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Cats Need Facebook, Too!

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Here-s a twist on the old chicken-and-egg metaphor: Busch Pet Products, based in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, opened its brick-and-mortar store nearly two years after launching its website. So it shouldn-t come as a major surprise that owner Stacy Busch-Heisserer has been using social media since her pet supply company-s early days. She continues to use Facebook, Twitter, and several industry-specific sites to help grow both her online and physical stores. The strategy appears to be working: The company has plans to expand in 2011, including moving to a larger retail location and hiring additional staff.

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Local Business Loves Its Community by Giving Back

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BookSmart in Morgan Hill, Calif. is owned by Brad Jones and Cinda Meister and, like many local businesses, it strives to provide a positive environment and to be involved in its community. Brad and Cinda say they look at their business as a third place for people to meet and get away, outside of home and work.

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Affiliate Programs

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By Linda Woods

Friday, November 14, 2003; 4:00pm EST

One of the key elements necessary for attracting top affiliates to your affiliate programs is to create a professional, credible program. With so many dot-coms failing over the past year, good affiliates have become a bit cynical and suspicious about putting out the effort for a merchant who may close shop or cheat them out of their legitimately earned commissions. Putting these concerns to rest is a top priority for good affiliate program managers. Here's a few ways to build trust with your affiliate sales force.

Build Respect & Trust

Making sure that you consider affiliates as your valued outside sales force is one way to start treating your affiliate program like an important part of your overall business strategy, not just an insignificant "add-on" that you give little attention. Building a viable outside sales force requires a "sales manager" (your Affiliate Program Manager), professional sales collateral materials (your links, banners & promos), adequate training (do your affiliates truly understand the benefits & features of your products?), a generous commission structure and recognition and rewards for outstanding sales.

Pay on Time

This seems like an obvious suggestion, but take a look at your Affiliate Program's FAQ. Have you stated perfectly clearly not only what the payout is, but exactly when it is tallied, what constitutes a legitimate payout, when they will be paid and how? A good affiliate program information page will include items like precisely when they are credited with the sale, how or why a sale maybe cancelled, what the "return" days are and how that affects commissions. Also, affiliates need to know when a payout is earned, what day can the affiliate expect payment if their required minimum has been met. Your tracking software gives you access to all the statistics necessary to fulfill these obligations, so make sure you do in a timely manner. Nothing goes farther to establish credibility than a regular, accurate check! When you belong to a network, some of these issues are handled for you, but it should be a visible part of your policy and commitment to affiliates whether you have to handle payouts in-house or through a network.

Commit to Accuracy

The one thing that merchants who run in-house programs must consider is that affiliates need to know that they can trust the statistics being provided by the tracking technology. One of the implied benefits of running your program through a network is that there is a trusted 3rd party to monitor tracking accuracy. This can also be established when you run an in-house system if you make sure your software can provide 24/7 up to the minute details on all transactions and can be easily verified by the affiliate through their admin interface. For example, good affiliates will want to be able to see total sales, as well as the status of individual transactions, like pending sales, reversals or approved sales. They want to be able to "test" the program, by making a purchase through their affiliate link, see it appear on the interface, and then see it listed as reversed or pending when they cancel the sale. In this way, they can be assured that the technology is working for ALL transactions. Very active affiliates will see these accurate and real time statistics as being vital to the health and success of their business.

Adhere to High Standards

Over the past couple of years, a group of dedicated volunteers have formed the Affiliate Union whose aim to develop both a "certification standard" and a way for organizations to implement those standards. They have been working on a "Merchant Certification Checklist" that has been developed by consensus from a board made up of merchants, affiliates, industry consultants and affiliate technology representatives. A few of these points are; having a fair and equitable Affiliate Agreement, providing reasonable notification of substantive changes in payouts, stringent privacy assurances and ethical email practices among other things. Getting an Affiliate Union certification can do much to provide good affiliates with some assurances about a company's dedication and commitment to their affiliate marketing program.

Personalized & Regular Affiliate Communications

Countless programs are out there that rarely, if ever, make a proactive attempt to personally communicate with their affiliates. Perhaps this is due to the sheer numbers of affiliates they have, or the lack of committed management. In either case, this practice does little to allay suspicions in the minds of dedicated affiliates. How can you really trust a "big business" to treat you fairly if you rarely hear from them, and when you do it's a standard message like "Dear Affiliate" and it's signed with the impersonal, "The Affiliate Team". Some networks don't even allow you to send personalized messages to your "sales force" with crucial business correspondence! That's unacceptable and will undermine your efforts to build personal, lucrative relationships with your valued affiliate sales force. Even if you run a very large program, you should have an email delivery system which can send a personalized letter with the affiliates' first name, AND it should be signed with the real name of the person responsible for handling affiliate issues. Also, every effort should be made to stay in regular contact by phone, not just email, with those top performers that drive significant sales to your program.

In closing, a sense of suspicion and distrust has often clouded business relationships between online merchants and affiliates. Both sides are perhaps to blame for many of these misgivings, but if merchants make a bona fide effort to adhere to fair business practices, provide excellent tracking reporting and statistics, communicate well, and make it known that they run their program according to the guidelines set forth by industry groups, like Affiliate Union, they will undoubtedly gain the respect and loyalty of hard working, professional affiliates. Both will benefit financially from this mutually respectful relationship.

Source of Article Linda Woods started her own consulting business in May 2000, after a 10 month stint with Commission Junction, in the Marketing Department in charge of Affiliate Acquisition and Educational Training. Prior to that she was the Marketing Director for WebStuf, a web design firm, where she specialized in helping smaller companies develop their marketing strategies, including affiliate marketing channels. She has taught E-Commerce classes at University of California at Santa Barbara and writes and speaks extensively on internet marketing strategies. Linda is also available for private consulting contracts of all sizes. You can visit her web site at http://www. partnercentric. com/.

 

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How to Build a Site The Media Will Love

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By Bill Stoller

Monday, August 1, 2005; 1:00pm EST

From time to time, people ask me how public relations has changed during the two decades in which I?ve been seeking publicity. My answer: technology. Twenty years ago, the fax machine was a newfangled novelty. Our primary means of communicating with journalists was the telephone and the US Mail. The advent of e-mail and the web has made life easier in many regards and tougher in others - namely, thanks to hordes of clowns with money making schemes and software that "blasts" press releases indiscriminately to reporters, it?s become very hard to get your e-mails through to spam-weary reporters.

But there?s another great advantage provided to publicity seekers by the Internet -- the ability to create an "online news room". In the "old days", the press kit reigned. Big bulky folders loaded with press releases, glossy photos and slides were standard. They were expensive to design, costly to reproduce and required lots of manpower and postage to assemble and distribute. Today, you can simply direct a reporter to a web URL, where all your press materials and high definition artwork awaits, ready to be used. It?s a huge time and money saver.

A quick note: the traditional press kit isn?t dead. It?s still handy to create some physical kits to use with key journalists, as the very novelty of printed material can give you an edge at times. Also, some journalists still prefer a physical kit. Press kits are an important tool at trade show booths & press rooms, and special events. However, gone are the days of sending out large press kit mailings. Keep the kits for targeted use only.

Creating a useful online news room is really pretty simple. One of the main things a busy reporter wants is easy access to press releases, corporate and executive info and artwork. A well put together media room should provide a seamless walk-through.

Where Should the News Room Go?

There are two schools of thought on where to put your online news room. Some companies prefer to have it as a section on their main site, visible to all as a link on a menu bar or other navigational element. Others build entirely separate sites just for the media.

There are pros and cons to each. Putting it as part of your main site allows a journalist to "poke around" your site, absorbing more of the feel and culture of your company and its products. It also makes it easier if the reporter wants more information about a particular product than can be found in your media materials. Of course, since you?ll need to provide clear links to the online news room to help such reporters find their way back, anyone visiting your site can access your press materials. This is probably not an issue but, if you feel potential customers may become confused if they wander into the online news room, this could be worth considering.

Creating a separate site allows you to tailor everything to suit the needs of the reporter and prevents the possibility of confusion for potential customers visiting your main site. The reporter however, will be unable to quickly "poke around" the main site as described above, so you may consider that in your decision. If you do choose a separate site, give it a name that incorporates your company (if you?re the Acme Company, go for acmepress. com or acmeonlinenewsroom. com). Also, provide clear links to your main site throughout, and code them so that they open in a new window, allowing the reporter to see your main site without having to backtrack to the online news room.

Some Do?s and Don?ts

DON?T force journalists to register or sign in for access. They?re busy folks and may very well decide not to bother. Make life as easy as you can for them.

DO offer the opportunity for journalists to enter their e-mail address if they wish to be kept abreast of the latest news from your company, but don?t link it in any way to the ability to access any portion of the site. DON?T confuse non-journalists who may wander into the site. Make it clear at the top of your main page of your online news room what it and who it?s for.

DO provide a link to your consumer FAQ page and an e-mail link for customer service to give non-journalists a place to go to get their questions answered. This will save you a great deal of time responding to messages from non-journalists asking "why am I looking at a press release? How do I download a new driver" or some such thing. Here's what Gateway says, "Gateway press contacts are only able to provide assistance for qualified members of the news media. They are not qualified to respond to product or technical support needs...If you are not a member of the news media, please feel free to visit our pages for Product Service and Support."

DON?T try to lay out the online news room if you?re not a talented web designer. Don?t use flash, heavy java scripts and other doo-dads. The face you put forth to the media must be highly professional, and the ease of navigation and logical flow of the news room is vital.

DO hire a professional designer who has a portfolio that includes simple, easy-to-navigate, clean-looking sites.

What To Include in Your Online News Room:

Personal Contact Info. The name, address, e-mail, phone number, fax number and cell phone number of your primary media contacts must be front and center. If you have an Instant Messaging ID, put it in there, too.

Press Releases. Place press releases in chronological order (most recent at the top). Keep traditional press release formatting and use easy-to-read fonts.

Executive photos, product photos, charts, graphs, and other appropriate artwork. Provide multiple versions -- 72 dpi (lower resolution) for online publications and websites, and 300 dpi (higher resolution) for offline publications. Put instructions such as To download, right-click and choose "save" next to the graphics. Make sure your pitch letters and press releases provide links to the appropriate artwork on your site.

Backgrounders, executive bios, white papers, investor relations info (if applicable), fact sheets, speeches, awards, streaming media of: press conferences, product demonstrations, president's speeches, etc.

Search Tool. Make it easy for journalists to find just what they want, by making all your press materials fully searchable.

Online News Rooms to Study:

The best way to learn how to put together an online news room is to see how some very smart folks have done it. Here are three outstanding examples....

http://www. microsoft. com/presspass/default. asp

http://www. google. com/press/index. html

http://www. crayola. com/mediacenter/

About the Author

Bill Stoller, the "Publicity Insider", has spent two decades as one of America's top publicists. Now, through his website, eZine and subscription newsletter, Free Publicity: The Newsletter for PR-Hungry Businesses http://www. PublicityInsider. com/freepub. asp he's sharing -- for the very first time -- his secrets of scoring big publicity. For free articles, killer publicity tips and much, much more, visit Bill's exclusive new site: http://www. PublicityInsider. com

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Online Marketing

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By Marcia Yudkin

Friday, November 19, 2003; 12:00pm EST

In 1995 I created and distributed a free document called Frequently Asked Questions about Freelance Writing, or the Freelance Writing FAQ. (http://www. yudkin. com/flfaq. htm) I've updated it several times since then and allowed anyone to post it at their Web site without a fee. That FAQ has done more than anything else to keep my 1988 book Freelance Writing for Magazines & Newspapers from HarperCollins in print. The last time I checked, my FAQ was posted at more than a dozen Web sites and linked from scores of others, as well as recommended in numerous books and magazines.

With the maturing of the Web, the strategy of setting out free bait for your target market has become more and more powerful. Here's how and why it works, and some non-obvious ways to make the most of the bait you create.

On the Internet, people are ravenous for information. Correspondingly, lots of sites find it in their interest to point their visitors to the best resources available in their topic area. If you can create a mostly unpromotional informational piece and make it available with minimal strings attached, you'll find complete strangers publicizing and distributing it to your benefit. Really!

In a nutshell, start by asking what data or advice would be of value to the group of people you want to attract as product buyers or clients. Search to see what's already available on that topic, so you don't spend your energy satisfying a thirst that's already been slaked. Create something authoritative on the topic that unobtrusively establishes you, your company or your product as serving that market. Then set out your bait online with explicit permission for people to spread it widely. Keep your piece updated and every once in a while search for new takers, and then enjoy the results.

I concocted my FAQ after interviewing a law student named Terry Carroll who said that his FAQ on copyright law had made him a minor celebrity with respect to the topic and helped him land his first job as an attorney. Since I'd been teaching classes on freelance writing for years, I knew all questions beginning writers had, and their answers. Following the format of other FAQs I looked at, I organized 24 commonly asked questions into five categories and did my best to keep the answers concise.

To make sure that writing and distributing the FAQ would redound to me, I also composed the last of the 24 questions to read, "And who are you, anyway?" That gave me a natural way to present my credentials and the titles of several of my books.

Although I believe the FAQ format has particular power on the Net, for you the ticket might be an article along the lines of "Five Things to Think About Before You Hire a...," "11 Low-risk Ways to...," "... Demystified," or simply "How to..." Call your bait piece a "white paper" if you're appealing to a corporate population.

Resist the temptation to devote any more than 10 percent of your bait piece to self-promotion. Doing so would make it less appealing for others to recommend or reprint it. Producing something that benefits your market without a heavy sales pitch attached puts you in a very positive light, and just a low-key business bio and contact information at the end entices readers to get in touch.

Think broadly about what kinds of sites might be willing to host or link to your informational offering. In addition to resource sites that aim at a comprehensive collection of topical links, consider non-competing businesses whose visitors need to know about your specialty. For example, with some of my small-business-oriented bait pieces on marketing and publicity, I've had requests to repost them to sites for a stock photo company, a specialty printer, a crafts dealer and numerous trade associations. Always request a live link to your Web site and an e-mail link to you when someone reposts your piece at their site.

If you have a Web site, the out-of-pocket cost to add a bait piece there will usually be zero. Mentioning your bait piece in your signature when you post to discussion lists is another way to spread it around effectively. If it has an appealing title and genuinely useful content for some well-defined, information-hungry audience, you'll find this piece soon funneling leads to you - without the big expense of a conventional push for traffic.

Source of Article Marcia Yudkin (marcia@yudkin. com) is the author of Internet Marketing for Less than $500/Year, Poor Richard?s Web Site Marketing Makeover and nine other books. Based in Boston, she provides business owners around the world with creative publicity strategies and performs marketing makeovers of Web sites and print materials. You can read more articles by her or subscribe to her free Marketing Minute newsletter at http://www. yudkin. com/marketing. htm.

 

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Amazon Continues to Present Taxing Challenge to Small Business Community

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There-s a growing movement aimed at changing the way the world-s largest online retailer does business. State governments are taking aim at Amazon with a variety of pending legislation that would either require Amazon to begin collecting sales tax or provide states with customer sales records. Either way, the prospective shakeup in online retail could have a profound impact on the small business community at large.

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Web Design Tips for Niche Audiences

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No two customers are alike, but some customer segments can really represent a lot of variety. How your website is designed can really make or break your sales efforts, depending on how the niche audiences you target perceive it.

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An IRS Investigator Dishes on Small Business Tax Fraud

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Worried about what the IRS will find if you-re selected for an audit? If you-ve neglected to declare earned income, paid contractors under the table, or made a mistake on your tax returns, you may find yourself looking at hefty fines — or, in some cases, even jail time.

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San Francisco Bay Area $146k Average Consultant Revenues

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By Renee Maler

Wednesday, July 6, 2005; 4:30pm EST

Women in Consulting Survey Shows Continuing Economic Recovery in SF Bay Area. Average 2005 consultant revenues of $146,000 up 28% since 2002.

San Mateo, CA, - June 27, 2005 - Women in Consulting (WIC), a San Francisco Bay Area umbrella organization of seasoned professional consultants, announced today results from its latest annual survey that indicate a continuing rise in business for Bay Area consultants. The findings also suggest strategies for consultants to maximize their revenues and promote their business in this stage of economic recovery.

Survey results of both WIC and non-WIC members included the following conclusions:

    60% saw an increase in revenue over the previous year

    73% expect revenue to increase in the next year

    Average total revenue increased steadily from 2002 to 2005 ? from $104k, $115k, $139k to $146k, respectively

    However, average hourly rates and project fees remained flat this year, pointing to an increase in workload

With such findings, WIC?s survey demonstrates that women are thriving as independent consultants, with 88% of respondents stating that consulting is a significant source of income, as opposed to merely a supplement to a primary job. In fact, 60% are further contributing to the economy?s momentum by hiring subcontractors, and these respondents report higher average incomes than consultants without subcontractors.

In exploring challenges experienced by consultants, the WIC survey also points to best-practices to improve their business and revenues, such as:

    Revenue is higher for consultants who charge project fees versus hourly fees

    Be willing to walk from an unprofitable deal ? bidding low causes price erosion and decreases the perception of your value

    Have different rate structures ? hourly, project, retainer ? to match client needs

    Research market rates and adjust for seniority, competitive niche, target customer, size of company

    Don?t underestimate project times, which is a common pitfall ? build in a buffer, add rates for changes and extra services, such as ?rush? projects

    Outsource to subcontractors with lower fees, where appropriate

    When projects change and need to be renegotiated, review client objectives and discuss what is going over the scope of the agreement; give choices for what can be done within the fee and provide estimates for additional work

?It?s clear that women continue to emerge as a dedicated and successful segment in consulting,? said Deborah Henken, President of WIC.. ?Our survey shows that WIC members enjoy greater success than consultants working without professional support, particularly since consulting is still viewed as a non-traditional field for women and intimidating to some. We are happy to share these findings to help women succeed on an independent path and to benefit the entire consulting community, including corporate clients.?

About the Author

Women in Consulting is a dynamic organization of seasoned professional consultants in more than 30 specialties, ranging from engineering to financial advising and marketing. WIC?s dual mission is to provide companies seeking consultant talent with access to a premier resource of top tier consultants and to provide a forum for consultants to share information and to effectively manage and grow their consulting practices. A non-profit corporation, WIC was established in 1998 as a collaborative community to foster successful consulting practices for its members. For more information, visit www. womeninconsulting. org.

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3 Holiday Inventory Management Techniques

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“Manufacturers and retailers report that people are buying less, more frequently, and are determined to keep cash on hand,” according to a Wall Street Journal article called “The Just-in-Time Consumer.”

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Beyond Paper: Office Recycling, From PCs to Packing Peanuts

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Recycling can be a challenge for small businesses, particularly home-based operations. About half of the U. S. population still does not have access to a curbside collection program for even the most basic recyclables (paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, and steel), which means people must haul everything away themselves when one pile or another reaches critical mass. What’s more: Regular pick-up services may not handle typical office fare, such as outdated electronics, spent batteries, and burned-out fluorescent bulbs — despite the fact that hazardous contents make it imperative that these items do not end up in the trash. To this end, here are a few resources for disposing of unwanted equipment and supplies easily and responsibly.

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Make Money While You Sleep

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By Yatin Patel

Monday, November 15, 2004; 1:00pm EST

Affiliate marketing is a good tool.

IF YOU ARE LIKE MOST BUSINESSES, IT IS A REAL challenge to attract paying customers to your site and still meet your ROI needs. Many companies who are successful in this area have reverted to a very traditional, real-world selling technique. They have taken this technique that has been successfully used for centuries and have finessed it into the cyber world. It is called Commission-based selling. Its embodiment in the online world takes the form of affiliate programs.

The easy definition of an affiliate program is ?Gain more customers through smaller sites run by others, which usually have a strong, loyal following. The small guys get a commission on sales that they send the bigger guys? way.? In a sign that the affiliate approach is working, a 2002 Forrester report said spending toward affiliate marketing increased by 50% while budgets for portal deals, e-mail, and banners all decreased significantly. Forrester also says that affiliate marketing is now driving $10.5 billion, or 15%, of online sales. By 2005, this figure will jump to $54 billion (Forrester, ?eCommerce Brokers Arrive,?). Today, 97% of online marketing deals have a performance component. Growth rates for pay-for-performance spending will be seven times the growth rates for CPM - based spending through 2006.

?Pre-sell / Warm-up? Phenomena

The most popular model is where Affiliates do not ?sell? the merchant?s product, they ?Pre-sell /Warm up? their visitor and send them to the merchant?s Web site in an open-to-buy frame of mind.

Some affiliates even have syndicated content from the merchant on their site and they take the visitor as far as possible before switching transparently (one hopes) to the merchant when the visitor is ready to put a credit card to use.

In the best situation, the visitor doesn?t even realize that a switch from the smaller affiliate site to the larger merchant site has even taken place.

Affiliate Revenue Models Sales Commission:

Affiliate receives fixed % of sales as a commission.

Traffic exchange: One qualified clicks from my site is exchanged for one qualified click from yours.

Pay per contextual visitor Or Qualified Lead: Merchant pays a fixed amount to the affiliate per qualified click or lead.

Hybrid Model: A custom solution with two or more components of above revenue model.

What do affiliates look for when considering your affiliate program?

Product Profile: The Product plays a very important part in the success of this program. The basic criteria of product qualification are:

? Products / services should be a purchasable item online.

? Your catalog and offering should have sufficient content about the product or market segment

? Miscellaneous, complementary accessories and services that will boost sales

?A perfect sales pitch with pictures.

? Mass appeal is an added plus.

? Competitive Price.

High commission

Depending on the profit margin, the merchant should offer a good commission to their affiliates. The simple way to determine the commission is to calculate the current cost (Cost per acquisition) to make one sale by means of existing online marketing efforts using banners, paid placement, and other traditional Internet media.

Let?s then assume that cost is 15 % of the existing revenue. It is safe to offer 10% commission to the affiliates with the other 5% assigned to the administration of the program. One can calculate the same formula Based on Cost per acquisition too.

Lifetime commission

Many affiliate programs just set the identifying cookie to last for a short period of time (perhaps 24 hours, some only for the duration of the visit to merchant?s site). If the visitor doesn?t buy within the short time the cookie is set, the visitor is no longer identified with the referring Webmaster and there is no commission paid to that Webmaster.

Good affiliate programs not only set the cookie for longer, up to a maximum of 10 years, they also use database tracking on the merchant?s system. So, whenever a visitor that has been ?tagged? and referred comes back to the merchant and buys, the merchant credits the referring Webmaster and pays the commission. This long-term cookie and database backup enables the merchant to provide the affiliate with a ?lifetime customer?. Now that really is looking after affiliates!

Customer Service and Call Center

Effective customer service and call center support can make or break your affiliate program. Many online buyers would like to call when they make an online purchase. Well-managed CRM activity adds creditability in your offerings. A separate toll free number for each affiliate can add affiliate value by personalizing the experience for the customer and making certain proper credit is given to the affiliate for call center reservations.

Syndication Capabilities: You can affiliate with web sites in two ways?first, by placing offers on your affiliates? sites that link back to your company servers, where the sale is made; second, via hybrid models. The program models come in six basic types, and your company can offer any or all of them to potential affiliate partners: Banner or text links, Storefronts, Pop-ups, Embedded commerce, Email, Hybrid

Some merchants that go all out to support their affiliates and help them succeed offer newsletters, promotional ideas, up-to-date information, even whole web sites devoted just to affiliate support.

Contextual Relevancy

The Affiliates that are successful are those who are becoming ever more context-centric and offer contextual relevancy That is, what?s being offered to site visitors closely matches the content of the site itself. Place the product or service in context and more people will buy. An affiliate site would be more effective selling video games than lawn mowers on a site targeted to teenagers. It?s about presenting the right message to visitors in the right place at the right time.

After sale reporting and transaction

Affiliates like to see their transactions in detail on a daily basis to measure the performance of their investments. A detailed reporting mechanism for everyday sales, product names, and product categories are a very important part of successful program. Affiliates use these statistics to optimize their offering and marketing methods.

Also paying your affiliates on time and offering alternate payment methods is a must.

Wrong Assumptions about affiliate marketing

Wrong Assumption 1: Having many many small sites promoting my product in mass will bring success to my affiliate program. It is not about how many affiliates you have, what really counts is how many affiliates producing significant results. Identify which affiliates are producing results and work with them closely to bring their revenue up.

The 80-20 rules applies: 80% of revenue is probably coming from 20% of your affiliates. Your results will be dependent on finding the right partners, big or small, that drive results.

Wrong Assumption 2: Affiliate programs will get new customers automatically with a low acquisition cost. Affiliates are becoming smart business entities day by day and they have a wide variety of offerings to choose from. They also understand the value of the traffic their sites are getting. They know that in their focus market segment good traffic is costing more, because it is worth more.

You get what you pay for. As a merchant, create a process that generates performance for both the merchant and the affiliate. To do that, you need to identify sites that will perform, based on their contextual relevancy and amount of traffic, and make sure you pay them enough to make it worth their while. It?s not as easy as the mythology might suggest, but if you do it right it will certainly be worth your while.

Wrong Assumption 3: Action or Performance-based marketing has no risk. Straight media buys offer more control than performance-based marketing. Affiliates may be offering content and promoting your products, but there is a chance that the quality of consumer is not what you expected. There is a chance that they will produce more then you have budgeted for. There is a chance that your product will be misrepresented by the affiliate.

By playing an active role with the program and handpicking your affiliates, you can minimize all of these risks. Paying on results sound lucrative to the merchant, but affiliates need to make their fair share of revenue, too. Commissions work when the risk on both sides is evenly weighted.

You don?t get that performance by putting a link on the World Wide Web and hoping for the best. You get it by taking control of your affiliates as a serious reseller channel.

Wrong Assumption 4: Since I have an affiliate program running I will not have to buy advertising on a CPM basis. Affiliate programs often can generate 30 percent of overall revenue if merchants focus on them. Obviously, the other 70 percent comes from somewhere else.

So companies must know how to live in both worlds (Pay per performance and pay per impression). CPM can be countered productive if you don?t know the performance metrics behind the campaign.

However, if you know the number of new customers acquired and the amount spent on the media buy, you can determine if this meets your acquisition cost goals.

Your affiliate technology will allow you to track these metrics in a turnkey way to determine whether buying on CPM makes sense for you. You may find buying on CPM is cheaper than paying CPA.

Win-Win

One of the reasons affiliate programs are so popular is that that offer a win-win situation for both merchant and affiliate.

Merchant?s Win: The merchant?s cost for advertising a particular product is mostly limited to the commission paid to an affiliate, and the merchant only has to pay when a purchase is complete.

This is superior to banner advertising, where the merchant pays?purchase or no purchase. Impressively, the amount paid to an affiliate for a purchase through an affiliate link is probably only 10% to 20% of the cost of that sale through banner advertising.

Affiliate?s Win: The site owner should make money if enough visitors click on the affiliate links and make purchases. The affiliate doesn?t have to go through the setting up e-commerce functions, taking credit cards, or shipping products. They just join affiliate programs and let someone else do the ?hard stuff.?

About the Author

By Yatin Patel

Published in http://www. siliconindia. com

August 2003

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How Publicity Gets You into the Fast Lane

. Posted in small business problem's

By Dianne Beiermann

Monday, September 12, 2005; 6:45pm EST

Many of us have the dream of saying good-bye to our day job and starting our own successful home business. Dianne Beiermann did just that. Dianne had worked for corporate America and she had survived layoffs and poor pay. She had enough and wanted out. She dreamed of having her own business and being her own boss.

Dianne adds: 'I always wanted to work from home. As far back as I can remember I dreamed of owning my own home business. For years I read books on mail order and working from home. But for a long time it just remained a dream. Until my last job, that was when I finally decided to stop dreaming and take action. What motivated me to make a move was in early 2002, the company I was working for at the time, decided to have a mass layoff of many departments within their organization.

They ended up firing four people from my department. I had missed the ax but it really hit home for me. I knew I didn't want to live this way, always worrying about the next time there would be a lay off. Wondering if I would get the ax, it really changed everything for me. I know that there was no such thing as a safe secure job. I didn't want somebody else deciding my fate. I wanted to decide it. This is what finally pushed me to take action."

That was when Dianne took the plunge into the world of online business selling a mix of inexpensive gifts and gadgets. It was a slow start at first. Dianne explains, 'I started my online business back in July of 2002. The best way to describe my website was a mix of inexpensive gifts, ranging from garden gifts to religious gifts. When I first started, my site was pretty unfocused.

Because I was selling a mix of unrelated gifts from many different categories I decided to focus my attention on selling wholesale to already existing retail websites that carried garden items or religious gifts. The supplier I was using gave their distributors the ability to sell wholesale to other companies so that is what I concentrated my efforts on doing. I spent most of my time contacting the website owners to sell wholesale to them."

Her real success came several months later after a great deal of study in the library reading books on everything from, finding a niche to free publicity.

Dianne found her niche selling automotive themed gifts for the home and office (http://www. pwmenterprises. com) and she found her customers through writing new product announcements and emailing them out to the editors of national magazines and online magazines. We asked Dianne how she found her niche for selling automotive themed gifts and this is what she said:

'Back in February of 2003 I was thumbing through my supplier's catalog looking for new product ideas when I came across a wood pen shaped like a gear shifter and clock shaped like a steering wheel. I knew that I finally had something really unique and different and I started to build my website around these new automotive themed gifts and accents. My site went from being a mix of inexpensive gifts and gadgets to a site focused on gifts for the automotive enthusiast. That was a real break through moment for me because once I found my niche it made it much easier to target my audience. That was when I started to focus on sending the editors of automotive magazines new product announcements on the items I carry."

Since Dianne had no money to advertise with, she had to think outside the box. After spending months reading every book she could find on getting free publicity, she implemented what she learned. By adding some of her own ideas, to her surprise the editors started publishing her new product announcements and her sales took off.

Dianne adds, 'One of the main ways I am able to drive targeted customers to my site is through my efforts to get free publicity for my new products (also referred to as 'New Product Announcements").

Back in March of 2003 I started to send out press releases via email to every car magazine I could find. I was sending out press releases for about three weeks when something amazing happened. After my third week of sending out press releases I started receiving phone calls from customers who wanted to purchase my gear shift pen. I was pretty shocked at first and didn't know where they were coming from. After the third or fourth phone call I started asking the customers how they found us and they said they read a blurb about our new product in Auto Week magazine. I was really stunned. I couldn't believe my press release got picked up. With this first taste of free publicity my business sales exploded.

I was getting a lot of hits to my website (for the first time) and people started placing orders online as well as calling into order. Because I also had the steering wheel clock and a couple other automotive themed items, the customers were purchasing these products as well. In five weeks I sold hundreds of the pens and steering wheel clocks. After this experience I started hunting online for more new automotive related products to introduce to the editors and in a nine month period I grew my sales ten times by mainly emailing the editors press releases on new product announcements. I sent out these press releases on a monthly basis and ended up getting my products in several automotive and men's print magazines and online magazines."

To this day (2 years later), she still receives free publicity for her products and company, PWM Enterprises, Inc. As her company continued to have rapid growth, several people jumped on board to help with business development. Now, Dianne's company has grown thanks in part to their hard work. She says the key to her success was partly due to all the free publicity she has received.

Their company, PWM Enterprises, Inc. now manufactures their own product line of gear shift themed accents. They have sales representatives in New York, Ohio, and Arizona and their manufacturing facilities are in Wisconsin. Her company sells wholesale now and offers corporate imprinting on their patent pending product line. We asked her what other methods she uses to find new customers for her business, 'To help get the word out about our product line we exhibit at car shows, expos, and gift and market trade shows. We will be exhibiting at SEMA in November, which is the largest trade show in the automotive after market industry."

Dianne has also launched another very successful website, www. productpressrelease. com where she has written an e-book on how a person can copy her success for getting free publicity by emailing the editors.

Dianne added, 'After, I started getting the free publicity for my company, PWM Enterprises, Inc. I had many friends and business associates ask me how I was getting the free publicity. They were very curious and really amazed that I was able to get free publicity for my products just by emailing the editors. Since I did not have a background in public relations and previously knew nothing about publicity, they were even more stunned at my success emailing the editors.

People wanted to know everything they could about the process. They wanted to know where I found the editor emails and what I wrote in the press releases. They really needed someone to help walk them through the process. I had so many people asking for my help that I decided to write an e-book on the subject of getting free publicity.

The e-book is titled, "How Anyone Can Get Free Publicity Just By Using Their Email." The e-book has been instrumental in helping many of Dianne's customers obtain free publicity for their own websites and products. Included in the e-book are several successful samples of 'new product announcement" emails that she sent to the editors. For more information visit: http://www. productpressrelease. com.

Dianne gains a lot of satisfaction from her ability to help others achieve the same success she has had by using free publicity. We asked her what are four top key methods for getting free publicity, and this is what she said:

'I would be happy to share some key ways to getting free publicity. Below are 4 of my top methods I use to this day."

1) Personalize the Press Release

Whenever possible find ways to personalize the press release. Here is a simple technique you can use:

Address the e-mail to the specific editor of the magazine. Instead of writing: "To the editors of the magazine" Take the extra step of searching the magazine's website for the name of the editor and address them accordingly.

2) Be prompt to an editor's request

Be prepared when the editors contact you. Many times an editor will want to contact you and ask some basic questions about your company. Another reason they might contact you would be to include your product in their next issue.

When this happens the editor will ask you for a 300 dpi photo of your product to be e-mailed to them so they can put it in the magazine. Through the years of doing e-mail press releases, I have learned to contact my suppliers before I send out a press release and ask them for a 300 dpi photo. I keep the photo(s) on file in a computer file folder marked 'editor's photos." They are easy to retrieve and since I already requested the picture ahead of time, I can just retrieve it from my file and send it to the editor

within minutes of the request.

3) Be consistent and patient while emailing the editors

It is very important to be consistent when you email the editors. Try to introduce a new product on a monthly to bi-monthly basis to the editors of the magazines. If you do it on a consistent basis before you know it, one of your products could be picked up in one of the magazines. It is also important to be patient with the process. You may not here anything for a few months and then all of a sudden you

will find out that a magazine picked up your press release and is running it. On average it takes print magazines a month to three months to print your press release. For online magazines you could have your press release picked up within days or weeks. That is why it is important to target both.

4) Website Focus

Make sure your site is focused on a specific category of products. I cannot stress this enough. The editors will often check to see if your site features products that are in the same category as your product press release. This is one of the key ways you can get free publicity for your products. Because when you send out a press release on a new product, the editors will check your site to make sure that you offer similar products. Once they see that you offer a wide range of products in this same category, you will greatly improve your chances for getting free publicity for your products and website.

She says it has been a dream come true to have two successful businesses and she really enjoys being able to share her success with others. Dianne has some helpful advice for individuals wanting to start their own internet business. 'Finding a niche is critical. Stay focused on one particular type of product or service. It is ideal to look for products that are not readily available on the internet or big box retailers. Keep your costs down in the beginning and do as much as you can on your own. Don't let anyone steal your dream of having your own successful online business. Believe in yourself, learn from people who have already achieved success and then take action!"

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Getting the Most Value from Your Travel Budget

. Posted in small business problem's

Last week, I wrote about putting together a travel policy, but just because you have a policy doesn-t mean you-re actually getting the most out of your budget. You can take steps to make sure that you-re not throwing money away, and it really involves getting to you know your travel habits like the back of your hand.

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Digitally Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Our Paperless Future

. Posted in small business problem's

By Dana Greenlee, WebTalk Radio

Monday, June 7, 2004; 12:00pm EST

A conversation with Seattle-based Docusign. com?s executive vice president and co-founder Tom Gonser...

We have all had to sign a legal agreement at some time or another. The process is a time consuming and costly process of making multiple copies of agreements and signing them and then either faxing or mailing original copies to all parties.

The online world has been slow to come up with a solution to this business issue. Many companies have launched hopeful remedies and then failed to capture the market over the years.

I believe a Seattle company has developed a solution that makes the process all digital and is easy to do. Tom Gonser, executive vice-president and co-founder of Docusign. com took a few minutes to fill us in on his digital document signature system.

Q: Explain what Docusign does.

Gonser: The simplest way to think about what we do is a digital version of an overnight express envelope. Any document that you might send to somebody for signature typically is printed on your printer and put in an overnight envelope or fax machine and then sent off to be signed. We?ve developed an electronic version of the envelope. Rather than printed on a printer, you print them directly into our virtual envelope and off they go.

Q: It?s competitively priced to be similar to an express mailing and it?s easier to do. Where?s the downside?

Gonser: It doesn?t cost as much, and we actually thought that would be a conversation piece. Here?s a process with a quarter of the cost of an overnight express envelope and that?s a great benefit, but the focus that most of our customers have put on this isn?t a cost aspect as much as the time aspect. Even when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight, it?s still a day out, and you hope someone gets it, opens up, signs it and returns it to you within a day. That?s two days, even if you?re going overnight. If you use Docusign Express, you could be on the telephone with somebody, they could receive your Docusign Express envelope and sign instantly. Rather than the speed of trucks, we travel at the speed of light.

Q: Are you seeing an issue where contracts and legal documents are in a printed form and people looking to use your service just don?t have it in a digital form?

Gonser: There are cases where you have a piece of paper on your desk that you need to sign and send, but not very many. The Post Office has a statistic that upwards to 92 percent of the paper we use today came from a computer.

Q: Does it matter if the original document is Word or Excel or PDF?

Gonser: No, that?s one of the tricks we?ve done. Most of the solutions in the past have required some fancy software that works with a particular application. Our solution works with any document you can print. In the past most of the businesses who wanted to take advantage of the digital signature were not using Microsoft Word to originate the documents they needed for their business. By allowing any document that can be printed to be sent for digital signature, we enabled those lines of business applications to take advantage of our software without any integration at all - literally a print driver.

Once you install the little three megabyte install, you choose the Docusign Express envelope and print. It goes right into the envelope and follows the same process it would with paper. It?s an innovative way we?ve done it to keep it simple for people. You then instruct the system on who?s going to be receiving this for signature with an e-mail address and name. It shows you the document on your computer screen. To indicate where someone is supposed to sign or initial, you just drag a little yellow sticky pad onto the document where you want them to sign their name. To sign it, they just click on it.

One of the real benefits is that, in a lot of transactions, you might receive something that has little sticky tabs on it. If one fell off in the envelope, you sign everyplace you think you?re supposed to sign and send it back. The next thing you hear is they have to send it to you again because you forgot to sign page seven. With our system, you can?t forget to sign anything. You try to complete the transaction without signing on all the places, it will say, ?Sorry, you?re missing one and here it is.?

Q: What is your opinion on why it?s taken so long for digital signatures to be accepted?

Gonser: There are a number of reasons why this hasn?t taken off. All the other aspects of business transactions have been accelerated dramatically: very powerful word processor technology, e-mail use is just crazy, sending documents back and forth to review ? but this last piece of getting a signature is throwing us back 100 years.

Initially, the reason people weren?t doing this was because there was no law that supported it. Just because you said you sign something online, there was no legal framework for that. In 2000, there was actually a national act passed at the federal level. The government passed the ESign Act, which stands for Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce. It gives electronic signatures in documents the same weight or legal effect as paper documents and handwritten signatures. As of 2000, the law supported it but, of course, people don?t want to be the first in the water so there had to be some cases where the actual e-signatures stood up.

Q: There were certainly a lot of dot-com related companies with great ideas that were a little too early to market. Now there are enough people out there who understand how to use Web-based technologies so that now it?s a more viable option for people.

Gonser: Exactly. In the late 1990?s and 2000, there was still a debate about how many people would actually use credit cards online. Today the problem is people are willing to give their credit card numbers to random Websites without even looking to see if it?s an ?https? session.

Q: What are the different uses that Docusign is currently being used for?

Gonser: In the legal space, clearly there is a benefit. We actually just closed on some funding and we obviously signed all the documents using our system. If you think about a complex transaction like that, we have a document that needs eight different signatures and is 200 pages long. I had 41 places to sign or initial on the document. The ability to put that documented into the Docusign Express Repository and have all eight people sign the exact same document is fantastic compared to what the paper process is for document like that.

Other markets that are particularly interested and were early adopters was the real estate market. We just signed an agreement with the technology arm of the National Association of Realtors - a company called RE Forms Net. They developed the software application that realtors use to create the purchase and sale agreement and others. They built our Docusign Express technology directly into their Zip Form product so realtors could easily execute their real estate transactions, whether it?s a listing agreement or, in the case of California and Washington where there is a really hot market and offers and counteroffers are bouncing back and forth so quickly, because our system is so fast, potentially a Realtor using Docusign Express and the Zip Form might be able to get their offer in faster.

About Source of Article Dana Greenlee is producer and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show.  WebTalkGuys, a Seattle-based talk show featuring technology news and interviews. It is broadcast on WebTalkGuys Radio, Sonic Box, via Pocket PC at Mazingo Networks and the telephone via the Mobile Broadcast Network.  It's on the radio in Seattle at KLAY 1180 AM.  Past show and interviews are also webcast via the Internet at http://www. webtalkguys. com/. Greenlee is also a member of the The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.

 

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8 Tips To Get More Customer Referrals

. Posted in small business problem's

Depending on your business, a high percentage of your sales should come through word-of-mouth referrals. But getting quality referrals doesn’t happen automatically. It’s a matter of intuition, skill, and persistence.

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Small Business Bankruptcies Retreat - But Not Everywhere

. Posted in small business problem's

Small business bankruptcies have declined in 11 of the 15 metropolitan areas with the nation’s highest filing rates, according to a new study conducted by Equifax. That fueled a 4.4% drop in filings overall in those areas during the third quarter of 2010 when compared with the same period during 2009.

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Making Business Travel More Tolerable

. Posted in small business problem's

The first business trip you take is like magic. You get to fly somewhere far away, stay in a nice hotel, and enjoy tasty meals as you build your business. By trip number 10, the bloom is off the rose, as they say. Business travel can be an exhausting experience, and instead of being magical, it becomes something you have to do and nothing more - compounded for small business owners by the fact that there-s no one upstairs to foot the bill for all of this.

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What Entrepreneurial Characteristics to Possess to Succeed?

. Posted in small business problem's

By Ylva Jansson

December 16, 2009; 6:15pm EST

Most people are now into the online home business but in order to be successful in this field one should be armed with the right entrepreneurial characteristics. There are some basic rules that can be applied to almost all business industry but in the online home business there are very vital entrepreneurial characteristics that one must possess in order to be on top. First is the ability to plan efficiently.

Typically there is more than one thing happening at the same time in any business just like in online business, so an entrepreneur must have a very good planning strategy for him to keep track of all the things happening around him and focus on the most important things. A very good business plan is imperative to be able to continually analyze the success of the plan and to enable anyone to adjust swiftly if needed.

Next is having confidence in order to be an effective self-promoter who has the gift of spotting opportunities whenever and wherever. Great marketing and advertising plays a very important role because big companies will never get noticed if they do not employ a very good way of advertising and promoting their company and their products.

There are unlimited methods to promote an online business and a goal-oriented entrepreneur will try everything until he finds the right solution that will yield a good result for their business. Another crucial characteristic which a successful entrepreneur possesses is the strong sense of business ethics and good judgment. Because "face to face" interaction is not possible in any online business, clients and prospects base their decisions and opinions to the look and credibility of the site and as well as the reviews of the products being offered and the company as a whole.

For an online business to be successful, it must pose a positive business image and status so that customers and prospects will be able to build a good relationship with the business, the owner and the product lines. Also a successful online entrepreneur must have a strong technical skill to be updated with the world of technology, if and when the entrepreneur is not a "techie", he can hire someone to do all the technical works for his company. Small and independent company and large company are almost on the same level on the Web.

With this, an online entrepreneur must always leverage and impose focus on sustaining a superior online existence not only by the site itself but by using a good marketing and advertising efforts. To be able to develop an effective team, another entrepreneurial characteristic that an online businessman should have is the ability to do networking. In online business there are no limitations when it comes to the physical locations it is the sole reason why an online entrepreneur can build up a team that could cross over the globe whenever the need calls for it.

It does not only widen the accessibility of would-be business partners but it also noticeably increases the effectiveness of the business networking opportunities. With a very effective business team, an online entrepreneur can assign certain duties to members of the team that they are capable of doing and be able to do the work effortlessly. The talent to focus on profits is another important entrepreneurial characteristic even though online advertising and marketing is much less cheaper compared to other means of advertising and marketing, a good online entrepreneur will search for marketing strategies that will ensure a targeted way to create income in the company effectively.

And lastly, as the term implies, online businesses are done form home so a good and successful entrepreneur has the discipline to organize and stay focused. He must be able to detach his work form his personal life, not only physically but mentally as well to achieve the targeted success. Though you are doing the things you love and like, you must be able to set a limit between work and personal stuffs to be successful in online business.

About the Author

To find out more about Ylva Jansson and Entrepreneur Characteristics visit http://www. YourWealthBlueprint. com

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How Small Business Owners Can Plan for Retirement

. Posted in small business problem's

There are a wealth of personal finance advice sites online, but many of them seem geared for “regular” retirement investors — W-2 employees who draw a salary and have access to a group 401(k) and other benefits. So what about the rest of us? In fact, retirement planning options differ quite a bit for business owners and self-employed people — and that can be a great thing for your nest egg.

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When Is Face-to-Face Worth It?

. Posted in small business problem's

With the convenience of free Skype * - chat, online meetings, unlimited long distance phone plans, email, and instant messaging for staying in continual contact with clients, we sometimes forget that clients are people, too.

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Choosing the Right Affiliate Program

. Posted in small business problem's

By Y. Ailan of DollarSpiders. com

Monday, November 15, 2004; 1:30pm EST

The importance of choosing the appropriate program(s) for your website has been in my opinion one of the most overlooked aspect when taking into consideration which program(s) to join. In response to this phenomenon that seem's to plague most webmasters these days, I have decided to compile this article on how to choose the right affiliate program(s) for your website.

I am writing this article because I had to find out the difficult way how to choose a program(s). From my experiences, here are several of the top factors you should take into consideration while deciding which program(s):

Sustainability and Stability

As the saying goes: "you can skin a sheep many times, but once you kill it its dead" (Or something like that). Your probably thinking, is this guy insane? (I am still trying to figure that out), but that saying is relevant to this section because it tells you that once a program discontinues its side of the bargain, its in the gutter. What I'm getting at is that you need to find stability in the program your joining because if you join a program that was made recently, how do you know they have the proper amount of clients or money to pay all the participants what they deserve. A rule for those who haven't figured it out yet and those who have forgotten: If it has been around for a while then it has credibility, a reputation to live up, chances are they have enough money saved away to pay when their business is in a bad position and they have developed their program.

Now that you have decided that the program you want is financially stable we can move on to the next part.

On Time

Do they pay you in a reasonable timeframe? is a question we should all ask before joining any programs because eventually you will start to wonder why you haven't seen a paycheck, even after you have sent them hundreds or thousands of referrals. Only to find out that your paycheck will come in six months. (I might be exaggerating just a little but it's because I'm trying to prove a point).

Time is important, it is intangible and is priceless, so don't waste your time on programs who wont put in the time to take the time to send you a cheque on time. (I spent allot of time on this one)

Target Audience

Maybe I am crazy, but when your surfing a website about lets say cheat codes for the latest console or PC games, there is no way in hell your going to buy a 22.5ft garden hose, especially if it doesn't come with one of those lawn sprinkler things. If anything you will frown upon the site and the company that makes it for being so uncreative in trying to win your dollar. First of all if your a company that makes 22.5ft garden hoses then you should be advertising on gardening website's, and if your a webmaster with a website dedicated to gaming, you should base your advertisements around games. Maybe, just maybe I'm crazy but I honestly believe that you will make almost nothing if your advertising the wrong product on the wrong site. (unless little angus's grandmother is screaming in his ear to buy a 22.5ft garden hose for her while he is surfing a cheat code website)

The message in this section is to advertise something your target audience will be interested in, or else guaranteed you will not be successful with that program or not as successful as you would with something your surfers would be interested in.

A helping hand

A good way to tell if a program is reliable is to pretend your "clue-less" about the program and find out as much as you can, if all your questions are answered in the FAQ and Support areas of the website, then it should be a good program, but if they don't take the time to help you and you have unanswered questions, what does that say about the program? Another excellent indicator is if they reply to your emails, if they actually help you then that means that they do care about the people who are participating in their program(s), which makes them reliable. So when you do have a question that cant wait or is really important they will actually help you.

Thank you very much for your time, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as possible.

About the Author

Article Written by Y. Ailan. More information on programs at http://www. dollarspiders. com

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Taking Your Corporate Logo Seriously

. Posted in small business problem's

By Noelle Bates, Director of Corporate Communications, LogoWorks

Tuesday, April 12, 2005; 9:40pm EST

Before a customer or potential partner drives up or walks into your business, clicks on a website or interacts with you or another employee, they most likely have already formulated a first impression of your business.

The customer wouldn?t have needed to hear a thing about company, read about it in the paper or seen an advertisement to do so. They have an impression because they?ve probably seen your logo. And whether you know it or not, your logo has told customers something about the business before the customer engages you in any way.

That first impression is more important that many business owners realize. When you consider that a logo can instill a sense of confidence, even desire, in a customer to do business with you, logo creation and logo usage is not something to be taken lightly.

A Logo is a Company?s Face ? the Visual Representation of a Brand

Most of us make an attempt to look our best in important situations ? we know our appearance has bearing on whether or not someone will regard us competent and professional. Our hair, our clothes, even our makeup tells the people around us something about what we are like. In effect, we brand ourselves with our appearance.

The ?face? of a company ? it?s logo ? does the same thing. A well-designed and effective logo bespeaks professionalism, trustworthiness, and can clearly indicate what a business does and to whom they cater. Once someone has done business with you, the logo becomes the visual representation of everything the customer experienced in relation to your business. In that vein, a good logo helps bring new business in as well as helps sustain repeat business. A bad logo can have just the opposite effect.

It?s important to note that while your logo is not your brand, it IS the visual mark that represents it. So not only does it provide that all-important first impression, it allows customers to find you, remember you and differentiate you from all other businesses.

Your Logo is Sending Messages

A logo can say a lot about your company, but is your company sending the message you want your customers to receive? Are you using the right combination of colors, images and messages to strike a chord with your target customers?

The colors and shapes in your logo play a big part in how your business is perceived, and what kind of first impression people will take away. For example, blue connotes authority, dignity, security, faithfulness, stability, heritage, and trust, whereas orange conveys fun, cheeriness, warmth, appetite, and speed. Many of us have a innate sense of what colors will work based on what kind of company the logo represents, but it?s a good idea to do some research on what colors will make the most sense for your industry.

Overdoing it with your logo also sends a clear message that can have some negative consequences. We see a lot of companies making the mistake of wanting to cram way too much into a logo when the truth is, a simple logo can send a much powerful message than a complex one. When businesses add their tagline, a phone number or their license number for example, they are only confusing the eye and leaving people with nothing to take away. Overdoing a logo actually leads people to believe your business is small and unprofessional.

The goal of your logo should be memorization, and if you give your customers too much to memorize, it makes it much harder to remember. Simplicity wins out almost every time, and it?s almost always the best way to send the right message.

When Does it Make Sense to Change a Logo?

Since a good logo can have such a powerful positive influence with customers, it?s important to make the logo last as long as possible. When a company has built a successful, powerful brand using a good logo, it would be foolish to design a completely new one. In the not so distant past, a major insurance company overhauled its logo ? a logo they had been using for decades that represented over a century of strength and trust. It was arguably one of the most recognized brands in the country, and making big changes to that logo was a big mistake.

But there are times when a new logo is necessary, or when a facelift could really make a difference in the company. Most companies do not have brands that are so powerful that changing them will have a negative impact. Obviously, if you are starting a new business, there is no better time to invest in a professional logo than now. But, for those not lucky enough to start out with a clean slate, a new logo might still be worth the investment.

If your business is not attracting the kind of customers you want, or if people don?t view your company the way you want them to, it may be time to consider getting a new logo. Other times to consider a new logo is when there?s been a change in ownership, product mix, corporate direction or customer base that has caused a fundamental change in

corporate personality.

If you?re still not sure, a good litmus test is to ask yourself the following questions: ?Does my logo convey how much I care about my business and my customers and what I?m trying to offer them? Does my logo make me look professional and knowledgeable? Does it do my business justice?? This is particularly important if you are in an evolutionary, competitive and rapidly changing field that rewards cutting-edge innovation.

Logo makeovers and updates are more common than brand new logos. Most logos will not last forever, and after a while most logos will need some updating to keep looking good. The changes can be minor and should not drastically alter the look and feel of the logo, because that will alter the feel of the company to customers. Coke and Pepsi make subtle and incremental logo changes quite often. Although these logos are noticeably different from their inception to present time, the logos are never so different that they cause you to wonder what is happening to the company. Apple, one of the most powerful brands in the world, updated its famous icon ? the apple ? by removing the rainbow colored stripes and making it a one-color logo. The new Apple logo is not as distinct as it was before, but the company felt it was dated and wanted to do a better job communicating their innovation with a more simple and direct design, something the new logo does much more effectively.

The idea of a logo makeover or update is just to freshen it up, to keep the company looking up-to-date, and to help customers feel like your business is not falling behind the competition.

By having a professional logo, your company can make that all-important positive first impression. People will remember your company the next time they need whatever you have. And if you take your logo seriously, they will take you seriously in return.

About the Author

Noelle Bates joined LogoWorks as Director of Corporate Communications in September of 2004. Prior to LogoWorks, Noelle was the Director of Corporate Communications for Melaleuca, a direct sales company that did over $600 million in sales in 2004. Noelle has worked for two different for hi-tech focused public relations agencies in Utah and San Francisco where she worked on dozens of accounts, from multinational software companies to Internet security start-ups, and has public relations experience in the software, hardware, pharmaceutical, consumer, and health and nutrition industries.

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How to Homeschool Your Kids while Running a Business

. Posted in small business problem's

Homeschooling is becoming an increasingly viable alternative to public schooling. Between 1999 and 2007 (the most recent year for which data is available), the number of homeschooled children nearly doubled, from 850,000 to 1.5 million students. Many parents opt to homeschool because they’re dissatisfied with public-school offerings due to differing values, educational standards, or safety concerns.

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Our Growing Global Digital Nervous System

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By Rob Greenlee, WebTalk Radio

Monday, June 7, 2004; 12:00pm EST

The world is getting smaller every day as we grow more connected because of digital communication technology. Every year, millions of new people become networked together using the Internet.

You can see how we?re connecting everywhere ? from the proliferation of single-chip wi-fi-enabled mobile computers, tiny RF sensor transmitters, mobile networked smart phones, ubiquitous always-on Internet connections and even new tech-driven social networking movements.

Together, they?re forming a growing global digital nervous system whose potential impact seems almost limitless. Communication and interaction between objects, people and the environment shall transform our very existence on this planet and beyond.

The future Internet could include worlds like the Moon and Mars, as we colonize the planets in the coming decades.

Global nervous system network technologies are not the fix to the world?s social problems and conflicts, but can serve as a way towards resolving more of those issues via better communication and cultural understanding.

Hopefully, over the coming decades, people of this world will use this global nervous system to begin the healing process to resolve economic and social conflicts around the world.

This change will cause all to become more global in view and understanding. America is a great and powerful country but really lacks a global view of the world.

I think that this global digital nervous system will more easily link America to the rest of the world.

It seems as though we are finally awakening from a long, dark sleep as humans on this earth start seeing the earth and solar system as one place.

These growing interconnected networks of people who are currently using the Internet to communicate are making separation and distance from each other irrelevant.

Friendships are being created every day that are not dependent on proximity as voice over IP technology is enabling less expensive voice communications.

E-mail and instant messenger communications are allowing regular communications to be maintained over longer periods of time and distance.

Faster wireless and wired broadband connection speeds will enable visual communications through digital video that will enable us to connect with others around the world in ways we can only imagine now.

The concept of personal broadcasting will come into its own in a big way. We will all need to become broadcasters and need to be verbally skilled communicators.

I think a person?s ability to communicate in all ways verbal, written and on-camera will be skills that will be required of everyone for economical survival on this planet over the next 10-20 years.

This collective thought and communication on a global level will enable humanity to reach a more peaceful existence as cultural conflicts slowly resolve themselves.

Every person on the planet will at some point in the future become an information worker of some type and will be connected to this global nervous system we now call the Internet.

Rob Greenlee is host of the WebTalk Radio Show, a University Place, Washington-based radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.

About Source of Article Rob Greenlee is Founder and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show.  WebTalkGuys, a Seattle-based talk show featuring technology news and interviews. It is broadcast on WebTalkGuys Radio, Sonic Box, via Pocket PC at Mazingo Networks and the telephone via the Mobile Broadcast Network.  It's on the radio in Seattle at KLAY 1180 AM and KVTI 90.9 FM. Past show and interviews are also webcast via the Internet at http://www. webtalkguys. com/. Greenlee is also a member of the The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.

 

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The Hiring Process: Jennifer McClure on How to Read Resumes

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The days of hanging a Help Wanted sign in the store window are disappearing. Job seekers and employers are turning to more modern methods, from LinkedIn to social networks, to find each other. But whatever your hiring scenario, you probably still request resumes from serious applicants. Once those resumes start flooding your in-box, how do you sift through the pile?

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Solving The Office Coffee Crisis

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Without coffee even the best office can turn into a crisis center, complete with employees dozing off at their desk, falling asleep in meetings with clients, and much worse. However, getting that revitalizing cup of joe isn-t always simple. Some larger corporations offer coffee services with direct delivery to the cubicle, of course that isn-t always an option for the small business owner or employee. Here are a few ways to avoid the crisis.

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How Guest Blogging Can Help You Grow Your Business

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You’ve been blogging on your company website for awhile now, which is helping to build your brand and boost your site’s search rankings. Now that your name is out there, you’ve either started to receive requests for guest posts from others — or are starting to wonder why you haven’t. In either case, you barely have time to keep up with your own blog, let alone someone else’s. Why should you consider writing for free on other people’s sites?

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Adam Brownlee on Catching Warren Buffett-s Eye

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For many small-business owners, Warren Buffett is a role model for turning an entrepreneurial dream into a wildly successful career. The chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, whose net worth is $44 billion, consistently ranks among the world’s wealthiest people. What if you could build your small business into one that he might invest in? What would it take to amass your own fortune?

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Start a Home Business Part 2 of 3. Thousands of Americans every year follow their dreams and start a home business.&nbsp; You can too, and you won't believe just how easy it can be

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By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Wednesday, July 30, 2003; 5:00pm EST

In part 2 of our article on starting a home business, we will continue to look at crucial first steps and considerations you need to make, when starting a home business...

5. Trade Marking

Branding of your company is an important first step. Equally important is the long term protection of this branding which you will work so hard to build and cultivate into something that has mindshare. You can trademark your company name, the logo, specific products, product lines, names of services, pretty much anything you want to protect. However, it must be something that has not already been trademarked for your category of business, and a proper filing with your government is required. That is why it may be advisable to have an incorporation specialist company or individual. The specialist will handle the initial search for possible trademarks that could prohibit you to register the trademark, and secondly to handle the form filling and submission of the appropriate documents to the government. It will then most likely go through a review process and the government will provide an opportunity for other trademark holders to protest having your trademark instated. After a specified time frame, and no objections have been raised, you then make a final trademark registration payment to the government and a certificate will be issued to your company. In the event there is protest against your filing, you may file an appeal and state your reasons as to why it should be accepted. Trademarks, depending on the one you have chosen, can be a difficult to register if there are other companies that believe yours closely resembles theirs, even if it is not the same. Typically, once registered, trademarks have a validity period of between 7 and 10 years, and are renewable for basically an infinite number of times. Although registering your trademark does not entitle you to automatic government protection and representation, it gives you legal grounds for you yourself to pursue companies that infringe your trademark ownership.

6. Copyrighting

When developing any documentation, images, marketing materials, etc, get into the habit of copyrighting it. Copyright is something that protects your intellectual material from being copied by other companies or individuals for their own profit. Copyrighting can be as simple as writing on the original document a copyright notice with date and company name, to as difficult as actual registering with a copyright organization - depending on your country and the level of protection you feel fit for your material. For a majority of material, a simple copyright notice is sufficient protection. However, if there is for an example a piece of highly valuable computer programming language that was developed by your company and you wish to protect it, you may wish to take additional measures to make a more "formal" copyright claim. Note, as with trade marking, it is up to you to police and pursue and copyright infringements.

7. Advertising and Marketing

Nobody will know you exist until you let them know you are there. A popular myth for example is that if you simply put a web site on the Internet, swarms of people will be knocking on your door, since there are millions of people online. In reality that is completely and utterly false. It is like saying because you open up a store on a side street, people will just somehow miraculously know you are there and be banging down your door. You need to "send the word out", that you exist, where you are, what you offer, and some sort of enticing reason for people to visit you (whether in person, on the net, or other means of getting in contact with you) rather than your competitors or someone they already deal with. Fortunately, there are countless ways you can advertise or get the word out about your company - ranging from free methods, to methods that involve significant time and financial investments. Advertising is the classic example of "you have to spend money to make money". Although advertising money at first may seem like its just disappearing and is not worth spending, without it, there is little point of having the business.

So what methods can you investigate? Newspapers, magazines, local papers, radio, television, internet, bulletin boards, billboards, flyers, public transit, the list goes on and on. Typically when you are starting a business, you want to first try out methods that cost less or nothing, and that require creativity and a bit of leg work. Later when your first revenues are generated or you have exhausted your initial methods - you can try some that require a financial injection. You would be surprised how the lost cost options can drive business if done correctly.

Never underestimate the power of networking. Networking involves all of the people that touch your life in some way or another. By compiling a COMPLETE list of every single individual you know, and who they know and sorting them by their likelihood of interest in your company products or services - start contacting them and pitching your offerings. You will most likely have family members, co-workers from the past, friends, a dentist, buddies at a local club or social activity, etc. All of these people, and the people they are connected to, have the potential to be interested in your business. And the great thing is - since you already know them, the cost of getting to them through advertising is eliminated. And you would be surprised how many people, the people you know, know! If you are trying to sell them something, and they don't have interest, in many cases they WILL know someone who may. It's just like when you are trying to sell your old stereo and you ask around to your friends and suddenly one of them says "Well, I'm not interested, but I know my friend Steve is looking for an inexpensive stereo to buy for his cottage." The emphasis here is exploiting the contacts you already have, and to develop more. You are literally attempting to grow branches out from the tree that represents the people in your life. And that, is networking!

Another important advertising method is to have a web site, and make sure that it is properly search engine optimized and submitted to all the major search engines, directories and other related web sites. We will get into that at a later point in this article.

8. Software and Licensing

For many businesses, software is a critical factor in its operation. Documentation, accounting, graphic design, all is typically done through the use of computers. So what kinds of software will your small business need to get going? This certainly is influenced by the type of company you are starting - however there is a typical set of base applications that are most likely going to be needed. A required piece of software would be the operating system your workstations and possibly server would run. Make sure the one you select is well supported with the software you see being important to your business, and that will let you be compatible with a large client base. Most importantly after the operating system would be some sort of business applications suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software and email application. Possibly a small database program would be recommended to store certain company information such as clients, accounting data and other important records. Luckily it is quite easy (although sometimes expensive) to purchase packages from companies such as Corel and Microsoft that contain literally all of this software in one box, saving you from having to buy multiple products from multiple vendors. Be sure to shop around as prices vary depending on the retailer. Online vendors sometimes offer inventory wide discounts that can be applied to software. You may also want to try large software retailers targeted to business rather than consumers as they can sometimes offer some discounting or competitive price drops.

Once you have purchased your software, it is worth the time to manage your software licenses right from the beginning. Create a spreadsheet or database containing all the information about what software titles you own, the number of copies, where they are installed physically and the codes you use to unlock them. That way you can prevent any licensing issues that may arise from poorly managed licenses once your company grows and additional software licenses are required. Piracy (unlicensed / paid for copies of software) can have hefty fines that would certainly put a dent in any companies profits - it is well worth keeping a legitimate software library. Not only that, but obtaining pirated copies or "cracked" copies of business software from the Internet can be prone to major security risks such as containing viruses, trojan horses, and lack of support in the event you have problems with the software.

Go Directly to Part << [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] >>

In the final part of this article, we will examine the following:

    Computer Equipment

    Employees or Contractors

    Web Site

    Ongoing Costs & Expenditures

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding this article or interest in the services available from Visca Consulting.

info@viscaconsulting. com

http://www. viscaconsulting. com/

 

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5 Things Small Businesses Need to Know about New FTC Privacy Rules

. Posted in small business problem's

Ever since the White House released its Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights [PDF] in February, the issue has been drawing high-profile attention. Most recently, the Federal Trade Commission published a 72-page report on consumer privacy that may influence how small businesses interact and maintain with customers and handle their personal information both online and offline. This data may include everything from customers- names and addresses to their purchase history and even which pages they’ve viewed on your website.

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