Clarity - Levelfield's Small Business Blog
- Jeannie Samson, President Levelfield.com, Inc
After talking with many of our clients who are Small Businesses, Chambers of Commerce, and Travel Agencies all over the world, it has come to my attention that there is one common element with organizations and businesses that are successful , thrive in a brutally competitive online environment, and ultimately have a satisfying experience for themselves and their clients. That element is building relationships. Truly reaching out and caring for one another, whether you are directly doing business with each other or not.
Doing the right thing, consistently providing top quality service, and keeping your word are all things that grow your business over time and will lead to prosperity. There is no shortcut. Making notes on your client's Mother's health, then following up with genuine caring the following month is not only a good thing to do as a friend, but shows that you are paying attention to the person, then the business will come! Have a clean, functional, and accurate online presence is important, but having those true, honest, and real relationship
will help you and your clients win!
Levelfield Auto - Car Buying Simplified
Levelfield recently moved in to a new space, both physical location and product line. In February of 2010 we moved to a new location. You also may or may not have heard about Levelfield Auto, the newest branch of Levelfield. We've teamed up with local Credit Unions here in Austin to offer their membership a Car Buying Service that takes the hassle out of searching for and buying an automobile.
We entered this space because we saw a need. Through our own experiences and those of others we realized that their was a distinct need for this service that we could provide. At the beginning of 2010 we applied to become a used car dealership licensed to do business in the State of Texas. As soon as we received our license approval we started assisting credit union members to find the exact car they were looking for at an extremely high quality and an excellent value. We focuse our searches to vehicles that are less than 4 years old with less than 50,000 miles to insure quality and condition.
Not only do we find the exact vehicle the member is looking for according to their specifications; we bring it to Austin, inspect the vehicle and insure that it meets our quality standards both mechanically and aesthetically before delivering the vehicle to the member. We do all this with the same software products that are used to serve our website community. We've built a platform that allows us to communicate to our auto customers, search for vehicles across the country that meet the requirements of those customers and at the same time allows us to plan and execute on the quality standards we strive to meet.
We're looking towards 2011 with many happy Levelfield Auto customers with our Vehicle Locating service for credit unions and even more promising is what lies ahead in the new year. Levelfield Auto is certain to continue helping fill this need for credit union members for years to come. In the 8 months of 2010 we were operating, we have already had repeat business.
Building a foundation for your business that can grow and compete in different areas, recognizing the needs your customers have and diversifying your portfolio of products to fulfill those needs is the best way to grow and compete. With Levelfield Auto we recognized a need in ourselves and our customers to offer a quality product at a great value and we took the necessary steps to make it happen. We're looking forward to the future of our Auto business and we wish you the best in the new year as you grow and diversify your business.
Here's to 2011.
To find out more about Levelfield Auto, visit us at www.levelfieldauto.com
Take the Next Step...and the Next Step!
The surviving companies in today's economic downturn are thriving because of their principles that encourage them to take the next step with faith that it will all work. (Think Indiana Jones) Its important to continually think about growth and success and speak those thoughts into actions and continually take the next step and the next step to survive and thrive. About six months ago a friend of mine uncharacteristically decided she wanted to climb Mt. Everest. With no real hiking or climbing experience behind her, the idea of this trip was met with disbelief from family and friends. By simply taking the next step and the next step and speaking thoughts into actions, this same friend will be starting her climb to the base camp of Everest in a week and a half. She is a wife and mother of two. She turned her idea and thought of a vacation into words and then took action and the next step and the next step.
Common Sense -- Uncommon
A Common Sense Stimulus.
Its the time of year that many Americans spend too much money purchasing un-American things to stimulate and simulate happiness in their households. During the holiday season, the news media always brings loquacious "economists" on the television to speak about consumer spending and convince us that we are spending less than the average year on gifts for our greedy children and we should go out and spoil our personal budgets and spend more. This year lets try something new...lets take our hard earned American dollars and stimulate the American economy. Let's Buy American. www.buyamerican.com. Too much of our holiday season shopping spree helps to maintain the Japanese markets with our high end electronics that we can't seem to live without. We're giving people in other countries jobs while our job market is failing miserably. Lets do the next right thing and support our own economy which will help stimulate job growth here in the US. It sounds like common sense to say buy American to support the American economy and American jobs. Why is it so uncommon to think this way and more importantly to ACT this way? Act like an American!, Buyamerican.com It doesn't take a billion dollar stimulus to boost our economy, buy from your neighbor, it will keep your neighbor employed. Spend your money by putting it back in your own community, THAT will save jobs and stimulate the American economy.
What it means to be related...
In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday and being thankful for the meal that Americans gather together to share, it made me think of what it means to be related. Most of us gathered together with family and friends yesterday to celebrate over the traditional turkey or another meat of choice. Gathering in thanks for the blessings of the past or the promise of tomorrow bring many of us together each year. However this does not mean we're related. Sharing a meal or a holiday one day a year does not mean we're related. Talking to someone every day over the phone does not mean we're related. What it means to be related is an unspoken back up plan for the unknown. On any given day, in any given situation you can make a single phone call to a person and they willingly accept you and your immediate family (kids, parents, wife or husband) into their home for an extended period of time. Helping you get on your feet when times are tough with nothing but thanks in return. No bargaining, no trading and absolutely no backlash or spite. If with one phonecall a family member or friend welcomes you and your family with open arms into their home without any details written in fine print, THAT'S what it means to be related. Blood relation or not, a family friend or long lost pal, having someone in your life that would reorganize their own life in order to lend a helping hand when your life is uprooted for any given reason; THAT's what it means to be related. Be thankful for your life and all you've been given and most of all be thankful for those you can describe as "we're related".
Your Words Mean Everything
I have stated before in a previous post that we only occur in languaging. We as individuals only exist in terms of our words and descriptions. Let them be our strength. I occur in this blog post because our common language allows you to read what I have written and to understand the meaning of my words. If we exist because our language allows us to relate to each other and the world then shouldnt we treat every word as if it can change the world.
On another note, a few weeks back the tragic events in Killeen Texas occurred. The media and government officials have tiptoed around the event calling it a tragedy (which is was), that one of our own soldiers took the lives of his own. What everyone has failed to say is that this tragedy was in fact a terrorist attack. This soldier, one of our own, a muslim, attacked Americans on our own military base. This man was not simply misguided or suffering from a mental disorder. This man committed a terrorist act on American soil. He took the lives of Americans and he planned to do so. What everyone out there is skirting with their words is the fact that society's political correctness has promoted likemindedness and the inability to speak up and use your words for their true meaning. If its proven that an American soldier shot down 13 American's on our home turf then the man is a terrorist. If that man was a Christian, then he's a Christian. If he was a caucasian male from Minnesota, then he's a caucasian male from Minnesota. If the man was of Indian descent, African heritage, or a newly minted US Citizen from the country of Djibouti, then that is what he is. If that man just so happens to be Muslim, then he's a Muslim. Call a spade, a spade. We've learned recently that this man spoke with a known radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki prior to this tragedy. We also know that this communication was intercepted by investigators. If this radical was a Christian so be it. If someone, anyone had spoken up and said "hey this guy is communicating with a radical" maybe this terrorist act wouldn't have happened. Use your words to "call it like it is". If someone is acting like a terrorist, muslim or not, SAY SOMETHING. You never know what the strength of your words could help prevent.
Each day is so important...
If you live to 80 years old you would have been alive for 29,220 days. Thats less than 30,000 days. Urgency with life is real.
As of today I have been alive 15,103 days. If I only live to 80 years old I have 14,117 days left.
Have I used the 15103 days of my life so far, wisely? How am I planning to use the next 14,117 days?
Each day of your life is so important...we should all make the most of our 29,220 days and start living.
If it were all gone tomorrow would you look back and say that you truly Lived? Don't write off life and say tomorrow I will. Use every second of every day to do what it is you were meant to do.
I'm happy to say that I don't think I've wasted ALL 15,103 days of my life and I am sure that knowing a lifetime is less than 30,000 days will create an urgency in my life that life is real. Get busy living or get busy dying.
Find out how many days you've been alive...
Your Time is Valuable. Where are you wasting yours?
Its the human condition that lessens the value of our time, our most valuable asset. Many people get caught up in the little things which keeps them from becoming successful. The philosophy I subscribe to is doing the next right thing not doing the next thing right. Looking beyond the small insignificant bumps in the road along the way and narrowing in on my ultimate goal and staying focused on that next right thing has made me more effective at work and at home with my family. When emotions run high and someone is seeking justice for an action they feel is 'unjust' they get caught up in doing the next thing right and they forget what they're striving for. In doing so, individuals seeking justice waste their most valuable resource, time and instead squander their time on distractions that keep them from being successful.
What has distracted you today? Where are you wasting your time? Are you seeking justice from an alleged wrong you feel is unfair? If you were to invest all the time you've 'wasted' seeking to correct an 'unfair' action you'd be focus on the next right thing. Instead of righting all the wrongs in your life, focus on the next right thing, invest your ultimate value in your success.
Doing what is right and no special cases
Everyone living today should strive to do what is right, seek the truth and live with the fact that there are no special cases in life. Regardless of circumstance you are not a special case, you must dance to your commitments.
In the US and across the globe countries are facing an "economic downturn" because of a lifestyle of "i want what i want and i want it now". We are not a special case.
If your business plummets and you have not prepared for the cycle of valleys. You are not a special case. There are thousands of businesses out there facing the same dips and valleys that are thriving and surviving because they prepared for the downturn cycle.
In business, the legal realm and life in general there are no special cases. If you do what is right there are no special cases to deter you from truth.
Whatever choices were made in the past that caused the downturn in our economy, we are not a special case. It happened because of choices made and a glance back at history reveals that it has happened before, we didnt learn from mistakes and yet again we are not a special case.
Take a step back and realize that if you do what is right, set goals appropiately, you will find the truth. The truth is, you are not a special case. Face your decisions and live the consequences.
When is the best time to invest in a new venture, start a new business, spend your free time investing in a startup company. Right now. When the economy is in a downturn, start a new business. Brush up your entreprenuerial skills and start that business that you've always thought about, almost started but never did. Do it today. Be productive.
This is the time to invest in your business. This is the time to gain market share. This is the time to hire new employees and expand. Within the past month here at Levelfield we've hired someone for Search Engine Marketing and we are making plans to expand our team in the upcoming month. This is the time to build your company.
Recently I've decided to join with two friends to start a new business. Investing my time and energy into a new business during an economic downturn seems to be unheardof across the country. This is the time.
Visit: www.cverse.com see what I've invested some of my time, energy and focus during this "recession".
Seek to change...
When the economy is down it’s the perfect time to focus on the areas that are profitable. Shift and allocate assets, tasks and products that are more productive for your company. Focusing forces you to shift resources where they are best needed. When the pain of staying the same becomes too great the pain of changing becomes an option. For many companies and people (in their lives) changing ways is the most painful experience that one can think of. Changing is hard, it’s a hard pill to swallow and its very painful and tedious for most. Train yourself that change and hardship produces extraordinary results when it finally becomes an option for you. Only when you allow yourself to open up to the concept of changing does the effort put forth in that change become worthwhile to your business or your life. Make the necessary yet painful steps to change yourself, or your company to insure survival through trying times. The changes we’re making in the US to “protect” and failsafe the economy won’t be the right thing until it’s painful for all of us. When you become uncomfortable you’re finally making traction in your life. Seek to be uncomfortable, seek to change and seek out the pain that makes your life and your company great!
There are no places to get to, only places to go.
Only when you become accountable for your decisions and actions, do things start working out for you. The 'whoa is me' let me get through today and get to tomorrow is out. Focus on yourself and what you can do to change. You can only change yourself so only focus your time and effort on what you have the power to change. When the pain of staying the same becomes too great the pain of changing becomes an option. Changing is never easy and it can hurt. Step up to your accountabilities and take the leap to make the changes necessary to make your success viable. If you want to succeed, step up to your accountabilities. In doing so, reach for a goal that is uncommon. Until your friends call you crazy you aren't reaching high enough. You can only be as successful as your mind allows you to be. If your mind can think it, the rest will follow. Your best thinking got you here. If someone says your idea is impossible, you have a great idea and a great place to go!
If you want to make God laugh, make plans.
Someone once said, "If you want to make God laugh, make plans." I wish I could take credit for this idea since it happens often to so many people but I cannot. This week the quote became extremely relevant to life at Levelfield. It seems like the bigger the plans the bigger the laugh and the more the rollercoaster ride seems to rise and fall.
The only thing that you can do to combat the unexpected results is to work the hardest for the longest with no complaints. Regardless of what you've planned and what made God laugh, you can only control the effort you put forth. Push yourself to your limits to fulfill what you've planned. If you don't succeed take God's laughter in jest and step back from what you've done. Laugh and realize that there may be a better big picture for you and this moment is nothing less than a blessing in disguise.
Politics Aside...Why I Love This Country...And What That Should Mean
Shed your political views for the moment. Let go of them. Just while you read this. Whether you voted for one candidate or the other. Doesn't matter. Let go of that and let me tell you why I, an immigrant, love this country. More than that, let me tell you what makes this country great, what you might just take for granted. For while America has flaws, I truely believe, beyond all the rhetoric, that it is the greatest country that ever has been. Here's why.
Freedom is not just a word. It is not just a polical idea. It is a reality that we might be just too spoiled to realize. Too spoiled to realize! We have been given so much that we have no clear perspective on our own gifts. We can worship as we please. Understand in a very concrete way that you simply cannot do that in a good part of the world. You CANNOT WORSHIP AS YOU CHOOSE in a large number of places. You can speak out against your own goverment. You can vote without fear of being murdered for your choice, for simply showing up to the poll. You will not be killed because of your race, chopped to death with a machete because of the tribe you were born into. THAT IS A REALITY FOR SOME PEOPLE. You will have never and will never fear starvation EVERY DAY. EVERY DAY! That is a reality for a large number of people. You will never be stoned to death for breaking a law. You will never be told that you are allowed only one child. That is a reality elsewhere. And you know this. We all know these things but we never or rarely actually think of them in terms of our own blessings. Those are news events. Those are things that happen, we know, but somewhere over there in the abstract world on the other side of our television or computer. But those are people's day to day realities. Every day. Roving bands of soldier children killing rival tribesmen and women. Oppressive governments dictating religion, children, activities. Food shortages. Water shortages. Rampant political assassinations. Drug lords with the power to order murders of politicians and law enfourcement. And on and on. These, in varying degrees, are realities for a greater part of the world. The world is a chaotic place. You were born into a safety net. I believe it is our resposibility not just to appreciate that safety net but to act accordingly.
We are a nation of complainers. We have been given so much that WE EXPECT HANDOUTS. We expect everything to be easy. We expect our government to take care of us. I believe that our true resposibility is to act like the privelaged humans we are, to act with a sense of civil responsibility, to act with a humble pride. To be thankful that we are blessed and to take advantage of those blessings. You, as a citizen of this country, are born with the ability to paint your own picture, to design your own life. Understand that, for the most part, that simply doesn't exist in the rest of the world. You can be the son or daughter of an immigrant and become a millionaire. It happens ALL THE TIME. And yes, some people have a tougher road than others. Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. But in most of the world, only those born with a silver spoon will bear children with silver spoons. No matter how rich or poor you were as a child, you can become wealthy. You can. It might take work. It might take LOTS OF WORK. But if that's what you dedicate yourself to, it will happen. That doesn't mean that if you want to be rich, you will. You have to be willing to work. Even more important, it's ok if that's not your goal because we have enough wealth, we have built a country whose foundation is so strong, that you will not go without even if you choose to pursue things other than wealth. In some places you either fight to survive or you die. In some places even if you fight tooth a nail every second, you die anyway. Here you can be lazy AND fat. Think about it. The fact that fat and lazy are synonomous says something about our culture. In many places, if you are lazy you are certainly not fat and you may not be alive.
There are many complaints about this country. Foreign policy. Health care. Education. Disparity between rich and poor. There are things we could do better. And you know what? THERE ALWAYS WILL BE. No human is perfect. Certainly no country ever will be. NO COUNTRY. But what we have is as close as it's ever come. IN HISTORY. You need to appreciate it. I've heard America called evil by its OWN CITIZENS. Clearly they've studied neither history nor current events. The world is full of danger. Of inequality. Of limited opportunity. Our country is the land of opportunity. Work hard and continue to work hard in the face of failure and eventually your work will pay off. Things fall apart, in this country and only in this country, when you've given up. And even then, there is opportunity for rebirth, to rise up again and stand tall. Nowhere else.
Realize how much you love this country. Realize how much it has done for you. Realize how blessed you are. Realize that even in hard times, better times can and usually will come. Realize that you can work to become great. You can work to become greater than you are. Realize that your children can stand on a higher plateau than you. Realize all this and act accordingly. You have a responsibility, a responsibility to respect our history and present and to work hard in respect of our future and that of your children.
The opportunity is there. It is always there. Do you want it and more importantly, are you willing to work for it?
Surround Yourself With Winners
I have an interesting staff at Levelfield. Almost nobody fits the traditional mold for a software company. My account managers are a former English teacher in Japan (with a short-lived stint as a car salesman) and a photographer. My support team includes a young woman who's career experience involved Home Depot and working with special needs children. One of my two marketing people is an acupuncturist (the other I almost refused to hire because she's over-educated). My sales team consists of a disgruntled pharmaceutical rep (conscience got to him) and a man I hired when he walked into my office to sell me what I don't even remember.
My point is this. I loath resumes. I'll hardly look at them. What I look for is self-motivated people who make things happen. That is my only criteria. Are you a person who can make things happen and doesn't need instruction? That is the only important question. I have no managers. I don't micro-manage. Everyone is the master of their own domain. If they can't operate in such an atmosphere, I have no place for them.
That is why Levelfield has succeeded. I recommend doing the same with your business. Start with yourself. If you aren't self motivated and aren't making things happen, start now. Make sure your employees (and friends for that matter) are doing the same.
Success will become easy.
Blogging about Texas High School Football
Last week my marketing manager told me a fantastic story about the power of blogs. His sister, a new mother, wrote a blog that set off a train of speculation and intrigue! She was at home with her son when a producer from Friday Night Lights - a NBC television series about Texas High School football filmed here in Austin - knocked on the door. He wanted to know if the series could film parts of an episode at her house. Why? Because a character was going to have a baby and start a day-care out of her house. My marketing manager's sister's house fit. She wrote about the experience in her blog.
The next day, she noticed that her blog, previously only viewed by her friends and family, had become immensely popular nationwide. She followed some comments posted to her blog to a Friday Night Lights discussion board. There, fans of the show had decoded the event and determined that indeed, so and so was going to have a baby (as they'd suspected!) and start a day-care out of her house. I can't think of a better illustration of the power of blogs. How can you apply this to your business? Be creative.
What this shows is that dynamic content creates web traffic. Blog about your products and services (and be sure to include key terms and phrases that might be used by web searches). But also blog outside the box! Blog about your experience and how it connects to your business. You never know who might end up on your website and become a customer (or how you might fuel speculation)!
Whether you be a stay at home mom, a business owner (or both), a blog will being traffic to your website!
86400 Seconds, Webmail Templates and Blog Beauty
Last week I was looking through our reporting tools, seeing how people found our website, what they looked at, etc. Most people end up on Levelfield.com by typing in Levelfield.com or by searching for Levelfield or through one of our customer's websites. One person however, found our website last week when they googled "There are 24 hours or 1440 minutes or 86400 seconds in everyday So, take a second to think." Because I had, in an earlier blog, used "there are 24 hours or 1440 minutes or 86400 seconds in a day," Levelfield.com came up. That is the beauty of the blog!
Blogging brings visitors to your website in standard and in not so standard ways. If content is king then the blog is the crown because blogs create new content (as much as your fingers can type). What you want on your website is viewers. The more you bring in, the more customers you'll have. Even if they come by googling something as odd as "There are 24 hours or 1440 minutes or 86400 seconds in everyday So, take a second to think."
While you're here and while we're talking about search engines, I've discovered that one of the main ways people find our site is by doing a search for "webmail templates." A webmail template allows you to create a templated email that you can use over and over again. This can be infinitely useful. I'm writing about it here not to talk about webmail templates, perse, but rather to address the usefulness of our reporting tools. Because of Levelfield's one of a kind reporting tools, I always know how people are find our site. When I see that a lot of people find us by searching for webmail templates, that means there is a need and interest that we can meet...and that we should make some adjustments and accentuate our capabilities in that department. So look for that to happen shortly.
Until next time, remember - There are 24 hours or 1440 minutes or 86400 seconds in everyday so...take a second to think!
Internet Advertising 101
By now, pretty much every business has a website. A good portion of those sites, look great. But as any fourth grader can tell you, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” In the end, it’s all about function. Good looks are not enough. Fortunately, using your website to bring business through your door is not all that complicated (assuming you have the right tools). It just takes some effort. As with most everything, the more effort you put in (and the better your structure), the better will be the results. If your website isn’t generating the business you’d like it to, here’s a few tips:
1) Collect Information. Your website must have an information request function. This will allow interested visitors to input their names and pertinent information. A good website, like a Levelfield website, will have a sales management system that stores those leads and allows you to act upon them. Ways to use the info will be discussed below.
2) Act Immediately. The quicker you follow-up on an information request, the better chance of it becoming business. Use the info you get from interested parties and call. Yes, the phone is a part of internet advertising!
3) Send a Regular Newsletter. This is a way to reach existing and potential customers, both equally important in marketing. Make the newsletter pertinent (if you need to have more than one newsletter to address more than one market, do), informative, engaging and helpful. You want to offer more than a product or service. You want to better people’s lives, regardless of what it is you do. Make the newsletter do this. If you are a dietician, give eating tips. If you have a mattress store, talk about the advantages of different types of mattresses for different types of problems. Also, make sure you advertise specials, sales, open houses, etc. Give your customers something they can use. Give potential customers a reason to use you.
4) Blog. Blogging, short for web-logging, is all the rage and for good reason. It serves you in two important ways. First, it is personal. People like personal. We don’t get out as much as we should. We sit in front of computers and at desks. A blog is a conversation. It is anecdotal. You tell stories in a blog. You tell why you are in your business, what drives you. If you own a furniture store, you write about your grandfather’s rocking chair and the memories it conjures. If you own a staffing company, you write about a particular company or person you helped. Believe it or not, that might not be the most important function about a blog. Search Engines love blogs! Google, Yahoo, etc., love changing and constantly updated content. It brings them to your site over and over again. The more you update your blog, the more they stop by your site. Further, it gives search engines unusual ways to find your site. If you’re that furniture store owner and you blog about your grandfather eating apple pie in his rocking chair, someone might stumble onto your website by searching for “apple pie.” That is the beauty of the blog.
5) Don’t clutter your website. While search engines love content, too much is too much. All the time, I see websites with lots of great information that nobody in their right mind would ever want to read. People hate clutter. Be simple. Be visual. Get to the point. No content is bad. Too much is worse. Find equilibrium. Keep your site neat, balancing visuals with pertinent information. This won’t help bring people to your site but it will keep them interested once there.
6) Advertise your website. I find it amazing when I get a business card or read a billboard or brochure with no website listed. Assuming you have a good website, a functional website, you should want people there. Make sure your website is on all your promotional materials. This should be a no-brainer but you’d be surprised!
There are literally hundreds of ways to market and advertise online. These are just a few, just the basics. Fact is though, if you focus on these, use them well, with persistence and discipline you will see results. Remember, the internet is all about communication. A website is not a brochure. It should be interactive, evolving and dynamic…more than a pretty face.
Marketing Tools for Small Business
There is an endless supply of web designers. You can design your own site. You can have a templated site made for you. You can pay someone thousands upon thousands to build you a nice looking site. Why choose Levelfield?
Simple. Because our sites are designed to generate business, to put you in touch with prospective clients and keep you in touch with current ones. Like a lot of companies, we custom design sites. We'll make them as beautiful as you'd like. We'll make them ugly too if you're adement about it! From the customer's prospective, our sites look like a lot of good sites.
Just like in a book (and a person), it's what's on the inside that counts. As a business owner, you have access to a huge set of tools that allow you to reach out to customers continually, know where they're coming from, and keep communicating with them.
Behind all of our websites is a huge set of tools that allows you to change and edit your own content, collect, store and manage leads, market via email and newsletter, write a blog and send it out to the world through an RSS feed. And you'll be able to look at graphs, charts, and statistics out the whazoo that'll tell you exactly how people and how many people are using your site.
For a small business, Levelfield has achieved a great deal of success. How? We use the exact same tools we put into every one of our websites. Look at our portfolio. It's worked for us. Let it work for you.
Passion Makes Small Business Go
Marketing a small business takes passion. Owning a small business demands it. If you’ve lost the enthusiasm for your business, take a step back, breath, then jump back in full force. The second you get comfortable and relaxed, your business will start to slip. That doesn’t mean you have to be on edge and anxious. Rather, it means that for your business to succeed, you must attack each and every day with zest. Otherwise, maybe you weren’t meant to be a small business owner.
Being a small business owner isn't about being comfortable and reasonable. It's about being a doer, having a vision and making it happen. Owning a small business is a challenge. It can be rewarding but it will never be easy. When your business struggles, you'll be told, "be reasonable...why dont' you get a real job?" I've heard it myself. Reasonable people produce limited results.
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man," wrote George Bernard Shaw
Go out and be unreasonable. Make things happen and enjoy it. Your business will thrive!
Marketing Live Help: Stay Atop the Business World
They’ve told us we’re in a recession, that the economy is down, that it’s a bad time to be in business. This should be music to your ears! Why? Because you are a proactive, savvy, motivated business owner. When the economy is down, the fakers disappear and the strong businesses, businesses owned by proactive, savvy, motivated people rise to the top and solidify their position. Levelfield is making sure its customers stay atop the Darwinian business world.
Most business owners want a pretty website. When potential customers see this site, they think, they’ll want to buy my product. Problem is, there are lots of pretty sites and not much distinguishing one from the other. In the end, it all goes back to marketing. Levelfield has created more than a small business website. We’ve created a mass marketing tool that small businesses owners can comprehend and easily use. And it works.
Nevertheless, I get emails from time to time from Levelfield customers who ask, “why isn’t my small business website getting me business?” I ask them if they’re using their blog, their newsletter, their leads capturing tools. And inevitably, they tell me no...no...no. Why? “I never quite understood what a blog is,” they say. Or, “I don’t really know what to put in my newsletter.”
With that in mind, we at Levelfield have added a new feature to our website – Marketing Live Help. Through this interface, you can ask us questions about internet marketing and we’ll give you our thoughts and ideas.
Levelfield is here to help your business take off. The internet is going to be a more and more important part of business in the coming years. We want to help you take advantage of it.
Simply type your questions into the Live Help interface. Be as specific as you’d like – “What should I blog about?” “How does this work?” “What would be a creative way to market my…” Ask anything. The internet offers limitless access to potential customers. We’ll help you find them.
What should I blog about?
A lot of business owners have no idea what they should actually blog about. You know you have a blog option on your Levelfield website but "what," you say, "would I ever write about? I own a restaurant" or an HR Company or a Furniture Store.
First of all, understand what blogs are for. Blogs are another way to take advantage of the internet and reach customers. Blogs are internet marketing tools. You want people to find your website. Two sentences ago, I included the phrase "internet marketing tools." I want people interested in internet marketing tools to find Levelfield's website so I made the phrase part of this blog entry. There's lots of people out there advertising internet marketing tools though so a more refined, narrowed group of words might make this blog entry stand out even more. Perhaps I should point out that we're an Austin web design company, that we offer powerful online tools for small businesses, that we're located on Jollyville Road, etc.
But enough about Levelfield.
What should you write about? One, just write. Search Engines like content and they like content that is always changing. So start writing. Two, make it interesting and relevent to your client base.
If you have a restaurant website, give out a recipe occassionally. Don't worry, nobody is going to make it is good as you. It'll only leave them clamouring for the real deal. Write about what makes your restaurant so special, the experience you're trying to give your customers, your experience in the restaurant business.
If you have an Office Supply Website, write about quality office supplies, what seperates good and bad products, whatever you'd like your customers to know about you, the way you view your business, the way you balance your small-business and your family.
If you have an acupuncture website or a chiropractic website, share some valuable health tips. Teach them ways to help themselves. By providing worthwhile information, you'll increase your own credibility. Credibility feeds business!
Blog to talk to potential customers and to bring in business. Don't be shy. Just write. You'll increase your web presence, you'll improve your credibility and over time, you'll increase your bottom line.
Its about priorities not 'pretty'.
I've recently renewed my commitment to Yoga that I described in earlier posts. Now although I have the body structure of one that looks like a the perfect 'yogi', I am far from it. Flexibility is not my forte and although in a natural standing or walking position I may look like a yoga instructor I can barely touch my toes. Where I am a natural looking, unnatural yoga student, others in my class have a completely different body type and perform the positions with greater ease than I could ever imagine. Regardless of how "pretty" we look doing poses, its the functionality of the pose that is important. Form versus Function.
In any small business you must consider form versus function an important criteria for overall success. If you are launching a new restaurant as a small business you must first invest in the important things before the initial opening. If you are on a tight budget you must invest in your food as the functional element. You shouldn't invest a large amount of money to purchase a building when you can initially rent it. Invest in your functionality, without food a restaurant does not function, without an end product you have no goods to sell your customers. Without a mortgage payment you may save some money.
With any business you should invest in functionality first. I'm not suggesting throwing form out the window and forgetting aesthetics that make customers and yourself more comfortable but it is important to first invest in the function of your business and then make the "pretty" adjustments.
Most of our customers are seeking websites for their small businesses. There first inclination is to get a "pretty" website. A pretty website does not guarantee you that the website works for your customers and your business. If it functions properly your customers can contact you and you can easily communicate with them. Your customers will revisit your website more often if it works and is functional than if it is a pretty blue or a vibrant red. Worry about your aesthetic appeal after you've created a functional web presence. Its about priorities not "pretty".
Make it count!
As the end of the month nears businesses typically scramble to close sales and pump up the numbers. Its all in the details. Don't fall short on your product, your business or your goals simply by striving to satisfy an immediate need. Its in the little things that projects and products fail. If you miss out on the details in the harried moments at the end of a month you'll surely forget an important step, an important product detail for the customer. Strive to close months with a bang but more importantly strive for a bang to end out each and every day. The last three days of a month matter little if the overall big picture has been neglected. Three days cannot make up for 28 other days you failed to try. Just like in my last post, there is enough time every day for everything important. Make time to sell your products and to highlight the importance the best and right way to potential customers. Strive to be the best at all times in business. If just one potential customer sees you less than your best than you have failed them and your product and may miss out on an important deal. Be the best for your business every moment of every month, make every moment, every sale, every dollar and every goal...count!!!
I don't have time...
Common Misconceptions with Websites:
I don't have time to blog.
Do you check your email regularly? More than once a day? Do you have time to watch TV regularly? Do you spend hours a day aimlessly wandering the internet with no real destination in mind just looking for the latest and greatest information and news updates. I consider the statement, "I don't have time to blog." as the BIGGEST misconception when it comes to regularly updating a website. As you might notice the last time I blogged was on April 1st. We're nearing the end of the month and I am just now blogging again. Does this mean that "I didn't have time to blog." most would say yes. But in fact I have had the time to blog but I have neglected to update it and guess what, my website traffic is stagnant. With no new content, my website traffic is without growth. Without adding any new content through my consistent blog updates, there is no new search engine friendly content for blog followers to read or searchers to find. So I will not state "I don't have time to blog". A more true statement would be "I haven't made time to blog".
With business life and home life, it isn't in what you DON'T have time to do, to accomplish, to plan for. It's in what you MAKE time for. There are 24 hours in a day, thats 1440 minutes and 86400 seconds. Just for grins we'll say you maintain a well-balanced schedule; 8 hours of work, 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of life. That gives you an equal amount 28800 seconds or 480 minutes to live, sleep and work (on a typical weekday). Be present for every second of your day. You'll realize that the balance of 'I don'ts or I can'ts' will succumb to the 'I wills'.
Writing this blog has used 652 seconds of my workday. I made time. What did you make time to do in 10.86 minutes?
Its always a good time to remember to pace yourself in life.
Should I constantly work at a manic pace in an attempt to accomplish too many projects at once? Or should I work at my own pace without forcing action? At which pace do I enjoy life more?
Whatever will be...will. Whatever is meant to happen...will. Regardless of whether I'm rushing time or not, the next logical step of any process in my life will be taken. Even if its a huge business deal, whatever is meant to be will happen in its own time. So why force myself to run in circles when the outcome will be the outcome regardless of the pace I set.
All the weight is not on my shoulders alone. There are many other influences that affect the outcomes; other parties, the time & cost of doing business, paperwork. If a business deal or transaction occurs within my set time frame, that is great. Regardless of timing, I'll continue with my next chosen course of action to benefit my business, my family and my life.
Enjoy life beyond your predictions, regardless of timing.
When the economy is down, invest in sales and marketing
When the economy is down its the perfect time to invest in sales and marketing.
When the market isn't going your way, especially in small business its time to reinvest your time, effort and money into how your selling your services or products.
I go to my favorite restaurant, Houston's at least once a week and have been for many years now. Typically I go around 11:20 for lunch to avoid the heavy lunch hour traffic but in this case I was running later than usual and so I arrived at 12:30pm. I anticipated a long wait as I walked in but was surprised to be welcomed with no wait, not all of the tables occupied and impeccable service. Walking in as a regular customer the hostess immediately suggested that I sit in my favorite section because I was recognized as a regular and there was obvious availability in every section of the restaurant. Houston's over lunchtime is notoriously busy. I had never seen it this slow especially at the high peak of the lunch rush. The service throughout my meal was impeccable even though it was very clear from my surroundings that business was down.
My usual lunch at Houston's at an atypically slow lunch hour made me think of the slowing economy and slowing markets in many industries. The best time to ramp up on sales and marketing and to invest in your current clientele is at this very moment when business is down and fewer customers are walking in the door.
As the media continues to remind us of our current economic crisis I'm happy to remind you that small business is a driving force of the economy, the last thing small businesses need to do is to ignore sales and ignore marketing efforts. Sales and marketing should be consistent regardless of economic growth and stability. It is necessary for sales and marketing to pick up when the economy fails to drive sales. Invest in your customers, invest in your strength as a small business, if personal attention and impeccable service is what defines you to your customer base, invest in that. Invest in sales and marketing today to maintain a viable business. Invest in what defines your small business to remain viable in your industry.
So You Want To Be Number 1 On Google: Part II
If your following my directions from my previous Number 1 on Google post, you're still blogging...
To aid you in this new found venture to be at the top of the Google website listings. Here are a few more suggestions...
Write about what you are doing in your business. If you are restructuring your referral program for your customers then blog about it. If you are establishing a referral program that benefits your customers for the very first time then blog about it. Here at Levelfield we are launching a new referral campaign and I am blogging about it.
Our marketing manager looked at our budget and realized we're spending a lot of money with outside firms to drive new leads for our business and we've decided that the people who matter most, our customers aren't getting enough benefits. We've upgraded our referral program to offer two options, $75 checks or 3 months of free service. The best part is that our customers choose the option they prefer. Previously we haven't offered an option as to free money versus free service but we're changing the campaign to allow for that. If your not a customer of Levelfield or OnlineAgency you probably wont receive an insert with the "Meet Amanda. She's here to give you money!" referral campaign included with your invoice but we're giving you the chance to get referral money also. You don't have to be one of our customers to refer a great one, if you know someone who is in need of a website and you refer them to us you'll also be eligible for the $75 check. It pays to refer those in need of a website and we'll send you a check to prove it! Check it out!
Back to the business at hand, Google and everyone's goal to overachieve and be number one. Remember there are millions of searches and millions of #1's so maybe in fact you are #1 and you don't know you are. Does your website have a reporting tool that shows you how searchers are finding you? My last post was about the Hilux (I originally spelled in Helux) truck and how a misspelled word got me a high ranking on Google for a 'helux truck' someone who wasn't initially looking for my company found my website. Since my update on my incorrect spelling I've recognized that my website has a lot to teach me about who's looking and what's driving their searches.
So what else has my website reporting tool taught me? If you Google the question 'how do travel agents make money?' the #4 link you'll see references Levelfield's referral program (as of 2/28/08). Not an obviously place to find the answer to your google question but it is a way for travel agents to make money so the appropriate links have been made.
To come full circle my website reporting tool also taught me, if you Google the phrase 'simple referral program' the #3 link is my Clarity blog (as of 2/28/08). At some point I mentioned "By creating a simple referral program you can create a highly productive marketing system" and this mention led my blog to be a high ranking on Google for 'simple referral program'.
What has your website taught you about the traffic coming to your site?
Reporting Tools and Google Queries - Sometimes They Surprise You!
First of all I'd like to make a correction to an earlier blog post. I referenced a picture of a Toyota Helux Truck and I have recently become aware of its incorrect spelling. It is actually spelled, Hilux instead of Helux.
Earlier today I was checking my website reporting tool and noticed some interesting facts about page views and search engine rankings for our Levelfield.com website. With our traffic reporting tool I noticed that I was receiving traffic on my blog for specific search queries. The first search that truly surprised me was regarding the Helux Truck comment that I corrected earlier in this post. Simply by mentioning a camel in a truck I unintentionally drove traffic off of Google onto my Business Blog as the number one ranked web page for the search query "helux truck". This unique content on my website helped to increase my website traffic.
Another noticeable query was that for a "small business blog" on Google. The request landed my blog as 13 of 14,600,000 web pages relating to small business blogs, ranking right behind the Washington Post at number 11, I feel pretty good about my standings in comparison to a well known, much larger business in the media industry.
With all this traffic that has been driven off of the search engines to my blog or the Levelfield.com website for various reasons I must mention the fact that by simply blogging I'm not directly guaranteed to make more money. I wont make any money off of my comments about a camel and a Toyota truck but my website did get more traffic. The whole idea of blogging to increase your visibility online is an attempt to open as many roads as possible to your store which just so happens to be on the internet. The more traffic you drive, the wider the audience you'll have and the greater potential for creating more business and potentially make more money for your small business.
Keep Blogging for your Small Business! You never know who might be interested in your website and your business because of a camel in a truck.
So you want to be Number 1 on Google
Let's say you are a travel agent. You want to be number one on Google in all Travel related searches.
If you really wanted to set your goals high, I'm here to offer you free advice on exactly how to achieve this.
Google the word, travel.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Here's your competition...
2 Billion other travel related websites (As of 2pm Central Time; about 2,010,000,000 for travel)
Who's the current number one? Yahoo; of course.
If you plan to compete with this number one spot on Google here's your next step...
Do a simple site search on Google, site:travel.yahoo.com to find out how many unique pages are being fed into this website so you can truly understand what your competition has that you may or may not have. (As of 2pm Central Time; about 7,860,000 for site:travel.yahoo.com) Your competition has almost 8 million pages of travel content and (I'm just guessing here) you do not.
How do you compete???
Its a two step process:
1. First, you must build 7,860,000+ pages of unique travel-related content. In other words, its time to start blogging A LOT!
2. Second, get out your checkbook its time to spend as much if not more money than Yahoo on internet marketing. I hope you have that kind of money...
After all is said and done, you've created close to 8 million new pages of travel content and you've spent millions of dollars in your marketing budget. After all this time and money you might have a chance to be #1 on Google!
This was free advice, I offer no guarantees. Simply something to consider when you set your SEO goals.
New Niche Markets
After reading the latest industry news in my business we noticed an important market that we had yet to tap into. Vacation Homes. We've continually provided service to other major venues in the travel industry, i.e. Cruise Lines, Tour Companies and Destinations but this was the first we considered this area. This area of the vacation industry fit seamlessly into our current business model.
Instead of spending precious time trying to become number one on Google I turned to my tried and true method, learned through history and experience. Through insight and capitalizing on what works well in my business, I was able to expand my market with the current model and product. I found a vacation home provider that wanted to work with my platform and network. We showcased them and added visibility to their business through our network, we sent a feature in our newsletter to all of our existing customers expanding the audience for our new niche supplier.
The net result of this campaign into a new market in the industry created a great story to tell to the next vacation home supplier we recently approached and added to our network of suppliers. My tried and true method worked! Its been proven and it fit seamlessly into our business model. I've created a new niche we can build from in the future and took no shortcuts to get there.
Anyone can participate in the growth of their business in this way. Every step you take to generate revenue should be simple and should add up and produce a force for your business. Through the inspiration of the day to day processes I understand my business' strengths. Reading the latest news in the industry allowed me to generate a new niche for my business.
More time and money is wasted attempting the impossible feats in small business. If you don't have the same collateral that your much larger competitors do in their ballooned marketing budgets, becoming number 1 on google won't better or worsen your chances at small business success. Spending all your time and money focusing to help Google's bottom line is a sure fire way to run out of both. Focus on your strengths as a company to grow your business.
The Value of Your Dollar.
Regardless of the current economy or the value of the American Dollar against the British Pound or the Euro, your money is the value you make it. I recently started considering the purchase of a new notebook computer. Little did I know that the value of my dollars was in what I truly needed in a computer versus what my instincts were marketed to in needing. We normally strive for the biggest and best regardless of expense. Consider vehicles (gas mileage) and college (tuition). When they can easily replace the other with little value displaced. Purpose of use versus the underlying reputation of having the biggest and best to prove something to someone.
If the computer manufacturer had their way I would spend the maximum amount of money on a brand new notebook that would be outdated and out-modeled with the latest and greatest the first day I used it. I would buy a computer that could do anything and everything regardless of my intended use for it. Technology is incentivized these days especially in the market for computers. Buy all of these certain upgrades and receive ANOTHER free printer or last year's edition of the latest and greatest digital camera. Are these incentives necessary and do they bring a greater value to what you originally intended on purchasing? I needed a new notebook with updated technology, I was never seeking a printer but the incentive tries to offer me more value...or does it devalue the notebook I was seeking? Its always important to consider the overall value of what you need versus what you are offered. If you are offered more value than what your dollar is worth (to you) then you've got a steal. But if you are spending your valuable dollars on features that aren't useful to you for your intentions than the value is wasted.
The value of the technologies you invest in should be considered in respect to the business you can produce from it or what you get out of the expenditure. I may spend a lot more than the base price for a notebook computer but the upgrades and/or the add-ons that are valuable to me allows my work to be more productive and effective. So it isn't the functionality of the technology but what I use it for that creates its value to me.
When you spend money on any new technology consider the value of the dollars you spent on it, the value you've given to the money you've spent. Not the current markets value. Your hard earned money in business is all the blood, sweat and tears you put into achieving and earning each and every dollar. Don't just get your money out of an expenditure, get your value out of it. Get the value you place on your earnings out of each and every purchase you make, for business or otherwise. The meaning is in the value not in the dollar.
Consider a picture of a camel in a Helux Toyota truck. If this image is too hard to picture in your mind, feel free to image search "camel in truck" to find one. Would a super duty truck be of value to a driver with this kind of cargo? The value of this truck is in its specific use. If you are in the camel transport business this is a high value product!
What I Did On Super Bowl Sunday...
I enjoyed a nice evening with my family watching the remake of the 1961 classic, The Parent Trap with Dennis Quaid. It was a great time to sit with my family and enjoy each other's company plus it turned out to be quite the entertaining film. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a family friendly feature. The most important part of this story is the timing. I was watching The Parent Trap during the Super Bowl. As an adult American male I may be scoffed at for my explicit disregard for THE game of the year as I intentionally chose to watch a Disney remake rather than the athletic prowess of the multi-millionaire players of the game.
With the movie credits rolling I changed the channel to see the end of the biggest game of the year with 4:03 left. Exactly enough time to see the best and worst of the role models in the NFL.
As the Patriots drove down the field I saw the utter crassness and blatant ego of Randy Moss as he caught a 7-yard pass to capture the game and the hearts of the New England followers. He seemed truly arrogant as he taunted the crowd with his arms and showed little gratitude for his winning play. As I watched his disregard for the moment I turned to my wife and said, "I truly hope that he is not rewarded." simply because he showed little emotion, heart or gratitude for this success. Unnerved by Moss I watched the rest of the game intently hoping for the Giants to take back the ring.
I was happy to find a reversal in the leading score, the chance for the Giants to win, and the emotion and gratitude of the players on top of the scoreboard. As Plaxico Burress caught the winning touchdown pass with thirty-five seconds left in the game he knelt down, reacting in the opposite way that Moss had a few minutes earlier. I witnessed the heart of a grateful player passionate about his game, his play and the potential victory in his hands as he knelt in the end zone displaying his graciousness for the moment. I was more excited to see the extreme opposite of Moss' disregard for a winning reception than I was to see the Giants get back on top of the scoreboard. Between Moss and Burress were the polar opposites of passion, gratitude and heart.
By only watching the last four minutes in the game I was able to spend quality time with my family and see two extremes in the passion and gratitude of professionals. As in business, if you aren't passionate or thankful for your successes then you typically are not rewarded. Be thankful for each and every dollar you make in your business and be grateful for the continued support of your customers, if you aren't passionate with what you do and the services or products you provide to your customers than you'll lose in the end. Passion is the essence of a successful business. The gratitude and humbleness you share within your successes as a business will make or break your tenure in your industry.
Optimize for $19.95
Have you ever fallen victim to one of these Search Engine Optimization claims? They offer to teach you everything you need to know about optimizing your website to get more traffic to your business' site. In the end you find out a bunch of lousy information that will hurt, not help, your search rankings.
There is no easy way to "optimize" your website for any purpose. It takes a lot of time and effort to get your website up and running to its maximum capacity.
Adding invisible links is not how you can drive more traffic to your business. It just doesn't work. I won't sit here and support that tactic and neither will the major players in Search Engines, i.e. Google. In fact some of the tactics mentioned throughout the internet as blacklisted SEO tactics just don't cut it and will actually get your website flagged. It simply doesn't do the job. Click Here to Find Out More.
The name of the game in SEOs is unique content. Produce unique content and you might have a win in the SEO game. But the only way to get that unique content is to do some work. Don't sit idle as your website becomes outdated. Consistently review the information on your website making it relevant to your business, Today!
One word...BLOG. Blog until you can't think anymore. Create a topic grab bag, pull from it when you get lost for a topic. Talk about what you did last weekend. The funny thing your youngest child told you yesterday. Relate everything in your life to your business. Make connections that mean something to yourself and make them relevant for other people. Make others care about what you are saying. Drive them to revisit your website again, and again, and again. Make your blogging consistent.
Nothing is accomplished that betters your business without hard work. Accomplishing your search engine goals won't magically happen with shortcuts. Look deep into the day-to-day operation of you and write about it. Work hard for your website and developing its content. The harder you work to create a robust up-to-date web space the harder your website will work driving traffic to your business.
The moral of the optimizing story for your business...
Adding content works. Adding more robust and unique content works even better.
How My Father Still Influences My Business...
Growing up I always sought my dad's opinions and approval for my new bigger and better ideas for business. More often than not my father used to tell me that my big idea did not meet the 4 rules. As a lifelong Rotarian it was very important to him that all business ideas and ventures reflect completely the four-way test of the things we think, say or do.
1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
With this ideology I consistently maintain my father's test throughout the growth of my business. Through passion and hard work to achieve what is beneficial to everyone involved I have built a foundation for business and real networking. The power of personal interaction in business has also become foundational for a successful business network.
I've recently become more aware of the power that is gained through personal interaction in business. Networking and the power of the people you know is more influential in your success than any contract that is signed. How do you get in the door to your next potential client? How do you get the ink on paper? It takes a little finesse and a lot of guts and passion. In a world overrun with digital communications its never been more important to utilize personal interaction to help build your relationships to get the deal.
A strong relationship is the glue that keeps our personal and business lives running smoothly. A strong relationship with your significant other can make or break a marriage. Similarly, a strong relationship with a client can make or break a successful business venture. The ties that bind us together aren't the email communications that we receive and send daily, they aren't the dollars that we exchange in business, its the personal relationships that we foster within our network and the passion that drives us. The typical saying, its all in who you know not what you know is golden in the business of doing business. You can't make a dime if you don't have a fostered relationship with someone who will buy in to your ideas. Just remember that its not just who you know its how well you know them and the passion for the business.
Apply the four-way test of the things you think, say or do in business. Increase your passion for what you do in business and make yourself aware of the truth, the fairness, the goodwill and the beneficiary of your decisions in business. Your success is intimately tied to your ability to meet the four rules.
Foster relationships with your business contacts. Make personal interaction a goal for 2008. Call your clients. Develop deeper relationships with your business partners. Make the relationship more important than the business conducted within the relationship. The more passionate you are about your business, the stronger your business relationships become and the stronger the fundamentals for success will have you answering yes to the four-way test.
Focus on Fundamentals
Working on your fundamentals is a key element of your daily activities as well as business. I've recently discovered that focusing on fundamentals and being persistent in your efforts is foundational to achievement. I have been involved in some form of organized soccer or running for the last thirty years and throughout this time I have hit the peaks of fitness and the valleys of decadence. On December 24th I attended my first Bikram yoga class. My reasoning for doing so was to increase my flexibility to help improve my soccer playing ability and to allow myself the ability to run pain free. Flexible muscles would provide me less soreness and less chance to become hurt or injured. Yoga would also provide me with a way to work on fitness fundamentals that I may have neglected in the past. I took a chance and partook in something that I normally would not participate in order to focus on longevity and fitness fundamentals. Today will be Day 17 of Yoga Class (in a row).
On Day 13 I had a breakthrough as I was listening to the instructor and she said, "Focus on breathing as it is the foundation of yoga". Historically I have been quite inflexible but during this breakthrough in class I focused on breathing and I was able to maintain a pose that seemed implausible for my body to achieve on each of the previous days. The Fixed Firm Pose and the element of breathing was my breakthrough.
Look to see what is fundamental to your business and focus on this to achieve your breakthrough. "Where does your money come from?" Improve this through focus and persistence and you will impact your bottom line. My new focus for 2008 is the foundation of my business: the size of the network. We are a small business and in order to achieve an impact to our bottom line we need to focus on our strength as a business, our large network of clients. We've recently hired someone dedicated to marketing because it helps us focus on what is fundamental to our business. Marketing to our existing clientele and our existing network will allow us to build on our fundamentals to reach our next breakthrough.
Move Beyond Your Comfort Zone In 2008.
Its that time of year to watch the ball drop and to make good on resolutions. Instead of resolving to change a behavior or to stop a behavior that you've become used to over the past year, learn from the things you've done and done right through the duration of 2007.
In your business it's important to always keep innovation top of mind. Remember what your business stands for, how you got to your current position and where you’d like to see your business go in the future. Use your past experience to help guide where you're company will prove most effective and profitable in the next year.
My new plan for the New Year is to create a list of all the thing we do well as a company and use it as a foundation and building block to create new ways to be innovative and stay relevant in business.
Day-to-day through constant work we forget what it is that we are good at and the reasons we may have started our business in the beginning. In order to grow as a business we need to identify new revenue streams to consistently update our vision and products to meet our customers needs.
What better way to grow than to build off of what you do well. The first step is to identify what you do well. Next, highlight all the things that your business does well that is also profitable. Become an expert in this "done well and profitable" entity and stick to that. Stick to what you know. Be an expert. Maintain and grow your business with the things you do well that also positively impact your bottom line.
Strive to be the best version of yourself this year. Be militant about your accomplishments. Be committed to not being comfortable. Live aggressively in business and strive to go beyond your comfort zone. Don't just hang on because your comfortable. Be willing to break yourself out of the comfortable place in which you've survived 2007 and become a better version in 2008.
An average of 6 million firms close each year. No matter what happened in the past year you’ve done a great job surviving another year in business. Your business has made it another year to 2008. Pat yourself on the back for ringing in another New Year as a small business.
Happy New Year!
Step-by-Step Work Your Plan
It's the time of year to reflect on the old and look forward to the new. Another year is almost past and we're trained to be nostalgic about what we did and did not accomplish in 2007. Lets learn from our failures and accomplishments and expand our plan for 2008.
If you don't have a specific measurable plan for your business than you are preemptively planning on failure for the New Year.
Lets discuss the idea of a plan in business. A business plan is nearly worthless if there aren't specific measurements in place to quantify a business' success. You make it or break it according to revenue and income. If there is no plan in place acknowledging revenue sources and where your customers are coming from, your business will fail faster than it is started. Beyond that, a business without a plan is an investor's nightmare.
It's important to break down your plan step by step. The degree to which you break it down into simple steps has cumulative effects on the overall goal. You should always plan your work and work your plan so that you have something more to strive for. Don't set unreachable goals for yourself and your business. Set smaller achievable goals that leave you striving for more.
As in business I look at day-to-day activities with specific goals in mind. One of my daily activities/hobbies is running. I enjoy running. As an activity, running doesn't sap my enthusiasm as it does for others. I love to run. I never run until I'm tired; I run until I have something more to give so that I look forward to my next run.
Set goals in business that reflect your overall plan and are an integral part of your success. Make sure that you always have more to give your business so you can look forward to your next successful goal achievement.
Where To Spend Your $$$Money$$$
A friend of mine recently told me a story about his new business. He had allotted $5000 to launch a website for this business and he wanted to spend $3500 on the art and graphic design of the site with the other $1500 to go toward its functionality. He was willing to spend a significant amount of his budget on the site because he wanted it to be a reflection of himself and his business.
Wanting my insight on this decision to invest in a website I made a simple suggestion. Invest $1000 on a Levelfield, Inc. Small Business Website and use the other $4000 of the budget to generate marketing to bring awareness and interest to the business. By only spending $1000 on my product and still receiving a highly functional, quality website interface with design elements, he would free up a large portion to spend elsewhere to gain interest for his business. By using the larger amount of marketing budget to drive customers to the website and create awareness for the business, the functionality of the web site will support the new interest and keep customers coming back.
I’d like to take credit for this idea of function and utility being more important than the outward reflection of self but Henry Ford is the one who originated this concept. Because of Ford transportation was of the essence and automobiles became the source of transportation for all Americans. Cars were no longer luxury items and status symbols afforded by only the upper class; cars were affordable. By providing a basic necessity to the American dream, Henry Ford helped increase the quality of life across the U.S. He made automotive transportation a reality for all people not just for the rich. I can only hope to achieve the same when it comes to small businesses and functional websites.
Be aware of where you are spending your money and why you are spending it. Insure that it is spent in a manner that benefits the functionality of what it is you are trying to achieve. A web page can win awards for its design and presence but if it doesn’t support incoming business and return customers its not worth a single penny you’ve spent.
Form and functionality make a website usable for you and your customers. Be conscious of where you spend your money and focus on your business’ marketing efforts. Use your marketing budget to drive interest to your business. If you don't have the ability to update your web site; if your web site doesn’t capture information from your online leads and automatically notify you so you can communicate to your customers immediately; if it doesn’t offer a built in newsletter feature for you to communicate to existing and interested clients; and if it doesn’t offer reporting for you to understand and better focus your efforts according to who has visited your business online your web site doesn’t work for your business. If your web site doesn't offer you all of these capabilities then you are spending too much money without enough return on investment.
Spend Quality Time with Your Website
Not only should we be constantly building relationships with those around us in our personal and professional life we need to stay in tune with our products and our marketing tactics.
Get to know your website and build a relationship with it. Your website is your face on the web. For many of your customers it’s their first point of contact with you and your business. Treat your website like you would yourself and constantly maintain its upkeep. Nothing says “I don’t have time to care for my business” than an unmaintained window to the virtual world.
Much like an interview that makes or breaks your entry into a company, your website can have the same effect on your current and potential customers. The web-face of a company on a website can legitimate the company to its consumers or if it doesn’t meet certain standards of the technologically savvy consumer generation it can distract from a companies legitimacy.
Many business owners reference the fact that time is limited and there are only so many hours in a day to do business let alone to work on a website. Make your website a priority. Make time for building and maintaining your website. Investing time and effort into your online façade will help you promote and validate your company to important early adopters, trendsetters and potential customers who judge your business by the company you keep on the web.
Learn how to blog. Take your most random thoughts and create unique content for your website, put it out their for your customers and search engines to pour over. Blogging on a Levelfield, Inc./Online Agency Site is one of the easiest ways to update unique content and save you time.
Relate to your customer through a consistent relationship with your website. Just like your car, your website deserves and needs regularly schedule maintenance. Create more bang for your online marketing buck and utilize your website and its features to the best of its ability.
The Quality Of The Contacts You Keep
This time of year brings up a lot of memories. Memorable experiences from your past always return to you over the holidays along with thoughts of loved ones missed and old friends misplaced over the years. We’ve been trained by retail America to spend money on cards to send our loved ones and old friends messages of wellbeing. I’ve always wondered why we send messages to our loved ones wishing them well and including the “Year in Review” addendum instead of maintaining personal contact throughout the year. In most cases this addendum is a one or two page overview of all that has happened throughout the present year and all that is hoped for in the next.
In some cases the communication Mecca that we live in has taken over and the traditional Holiday card is overlooked and pushed aside to make way for the Holiday email newsletter. Everything in society has become less personal. We can pay our bills online, we can deposit checks at the bank without any personal contact and we even prefer to speak to our close friends via typed words on cell phones than by using our god given spoken language. During this year’s holiday season let's change that. I’ve always made it my goal to personally converse with old friends over the holidays, people I may have lost touch with over the past year. Rebuilding or maintaining the relationship that you once had via a phone call or a conversation over dinner would mean more to an old friend than a holiday card lost among the masses. Make it your goal this holiday season to rebuild your personal network through solid warm-hearted conversations between old friends. Skip the card aisle this year, save money on stamps and put your free long distance to good use. Make it a point to call the people you care about and reach out to old friends. An unexpected phone call from you is guaranteed to put a bigger smile on the other end of the line than snowflakes and joyful tidings on a two dimensional card. As with most things in my life, I’m constantly working to build stronger and more robust relationships, personally and professionally.
Maintaining contact in your personal life with old friends, acquaintances and family members is comparable to the maintenance of a network in business. There is a pretense when it comes to a business’ network that the more contacts you have the merrier. Lets reverse this thinking. The more contacts in a network doesn’t automatically lend itself to achieving greater results in a business; but the quality of the contacts you keep in your network, the more apt your network is to support, maintain and grow your business.
Contacts in a network should be screened through a double opt-in feature to allow for a solidly built list. Think quality over quantity. An email marketing campaign will be more effective if the targeted list of network contacts are fully aware of their status. Through a screening process, the customer knows and accepts the marketing efforts because they are conscious and mindful of the relationship. This idea can be applied to maintaining those network relationships. The quality of maintenance efforts you put into a customer relationship communicates to the customers in your network that they are important.
What you gain from an experience depends on the effort you put it. You will receive positive impacts from maintaining quality relationships and contacts within your personal life and in your business. Make relationship maintenance and quality communications a viable resolution in all aspects to better yourself in your personal and professional life.
The gift of an invitation
I have 4 amazing children. I have realized that my children and I don't share many interests. I would like to do fun stuff with them but most of the things they want to do are not fun for me. I had almost given up on things that I enjoyed doing with my children. I was happy to participate with them in activities that they enjoyed.
Every Tuesday morning I go to a breakfast meeting. During the meeting I shared my passion for Soccer. One of my friends Darrell Logterman mentioned that his daughter Stephanie Logterman plays soccer for the University of Texas Longhorns and that I should go watch a game.
I went to a game with 2 of my children. We had a wonderful time. I had finally found something all my children enjoy doing together. We are going to another one today. I will have my wife's van and take 4 of my kids with 2 of their friends to the game. I bought a few tickets and have a friend and his 3 kids meet us there. Last week I took 3 business associates to a soccer game.
As a person that usually avoids parties and large social gatherings I have found something that helps me nurture and build the relationship with my children and also business contacts in a setting I enjoy.
The next time someone invites you to something consider it carefully before choosing... You never know....Jude SamsonPresidentLevelfield, Inc.
I sell a very 'Unsexy Message'
success takes work! E-Mail Marketing requires work All marketing requires work Successful businesses require work Success in all things requires work School, Sports, Relationships. How many of you have an effortless marriage? Who gets along 100% all the time with no effort with their children, coworkers, bosses and friends? It all takes work, time and commitment. Wow, that's a tough message to sell. Frequently people move to new ways of doing business, like the Internet, leaving their common sense behind. They see on TV and the Internet about riches that await them. All they have to do is to buy something for $9.95, or $19.95, or $99.99 or $2499.00. They think - "wow for just a few dollars - I can be rich." I'm sure you've seen the ads, you know people who bought into them, you might have even bought into this promise of money for nothing. Sometimes the "suggestion" of riches might come to you from a trusted and more traditional way - your favorite marketing expert. How many campaigns have been sold to small business that cost more than any revenue ever produced. Was the advice tainted? Perhaps - perhaps not. One sure thing if the person buying the advice was not actively involved working on the marketing campaign I'm sure that nothing good came of it. Consider this question on Google's web page for its AdSense program. Q: How much money will I make? A: How much you'll earn depends on a number of variable factors... I"m betting that some of the factors are time and money and the work that one puts into the program. I've seen people who get a web site that looks nice but has nothing on it - they slap an advertising program on it like Google's Adsense. Then they go downstairs grab a nice cool drink and a good book and sit back waiting for the money to roll it. Guess what happens. No matter what you are doing it takes work if you are going to be successful - yep this is a hard message to sell. Email Marketing is not any different. If you a have plan, commit to the plan and take action you can achieve results. But guess what! You have to work your plan to make a difference. Good Plan - no action - no results. A key thing to consider with this form of marketing is that you need to get started today. It's not that hard. In fact I'll share a secret. Most people never start and of those who start most don't stick with it. You can gain a competitive advantage by getting started and sticking with it. Growing Your Newsletter List First you have to have a list. Building a list is not hard but it takes work. You will find that it's not hard to build a quality list. First ask your current customers if you can send them offers about your products, services or useful information that has meaning for them. The simplest way is to ask them. Ask them when you give them information, ask them when you have them on the phone, ask them when they are in your office - just ask. Often they will say yes. You simply ask them. Of course you need to have something of value to offer them but if you ask people will frequently say yes. We grow our list in a variety of ways. We get many requests from our website which is set up to capture email addresses, get approval, and store addresses and to make them easy to work with so we can email offers. How do we "capture the addresses" - That's easy we provide an way for people to request information from us right on the website. That's right we just ask them. I'm sure you can find many ways to ask and get approval to add people to your list. Recently we gathered names and email addresses from a networking party that we sponsored. Give some thing away - people will sign up for the "freebee" but if you offer them something of value, they will stay signed up. Practice Makes Perfect Don't wait to take action until you have the perfect and most complete mailing list. Start now. You need the practice. Even if you only have one person in your list - ACT LIKE YOU HAVE 1000's. Take the time to create a message. Send the message. Review the results. Your skills will grow with your list if you work at it. And don't think that you wasted the early work. You are fine tuning your abilities and that is never wasted. Getting started now allows you to perfect your processes, to find out what works and what doesn't and to learn how to close sales as a result. All this takes practice. You must learn which kind of message works best for your customers. Remember in school those who always waited to the last moment to do their projects? Effective messages need to be repeated - over and over. Over and over..... People take action when they are ready. I've seen customers who ask why we never told them about our site customizations. When I checked I saw that they had been sent and received the same message over a period of years. But finally when they were ready, they "saw" the offer and "bought" one our web customization services. Who cares what it looks like: Make sure you have something of value to offer in your newsletter. Don't fret so much about making your newsletter a work of art. For one thing everyone who is concerned about security and privacy has all that beautiful artwork turned off. Don't focus on the picture, focus on the message. Keep the message short! Make sure the message is offering something of value. And repeat the message. People take action when they are ready. Be patient. Plan and build for the long term Be Realistic Aim High 1. Focus on the message 2. Don't worry about creating a work of art (you'll only make someone else money by doing that) 3. Keep the message short and to the point 4. Don't confuse your audience 5. Give them something that they want or need 6. Repeat the message 7. Observe the results 8. Modify the message as necessary 9. Don't expect everyone to respond. One final word - the more you do the easier it becomes!Jude SamsonPresidentLevelfield, Inc.
Our latest niche: Vacation Homes
I have missed writing for the last few months. First quarter 2007 has been extremely busy. We have been working hard to add to our product line and making significant software and hardware infrastructure upgrades.
Another thing that we've added is support for vacation homes and we are developing websites and offering distribution for these hot vacation properties. We want to make sure that no matter what kind of vacation your customers are planning you have the ability to provide them with a memorable experience.
If you have a vacation home for rent and you pay commissions, we a special offer for you. You can list your vacation home for 6 months and have it distributed to thousands of travel agency sites. Now vacation planners will have thousands of different ways to find Your vacation property to help you keep it full year round. There will be no charge for the listings for the first 6 months. After that the regular fee is $249.00. Also the first 10 properties that we receive will be listed free for 2 years. (Limit one per customer). We'll even load the data for you. If you buy advertising you know that this is a great offer.
Remember this special offer is open to OnlineAgency(TM) and Levelfield(TM) customers and will provide thousands of new ways for vacation planners to find your property. If you have a property you wish to list send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (or just reply to this newsletter) with your questions.Jude SamsonPresidentLevelfield, Inc.
The Giving Season
I remember the last time I bought Christmas present s, my son was 2 my daughter was 4. After the 3rd present they were bored. I realized as a young father I was focused on the wrong things. As a parent the greatest gift I could give my children was my value system that my father gave to me. (It did take me many years to appreciate it) That was the last year I gave my children Christmas gifts. They are now 10 and 12. We use this time of the year to focus spending more time with family and contributing to others.I have come to realize that poverty is a relative. I am really grateful I live in the United States in this day and age where we can afford to take creature comforts like hot water to shower with for granted.I have found no matter how dire circumstances might occur to me I always have something to give. When I do, I feel good.This holiday season do something for someone less fortunate than you. Contributing without an expectation of anything in return is where I have found is where the fulfillment lies.I am only inspired to contribute to needs. If you do not know anyone to contribute something to, I would like to suggest www.heifer.orgHappy Holiday Season.Jude SamsonPresident
Commitment..is a VerbA couple of days ago one of my new salesmen told me that it was going to be slow till the beginning of the year. He was sharing wisdom he had learned at his previous job... and he would have made sure of this with his actions. I shared that as a company we had made many sales on Christmas eve, January second, the Friday after Thanksgiving...
The first time I asked sales and support to work on days before national holidays or the day after, my rational was I work because its quiet so others must also. We want to sell to small business and 90 percent of our customers have less than 50 employees. The owners and decision makers at these businesses are probably at work.
Catching up or getting ahead.For me the holidays are great time to catch up or get ahead in my business. Since my four kids are off during the holidays, I take them to the office with me.. They play, draw or read at the office while I can get caught up on work.
There is always a logical reason why you cannot sell as much or provide support for your customers...I urge you to make your own reasons why you can - It will serve your business better. Its that extra COMMITMENT that will have you stand out from the rest.When I was 12 a soccer coach told me .."Samson if your mind can think it your ass will follow"My friends, go out there and get lots of new customers this holiday season and take care of a lot of old ones.Jude SamsonPresident Levelfield
Levelfield - What's in a Name?
We call ourselves Levelfield because our aim is ultimately to level the playing field for small business owners. We want you to have the same tools your larger competitors have.As a small business ourselves we have the same challenges and need the same things that you do. That’s why we build software that does the things that every business needs, big or small. Then, by working with lots of loyal small businesses we’re able to offer these products at very affordable prices.Simple right? That’s the point.What’s the story behind your name? Write it down and tell that story on your own website.Jude SamsonPresidentLevelfield, Inc.
Add Unique Content - Get Found on Search Engines
These days as we talk with our customers and prospective customers almost everyone asks about getting found on the search engines.Once again, there are no shortcuts or magic involved in this form of marketing. It’s just a matter of consistent effort over a period of time. Really it just boils down to 3 key elements:1) Adding Unique Content to Your Website2) Focusing on a Very Specific Niche3) Getting Links Back to Your WebsiteThat’s it…In this post I’ll talk about adding unique content. In future posts I’ll discuss the other two key points.Adding unique content is not rocket science. You just need to spend time on a regular basis and write. You can write articles, blog posts, tip sheets, answer frequently asked questions, etc. There are many ways to add content, but if it’s going to be unique then you’re going to have to write it.Of course you can also use your customers to develop unique content. You can ask them to write a testimonial about your business and describe very specifically how you helped them. If you’re in the travel business you can ask your customer to write about their last trip and send you some pictures. The opportunities are endless, you just have to use your imagination.Take 20 minutes right now and write something unique for your website. It’s not as hard as you think! (I just did it)Jude SamsonPresidentLevelfield, Inc.
Traveling and WorkingHave you setup your business so that you can keep an eye on your business and work on your business while you’re traveling? You can use technology to work globally.I brought my laptop with me on my trip to Switzerland. It’s getting really easy to find wireless Internet access while you’re traveling. I essentially have complete access to everything I need to run my business no matter where I am in the world. Using Instant Messaging I can communicate with the people I work with. With our sales and support tool I can make sure we’re continuing to bring new business in the door, and taking care of our new and existing customers.I can even put up a new blog post with a picture of myself from an airport half way around the world!You may need to travel unexpectedly. Can you pick up and leave and still grow your business? Even if you’re traveling for pleasure you should be able to extend your trip with the right tools.Make a commitment to your business. Setup you business so that you can get your work done no matter what the circumstances.Jude SamsonPresident
Restaurant Websites - Our Latest Niche
We’re now developing websites for restaurants.Name a very successful small business that doesn’t have a clearly defined niche or niches. I’ll bet you can’t do it. Choosing a niche to go after in your own small business will help you focus. Focus is critical in the success of a small business like ours.Our first niche, and still the majority of our business is in travel. Because we’ve remained intently focused on travel agent websites for years we’ve been extremely successful in that space. We now have well over 3,000 independent travel agents that we work with, and 130 travel suppliers like Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Funjet Vacations, and many more.Now it’s important for us to diversify. One niche that we’ve started developing is restaurant websites. There are tens of thousands of restaurants, and we can offer them a simple turn-key website that does everything they’ll need: A website that they can make changes to themselves, make their menu available to their patrons, keep those same patrons coming back with our built-in email newsletter, and the ability for customers to place orders, make reservations or request details about group events.What’s your niche? What is your business focused on that will bring you a consistent flow of new customers?Jude SamsonPresidentLevelfield, Inc.P.S. Don’t forget about our referral program. Refer your favorite restaurant to us and you’ll receive a check for $100!
We're off to the Triathlon World Championships
At the end of this month Jeannie and I will be leaving for Lausanne, Switzerland for the Triathlon World Championships.
Even though Jeannie crashed on the bike at the National Championships in Kansas City, she still finished 10th and her time was good enough to qualify her for the World Championships.
As always there's a business lesson to be learned from Jeannie's experience. In your business you're going to have failures and setbacks. That doesn't mean it's the end of the race, even though it might feel like it. When those things happen it's important to honor your commitments and not honor the way you are feeling. Jeannie honored her commitment to finish the race and qualify. She was slower after the crash, but because she honored her commitment to finish and qualify she'll get to start a brand new race. This time on the world stage.
She also launched her very own website this week. Learn more about her story, check out some more photos and learn more about how she does it all.
While you're there don't forget to read her Triathlon Blog
The next time you experience a setback remember to honor your commitments, keep your chin-up and move forward.
Levelfield's Approach to Website Design
At our core we believe that websites should be simple and functional. It’s important to have a professional looking website that presents the proper image. This look should be consistent throughout the entire site. Beyond this basic requirement it’s more important that the site be designed with the user in mind. Most people visiting a website are there to get information. Can they easily get to the information they need? Is the navigation simple and easy to understand? If they need more information can they quickly request that information online or find the appropriate contact information for someone who can help?
Websites aren’t meant to be static. They should have current and up to date information. Our platform allows anyone who is comfortable using Microsoft Word or Outlook to easily update and work on their website. We provide free training and support so that everyone from the administrative employees to the executive staff can make any changes they need to the website. We also include capabilities for a searchable online calendar, blogs, photo galleries and more. All so that an organization can work together to keep their website up to date and provide the most current information to visitors.
Communication is also important. We have several tools built into our product that help our customers communicate with their own customer base. Everything from an e-mail newsletter capability to RSS feeds and other syndication tools can be used to distribute information.
It’s also important to understand what is and isn’t working on a website over time. That’s why we provide a set of comprehensive reporting tools that will tell you how many times each page on your website has been viewed, and how many people have requested information from that page. This helps our customers to determine if they have irrelevant information on their website. The reporting will also show where all of the web traffic is coming from, how many visitors are looking at the site, and which search terms are being used to find their website.
Take a look at your website. Does it measure up?
Ask for an Appointment
If we wanted to remain small and stagnant we’d rely exclusively on our website for all of our new business. Thankfully that’s far from reality. We’d much rather continue to grow and provide more value for more customers.
In order to continue this growth we have to be proactive in both our sales and marketing efforts. Nothing that we do involves complex sales strategies or marketing programs. We simply continue to do the things that help us grow over and over each and every day.
Even though the product that we sell is a technical product the phone is the most productive tool in our office. It’s the next best thing to being face to face with our customers.
To make more sales we simply make more calls. Again, the approach is simple. We respectfully ask for enough time to show our product to a prospective customer. If they’re interested we schedule an appointment, and if they’re not we thank them for their time and move on to the next call.
Simple strategies always seem to work the best and it doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Make some time in your schedule today to call some prospective customers. Ask them for an appointment to see if you can help them with your product or service. If they're not interested just make the next call.
Creating an Environment to Recognize Miracles
An awful lot of success is determined by your thinking and your actions. When those things are aligned success is much more possible. If they’re not aligned then failure is almost certain.
If you’re truly committed then the right people will show up when you need them. You’ll be talking about the things you want and people will be drawn to you and those ideas.
You must have clarity on where you want to get and what you want to accomplish, your motives must be pure (that means everybody benefits). Then God will provide the right person to talk to who will help you take the next step.
If you take the next step then the next person will be provided as long as your motives are pure and you’re always willing to try to help someone else.
Every time I have this level of clarity in my life then the right people are provided. I owe much of my own success to this effect.
Here’s what you need to ask yourself:
- Are my motives clear?
- Does everybody concerned win?
- Am I truly focused and committed?
Focus your thinking. What are you committed to achieving for yourself?
A Guaranteed way to Boost Your Profits!
There’s really only one guaranteed way to boost your profits. That is to reduce your expenses. Do you really need fancy office furniture or a gas guzzling SUV to effectively run your business?
Business follows a very simple formula
Revenue – Expenses = Profit
Sure we’re all trying to grow revenue, but it really pays to invest some time in reducing your expenses. It will have the same effect on your profits.
Have you signed up for services that you continue to pay for but never use? Stop! Call the vendor and ask them to cancel your account. $9.99 a month, $29.95 a month and $199 a year may not seem like much, but they add up quickly. If you’re not using these services or they’re not adding to your bottom line, then cut them out.
Look at the effectiveness of your marketing and advertising. You can use your Levelfield website to track the success of many of these campaigns. Just use the reporting feature to see if your efforts are creating more traffic, more quote requests and more business. If they’re not you should either look at how you can improve what you’re doing, or stop doing the things that aren’t working and reinvest that money where it will work.
I could go on and on. Look at each expense in your business and ask yourself: “is this necessary? Is this adding to my bottom line?” If it’s not then you have an opportunity to increase profits.
Find an expense you can cut right now and increase your profits! I guarantee it will work.
I'm so proud of Jeannie: My Wife, Mother of 4 and Triathlete!
My wife, Jeannie, is truly an amazing woman. In addition to being my wife and the mother to four children she is a pretty incredible athlete.
I'll be talking more about Jeannie in the next couple of weeks. For now here are a few highlights from the last few years. You can see that good hard consistent training over time really pays off!
- Corpus Christi Triathlon-1st overall
- Texas State Triathlon- 2nd overall
- Cactus Challenge Triathlon-2nd overall
- Capital texas Triathlon-3rd overall
- Danskin Triathlon-1st overall
- National Championships 10th overall (Bike Crash)
- Splash Triathlon, Sea World, San Antonio, TX - 1st Overall
- Texas State Triathlon - Canyon Lake, TX - 5th Overall - A G Win
- Cactus Challenge Triathlon - Austin, TX - 3rd Overall
- Capital of Texas Triathlon - Austin, TX - 7th Overall - A G Win
- Danskin Women's Triathlon - Austin, TX - 4th Overall-took wrong turn
- Ironhead Dallas Triathlon - Grand Prairie, TX - 1st Overall
- Cinco Ranch Triathlon - Katy, TX - 4th Overall, A G Win
- Danskin Women's Triathlon - Austin, TX- 10th overall - A G Win
- Ironhead Dallas Triathlon - Grand Prairie, TX - A G Win
- Dilloman Triathlon - Austin, TX - 2nd Overall, A G Win
Clearly her consistent effort over the last 2 years is really starting to pay off. Your efforts in your own small business are no different. It’s just a matter of doing those things that will make you successful consistently over time. There will be days that doing those behaviors will be particularly difficult. The rewards come when you push through those days, and put in the miles anyway.
I’m sure there’s something in your life that you’re great at. If you look at why you are so good in this area it’s probably because you’ve put in consistent effort over many years.
This principle applies to all areas of your life. If there’s something else you’d like to be great at, just apply the same principles to this new area. You will get excellent there too!
Start becoming great today. Decide what you need to do everyday to get there, and do it!
Promoting Your Small Business Blog
I won’t keep secrets from you on this blog. I’ll tell you what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Why? So you can replicate it and create your own success. This is not rocket science. If you spend a few minutes each day creating unique content on your website (like I’m doing with this blog), and another few minutes marketing your blog and your website you’ll generate more traffic. There’s no secret, it just takes a little bit of effort and some persistence.
One easy way to promote your blog is to submit it to blog directories. Here is a list of the directories that have already listed this blog:
You can also use a free service like ping-o-matic or Pingoat after each post to let many of the major blog directories know you’ve added a new entry. Start your blog today! Already have a blog? Use the links above to start promoting it.
Follow-up: Polite Persistence = More Sales
How many times do you call to follow-up when you're working with one of your sales prospects? For most sales people the answer is: not enough. You don't have to be a stalker, you just have to be polite and persistent.
The people you're calling on are just like you. They're busy and have lots to do between work, family and everything else they're involved in. That means you can't just give up after one or two phone calls.
Now I'm not saying you should keep calling and harassing someone who's not interested in what you sell. If someone tells you 'no' respect them and move on to your next call.
Making a one call close is always great, but most of the time you're going to need to speak with your prospect several times before you're able to close the deal. Here at Levelfield we always finish our sales calls by asking when we can follow-up next. Then we do! That's the most important part. If someone tells you to call them back tomorrow, call them back tomorrow. If they ask you to touch base with them in 2 months, touch base with them in 2 months. Be polite and persistent and you'll close more sales.
You'll be surprised how many of these potential customers will thank you for your persistence. They know they can count on you to do what you say you're going to do. They know that the way you treat them before the sale is probably the way you're going to treat them after the sale. Now you've earned their business.
Pick up the phone right now and call 3 prospects you haven't followed up with in a while... After you're done with that, call 3 more!
In many ways I continue to build Levelfield around supporting my family and the people I work with. At the heart of it is a value system I honor: To be of service and provide value to everyone connected to Levelfield.
Today I will touch on my family. I have four kids: Aliya (4), Asha (6), David (9) and Shanti (11).
Not only does Levelfield put food on their plates and a roof over their head, it also gives me a chance to educate them. The office is only a couple of miles from home so they have a place to come and do homework after school. Now that it’s summer David and Shanti spend more time in the office. They get to interact with the rest of the staff here, and learn about business and the value of hard work.
Next week I’ll tell you about my wife Jeannie. Mother of 4… and that’s not all!
Focus on your business and what is important to YOU!
Are you Inspired?
Are you inspired by your business? If you are your chances for success are much higher. Putting in the 80-100 hour weeks to build a great company won’t even seem like work if you’re truly inspired.
What about the people that work with you? Are they inspired about their work and your business? If they’re not the work they do for you is going to seem like a chore to them. They’ll drag themselves to work everyday, do the minimum acceptable amount of work and repeat this slog day in and day out. Their results are going to be far less than inspiring.
Learn what motivates you and your staff. When you’re inspired and passionate about what you do your results are going to be incredible. You’ll be able to get through the tough times, not stopped by them.
What inspires you? Write it down and share it on your website or your own small business blog.
We Practice what we Preach
Levelfield is a small business. We realized in the beginning that business is business and we all need the same basic things. We all need to grow sales, communicate with our customers and prospective customers, see how our marketing efforts are working and have simple systems that don’t require a rocket scientist to operate.
We use the very same tools that we sell in order to grow our business:
We use our own small business website product that we sell for as little as $500 to handle most of our marketing efforts. With it we’re able to capture leads and respond to them quickly. We’re able to easily make changes to the site without having to delve into complex code. We’re communicating with you now through our small business blog, and we’re able to distribute our bi-weekly small business newsletter. After all of that we can look at our reporting and see how many people have read our blog or any other page on our site, requested information, and exactly where they came from (Google, Yahoo, our newsletter, a customer referral, etc.)
Right now we’re in the process of turning the sales tool that we’ve been using internally for the last 3 years into a product for you. All of our sales people use this tool to track their leads, follow-up with prospects, review a complete history of every conversation anyone in the organization has had with a particular person, and I have the ability to track everyone’s effectiveness. I can see how many phone calls each one of them has made including all of the details about each call if I wish. Plus it’s web based so even if I’m overseas I have access to the same information, and so does my sales staff when they’re working from home or traveling.
Do you do the same things that you tell your customers to do? Do you use your own products? Be your own customer.
Make Your Referral Program Simple
The simpler your referral program the better. If it’s complex and hard to understand it will fail.One of the reasons we developed our referral program was to keep all our business relationships clean. We will often receive referrals from multiple people in the same industry. It’s not always possible for us to return the favor and send them referrals. By simply paying cash for their referrals there is no further obligation. We’ve essentially paid them for a service. Now if they bring us another referral we just write another check. It’s simple!Simplicity is also why we use cash as our reward. Who doesn’t like cash?Simplify YOUR referral program. If a 7 year old can understand it you’re on the right path.Jude SamsonPresidentLevelfield, Inc.
Build a Referral Program
By creating a simple referral program you can create a highly productive marketing system that you only pay for when it produces results.
There is no form of marketing more powerful than Word of Mouth Marketing. If your customers, vendors or friends refer a new customer to you, you are probably 10 times more likely to get their business than if that same person had found you any other way. What better way to get more and more referrals than to build a referral program.
Your referral program does not have to be complex. In fact, the simpler your program is the better.
Let’s take our referral program as an example. If you refer us a new customer we will pay you at least $75. If your referral purchases our basic small business or travel website product we will write you a check for $75. Pretty simple right? It gets even better. If your referral buys a product beyond just our basic packages we will write you a check for 20% of their total order!
That’s it. It only takes a few seconds to explain, and it’s very effective. I regularly write checks for $75, and I’ve even been paying some folks $1,500 for referring our new recruiting tool to their headhunter friends. Not bad for a simple 5 minute introduction. I love writing those checks, because it means we just got a new customer and I didn’t have to spend thousands of dollars on advertising.
Everyone wins. We continue to grow our business with great new customers, your friend gets a great new website at an unbelievable price, and you get a nice reward for your efforts.
Start building your own referral program today!
1 New Customer
How much is just 1 new customer worth to you?
Don’t just think of a new customer as that one sale. What is the lifetime value of a good relationship with a new customer? Too often we fail to look beyond that first sale.
Depending on your business just 1 new customer can be worth tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Think beyond the first one or two sales. Consider the full value of the relationship you can build with that one customer over the lifetime of that business relationship. First they probably represent at least one or two sales each year as they continue to use your product or service. If you can maintain that relationship for 5, 10 even 20 years that new customer begins to represent some pretty significant value… and that’s just the beginning.
Having a good relationship with that customer can go far beyond the value of their own business. What if they were to refer just 1 of their friends to you ever year? That relationship just got a heck of a lot more valuable didn’t it? If you really cultivate that relationship that may just be the beginning. We have some incredible individuals who refer us 1-2 new customers every month!
Come back again. Next time we’ll talk about how to build a referral program to accelerate the growth of your business through the best kind of marketing – Word of Mouth.
Now pick up that phone and get 1 new customer today!
Welcome to our new Small Business Blog!
In an effort to continually add more for our customers and for the small business community at large we’ve decided to start another Levelfield blog. You may have seen our other blog the Levelfield Broadcast Blog, however that blog is a little more technical and is geared much more towards new features and capabilities that are available for our existing customers.
With this blog we're hoping to give you a little more insight into the philosophy that drives Levelfield and all of us that work here. We hope to take another step in building our relationship with you the customer(?) potential customer(?) or small business owner by sharing some information that you can use to help your own business.
Most of what you'll find here will be suggestions, tips, advice and insights based on our own experience during 8 years in business and the collective experience of all of the dedicated folks that work here at Levelfield. Things like:
- Sales tips
- Marketing advice
- Customer service suggestions
- Promoting your website
- Small business insights
- General advice from the trenches of another small business
We're a small business just like you. Which means we face the same problems and challenges as you do. We'll work hard to provide practical tips that you can easily use in your own business to generate more revenue, cut costs and grow your enterprise.
Use the form on the left to tell me what YOU want to hear about.