Save Your Bottom Line – Lower Costs, Increase Customers

Business Growth Solutions, Money Saving Ideas

Needs Must Outweigh Wants

While it always important to keep focus and find out and become what your customers need, not just what they want – that has not been so true for many of today’s business owners.

With a large percentage of current businesses never before having faced a recession, at least not from the helm of a company, it is very important to focus in on the things your customers need.  People will eliminate wants – not needs.

How do you elevate from a want to a need?  Good question…and the answer is coming up…be sure you know what services or products you provide that none of your competitors do.  This is your niche, and adds value to you – taking you up from want to need.  Then, be sure to address the things your competitors don’t.  You can bring not only the clients who need your services, but those who need better service or goods than they are getting down the cyber or real street.  Finally, be sure to use language and present value as a need, not as a want.  Show your clients how you – and you alone – fulfill a space they would be hurt without.  Something they don’t want to give up.  Something they will hang on to as long as possible.

Times may be tougher than we’ve had in awhile, and costs are surely rising.  However, this doesn’t mean doomsday and apocalyptic choas are on the horizon…bury down in your niche and claim your space – and you’ll be there to thrive when the economic climate turns warm and sunny again.

September 4, 2008 Posted by | Articles and Advice | , , | Leave a comment

Choosing Inferior Domain Names Can Ruin an Online Business

A website by any other name, would not be so sweet….or so says the cyber-bard.  Many times when we’re picking a site url, we fall prey to classic mistakes – here are the most common – and how to avoid them:

1. Buy a .net instead of a .com – and you will most likely send more than 15% of your potential repeat busineess to the .com – most likely a huge competitor.

2.  Not buying the .net, .org, .info, etc of your own name – to protect it on down the line.  Serious online businesses should own all, and all should point to the .com.

3. Using a number in your domain name, such as FreeAdvice4Life, but not purchasing the address.

3. Keep it short and sweet – urls of less than 7 letters or digits work well.  Others are very forgetable.  Phone numbers are 7 digits for a reason – and the world isn’t getting any better at paying attention to details or retention.
3.5  Begin to branch out to other countries with a name that doesn’t translate well.  Nothing worse than being an url that gains traction here and then becoming a whole new entity in another country – it is, after all, the world wide web.

4.  Using two different names – one for your company – one for the web address.  Consultants R Us as the name, then as the web address…or worse yet – with hyphens

5. Getting too close to the bone on a new name – or too closely emulating a trademarked name with cache value – and a large legal department.  Doing so can crush a young company.  Just when you gain momentum, they notice you – and you go away.

6. Trying to come up with a word without a current meaning and then expecting people to recall it without spending millions on new ads. 

7. Forgeting that a name online has to “paint a picture” – Sam’s Bikes On Main doesn’t work online.  Trying for something that is online oriented works much better than simply transfering a brick-n-mortar name to the internet.

8.  Buy only the singular or plural of or – try for both and stop sending your clients to the competition.

9. Working on a new company name without first checking for the url availability.  There is nothing worse than hitting paydirt on a great name to find out the url isn’t available.  Check all of them before presenting.

10.  Not buying potential mispellings – especially if your web address is something easily mispelled.  Most people count on the average web surfer to be a deft typist, and it simply isn’t the case.

So, there are some tips on choosing an online name.  For more info, please feel free to connect with me via phone at 404 516 4204 or via email at with “naming my website” in the subject line.


December 3, 2007 Posted by | Articles and Advice | Leave a comment

Tops 10 Tips on Building Your Blog – and Advancing Your Business Online

Blog imeagWe all want to have a better blog – and we all want to help drive traffic to the blog we create – so how do you do that?  Here are 10 tips on how to build your business by better blogging (alliteration is so much fun!) 1. Show how you were a super hero – with case studies…take a few minutes to explain how you helped clients and what you did for them that no one else could do.

2. Find areas you can carve a niche in – specialties you know you are good at, and that can benefit you both in pay and in consistent business.  Focus on those in special features on your blog – it helps with your SEO and helps with your referral-ability.

3. Write articles about things that are hot industry topics – and be someone that stands out – make a statement – even if they don’t agree, they’ll often listen.  Some of the best clients I’ve ever had were people who didn’t agree with me, either to start, or ever – at least not on the issue they found me through.

4. Forumlate a Top 10 “Questions I Always Answer” – and then replies and a quick 2-3 paragraphs on all of them, to give the standard reponse – yes it’s a BLOG-FAQ. 

5. Pass along the best of what you’ve heard and learned.  It is very helpful to the readers of your blog to know that you also credit others – for instance, a lot of what we learn here comes from blogs out there – and when we borrow info, we give credit – so here we will thank the E-zine Queen, the folks at Duct Tape Marketing and Yanik Silver.

6. Letterman isn’t the only one to make Top 10 Lists that are popular.  Call it the “ADD” or “Follow the Shiny Object” syndrome of America, but people love top 5 or 10 lists.  Build a list of things people need to know about and place it on your blog.  C’mon, it isn’t that hard.  There are plenty of things you know about that, broken down into 10 subsets, makes for an interesting entry in your blog.

7. Post reviews of products or services that compliment what you do for a business – and see if you can work out reciprical blogroll links with the people on the other end, or perhaps some sort of shared referral agreement.

8.  Interview a competing associate for a blog spot – ask 3-5 questions that matter to the readers of your blog – and get their input on how THEY would handle things (I’d use this tip about once a month, personally.)

9. Find Books,  Blogs, Speakers, others, that you can write reviews of, and that you can crosslink with.  This ties into #7 but is different in the fundamental approach and reason for doing.  With Authors, Bloggers and Speakers, you have an unlimited audience of people who will Google that person’s name and find your review or comments.

10. Actually ask for people to write you – and listen to the people you write for each week – take questions – answer and post.  This is a great way to lend credibility to your blog and to your audience.  I try to answer posts whenever I can on the blogs I help maintain.

BONUS TIP:  Be sure to do “reader activities” or “spotlights” – guest articles, testimonials and other info is vital to the continued success of your blog.  This is another great weekly, bi-weekly or monthly feature on your blog. And then, to go Gitomer on you – here’s 10.5 – be consistent with your output – be sure to post one or two times a week, at minimum.  And finally, when we figure it out, we’ll post about WordPress’s widget for expanding your blog even further. Thanks for listening!

Andy, Lee and the crew at

Live Thursdays at 6 pm est –


July 12, 2007 Posted by | Articles and Advice | Leave a comment

Remove Your Opinion, Increase Your Sales

While there is very little that gives more satisfaction to a small business owner than hearing their radio ad on air, there is ONE thing that certainly surpasses it – hearing the register ring as a result of that ad. 

Ironically, most of the time, the spot that earns the sweet cha-ching sound, isn’t always the one the owner would have picked.  Most people are not born marketers.  Yet, so many C-Level executives and small business owners assume since they know how to run their business, they know how to market it as well.  Thus, they have trouble keeping their personalities and individual likes and dislikes out of the mix when it comes to crafting spots, placing ads or designing other creative to support their company. 

Would you rather have ads that you like or one that drives traffic consistently to your business?Often, the best copy and creative gets left on the cutting room floor, not because it wasn’t the best for the job, but because the head honcho didn’t “like it.”   It’s reasonable that because emotions drive our likes and dislikes that they can get in the way of logic. 

So, how would you know if in the event you don’t like an ad – that it has potential to be effective? Simply put – place yourself in the shoes of your audience.  If only the decision maker could remember, they aren’t very often the end user.  Simply because the spot is running on a station they don’t listen to, or using colors they don’t like, is irrelevant.  The owner’s like or dislike of the ad represents the tree, not the forest.  The massive forest is the target audience – the end user.

If you allow personal marketing preferences to interfere and simply address “your tree”, the money spent on the effort will not be anywhere nearly as fruitful, if it succeeds at all once it goes out to the proverbial forest.

Don’t get wrapped up in whether you like the creative or not – worry about if the creative will drive sales.  This isn’t, after all, about you (unless you are the sole customer of your company.)  It is about most effectively reaching your target customer and growing your business.  It is about finding the best manners and methods with which to earn your customer’s actions and loyalty.

It is about all these things, but ultimately, it is about making the register ring.

July 10, 2007 Posted by | Articles and Advice | Leave a comment

Qualify Hard, Sell Soft – Getting To Yes, Through Next…

We all know that time is money.  When you own a small business – it becomes more and more apparent when you find yourself saying, “there just aren’t enough hours in the day” or “I couldn’t get anything done today with all the interuptions.”  And in the end – the person that directly effects is you – and your bottom line.

So, how do you get through the day with more time on your hands?  There are dozens of tips and ideas for doing so, and making your business more effective, but we’ll begin with:

Qualify Hard and Sell Soft –

So, what does this mean?  Well, in the past, businesses selling things and especially the sales people making the approach, were encouraged to qualify soft and sell hard (present the features, and then apply heavy handed tactics to close the sale.)  This progressed to Qualify soft, sell soft – where the sale takes on the feel of a relationship – albeit a somewhat laissez faire one.

In today’s marketplace, you can save the potential client and yourself a great deal of dancing (read “wasted time”) by asking pointed direct questions that will help qualify the sale, so you can ask 5-10 minutes later – “are we now in a position to do business together?”  Most people frown on this approach, but it is far and away the most effective method.  People don’t want to use it because it seems almost sure to cause some people to walk away.  But really, if they walk away due to a few tough questions – would they EVER have been a customer – and how much time would it take to find out?  This is what we mean by getting to yes, through next.  Instead of hearing no – hear next – and understand the customers who are qualified are the ones you want in the first place.

Qualifying hard isn’t meant to upset – it is meant to engender honesty, integrity and trust right upfront, and show the potential client you care more about the business being right for BOTH of you, than you do anything else.  And personally, that will get me to “be someone’s friend” much faster than anything else.

So, what questions do you want to ask?Understanding what the customer wants, if they are new, or shopping around, if they’ve ever bought widgets before, if they enjoyed that experience, if not – why not, and more are all key to bringing them into your world and making them your customer – oftentimes, when qualifying is done right, it means they are yours for life.

If you want to know more about the idea of qualifying hard and letting the sale fall into place by sharing, you can drop me a line with questions or thoughts.

May 21, 2007 Posted by | Articles and Advice | Leave a comment

Top 9 Trends for Marketing

Top 9 Trends For Marketing

Get moving on mobile – by 2008, almost 90% of all brands will send text and rich messages to mobile devices, which now include phones, web browsers, mp3 players and will soon begin to replace the plastic cards in your wallet.  Seriously!

Big Ole Boomers – this is the only segment of population growing right now, and 25% increase in next few years.  Boomers are retiring earlier, and wanting more – find a niche and drive it home – especially if you can find a way to help meet their needs.

Learn to keep it simple – really simple – for syndication – RSS feeds can reach people more than email, and easier, for wanted info from a trusted source.  This will replace opt-in email’s current role and allow people to get the info they request.

Friendly Encounters – finding friends on the social networks has never been easier as they boom and grow – invite folks to come hear more, learn about you and find the good stuff they would otherwise be missing.  Don’t be afraid to be real – the internet online networking community requires a large degree of transparency.

Get Smart – with Smart Bomb Marketing (go Agent 69 on them!)– as in, messages that work within the space they are seen, on articles people didn’t expect to find them on.  Be creative – use Sidewalks, Hubcaps, parking tickets, more.

Take a step up. Take a new level with your brand, for a better price. But still keep the same midlevel offering. Given a choice, people often take the best value. “They may not always remember what they pay, but they will always remember what they got.”

Blog is a 4 letter word, but one that gets used more than the others. Leverage the power of free speech with solid info to get the traction you are seeking.  Blogging along with podcasting lends instant credibility to your position.

Although you can’t be everything to everyone, you should help people see your service and image in as many lights as possible – be sure to cross cultural boundaries with your messages, images and ads. This will position you to capture the AA and Hispanic buying power, which is, by 2010, expected to exceed Canada’s GDP.

Live your brand – once you know what it is. ID your target market, walk a mile in their shoes, and then, live your brand with the client.  This will help you express the idea of who you are through words and actions – which is a much more powerful delivery mechanism.

May 8, 2007 Posted by | Articles and Advice | Leave a comment

Taking Your Publication Online

MagazineWhile I was in a meeting the other day, I was turned on to a really cool new online company, called Blue Toad – by my friend Josh Felix.  I was amazed when he told me he’d found a company that could take his publication online for $3 a page(use code SYBL for discount beyond $3/page) I know many other magazine publishers that have paid a pretty penny (10-30k – yes, 10-30 thousand dollars) to install and then $5/page to update their magazines.  So I called Brad at Blue Toad, and asked him more. 

Turns out not only is there no set up fee, but the cost is $3 for uploads per page (Brad offered a .25 cent discount – use the promo code – coupon code SYBL) , plus his company hosts the content.  So, there had to be a catch, right?  Charges for streaming video or links or something?  Nope – $3 (use SYBL and get it for $2.75) and Blue Toad does all the work.  In addition, all ads are hyperlinked and so is email – giving advertisers in the publication a chance at double value, and through some new twists, even a ROI tracking option.  Plus streaming video is included, so is some Flash and other components competitors to Blue Toad charge for. 

Drop Brad an email and check this service out – it will blow your mind – but not your pocketbook – and bring more value to your readers and your advertisers.

May 5, 2007 Posted by | Articles and Advice | Leave a comment

Save Money on Shipping Costs


For any business who sends between 1 package a month and $5-$7k a month in shipping – there is a unique option out there for you – saving you money on costs for shipping – whether at a corporate rate (or even more from a UPS Store or other shipping outlet.)  If you use the code ATL101 in the signup process, you’ll support this free resource, as well as the show Uniqueness is Power.

Introducing InXpress – a DHL backed consolidator – who allows you to send those same $14.95 packages for about $9, plus massive savings on all other shipping as well.  These guys are amazing, and I can not see, for the life of me, how someone would not be interested in utilizing their services – unless those people are THAT attached to the movie Castaway – or to the color brown and perhaps, recently whiteboards.
Give Dustin a shout at the link above and ask him how he can help you save your bottom line.

April 21, 2007 Posted by | Articles and Advice | Leave a comment

How to Get a Press Release Noticed…

As a former editor, and journalist, I am sometimes too keenly aware of how many psuedo-press releases come into the newsroom on any given day – and just how many of them jam the circular file at the end of the day.  Why?  Well, the reasons are many, but your publishing chances will increase if you follow these rules and take a listen to Uniqueness is Power for more advice or contact The Publicity Formula for execution.

1. Stick to What The Editor is Used to – List your name, company name, telephone, fax number, and e-mail address in the top left corner. Not only does this make contacting you easier, it also makes it easy for him to include your contact information in the piece he’s going to publish about you, so his readers can reach you directly. Which is exactly what you want.

2. Write a Strong Opening Yes, you’ll need to get to the “who, what, when, and where” details – but get the editor’s attention first with a great lead. Don’t don’t DON’T lead with – We’ve opened a new office. Or we’ve just hired so and so, aren’t they cool (unless you are targeting an industry pub where people will know who so and so is and respond accordingly) Be inventive. Grab attention. Lead with emotions and feelings – that sells the story to the editor or reporter. Then show how you solve the problem – For example:

When a home theater installation company asked me to write them a press release, they got a great response – and remember when you hear it, this was 14 years ago – but the opening in our first release went like this “Ok, so you just bought the new VCR, TV and stereo and brought it home, intending to turn your living room into the next best thing to the movies. Now you’re sitting in a jumble of cables, and looking at slider buttons and connections which don’t make sense. Or maybe you have it together, but it isn’t at all what you were hoping for. So, what do you do? If you are one of millions of Americans who can’t program your VCR or hook up your stereo you just bought – Appalachian Installations can help.”

That release got picked up in 5 local papers, and there was enough business to be busy for 9 months – and hire 3 more people.

3. Keep It Short and to the Point – Save War and Peace for the library shelves – this shouldn’t be more than one page if possible. In order to publish something editors have to read it. In order to read it, they have to feel it is helpful and, we stress, easy (which also means short)

4. Include Photos Back when I was a journalist, we almost always had picture-led stories. These were stories that ran accompanied with a relevant photo. For example, the Appalachian Installations photo was of a guy sitting amidst all those wires, looking perplexed.

It doesn’t matter what you do – you simply can’t afford to not have a public relations program in place. It is at least worth a try!  Follow these tips or ask for some help – and your exposure should increase.

March 25, 2007 Posted by | Articles and Advice | Leave a comment

What is Networking?

Most people feel that networking is the same thing as business development.  Done properly, it is not at all the same.  Networking is a very powerful way to new customers, but it is also much more than that.  It is a way to build relationships, not just a customer base.  Networking is a key to successful small businesses, in my opinion. 

Here are some tips if you are striking out as a networker:

(1) Remember to be yourself; be sure to speak with people like they are people and not sales subjects. You are simply meeting people, learning who they are, what they do, and then looking for ways in which you may be able to “broker synergy” – intro’ing them to someone who can help them, buy from them, or otherwise.

(2) It isn’t about YOU. If you treat networking as a personal showcase, and talk only about you – you’ll be mightily unpopular with your “network.” If, on the other hand, you be sure to split time with those you meet – you can BOTH effect great results.

(3) Networking takes time and faith – no, I’m not talking religious faith – but more belief that it will work – and along with that patience and time.  Rome wasn’t built in a day – neither will your network.  Conservatively – expect 12 months to see real results. Maybe 6-9 if you try hard to meet and help people, always asking first “How can I help this person” before seeing how they can help or assist you?

(4) Never stop networking – keeps eyes and ears open for how you can assist and help others at all times. While on vacation, floating down the river, I met someone I was able to refer a great place to stay to, in the next town they were headed to. You just never know….

(5) Never judge a book by it’s cover – you never know (a) who people are and (b) who they may know. A quick anecdote – when I worked for AT&T a gentleman walked into our small business center and was dressed in overalls badly stained. The two women I worked with asked me to handle him as they figured he was a bad prospect by his appearance. Turned out he owned a huge local company with needs for over 200k in phone systems, and that he’d had to work in the one warehouse that day, to cover for a shift manager who was injured. In addition, Ronnie is still someone I network with almost 20 years later.and

(6) Networking brings out a real chance to better yourself and increase your value to friends, family and others, as you help everyone get ahead and meet each other. It is also a chance to form superb friendships – with people you otherwise likely would not have met.

Cheers and happy networking!

March 25, 2007 Posted by | Articles and Advice | Leave a comment