Clarity - Levelfield's Small Business Blog

- Jeannie Samson, President, Inc

  • Move Beyond Your Comfort Zone In 2008.

    1/14/2008 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Small Business

    photo by Petr Kratochvil

    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!

    Jude Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • I sell a very 'Unsexy Message'

    12/17/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    commentary, Levelfield Broadcast Package, Newsletter, Small Business

    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 "freebie" 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 Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.
  • Levelfield - What's in a Name?

    11/21/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Small Business, Websites

    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.

    Levelfield - Small Business Websites

    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 Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • Add Unique Content - Get Found on Search Engines

    11/14/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Marketing, Search Engines, Small Business, Websites

    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 Website
    2)      Focusing on a Very Specific Niche
    3)      Getting Links Back to Your Website
    That’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 Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • Traveling and Working

    11/7/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Business Management, Personal, Small Business

    Jude Samson Traveling

    Have 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 Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • Restaurant Websites - Our Latest Niche

    10/24/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Referral Program, Restaurant Websites, Small Business

    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 Samson
    Levelfield, 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

    10/17/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Family, Personal, Small Business

    Jeannie Samson - Bandaged Woman Triathlete

    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. - Wife, Mother, Triathlete

    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.

    Jude Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • Ask for an Appointment

    10/3/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Sales, Small Business

    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.

    Jude Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • A Guaranteed way to Boost Your Profits!

    9/19/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Business Management, Small Business

    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.

    Jude Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • I'm so proud of Jeannie: My Wife, Mother of 4 and Triathlete!

    9/12/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Family, Personal, Small Business

    Jeannie Samson Triathlete with 4 Kids!

    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!

    • 2006 Highlights

    • 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)
    • 2005 Highlights

    • 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
    • 2004 Highlights

    • 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

    Jeannie - Wife - Mother Writer _ Triathlete

    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!

    Jude Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • Promoting Your Small Business Blog

    9/5/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Business Blogging, Marketing, Small Business

    We don’t believe in secrets. There are no marketing secrets that will suddenly explode your business to the point that it generates millions and millions of dollars with no effort. The same holds true with sales secrets.

    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.

    Jude Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • Are you Inspired?

    8/8/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Small Business

    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.

    Jude Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • We Practice what we Preach

    7/25/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Marketing, Sales, Small Business

    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.

    Jude Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • Make Your Referral Program Simple

    7/18/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Referral Program, Small Business

    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 Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • Build a Referral Program

    7/15/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Referral Program, Small Business

    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!

    Jude Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

  • 1 New Customer

    6/30/2007 12:00:00 AM Link |  | Add comment

    Small Business

    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!

    Jude Samson
    Levelfield, Inc.

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