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Beware: Packaged Business Startup Products

www.BusinessEmpires.com

There is a real attraction to purchasing a “business in a box” system. To someone who had never undertaken the journey of business creation before, it seems logical that the steps could be laid out for you and the ground plowed ahead of you to guide you every step of the way, for just a one-time fee of, say, $999.00

Think of all the time you’ll save and the headaches you’ll avoid if you don’t have to research and actually learn what starting a business is all about!

What you may be overlooking, however, are gigantic business creation problems and voids.

How is the seller’s motivation, previous business experience, knowledge, and lack of understanding about your specific business subject going to impact the fundamentals of your new business?

Here are the specific shortcomings I see in the typical pre-packaged startup products that I’ve reviewed:

1. What is the seller’s motivation?  These products are designed, first and foremost, as a moneymaker for their owner. He sells you his system, makes his profit by getting your money upfront, and often could then care less whether you (his customer) ever make a dime.

2. Usually, the “cookie cutter” business that you’re buying is a one-size-fits-all model.  OK, maybe you can make a few sales in the beginning, but soon the market becomes totally saturated for your product and there are no new customers looking to buy your offering.  How many startup packages has he already sold?

3. None of these systems take into consideration the business operating skill of the owner.

I know a very savvy business investor who controls millions of dollars in a private venture capital fund (for new business startups.) He once told me his philosophy on finding great startup companies to invest in was to “bet on the jockey, not the horse.”

I don’t know if that is good advice for picking the winner of a thoroughbred race, but I believe it can be applied to a startup business because so much of what happens in the business is directly related to the owner, his skills, persistence, judgement, experience, and ability to overcome challenges and obstacles in everyday business execution.

What was he saying? It’s this: the subject or topic of a new business is usually not as important to financial success as the skill and know-how of the operator.

My years of daily experience in small business development lead me to the very same conclusion. Some people just seem to know how to make business after business thrive … they have the Midas golden touch when it comes to making money.

Of course, it goes without saying that good businesses have to have products or services that are valued and in demand.

But the greater variable in business sustainability and profitability seems to be the skill and ability of the owner to successfully execute his/her operations.

4. Most business packages are doomed from the start because the purchaser is not given the tools and help needed to be a good business operator.

Enticing sales pitches thick with emotion appeal to the greed and laziness that exists in most people. These types of promises can be hard to ignore.

Let’s face it; we’ve all been fed the great lie about how easy it is to own a profitable online business.

It is that anyone can get rich very quickly by simply following some online system laid out for the owner who will then follow along and mindlessly reap huge financial rewards.

The underlying lie is disguised as “kick back as the cash rolls in.”

That just won’t happen.  Oh sure, there have been exceptions here and there.  But basing the success of your business on an exception is never a good startup strategy.

5. Here’s another pitch you see online quite often: “All you have to do to make money on the Internet is plaster your ad in front of enough people.  Even if only a tiny percentage of them buy, the Internet is so massively huge, you’ll still make millions!”

Yeah, right . . . what a load of horse do-do!

Your ad can actually be sent to FFA’s garnering millions of forced hits and not one order will ever be executed. I know this happens all the time online.

Don’t be fooled by thinking in terms of the vast numbers of online shoppers all around the globe just waiting for your offer. Getting your ad noticed and acted upon is never easy and very often it’s quite expensive.

6. People with no business development experience or expertise create many of the packaged business systems.

Some guy reads some articles or books on starting a business, regurgitates a few points in his offering, and automatically crowns himself an Internet business guru. Beware of such and steer clear.

7. Finally, let me tell you a key component of small business startup success regardless of the business subject: most profitable online businesses (the vast majority, in my experience) are run by an owner with a very distinct and genuine passion for the subject of his business.

A successful gardening site on the Internet, for example, will most likely be run by someone who loves gardening – who eats and sleeps the business – and who would probably be considered an expert gardener by all those that know her!

The operator of a successful online business will have passion for gardening and would probably enjoy spending time in that hobby or pursuit even if she wasn’t getting paid to run the business.

Can you see why “canned” business systems and packages that dictate the subject (and niche) of your business will invariably fail?

If you don’t have passion for the topic, you won’t commit the time and energy your business requires, especially in the early lean periods that most companies experience!

If you don’t enjoy the subject of your business already, operating your company on a daily basis will become nothing more than a distastefully boring job.

Isn’t that what we’re trying to get away from?

If you don’t have passion for the topic, you won’t commit the time and energy your business requires, especially in the early lean periods that most companies experience!

Please understand that I’m not saying every “business in a box” product is a scam.  I can’t say that because I have not had experience with the hundreds of different products that are in the marketplace currently.

What I am saying is that you need to be very careful if you are planning on starting a successful Internet business with one of these products because they are not typically geared toward YOU or your strengths, abilities, desires, skills, or past experience.

To your online success,

Steve Browne

www.BusinessEmpires.com

www.BusinessEmpires.com

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Competition

Are Your Marketing Fears Real?

www.BusinessEmpires.com

It’s been over 40 years since I earned a Master’s Degree, entered the workforce, and began dealing with small businesses on a daily basis.  That’s a fair amount of time helping business owners to be profitable, to expand, and ultimately to create jobs in the local economy here in central Utah.

I only say this so you’ll know what I’m about to tell you is not a guess, or a hunch, or just something I’ve read somewhere. It comes from years of daily exposure to small business owners and the personal struggles they have had to overcome. My own challenges in Internet marketing include most or all of these same fears that they have had and that you may be experiencing right now.

Every business owner has fears!  Fears serve an important purpose.  But fears are mostly irrational.  Fears usually hold us back and they must be controlled if we are to move forward in our businesses.

Here is my list of 10 very common marketing and business owner fears:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of the unknown or the future condition of your market
  • Fear of technology
  • Fear of being ridiculed
  • Fear of being rejected
  • Fear of law suits, judgements, or legal entanglements
  • Fear that your advice, product, or service isn’t worthy or “good enough”
  • Fear of breaking rules or conventions (accepted methods and practices)
  • Fear of competition or of big business putting you out of business
  • Fear of success (yes, this is very real to some people!)

(I’m sure there are others, but these I have witnessed firsthand in many business owners!)
________________
Fears are simply an emotional response to a perceived threat.  They are the brain’s natural answer to warn us of potential danger in our environment.  Some fears are rational and justified.  The fear of heights, for example, is very common and serves to warn us that extra precaution may be important to our safety.

Other fears are irrational.  Fear of being struck by lightning is very common yet the National Safety Council gives the odds of a human lightning strike during your lifetime as 1 in 126,158.  (BTW, only about 20% of those struck by lightning die from it.)  The odds of death due to heart disease is 1 in 7 (that’s a fear that can motivate you to change), death by firearm is 1 in 7,059, death by hornets-wasps-bees is 1 in 71,107, and death by dog bite is 1 in 122,216.

________________

What I want to tell you is that nearly all the fears (related to doing business) that I have had myself, and that I have observed in thousands of business owners, are very real to them but nearly always no danger actually exists!

Most people react to fear in one of two ways.  We confront the fear and try to overcome it (“fight”) or we flee from the fear thinking it might go away (“flight”).  You might be familiar with the phrase “fight or flight.”

Well I’m here to tell you there’s a third reaction to fear in Internet marketing.  Let’s call it “freeze” and add it to “fight” and “flight.”  We become paralyzed by our fears (“freeze”) to the point that we simply stop moving forward and do nothing.  You know, the “deer in the headlights” syndrome.

My advice to you is that most of our business fears are unfounded.  We worry and fret and stew over the fact that we might be ridiculed if we put ourselves out there, or a few customers will reject us (ask for a refund), or that we don’t know how to do something.

I have seen, first hand, businesses being flushed down the toilet simply because the owner froze when he met a technological challenge. Others have been stopped in their tracks because they didn’t believe their product was good enough or they were afraid to write on a topic because they weren’t an expert in the field.

You are not alone in your fears.  Confront them.  Get help if you need to in order to move on.  There is no actual danger to justify your fear.  Persist.  Figure out a way around, through, or over your business obstacles including your fears.

Here are several hints on how to overcome your fears from Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).  Read them.  Put them into practice.  They will give you strength and at least a little bit of courage.

12 Thoughts to Overcoming Your Fears

  1. “Fear always springs from ignorance.”
  2. “Always do what you are afraid to do.”
  3. “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”
  4. “He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.”
  5. “Without ambition one starts nothing.  Without work one finishes nothing.  The prize will not be sent to you.  You have to win it.”
  6. “Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.”
  7. “Whatever you do, you need courage.  Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong.  There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right.  To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs.”
  8. “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.”
  9. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
  10. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
  11. “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.”
  12. “Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day.  You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Master your fears or they will certainly hold you back.  Internet marketing presents the business owner with a lot of new and unfamiliar tasks and procedures.  A lot of it is frightening and most of it is intimidating.  But you can do this!  Others have and so will you.

To your online business success!

Steve Browne

www.BusinessEmpires.com

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Business in General

What Should I Sell Online?

www.BusinessEmpires.com

Many would-be entrepreneurs get stuck on the most basic of questions before they’re even out of the gate with a new business.  They know they want to make money online but they have absolutely no idea how they’re going to do it.

Often these same entrepreneurs will have a list of niches and maybe business models that they’ve been thinking about trying but they’re not sure how to narrow that list down to the top choice that they’ll eventually focus on for their new business.

When you get right down to it, this same stumbling point and resulting paralysis is actually felt by most people when they contemplate going into business for themselves.  They ask questions like:

  • Am I getting into the right niche?
  • Am I choosing the right business model?
  • Is this something I am going to enjoy?
  • What kind of income can I expect from this niche?
  • How much competition is there going to be?
  • How much time will I have to spend to reach my income goal?
  • Will I be able to establish myself as an expert in this niche?
  • How much is it going to cost to start my business?

These are fundamental questions that you’d better answer before you think about products to sell or you start building a web site or spending money on promoting your business idea.

So here are my suggestions to begin narrowing down the field if you haven’t decided on your business topic yet.  These ideas aren’t new, they’re not secrets and they are not my original ideas . . . but they are universally effective:

1- Have you visualized what kind of business you want to create?

Are you going after a million dollar business or will you be happy making $5,000/month?  Do you visualize having employees working with you or are you a committed solo entrepreneur?  Do you see yourself working 50-60 hours per week in your business or do you want a lifestyle business that takes 20 hours per week or less to run?  You see, the answers to these questions are going to allow you to cross some subject ideas off your list right now.

2- Have you done your niche research?

If you haven’t, you’re not starting in the right place.  Some niches will support the kind of business you envision; other niches won’t.  Some niches are extremely competitive and present a great challenge to entry.  Others will be easier to break into.  Again, the likelihood of success in any of the topics you’ve been considering will become more apparent as you thoroughly research the niche market.  I would think a 30-minute dive into niche research in each of your subject markets would be time well spent and you will see where the best opportunity lies.  After you’ve identified the one niche that you’re going to enter you should jump into the marketplace again and do more thorough research knowing that this is the place you’ll be setting up shop.

3- What do you really enjoy doing?

Could you be happy immersing yourself in every one of the topics you’ve included on your list?  Surely, some of these topics hold your interest better than others.  You see, entering a subject niche that you really enjoy will help you to focus on becoming an expert in that topic without feeling like it’s an agonizing drudgery.  You will look forward to working in the niche every day.  It’s critical that you keep up your spirits and enthusiasm for the subject … especially in the early lean times when the business isn’t producing much and as a new entrepreneur you are more likely to give up or question if this career is really for you!

4- Where does your past training, schooling, and work experience lead you?

One of the key elements of a great business is owner knowledge and expertise for his/her business subject.  Granted, you can learn what you need to know in most niches in order to become an expert.  But believe me, it really does help and give you a tremendous head start if you already know and understand the topic.  Do you already speak the industry jargon?  Do you have experiences and dealings in the niche that you can share with other?  Do you have friends, contacts, sources of information in the niche that could be an advantage to you as a business owner?  If so, the niche is a prime candidate for your consideration.  But don’t be blinded by your mastery of the subject because lots of people have specialized knowledge in subjects that don’t monetize well.

5- Where does your passion lie?

This is related to #3 above, but a little different.  Are you really jazzed up and excited to get going on a particular business?  Is it something you like to delve into anyway (despite wanting to create a business in the topic)?  The fact is this: business owners that really have a passion for what they do seem to be contagious.  It’s easy for prospects to get excited about something if they see the genuine love and excitement that an owner has for what he/she does!  Passion for your subject means you’ll willingly keep up with the latest news, events, changes, and happenings in the niche and want to share those with your like-minded customers and prospects.

6- What is the outlook and trend for each of your potential topics into the future?

You don’t want to sign on as the captain of the Titanic in your chosen niche!  You don’t want to invest you time, energy, and resources into creating and running a business in a niche that is dying or even slowly drying up.  If you’re really in business for the long haul, you need to understand that your efforts are going to be rewarded for years to come.  Some niches are evergreen.  Subjects like health, exercise, travel, relationships, dating and marriage, small business, self improvement, making money, etc, are always on people’s minds.  A great resource for determining subject appeal to the masses is Google Trends.

7- What are the barriers to entry in these niches?

Finally, it’s critical to be aware of barriers that could potentially thwart your business creation hopes in particular niches.  Are there licenses that need to be gained in order to become respected or qualified in the niche?  Is the cost of entry for needed software or product creation going to be more than I can comfortably handle?  Is the niche already saturated to the point that I can’t identify a unique position in which to place my business?  Is the business subject seasonal, limited in any way (geographic, cultural, etc), or not socially acceptable?  Is the business subject something that is blackhat, underground, sleazy, hateful, discriminatory or of bad taste?  (I would caution everyone to stay far away from subjects like porn, gambling, lotteries, anything illegal, immoral, or in any way in poor taste.)

So I’ve given you seven “filters” to run your ideas through.  If you are serious about starting a real business, apply each of these filters to your list of potential subjects and it will soon become quite apparent which topics you should eliminate and which you can confidently move to the top of your list.

After you finish this little exercise, you may still have two or three ideas that have risen to the top and pass all the tests.  Don’t fret.  It may be that any of them that you choose will lead you into a nice profitable business.  What you’ll have confirmed is that any of these remaining topics can serve you well.  Just choose one and be on with doing some detailed market research!

A word of caution:  Don’t try to juggle two or more new businesses at the same time.  Sure, you can add multiple streams of income later, but only focus on one until it is running profitably and giving you the income you want.  Don’t dilute or water down your efforts at the outset.  It’s very difficult to divide your attention and become profitable when you’re trying to figure out how online business works!

To your online business success!

Steve Browne

www.BusinessEmpires.com

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Advertising

What to Do if Folks Just Don’t Respond

www.BusinessEmpires.com

One of the most frustrating aspects of web business is trying to figure out problems to customer response rates on your web site. Why are my customers getting lost online? Why are they not responding to my ads? Why are my offers being ignored?

The challenge of this puzzle is figuring out what parts of the web site need to be fixed.

Is it the offer itself? Are my navigation signals unclear? Is my offering price too high? Is my offer language boring or uninspiring? Is there a problem with my ordering system?

You see, it seems that there are an endless number of little variables that could be hindering sales at the web site. Often, trying to figure out where the roadblocks are is a difficult and frustrating exercise.

If you are not getting the kind of customer web site response you think you should have, there are a number of starting points that you should consider in order to get to the root of the problem.

  • First, know your web site. Be aware of the traffic patterns of your online visitors. You can track where the clicks on your site are happening. You may find that your navigation is confusing – a real problem. Confused visitors are frustrated visitors who are not in the mood to buy anything. If your customer is confused about your web site, she might believe that your products will be confusing as well.
  • Lead your customer by the hand into taking the action that you want. Tell them or show them where you want them to go next. The “call to action” is one of the most important parts of your visitor ordering system. There should be no doubt about the progression of your intended path through the sale.
  • Make buying easy. If you have a long sales page, strategically place “buy now” buttons throughout the text. Sometimes the customer is ready to buy early on, sometimes mid-way through the offer, and often, not until the very end. Most of your clicks to purchase will come from the first and last opportunity, but your intermediate buttons will also get clicks. The point is, you want the customer to be able to pull the trigger when he is ready, regardless of where he is on the sales page. If he has to wait until the very end of the dialogue, there is a good chance the sale may be lost.
  • Be dramatic and bold with your buttons. Don’t leave any doubt as to how to respond to your offer or your direction to a resource or link. Don’t hide these jumping off points in ordinary text or tiny graphics. Leave no doubt about where the prospect needs to click to get somewhere.
  • Many web businesses don’t take the opportunity to follow up on a customer action with an email. Whether it’s a “thank you” email for subscribing to a mailing list or a “this is what to do next” follow up to a download, you need to take every opportunity to maintain and enhance your contact with the customer or prospect. So many businesses fail in this regard. Customers will notice your concern if you always follow up on their actions. This practice alone will set you apart from 95% of the competition. Yes, it’s a little more work to do this, but the results will be more than worth the extra effort.
  • Remember to offer options. Maybe your customers aren’t buying because they would like to try something out before committing to high price tag. Can you give them a two-week trial offer as an alternative to the full price offer? Can you give them a price point that’s significantly less than the regular price for a “lite” version? Sure, you want to try to get full price for a sale – but getting something is always preferable to getting nothing. And if the customer is pleased with his initial purchase, it will be that much easier getting her to come back to order the full version and even more!
  • Always test, test, test. It is really surprising what a little testing will do. Sometimes simply changing a color, a button placement, a new headline, or a little added text will mean a 100% increase in a response rate. It’s true! The only way you’re going to know what little tweaks will help your conversion is to test one thing against another and track results. Of course you know that there is a proper and a wrong way to test variables. That lesson is for another day . . . but just remember . . . testing and tracking will often turn money losing offers into money winning offers. Likewise, good results can be tweaked into becoming outstanding results.
  • Don’t be afraid to up-sell or cross-sell once a customer has pulled the trigger. Don’t be shy about taking advantage of the immediate time following a web site sale. To simply tell the customer “thank you” and leave him on a dead end page is to lose the opportunity to make additional money. The best strategy is to offer a very related product, a longer term, a deluxe version of what was just purchased, a greater supply of the product, a customer discount to an affiliated service, or membership in a “club” or user group.
  • One good way to jump into the customer’s shoes is to actually ask the customer for feedback on varying aspects of his web or buying experience. Ask if she has questions about a product or service. Ask if the price was the reason a prospect didn’t buy. Ask if any of your instructions were unclear or hard to understand. Feedback on why a prospect didn’t buy is invaluable because the chances are very high that other folks are feeling the same way.
  • Have a path to follow for those that say “no.” In other words, if a prospect is not ready to pull the trigger with your call to action on this visit, you should have an alternative path for him to get something else from you. Don’t let the customer leave empty-handed. Surely there is some kind of value that you can give the non-buyers for stopping by your shop. It could be a free download of “tips” in your niche, it could be a trial offer of a product, or it might simply be direction to a related resource. Whatever you decide, make sure the customer feels that her visit was worth the time and effort. You want the prospect to have a reason to come by again.
  • The internet is a great place to scan, but often a lousy place to read long copy. Given the choice, most people would rather read a physical book than sit at the computer screen and scroll through an online book. Think about it – when you come to a computer screen with lots of text, what do you do? Don’t you tend to do a quick scan to see if there are headings or bullet points or underlined text so that you can get the jist of what’s going on without having to suffer through reading everything? Most folks are that way, by far! I’m suggesting you cater your delivery of information to the style of the reader. Offer summaries, headings, bullet lists, shortened text, etc.
  • Here’s my last point for this installment: keep everything simple and brief. Don’t force the customer to do too much. Remember “easy,” “short,” “simple,” “summary,” “brief,” etc. When you ask for information, keep it to a minimum. When you give directions, make it simple. When you ask for a sale, make it happen in one click. When you want a question answered, give one to three options and ask which they would prefer. Remember what we said earlier: when a customer is confused or frustrated, he is not in a buying mood.

I hope you’ll remember some of these suggestions so that solving the non-response puzzle will be easier and faster for you than ever before. Often, you will find what the problem is sooner than later and you won’t have to scrap your whole project idea or offer because it’s not converting.

To you online business success,

Steve Browne

www.BusinessEmpires.com

www.BusinessEmpires.com

 

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