All posts tagged home-based business

Making a Difference With Your Business

Making a Difference With Your Business

Making a Difference With Your Business from http://dsef.orgOne of the benefits of owning your own business is the fact that you can use that business to make a positive impact in the world around you. Many of the most successful businesses have a “giving back” component built right in. Not only does giving back create a positive perception of your business, which helps build your business, but it also makes your daily business activities more satisfying.

Now if your business is part of a larger organization, it’s likely that your parent company has a philanthropic component built in. But whether it does or not, you should also consider what you can do as an individual business owner to make a difference. Here are some tips:

  • Fundraising for Local Organizations: You can help local charities by offering fundraisers through your business. The organization promotes your business, and you in return donate a percentage of sales that result. It’s a win-win!
  • Sponsor Local Races or Other Events for Charity: Many charitable organizations hold 5K runs and other fundraisers to generate funds and create awareness. Often these events need sponsors that donate to the event, and in return the sponsor’s name or business is promoted along with the event. This is a great way to help these organizations, while also generating additional exposure for your business.
  • Promote Local Causes: Your business often puts you in front of lots of people. Use this opportunity to let people know about a charity that you support. Put up or distribute a flyer to customers, tag a cause on your Facebook Page, or mention the cause as appropriate when meeting with customers. It’s a great way to do some good, and build good-will for your business, too.
  • Volunteer: Get yourself a t-shirt with your business on it, and then get out into the community and help out! Whether it be helping to plant bulbs to beautify your town, cleaning out an empty lot, or building a house for the homeless, there are lots of opportunities in your community to make a difference. Use these opportunities to get to know people who may become future customers of your business, while also demonstrating your business’ commitment to making a difference in the community.

Business owners often report that the good that they do with their business is one of the most satisfying parts of being a business owner. So get out there! It’s a great way to build some exposure for your business while making a difference. What will you do to make a difference? Please share with us in the comments!

4 Ways to Keep Reinventing and Re-energizing Your Business

4 Ways to Keep Reinventing and Re-energizing Your Business

Have you ever reached that point in your business where things just feel a little stale? Things have been the same for a while, and the business just doesn’t feel like it’s growing? It’s important to move beyond this, because a business that isn’t growing is one that’s fading. You are always moving in some direction. Take control of the direction of your business, and help yourself move forward, with these tips.

  1. Socialize with Customers: Sometimes you need to get out of your rut. So find out where your customers hang out, and spend time there yourself, socializing and getting to know people. Find out what’s important to them, what interests them, what they talk about. Make sure you’re focused on learning as much as you can about the people you serve, and use that insight to improve and grow your business.
  2. Connect with Other Business Owners: Another great source of insights that can help your business grow is other business owners. So team up with other local small businesses and learn from them. Join the local Chamber of Commerce and volunteer your time to help improve the business environment in your town. Help promote the businesses  of others, and you may find that you increase your customer base as well.
  3. Remind People About Your Business: Don’t assume everyone remembers what you have to offer, especially if you don’t own a brick and mortar establishment that people see regularly. Marketing and advertising should be a regular part of your business activities. Make sure everyone in your local community knows what you do and do whatever necessary to encourage them to come to you with their needs. For example, a local scrapbooking consultant always sponsors her son’s sports team. For the entire season, her name and her business are on the backs of all the children playing (for all their parents to see), and it’s also listed on team schedules, as the name of her business is the name of the team. Another business buys a plaque each year at the local Little League field, and it stays up all year, reminding people about the business. Make sure you’re doing what it takes to stay front of mind for your business.
  4. Provide Personalized Service: If your business has a reputation for personalized, excellent customer service, your reputation will spread. Everyone likes to feel like they have someone who is completely committed to meeting their needs. Make it a point to make every single customer you work with feel like they are a rock star. Ask questions, learn the names of their kids, find out what matters to them. Bring these things up each time you talk to them. And try to anticipate their needs, so that they feel like you are going the extra mile for them. It will be appreciated and bring them back, because very few businesses provide this level of service anymore.

A growing business takes careful thought and strategy. Be sure you are consistently focused on what you can do to grow your business, so you don’t stagnate and go in the wrong direction! By constantly working on growth, you can enjoy a thriving business and enthusiastic customers who refer their friends to you.

How do you keep your business growing? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Tips for Running an Effective Contest Online

Tips for Running an Effective Contest Online

Tips For Running An Effective Online Contest from http://dsef.orgNow that Facebook has changed its Promotions Guidelines, allowing people to use Facebook features such as likes and comments to enter contests on the social network, the landscape has changed for small business owners and entrepreneurs. No longer do you need to use a third party application to engage your online community with a contest.

But just because it’s easier now to run a contest online, doesn’t mean there aren’t guidelines you should follow. Let’s explore some of the options you have for running a contest online, whether on Facebook or elsewhere, and look at some best practices.

  1. Choose a Goal for Your Contest: One of the biggest mistakes businesses make when hosting a contest is not having a goal. Before you set up any contest, make sure you know what business goal you want to accomplish as a result of the contest, that will justify the time and expense you will put in. For example, you may be hoping to collect email addresses for your mailing list, which will ultimately lead to more sales. You may wish to increase your Page’s likes and reach, which will lead to greater brand recognition. Whatever your goal, make sure you have one, because it will help you structure your contest to achieve that goal.
  2. Decide What Tool You’ll Use for Your Contest: Sure, Facebook is an easy choice for your contest, but it’s not the only choice. Depending on your goals and your budget, you might choose to host your contest on your blog, on a separate tab on your Facebook Page, or on a social network such as Pinterest or Instagram. If your goal is simply to gain likes and shares on Facebook, you may just want to do a contest post on your Facebook Page that encourages those user behaviors. If you want to collect user information, you may want to set up a contact form on your blog  (using a contact form plugin on your blog or a Google Docs form) or on a separate Facebook Landing Page (using a 3rd party application like Pagemodo) that will serve as your entry mechanism. If your goal is to engage users on social networks beyond just Facebook, you might use a Rafflecopter widget on your blog or website that provides additional entries for pinning, tweeting, Instagramming, commenting, etc.
  3. Choose a Motivating Prize: When you have a goal for your contest, you also have a good idea of who you want to reach. Make sure you understand what motivates that type of person, so you can choose a prize for your contest that will attract them. For example, if you want to attract people who would be interested in organizing products, you won’t give away a book about sports. Rather, you’d give away a book about how to organize, or a product that helps someone organize their home.
  4. Choose a Time Frame: Avoid a contest that lasts too long, or you’ll lose momentum and interest. Many contests are most effective when they last a week or less.
  5. Write Up Your Rules and Keep Them Simple: It’s a good idea to write down the rules for your contest ahead of time so that there are no misunderstandings that could alienate the very people you’re trying to reach with your contest. Include such things as how to enter, what people will win, the dates for the contest, and when and how you’ll announce the winner. They don’t need to be complicated, but make sure they’re easy to understand. Post these rules on your website or blog (or a separate Facebook landing page) and provide a link to them wherever people enter your contest.

A contest can be a great way to attract new people to your business. But you need a strategy behind your contest to attract the kind of people that you’re looking for. So take a little bit of time to plan your contest based on your goals, and you’ll enjoy greater success.

What’s your favorite way to run a contest online? What tips do you have for making a contest effective? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

Maximizing Working Styles For Success

Maximizing Working Styles For Success

MP900289525[1]When you’re in a business that requires you to work with others, it’s important to understand their working styles, as well as your own. People have different approaches to work and motivation, and when you can understand these styles, you can create an environment that nurtures success.

Which of these working styles describe you, and those you work with?

  • The Doer: These are the “aim and shoot” type people. They get to work right away on the task at hand, but sometimes forget to plan. This type of person may need to team up with someone who is a planner, and who can provide the strategic tasks to the doer that will be most successful. The doer also often needs immediate feedback and positive reinforcement, so having someone who can acknowledge the doer’s effort can be helpful.
  • The Leader: The leader is someone who loves to create the vision and inspire others to follow in a certain direction. Sometimes, however, the leader can forget the followers’ perspective, so it’s important for the leader to have someone they trust and listen to who can provide feedback on how the leader’s direction is resonating with others. At the same time, the leader thrives in an environment when he or she can think outside of the box, and explore new journeys, so it’s important for the leader to have people that support the vision.
  • The Lover: The lover is the relationship person. They love to connect with others, understand where they are coming from and be supportive. Sometimes, however, the lover spends so much time on relationships that they neglect to move forward. They can lose their way a bit in the challenges of others. Therefore, this person needs to be connected with those who are passionate about moving forward and doing the work.
  • The Researcher: This working style loves to study and understand the situation, but needs help creating the plan and following through. The researcher can be exceptionally valuable to the leader, since he or she can provide important information that helps the leader set the course for the team. Researchers often do best when they receive positive reinforcement for their contributions to the team, and can be encouraged to move forward by showing them how their research can be applied towards the goal.

When building your team, it’s important to understand that everyone has unique working styles. Successful leaders leverage the strengths of each style and team styles appropriately in order to help the entire team achieve success.

What working style are you? How do you work with other styles? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

3 Things You Must Do Now to Grow Your Business

3 Things You Must Do Now to Grow Your Business

cheerupAs a business owner, growth is an important part of your business. And that means that you must always be coming up with strategies to grow your business bigger than it is today. There are many tactics you can employ to grow your business, but before you do any of them, it’s important to create a plan so that your efforts are efficient, and help you reach your goals without wasting time and effort.

Here are some tips for coming up with a plan to grow your business:

  1. Be specific about where you want to go. Instead of just having a vague idea about what growth means in your business, map out specifically what growth would look like. What level of sales are you looking to achieve within the next 6 months? How many people do you want to work with or invite into your business? Once you have a realistic idea of what success will look like, you can begin to plan the activities that you need to do to reach that goal. For example, if you want to increase sales by 10% each month, then you can create marketing campaigns that encourage new customers to shop with you, and create a sales incentive that offers customers a bonus if they spend at a certain level. By knowing what you want, you can employ specific tactics that help you reach that goal.
  2. Break big goals into little steps. Long terms goals are important, but a big goal by itself can be overwhelming. So break up those big goals into smaller tasks. Our free eBook 15 Days to Greater Success can help you with this. (Click the link to get your free copy.) By planning goals with shorter timeframes, you can build momentum that will help you achieve your long-term goals.
  3. Write it down. Writing down your growth plan is a great way to hold yourself accountable. Otherwise, it’s easy to get off track as demands of the business arise. So post your goal somewhere that you’ll see it every day, and be sure to plan activities daily that help you work towards what you want to achieve. This is one of the best ways you can be sure you’re helping your business grow.

Are you planning for growth in your business, or just hoping it will come? By taking a strategic approach, you can make sure your business is moving in the direction that you want it to go.

How do you plan for business growth? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

3 Things You Must Do Now to Prepare for Fall Business

3 Things You Must Do Now to Prepare for Fall Business

beprepareSmart business owners are always thinking ahead. It’s not enough to be satisfied with where you currently are, and the business that you currently have. If you want your business to continue at the same or better levels of productivity, you need to prepare in advance. This is how you keep your momentum going, and help your business continue to thrive.

Here are three things you should do right now to prepare your business for growth next season:

  1. Stock up: Now is the time to make sure you have on hand the products and samples you will need for the next season. So find out or plan what you will be offering for your holiday selling season, and make sure you’ve got the samples and products on hand that you need to show your customers. Remember, you are most likely to sell what you show, so be sure you have plenty to show so you’re prepared to meet the needs of your customers.
  2. Make calls and appointments to schedule fall business: Even though you may still be in summer mode, now is the time to scheduling your fall sales appointments. That way, when everyone gets back from vacation, you’ve got a full calendar and are ready to hit the ground running. So reach out to both previous customers and current prospects, and get as many dates on your calendar as possible. Use your new fall product line as a reason that people will want to make sure to get their first choice of date.
  3. Plan 2-3 marketing campaigns: Most people in sales get pretty busy during the fall selling season, with the holidays approaching. So use this time to plan two or three marketing campaigns you can implement to grow your business even bigger. You may decide to hold a contest or event, or host a boutique. Whatever you decide to do to promote your business to a wider audience, get the details squared away now, and create as many materials for the campaign as possible now when you have time to focus. This way, you’ll be better able to focus on serving customers as business picks up.

Don’t run a business built on reaction. Rather, plan for fall business so that your business grows by design in the direction you desire.

What are you doing now to plan for your fall selling season? Would love to read your comments below.

5 Creative Ways to Keep Your Business Thriving in Summer

5 Creative Ways to Keep Your Business Thriving in Summer

Businesspeople Applauding --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisDuring the summer, some business owners experience a drop in sales. People go on vacation, social networking numbers drop, and the usual ways of business don’t seem to bring the same results. But it doesn’t have to be this way! People are still spending money in the summer. You just need to be a bit creative to encourage those people to keep spending with your business. Here are some tips to keep your business thriving throughout the summer months:

  1. Host a Summer Bash – People like to kick back and relax when the summer gets warm. So offer a party! Host a summer bash that offers food, fun and music. It’s a great way to attract families, and encourages them to bring their friends which can potentially open you up to new business. Post the flyer around town, as well as on local event websites, and sell tickets for the food (or team up with local restaurants to offer it.) It’s a great way to generate buzz and visibility for your business.
  2. Get a Booth at a Local Farmer’s Market – Farmer’s markets today offer much more than just produce, and many consumers look forward to shopping there weekly. Get a regular table at your local farmer’s market. You can offer products for sale while also generating new interest in your business. And take time to talk to the other vendors there. Often a community develops among the regulars, and they may begin to refer other business to you, as well as telling you about other markets where you may do well.
  3. Offer Summer Workshops – During the summer, people often look for workshops, camps and other events for both themselves and their children. Local communities offer weekly learning events. So think about what you can teach related to what you have to offer, and offer workshops that will teach new skills while also exposing more people to your business. The business you cultivate in summer can bring you income all year!
  4. Christmas in Summer – Chances are, the holidays are your most productive time of the year. So offer a “Christmas in Summer” event. Pull out those holiday decorations, and offer specials that help people begin their holiday shopping early (saving them stress!) Host a holiday-themed event and serve holiday cookies, play holiday music, and make the even light-hearted in fun. It can be a great way for people to beat the summer heat and shop at your business.
  5. Take Your Business With You on Vacation – Are you going on vacation? Don’t leave your business behind! Take along promotional items that talk about your business, and be sure to network with people you meet along the way. When someone shares a need they have that your business can meet, be sure to share information about your business. If you sell through parties or appointments, try to schedule some in the city you’re visiting ahead of time. By planning ahead, you can develop some new business, and possibly even write off your trip as a business expense (check with your tax advisor on this!)

Summer doesn’t have to mean a drop in business. You simply need to look at your business differently, and create opportunities that work with what people want to do.

How do you keep your business thriving in summer? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

Three Sure Ways To Increase Loyal Customers

Three Sure Ways To Increase Loyal Customers

Smiling Group of Professionals --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisBuilding a base of loyal customers is essential for any business. These are the people that not only purchase from you regularly, but they also tell their friends about you, spreading the word in both their social circles and online. It’s important to spend time on a regular basis building up and nurturing your loyal customer base, in order to keep your business thriving.

Here are some tips for increasing your business’ loyal customers.

  1. Identify your true client. Most businesses cannot be everything to everyone. So focus on identifying who your business can best serve. What are their needs? What can you do for them? When you create an ideal customer profile, you’ll be prepared to develop a loyal client base of people who are fully served by what your business has to offer.
  2. Get involved with things that are important to your customers. Once you’ve created that ideal customer profile, you will have a better idea of the causes that are most important to them. Then you can participate in those things that allow you to promote your business. For example, if you sell health supplements, your true client is most likely into healthy living. Why not sponsor a 5K race that donates money to health research? It’s a way to increase visibility of your business and meet people who may be interested in what you have to offer. At the same time, your current customers who are interested in both healthy living and the research the race supports will appreciate your involvement, helping to increase their loyalty. 
  3. Constantly improve to keep up with your customers’ needs. Nothing in life stands still, and this should include your business. So make sure you are talking to your customers and researching what’s important to them. Are there breakthroughs or new products that will meet the needs your customers are telling you about? Have new discoveries led to new desires among the clients that you serve? For example, if you sell cookware, you may find that more and more of your customers are going gluten free. So find or develop some gluten free recipes and send them to the customers that you know have decided to eat this way. They’ll appreciate the resources, and the fact that you took the time to provide them, increasing their loyalty towards your business.

Yes, it takes effort to build loyal customers for your business. But the effort is well worth it when those customers continue to come back, and help you build your business even bigger by telling their friends.

What can you do today to build up your base of loyal customers? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

How To Be Persuasive Without Being Pushy

How To Be Persuasive Without Being Pushy

Low angle view of two business executives shaking handsA big fear that many who enter the sales field have is that they may be perceived as “pushy” when seeking sales. It’s important, of course, to ask for the sale, but at the same time you don’t want customers to come away feeling uncomfortable about their encounter with you. So how do you find a balance? How can you be persuasive and get sales without crossing a line and becoming pushy? Here are some tips:

  • Focus on what they need, not what you want. This is the single most important thing that every salesperson must take to heart in order to be effective. If you are driven by quotas and your own bottom line, you will not be successful. The most effective salesperson takes the time to build a relationship with each and every prospect, discovering the challenges that he or she faces, and then crafting solutions with products or services that meet those needs. You may not sell as much at first as you would being pushy (at least not the first time), but what you will do is build customer loyalty that results in many more sales over the long term.
  • Make your solution realistic, applicable and concrete. In order to truly present a solution that is valuable to the prospect, you must understand WHY they need what you have to offer. If you sell to other businesses, take some time to learn about their business. If you sell to individuals, take the time to interview people who are in the target market of your product line and learn about their day to day needs. Invest time in truly understanding where your prospects are coming from and what problems they face. Then the solutions that you offer will come from a place of understanding, rather than sounding like you’re making them up as you go along based on what you want to sell. The best solutions are realistic because you understand the need, apply to the problem at hand, and truly offer concrete help to the problem at hand.
  • Tell stories. When presenting a solution, one of the best things you can do is tell stories that the prospect can relate to that draws similarities to their situation. Talk about another person who had a similar situation (this is one of the place your research pays off!) and how your product or service helped resolve that situation. The phrase “facts tell, stories sell” is quite true, because it helps people to imagine how what you have to offer is applicable to their situation. Many people are visual learners, so create a picture for them that helps them to understand why what you have to offer is compelling, and meets their needs.
  • Listen more, speak less. Even if you feel that you understand the prospect’s situations perfectly because you’ve seen it a hundred times before, let them tell you anyway. People are more likely to feel comfortable with the solution you offer if they feel like they’ve been heard. So be sure you listen more than you speak when working with a prospect. And when you do speak, rephrase what they’ve said and ask them to confirm that you’ve stated it correctly. Everyone wants to be heard, and too often we don’t listen enough in our society. Give the gift of total attention and listening to your prospect, and they will walk away from the experience feeling positive about the interaction.
  • Accept “no.” If you’ve done your research, listened well, shared stories and offered good solutions that meet the customer’s needs and they say no, that’s OK. While you will, of course, ask questions to confirm that they aren’t missing relevant information related to your product, not every single person will buy. If the prospect begins to avoid eye contact with you or their body language indicates that they are trying to distance themselves from you, it’s time to stop. Thank them for their time, offer a card and a willingness to help in the future, and move on to the next prospect. You don’t have to close every single person every single time. There are plenty of other prospects who need what you have to offer, and rather then spending lots more time on someone who won’t buy, focus on finding people who will be interested.

Think about your last good and bad experience with a salesperson. What made those situations what they were? Chances are the good experience was with someone who knew their product line and could answer your questions competently. It was someone who could point you in the direction of a good value that would solve your problem. The bad experience was probably with someone who was ill-informed about the product line and was simply trying to sell you something. Remember, a service-oriented salesperson is one who is focused on solving problems and meeting needs. This type of salesperson is the one who creates the good experiences that people remember and tell their friends about.

How do you avoid being pushy when selling your products? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

DSEF & BBB: Online Shopping Taxes to Be Implemented

DSEF & BBB: Online Shopping Taxes to Be Implemented

ecommerce3-150x150By Nicole Bradley

According to The Wall Street Journal, online purchases will soon be subject to taxes. The Senate has passed a bill putting an end to tax-free online shopping; however, the final vote is set to occur on May 6. This bill, titled the Marketplace Fairness Act, enforces states to require online sellers all over the country to collect sales tax on any online purchase made by their residents. In the past, online retailers have greatly benefited from not having to charge shoppers with sales tax. With this luxury coming to an end, Web stores are now part of corporate support helping to aid the passage of the new bill.

Chief Executive of eBay, John Donahoe, explains that this bill will damage smaller retailers in that it will treat them the same way larger merchants are treated; however, these larger merchants have greater tax-collection capabilities.

Is this fair? What do you think?

For more information visit,

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