The StartupNation Blog Trends, tips and real-life anecdotes from industry experts

Archive for August, 2009

Landing Page Tips – Part Three

This is the third and final post in a three-part series looking at ways that you can create Landing Pages for your website and marketing campaigns that get results. Follow these tips, and see your Landing Pages generate more leads, orders and sales. LANDING PAGE TIPS #1. Minimize Load Time Web pages that take a [...]

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Landing Page Tips – Part Two

This is the second in a three-part series looking at ways that you can transform your campaign or website Landing Pages into highly effective sales funnels for your business. Follow these tips, and see your Landing Pages generate more leads, orders and sales. LANDING PAGE TIPS 1. Create a Call-to-Action Make it obvious and clear [...]

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Interview with Cynthia Good of PINK-Part 2

Last week, we talked to Cynthia Good, CEO, founding editor and co-owner of the award-winning PINK Magazine, www.PINKmagazine.com. PINK reaches more than two million professional women every year and has raised more than $60,000 for nonprofits benefiting women and girls. Here’s more from my exclusive interview with the inspiring and successful business owner: What are [...]

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StartupNation Member Goes on QVC Tomorrow Morning!

Fellow StartupNation members and moral support boosters for the dreamers – big news for Jules, who I’ve profiled a number of times in podcasts and feature stories (and not just because she’s living the dream but also because, well, she’s my SISTER!!!). Yes, it runs in the Sloan family blood. In any event, tomorrow morning she and [...]

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How a Professional Answering Service Raises the Bar

I just cringe when I call a business and get some home recording message from a 1980′s answering machine. All home-based businesses need a professional answering service. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur looking for a professional “staff member” (i.e. virtual phone service) to field calls, or an at-home sales rep missing sales leads because you are on the phone in a client meeting, answering services are cheap and immediately handle your communications when needed. A professional answering service moves you up from the “trying to make a few bucks” category to the “sustainable and trusting business” category. Plus, once your business starts to boom with hundreds of inbound calls for your services and products, you’ll be able to manage, and respond to each one efficiently. And, when your power goes out or when you must run a quick errand, someone, or “something” will be there.

Professional answering services are easy to find and most telephone service companies offer as an added-value feature in addition to your phone service. But what potential problems might happen and what services are available to you?

There are four major types of answering services: automated, live, Internet and call centers. Automated is what we are used to where the caller will need to press a number to obtain further information. If you want to appear “larger” in employee size, you could create separate lines for departments, or even insert fake names. This type of system works well if you just want to provide general information.

A live service is a bit more expensive in where you would contract out an operator and the operator decides whether to talk a message or patch through to you directly. The advantage to this type of service is a real human operator rather than an automated message at any time of the day. If you operate an online site where customers make purchases, a live service can help customers trust your business and feel at ease when placing an order. On the other hand, if you go over the set number of calls in your contract, it could get very, very expensive.

Internet-based services like Google Voice, or RingCentral, work by consolidating phone lines and routing them to the best line or providing voice mail options that go to a Web-based account. Most of these VoIP services that use a Web interface to manage incoming calls have additional features like routing calls, accepting faxes, forwarding text messages to cell phones, and receiving an automated receptionist. And, all you need to set it up is an Internet connection and the phones. With an Internet-based service, you might have sound quality issues if you have a slow or bad Internet connection. Some phone system companies will guarantee a certain number of minutes a month your service will not be interrupted, but most of the time you can’t negotiate this number. The advantage of using VoIP answering service is that you will be able to manage your business from anywhere in the nation.

Call centers are more on the telemarketing services side and helpful if you need a promotional product or sales push, or need an inbound call center to answer multiple phones ringing. AnswerConnect.com for example, offers live message taking, online order taking, paging and live call transfers delivering messages instantly to the customer’s email box for permanent storage. If you plan to outsource your answering services needs to a call center, or use appointment setters to take online orders, etc., you should spend time training, providing copy and monitoring (or listening) to the calls to ensure the company is professional and speaks accurately to your business.

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I just cringe when I call a business and get some home recording message from a 1980′s answering machine. All home-based businesses need a professional answering service. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur looking for a professional “staff member” (i.e. virtual phone service) to field calls, or an at-home sales rep missing sales leads because [...]

Continue Reading

Outsourcing products to China…Q & A with an expert!

I have compiled the most frequently asked questions that I have recieved over the years from clients about outsourcing to Asia.  It is my goal to educate you in your quest for manufacturing/outsourcing your products abroad. Education and knowledge is your first defense aganist being “taken” and having a “bad experience!” Here goes! Q. Why do [...]

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Landing Page Tips – Part One

This is the first post in a series covering Landing Page tips to help you improve the performance of your campaign or website Landing Pages. Follow these tips, and see your Landing Pages generate more leads, orders and sales. Landing Page Tips 1. Send People to the Right Page If your online marketing campaigns send [...]

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Exclusive Interview with PINK’s Cynthia Good

Recently, I caught up with Cynthia Good, CEO, founding editor and co-owner of the award-winning PINK Magazine, www.PINKmagazine.com. PINK reaches more than two million professional women every year and has raised more than $60,000 for nonprofits benefiting women and girls. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Cynthia was a news anchor on television stations nationwide, created her [...]

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Managing a mommy business…with 5 simple steps!

We are women. Watch us Manage! I have people ask me, usually men, how do you do it all? How do you take care of the family, and your business, and be so management oriented?  Did you study business management in college, get an MBA? No sir, I did not even finish high school. I [...]

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Benefits of a POS System for your Hospitality-based Business

Chances are, you’ve seen a POS system in action. “POS” is an abbreviation for “point-of-sale-” the most basic POS systems calculate payment amounts and process customer payments, similar to a cash register. However, they aren’t just calculators. Most hospitality-based systems use POS systems in order to track inventory and labor costs, forecast business volumes and [...]

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The Hymn Project Finds a Niche-Part One

Do you have an idea for a great, niche product or service but think it’s already available? You may be able to start a great business with your idea. Check out this interview with Tasha Golden who helped to create “The Hymn Project,” www.thehymnprojectCDs.com. What is The Hymn Project? “The Hymn Project” is a 7-CD [...]

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Going Beyond the Website Conversion to Measure Success

A website conversion is when a site visitor takes the action that the business desires. For a retailer, this is typically an online purchase. For a B2B company, this is typically when a lead is generated through a form submission, download or call.

And there are many other flavors of website conversions as well. For a publisher, it can be Page Views (so the publisher can increase advertising rates). For a social community site, it can be Time-On-Site and participation. For a recipe site, it can be recipe printouts.

Website conversions drive business success. Measuring website conversions is useful and helps us to understand how to continually refine our website to meet the needs of our customers.

What I would argue, though, is that we need to take the next step and measure lifetime value of a customer to our business as well. If you are a retailer, you can aim to make a sale and measure your website’s success accordingly. But you should also take the more holistic view, see the potential for a lifetime of sales, and do everything you possibly can to build a long-term relationship with the person.

So, instead of constructing your website exclusively to drive a single sale, construct a process that:

  • Drives continual customer touch-points
  • Makes your brand relevant in their lives
  • Delivers benefits to your customers continually

Let’s say you sell cookies through your website. Offering a 20% discount for a purchase may drive short-term, one-time sales. But how about tying your cookies into your customers’ lifestyles rather than focusing on a one-time discount, which does nothing to build a relationship with your customer.

With cookies, you can offer different types of packages – is the customer a mom looking for a treat to include in her child’s brown bag lunch? Or is it a person looking for fun family desserts? Or is it a person looking for great gifts for family and friends? Or is it an office worker looking to satisfy afternoon hunger? Define the different ways that your cookies fit into your customers’ lives and design packages and solutions accordingly.

The mom looking for a brown bag lunch treat? Offer her a package with brightly colored, individually wrapped, mini-sized cookies for each day of the week. Offer a subscription service so that the mom is sent a new set of cookies each week. Offer a chart that matches the best type of cookie to various types of lunches.

And if you felt compelled to offer a discount?

Well, instead of a one-time discount, what if your website offered the 20% discount for an ANNUAL cookie-lovers membership instead? In this way, instead of focusing on a one-time sale and then HOPING that the customer will come back, you are building a business model on a more solid, predictable, longer-term foundation.

Within this framework, you can deliver fresh new cookies on a monthly or weekly basis. Further to this, you can offer additional, value-add specials throughout the course of the year. You can build a deeper relationship through conversations with your customers. You can provide access to an exclusive website filled with special offers, fantastic cookie recipes and a forum for their voice to be heard:

  • Offer members an exclusive opportunity to make recommendations for new cookies
  • Offer them the exclusive opportunity to taste test new recipes that are not yet available to the general public
  • Hold an exclusive cookie recipe contest, offering to sell the winning cookie

The possibilities are endless, and they apply just as equally to retail as they do to B2B, publishers and just about any other type of website.

These are just a few suggestions to help you construct a great website that drives your business growth over the long-term. If you need additional help, let me know below or at www.WebsiteMarketingNOW.com. Thanks!

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A website conversion is when a site visitor takes the action that the business desires. For a retailer, this is typically an online purchase. For a B2B company, this is typically when a lead is generated through a form submission, download or call. And there are many other flavors of website conversions as well. For [...]

Continue Reading

Small Business Profile: Lead411

To follow up on a previous post requesting feedback on topics and offering to highlight members of the community, I learned of the BTS Blog started by Tom Blue, co founder of Lead411— BTS stands for Business, Technology and Sales.  The BTS Blog is dedicated to discussing startups, business trends, bootstrapping, tech companies, sales and [...]

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How Someone Ripped off Our Twitter Name and We Fought Back

You’ve probably read our StartupNation advice about how to leverage the value of social media to benefit your business. (You can listen to a first and second podcast on this subject, too.) But a word of warning: What you may not know–and should be prepared to overcome–is that just like there are squatters on website [...]

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