Creating niches with your gift website

One of the best things that you can do with your website is to develop your content around keywords and phrases that are generic gifts such as “Flagstaff Gift Baskets.

“But my competition is doing the very same thing,” you may say.

That’s true, but that shouldn’t stop you.  Just take it a step further and expand on those generic niches.

There are many niches you can create that people will actually be searching the web for.  “But I don’t have any niches,” you say.  “I sell gift baskets.”

Yes, you do have niches.  And, each of these is a niche that can provide opportunities to create very focused content, with key phrases your competition isn’t targeting.  How about:

  • Flagstaff gourmet gift baskets
  • Flagstaff apartment gifts
  • Northern Arizona University care packages
  • Flagstaff Medical Center Get Well Gift Baskets

If you look at traffic statistics for a gift website that receives high traffic, you’ll be surprised at the search phrases that brings in that traffic.  These phrases are called “the long tail” of seach.

There are a great many more search terms that you can use to create a niche.  Then create content that is focused on these niche  words and phrases and optimize the page for both visitors and search engines.  There will be far less competition, and you’ll do much better in the search engines.  You don’t need to write a novel on these topics.  Five hundred words or so is usually adequate.  The text, combined with photos of what you can create for these niches, can make a very effective search engine magnet.

Your site can develop several niches, each as a major page with sub-pages for each title and phrase.  Why compete for the major words when you’re able to get first page search positions for the lesser-used key phrases?

If you have more information than you feel comfortable putting on one page, link to sub-pages that expand on even more focused niches.

By spending time on this one part of your website, you can go a long ways towards beating your competition.

 

Money Can’t Buy Happiness — But It Sure is Nice to Have!

money1Remember that money doesn’t bring happiness.
     People with ten million dollars are no happier than those with nine million.
Irving R. Levine

Irving R. Levine was a financial reporter.  That statement was tongue in cheek but when it came to money and finances, he was right on target.

Money can make the difference between a successful business and a failed one.  That is why it is so important to create a feasibility plan when starting your new business.  You need to know how much money you are going to need to start and operate your business during the first three years — and, just as important, where that money is coming from.

Are you going to be able to make a profit, break even, or is it looking more like a loss?  What expenses will you have?  What is your projected income (and be realistic)? This is not the time to let the “dreamer” side of you take control.

If you are going to be a one-person operation, can you reasonably put in enough hours to create the products or produce the services that will be required to make the income you are projecting?  And don’t forget that a one-person operation has to do much more than just produce products and services.  What about the time necessary for marketing?  For billing?  For ordering products?  And for all the other parts of conducting a business.

If you’re starting or operating your business without any kind of financial plan, you’re playing Russian Roulette!

Shipping Resources

shipping-boxWe’ve all been there.  You’ve decided to expand your business to the internet which means you’ve got to ship those packages.

As the price of gas has climbed over the past several years, carriers have more than doubled their surcharges. And the change from actual weight to dimensional weight has made the shipping charges skyrocket to the point of being unreasonable in many cases.  If you don’t make the right decisions, your package can cost more than the gift itself.

Shipping those packages doesn’t have to break the bank or scare off your customers though.  Having a little bit of information and surfing to the right websites can save you time and money and keep your customers happy.

First, where do you buy those boxes you pack the gifts in?

Check your yellow pages for local suppliers to save on shipping.  But then also check www.uline.com for great prices and quick shipment of boxes of all sizes.  Even with the cost of having them shipped from Los Angeles (and they have shipping locations all over the country) to Flagstaff, their boxes are much cheaper than I can buy locally.  For the large rolls of packing paper which are HEAVY, I take advantage of Nashville Wraps occasional free shipping offer and place a large order which includes several rolls of that packing paper.

Now that DHL is no longer in business, shipping options are UPS, Fedex, or USPO.  Deciding on which carrier to use for which size package and which delivery service means navigating an alphabet soup of options.  You just don’t have the time to figure out which service delivers the best value.

Shipstation is a website that you can join for $9 a month that will give you the shipping costs for the companies that you use and will prepare the labels for you to print.  I’ve found that the ups shipping rates via shipstation are discounted.  Shipstation pulled in my already discounted rates from UPS so there was no additional savings for those shipments.  I don’t use fedex so don’t know if their rates are discounted via shipstation.

I save on shipping charges by doing all my shipping labels online and am fortunate enough to have a UPS Store (where you can drop off packages with internet generated labels at no extra charge) and the Post Office located just a few blocks from me.  I do a once-a-day drop-off and save the UPS daily pickup fees.  The Post Office picks up my packages at no charge when they deliver my mail as long as I leave a note in my mailbox.

If you’re shipping smaller packages (such as the teddy bears that I ship from my website www.grandcanyonteddybears.com), you’ll find priority mail shipping to be very reasonable and there are no surcharges for home delivery.  You can also order FREE shipping boxes of various sizes from the Post Office website and even have them delivered free to you.  But it is a federal offense to use these boxes with any other carrier.  Using priority mail, I can ship smaller size gifts (such as those created in the small boxco boxes) from Arizona to the East Coast for less than $10 and have them arrive in 2-3 business days.

If you’ve found other ways to save on shipping, please share them with us in the comments below.

 

 

It All Goes Back Into The Box

Ken Blanchard, author of “The One Minute Manager and other business books,”  told the story about the little boy who really wanted to beat his grandmother at Monopoly.  He studied.  He practiced.  He learned.   Until one day, he beat her at the game and told her, “Finally!  I beat you.”

She smiled as she picked up the pieces and put them back into the monopoly box.

She then told the child, “Yes, you did.  But let me tell you another lesson that I’ve learned about playing the game of life.  You can work hard, study, practice and become whatever kind of person you want to me.  But when the game of life is over, it all goes back into the box.  The only thing that’s left behind is what you’ve created or done for others.”

I’ve heard the phrase “You have to give to get,” and have also heard results of how people have been blessed as a direct result of what they have given to others.

But I have a different philosophy.  I don’t think you have to give to get.  I think you give, not because of what you will receive in return, but because your giving is from the heart.

There’s a country-western song that tells the tale about a young man who stopped to help an elderly lady stopped on the highway with a problem with her car.  The young man was broke but instead of taking payment for his help, he told the lady to “Pass it On!”  The song goes on to tell of a waitress, who was pregnant, tired, and discouraged.  An elderly lady left a $100 tip.  That night the waitress laid in bed beside the young man who had helped the elderly woman with her car and told him about the woman who had left the $100 tip.  And the song ends with the magical words of “Just Pass It On.”

I am a business coach for a County Business Empowerment Class in my community.  Last week, a local entrepreneur, who has become very successful, spoke about how he started his business hoping to make lots of money.  He said that he was in the business for the money–not just because it enables him to live well and do things he’s always wanted to do–but because he can use that money to help others as well.  I remember the author of “Everything I needed to Know About Life I learned in Kindergarden” say basically the same thing.

Successful entrepreneurs have to be interested in money if they hope to be successful.  You can’t just forget the financial parts of a business and operate it any way you feel like.  How you treat your customers, your investors, and even your vendors go a long way towards determining how financially successful you will be.

There are, of course, those like Ken Lay of Enron fame and Mr Matoff of Ponzi scheme fame, who cheat others to make their millions and then use it to live like kings.  Then there are those entrepreneurs who achieve their business goals while practicing the principal of “Pass It On!”

When the game of life is all over, and it all goes back into the box, the Ken Lays and Matoffs of the world will leave behind people who have been hurt or destroyed.

The “Pass It On” entrepreneurs will leave a legacy that may not even be known by most but will be appreciated and remembered by those they helped.

We are in the midst of changes in the world.  Changes bring opportunities.  What will you do with them?  Share your comments!

Beware of Credit Card Fraud

This was posted on a bulletin board that I frequent and should be of interest:

This one is pretty slick since they provide YOU with all the information, except the one piece they want. Note, the callers do not ask for your card number; they already have it. This information is worth reading. By understanding how the VISA & Master Card Telephone Credit Card Scam works, you’ll be better prepared to protect yourself. One of our employees was called on Wednesday from ‘VISA’, and I was called on Thursday from ‘Master Card’.

 

The scam works like this: Person calling says, ‘This is (name), and I’m calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I’m calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card which was issued by (name of bank). Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a Marketing company based in Arizona ?’


When you say ‘No’, the caller continues with, ‘Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?’ You say ‘yes’.

The caller continues – ‘I will be starting a Fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1- 800 number listed on the back of your card (1-800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control Number. The caller then gives you a 6 digit number. ‘Do you need me to read it again?’

 

Here’s the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works. The caller then says, ‘I need to verify you are in possession of your card.’ He’ll ask you to ‘turn your card over and look for some numbers.’ There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are part of your card number, the next 3 are the security Numbers’ that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are the numbers you sometimes use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. The caller will ask you to read the 3 numbers to him.

After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he’ll say, ‘That is correct, I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?’

After you say, ‘No,’ the caller then thanks you and states, ‘Don’t hesitate to call back if you do’, and hangs up.

You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the Card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we called back within 20 minutes to ask a question. Are we glad we did! The REAL VISA security Department told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new purchase of $497.99 was charged to our card.

Long story – short – we made a real fraud report and closed the VISA account. VISA is reissuing us a new number.

What the scammers want is the 3-digit PIN number on the back of the card. Don’t give it to them.

Instead, tell them you’ll call VISA or Master card directly for verification of their conversation. The real VISA told us that they will never ask for anything on the card as they already know the information since they issued the card!

If you give the scammers your 3 Digit PIN Number, you think you’re receiving a credit. However, by the time you get your statement you’ll see charges for purchases you didn’t make, and by then it’s almost too late and/or more difficult to actually file a fraud report.

Note from Joyce: After attending a big tradeshow where I place lots of large orders, I usually get a call from my credit card company checking for fraud. The difference between the call I get and the above narrative is that the company does not ask for any credit card information. They only ask if I made such and such a charge and I say Yes or No. So far, they have all been Yes. So make sure that you don’t give these thieves any of the information from te credit card itself.