Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to Turn a Cheapskate into a Customer!

I'm sure you're a lot like me, you've read tons of literature about how to keep people coming back for more!  But time and time again, you find yourself wondering...Where are my customers?

Elizabeth An, a Vietnamese restaurant owner, had a similar problem.  When she opened her restaurant called Crustacean back in the 70s she said,  "Customers didn’t flock to the new restaurant at California and Polk streets right away, and some early negative reviews were damaging."

What do you think she did?  

"So Elizabeth called loyal fans of Thanh Long (a family owned Vietnamese restaurant) and invited them to Crustacean as her guests. “For a month, I gave meals away,” she said. “We’d come such a long way, I figured I had to give it my best shot. I told people who liked the food to tell their friends about it. And they started coming back.”

Would you do that when faced with a similar obstacle?

An's strategy is pretty common. Just walk into your grocery store on a Saturday afternoon and look around. You will see sales reps hawking tiny bite sizes of pizza, sausage nibbles, and mini cups of soup.  One day I went to Costco and they were giving out a tablespoon of tiramisu cake.  The line was so long that people were getting a bit feisty. Everybody wanted that free tablespoon. Now, will everyone purchase a cake after trying it? Nope, but some will.  And those are the ones you want to impress!

1) Service above everything!
If you are going to give something away for free, give something of value! Know your target audience. I have a group that I organize a meetup group for kids and their parents, and I receive requests for sponsorship. I have turned down the requests because they want to offer my group plastic bowls or cleaning products.  Those things are fine, but my parents want their kids to be around other English speaking children. Why offer them plastic bowls?

2) Over deliver! (I know, service again!)
If you give something away for free then make sure you go over and beyond what the participants expect! Don't just say, "Hey, you get what you paid for! You paid nada so sayonara!" 

3) Offer something unexpected! 
I used to drive past at least 45 nail salons to get to one place in South Holland, Illinois! Why? Because they gave me THE BEST leg rub at the end of my pedicure. I went to other places and they would just throw a couple of slaps on my calf and call it a day, but this place spent at least a good 3-4 minutes on my legs! Even though I was there for my feet! Ahhhh..............

4) Listen to your customers!
I don't believe that they are always right, but they have some valid points. If they are willing to tell you the truth, then you will find out what they are telling their friends. I went to a newly opened restaurant that I found through Facebook. The directions on the page were wrong.  After I walked for about 45 minutes I finally found the place thanks to the kindness of two ladies.  After I told the proprietor about the confusion, he blamed everybody. "No, uhm, maybe you went to the wrong site, or you didn't download the google map. You should have....yadda, yadda, yadda!"  All I was waiting for was, "Thanks, I'll check it!"  I think he thought I was being a pest, but after about 10 minutes another guy walked in and said, "Give me a beer! I've been looking for this place for at least 30 minutes! That map is wrong!"  

5) Be a friend!
You don't have to listen to their dating troubles, but you can be a friend to the community.  In Tokyo there are some entrepreneur's that get their name out by hosting events, service projects, food drives, and by being a source of advice or by offering a safe haven  where foreigners feel comfortable enough to gather. 

Just because a person is a cheapskate doesn't mean they are broke. They may be looking for that extra bit of something that will keep them coming back for more.

Here are some of my give-aways! If you have any more suggestions let me know!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Take an Idea to Bed With You

 We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with sleep.- William Shakespeare

Have you ever had a problem with your business that you just couldn't figure out?

7 Steps to Solve Nagging Business Problems:

1. Read about your last project 20-30 minutes before you go to sleep.
2.Turn off the TV and Internet.
3.Don't talk about anything serious before you go to sleep! You don't want to mull that over in your dreams at night.  Keep it light!
4. Put a notepad and a pen or pencil next to your nightstand.
5.Once you hit the bed relax your mind. While you are asleep let your mind do the work.
6. When you wake up write down your first thought.  

Make this a habit and eventually you will be more receptive to new ideas.  You will be able to solve problems more easily.
7. And if that doesn't work, just get more sleep!

Taking an idea to bed with you might be the easiest way to solve a problem! Arianna Huffington did a 6 minute TED Talk on the topic:

Know! Feel free to share how sleep has helped you grow your business!

3 Rules to Survive Networking On-line

Networking online is about sharing ideas, thoughts, and your own creativity. There is a possibility that someone will click on your link, go to your website or even purchase one or two products from you. But will they come back for more?
1. Respond to the topic that is being presented. Leave relevant comments or start a new thread.
2. Please Don't Beg
Please don't start a topic with "Buy My Book Please!" Turn your book into a discussion topic. When peopled start asking questions then you can guide them to your website.
3. Share Information
In order to become an authority on a subject use your comments to add new ideas to the post.

Three simple rules to get you started!
Happy Posting!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SEO -Let's get it crunked!

I was searching the net looking for ways to update my sites ranking and I was tempted to start plunking down some hard earned yen to get that Site Engine Optimization up and running! Then I saw the prices!

The SEO Guy has packages starting at $795!
SemperFi Web Design has prices starting at $899 and professional rates $2,900/3 months!
NJ SEO Company has three packages with the most economical starting at $950! 
eckweb internet marketing offers the lowest price at $150/month! They offer a variety of price modules, but their website doesn't look all that great! After watching over 100 videos by Andrew Lock Marketing Maven and creator of Help!My Business Sucks! I think eckweb is listing their price packages the wrong way.

I even know of an organization here in Tokyo that is paying about 1,500 yen a day, which equals to about 45,000 JPY/month, to keep their site on the first page under certain keyword searches. That's a pretty chunk of change when you think about it. Will throwing money at the problem make a difference?
Uhh, when you are a broke entrepreneur you have NO money, but you have plenty of time!

You may be surprised to know that some people don't know what SEO means! So maybe I should go back just a bit or you should read, The Beginners Guide to SEO   by Seomoz.  This step-by-step guide is FREE! (Remember when I mentioned having NO MONEY!) Seomoz has some pricing plans if you want to skip the reading and start delving into your piggy bank, but if you want to keep yourself focused and keep money in your pocket, try reading this guide first, before you break the bank!

I found some free links for you wannabe SEO newbies (like myself)!

Before you start yelling at me in all CAPITAL letters I just want to say right now I am doing the best I can, but you can't get angry every time someone mentions this behemoth of a company. I am going to give you a hint, it starts with an 'm' and ends with a 't'.....Did you guess yet? That's right Microsoft. I told you not to yell. All of my MacBook loving friends are glaring at me right now. But Microsoft has a free download to help you optimize your website.  It's called Microsoft SEO Toolkit:

The hottest website platform is WordPress and I host my site on WordPress so I went looking for an all in one SEO optimizer through the plugins.

I won't regale you with the hours it took for me to sift through the different plugins in order to find the one that was easy to understand, but I will say I narrowed it down to SEO Design based in Chicago! Their plugin was easy to understand and offered a simple video tutorial to explain some of the first steps in using the plugin. Unlike some of the other downloads that had over 7 million installations this one was simple, clear and to the point!

I will say that my favorite on-line marketer Andrew Lock posted a video about WordPress back in December 2010.

I found another site called Link-assistant. They say they are "The Only World Standard SEO Software." If you read the SEO guide for beginners you will find out how important links are in building your site. Just be wary of companies that spam you into building links that have nothing to do with your business.

The more you hear, read, or learn about SEO you will understand that it is changing constantly based on the algorithms by Google. Fortunately, some of us don't have to worry too much about falling prey to the volatile changes of these methods. If you are a small-business owner in a niche market you may be able to remain afloat if you keep offering informative content.

Hope some of these tips helped! Please leave a comment on this blog if you agree or disagree with some of my comments. If you have great links you would like to add, feel free. You can also join my newsletter which will offer valuable tips and insight for entrepreneurs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You Always Need a Plan Z!

For the past three years I have slowly trying to build up to a large group of students to attend Camp Roadless Summer Visual and Performing Arts Camp. I have tried a variety of ways for gaining followrs who believe in the arts and who believe that real learning comes from opening the doors to our inner creative spirit.

1)Contacted someone from local group about marketing. This organization then proceeded to start a program exactly like mine.

2)Met with university professors who are in the arts and have a love for the arts.

3)Attended and currently attends various networking events throughout Tokyo.

4)Co-hosted events with other organizations within Tokyo.

5)Purchased ads in local media.

6)Sent targeted mailings to organizations that have art programs.

7)Created online accounts for twitter, facebook, and an active blog.

8)Organized art events for kids.

9)Created a meetup group that was closed by the meetup organization for unclear reasons.

10)Offer an affiliate program for small schools and groups that don't have a summer camp program.

11)Constantly promote others programs through my social networking sites.

12)Transcribed a 5 hour DVD for a friend in exchange for translation support.

Those are just a few of the things that I am and have been doing since I was possessed with this idea that a performing arts camp is more than needed in Japan.

My last plan was to use my trip home to network with principals that I met while I was a teacher in NYC. How will this networking event work with the recent media images of nuclear meltdown and fallout pervading the airwaves all over the world? Guess I am making another plan.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Suze Orman vs Robert Kiyosaki: My Take

The financial battle royale has reared it simmering, pulsating head on Twitter! No need to wait for the next media frenzy about an author's new book! Just log onto Twitter and follow your favorite expert and you will have their thoughts immediately!  Well it looks like two of America's most prominent financial titans have used their fingers to type messages that question the other validity.

In the corner to my left, we have Suze Orman, author of books like The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, & Broke , The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom, and a slew of other titles that encourage you to get out of debt and take control of your finances. Orman has her own show on CNBC.  She is in her 60s and she has been fighting the cause of the housewife, newlywed couple, worried parent, single women and she has given them tips on how to become debt free. In these economic times her vision and her message has changed just a bit. When I first started reading her she encouraged everyone to use their homes as an asset.

In the corner to my right, wearing black trunks with a purple and gold lining and trim is Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series, creator of the game board Ca$hflow: Learn to Invest in a Fun Way! He has a series of experts and coaching programs that has made his name known in international circles all over the world. He has been published in 51 different languages and sold in over 109 countries! I can't remember when I started reading his books, but I had to be in my late 20s.

Kiyosaki landed the first blow when he was prompted by Orman's, "recent TV segment in which Orman encouraged people to invest in 401(k) accounts up to their employers' matches and to also put money into Roth IRAs. Both types of accounts, which come with different tax incentives, typically consist of stock market investments." (ABC NEWS/Money page 2) 

Kiyosaki believes that Orman is talking to people who "have little or no real financial knowledge to invest in the stock market," Kiyosaki said.

I think this is the key difference between both contenders. Kiyosaki encourages investors to take a historical look at how money is invested, treated, and look for trends that show you how to be a savvy investor. Orman, encourages her people to find a way to invest it with a financial planning service or advisor.  She encourages savings accounts, Mutual Funds, home-ownership, ROTH IRAs, IRAs and any other safe, diversified vehicle to invest your money in.  Are they both wrong? No. Are they both right? No.

I personally think that Orman was a great beginning for someone who is interested in getting out of debt. When I first started reading her books I was confused and looking for answers. With her television shows and socially acceptable dialogue she was an obvious choice for me.  I love Orman's upbeat personality and constant positivity. She has a very, "You Can Do It!" attitude that appeals to me.

However, after I got out of debt, I was left wondering what to do next.  That's when I really started reading Kiyosaki and it seemed as if he answered those questions for me. Invest! Invest in a business that will take you out of the role of an employee and on the road to true financial freedom.  I love this mantra. I play Ca$hflow in Tokyo with Sequoia Entrepreneur Group.  I started my own business and I constantly educate myself on financial matters.  I was a subscriber to Kiyosaki's email.  Where Orman has this sense of positivity about her message, sometimes Kiyosaki can be a bit depressing. I rarely opened his newsletters because the titles were full of doom. I wish I could remember what they were, but I have deleted them.  I will say I do appreciate his, "get off your ass and do something." attitude as can be seen in this video clip.

After I heard Kiyosaki call people who don't want to work hard  wimps and pussies.  I knew I had to do something! I didn't want to just sit around and do nothing. I agree with his more aggressive strategy.  Instead of sending your money to bankers, Wall Street and other financial advisors or planners, we need to take control of our financial destiny.  We need to learn for ourselves how to get the greatest return on our investments.

I don't think Orman or Kiyosaki are for everyone. You have to pick your causes and pick your strategies.  No toolbox is complete without a blueprint.  Both authors give you a blueprint for financial success. However, the question becomes, do you want to be aggressive or do you want to play it safe?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lost on twitter? 2 Twitter Directories to Choose From!

Can't find what you are looking for? You want to be found, but you don't know how to spread the word?
Twitter Social Directories are here! After I started this blog I found heaps of other sites that have listed blogs all the way up to the wazoo! But do you really need to know all of them? No. I am going to give you two that are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

The first on is We Follow! This is a low maintenance site. It is very easy to use! You don't have to sign in or do anything special to start using this site. As you type in key words it automatically generates the top keyword searches in your field. So let's say you are looking for summer camps for the performing arts? If you put in visual art you don't get ANY tags. However, if you put in painting, you get 805! Not bad, getting closer! Put in art and you get 9,837! That's a nice number! Now, it's not as high as Ellen DeGeneres @TheEllenShow with over 5 million tweets, but it's a good start. Play around with We Follow and let me know what you think!

Now We Follow seems to be just a directory. I haven't received any marketing tips, email capturing or anything of that nature on their site.  However, Twellow is completely different! Twellow calls themselves "The Twitter Yellow Pages" As soon as you click on their site they offer you a free pdf download on 30 ways to increase business, they highlight their over 4.77 billion followers, and they have catchy names like Twellowhood! Twellow looks like they want to be around for the long haul. I can see this company growing by leaps and bounds. Twellow is a bit more complicated. They want to capture your email address FIRST! Then you can proceed. I can already see heaps of emails in my inbox! So let's do the same test that I did above for We Follow.I put in visual arts, looking good, 1,350 matches! I tried painting, 7,341 matches! Here is the kicker of them all the keyword art yields 105,601 matches!!!! That's humongous!

I love visuals so I made a quick and dirty chart!
We Follow
Visual arts

One thing to remember even though these numbers are pretty high, you want to add that local touch to your search.  Make sure you include your city, state, and country. This will help you find people you share common interests with, but people who live near you. That's very important if you are a small business!

One blogger, Don Reisinger said, "Twellow is a directory of Twitter users that have been placed into categories based on their profile information. It's one of the ugliest sites in this roundup."
His blog entry!
I have to disagree, I personally love it when people use bright primary colors and funny looking faces on their website.  Reisinger does admit, "But what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in sheer size and availability of user profiles." I will agree that it is a bit cluttered, but all of these designers promoting clean sites may not have over 4.77 billion users on theirs. So don't judge a site by gaudy, tacky colors!

I must admit, this blog is about resources that I find and that I want to share with you! So it may seem this is an old topic, but after I discovered We Follow, I did a quick search for other directories and I found blogs  written by other bloggers on the same subject. I don't plan to go through all of them. I like We Follow's simple format. I feel like Twellow will be sending me emails non-stop. But with the sheer volume of choices it seems like a great place to be! I'm only offering you two choices. It's kind of like when you go to The Cheesecake Factory and they have so many options but can only really eat one thing.  Check out these links if you have time, but my bet is after you look at two extremes, you'll be able to make a more informed decision!

By the way, I just discovered this today, don't hate me cuz' I'm late to the party. Love me, cuz' at least I made it!

Here are the links to the other bloggers!
Now, this list gets ridiculous!

Top 8 Twitter Directories

14 Twitter Directories to Find New Friends

Find'Em On Twitter: 15 Twitter Directories Compared

20 Twitter Directories to Find More Friends

21 Twitter Directories and Follow Finders to Expand Your Twittersphere (Uh, this one is way too long!)

I told you it's ridiculous! I didn't read all of these, I did my own search and I'm offering you two! Who has time to search over 56 directories with unavoidable overlap?

If you would like to sign-up for my newsletter where I include videos, motivational messages, games, quizzes, and other helpful info just sign up today! Or if another newsletter in your inbox is too much for you! Follow me on Blogger! I met someone a few weeks ago who told me that she reads my blog! It's a nice vote of confidence, but it would be better if she followed me!

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

7 Tips to Make Your Newsletter Pop

How does your newsletter build loyalty?

Many small businesses have newsletters, but is your newsletter a call to action or is it just a retelling of past events?  Are you still flirting with your customers? Or have you moved into the 10 year stale marriage?  Are you still telling your customers I love you? Or are you just leaving your dirty socks on the floor?

I receive a few email newsletters about trends and topics in and around Japan.  But after I read them, I am never asked to share this with friends, discuss this with others or even comment about what I just read.  In today's social networking society, we are always able to give our opinion.  Your newsletter not be an exception! How can you rekindle the flame?

1) Use that online forum!  Embed your letter with links to your on-line forums.  If your forum is specific to certain members or topics, let your loyal customers log in with a password. This creates more support and loyalty.  You don't have a forum? Well hop on facebook and create one!

Image from www.gooeystickyfingers.blogspot.com
2) Give-aways for feedback! Offer a wine & cheese party for members who respond to a survey.  Tell them that is free as a courtesy.  Yes, I know it may be difficult, but if you find a sponsor for your event, then they can pay for the wine and you can be the shero.  While they are at the party talk about how you appreciated their responses. If it is anonymous just refer to interesting points that you read and things you would love to discuss in more detail. (This can be altered to reflect your business values. You don't drink? Do you fondue?)

3) Feature fantastic customers in your upcoming newsletter. What is your newsletter about? Marketing? Find the Marketer of the Month. Then ask your list if they would like to submit some of their ideas. Are you geared towards parents? Find a way to highlight the accomplishments of the parents in your organization. Maybe a mom just climbed Mt. Fuji or a dad just learned how to dance the tango. Tell everybody!

4) Include video or photographs in the newsletter.  Maybe I am just a visual person, but some of these newsletters are just white space and no color. I know, I know  everyone wants to make it look clean. Clean doesn't mean empty. What happened to the colors of the rainbow?

5) State the obvious! If you know your customers are impressed by the new hamburger place that just opened up, then tell them, "I know you saw the new hamburger place that just opened up, but I'm going to tell you why ours is better." Maybe you don't want to be that direct, but how can you make that an important part of your message. 

6)  Respond to comments, emails, and even "likes."  If you have a newsletter and you get an email that said anything positive or negative, respond to it. Be polite. On another note, the more you write about a topic, the more people will submit random questions that have nothing to do with your particular business.  Now unless it is completely off the wall, then try and give a brief sentence.  I would save these responses for once a week or even once a month. As a small business owner you can have a more intimate relationship with your customers, especially in the building stages.  It really bothers me when small businesses only respond to emails that seem to benefit their needs or when they are asking for money.  I have met two people who respond to almost everything.  Caroline Pover, a Tokyo based entrepreneur, is someone who replies to most if not all of my queries. They are usually relevant. Don't worry, I'm not asking about the weather.  If I send her an email, she will respond, even if it is to say thank you.  Another one is Terry Lloyd, he has a weekly newsletter called Terrie's Takes where he expresses his views on trends in business around the world and in Japan.  He is also the publisher of Metropolis English Magazine and Japan Inc. Now, maybe it's because they are both in publishing, I don't know. But it certainly feels nice to know that someone read me email and had the decency to respond.

7) Get rid of no reply emails! It burns me up when I get an online email from a company that starts off with,
Dear Michaela, or
Haven't heard from you in a while?
Or, Do you want me to stop sending this email?

Then I read the email and I actually want to reply right then and there, but what happens.....I get the "no reply" response. If you have to have a "no reply" button, then have a silly message saying,

Oops, you clicked the no reply button didn't you? Tsk, tsk, tsk...I need you go over to the forums and talk to us there. We love to hear your opinions and some of our other customers may share your thoughts.

or  you could try...

Yeah, we know it sucks to read that no reply button, but our coffers are full so we had to streamline our messaging center. Talk to us over there in the forums.

or how about this one?

I know you had a burning question and we would love to answer it, but we just need you to follow our somewhat overbearing procedure or we may end up like MySpace.

 Check us out on facebook!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Twitter Beware!

If you are funny, get on twitter!
If you have free stuff, get on twitter!
If you have information to share, get on twitter
If you like constantly reading, get on twitter!

But beware! Everyone has heard about the hoopla that twitter has caused in the online world. Recently, I started increasing the amount of tweets that I make @camproadless. I went from one an hour to about twelve a day within two hours.  That may not sound like a lot and it isn't, but I have seen increased traffic. At first, I was super excited! Wow! More followers, but on closer examination about 10 of them are internet marketers.  I have received invitations to buy gold, SEO services, and traffic boosting programs that only cost $699 or something ridiculous like that!

Don't get me wrong, it's not all bad in twitter land, but it is good to know that you shouldn't follow everyone that follows you.  As a full time teacher, in order to increase my twitter presence I use Social Oomph! I have read quite a few articles denouncing the use of sites that pre-record your tweets, but I have to think about my students first. I could sit at the desk and tweet away, but what would that accomplish?

3 of the Biggest Drawbacks to Automated Tweets

1. Automatic following stream- If you click on the automatically follow button, you are destined to start following fx traders, online marketers, and other junk mail pushers.  Now, maybe you want to follow these people, but if they aren't your target audience, your twitter feed will just be full of unnecessary information.

2.@somebody - It's possible that it's the free plan with Social Oomph, but as of right now you can not schedule messages to people.  Why would you want to do that?  Well, after I check my twitter feed, I read other tweets by people and if I see something interesting I want to respond to it. Unfortunately, you can't tell them, great article. I know twitter is about connecting in real-time, but if someone posts a great article, it doesn't matter if I read on Tuesday or Thursday.

3. Spam- In all of my accounts especially youtube and twitter, I have tons of emails that ask me to be their "friend", follow or check out their new product.  It's a bit of a turn-off, but it informs me on how I should interact with others on-line. 

3 Biggest Gains from Automated Tweets

1.  Consistent tweets that are informative and targeted- I can focus on a day about music, dance, or singing.  I know when I am thinking of information to share with others that I am providing a consistent theme for those who are reading my tweets.

2. Manageable -the websites store your tweets and allows you to edit your content before you send it out.  Sometimes I will look at my tweet stream and notice that the dates are wrong or the link doesn't match what I wrote.  I can always clean up my mess.

3.Possibility of systematizing - This is a great way to learn how to systematize your own business. When you are looking to hire someone who can maintain your companies online image, you can start to determine how many tweets a day are feasible, what type of content works for your intended audience, and how long it actually takes to do a good job.

What site do you use for your automated tweets?  Are you using twitter? How? Have you seen an increase in potential clients?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ways to say thank you!

I was looking for ways to say thank you to my customers! There are a variety of methods that you can use! I found a great website to make gift certificates online. The only real drawback is that you can't copy and paste it because it'S a pdf. So I had to print out each one, which could become a bit pricey. Check out their link here:

Online Gift Card and Certificate ServicesGift Card Ecommerce Services

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My World is a 24 Hour University!

How can you cross the divide from a teacher-oriented career into a more business oriented focus with education as a background?  See, I know my product. I know who it is for and I know why it is needed.  However, as someone who spends more time teaching reading, writing and arithmetic I don't normally come into contact with SEO managers, Quality Control experts, or Marketing Gurus.  If I have time during the day to get online, it's usually during my lunch break or morning recess. Since people know that I'm a teacher, they even ask me what am I doing online if I am on there during the day. But I have a business to run so tweeting, uploading, and commenting on videos gets done from 11:30AM-12PM. (Don't pay attention to the facebook timeline, it's way off.)

The fact that people can spend a lot of time on their side hustle while they are at work is impressive. This became very clear to me when I volunteered to write articles for an up and coming online magazine here in Tokyo. I wanted to participate and add valuable content and get my writing chops up to speed. However, when I came home every night there were at least 20 messages in my inbox concerning SEO, article content, etc.  I was completely overwhelmed.  When I scrolled through the emails I could see that the members of the magazine were answering one another almost simultaneously.  I was the only one with a good 5 to 6 hour delay between my responses.  The content of their emails was very informative. However, I couldn't keep up.

Transitioning from teacher mode to business tycoon (yeah, a bit presumptuous, but so what!) has been daunting. Here are some ways that I try and stay motivated:

 1) Read on the train. I used to ride my bike to work, that was 45 minutes both ways, but I lost time.  I needed time to read up on SEO, creating systems, and building a brand.
2) Break off all friendships at work. Be courteous, polite, but keep to yourself. You don't have time to keep chitchatting about why they won't put a water cooler in the teachers lounge.  If someone doesn't get the point, use a scalpel! Don't get bogged down in office gossip! If you do choose to talk to your co-workers longer than 15 minutes make sure it's worth it.
3) Listen to webinars, motivation tapes, videos when you are doing something else. If you ask me what is on my iPod you will find Business at Oxford, Help My Business Sucks, Ted Talks and of course some great education sites. I would recommend Edutopia as a great resource! You won't find any music! I can listen to music when I go out. My world is a 24 hour university! Thanks to the internet it is possible!
4) Networking Groups - I have to say Pink Cow Connections has given me a great value for a small price. I learned how to use storytelling to sell. In my classroom I use storytelling to teach a strategy, now I learned how to turn it into a tool for selling. Maybe that is an obvious connection for most of you, but for me it wasn't.  I learned about some great selling strategies, marketing ideas, and even fitness tips from Chikara Fitness.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite group of real estate investors The Sequoia Entrepreneur Group.  I have been able to meet people who are willing to talk about how they are building their business in a supportive environment. 
5) Perfecting my mindset! At Pink Cow Connections the importance of my mindset is constantly being reinforced.  At the last meeting I attended Gary Bremermann mentioned how much someone should spend on learning about hiring staff. When he said something to the effect of, "If you are making$50-$80 an hour, then you can afford to spend 8-10 hours a week learning how to hire superstars."  Is that how people think? This comment made me stop. The need to be working on your business and not in your business, as touted by Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth was made very clear. 

My transition is a process, but I know that my work will bring results!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

There is no such thing as procrastination!

That's right, I said  it! Procrastination really doesn't exist. It's just misplaced energy. Why? As entrepreneurs when we have a project to complete, then we keep moving quickly and decisively.  We plow through any and all obstacles ensuring that our project will be successful. We are working towards a goal and we won't stop until we hit our target.  There are moments of indecision, but not procrastination!  Usually, I'm asking myself,  What's next? What do I need to do now?  Here a few quick tips to help you move forward:

1) Change something! Anything! Your clothes, perfume, your chair. Just make a change. If you have been reading nothing but biographies, financial statements, press releases and self-help books, it's time for a change. Pick up some good ole' fashion trash. Go to a discount bookstore and buy a book for a dollar and read it, then throw it away.  This will get your mind off of your business for a bit and help you laugh a little. If that's too much excitement for you, then switch your industry up a bit. Let's say you are focused only on service industry businesses, read a marketing book from a tech company.  Switching your industry focus will give you fresh eyes to your own company and will help you see it differently.

2) Look at your business from a different perspective.  If you are doing the majority of the sales for your business, imagine you are the company accountant looking at your sales report.  What will your accountant say when she notices an expensive lunch with a client that didn't buy?   Or imagine you are the janitor in your business, what ways could you improve the facility, upkeep, and operations.  Making mental switches with your entire staff will allow you to refocus on what is important and take into consideration all of the voices on your team, (not the one in your head).

3) Let's say you are  married, imagine your business from your spouse's perspective or even think about your children.  Do you eat, sleep and breathe your business? Do you use your children as advertisements? Do you think that going to your kids game will get you a seat at the table with your potential clients? Has your family become tools to success instead of keys to long lasting happiness?

4) If you think you are procrastinating, start making it a practice to write everyday. You may want to stagger this process. For instance, consider writing about something for 10 minutes at a time. You may think that's not a long time, but if you are not in the habit of writing, then it may take time to get used to it.
Once you build your stamina, you can start writing more things about your business or responses to things that you may have read.  Either way, writing your thoughts out can motivate you and allow you to work out ideas before you speak about them.

5) Go on vacation. Now, you may think, I'm starting a business, I don't have time for vacation. Take one anyway. A vacation doesn't have to be to a far off place, it could be a nice drive to a town you have never been to. You can pretend to be a tourist. Go to your local library and pick up a guide book for your city and explore.

6) Find things to laugh at.  Laughter relaxes your mind and body.  Personally, there are some videos on youtube that I can watch repeatedly and laugh. If I am in a rut, I may watch one of those to clear my mind.  One thing about youtube, it can be used as a procrastination device, so beware!

7) Play this song and you'll be fine!

Monday, January 24, 2011

How to create a Website for a Cheap Entrpreneur

You are an entrepreneur with a low budget, lack of experience, and limited time.  You want to create a website that would rival Coca-Cola and make Apple quiver! You only know how to use the internet to search for your horoscope, you don't know what CSS or HTML is!  You want your customers to buy from you after one glance.  How do you create a website that will be effective and stand out in the crowd? That is a question that many entrepreneurs have and don't know how to answer.

First I will regale you with my mistakes!  I thought creating a website was easy.  I thought that I could just go on line and press a button and that was it.  That's how I ended up with Go Daddy.com.

Go Daddy.com
They lured me with their cheap domains and colorful graphics!  They also tricked me with a quick way to create a website with a program called Website Tonight.  I tried it, but my page looked static.  After I finished, it looked like I had purchased a cardboard box instead of something that was breathing life.  But the worst part of it all was the customer service department.

Customer Service
Usually when I called customer service I had tried everything I could to figure out how to change a graphic or design to the page. I never called customer service as my first line of defense. Customer service was often my last resort.  I don't know if I was calling at the same time and speaking to the same customer service rep, but this guy spoke to me in a very condescending tone and kept using words like, obviously, or phrases like, It's really simple, didn't you see.... Unfortunately, it wasn't obvious to me nor did I see whatever he was talking about.  I thought the template would work automatically. It didn't.

Go Daddy.com has McDonald's beat when it comes to upselling. As soon as you decide to leave, they have so many pop-ups and additional things to purchase that you can easily be confused into thinking you need all of that to start your website.  You don't. Focus on the basics and the rest will come later.

The Web Designer who will do it for cheap!
In my neighborhood there was always a street mechanic who could change your car oil for 10 bucks or put in an engine for $100.  We all know what happens next...the street mechanic will puncture the oil valve or the engine would take a week to drop.
Customer Service
A lot of times this designer will not call you back when you want them to.  They will insist that they know what they are doing.  They will argue with you about small things like photo placement.  The site may look good, but they won't test it out to see if it will work.  If they aren't doing this full-time or they don't really need the money to live off of they will put their 9-5 first.  You will have to wait in the background. They will miss deadlines and dates and you won't be able to do anything about it.
A lot of times, they really can make a site look great! The problem is do you have the time to wait?
Expensive! It can be very frustrating to ask a lot for a little. If you are just starting out, why waste time trying to work with someone who is in the same boat as you.

I found Wix.com while I was searching graphic design pages.  It was listed as the best free site online. It is great! All of the files can be uploaded easily with point and click buttons.  The website is bright, cheery and the range of options is amazing.  But there are some things you should know! Especially in the android world!
Wix has loads of pictures to choose from and a variety of styles to make your page stand out.  If you want child friendly pages, then you can design it one way, if you want a serious photo blog click another button.  I know two people who I suggested this site to and they are using it for their business.
Customer Service
I never called customer service with Wix. I started the site, but didn't finish it.
It's free! Unfortunately, you have to deal with banner ads and other things floating across your page, but if you want something cheap, then Wix is a good place to start.
I have to add a cons section because this one is a biggie! As of January 2011, you can not read a wix created website on an iPad, iPhone, or any other android.  The flash based content makes it difficult for android devices to read. I currently reside in Japan and most people use their mobile phones to search for things before they use a home computer.  In the second incarnation of my website it was all designed in flash.  Unfortunately, I had a lot of complaints about the site being unreadable.  I even tested it out myself at a variety of internet cafes, Apple stores, and other places and I couldn't access the flash site on a regular basis.

Site Build It!
Have to be honest, I haven't used this method. However, Lisa, from How 2 Create A Website has loads of information on her youtube channel! Watch this video and all of her other ones for more info about Site Build it!

I'm using WordPress to create my current site. It was very easy to upload through BlueHost and start using the templates. But there is a catch!!!!!! Wordpress has lots of templates, but you have to customize them.  When I say I am a computer novice, I am not exaggerating.  I tried to use a template called Arras.  It was difficult for me. I spent nights trying to figure out CSS and HTML code. I was trying to customize my page and make it look like the demo. That was too much work!!!!  Fortunately, a friend suggested I download a template that still uses the functions of WordPress without reading any code. I downloaded Elegant Themes and got to work!
Graphics from Elegant Themes
Looks great and easy to use! See for yourself Camp Roadless Summer!  My friend Alan uses Elegant Themes for his website Real Talk Japan.  Alan is a lot better at designing websites than I am.  If you look at my header, that was done in Photoshop.  Alan designed it, I didn't.  The images look vibrant and sharp.  I used a regular camera to take the pictures for the site and they look pretty good to me.
Customer Service
Fantastic! I designed my website over the New Year's holiday. Now you and I know that in any country, New Year's is party time!  Fortunately, the moderators at Elegant Themes doesn't know that.  f you post a question in the Forums section of your theme, the moderators will respond pretty quickly.  I still had a few problems with setting up the site. Sometimes a link didn't show up properly or a page would disappear.  Luckily, the moderators would give me or anyone else, step by step instructions on how to make the changes.
You can't beat it! You have to pay for Blue Host which was about $84.  Then I paid an additional $34 for the theme. The membership fee gives you access to other templates and the moderated forum! If you are a small business owner like myself. Then you need support that you can get at all times.

I hope some of my tips helped you! There is no need to go out there and make the same mistakes that I did. There is a lot more I could say on this topic, but I'll leave that for another time.  Just remember, just because you are a cheap entrepreneur doesn't mean you have to keep stumbling and falling.  Do your research! I didn't and it cost me a lot of time and money. Check out the links and the different services I highlighted and let me know what you think!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

5 Games to play that will lead to Financial Freedom

It's 2011 and getting the jump on your financial future is more important than checking your facebook updates! How can you create wealth and have fun at the same time?

I'm sure many of you played Monopoly when you were a tiny tyke, but how many of you looked at the real lessons that the game taught?  Buy three houses then put a hotel on it. Buy an entire block and you are on your way to real wealth!!!

Pros: It's cheap. If you play with the idea of teaching someone the possibilities of buying property you can turn it into a learning game. Monopoly has developed a variety of games that you can play online, on your phone, Nintendo DS, etc. The online Monopoly World version encourages you to trade, make deals and counter offers to players for their properties.

Cons: The message is a bit cutthroat. For example, the objective of the Property Management game is, "Make as much money as you can, and drive your opponents into bankruptcy." (http://board-games.pogo.com/games/monopoly) For some of you, this may sound like a grand way to teach someone, but for me, it doesn't seem to make sense. Why drive all of your opponents into bankruptcy? Why not teach them about philanthropy instead?  I played the online world version and it was a bit too much for me.  The money remained in the millions and as an instructional tool it moved too fast for me. 

Real Estate Investment Game
This game takes buying real estate into a whole new territory. You can play this game with Real Money or Virtual Money. If you scroll over the properties you will get information about the selling price and more. 

Pros: If you want to play games online about real estate, then this may be for you. It offers you a chance to learn how to examine properties online. 

Cons: Why play in  a virtual world and put up real money, when you can play in the real world and put up real money. I have heard of cases where people are making real money while living in a virtual world, but it just doesn't appeal to me.  

Find out more at Real Estate Investment Game!

B.E. Publisher
This website offers a variety of educational games that instill real world learning techniques for children. 

Pros: They offer textbooks and other curriculum support materials for the classroom.They have a free newsletter with information and updates. 

Cons: I went online to test it out and I couldn't. You have to buy the product to get a real look. 

Bizz in a Boxx

This program supports our youngest entrepreneurs! It teaches them how to set up and operate a small business.  I love this site because it encourages children and teens to create their own destiny.  One highlight on their website is their Featured CEO section.  In this section they show real kids and teens who have created their own businesses. 

Pros: Great way to encourage children to grow into an entrepreneur in an easy to use system!  They provide a workbook that helps children create a business plan.
Cons: I currently reside in Japan so I emailed the creator about bringing the product here.  She was a bit hesitant because she said the content is American based. I really don't think this is a problem. Business is business. Let's just teach the kids the basics!

Cashflow 101 and Cashflow for Kids

I have to admit I love playing Cashflow! I play at least once a month with Sequoia Entrepreneur Group!

Pros: You learn how to complete an Income Statement,  calculate your rate of Return on an Investment or ROI,  how to identify a good investment vs. a bad investment. Robert Kiyosaki, the creator, has tons of books that support his teachings from, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Rich Dad's Guide to Investing, Before You Quit Your Job and a treasure trove of more educational materials and supplements to help you become a real investor.

Cons: The game is a bit expensive.  I found mine on an online auction site.  It is up to you to apply it to the real world. Many people play the game over and over again and sit on the sidelines instead of jumping  into the action. Some people who study business feel as if the content is over simplified.
This list compiled just a few resources that are waiting for you to jump in with both feet! Now, more than ever, there is no excuse not to be rich! Unless you spend more time checking your facebook status than building your future to financial freedom!