Chasing Dreams or Creating A Lasting Business?

butterflynet1An article, written by Marilyn Gardner of The Christian Science Monitor, was reprinted in my local newspaper.  It talked about people, who are laid off from their jobs and are unable to find new ones, deciding to start their own business.

Some of the comments and suggestions in the article apply to anyone who is attempting to start a new business, whether gift related or not.  Even for those of us already in business, there are “one minute wisdoms” that should make all of us think.  Some of these are:

  • Few people understand the dynamics and challenges of operating their own business.  There is much to learn and mistakes can be expensive or even put you out of business.
  • People start a business because they want the freedom of coming and going as they please.  Wrong.  You’ll put in more time than ever.
  • If you’ve been used to a steady paycheck, you must change from having an employee mentality to an entrepreneurial mindset.  You are the one who is going to be telling you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  Your decisions will determine how much profit you end up with to pay yourself.
  • Becoming profitable is usually a slow process.  Of course, there are businesses that are profitable right out the door. But these are usually experienced people who understand the dynamics of building a business and are willing to put in the many hours required to make it happen.
  • Deciding to go into business as a last resort is a bad reason.  A good reason for starting a business is “this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
  • 80% of businesses fail before Year Five and 96% fail before Year 10. Will yours be one of these statistics?
  • One of the basic first steps is to define what business you are really in, who your customers are, how you’ll reach those customers, and how large your target market is.  It’s not a case of “build a business and they will come.”
  • Analyze your competitors–and really understand who they are.  Determine what their strengths and weaknesses are.  And then determine what yours are and how you can use their weaknesses and your strengths to become the best in your market.
  • During an economic downturn, such as the one we are currently in, will people buy your products?  Is your product something they need or a product that they can do without.  Be aware, however, that people will often spend money on things that will make themselves “feel good” even in a down economy and when they may not be able to afford it.  That’s human nature.
  • Sacrifices in your lifestyle, personal budgets, and time will most likely be necessary.  If you’re totally dependent on the income from your business, it’s more important than ever to make sure that income will be there.  If not, are you willing to live a simpler lifestyle and do without some of the things you are used to.

    A lot of young mothers start a business so that they can be with their children more and then discover that their business is eating into all the time they had to spend with the kids before plus even more time.

All too often, people fall in love with an idea or even with the idea of owning their own business and don’t really understand what is required for success.  They fail to project their cash flow and expenses and are frequently under capitalized.  They have a poor financial understanding of the potential business.  You have to understand the financial needs in order to put together a business feasibility plan that works.  If you are supporting yourself with your business, you have to make sure that the income will be adequate to cover your personal needs as well.

You must be passionate about your business idea but you must also be realistic.  Doing the necessary research, writing a good business plan and then reviewing it and making changes as the business changes, and having adquate financial resources can make all the difference between chasing a dream and creating a lasting business success.


Business Marketing – What is your Return on Investment

ROI (Return on investment) should be an important part of the annual review of your business practices. But when you look at the way you spend your marketing dollars, do you neglect to consider the return on your investment? We’re often intimidated by the three words “Return on Investment” and think it will require all sorts of accounting mumbo-jumbo to figure it out.

Not so! It’s common sense and, best of all, it’s easy to determine.

I wrote an article that contains the questions you need to ask yourself to determine your return on your investment in your business. You can read that article at Business Marketing.

Once you’ve read the article, I invite you to come back here and share ways that you determine your own Return on Investment.

How Do You Handle Your Incoming Email?

How many email messages are in your “inbox” right now? If the answer is more than one hundred, you may want to think about your “email strategy.”

There are many different ways to handle incoming mail. If your current methods work for you, stop reading this post and get back to checking your email. But if you’re frustrated and are looking for a different way to handle that mail, consider using your email inbox as a “to-do list.” When you’ve opened and read an email and it doesn’t require a reply or other action, either delete it or if you want to keep it, file it in a folder that you’ve set up with categories to help you classify and prioritize email. You can also use flags to tag email that you want to look at again soon but don’t have time to deal with now.

If your spam email box is filling daily, scan through it once a day to make sure that a valid email hasn’t been automatically tossed there and then delete all the spam for that day.

With a bit of organization, you will find it easier to find emails when you want to refer to them again and are less likely to forget to answer an important one.

Five Tips for Increasing Your Website Traffic

Okay, you’ve researched your keywords and determined what people are searching for. Here are five quick and easy tips to use those keywords to increase your website traffic.

Tip #1 Make sure you’re actually tagging your keywords.

Do you spend a lot of time optimizing your content and then neglect to tag them on your web page? Tags are where search engines look and if there are no tags they’ll pass right by your web pages. Here’s a brief intro to tags.

There are several types of tags. These include:

* Title tags. Title tags are the most important place to use your keywords. This tag is in the header portion of your source code and does not show on your website page. Each and every page of your website should have a different title tag.

* Header Tags. Header tags are next in order of importance to search engines. There are h1, h2, h3 etc header tags that can be used on a page. The h1 header tag is the most important. This text does show on your web page and should be different on each page. Unfortunately, a lot of people waste the h1 tag by having it read something of no value to the search engines such as “Welcome to our site.”

* Meta Tags. Meta tags are also shown in your source code but not on the web page itself. The most important meta tag is the “description” which should be a brief statement telling what your page is about. Some search engines use this description when your page shows up in a search. The keywords meta tag is of little importance and most search engines ignore it.

* Alt Tags. Alt tags are used to provide a text description of a graphic. Each graphic on your site should have a description and an alt tag. These show up when someone runs their mouse over a graphic or picture.

Tip #2 Add content to your site regularly

Content is essential for traffic and a top search engine ranking. Content is what search engine spiders look for and index. Without it, there’s nothing to index or rank. Make a commitment to provide regular, optimized content and your traffic will soar. Here it is in the middle of July and many of you still have Father’s Day featured on your website. That tells the search engines that your site isn’t important enough for you to update so isn’t important enough to them to rank it high.

Tip #3 Obtain valuable and relevant incoming links

The more websites which link to your web pages, the more valuable search engines perceive you to be. Having said that, let me add that not all links are created equal. Search engines give more leverage to links from sites which are popular and credible and from sites which are relevant to your website topic. For example, if your site sells gift baskets, a link from a site that features travel to China isn’t very relevant UNLESS that web page is a gift basket related to China in some way. Also, if you’re using a “I’ll link to you if you link to me” method of obtaining links, these types of links have little value since this method has been abused so long.

You can encourage linking to your website by:

* Adding content to your site.
* Submitting to article and niche directories.
* Publishing press releases.
* Blogging and participating in social networking forums, chat rooms and social networking sites.

Tip #4 Be Social!

Now more than ever before, internet marketing is about building a community. If used right, social networking can increase links and traffic to your website. There are plug-ins that can be used to post your blog posts on facebook and twitter if you are using wordpress for your site.

Get involved and begin participating. There are forums that cater to the gift and gift basket industry industry. Our community and forum at Gift Retailers Connection Forum is an excellent example.

Tip #5 Advertise for more exposure and traffic

Advertising, when handled strategically, can be used to promote your content and products or services. However, you must be careful to understand how best to use an advertising venue for your purpose or you could end up spending more money than you can afford with little return. Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is often the tool of choice because you control the advertising budget on a daily basis and have the tools to test and track your advertising efforts.

When using other forms of advertising, make sure that you are advertising where your potential customers hang out.

None of these five tips are magic wands that will instantly bring results. But if used properly and regularly, you should see increases in the traffic to your web pages. Then, the next step is writing those pages so that the customer will realize that they just have to have your product and can’t do without it.

Humbled and honored by nomination

I’ve been notified that I was nominated for one of the 2011 Small Business Influencer Awards as a small business guru. These awards are being given by Small Business Trends. I don’t know who nominated me (Thank you, whomever you may be!) but I am honored. Other nominees include some very influential people including some of my own online mentors — such as Seth Godin among others — so that makes it even more special.

Voting starts July 11th. There’s no way I could win this prestigious award but I would appreciate your votes so that I, at least have some. I am humbled that someone thought enough of me to nominate me. Just being nominated is award enough for me.

The link to the nomination information is: