You’ve no doubt seen them: direct response TV (DRTV) commercials, or infomercials, which normally run 30 minutes and try to convince you that your life just won’t be the same if you don’t call now and order. Short form ads, which normally run one to two minutes, have the same objective – just in a shorter time frame.
While some may be annoyed by them, they are powerful sales tools driving an enormous industry that can teach almost any business how to sell effectively no matter what medium is being used.
Here we’ve listed just some of the tips you can apply to your business to boost sales – feel free to add more in the comments section below.
- Demonstrate your product or service. No matter what you’re selling, show how it works and how it can benefit someone. Try posting a video on your site and/or YouTube or similar sites. This will boost viewer engagement and enhance your sales message.
- Use testimonials. This will add enormous credibility. Use full names and company names if applicable, and possibly a photo of the person. Feature them in any video you use.
- Incorporate upsells into your offerings. Keep advertised price points low (perhaps spread into payments) and offer an upgraded, more expensive version or package deal when the customer takes action to order. This is where most of the money in DRTV is made. If just 10 percent of responders upgrade, for example, this can mean an enormous boost in revenue and potential profits. This can be done not just for phone orders but during the checkout process online, where customers are prompted with a special offer.
- Send offers to your in-house list. Keep customers in the loop with more offers later on. They may buy a much more expensive product (or place a larger order) once you’ve built trust. It’s best to use opt-ins and opt-outs so you’re not sending unwanted communications.
- Be enthusiastic. Stand behind your product or service and make sure it shows. Enthusiasm conveys emotion, such as the joy someone will experience by using the item.
- Fulfill basic needs and wants. Whether it’s to lose weight or help a child learn better in school, your offering should solve a common problem quickly and easily backed by a promise (such as a strong guarantee). Just be sure the offering lives up to its claims.
- Use repetition. You’ll normally hear the same information repeated several times during an infomercial. Within reason, repeating ads and offer details reinforces the sales message and motivates someone to buy.
- Use time-sensitive offers. Whether it’s the first 100 responders or “we only have a limited quantity available” or another tactic, this motivates the potential buyer to take action now rather than wait and be much less likely to order. Woot has made highly effective use of this technique by offering one new item per day only while supplies last or until another item is offered the next day.
- Know when to say when. If someone indicates they’re not interested in an upsell, for example, don’t try to push the offering further. You might be able to sell them through followup contacts later.
- Offer multiple ways to order. DRTV commercials often include a web address and sometimes a way to order via mobile, and even a regular mailing address in addition to a phone number. Give buyers as many ways to order as possible regardless of the medium used so they can take action in the way they’re most comfortable with.
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About the Author: David Cotriss is a business, technology and new media writer, having published 500+ news and feature articles to date worldwide in magazines ranging from PC Magazine to The Industry Standard.
One of the neat things about being a small business owner is how creative you can be in your marketing efforts. Earlier this week, local search expert Chris Silver Smith shared yet another long tail search opportunity for SMB owners using Google Custom Maps to try and attract new eyeballs. And it’s actually kind of fun!
A few years ago, Google introduced My Maps, which allowed users to create personalized maps with their own placemarks and area information. It was part of the UGC crazy and allowed people to make maps for virtually anything they found interesting. Once created, map owners could build them out and optimize them by adding descriptive text, photos and video and then share them with others on the Web.
They’re fun. But how can a small business owner taken advantage?
According to Chris, these maps are more than just fun. They’re a great long tail search tactic.
Because of the nature by which most people search, if optimized correctly these custom Maps can receive a LOT of traffic. I moved to Troy, NY a year ago. And when I got here I would often search directly within Google Maps to find local establishments. Google Maps and Yelp was how I found coffee shops with wifi, a salon to get my hair cut, places to eat, etc. I’m not the only one taking advantage of Google’s Search Nearby functionality. Lots of people do it. And if you can hit on something with a large search volume, Google will display your UGC map right along with the regular map results.
Take a look at a search for Catalina Island, CA.
Google is also showing UGC maps on the newly-launched Google Place Pages. And if you’ve filled out a Google Profile, you can drive traffic back to your main site by including a link in your profile.
So how can SMB owners take advantage?
Think of a value-add map that you could create to highlight local areas. Maybe you can create a map of the best date spots in your town, highlighting your restaurant. Or if you’re an independent theater, how about the best places to see a movie? Or the best pumpkin picking spots in your areas? Or all the vendors in town you’d need to plan a wedding?
Often being helpful and creating something that betters the community is an excellent way to brand yourself as an expert in a certain area and expose you to more customers. Because you get to completely fill out (and optimize) the content located within all the Google Maps info bubbles, you’ll also benefit from having more content in Google. Use the keywords that people would be searching for in Google Maps in order to find you, but also think outside the box a bit.
Once you have your idea, create your map following the super easy instructions below:
- Go to Google Maps
- Click My Maps
- Click Create new map.
- Add a title and description for your map.
- Decide whether the map should be public or unlisted. Public maps are automatically included in Google Maps search.
- Use the icons in the top left corner of the map. These include:
- Selection tool. Use this to drag the map and select placemarks, lines and shapes.
- Placemark tool. Use this to add placemarks.
- Line tool. Use this to draw lines.
- Shape tool. Use this to draw shapes.
Being a small business owner gives you a license to be creative and creating custom Maps is super easy. Use it to your advantage!
Every two weeks we compile a list of contests and awards for small businesses, startups, freelancers and entrepreneurs that we think you might want to check out. Competitions, awards and contests can be a way to get PR visibility, products, services and/or funding to help your business grow. This listing is brought to you as a community service, by Small Business Trends and Smallbiztechnology.com.
FreedomVOICE Small Business Tip Contest
Enter by: October 20, 2009
Win an HP Mini 110-1012NR XP Edition 10.1″ Widescreen Netbook Computer. To enter your small business tip in the FreedomVOICE Small Business Tip Contest, simply post the small business tip as a blog comment. Business tips must be less than 200 words and should be geared towards businesses with 50 employees or less.
Name Ventureneer’s new Video
Enter by: October 23, 2009
Ventureneer is reaching out to the small business community for help naming their just-released video. Exercise your creativity, have fun, and earn a $100 American Express Gift Card. They are looking for a creative name that captures the spirit of this new video. The best name gets the big prize. Prizes will also be given to five runners-up. Submit your entry to name the video, by emailing it to contest(at)ventureneer.com by October 23, 2009. The winners will be announced on October 30.
Elance Contest: What Does “The New Way To Work” Mean To You?
Enter by: December 7, 2009
This contest from Elance is a chance for contract professionals to show the world their best stuff and win a grand prize of $10,000. If you’re a writer, write a story that tells how you are a part of the “new way to work”. If you’re a graphic designer, design something. Developer? Create an app. Finalists will be chosen by December 7, 2009. Rules and entry instructions are on the Elance blog.
NYC BigApps Competition
Enter by: 5:00pm EST December 8, 2009
The NYC BigApps Competition will reward the developers of the most useful, inventive, appealing, effective, and commercially viable applications for delivering information from the City of New York’s NYC.gov Data Mine to interested users. Winners will be chosen for best overall application — including a grand prize — as well as an investor’s choice winner, a data visualization winner and city talent winner. In addition, the public will be able to choose their own “popular choice” winners through NYCBigApps.com. All the winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in January and will receive a total of $20,000 in cash prizes plus dinner with Mayor Bloomberg. The competition is open to individuals, start-up companies and nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees.
If you are putting on a small business contest, award or competition, and want to get the word out to the community, please email the details to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find other small business awards, contests, competitions and grants, visit our Small Business Events Calendar. Please note: ALWAYS read contest rules carefully.
From Small Business Trends
The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff
Not since “Groundswell” has there been such a thorough compilation of history, information and actual strategic advice on how to leverage the power of social media for your business.
“The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, and Sell More Stuff” is the latest book I received, authored by Clara Shih. And it is amazing.
I know, I sound excited about this book. Let me tell you why. Often authors or publishers send me books. It’s not uncommon for books to show up on my doorstep a couple times a week. I take the books that come and put them on a rather large pile in my office. I read them and then write reviews of the ones that I think you guys will appreciate the most.
As you know, I’ve reviewed several social media books that I’ve recommended for the beginner previously here. But all those beginner level books left me wondering about the rest of us.
What about those of us who have embraced social media and just wanted a little more meat … a little more history … a little more guidance about how to leverage these powerful tools in our business? Well, this week I’ve chosen “The Facebook Era” to answer that question.
The first thing I did was check out the back of the book for a little something about the author. At this point, I wasn’t sure if the book was for beginners or intermediates. Here’s what I found.
Clara Shih, the author, actually created Faceconnector, the first business application on Facebook. Clara is founder and CEO of Hearsay Labs, which helps brands convert their Twitter and Facebook presence into actionable engagement opportunities and measurable sales. She was also the product line director of App Exchange, the Salesforce.com marketplace and she knows her stuff. As if that wasn’t enough credibility, she’s also worked in strategy and business operations at Google and as a software developer at Microsoft. On the book jacket she invites you to follow her on Twitter and read her blog at The Facebookera.com.
OK. So now I’m getting excited. I head straight for the table of contents to see exactly what kind of stuff is in there. HOLY COW – this isn’t a business book, it’s almost like a text book! The table of contents takes up three pages and it’s got little teeny writing! Now I know I am going to get good substantive information.
The book comes in three parts:
Part I: A Brief History of Social Media.
Normally I wouldn’t be all that interested in this section, but when you consider the life experience of the author, how can you not want to read this part? Personally, I love to know and understand how things are made. I mean, I can get completely engrossed in a show about how they make Oreo cookies – so I ate this section up.
Part II: Transforming the Way We Do Business.
I wasn’t initially as excited about this section, but that was before I started reading it. There are chapters about transforming the Sales Cycle where Clara helps you to understand in more detail about how you can use social media as a sort of CRM (Customer Relationships Management) system. Then the rest of the section gets into the nitty gritty details about such things as hypertargeting; the ability of Facebook to literally drill down into demographic segments like you never dreamed was possible. I could go on, but I have another section to tell you about.
Part III: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Using Facebook for Business.
And FINALLY, the section we’ve all been waiting for… how to actually use Facebook for business. I know, there are exactly 972,000 articles out there (as of this writing) with the exact phrase match of “How to use Facebook for Business.” But this is written by the woman who practically invented it. Shouldn’t we just read that section and be done with it? She tells you exactly how to engage customers, get your message across, build and manage relationships as well as corporate governance and strategy.
Just the other day I was involved in a tweet chat where people started asking for resources on how to develop a social media strategy for their business. I didn’t want to spill the beans then – but I will tell you the answer now. Pick up your copy of “The Facebook Era” and get a higher education on how to use Facebook for business.
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About the Author: Ivana Taylor is CEO of Third Force, a strategic firm that helps small businesses get and keep their ideal customer. She’s the co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers” and proprietor of DIYMarketers, a site for in-house marketers. Her blog is Strategy Stew.
From Small Business Trends
Can the government help spur entrepreneurship and business growth? Apparently they think the can—the Department of Commerce just formed the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, as well as a National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The new Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship will report to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke:
“We’re not lacking for groundbreaking ideas in this country; nor are we short on smart entrepreneurs willing to take risks,” Locke said in announcing the initiatives. “What we need to do is get better at connecting the great ideas to the great company builders. I think The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a big step in the right direction.”
The National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship will include entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, leaders of nonprofit organizations and other experts. The Council will advise the Commerce Department on policies related to small businesses and will encourage dialogue between Commerce and the small-business community.
In its launch announcement the Department of Commerce said that the mission of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is “to unleash and maximize the economic potential of new ideas by removing barriers to entrepreneurship and the development of high-growth and innovation-based businesses. Working closely with the White House and other federal agencies, this new office will drive policies that help entrepreneurs translate new ideas, products and services into economic growth.”
The new office will concentrate on six key areas:
1. encouraging entrepreneurs through education, training and mentoring;
2. improving access to capital;
3. accelerating technology commercialization of federal research and development;
4. strengthening interagency collaboration and coordination;
5. providing data, research and technical resources for entrepreneurs; and
6. exploring policy incentives to support entrepreneurs and investors.
Additional initiatives will be announced in the coming months.
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About the Author: Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America ’s entrepreneurs for nearly 30 years. Follow her on Twitter @Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily to read more of her insights on small business and to buy her newest book, Startup 101: Quick Tips for Starting a Business.
From Small Business Trends
An interesting new study shows that social media still can’t get no respect in the workplace. According to a study by Robert Half Technologies, 54 percent of CIOs prohibit any social media use in the office. That’s a serious number.
Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology (IT) professionals on a project and full-time basis, conducted phone surveys of more than 1,400 CIOs from companies across the United States who employ at least 100 employees. CIOs were asked one question:
Which of the following most closely describes your company’s policy on visiting social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, while at work?
Prohibited completely: 54%
Permitted for business purposes only: 19%
Permitted for limited personal use: 16%
Permitted for any type of personal use: 10%
Don’t know/no answer: 1%
I have to admit, in the age of Zappos, Comcast and Dell, I was a bit surprised to learn that more than half of CIOs have banned social media inhouse. Executive Director of Robert Half Technology Dave Willmer noted that the reason for the ban may be due to social media’s tendency to “divert employees’ attention” away from pressing work priorities in favor of communicating with friends. He’s right. It probably does to some degree. But it can also be an incredible customer retention and sales tool. And frankly, the folks misusing social media are probably the same ones checking email all day. If that’s the reason you’re shying away from social media, you’re not competing in today’s world.
Something that also caught my eye was the division between using social media for business use vs using it for personal use. Because they’re pretty much the same thing. The goal behind social media is to make your business personal. And if you don’t understand that, you’re going about it the wrong way.
This sentiment was also noted in a post by Heidi Miller where she shows how social media isn’t about the companies. It’s about the people behind them. Comcast isn’t on Twitter. Frank Eliason is. All the Dell representatives you meet have actual names and faces. We get the tidbits of their lives right along with the company agenda. That’s what people fall in love with. It’s the people behind these companies that make them interesting and make customers engaged and want to do business with them. By trying to separate business from personal, you lose a lot of that sentiment. You take the heart out of it.
I think in the next few years, we’re going to see social media being more and more accepted into the workplace. Truth is, there’s no greater customer relations tool out there.
The survey also offered some tips for protecting your professional reputation while on social media, including:
- Know what’s allowed
- Use caution
- Keep it professional
- Stay positive
- Polish your image
- Monitor yourself
I think it’s about talking to employees, instilling responsibility in their words and tweets, educating them on how to use social media correctly, but then also giving them room to be human. No one is positive all the time. No one is that polished. I don’t think employers should be leashing every single one of their employees into the world of social media, but there is a solid place for it and simply banning it from the workplace is not the way to go about it. Educate; don’t lag behind.
From Small Business Trends
Hackings have increased in recent years – by one count, 161% last year.
In that kind of environment, website hosting can be a sore topic for small business people. If a website gets hacked, your hosting company typically says ‘we’ll help you fix it.’ But if it happens again, the hosting company may think your account has become too much work for too little money. You could be asked to pack up your website and find another hosting company. So on top of the inconvenience and shock of getting hacked, you’re suddenly “out on the street.”
As a business owner you may not even have thought much about security, assuming your hosting company takes care of it. Ah, but you’re probably wrong.
You must pay extra for proactive security monitoring and protection. At most hosting companies that’s expensive.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Chris Drake, the CEO of Firehost. Firehost is a Plano, Texas hosting company whose difference is that they provide security monitoring and protection to ALL their managed accounts – standard. Not just to the big corporate accounts that pay many thousands of dollars a month, but also to their small business accounts.
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month here in the United States. In honor of that, I would thought it would be fitting to profile a company this month that is proactively looking out for its customers’ website security. So I had a long interview with Chris Drake on why his company is different – and what that means for small businesses.
The key takeaway from my interview is that Firehost actively blocks hackers to prevent intrusions on the websites that Firehost hosts.
Drake explained that there are two ports that a website gets visited on: port 80 and 443. Firewalls have to leave those ports open for a website to be viewable. Firehost provides a web application firewall that monitors all traffic over port 80 and 443. Firehost actually blocks traffic that meets certain activity signatures. This cartoon illustrates it:
“In our opinion, proactive security should be part of the managed hosting mix,” he says.
The company does continual research to stay ahead of hackers. One of the ways they do that is by luring in hackers, so that FireHost can watch and learn how to prevent attacks. Per Drake, “We put out a honey pot — a computer that is outside our network — and we let hackers go after it. We see what they are doing. That way we sharpen our knives. That honey pot allows us to catch bees. We’re on the bleeding edge on knowing what the attack scenarios are.”
Drake says secure hosting was a stumbled-upon business for them, “arising out of our roots as a Web application development company. Sixty percent (60%) of attacks are at the application level [i.e., they break in through your software]. Our first website we hosted was Qualcomm – we’ve been providing enterprise hosting as a development firm for a while. That’s how we learned about hosting security. Then we looked at how we could take security and provide it to small businesses.”
I asked how Firehost could afford to provide this security for small businesses, and what their business model was. According to Drake, providing secure hosting reduces customer turnover. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn that security is very sticky.”
Still, as he says, “Security engineers and equipment do not come cheap. But the model of most high-end secure hosts is that the equipment is yours. We share the equipment and security level among customers,” gaining economies of scale. “We also save time and costs on support by not having to deal with customers who have been hacked.”
Firehost is so confident of their ability to keep out hackers, that they actually welcome high profile websites that are targets for hackers. One such website is that of Kevin Mitnick – once the most wanted computer hacker in the U.S.
Mitnick — now a public speaker, author and security consultant who tests the security of business information to find vulnerabilities – originally hosted his website with a friend’s company. But after multiple hackings, his friend could not afford to keep dealing with the aftermath. It was costing his company too much money. So Mitnick was asked to leave. That’s when he went to Firehost.
Mitnick’s site is a target for hackers – but it’s a misplaced target, he says. “I don’t host my own servers. I want an air gap between public servers and my internal network. That is why I decided to use a third party Web server. I don’t have anything confidential on the Web server. A lot of people want to prove they can hack my site, but they are not breaking into my computer … it is really a hosting company’s computer.”
Hosting with a third party, he goes on, “is a cheaper alternative for my business than managing it in-house. Still, I want to ensure that the hosting company managing my Web server is secure — for myself, and because that is the business I am now in.”
From Small Business Trends
5 Ways to Get Your Customers Talking
This content from: Duct Tape Marketing
Word of mouth marketing is considered by many to be the most desired form of marketing. The trust, referrals, and overall brand building buzz that’s garnered by customers spreading the good word to prospects is worth its weight in gold. Some products, services, and experiences naturally produce chatter, but there are certainly things that any company can do to stimulate word of mouth and cash in on the buzz.
Here are five way to get your customers talking about you and your organization:
1) Ask them – the best word of mouth starts with “word of listen.” Call your customers up and ask them why they buy, why they stick around, and why they tell their friends about you. You might be a bit surprised by their answers. Hint: it’s usually not the stuff you have in your new marketing brochure. You stand a far greater chance of attracting the right customers and the right buzz if you really understand what your current customers value about doing business with you. This goes for online and social media listening as well – what are they saying in chat rooms, blog comments and on twitter?
2) Teach them – sometimes great word of mouth just happens, but sometime you’ve got to help it along. One way to do this is to make sure you are teaching your customers how to spot an ideal client, what a prospect in need might say when looking for your products, and how to properly and concisely describe how your company in different. Of course, in today’s hyper social media world you should also be teaching your happiest customers how to write reviews on Yelp, Insider Pages and CitySearch type rating sites.
3) Include them – People like to be asked what they think, it’s just human nature, but it’s also a great way to get some sound advice. Create a round table discussion group made up of select customers and charge them with advising you once a quarter or so on new marketing and business initiatives. (Reward them for this in some way as well.) This can include advising on everything from a product extension to the look and feel of your web site redesign. Members of your marketing round table will become natural ambassadors for the brand. (You can do this with simple video chat meetings – tinychat)
4) Star them – Letting a customer testimonial or success story go uncaptured or untold is downright criminal in WOM circles. Go out and get a TouchMic MityMic to record customer testimonials to your iPod or get a Flip video camera and start doing video interviews with customers to record their success stories. These “real life” bits of content are gold and turn your featured customers into talking referral billboards for your brand. Want to take this idea up a notch? Hold a customer party and film a dozen or so at one time in a great atmosphere – this alone will get your customers talking.
5) Surprise them - I like to think I saved the best for last – few things get people talking faster than surprising them. This can include doing something that was out of the blue and much appreciated to just giving them more than they bargained for. I remember a PR firm that was pitching me some business and the account rep showed up to meet with an apple pie (I’m still talking about it.) I once worked with a financial planner that hired a mobile auto detail firm to detail his customer’s cars during their annual review – that created some buzz.
Bottom line of course is that you’ve got to do good work, do something that somebody appreciates, and create an experience worth talking about, but then, prime the pump and leverage all that greatness.
Image credit: rego
Say No to More Referrals
This content from: Duct Tape Marketing
About the time I really started to wrap my head around this notion of narrowing your target market focus to a certain type of client and certain type of work I could identify as ideal, a funny thing happened that sealed the deal on this strategy. (The first time you turn down work is a bit scary, but the payoff long term is so worth it.)
I got a call from a prospective client that was ready to hire me based on the advice of a friend of a friend. We chatted briefly and agreed to meet. I was following my lead conversion process so I presented what I knew, asked about his pain, and told him how I worked. He nodded, agreed, and said, “that’s great, but here’s what I really want you to do.” There was a time when I would have said to myself, “OK, I mean, how hard could it be and he said he would pay me, right?” In this case, I said, I may not be the right person for what you need, but I think I know someone who could help you. At first he was caught a bit off guard, but I agree to stay in touch and sent him several contacts I thought could help.
But, here’s where it got good. About a week later I get a call from a colleague of the former prospect who says, “Bill told me about what you do and how he really liked your honest approach and style – I think we should work together.” And then it happened again, and then again. This one “no” turned into three perfect long-term engagements. I took note of the power of saying no the right way, never again attracted the wrong kind of work, and saw referrals go through the roof.
Now, referrals increased in part because of my stick to it, authentic, we can’t help everyone approach, but the real referral momentum came about because of the focus on attracting clients I knew I could be successful helping and knew would value what I had to offer – nailing these two elements will lead to referral business faster than you can ask for it!
Wrap your brain around the exact type of prospect, problem, engagement or solution you know you can deliver to a prospect in need and tell the world yes I can help you if you fit and no I can’t help you if you don’t fit with equal conviction and watch the side buzz from both groups help you grow your business.
Using Technology to Co-Create Value
This content from: Duct Tape Marketing
I’ve said on numerous occasions that technology and social media pay the largest dividends for small business when employed to co-create value for all involved. In other words, an innovative use of technology that increases the value for both the business and its customers – Even better if it increases human engagement too!
I recently had the opportunity to visit with personal image consultant Joanna Van Vleck and I think she has created a pretty fine example of just such an innovation.
Van Vleck consults with men on their wardrobes, hair and overall style. She found that while her clients loved working with her, they hated being dragged into stores to try on clothes – keep in mind these are all men. On one occasion a client suggested using a web cam instead. He would buy the stuff on his own and consult with her about what worked with what didn’t via video conference. At first Van Vleck found the idea a bit odd, but somewhere along the way she discovered a brilliant innovation.
Today the Truck Club, a business she founded to take advantage of the video consulting technology, helps men around the globe not have to do something they hate – go shopping. (By the way, that’s the surest way to create a meaningful innovation) The Trunk Club concept is pretty simple – When you need something to wear you get in touch with your Trunk Club Expert, they pick out clothes based on style, need and budget and send them to your home or office. You try them on and get advice via video conference and pay for and keep only what you want. By the way, during our interview she shared that her little idea is poised to do around $3mil in its first year.
Van Vleck is a wonderful example of what a successful entrepreneur looks and acts like – enjoy her advice and her energy.