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Home Business Idea: 3 Reasons to Dropship Gun Accessories

dropship gun accessoriesNobody in the United States and probably in the civilized world is unaware of the spate of recent tragedies such as the school shooting in Newtown Connecticut this month and if you are looking for a good home business idea, we can furnish you with 3 good reasons to dropship gun accessories.

Whether you agree or disagree with our constitutional right to bear arms, the fact is that millions of people do believe in it and that in addition to the senseless slaughter of innocent victims at schools, malls, theatres and other public places; home invasions are a very real threat to many Americans, as well as people all around the world.

With this in mind, more and more law abiding citizens are choosing to arm themselves for self protection. That makes dropship gun accessories a hot niche for anyone who wants to work from home.

Besides self protection, hunting is and has always been a popular pastime for many people. Besides sport and recreational uses, more and more people have turned to hunting for food during the economic recession of the past several years.

Again, this makes dropship gun accessories a profitable niche for an enterprising ecommerce entrepreneur!

Let’s look at three reasons to dropship gun accessories:

I. You can dropship gun accessories year round and count on having a dependable, steady flow of traffic and demand for your products. Although sales will almost certainly surge during hunting seasons such as deer season, dove season, duck season and more—there will be plenty of demand throughout the entire year to make this a profitable niche.

II. When you dropship gun accessories, you have a wide and diverse target market and can tailor your promotions and marketing to each of these specific markets. For instance, hunters comprise one market and that can be broken down into even more specific sectors as you can promote different sorts of gun accessories to different sorts of hunters, depending on what they are hunting. This gives you many more opportunities for traffic and sales.

III. Many gun accessories are smallish, which can be helpful when you take into consideration the average internet shopper’s desire for free shipping. If you were selling big, heavy products such as televisions, it would be difficult to factor the shipping cost into the sale price and make many sales. This isn’t the case with smaller items, however, and provided you find a true wholesale product source with low prices, you can easily incorporate the shipping cost into the sale price and attract a lot more potential customers who are drawn to the offer of free shipping.

Types of Gun Accessories

Now that we have looked at some reasons to dropship gun accessories, let’s see a sampling of the various types of products you might want to dropship:

  • Scopes
  • Cases
  • Cleaning Kits
  • Gun Vaults
  • Gun Safes
  • Trigger Guards
  • Holsters
  • Pouches
  • Sights
  • And More

If you dropship gun accessories, does this mean you are contributing to the violence that is running rampant in the USA?

No.

The people who can legally buy and own a gun for self protection will buy these products somewhere and you will be serving a need to provide the products.  

The same principle holds true for selling gun accessories to hunters. You may not personally approve of hunting, but plenty of others do and you have a huge market there for sales.

If you want to work from home and be your own boss with a profitable online business, dropship gun accessories and start making money right away!

 

Start your own online dropship business today!

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We Are All Artists Now

Marketing podcast with Seth Godin

seth godin icarus deceptionFew people have captured the post industrial world of work like Seth Godin. Now, you may think of him as a marketer – and he is a brilliant one indeed. I believe, however, his greatest contribution to business is the very clear message about how work has evolved from one of factories and rules to one of making ideas and art.

To be sure there are still many who play in the world of producing things by way of orderly process but, increasingly, people are trying things on the side of design and causing a good ruckus while they play.

As the cost of making things, trying things, starting companies and practicing your art has come down, so too has the cost of failure. Trying your idea out and failing is not such a big deal any more, playing it safe and normal is.

I spoke with Seth Godin for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast and he shared his thoughts on some of the myths and deceptions that hold people back.

Godin recently set the publishing world abuzz, once again, by using a crowdfunding service to prove that people were interested in the notion of his next book before he ever sought a publisher to produce it. With a guaranteed large print run in hand he was able to dictate, to a large extent, the type of deal he wanted.

In his now published work, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly, Godin reveals the often mistold told story or Icarus. As most people will recall, Icarus famously flew too close to the sun against his fathers advice. This act of hubris led to his demise. The lesson of course, is don’t try to soar too high, right?

The part of the story that is rarely told is that his father also told him not to fly too low as the salt and mist of the sea was equally fatal. Godin’s contention is that the current environments of work, school and even organized religion are often to blame for people aiming too low.

The Icarus Deception is above all things a cry for a revolution of sorts. A cry to get more people to start sharing their ideas, designing their lives and telling people about their art.

One of the best ways to embrace this idea may be to attend one of the more than 1,000 Icarus Sessions happening on Jan 2. You can find or organize an Icarus Session here and read all about how the sessions work here.

If You Liked This Post. . . :

We Are All Artists Now is a post from: Small Business Marketing Blog from Duct Tape Marketing

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How to Boost eBay Traffic and Dropshipping Sales

dropshipping eBayIf you are an eBay seller with an online home dropshipping business, you may be interested in picking up a few tips on how to boost eBay traffic and sales.

eBay, while its rules are stringent and unpalatable to many sellers, does have a gigantic amount of global traffic. This makes it a fantastic world marketplace for anyone with a dropshipping business who wants to make money online, working from home.

You may have heard reports that it’s too hard to make money on eBay and that only the huge big box businesses are getting the traffic so smaller sellers are shut out and can’t make any money. If you have, disregard them because such stories are not true.

It does seem that the eBay search engine, with all its faults, does reward sellers with scads of listings. But, on the other hand, it stands to reason that the more listings a seller has, the more will show up in search. Be that as it may, you have no worries about getting sufficient traffic on eBay to ensure yourself a tidy income if you go about things the right way, even as a small dropshipping seller.

Here are some tips to help you increase traffic to your eBay listings and therefore, boost sales:

  • Use your titles wisely. eBay recently increased the number of characters a seller can use in the title, which is a good thing. You now have 80 characters to play with instead of the old 55. Take advantage of this extra opportunity to write compelling titles that snag a shopper’s attention and make someone want to click through to view your product. Make your titles descriptive and your product sound appealing. Be sure to include such details as size, color and so forth if applicable.

  • Be sure to fill out all of the fields in the drop down menu for item details. This is supposed to help you in search. For example, if you are selling clothing, there are drop down choices for style, color, size, etc. Use them all and boost your listings in the search pages.

  • Use great SEO. This means using your prime keywords in your title and as close to the beginning of the title as you can get them. For instance, if you are dropshipping video games, put your most important keywords right up front, such as “video game” and the title of the game, which video game player it uses and more. Use good SEO in your descriptions, as well. Using good SEO will not only help your listings to get elevated in the search pages within eBay, but search engines such as Google can pick them up easier too.

  • Have great images! The old saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. That may or may not be true, but it’s definitely a truth that eBay shoppers love good photos and plenty of them. So, make your product images the best they can be. Show different views of the product and make sure your images are large enough to be seen well. This is critical for online sales! You may need to actually buy one each of your dropship products to take the photos, but it’s a great investment and anyway, you can resell them once your photography session is over.

  • Offer free shipping if possible. This will get your listings a boost in the eBay search. In some cases, you simply won’t be able to factor the shipping cost into the price of the widget, but if you can….do. Besides getting your items ranked higher in eBay search, internet research has proven that online shoppers love free shipping and will buy a product with free shipping before they’ll buy an identical product without free shipping.

Use these tips to increase eBay traffic and boost dropshipping sales!

 

Start your own online dropship business today!

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How to Work From Home With a Dropship Internet Business

dropship internet businessIf your New Year’s resolution is to make a new and better life for yourself, you may be interested in learning how to work from home with a dropship internet business—one of the best and most lucrative opportunities around today!

Let’s face it; many of us have jobs that leave much to be desired. When you work for somebody else, you dance to their tune. You take breaks and vacations when they tell you to, work the days and hours they want you to work, often endure unreasonable demands and way too much stress for too little pay.

After awhile, you might begin to wonder if there isn’t a better way.

Guess what? There IS a better way and it’s called dropshipping.

With a dropship internet business, you decide the hours and days you work, take vacations when it best fits your schedule, and since you’re your own boss and work alone, never have to put up with an irate supervisor or irritating coworkers.

Some people literally hate their jobs but are afraid to give up that security blanket of a stead paycheck.

When you start an internet dropship business, you don’t have to worry about a lengthy period of time without any money coming in because you can start making sales and money immediately.

Here are some tips to help you get set up in your own home dropship internet business:

  • Research and find a reputable wholesale product source. This is the most critical area of starting a home dropship business. Your business can only be as good as your product supplier. So, make sure to get one that is an established business with a good Better Business Bureau rating and preferably, customer testimonials.

  • Choose a wholesale product source that really does give you true wholesale prices. You need to buy low and sell high, or at least as high as the market will bear. If you pay too much for the dropship products you intend for resale, you will not have a wide enough margin for profit and will end up working for peanuts. So, check the average retail price of the dropship products you are considering and make sure the supplier’s prices are low enough to ensure you of a tidy profit.

  • Be sure your dropship product source has high quality products. If you can get name brands, that’s even better since they are much easier to sell, especially online. If you sell poor quality, shoddy products you will have some very unhappy customers and your dropship internet business will be dead in the water.

  • You will be dependent on your dropship product source to ship the items you sell to your customers promptly, in secure packaging. If they don’t, you’re sunk and your dropship internet business is doomed to failure. You also need to be sure that your product source will notify you of low inventory or out of stock items. The last thing you want is to over sell, especially on eBay where buyers are notoriously short of tolerance for seller bloopers.

  • Once you find a great wholesale product source, simply select the items you want to sell, list them on the venue or marketplace of your choice and you’re in business. No need to buy inventory up front. With a dropship internet business, you only pay your product source for an item as it is sold and the buyer has paid you for it.

It really couldn’t get any easier! So, what are you waiting for? Get started in your own dropship internet business and make this next year the best ever!

 

Start your own online dropship business today!

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Get Your Social Media Moving by Reading Going Social

I was having a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is an expert in developing online content and courses.

She told me that her daily routine included spending about an hour each morning going through and analyzing what a variety of experts in her field were doing in their respective businesses.

She said:

“You can’t consider yourself a professional in your space unless you know what everyone is doing.”

She went on to say that she subscribes to everything and does her best to participate and review their content so that she can track what’s working and what isn’t working.

Jeremy Goldman’s Going Social Gives a Front-Line Perspective

When I first received the review copy of Going Social: Excite Customers, Generate Buzz, and Energize Your Brand with the Power of Social Media, I have to admit that the words “Not another social media book!” crossed my mind.  That’s when my friend’s words came back to me – you can’t consider yourself a professional unless you watch and learn from everything that’s going on.

After reviewing what seems like dozens of social media books, I can honestly say that I’ve picked up something from each of them – a new tip or perspective or strategy.  There is something to be said for getting into the weeds of social media and Jeremy Goldman (@jeremarketer) does just that.

Here is how Jeremy describes what sets his book apart from the others:

“Unlike many books covering social media engagement, this one is written by someone who has spent the better part of the last decade on the social marketing front lines.  Many social media books are written by theorists and from authors from giant consulting firms…I’ve managed e-commerce presence and the customer service and online PR functions.”

Jeremy Goldman is a recognized expert in social marketing and communications.  He’s managed major brands such as Kiehl’s, TEMPTU, and Jurlique.  He is currently the AVP of Interactive and Social Media for iluminage inc., a Unilever subsidiary he helped found.

Going Social is Loaded With Case Studies

If you are responsible for managing social media for an organization or you are using social media as part of your own marketing strategy, then Going Social is a book that qualifies as ready you must read as a professional in the world of online marketing.  It’s loaded with case studies and front line experiences that you won’t find in too many other social media books.

Here is an example:

JamaicansMusic.com is featured in a case study about how to focus on a specific niche.  Lots of marketing books tell you that you should focus on a niche and some books will show you how big familiar brands focused on a niche, but Going Social is featuring a brand you may not have heard of – JamaicansMusic.com and how that little site used social media marketing to engage in a conversation with their audience to drive traffic to their site.

Personally, I like these kinds of examples because they show how a no-name business and a non-celebrity business  owner can use social media to drive customers to their sites and stores.

My Experience of Going Social

The double-edged sword of Goldman’s book is that in presenting how small businesses like yours have used social media tools to grow traffic and sales and drive new customers to their sites, you’ll still be left to your own devices as to how you’re going to actually put any of these items into practice.

Let me show you what I mean – let’s go back to our JamaicansMusic.com example.

In this case study, Goldman tells the story of JamicansMusic founder Alex Morrisey who started the site as a hobby for himself in college.  But then he noticed that he was getting lots of traffic (How can I do that?) and decided to start engaging his visitors using social media by “asking them questions about what they wanted on the site.”  Now you might think, “That is an awesome idea!” But you will be left to your own devices as to how to do that successfully.

You might read this as a criticism of the book and it’s really not at all.  I really want to be clear about how the author delivers the content and how the case studies are structured.   You will get lots of creative ideas about how other business owners attracted customers using social media, but you will have to create your own to-do list and follow through.

At the end of each chapter, however, there are links to more information and details for that chapter that you can follow.

Going Social Adds to Your Toolbox of Social Media Tricks

Overall, I’d say that Going Social is a book you have to own if social media marketing is part of your strategy.

It’s loaded with practical information and lots and lots of ideas from down-to-earth brands that you can easily take on as part of your strategy.

The post Get Your Social Media Moving by Reading Going Social appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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Your Website: Do You Know When It’s Time for A Tune-Up?

Did you know that your business website is a lot like your car? It’s true.

We depend on our cars for many things. It’s really hard to get around town without one. Running errands, meeting clients, rushing delivery items to the Post Office just in the nick of time: as a business owner, how are you going to do these things without a car?

You could do it – but it would be tough. That’s why we make regular, ongoing investments to keep our cars in good working order. We fill the gas tank. We check the oil. We go to the mechanic for tune-ups as needed.

Now think about your business website. We’re very dependent on our business websites. In many cases, your website is the primary point of contact for new and returning customers. Sales, customer service, and brand building – it all happens on your business website.

Yet many business owners don’t do any maintenance or monitoring of their website. In fact, they hardly engage with their website at all once it is launched. This is the equivalent of getting your new car from the dealership, driving away, and never once visiting a gas station or mechanic.

How long do you think that car will last under those conditions? If you don’t want your business website to stall out or break down, you need to take charge of the situation and start monitoring your website.  Here’s what you need to look for:

Weekly Website Reviews

Spot Check: Give your website a quick visual inspection. Does everything look right? Are images and videos behaving as you expect them to? Click on a few links throughout your site – different ones every week! – to see if they take you where you want to go.

Any problems you find, you can let your tech team know about for a quick fix.

Read Google Webmaster Report: Every business owner should be signed up for Google Webmaster. This free program provides you with valuable information. The application offers some great insight including a report on any broken links on your website, information about the last time Google indexed your website, etc.  Important for effective SEO.

You can also see if there are any viruses on your site.

Review Your Google Analytics: Google Analytic reports tell you many things. You’ll be able to see how much traffic your website gets and where the traffic is coming from. This is great if you’re tracking the impact of a new marketing initiative.  How long do visitors stay on your website? What your bounce rate?  A bounce rate measures how many visitors come, view a single webpage, and then leave your site.

Bear in mind that if you have a popular blog, for example, your bounce rate might be high and that’s totally okay.

Monthly Website Reviews

Test Forms: Data collection forms, such as the one used to request a consultation, send feedback or sign-up newsletter subscribers should be tested regularly to make sure they’re still working.

Try testing your forms using different email addresses and from different devices and Web browsers.

Shopping Cart Test: If you have any type of shopping cart on your site, run a complete test order every month to make sure your shopping cart system is operating seamlessly. Review your shipping and taxes on the order and pay attention to each screen and the receipts you receive. This is the shopping experience your customers are having.

You want to make sure it’s a good one. If you identify any problems, you need to let your web development team know right away.

Review Dynamic Content: Compare the dynamic content you’ve added to your website (blogs, podcasts, videos, new merchandise) with the numbers you’ve seen during your weekly Google Analytics review. Is the content delivering the results you’d like to see in terms of traffic, stickiness, and conversion?

If not, adjustments may be in order.

Speed Tests: How quickly does your website load? How quickly do individual pages come up? A sudden change in the rate of load speed indicates that something may be wrong, and it may be related to how dynamic elements are coded or changes in the web host server.

Quarterly Website Reviews

Is It Time for an Upgrade? Open source Content Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are continually improving their platforms. They make changes to their codes so sites built with their technology are more secure, more virus-resistant, and load faster.

Generally, there will be a message alerting you that an upgrade is available in the dashboard area of your website. If you see this message, it’s time to let your web developer know.

Don’t try to do the update yourself.  Hitting that ‘Upgrade Now’ button can totally wreck any custom coding or third party plug-ins you may have on your site.

Review User Names & Passwords: Internal security is important. Do you have the user name and passwords for all accounts associated with your website? Accounts may include Google accounts for Analytics, Webmaster or Adwords; shopping cart passwords for tools like PayPal or Authorize.net; and website control through FTP, C-Panel or web hosting accounts.

For security purposes, passwords should be changed routinely – and always if you’ve let go of an employee who previously had this access and permission.

As a business owner you are ultimately responsible for your website. If you have an in-house team this list is a great way to start implementing a process to pay better attention to one of the most valuable marketing tools you have. If you have an external team you may want to request a cost for this level of monitoring.

The fact is that the Web changes, and upgrades to Web browsers or operating systems can cause changes.  Even good old fashion human error can occur when editing a site.

If you pay close attention to your website you can catch things before they cause any loss of business.

Tune Up Photo via Shutterstock

The post Your Website: Do You Know When It’s Time for A Tune-Up? appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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10 Essentials For Handmade Business Success

As small business owners, we cannot become so bogged down in the minutiae of business that we don’t see the forest for the trees.

For handmade entrepreneurs, this is especially challenging because we love what we do so much, it’s tempting to spend most of our time creating things, and not enough time marketing and selling them and planning for the future.  This often results in lots of nice products, but few sales.

If you find yourself in this situation, or want to avoid it altogether, don’t panic. I created a list of 10 specific essentials that will help you focus on revenue-generating activities, without sacrificing your passion for the making the products you love.

1. Develop consistent systems. Systems create structure and help things run smoothly and efficiently, but handmade entrepreneurs, who often start as hobbyists, often resist them. The shift from hobbyist to business owner is a critical one to make — I know because I made it. I want you to assure you that it’s worth it.

Set aside specific days of the week when you will make specific products. This will help you plan how to organize priorities. You won’t waste a moment wondering what to make next. You can even share your manufacturing schedule with customers (wholesale and retail) so they know what to expect.

Use a tool like Google Calendar to plan and schedule blog posts, Tweets and Facebook updates. You don’t have to be rigid, but a basic schedule will allow you to lead your business with more predictability, and you can tweak it you grow.

2. Embrace technology. Each year, business success depends more heavily on effective use of technology. Handmade businesses are very high touch in terms of products and physical interaction with customers, but tend to be less so when it comes to using technology to increase sales. The good news is that I have seen people who were once fearful of technology fall in love with it when they begin tracing sales directly to the use of a once scary tech tool.

Begin by discovering what technologies are used by businesses that are similar to yours. Make a list of 3 or 4 things they seem to use effectively and watch their methods. Adopt similar approaches in your business and put your unique stamp on them.

If anyone with credibility offers classes to help you get started, it’s worth it to buy the instructions. Technology is like arithmetic in the sense that new technologies build on old ones. You will have more difficulty figuring out the new Facebook, for example, if you have never used the old one. The further behind you get on technology, the harder it is to catch up. Don’t delay. Get started today!

3. Don’t identify yourself as a “crafter.” There’s nothing wrong with being a crafter. I’m a crazy girl and I love making all kinds of things. I still make many of my own soaps and cosmetics, but I no longer sell them. Why? Because I’m a crafter, not a cosmetics business owner. Once you start selling the products you make, you are a business owner. Linda Balon Stein of Zosimos Botanicals in Gaithersburg, Maryland, puts it this way:

“The personal care products we sell are handmade, and when people ask what I do, I say I own a cosmetics company. To me, that implies a professional career creating handmade products. Even though I know there are people who make high quality products and travel around the country exhibiting and selling their wares as “crafters,” there is a big distinction between what we do and making crafts to sell at markets and shows. We pay taxes, follow good manufacturing practices, get a merchant account and many of other things that “crafters” may not do.”

Identifying yourself as a “crafter” minimizes your professionalism as a business owner. It does not instill trust when you ask total strangers for their credit card number either. If you want to grow your business, be very wary of using this term to describe yourself.

4. Invest in yourself financially. The reason many people say they don’t have a coach or sign up for classes or attend a great conference is because it costs money. Here’s a different approach. Don’t think of it as spending money on a coach (or a conference or a class). Think of it as investing money in yourself. I host the annual #IndieCruise to so entrepreneurs can MasterMind together in an unplugged environment, and come out on the other end with guns blazing.

The transformations I witness every year are amazing. Coaching, classes, conferences and similar events are experiences that enrich your life and challenge you to push yourself, to maximize your talents, to stretch the limits of your capabilities. What’s life anyway, if you don’t do that? Create a 2013 professional enrichment budget for yourself and make it a point to go to at least one event that will force you out of your comfort zone. Your business, not the mention the world, will thank you.

5. Toot your horn. Many handmade entrepreneurs tell me they are uncomfortable with marketing because it feels like bragging. Well, it is, in a way. If you are proud of the products you make, and your are confident that they are worth every penny you ask for them, then you have every reason to proudly to tell the world what you have to offer.

Share, share, and share some more. It’s not about holding a megaphone and deafening everyone within ear shot. It’s about using your natural personality to share what you have to offer, and you’ve got to do it.

6. Solidify your niche. When I launched Indie Beauty Network, I could have tried to service every single type of small business there was. As an attorney and entrepreneur, I had the background to do it. But instinctively, I also knew that if I tried to be all things to all people, I would drown.

So I decided to focus exclusively on handmade beauty products and that’s that. Since then, we have expanded some to include items like handmade candles, jewelry and baked goods, but our core is still handmade beauty, and I like it that way.

Maggie Hanus of A Wild Soap Bar sells Texas-themed handmade soap in Austin, Texas. According to Maggie:

“Deciding to narrow our line down to “native plant soaps” was the best business decision we ever made! I mean, everybody has a plain old Lavender Soap, but you won’t find many lavender scented Bluebonnet Soaps, which celebrate the Texas state flower and which contain real Texas blubonnets.”

Since starting her business over a decade ago, Maggie has gone from her core handmade soap products to other items including body balm and facial oils.

When you have a niche, marketing and sales efforts are magnified because you’ll know exactly what you are selling, and who you are selling to. You won’t spin your wheels trying to sell everything to everyone. Instead, you’ll invest your energy in selling specific products to specific people who want those products. Score!

Ask most any successful entrepreneur and they will tell you that having a narrowly defined niche is how they built their businesses — and continue to do so.

7. Leverage success in your niche to create new revenue centers. If you have solidified a niche for yourself and your business is on solid footing, you can consider how you can leverage your brand to sell new products, or sell your existing ones in different ways. For example, Tisha L. Morris has leveraged her expertise in feng shui to develop several lines of products, including a smudge spray.

By offering a variety of products in “sub-niches,” Tisha appeals to more people without losing focus. Says Tisha:

“If it is not in someone’s budget to hire me one-on-one, they can access me through an online workshop, an ebook, a hard copy of my book, or my iPhone app.”

A quick word of caution: as you expand, be careful that you don’t introduce complementary products without first making sure your core is strong. If your core is solid, and running smoothly, it may be a good time to consider adding new sources of income that complement your existing niche and create new ways for you to boost revenues.

7. Brand yourself. As your business grows, you will find more people wanting to identify with more than just your products. Your repeat customers will start talking about you *and* your products, and in some ways, the two will merge into a single brand.

Handmade entrepreneurs are in the unique position of making the products they sell. This means that when a customer sees your product, whether you like it or not, they also see you. Take advantage of this by letting people experience you personally as you market your products.

Sharing photos of you in your production studio making things people love to buy is a good way to leverage yourself as a person, as you also promote your products. In time, if you’d like, you can translate this visibility into new streams of income as a speaker, a blogger or coach.

A quick caveat: unless you think you’re the next Thomas Kinkade or Martha Stewart, you’ll want to try to keep some distance between you and your business, so you can preserve the non-you part of your business for the future. If you become inextricably intertwined with your business brand, it could become difficult to sell it or move onto something else in the future. It’s a delicate balance, and there’s a great deal of overlap.

It takes time and practice to find the unique balance of personal brand and business brand that works for you. Take this one step at a time. Evaluate how it’s going each quarter, and make adjustments as necessary.

8. Involve your family members. If you are a business owner with a family, then whether or not you like it, you are not in business alone. My members and laugh all the time about the importance of integrating life and business. As a wife and mother of two, I say:

“If mama is in business, then everybody is in business!”

There are so many practical reasons to be intentional about this … first of all, you family can help you.  They can take products to the shipping office, restock office equipment, help with filing and calendar maintenance, or watch the kids so you can work. These days, many of them can even train you on how to use computer equipment!

Involving family is also important from a teaching perspective, especially if you have children.

9. Find time for fitness Personally speaking, this is the single most challenging part of business ownership for me, and I’m terrible at it. In my prior life as an attorney, I became used to sitting all day long. I was either thinking, writing, strategizing, meeting, deposing or reading, and I did all of it in a chair.

Today, I have all the flexiblity I want and I still find it hard to get to the gym. But there is a distinct difference between how I feel when I’ve worked out and how I feel when I don’t, and I prefer the former. And so does my business.

Whether you’re fit today or not, try to make it a point to do something each day that allows our body to move, stretch, and flex. For me, running usually does the trick. It seems to clear my head and make way for new ideas. After a run, I feel like I can tackle anything — a good feeling when you have to slay small business dragons all day! For you, it may be yoga, tennis, or just walking around the block. Find what works and fit it in as best you can.

10. Collaborate with your fellow entrepreneurs. Now for the most fun part! As your business grows, you will have much more to offer than just your products. For example, if you blog, you’ll have intellectual property. If you Tweet, you’ll have followers. If you publish an email newsletter, you’ll have subscribers. Look for other people with similar appeal and connect with them to create new business opportunities.

For example, my members Mary Humphrey and Alyssa Middleton teamed up earlier this year to write a soapmaking book entitled, “Essential Soapmaking.” Another example is how this month, four of my members teamed up for a Holiday Ladies Shopping Night where local women paid $20 a person to shop and enjoy a Peppermint and Chocolate martinis and crudité. (Notice: they paid a fee to enter the store to spend money … did you catch that?)

Dawn Fitch of Pooka Pure and Simple provided the venue (her retail store), and the goodie bags included handmade candles from Yum Yum Candles, handmade soap by La Shonda Tyree, the “Handmade Soap Coach”, and lip balm from Naturally Good Soaps. Dawn told me that the event was such a huge success that they are going to grow it and make it an annual event.

Collaborations like these help everyone’s business grow, but they cannot happen unless you have something to bring to the table. An audience is a big part of that. After all, it doesn’t do any good to co-host an event with you if you don’t have anyone on your list or Facebook page to announce it to.

A Final Reminder

I am not sharing all of this to overwhelm you. On the other hand, as a seasoned business owner, I feel it’s my duty to tell you the truth about what it takes to be successful.

Do not start tackling all of these things at once. That would be too much.

Select the ones where you are weakest and start there. Add a new goal each month, and by this time next year, you will have advanced both personally and professionally, your revenues should increase, and you’ll be having more fun in your life and your business.

More fun? Yes please!

Handmade Soap Photo via Shutterstock

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Are You A Victim of The Icarus Deception?

If you are a Seth Godin (@ThisisSethsBlog) fan, then you may already have his latest book, The Icarus Deception – How High Will You Fly, and if you’ve already read it – I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and comments on the book.

I received a review copy recently and decided to read it for review.   While I’m familiar with Seth Godin’s work, I wouldn’t call myself a rabid fan (as I know some of you are).  I check into his blog from time to time and I’ve read several (but not all) of his books.  That is the extent of my exposure to Godin.

I’m telling you all of this because this review is written from that point of view.  You may read this and think – DUH! You may read this and completely disagree with my opinion.   That is all terrific because that creates a terrific opportunity to discuss your opinions on this book as well.

On Godin as a Business Philosopher

I’m not sure if there is such a thing, but I’d say that Seth Godin is what I’d call a business philosopher.  When I first encountered his work in Fast Company articles and in the books Permission Marketing and Purple Cow, I put him in the same category as Reis and Trout, the authors of Positioning.  I had him sitting in the box of “marketing expert.”  But with the launch of his last few books and projects, I don’t see him as a marketing visionary (as so many do) as much as a business philosopher.

Wait – maybe even an economic revolutionary.

Seth Godin, to me, is first and foremost a big thinker of big ideas.  As his ideas are consumed and implemented, they take on a more pragmatic, systemic quality and before you know it, they are the accepted way of doing and thinking about business.  As I write this, I’m thinking specifically of his work in Permission Marketing.  It was a big idea that has evolved into standard marketing practice.

But it was in Linchpin, with it’s message that the old model of employees being nothing more than machines and the advent of work as an expression of art, that I first realized that Godin was seeing trends and thinking bigger than I had even realized or given him credit for.  He was pushing all of us to look at our world of work in a new light – through new lenses.

I’m sure you can say that he’s had this philosophy a long time, but it wasn’t until Linchpin and now, The Icarus Deception, How High Will You Fly, that I could really see and feel the urgency in his writing.  It’s as if with each book he’s trying to grab you by the shoulders, shake you and say:

“Hey!  The world of work is not what you thought it was – snap out of it!”

What is The Icarus Deception and Why Should We Pay Attention to it?

In the myth of Icarus is a cautionary tale.  Don’t challenge the experts.  Stay in your safety zone.  If you fly too close to the sun, your wings will burn and you will die.   The idea of “the artist” that Godin talked about in Linchpin is reinforced in The Icarus Deception.  In this book, Godin encourages everyone to get out of their safety zone and take risks, make mistakes because that is what todays economy will reward.

Read it for Yourself, Live it for a Successful Future

Usually, I would tell you about the different chapters in the book and what the book covers in detail.  Somehow, this book just doesn’t lend itself to that.  In his Kickstarter video and page Godin shares that this is his most personal book.  The passion with which he writes will be very rewarding for Godin fans and perhaps eye-opening to those who have watched him from afar.

There are people who like Godin and people who don’t.  If you’re a fan, you will love this book and cheer at every page.  If you fall on the other side of the spectrum, I would say read this book – but not because it’s written by Seth Godin.  Read this book because Godin is tearing down the curtain to reveal the true nature of the Wizard of Oz.  He’s doing his very best to show you something important and to prepare you for success in the future.  Read this book to challenge your thinking and to propel yourself in a direction that is not only satisfying, but rewarding.

Godin is telling you that you are so much more than you ever thought you could be.  You are no longer encumbered by what you thought were limitations.  You are only limited by your ability to overcome your fear of what’s outside your comfort zone.

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3 Creative Ways to Grow Your Email List

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from DJ Waldow  – Enjoy!

You can have the best offer, the most compelling copy, sent from a trusted source, using a subject line that has been optimized for your audience … and yet, if you don’t have a list of email addresses to send to, none of it matters.

Without a list of email addresses in your database, email marketing can be quite challenging. That is why email list growth is the single most important aspect of any sustainable email marketing program.

And it’s not enough to just focus on growing your email list as a one-time task. It’s imperative that list growth be ongoing. Why? Simple. Your email list shrinks by an average of 30% every year. This churn rate, as it’s called, is comprised of subscribers who unsubscribe, mark your email as spam, change employers (and therefore email addresses), and so on.

On top of the 30% churn rate, there is a portion of your list – in many cases a significant portion – who are unemotionally subscribed. This is the group of subscribers who simply ignore your emails. They don’t mark them as spam. They don’t opt-out. They want to receive your content, but just don’t want it (or have the time to read it) right now.

So with your email list constantly shrinking, you can see why it’s critical to focus on ways to constantly grow your list.

Most of us are familiar with the “traditional” list growth tactics – adding an opt-in to your homepage, asking for an email address on checkout or before someone can download a whitepaper or register for a webinar, and so on. Below are 3 creative tactics to grow your email list.

1. SmartPhone App: Smartphone usage across the globe has now topped one billion. Based on that number, one that continues to rise, it seems quite logical to leverage mobile devices – and specifically apps – to grow your email list. I’ve seen this done a few ways recently.

BabyCenter, an online resource for new and expectant parents, provides personalized, expert advice based on the age of your child. In addition to the content published on its site, BabyCenter also sends out weekly email newsletters to all subscribers. As you can imagine, they take email marketing pretty seriously.

When my wife was pregnant with our second child, I downloaded BabyCenter’s free “My Pregnancy Today” app. After entering in my wife’s due date, I was presented with the opportunity to opt-in to for weekly email newsletters about my (well, my wife’s) pregnancy. What I really love about this approach is that BabyCenter makes it very easy to opt-in (“only email address is required”) and they share what I’ll receive in return (“weekly newsletters about your pregnancy”).

Our son, Cal, was born on June 1st of this year. My wife and I are still subscribed to BabyCenter’s weekly email newsletter – and we read every single one!

Another company who is using smartphone apps to grow its list is Living Social. This example below shows what appeared on my iPhone while waiting for one of my Pandora stations to load. The messaging from Living Social says to opt-in to its daily email so as not to miss out on “tomorrow’s deals.” Similar to BabyCenter, the opt-in was clear, obvious, and quite simple – only email address was required!

2. QR Code: While adoption rates for QR codes are relatively slow – 9% of US adults have used a QR code in the past year according to a June 2012 eMarketer report – I still believe it is a list growth tactic worth testing.

However, if you are planning on using a QR code to drive folks to an email opt-in page, I suggest getting a bit creative. That’s exactly what Blowfish Sushi in San Francisco did when it put this poster (below) on the door of the Men’s bathroom!

Yes. Your read that correctly – a QR code on a bathroom door! I snapped this picture on my way into the Men’s room one evening.

What I love about this poster is that Blowfish Sushi nails the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). If you scan the QR code and opt-in to its email list, they’ll give you a free sake or dessert in return. Additionally, if you are one of the 91% of US adults who have not yet scanned a QR code – either because you are not sure how or your smartphone doesn’t have the ability to do so – Blowfish Sushi provides an alternate way to opt-in to its email list. Well done! (Read more about bathrooms & QR codes here)

3. SMS: If you are someone who does a lot of presentations – both online (webinars) and in person – using an SMS short code can be an effective way to grow your email list. In November, I contacted my friend Justin Mastrengelo who owns JA.TXT – an SMS marketing software application. He set me up with a SMS short code that I started using to opt folks into my email list.

It’s quite simple. The first step is to text a keyword to a 5-digit number. For my email opt-in, that means texting “WALDOW” (no quotes) to 67463.

Then, as can be seen above, I automatically send a text back asking to reply with an email address. I also mention the “Bonus.” Once the person replies with a valid email address, I send one final SMS – a thank you.

The next step is the key – and one that I see missed too often. I integrated this process with my email service provider (Infusionsoft – the same provider used by Duct Tape Marketing) – such that an automatic thank you / welcome email is sent as soon as someone opts in.

Does it work? It has been very effective so far – for me. In the month of November, 30% of my total list growth came from this SMS option. To be clear, I also presented at two live events and gave one webinar in November. So it’s important that you have opportunities – and a captive audience – in order to use the SMS tactic.

However, just because a certain list growth tactic works for one marketer does not mean it will work for you. As I advise all clients, it’s critical that you test what works best for your audience.

Have you tried one of the three creative list growth tactics above? If so, how effective were they? What other methods are you using to grow your email list? Please share in the comments below!

DJ Waldow is an email marketing consultant, writer, blogger, speaker, and co-author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Waldow Social, a company that helps clients take their email marketing programs to the next level. DJ has spent nearly 8 years in the email, social, and community-building world, advising clients on how to optimize their email marketing campaigns. DJ can be found on most social networks under the handle “djwaldow” or by searching “DJ Waldow.”DJ is an alumnus of the University of Michigan and a lover of beer, coffee & people.

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Big Changes to 5 Important Online Tools

Some of my favorite tools and services have gone through some pretty big changes recently – enough so that felt it warranted a post just to point the changes out.

The first three, Gmail, Evernote and TweetDeck, are tools I use every day to run my business. The last two, Yelp and Foursquare, are familiar rating and location tools that have morphed a bit to go after the lucrative local search market and deserve a good hard look from local small businesses.

1) User interface changes for Gmail – This is a pretty big change as far as I’m concerned and addresses a number of needed enhancements for handling mail. You can switch back and forth from the new view to the old by clicking on the new view link in the compose window.

  • Composing Messages: One thing you may notice about the new interface is the way you compose a new message. It looks similar to a Gmail chat window but a little bigger. This makes things simpler by allowing you to check old emails and saved drafts because you don’t have to leave the current page you are on to write a new email.
  • Profile Pictures: It is now much easier to keep up with who is saying what within your email threads. Your contact profile pictures now show up within a conversation.
  • Themes: New HD themes are now provided by iStockphoto. Simply choose the theme that suits you in preferences.
  • Labels and Chat: These are constantly shown in the navigation panel on the left side. You can now customize that by size as well as completely hide your chat area.
  • Search Box: Gmail’s new interface has incorporated a better search function allowing a drop-down advanced search box, which makes things much easier to locate.
  • More here

2) Evernote 5 brings new look – probably the biggest news here is the totally overhauled and more visually appealing look of Evernote.

  • Sidebar: The new Evernote 5 has implemented a left hand sidebar. With this sidebar comes a section for shortcuts that enable you to use a customized variety of notes, previous searches, tags and notebooks. Along with this you have the ability to view your tags, notebooks and latest notes.
  • Notebooks: With the new changes you can now integrate your notebooks with shared notebooks that other people have allowed you to access.
  • Note Editor: You will be able to see how many people have access to the same note you are viewing. You will see that at the very top of the note. There is also a function to shared notes updates, as they are integrated with Mountain Lion’s Notification Center. This is helpful so it won’t overwhelm you as they come in.
  • Atlas Function: Simple way to view and access your notes is using this function. It allows people to search for entries geographically.
  • Card View: This will show you text notes and images in a thumbnail preview.
  • Type-Ahead: This is a search field that finishes your inquiry with ideas from previous entries, to include saved searches, keywords, and related notebooks. You are also able to improve your searches in more detail with advanced options.
  • More here

TweetDeck

3) Tweetdeck get a long overdo facelift – Now that Twitter owns TweetDeck it has finally ushered in some enhancements.

  • Twitter Cards: You can now embed a photo or other media into a tweet with the 2.1.0 version. This makes your twitter stream appealing and attractive.
  • Font: From your settings pane, you can now change your font size. There are only three options: 13 pt.-Small, 14 pt.-Medium or 15 pt.-Large.
  • Color Scheme: You now have a choice to change your colors to the white background which has dark gray text. The links, URLs, hash tags and twitter addresses are blue, making them much easier to see.
  • Columns: You are able to add a new column and check your twitter lists from the Tweetdeck toolbar. You can decide what you would like to incorporate into your columns, like a specific tweet stream from a particular group or person, or from one of your lists, or from a search. When adding a new column Tweetdeck will come up with suggestions for that particular subject, interactions, mentions and timeline.
  • Shortcuts: The toolbar has many shortcuts to make things easier and simpler. For example, it has buttons that control the columns that will enable you to move through it seamlessly. You can also conduct a Twitter search and start a new tweet. When creating a new tweet you can add pictures and schedule that tweet for when you would like for it to go out or you can email that specific tweet. If you press ‘N’ on your keyboard you can instantly create a tweet. To send it, simply press “command” and “return” at the same time.
  • More here

4) Foursquare Business Pages

The new business pages feature allows business owners to provide status updates, post deals, special promotions, photos, message and tips to the activity feeds of loyal or repeat customers who may be in the same vicinity. It automatically updates for those customers who are where the business is located.

Additionally, when a customer searches for places in the Foursquare app or through the web, these important updates will show up in search results.

The merchant dashboard has been redesigned to where merchants can manage updates more efficiently. This also allows SEO services, social media marketers and business owners to see data on businesses with numerous locations with improved analytics.

More here

yelp

5) Yelp keeps enhancing its Local Directory

In 2012 Yelp and Bing partnered to bring Yelp’s local business content to the local search pages of Bing. With this partnership, Yelp is able to bring its photos, business qualities and reviews to Bing’s search engine with hopes of strengthening Microsoft’s attempts to be competitive with Google+ Local.

Yelp listings are used in Apple’s Siri iPhone assistant, Yext listings and in the navigation systems in BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.

Local small businesses have plenty of reasons to get more active with Yelp and other location based tools. Facebook recently revamped it’s “nearby” feature that allows people to discover businesses based on location.

More here

One thing is certain – we live in a rapidly changing world of business and technology that calls for staying on top of a never-ending stream of new and emerging tools. But, hey, that’s what I’m here for!

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