Increase Business Profits with Bright Ideas

A business has two functions:

  • To serve its customers better than anyone else
  • To make a profit

If your business fails in either function for any length of time, the business itself will fail.

So you already provide great customer service and you’re still not making a profit.  What can you do?  Profit is simply the difference between income and expenses.  You can either cut expenses or increase your income or you can do both at the same time.

Your financial records can point out some ways to cut expenses but increasing profits may require some creative thinking.  But, after all, we are creative entrepreneurs or we probably wouldn’t be in business.

Put on your thinking cap, brainstorm with friends and associates, and make a list.  Include everything you think of regardless of how silly it may sound.  Write down the traditional ways but make sure that you also think outside the box.  Every industry will be different but regardless of whether you’re a service or a product-oriented business, by being creative, you can increase your income.

For example:

  • You’re a gift basket business:  Think more than gift baskets.  Individual products can sometimes sell better than the baskets.  Add a new niche to market to, for example, apartment move-in gifts or locally-themed gifts.  Is there a service you could provide- such as gift wrapping, personalized products, promotional items?
  • You’re a bed and breakfast business:  How about partnering with a local tour company, restaurant, or transportation service and receive a referral fee for sending referrals their way.  Add a bicycle rental service for your guests.  Provide a cake and decor for special occasions–for an extra charge, of course.
  • You’re a website designer:  Add hosting, templates and help for DIY folks who want to create their own website with some help.  Offer classes either at your location or through the local community college.  Offer a class for seniors at the local senior center.
  • You’re a retail store owner:  Add a workshop or one-time class on anything that relates to your business and would be interesting to your customers–and charge for it.  If you have some extra space in your store, contact a local homebased business owner whose products would complement your business and offer to rent them that space to display and sell their wares.
  • You’re a Realtor:  How about an ebook that you sell on your website about “The Ins and Outs of Buying or Selling a Home”.   Advertise that you will help For Sale By Owner people ,who have found their own buyers, go through the process of dealing with the mortgage and title companies all the way to the close of escrow–for a fee, of course.  Manage rentals for out-of-town owners who haven’t been able to sell their house in this down market.

So be creative.  Think outside the box.  And that next bright idea might be just the one that you need to increase your income.  What other bright ideas can you think of for your business?  Share your thoughts with our readers.

If you enjoyed this post, then make sure to subscribe to receive an email each time a new post is made.  Also, think outside the box and add your comments.

That Myth Called Talent!

If you want to be successful at whatever you want to do, whether it be designing gift baskets, marketing, or writing descriptions for your website, you’ve got to put one piece of nonsense out of your head.  It doesn’t take Talent!  Now let me explain why.

Sure, some of us have more of a “natural ability” in some areas.  But there are many people with no natural ability that are successful.  And there are many people without a so-called “natural ability” that are very successful.  Like a foot race, this natural ability just gives you a few feet head start over the ones behind you.  It’s what those in the starting position do — with or without that natural ability — that makes the difference.

To understand what I am talking about, you have to understand a little bit about the brain and how it works.  No, this isn’t going to be a science lesson — but it could be one of the most important things you will ever learn.

What does the brain do best?  The brain recognizes problems and figures out a way to overcome them.  If you’re walking up the stairs and encounter a closed door at the top, your brain would tell you what to do and you  would automatically try to open that door.   You’ve encountered a lot of closed doors since childhood and your brain learned that you could either open them or you had to turn around and go back.  No matter how many closed doors you come to, you would try to open it.

Now, if you reached the top of those stairs and instead of a closed door you found a huge snake blocking your way, your brain wouldn’t know what to do.  So it panics.  You either turn and run down the stairs or you freeze and can’t move or even scream.  Your brain doesn’t know what to do so it shuts down instead of telling you how to react.

For those of us who are writers, it is referred to as “Writer’s Block”.  But this same thing affects all of us, regardless of what you are trying to do.

You sit down to try to write a sales letter.  You try to tie a bow for the first time.  You stand up in front of a group to talk about your business.  You try to build a website.  You make a cold call to a corporate client that you hope to impress.  You go to a networking function for the first time.  Anytime, you try something new, the brain goes into panic mode.  It quickly scans through all your memories for a memory of success at doing this.  And it fails to find one.

Instead it finds failure.  And fear of failing again.  And you believe that you can’t do it.

Everyone else is just born to write a good sales letter, speak in front of a group, make a cold call, build a website or whatever it is you are trying to do.  They are the talented ones.  You have no talent.

But what you fail to understand is what the brains of these so-called “talented people” are doing.  And why.  The secret that successful writers use to overcome Writer’s Block is the same secret that you can use to overcome “Cold Feet”.

Those who are successful at doing what you are attempting and failing at has a brain that has

  • A memory of success
  • And it’s not just success that happens occasionally or sometimes.
  • It’s success that is a direct result of having structure, a mentor, and a memory filled with success.

They didn’t just sit down in front of the computer and write a great sales letter on the first try.  They weren’t always dynamic speakers.  That first website that they built was pretty pitiful.

They’ve been through the drill before.  In the process, they learned the techniques needed to acquire the skill they were striving for.  And these “talented” people had a teacher or a mentor (or even a book or manual) that helped guide them past the obstacles that lead to failure.  The more the drill is repeated, the more it became ingrained as a part of their memory process.  As a result, they’ve built a structure that makes it possible for them to succeed each time.  And they’ve created a memory bank of successes.

And then suddenly it happens.  You need to build a website that gets results.  You need to stand in front of a group that is looking to spend lots of money on gift baskets.  You call on that corporate client that has a huge holiday budget.

And, if you’ve been through it before, you have the structure and techniques instilled in your memory.  And the memories of success become the dominant ones.  Your brain no longer goes into panic mode.  Instead it whirls through all the memory banks and pulls up just the right one — without your even being aware of the process.

This is the same way that you learned just about everything in life.  It’s how you learned to walk.  Watch a child take his first steps.  He falters and falls.  Mom encourages him to try again.  He pulls himself up using the coffee table for support and tries again.  Over and over until he is walking, then running across the room.  And now, you don’t even think about the techniques, the structure required to walk anywhere you want to go.

Remember when you learned to swim for the first time.  How about riding a bicycle?  That’s why they say, “Once you know how to ride a bicycle, you never forget.”  Actually your brain pulls up that earlier success from your childhood and, even though you may falter a bit in the beginning as the memory of the techniques are whirled into place, you climb on that bicycle and ride away.

So if you’re sick and tired of having cold feet and feeling the fear of failures, stop believing in this myth called “talent.” Do what the so-called “talented ones” have done and create your own memory bank of success.

There are mentors ready to help you, to teach you the techniques, the path to follow and those to avoid.  That is the very reason why I’ve created this website, why Gift Basket Network exists, why we’ve created Gift Retailers Connection magazine and the Gift Industry community and forum , and why I’m continuing to create new opportunities for you to create those memory banks that mean you don’t have to have talent to be a success!

Expression Web Giveaway – A marketing idea to copy

Sometimes we stumble upon marketing ideas in unexpected places.  Even if they are in no way involved in our own industry, they can be molded and used within our business.  I get lots of marketing emails from lots of people trying to sell me something, but my email yesterday contained one that caught my attention enough to read rather than to just hit the delete key.

Many of us create our own websites using either FrontPage, Dreamweaver, or Expression Web.  Pat Geary and Tina Clarke, owners of the website www.frontpage-to-expression.com , provide a wealth of information for FrontPage users who want to migrate to Expression Web.  If you have any interest in learning how to use Expression Web to create a website, this site is one that you should visit.

But back to this marketing idea. . . the two ladies have created a giveaway with prizes that any user (or potential user) of Expression Web would love to win.  All you have to do is write about the giveaway on Facebook, a blog, etc. and let them know about it.  Some lucky writers will be the lucky winners of the great prizes. 

This is my entry because I would love to win any of the awards but also because I think they provide outstanding information to anyone interested in the program.  I’ve made it a practice to never recommend something that I wouldn’t use myself and this is not an exception.

Now that I’ve encouraged you to enter that giveaway, let me also suggest how you might use a similar idea to market your own business.  People love FREE.  They love the opportunity to win something.  And they rarely hesitate to enter their name in a contest that is giving away something they want.  But what makes this marketing technique different is that you have to tell others about their product if you want to win it.  In other words, you give to receive. 

Some gift basket companies have a monthly drawing for a free gift basket in order to collect email addresses.  Why not make those entering your contest work a little bit for it?  Enter their names in your drawing if they mention your business on Facebook or write something about you in an ezine or newsletter or blog.  That giveaway gift basket (and you could make it even more enticing by adding a few other simple prizes) then provides a return on your investment.  And isn’t this what marketing is all about?

So go check out their giveaway at Expression Web Giveaway and create your own marketing campaign.

Using Facebook to Grow Your Business

Should you use Facebook to grow your business or is it a waste of time?  Facebook uses technology,  that wasn’t available when I first started my business, to help you network with potential and existing customers in your local area as well as around the world.  Unlike My Space, the fastest growing population of users are in the 25 and older age group. I suggest that you invest some time to determine how and if Facebook can fit in with the rest of your marketing efforts.

Facebook is all about building personal relationships.  The Facebook term for those relationships is  “friends” .  While you’ll suddenly discover “friends” from your past, you’ll also find “friends” who really want to be friends, not with you individually, but with your company.  You’ll find some big name companies there that you can follow and become friends with — but these won’t be personal relationships.

Step 1: Create Your Profile

It’s all about how you use it.  First, you need to create a profile for you, using your real name.  To build that profile, you can upload a photo, enter your education, business, and contact information, and even join your local networks.  The more you include in  your profile, the more easily you can connect with other people. If you’re concerned about privacy, Facebook offers highly customizable privacy settings that control who can see different elements of your profile. This way you can share photos of your kids with friends and family, but not with your boss or customers.

If you have a database of your current contacts, you can upload it to Facebook to see if any of them are already members.  If so, you can ask them for permission to add them to your list of friends.

Step 2: Create Your Company Page

Once you have a personal profile, you can create a page for your business.   This is where you can upload photos of your products, your retail location, and any other information about your company that you feel would be valuable to someone searching for your products and services.  You can even add an RSS feed from your blog or embed videos from YouTube.  These company pages are available for the search engines to index so you definitely want to include links to your website.  This contributes to the SEO of your site.  You can add what Facebook refers to as “fans” to your company page.

All of this may sound silly or a waste of valuable time, but just think of it as another way to network without having to participate in small talk or eating snacks that you really don’t need or want. 

You can promote your company page via email, your blog, and through the Facebook network to drive more traffic and build up your fan base.

Step 3: Join and Create Groups

Another way to network on Facebook is through the use of groups…but be careful that you select only those groups that you are really interested in or it can become overwhelming.  Groups, unlike pages, are only visible to Facebook members. Groups can be formed around any subject you like.  You can join an existing one or create a new one. 

A Word of Caution

We’ve all been to networking groups where people are there just to sell you something with no interest at all in what you need.  Be careful that you don’t act that way on Facebook.  If your only object in joining Facebook is to make a quick sale or to increase your business, you’ll be disappointed.

Like any other networking function, it’s all about building relationships.  You create your network and increase your reputation over time by giving instead of also wanting to take.  You need to share information, reach out to connect with others, and build rapport.

Is Facebook right for you and your business?  Only you can determine that.  Check it out.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Website Pirates Strike Again!!

They’re out there…waiting…and, then they strike!  It’s those website pirates striking again.  I first wrote about them on this blog at Website Pirates.  They had copied my whole website, including my photo and identifying information twice.  Well, they struck again — two more times.  And, I’ve just discovered a fifth crook!

In case you’ve noticed and wondered why my posts have been sparse, the reason is those d*%$ pirates have also stolen my time.  This has happened four different times now, with four different hosting companies.  I suspect the person, who appears to be from China, is responsible for all four raids. 

I’m writing about it to share what to do if this happens to you. There are several different ways to determine if your site has been hijacked.  The website www.copyscape.com  allows you to type in the url for a page on your website and it will show you any sites that have the same page.  Or you can type any unique text from your site into google and see what other sites have the same text.

Then you need to find out who the hosting company is and send that company a letter that meets specific requirements.  This is called a DMCAA letter.  Just google DMCA and you’ll find sample letters.  The hosting company is required to remove the site if it is copied once they receive the DMCA letter.

Three of the hosting companies that I contacted worked with me, even telling me what info I had neglected to include in the DMCA letter.  One, however, dreamhost.com  (located in California) was a different story.  My opinion is that they didn’t want to let go of the money they were receiving from the fraudulent company in China.  They made it extremely difficult to get the site removed–even telling me that just because my copyright info was on the homepage of the site didn’t mean that I owned the copyright on the other pages (even though there is copyright information on each and every page of the site.)  They also told me that I had to hire a copyright lawyer to get the site removed.  Not a good hosting company and not a very ethical one either, in my opinion!

Hopefully, you will never be highjacked by these crooks.  But if you are, there is something you can do about it as long as the hosting company is in the U.S.  If it is in another country, most don’t respect any laws.  And your primary action will need to be contacting google and the other search engines.