How Radar Can Improve Your Business

February 29, 2008

This is a guest post by Barbara Swafford of Blogging Without a Blog.

Image by The Art Guy

Most businesses are started with one great idea. We go for it, and put all of our eggs into one basket.

In reality, this can work…for awhile.

But, what happens when the economy takes a turn, your products/services lose their demand, or you get bored? Do you have another income source?

If not, financial ruin could result.

That’s where diversification comes in.

Being a story teller, I’ll share a small snippet of what we learned.

Years ago we started an excavation business. Knowing we could be shut down in the winter months due to snow, we incorporated snow removal into our plan. We later added mainline testing and wood recycling. Often, when one phase of the business was slow, other parts were not. Diversification kept the cash flowing, the jobs coming, and provided constant work for our employees.

If you have a store front, think beyond the obvious reason customers are coming in.

A gift shop sells gifts. A customer is coming in to find a gift (dah). Most likely, they will take the gift home, wrap it, and attach a card.

Add cards, wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, scissors and tape to your gift shop inventory. Consider offering a wrapping service for a small fee. Offer free wrapping with a purchase over $xx.xx. Expand this service to include wrapping items not purchased in your store, charging more, of course. The holidays could bring in tons of business. The key is to have beautiful paper, ribbons and bows. Make a statement, so others will ask “Where did you get that from?”

Take a Starbucks store for example. When you think Starbucks, you think coffee. But if you go into one of their stores, they offer bakery items, cups, prepackaged coffee, thermos bottles, candy, gift packs, and special blends (beans or ground).

A store front IT business could sell a small assortment of office supplies, or if you have a favorite brand of printer, consider becoming a dealer/distributor. Expand your services by offering the installation of upgrades. Set up an account files to notify customers when a new product is introduced to the market. Become a “computer doctor” who does house calls - not just for businesses, but for individuals as well.

A plumbing repair service could offer a small selection of faucets, shower heads, and hoses. Catherine, who works from home, could have an online store to which she could refer her customers. Also, when her employees go out on a service call, they could stock a few classic pieces in their vans, and offer to install a new one, if the old one is beyond repair. This could eliminate return service calls, saving time and money.

By analyzing your current business, there are many ways to add on sales, and/or to offer additional services.

We need to think like a customer. Make your business a “one stop shop”.

Most people are pressed for time.

Be prepared to give them what they need, even before they know they need it.

Use your radar.

Do you have a business you are trying to diversify?

Need help?

Leave a comment and let’s brainstorm.

You can read more great articles by Barbara at Blogging Without A Blog .

The Secret Ingredient of Online Business Success

February 8, 2008

Secret Ingredients Business

When you’re starting an online business, it would be useful to know why some online businesses die and others are successful wouldn’t it?

The following online businesses are successful because they contain a secret ingredient. Can you guess what it is?

You Tube
Trip Advisor
Stumble Upon

People Power

It’s People Power

These are all great online businesses and they have many strengths, but what makes them stand out is people power. Each of them encourages lots of customer interaction, and they also do things to ensure that customers talk about them.

So how do they do it? Here’s a few things they do, and I bet you can think of many more:

What They Do That Involves People Power

Amazon: Customers review products and compile lists of favourites. The following resources encourage customers to recommend amazon to their friends: Associate programs, amazon stores to resell their own books, wishlists.

Zazzle: Customers design their own products and interact in the forums. They can also create their own stores and there is an associate program. All these things encourage customers to tell their friends. They’ll tell friends who want to earn money about the design and stores and they’ll tell prospective purchasers about their online store.

You Tube: Customers can make and upload their own videos free of charge and comment and rate other videos. Those who have uploaded videos tell others about them. And viewers share videos they enjoy with others, by linking to them from their websites, blogs, myspace profiles etc.

Trip Advisor: As with Amazon, the key to Trip Advisors success is the customer reviews. They also have forums where customers can interact and share travel advice. Go lists encourage customers to share places they’ve travelled with others.

Ebay: Customers can sell their own products at auction or in a store and rate other sellers and ratings by other customers encourage people to buy. They can interact through forums and blogs. Both sellers and buyers tell others about Ebay, because more buyers and sellers make it a better experience for everyone.

Stumble Upon:
Customers can rate web pages and share favourites with friends, join groups and interact through forums. And once again, the more like minded people they encourage to join, the better the StumbleUpon experience is.

Can you see how this works?

Most people love the opportunity to give their own opinion. And when you’re looking for reviews online, which do you trust more - the reviews of customers, or the reviews of the business actually selling the product?

And any online business which encourages customers to spread the word has a huge potential for success. If the experience is enhanced by more people joining, there is more chance that your customers will spread the word. Forums have always worked well. A busy forum is a successful one, so people encourage their friends to join.

And online businesses that allow customers to make and sell their own stuff, or show it off (You Tube) will always do well, because customers will tell their friends.

So, Here’s The Next Challenge

After you’ve completed part 1 in the series: 7 Must Do’s Before Starting An Online Business, begin thinking of ways that you can use people power in your own online business. How can you get customers to interact and also tell others about you?

This post is part of a series inspired by a request from Dawn at Iowahippiechick Blog. Don’t forget to subscribe to read the next part in the series: The Recipe.

Image by Photopia

Want to learn more about how to build a successful business? Click here to subscribe in a reader. It’s free.

7 Must Do’s Before Starting An Online Business

February 7, 2008

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar

Do you want to start an online business? Don’t make the mistake of trying to come up with a great idea first. To build a successful online business, you need to discover what potential customers want first. And here’s a few ways to do this:

1) Make a List Of Your Interests: Your chances of online success are much better if you choose a topic or area you’re passionate about, or interested in learning.

2) Find Others Who Share The Same Interests: Discover where others hang out who share the same passions and join them. You can find them in forums, blogs and social networking groups.

3) Start Your Own Blog Or Discussion Forum:
Start your own blog or discussion forum in your area of interest. Then once you’ve identified the needs of your visitors, you’ll already have potential customers for your online business, right on your doorstep.

4) Identify the Needs of The Community: Ask questions and observe the questions asked by others. What problems and needs do they have? Is there already a solution to their problem? Can it be improved on? How?

Internet Map
Image by adactio

5) Make Notes: Write down the problems and needs your community have. What solutions are currently offered by other online businesses? Search for them on the Internet and make notes. Do they offer good solutions? Can they be improved upon? How?

6) Walk and Talk: Don’t just restrict your research to the Internet. Explore your town. What products and services can you find that would be better offered online? Speak to family and friends. Have they felt disappointed by a business they’ve used recently? Why? How could it have been improved.

7) Explore:
Research. Once you’ve gathered the information above check to see whether other businesses already offer what you plan to provide online. Make a list of their strengths and weaknesses. What would you do differently?

This is a series of posts inspired by Dawn who asked me if I could write a step by step guide to starting an online business.

Do you have any questions? Or do you have anything to add? What other research could you do before starting an online business?


Further Reading

107 Resources To Unleash The Entrepreneur Within You

Want To Get Rich Quick? 7 Reasons Why It’s Dangerous
Teenager Turns Down Offer of $2.5 Million For Her Business

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