Archive for January, 2015

What to Look For in an Online Community

Posted January 31, 2015 By Callie

If you want to join an online community rather than build your own, it’s important to look at several communities to ensure that you spend your money and/or time wisely before getting too involved. It’s pretty easy to tell quickly if a community is one you want to stay involved in if you know what to look for.

* Uses Real Names – You don’t really want to waste time in a community where everyone is anonymous. You want to make real connections with real people with whom you can conduct business. When you are dealing with a lot of anonymous people that isn’t going to happen; instead you could end up scammed.

* Has Active Discussions – The owner of the group should be working hard to ensure that discussions stay active and productive. If no one has started a new discussion in the last week other than to spam the group, it’s probably not a very good community.

* Offers Plenty of Content – You want to be part of a community that offers informative content to the audience that is helpful to their business. If the content and information that is available is old and outdated, it might not be a community that you want to waste time on.

* Has a Podcast – A really good addition to any online community is a podcast where the host interviews members and also experts in the niche. This keeps everything new and fresh for the members and keeps them coming back.

* Community of Customers – The best community you can join is a community full of potential clients for you. For example if you’re an author’s VA you might want to join a community of authors.

* Community of Colleagues – Alternatively, you might want to learn more about your niche by joining a community full of your actual competition. It can be very enlightening to learn from others who are doing what you are doing.

* Notice Who Is Commenting – When a discussion starts, who is starting it and who is commenting on it? You may notice that the same people are always involved in the discussions. That is okay as long as the comments are well formed, intelligent, and there aren’t a lot of disagreements without someone checking the discussion.

* How Many Blatant Ads Appear? – Some measure of promotion is okay because it’s their community that they started likely to promote themselves, but you want the promotions to be well thought out and not the only thing the community is about.

* Do They Offer Live Events? – Webinars, teleseminars, Twitter parties, and even in-person live events speak to a well-organized and established online community that will continue to grow and thrive.

Choosing an online community to become a regular part of is an important thing to consider, because it takes a lot of time and effort to create value from the experience. You don’t want to spend your time in the wrong place.

Make Money selling items Online

Posted January 31, 2015 By Callie

It is so easy to make money online, all you need to do is start selling things at online auctions. One of the best, and simplest, ways to start a Wahm business online is to become a seller on one of the several online auction sites. Ebay is the most popular, and most widely recognized. However, sellers are also having success on Yahoo auctions, Overstock auctions and many others. Being an online auction seller has many benefits for a Wahm. You can run your business from your home. You can set up auctions to automatically list at certain times of the day, so you don’t always have to be at the computer. Plus, there is guaranteed traffic to the auction website which makes it simple to get new customers.

Before you start an online auction business you should decide whether or not you have the skills or willingness to do so. Although there is a lot of money to be made in auctions, there are also a lot of challenges. As a successful auction Wahm, you need to have the tenacity to try different things to increase you sales. You must also have knowledge of what the market wants so you can provide in demand products that will sell. Money management is a must, since selling on an auction is typically a home-based business. You will be in charge of the finances of the business and need to be responsible for keeping your business and personal finances separate.

Online auction businesses are very simple to start. To start an ebay business, for example, all you need is a registered account with ebay, and a paypal account. The ebay account will allow you to perform transactions on their website. The paypal account will allow you to accept payment for items that you sell, as well as pay for the ebay fees. Although you can technically take payments through check or money order, using paypal makes the process a whole lot faster and more enjoyable for your customers.

The fees involved with running an ebay business are minimal compared to having your own store on a separate website. While hosting for a website can cost upwards of $20 per month, ebay only charges you a small percentage of the items that you sell. There are also some other minimal fees involved, and most sellers work those fees into their listing price.

Before you decide to sell on an auction site as a business, try a buying from the auction site first. Understand the process from the buyer’s point of view. Take note of how you are treated by the seller and ask yourself what you would do differently. Buying before selling is also a good method because you can build feedback in the auction site system. Feedback is left whether you buy or sell, so building some feedback as a buyer is a good idea. A positive feedback record will make you more appealing as a seller.

Finding items to sell is the biggest perceived problem with selling on auction sites. However, you can start with items from around your home. Look in your closets and in your garage for items that can be sold on the auction sites. You will be surprised by what people will buy. Selling from around your home will give you experience with the selling process and will build positive selling feedback.

Familiarize yourself with the auction process before you begin selling. Make sure you start selling online slowly so you can get confident selling through auctions online.

What Is Scaled Content?

Posted January 30, 2015 By Callie

Content is truly the lifeblood of your online presence. Content comes in many different forms from video, to audio, to text and everything in between. There are many different types of strategies you can use to develop your content. One is to create scaled content.

Making the Most of Scaled Content

Scaled content is all about creating the right content for the right audience and delivering it with the right technology. You’ll want different content for product pages, email messages, and marketing collateral that all describe the same thing, and you’ll want to use different words and sometimes different personalities to fit the form and technology you’re using.

In addition, scaled content allows you to continually evaluate how it’s working. For example, do you have a way to tell whether or not the memes you pushed out through Twitter converted to leads or sales? Scaled content requires the technology to be in place to evaluate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the content.

Finally, scaled content requires that you have teams in place that can be trusted to make good content decisions – whether it’s real-time content marketing or planning for content being pushed out months from now based on product marketing material. Scaled content is visionary, builds relationships, and is assertive.

Increasing the reach and impact of your content is difficult. But, if you put the right content into the right hands you can increase your reach across marketing channels. One way to do this is to offer affiliates editable content that they can use in their marketing efforts. Another way is to provide content like that to everyone who works in your company that they can use to get the word out. Or you can get colleagues and associates to share your information.

If the content is clear about what your objectives and goals are, while adhering to your company values, then it will work well to do what you want. The point is that you provide awesome content for sharing and commenting and you end up turning the content into more than it was to start with, because more eyes will see it due to more sharing and commenting. If your content is top-notch, they’re going to feel proud to share it.

Focus not only on content creation but on content curation, too. You want to become the hub of the information that flows from all directions about your product, service, and audience. Your affiliates can use the content that you’ve created and add their own voice, as can your co-workers, virtual workers and brand ambassadors. By making it their own, it’s not duplicate, even if the messages are the same.

How to Scale Content

To scale content, you can:

* Curate content
* Revive your original content
* Send one message on multiple platforms
* Provide editable content to affiliates and associates

It can be hard to be relevant multiple times per day on multiple channels when you only have so much time and money to spend on content. But, if you get help via affiliates and those who work with you, as well as from colleagues and friends, then you can make your content work that much harder. Essentially scaling content is about getting the most out of the limited amount of content you can afford to produce.

How to find Web Writing Jobs

Posted January 30, 2015 By Callie

One of the best ways to make money working from home is to write material for the web, but how do you find the work? Fortunately, when you work as a web writer there is no shortage of job opportunities. It all depends on where you look and how much research you are willing to do.

Web writing can break down into several different categories. Before you begin looking for work, you’ll have to decide whether or not you want to get credit for your writing. If you insist on byline, you may have difficulty finding a lot of paying jobs. Byline jobs are out there if you look. However, the most money to be made is from working as a web ghostwriter.

Many Wahms find success with ghostwriting. When you work as a freelance ghostwriter you provide writing services for clients who will then use the work as their own. Ghostwriting as a wahm is a lucrative opportunity, especially when you focus on web writing. For the most part, the Internet is a text and image based platform. Companies and individuals who run websites constantly need text to make their websites attractive to visitors. Since writing is something that a lot of people would rather not do, this leaves plenty of opportunities for people who love to write.

Web writing Wahms need only an Internet connection, e-mail address and word processing program to get started. Your own website is not necessary, but it adds a touch of professionalism to your writing business. However, when you are first starting out you can get plenty of work without having a website.

There are several different categories of web writing. When you see the term “content writing” you will normally be providing text for an existing or new website. Your writing will have to be engaging and clear for website visitors. Article writers concentrate on providing articles for websites, newsletters and blogs. Generally, articles for the web are between 400 and 800 words each. Any more than that is difficult for readers to sit through while looking at a computer screen. Copywriters are challenged with putting readers in the mood to buy. They write copy for Internet sales letters and marketing sites. Ebook ghostwriters provide clients with full-length books on a variety of topics.

Wahms who write need to be professional in their online presence. This means spell-checking all writing, including e-mails to clients. It is also a good idea to get an e-mail address that is specifically used for your writing. A personal e-mail address with a goofy handle will make you appear unprofessional. Your first and last name or a combination thereof is a good choice for your web writing e-mail address.

Writing for the Internet has a few differences from writing essays in school or writing for print magazines. Readers online have short attention spans, and you’ll need to keep your sentences short and your paragraphs clear.

The other difference is the use of “keywords” in certain writing assignments. Keywords are words that have been selected by your client to be used in the article. These words have been selected because they are Internet search terms and your client wants their website to show up for those search terms. Keyword articles will require you to use the word or phrase a certain number of times in the article. Sometimes it can be difficult to use the words without making it sound forced. Experienced web writers have developed ways to make the keywords flow naturally into their articles.

Once you’ve gotten a few web writing assignments under your belt, you can decide what type of web writing suits you best. You can find work on writing message boards, freelance writing job sites and classified ad sites like craigslist. Be sure to leave contact information and examples of your best written work.

Using Digital Storytelling to Evoke Emotion

Posted January 29, 2015 By Callie

Good storytelling includes bringing facts to the table along with the extra information that brings the reader closer to the storyteller. The aim is to weave a compelling story that pulls the reader in so that they really care about the outcome of the story. The more a customer cares about your story, the longer they will remain customers and demonstrate brand and product loyalty.

* Create an Email Series – A good way to get your audience primed for an emotional story is to start small and deliver the story in pieces via an email series. Keep each email short, about 350 to 450 words, and to one small point.

* Incorporate Video – Using video for part of or even your entire story can help bring more emotion to the story because people generally feel more emotional when looking at people and images than just by reading text. Using both text and video can be the best of both worlds.

* Include Testimonials – Text and video testimonials from your satisfied customers can evoke emotion from those who haven’t purchased from you yet, because they will want what your satisfied customers want. They will also trust you more when the videos are very authentic and real.

* Put Customers First – In every story it’s important to put your customer first. Get to know everything you can about your customers and incorporate the things they care about within your stories. This shows that you know them well and can speak about the things that concern them the most.

* Get Attention with Negative Stories – Pull the emotional strings to get their attention with negative aspects of a story that will be resolved by using your products or services. You don’t want to traumatize your customers, only evoke emotions.

* Calm Fears with Positive Stories – Tone down the negative with some positive stories of people who have used your products and services with good results. Bring them back up after you brought them down.

* Reinforce with Neutral Stories – Tell them the “who, what, when, how and why” of your products and services using stories to guide the discussion that are less emotional and volatile.

* Recognize the Relationship – When you are telling any story, it’s important to recognize the relationship between you and the receiver.

* Remember the Imagery – It’s important to ensure that the images you use match the emotions you’re trying to evoke, otherwise your story will be confusing to the reader/viewer.

The fact is that emotions drive us to do more than we would like to think. From buying a house, to choosing a book to read on the weekend, we are driven by our emotions more than we are by logic.

However, as you try to evoke emotions in your viewers, it’s important to also bring in elements of logic so that your viewer or reader trusts you to buy what you’re offering. Otherwise, they might feel as if you’re manipulating their emotions too much.

Get Paid to go Shopping

Posted January 29, 2015 By Callie

Mystery shopping is a great way to get paid to work from home and to go shopping as well. The concept of mystery shopping or secret shopping is simple. You get assignments to visit a business place, make a purchase and then fill out a form to evaluate the customer service, quality of your purchase and other things about your experience.

Secret shopping is done by ordinary people who provide a company with feedback about their service. Companies hire mystery shopping for a wide variety of reasons. Some want to investigate the quality of their employees. Others may want to find out how their locations do with stocking items. There are many different reasons that a company looks to hire mystery shoppers.

Although companies can hire mystery shoppers directly, most of your mystery shopping jobs as a Wahm will come through a secret shopping company. As a mystery shopper, you’ll be asked to visit a wide variety of stores and businesses in your area. Sometimes you’ll be assigned to purchase clothing from a store in your local mall. Other times you’ll have to visit a coffee shop and rate the friendliness of the wait staff. After you gain experience with mystery shopping, you can receive assignments to eat at restaurants and stay at hotels.

As a secret shopper, you will not only get the chance to try out products and services for free, but you will also get paid. You can get paid in several different ways depending on the mystery shopping company. You can get paid at flat fee for completing the job, or sometimes you are just paid with the free product or service. Obviously the jobs that are paid a flat fee are more desirable. But when you are first starting out, you may need to take some of the other type of job just for experience.

Most mystery shopping companies pay by check on a monthly or biweekly basis. You’ll get paid for a shopping assignment when you complete the necessary paperwork on your shopping experience. Your paperwork can normally be filed electronically, although some companies require you to mail in your reviews. This can make the payment process slower.

To get started with mystery shopping, you’ll need to find a mystery shopping company to work for. Unfortunately, many of the companies that offer mystery shoppers assignments are frauds. Many will ask you to pay them for a list of mystery shopping opportunities. You should never, ever have to pay for someone to hire you and this is no different for mystery shopping. Becoming a mystery shopper is totally free when you find a reputable company.

When you start doing assignments, you will be asked to pay for the services or products that you will be trying. Although this may sound like a bad deal, the mystery shopping company will reimburse you for your purchase. The reason that they require you to pay upfront for your purchase is because the mystery shopping company doesn’t want to take the chance of your getting a product for free and then not turning in a review.

Although being a secret shopper can be rewarding, it’s not something that can be relied on for consistent monthly income. You’ll never make enough money as a mystery shopper to live on each month. However, you may get enough to pay your phone bill or electricity bill. Mystery shopping is not going to make you rich but you can make enough to help out with the household budget.

Understanding Customer-Centric Marketing

Posted January 28, 2015 By Callie

The entire idea behind customer-centric marketing stems from the fact that only customers make money for your business. Because of that, all marketing just like product development and content creating should place the focus on them instead of elsewhere. In order to learn to place the focus on the customer in marketing, it’s important to understand why.

1. Customers Bring All the Money to the Table – It seems like an obvious statement but sometimes companies forget the fact that the only way to make money is to get customers to buy. Customer-centric marketing always remembers this fact.

2. Repeat Customers Bring Most of the Money to the Table – Customer-centric marketing understands that 80 percent of all purchases are made by the same customers and remarkets to these customers via email lists.

3. Customers Can Be Divided in Segments – By segmenting customers into different groups based on various criteria such as demographics and where they found out about your products or which product they entered your product funnel with, you can increase repeat sales.

4. Is Focused on Individuals instead of Groups – The individual is important when it comes to customer-centric marketing. This is led by research into the customers that purchase and by creating personas that represent the customer.

5. Leads to Increased Customer Satisfaction – Customers are more satisfied after their purchases when they made a choice to buy based off customer-centric marketing messages. The messages aren’t hyped, so the customer feels as if they had enough information to make a sound choice.

6. Assists with Developing Long-Term Economic Viability – The importance of customer satisfaction shows in the marketing statements that a business makes to potential customers. They don’t seek to use any of a customer’s behavior to try to sway purchase decisions; instead they craft products that sway decisions.

7. Values the Customer and Respects Their Worth – A company that uses customer-centric marketing knows that the only way to make money is if a customer purchases their product or uses their services. All marketing reflects this fact.

8. Keeps Promises – Companies who participate in customer centric marketing don’t make promises to their customers that they cannot keep. In fact, they always under promise and over deliver. Customers know that when you tell them something, you stand by it.

Customer-centric companies seek to create communities that show how they value the customer above all else. They have an open-door policy with their customers where the customers know for sure that they are important and come first. When customers feel appreciated they end up very loyal to the brand. It’s only when the brand fails to be customer centric that the customer moves on to the competition and loses brand loyalty.

Dispelling the Work at Home Myths

Posted January 28, 2015 By Callie

How often have you been accused of not really working if you work from home? Many people think that working at home isn’t working at all, and that you have all of the free time in the world. Those who have spent any time working at home know that there is a lot of time and energy that goes into effectively working at home. Friends who call in the middle of the day, spouses who expect you to be doing more while home or family members who make offhand comments, can undermine those efforts.

Not all stay at home moms work, and if you have friends who don’t it can be hard for them to understand that your days aren’t free. Calls during your working time, invitations to lunch and uninvited guests can throw a wrench in your work schedule. In order to get your friends to respect your time, it’s important to make your working schedule clear to them.

If you don’t have a clear work schedule, then it is time to make one for yourself. By setting office hours for yourself, you make it clear to everyone around you that you are serious about your work. It will also help set boundaries for your time. Tell your friends that you will be unavailable from a certain time to a certain time, but you’d love to talk before or after those times. You may even go so far as to turn off your phone. If you do answer the phone and someone wants to chat, politely let them know that you are working but can speak after a certain time. Also, schedule things like lunches or visits for one day per week. This way you’ll reduce the drop-ins and spontaneous invitations.

Spouses can sometimes have difficulty understanding why, if you are home all day, the housework isn’t done. This problem can best by solved by familiarizing him with the nature of your business. Show him exactly what you need to do each day, and how long it takes to do each task. Help him understand your work schedule, and how much time you need to work per day. Showing exactly how much money you are making will help him realize the benefits of your work as well.

Then ask him to help you come up with solutions for working at home and maintaining the household. Make a list of things that need to be done each week, and assign duties to you, him and the children (if they are old enough). Then taking care of the house becomes a family priority and something that you all share responsibility in. Notify him of any special projects by keeping a work calendar on the wall. That way he can see what is going on with your work schedule, and why you have ordered pizza for dinner three times in the last week!

Many Wahms can be hurt over offhand comments about working at home. Family or even friends can say things like “Well you have the time, because you are at home.” In situations like these, you have two choices. You can either get upset and offer a flustered defense or you can take their comments with a grain of salt and offer a calm response. Depending on the situation you can say something like “Well, let me check my work schedule. I know I am not available on these days” or “That would be great on Friday afternoon, which is when I leave time in my work schedule for those types of things.”

Remember, working at home is new territory for many people although the numbers of Wahms are growing. It may take some time for the average person to understand the commitment and scheduling that it takes to effectively work from home. Some people are just too narrow-minded to change their view to understand you can be more productive working from home.

Why You Need a Business Vision

Posted January 27, 2015 By Callie

There is a saying that goes like this: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” When running a business, if you skip steps because you think they don’t matter (because you just have a “small” business or a “sole proprietorship” and it’s just you), then you’re not going to be able to build a sustainable business that will provide the security and future that you desire. A business vision allows you to think big in terms of your dreams, but to also think big in terms of how you can reach those dreams.

While your first goal is likely to turn a profit, there are other things that are important to care about too. Any successful project actually starts with the end in mind. Even if you build houses for a living, the thing you should concern yourself with is the end result of the livable house, not the first nail you hammer. Without a clear picture of the end result, you won’t even know where to put that first nail.

Therefore, starting with the end in mind will help you create a business that is successful because you’ll know where you’re going.

1. Helps You Create a Sustainable Business – If you have a vision, you can have a long-term business that grows and evolves as time moves forward.

2. Creates a Business Not a Job – If you really want a business that lasts longer than week to week and month to month, you need a vision.

3. Helps You Develop a Growing Business – If you want your vision to grow, you will need to know where you’re going so that you can create a plan to get there.

4. Allows You to Live Your Passions and Do What You Love – While the first thing a business wants may be to earn a profit, the first thing most people want is to live a happy life doing what they love. By creating a business vision you can do both.

5. Knowing Your Vision Helps You Choose Like-Minded Contractors – If you know what you stand for, you can tell those you interview for positions so that you can ensure that together your visions align.

6. Your Vision Signifies to Others What You Stand For – Your business vision will let customers, contractors and employees know what you stand for, above money, well into the future.

7. Your Vision Helps You Know Your Exit Plan – A sustainable business always needs an exit plan. After all, someday you will want to retire, and having a vision can assist with ensure that comes true.

8. Your Vision Helps You Create Systems – Knowing the end point in mind, you can work your way back to today and create a system to reach your goals.

9. Your Vision Helps You Market to Your Audience – If you know where you’re going, and why you’re going there, and who your market is, you’ll be able to create more targeted marketing messages.

10. Helps Your Offerings Become More Unique – Your business vision enables you to create unique offerings throughout your product funnel, ultimately leading to the big dream vision you have for your business.

It should be clear that having a business vision isn’t optional if you want to be successful. Don’t fail to plan; instead, develop your business vision to align with your beliefs, values, and goals so that you can accomplish your dreams.

The Often Forgotten Elements of a Strong Brand

Posted January 27, 2015 By Callie

It’s easy to forget how important something as intangible as “branding” is to a business’s success or failure. But, to have a long-term business model, branding is a lot more important than the particular products and services one offers today. Think about the brands you have come to know and love and how they have adapted over the years. See how a strong brand changes with the times, but keeps its core values intact.

1. Audience Knowledge – A strong brand knows exactly who its audience is, what they need, desire, fear and want. The brand will keep delivering solutions to their ideal audience over time and will not be stuck in the past.

2. Product Differentiation – A strong brand can instantly be separated as unique from its competition, and the owners of the business know exactly how to do that through its strong marketing messages.

3. Brand Promise – The brand’s promise takes into consideration the brand’s position in the market place and can be articulated to the public via marketing, or it can be demonstrated via actions. The promise is implied to the audience in intangible ways.

4. Competitiveness – The strongest brands know where to compete, whether it is on price, service, or some other criteria. Brand ambassadors know exactly what advantages their brand offers over other brands, and can easily express it.

5. Message Consistency – All brands need to send a consistent message through all marketing channels to avoid confusion and a washed-out brand. While brands do need to understand the subtleties of different social media marketing, they need to know first who and what they are.

6. Powerful Vision – Your ability to tell your brand story in detail while also sharing your vision with your audience is paramount to creating a strong brand that can stand the test of time. The vision informs the marketing efforts that drive the message.

7. Product Awareness – This is earned through excellent marketing programs that give attention to the benefits of the product, directed toward the ideal audience. It seeks to ensure that even non-customers are familiar with the brand and know that it is trustworthy. The customers are very loyal and are repeat customers.

8. Passion – The joy and focus that passion brings to the table when it comes to your product and service will sustain the brand during both lean times and times of plenty. The passion will also enable you and your team to provide top-notch customer care and continued spectacular product and service development.

Building a strong brand takes time, commitment and effort. It takes the willingness to stick to the messages for the long term and not forget what your true point of being is. To serve your target audience, solve their problems and deliver solutions that stand the test of time. Don’t forget these important points as you move forward building your own business.