Gift Ideas For Mummy: A Brand New Way To Do Business

Get those crazy ideas flowing! Want to learn about the best gift ideas and the way you can use them to improve your personal and business life? I bet you never ever thought about life as a gift and you never considered the art of GIFT MAKING to become a mantra. A brand new approach to things, something you've definitely never read before!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Don't have a target community for your business? Create one! (Case Study)

Here's an interesting approach to how you can have a powerful market for your business by establishing with your own "hands" a target community. My post will revolve around a controversial mining venture from a place called Rosia Montana, Carpathian Mountains, Romania. As an introduction to the subject I allowed myself to quote a few lines from the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation website.

"Though little reported outside the Balkans, the Rosia Montana project is a matter of intense controversy in Romania, in neighbouring Hungary, and in Brussels where the mine is viewed by some as a test of Romania's transition from a planned to a market economy.

Much of the debate centers on the need to use cyanide to extract pure gold from the low-density, widely distribuited ore -- a method commonly used in over 400 gold mines around the globe, including Europe.

The practice requires construction of an ore-processing complex, which includes a cyanide destruction component, and a reservoir, known as a tailings dam, to capture and contain the processed rock.

In the backdrop of the Rosia Montana controversy is the specter of northern Romania's Baia Mare disaster in January 2000, when a flood caused a primitive tailings reservoir of an Australian-owned mine to breach its dam and spill into the river Tisza, a tributary of the Danube, contaminating the water all the way downstream to Hungary."

There is of course another side to this story, the one that isn't covered on the site of the Gold Corporation: several NGOs started agressively attacking the idea that the mine should be taken over and ran in the way the Gold Corporation intended to. Their claims had to do with the need to move the population, the use of cyanide in the mining process, the destruction of some Roman archeological remains and destruction caused to the enviroment (for more information on this point of view you can get more info on Wikipedia).

After studying the case for a little while I had developed my doubts about both sides of this story -- I nevertheless found a lesson to be learned in it: the reaction to the mining project also includes a movement called "Mind Bomb for Rosia Montana", a movement responsible for numerous graffiti slogans and posters in which Government officials and the Corporation itself were publicly attacked and ridiculized. A music festival was also established (Fanfest), which takes place every year in the mountains of Rosia Montana and it manages to bring together thousands of young people... and this exactly is the point I was trying to get at. The NGO's managed to make use of the rebellious nature of the kids and built an entire business around them (a very good one, as I observe). As the Corporation is working hard to counterattack, Mind Bomb organizes an even more aggressive campaign in which even the president is riduculized. Do I find this right? Absolutely not! But again, I wasn't trying to teach you morals, I simply wanted to give you an insight on how powerful a community can become - even a "hand-made" one. The NGO's managed to found a solid business around made-up ideals which brought together a powerful community consisting of thousands of devoted kids. They even managed to get free publicity out of this via the posters, graffitis, word of mouth and not to mention the enormous amount of media coverage. So there, I hope I gave you something to think about. (I do encourage you to read the full story found on the Gold Corporation website - it's an interesting read about how hard life can get for some... Makes you think about the meaning of the word "fair".)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Free internet promotion techniques reviewed (what works and what doesn't...)

It really is no secret that the WWW is evolving like crazy and the techniques used to push the count on your site is changing too. Some of the things that worked 2 years ago might not get you the job done today. Some that work just great today might become obsolete in a year or two. Keeping the pace with times is something an online entrepeneur should definitely not do without (or could, really). So let me lay out to you the things that I've found work best - and the ones that don't...

1. SEO -
Search Engine Optimization. You read it all around the web: how to make most of your meta tags, how to submit to Search Engines (like Google), which search engines you should submit to, how to submit to online directories, etc., etc. - BUT is this technique REALLY pulling in visitors? I would say, hardly! Of course, you do need to be listed in search engines (and having Google index your site is a must) but that is in order so your ALREADY faithful customers can find you again. I am not going to write about how to best fit your meta tags for optimum efficiency, you can find those kinds of articles everywhere (Google it) - I do however want to point out the fact that having a niche market to cover does get you a big advantage as far as SEO is concerned. If your meta tag reads "music, cool, mp3, free, download" you can forget about ever getting any visitors from Google. There are just so many sites ranking high with those keywords that it would be impossible for an everyday Joe to ever get his page ranked on a visible spot. If you tried "sexy music, cuddly sounds, etc." you might get a higher rank (of course, you should check out what keywords are most frequently used in a Google search before writing your tags - you could try this tool to help you with your research).

2. Webrings - I got to admit, this technique is so appealing that I always opt for inclusion in a webring once I get a new site online. So is it worth it? I think not. Maybe if you were doing a Bon Jovi fan site (or whoever), opting for a webring might be a sollution - but as far as businesses and other kinds of things are concerned... it's a big no-no. Plus, you have to put an ugly ad for the ring on your site. So no worth it!

3. Banner Exchange - If you were to do a banner exchange through a special program (like Hitjb, or whoever) you WILL see some increase in your traffic, but it is required to put a banner on your own site. And some programs only offer you a 4/3, 2/1 ratio (for every 4 visitors sent you receive 3 for ex.). There are some that offer 1/1 ratio as well... you need to look into it. However, I've found that by organizing your own banner exchange the results are much more profitable: FIND sites you want to be listed on and suggest the idea yourself. Nothing like some hands-on work to get you moving!

4. Incoming Links - Yeah, in order to rank higher in search engines and get more visitors to your site you need to find ways to convince others to link to your site. This is pretty simple really (in theory at least): you need good content! But contacting owners of other sites for the purpouse of suggesting a link-trade is a good idea as well. I might suggest offering a more modern approach to this: don't hide the links in a specially created "links" page, instead hyperlink certain words in your text. It has a much better result - we all know search engines love hyperlinks ;).

5. Press releases - Don't know how to write a press release? Well, it's definitely worth learning because it could land you more visitors than any other technique, if done correctly. Getting news sites to publish a story about your site/business/blog is absolutely brilliant publicity! People actually READ news, but HATE ads! Keep that in mind when planning your future marketing strategies. Look around the web for some sites that teach press release writing and start practicing immediately! It's an effort that will definitely pay off in the long run. Before you start writing about your boring site though I would like to mention that in order for a press release to get published it needs to have a story... a good one at that. Maybe you can start by doing something really interesting everyone would want to know about... then and ONLY then can you expect to get media coverage with your release! You need to think with the mind of a journalist on this one.

6. Articles - Writing articles for online article directories is another technique used to get more traffic to your site as you add your link in the footer (or header) of the page and when a website picks out your creation for inclusion in their own, you get free coverage. In order for this technique to really pay off you got to have something to write about, you need serious writing skills (as there are literally thousands of articles submitted to these directories every day - in order to have a chance at being published you need to have one of the best written and most interesting articles in your category - - - PLUS you really need great keywords/tags... there's that dreaded word again...). Again, I suggest doing some hands-on work to find sites you'd like to have your article posted on and contact the owner directly suggesting your idea (make sure you aren't wasting your time with sites that just simply don't have the visitors that would be interested in you and your own webpage). He/she might want you to do the same favour for them, so you'd better be prepared.

7. Newsletters, e-zines - Everywhere you look on the web you find webpages just begging you to sign up to their newsletters. Sometimes this constant nagging can get so frustrating that people get hostile when this marketing approach is suggested. However, all that nagging isn't for nothing! Having a working newsletter is fabulous marketing! Best place to advertise is the people that already like you (they must really like you if they sign up to your freaking newsletter). Getting new people "in the door" is so much harder than just keeping an eye on your present followers. If any of you have read Koetler's books on marketing, you'll come to find he suggests this approach too (in a way): easyest and best way to advertise is with your current customers - make them come back, make them buy again (if you're selling anything), just don't let the mforget about you. Now getting people to sign up to your zine is a whole new ballpark alltogether. Great content usually does the work but you could also try GIVING AWAY something for free (like an e-book, mp3-s, mousepads, coupons, whatever...) to convince people to sign up. If you have something to offer, most people won't mind giving you their email address in exchange for whatever you're giving.

8. "Click for click" services - Ok, so this might not exactly be what they're called, but they should be ;). Basically what these services offer you is "free traffic". How does it work then? You sign up, earn credits by viewing other members' sites and you allocate these credits to your own websites that you sign up to the program (credits mean views). So this means, if you have 4000 credits earned and you assign them to one of your webpages (some sites, like Mixcat, also offer banner view ads), 4000 members who are also working for credits within the program will get taken to your page. This will definitely make your counter "explode" as some of these services promise, but you might not be getting the kinds of customers you really need as all of your viewers will be other website owners trying to push their own visitors count. IMO this service is much more suitable for blogs (you could try Blogcklicker) as we bloggers tend to stick together in these things ... while viewing other blogs you find information that might interest you, stuff you want to link to (as we tend to do that a lot :P), and others might find some things interesting enough to link to your page in return.

9. Offline advertising - Definitely! The internet is such a cold place to "live" in that people tend to react much more positively to live, flesh-n-blood advertising. Printing your link on everything that "leaves your building" as the guys from Technorealm might put it is also really good advertising. Many would not think, offline advertising could actually pull in so many visitors, but it does. And they tend to be more faithfull too.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Know your customer!

I suppose I don't really have to tell you this. In order to increase your sales or push your business up the scale a few noches,
you're absolutely required to know who you're selling to, who your customers are, where they come from and why. I'm not saying
you should start advertising just everywhere to see where your customers will come from. You have to know what they wear, where
they hang out, who are their friends, what kind of family do they belong to, etc., etc. BEFORE you even spend any money on advertising. So sit down with a pencil and brainstorm the idea before we continue any further. For a successful business you need
to find the community that's right for you.

Don't advertise in the local news because that is mainly of general interest and lots of the advertising will be lost on those who just
simply don't care about you. There are so many magazines out today (for any subject really) that it would be hard NOT to find one
that targets your potential customers. Once you locate these magazines, you can get a heck of a brain-push by periodically reading them yourself. Getting into your clients skin, if you wish... Also there are so many websites out there that it would be a sin not to use some of their power to your advantage. Be careful with your money, throwing it out the window is so not what you want to do right now... or ever.

Once you've located your niche market and unique community of costumers you want to get them talking about your business. People tend to love businesses who are willing to think of their customers before they think of the business. Try giving something for free (with maybe your sales pitch imprinted on), something they can find very useful and maybe even KEEP - maybe talk about to others and HAND IT ON. Now isn't that viral marketing at it's peak?

Should you locate your target audiance, get in their skin and know them inside out. Then give them something useful. Something associated with what keeps them together, the very thing that makes them a community. Of course, you could sell them these products, but you'll have a much harder time. By giving away something very useful you get them on your side. They'll love you for it. And that is very good business, my friends!

Let's talk about self promotion!

Fake smiles, heathen networking, boring coctail parties:
waste of precious time and energy - for what? Money going down the drains... that's what! Is this the way you imagined YOUR life? Is this what you like to do in your free time? Is this REALLY doing any good for your business?! Any good for your family? Didn't think so...

So let's just approach things in a different manner for a second: why bother doing it the boring way, when it can be fun? Why on Earth would you want to torment your future partners and yourself with useless parties, all kinds of expensive drinks and food and whatnot? No matter what they told you in business school, if it's not humain, it's not good for business. It is that simple. People tend to like their free time, like to be left alone once in a while. Create an atmposphere where potential business partners can have a good time or at least feel confortable and your business will improve in leaps.

So how do you incorporate the "Ideas For Mummy" approach in this situation? Let me explain:

1. Forget about brochures! Forget about coctail parties and all the fine tuned strategic approaches your marketing people keep pushing on you (or your own ideas about what people might like to see in a business). Instead implement newsletters, short ones - but make them to the point, and appealing! - instead of wasting your time on organizing stylish (and expensive) events, work on creating a quality newsletter. Send them out once in a while to your partners or customers with the hottest information. Make the newsletter a fun read and they will be awaiting your latest info every single week. Organize the layout so it is easily readable and pleasant to look at. Show signs of proffesionalism in every aspect of your work, that is what actually MAKES an image.

2. Some of your clients/partners not really reading your newsletter? Against all the work you've put in it, you're still not happy about the way your top partners are responding? Print out some postcards (they're cheaper - don't forget to make them look good though!) and send them out. You can even include some gifts they might enjoy. But keep it professional! And appealing! And again: make it a fast read! Time is the absolute gift you could make your partners and clients. Rob them of that, and they'll hate you for it...

3. Get your name through to your top partners and potencial partners or customers by branding yourself in publications they might be reading. Both on- and offline media coverage is crucial to build your image in the eyes of the world (and the people you want to do business with).

4. Make quality products! It is the ultimate image builder! "A Good Product Makes It's Own Publicity". Now isn't that the truth?! Of course, you should always try and push people into spreading the word about you and your business but the main idea is that this will work a lot better if you actually have something to offer...

5. Make friends! Forget about trying to hook up with the kinds of people you hate or the ones that really can't stand you or your business. In order for a long-term relationship to develop (and you need that for a working business) surround yourself with people you feel confortable with. This goes for co-workers as well. A man needs his dose of motivation to drive down to work every morning. A group of friends waiting for you there is a good enough start.

6. Be a model citisen! The community is highly appreciative of those who aren't afraid to give. I'm not talking about your home town, Joe's diner or stuff like that (of course, those things aren't necessarily excluded) - I'm talking about the communities (online/offline) that have something to do with what your business is about. Look how hated greedy companies are and how adored are the ones with a giving attitude. Think of some ways to give something to the community and you'll discover that you've made the best business move in a long while. Make it a quality "gift" and your name will spread like wildfire. That's a fact!