult and significant part of the job, you’ve acquired email addresses and built a subscriber database. Are you taking advantage of the invaluable resource or have you let your subscribers forget about you?

Subscribers get neglected for many reasons:

Business owners run out of content ideas.

The system isn’t as automated as it can be and communicating with subscribers takes too much time.

The automation is a process that can be easily implemented. Find a database management and autoresponder system and let it go. You can then create a year’s worth of content, schedule it and then let it go. Your subscribers needs will be met and you’ll be taking a huge step toward increasing your company’s bottom line.

Running out of content ideas is another issue altogether. There are a number of solutions.

Hire a ghostwriter. Let’s face it; if you’ve been writing your own content for some time, you’re going to start repeating yourself. It happens to everyone – even professional writers. Sometimes it takes a fresh mind and a fresh voice to find new ideas. A ghostwriter may be able to present a wealth of new topic ideas so you can continue to deliver value and benefit to subscribers.

Mix up the offerings.

Articles and newsletters are great but they’re not the only red jelly bean in the bag. There is a wealth of content offerings to consider:

* Video
* Audio
* Podcasts
* Email courses
* Online seminars
* Workbooks
* Reports
* Case Studies
* Reviews
* Expert interviews, audio and/or transcripts
* Surveys and quizzes
The list goes on and on. Additionally, mixing up the type of content sent to subscribers will keep them interested in your company. Everyone has their own content preferences, some people prefer to read, and others love to watch videos. When you offer a mix of content, you make sure everyone gets what they like.

How much is too much?

The big question for many business owners is how often should I communicate with my list? The answer is, it varies. Experts recommend no more than twice a week and certainly at least once a month. However, the key is to communicate with them as frequently as you promised. If they signed up for a weekly newsletter then by all means honor it and send them a weekly newsletter.

Consistent communication with your subscribers keeps them thinking of you. Timing is everything when it comes to making a sale. If you’re in regular communication with your prospects, chances are your timing is going to hit the target frequently. If you allow them to forget about you, they may fill their need for your products and services elsewhere. Don’t let them do that! You’re the best solution for their needs, right? Make sure they know it too.

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 StatLeader 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.

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.