Tips To Create An Effective Business Budget

creating a budget, budgeting, expensesMost business owners understand the value of creating a budget. However, few actually follow through and those that do go through the effort make mistakes. These mistakes cause headaches, stress, and debt. When your budget doesn’t work, it’s way too easy to let it go. Instead of fixing the budget, it’s pushed under the desk and ignored. That’s not great either. The solution is to work to fix budgeting mistakes and create a more effective business budget.

Give Yourself Some Wiggle Room

One of the biggest mistakes when creating a budget is to not leave any extra room. The budget is pushed to the limits and spend every penny each month. The trouble with this approach is that the budget will be busted on a consistent basis. Overestimate what you need and leave some room for emergencies.

Review Your Budget

It’s not enough to simply create a budget. Reviewing the budget is an essential part of the budgeting process. Take a look at your budget at least one a month. Look for areas where you overestimated, underestimated and where you can cut costs. Remember, a budget isn’t set in stone. It’s supposed to be an evolving guide to help you stay in control of your business finances.

Set Goals

Your budget gives you the ability to track and review the data which means you can use it to set goals for your business. For example, you can use it to set cost cutting goals. “I want to cut my marketing costs by 10% while increasing my sales by 10%.” You can use analytics, expense reports, and sales data to evaluate your success.

Create Good Systems

In addition to finding a budgeting system or software that works for you, also remember that hiring providers, reviewing expenses and assessing your analytics are all part of your systems too. If an excel spreadsheet works better for you than a budgeting software, then use it.

If your contractors are breaking your budget, see if you can negotiate a deal or rework your needs so that you can afford them. There are many small steps you take each day that either support your financial success and an effective budget, or they detract from it. Identify what’s working for you and release what isn’t.

Conclusion

Good budgeting practices lead to a better and stronger business. If you’re not sure how to budget or if you’re budgeting in the most effective manner, get help. You’d hire an expert to help you build your website, if you need help building a budget it’s good business sense to hire a financial pro.

How to Choose an Autoresponder

email list, email, autoresponderWhile many people focus on social marketing, email marketing is still a powerful business building tool. In fact, dollar for dollar more businesses enjoy a higher ROI with email marketing than social marketing.

One of the keys to a strong email marketing campaign is an autoresponder that fits your needs. If your email marketing is becoming time consuming, your system isn’t working for you or you’re just getting started with email marketing, a good autoresponder service is essential.

Your Autoresponder’s Job

The job of an autoresponder is to make your email marketing not only easier for you to manage but to also provide a better experience for your subscribers. For example, some autoresponders allow you to send both text and html messages. Your subscribers can choose which type of message they’d like to receive. When comparing autoresponders, make sure you have this option.

Visually Interesting and Value

The ability to upload images, embed videos and other files is a feature that can help you create visually interesting and more valuable messages. Not all autoresponders off this ability. Templates make it easy to create a unique format for your messages while working within a framework. Conversely, it’s also nice to have an autoresponder service that allows you to create custom formatting.

The ability to schedule email messages and to create follow up messages and broadcast messages should be a feature that any autoresponder provides. If you happen to come across one that doesn’t, skip it.

Data to Grow Your Business

Analytics are a must as is the ability to split test. Again, the job of your autoresponder service goes beyond scheduling. It needs to make it easier for you to build your business and analytics are one of the tools to help you get the job done. Look for systems that integrate with your other technologies and marketing tactics. For example, if you use Facebook then it’s great when you have an autoresponder that integrates with Facebook and includes share buttons in your messages.

Growing Your List

Evaluate the cost based on the current size of your list and how big you believe your list will grow. Some autoresponders assess their monthly fees by the size of your list. If you have a list of 999 then your account may be free but if your list is 1000 it could cost you $30 a month.

Want some suggestions? I name 2 of the big ones under the Tools I Love page.

Choosing your autoresponder can take a little time but it’s well worth the effort, when you can focus on strategy and not worry about the technology.

 

 

How to Write an Open-able Email Message

ID-100175794If email marketing is your goal, it is essential that your recipients open your emails. Your emails need to be written in such a way that it inspires people to click on your message, and click on any links in it. Here are the components of a compelling, open-able email message.

Parts of a Great Email Message

The subject line. The subject line is the first thing your recipients will see so it makes sense that this needs to capture their interests and make them want to read the entire message.

The greeting. Most opt in forms will give you the option to ask your subscribers for their name. Utilize this information to personalize your messages to help you build that personal relationship that can result in a higher ROI.

The body. No matter what you’re writing about, your email body should have substance to it. It should have a purpose, and some sort of call to action. Before composing your emails, think of what the goal for each one is and ensure that the entire body reflects it.

The footer. There footer area is where you can add links, social media buttons and an unsubscribe link. It is an extra area that you can use to increase your outside engagement and build trust.

Extra Tips

Your entire email should basically be one catchy, relatable, actionable message. Beyond that, you want to make sure that all your marketing emails reflect you and your brand. Sticking to one persona will help shape your subscribers’ idea of who you are and what your brand stands for, ultimately building trust.

And lastly; test, test, and test some more. There are many different facets that you can test. Check your emails for typos, check to make sure they look good in different browsers, split test your templates to see what works best with your audience.

Conclusion

Email marketing is the great way to build trust and get sales. But to do that, your readers need to actually open your emails. Follow these tips to write messages that people actually want to open.

Over to you: How do you ensure that your email messages get opened? Leave a comment and share your best with the rest of us.

 

 

Ways a Writer Can Help Your Business in 2015

freelance writer, writer, hiring a writer It’s a new year and it’s time to take your content marketing to the next level. While you may be thinking that you already have a blog, content marketing is so much more than that. By hiring a skilled writer you can start using content in ways you never thought of. Don’t believe me? Here are 25 things a writer can help you with that will skyrocket your business this year.

  1. Ad copy
  2. Sales copy
  3. Press releases
  4. EBooks (ghostwritten, with you cited as author)
  5. Brochures
  6. Biographies
  7. Website pages
  8. SEO website content
  9. Blog posts
  10. Articles
  11. Emails
  12. Direct mailers
  13. Job descriptions
  14. Company handbooks
  15. Landing pages
  16. Product descriptions
  17. Product manuals
  18. Newsletters
  19. Reviews
  20. Tutorials
  21. Guides
  22. Social media profiles
  23. Social media updates
  24. Summaries
  25. Video scripts

 

 

 

 

 

Five Ways to Become a Better Blogger

blogging, networking, social mediaBlogging is a simple process but a lot of work. While it is not hard to post to your blog, getting the traffic and the revenue from your blog that you desire is a tougher proposition. Maybe you’ve been blogging for a while and still aren’t seeing the traffic numbers you’d like. Here are five ways that you can enhance your blogging skills.

  1. Keep up with the times. No one wants to read last month’s news. A blogger has to know what is going on in the world yesterday, today and tomorrow. Some important issues stay in the headlines for months but your audience will want fresh updates on those topics. Knowing what is going on around you and what will interest others will make your blog content worth reading.
  1. Change your content often. There is nothing worse than losing traffic you’ve worked hard to attract because you don’t update your posts. You might not post every day but you can be sure that your readership will drop off it you only post once a month. Readers like fresh content and they will go where they can get it. If you need to, hire a writing company to product interesting content on different topics and post the information on a regular basis. This would work well if you have more than one blog and not enough hours in the day to manage them all.
  1. Network with others. Get your content out there. Register with search engines and join social bookmarking sites like Technorati and Digg so people can see what you are doing. Share your blog address with friends on your profile page on MySpace or Facebook.
  1. Pay attention to your readership. When people comment they would like for you to answer them back. Some ask questions and some just want to let you know that they agree or disagree with what you’ve said. Take the time to talk to them. After all, they took the time to visit and post a comment. Their comments can drive the direction your blog takes in the future if you want to keep them as readers and increase your traffic.
  1. Keep your ads to a minimum. Ads are a way for bloggers to make money with their sites. That’s all well and good and a few ads are great and will attract attention. If you post too many, however, visitors might be turned off. You want your content to be the main attraction. If the ads coordinate with your blog niche, that’s good but only a few and at the top of the page if you want them to be clicked regularly by visitors.

Conclusion

Blogging is an art. Creating interesting content and keeping readers coming back is a job. If you already blog, use these five tips to enhance your value to the blogosphere.

Five Tips for Creating a Sticky Website

sticky website, image by enokson on flickrAs an online business owner, building traffic to your website is important to your success. Equally important is keeping your visitors on your site and having them come back often. The longer they ‘stick around’, the higher your chances are of making sales.

Here are five easy ways to make your website sticky.

#1 Stand Out

Sometimes it’s hard to stand out from the crowd but with millions of websites to choose from, you have to be different. Nobody will visit a boring “me too” site – it’s that simple.

To stand out, you need to know your unique selling proposition (USP). What sets you apart from all the other websites talking about the same topic?

You also need to have interesting content that gets your visitors talking. Give them a reason to talk about your site. Offer them ways to interact with you. The more interested they are, the more they’ll spread the word about your website.

#2 Emphasize the Benefits

Whether you sell products, services or simply offer information, it’s important to focus on what you can do for your visitors.

Before you can emphasize the benefits, you first need to know who your ideal customer is. Who needs your information, product or service? What is their age, gender, average income, interests, location, etc.? Knowing this will help you write specifically to them and know which benefits to emphasize.

#3 Stay Focused

The quickest way to lose visitor interest is to confuse and overwhelm them.

Your website should have a clear focus and stay centered on that focus. In addition, if you want visitors to do something, tell them. Giving them too many options and no direct instruction can quickly cause confusion.

#4 Work Your Email List

If you don’t have an email list, get one. With all of the low-cost options available these days, there is no reason you should be without a way to contact those who are interested in what you have to offer.

Studies show that it takes contacting the average customer five to seven times before they will buy from you. This time is spent getting to know you and building their trust in what you offer.

If you don’t have them on a mailing list and they forget to return to your website, you lose out on a huge amount of business.

#5 Update Regularly

Part of what keeps visitors coming back is updating your site regularly. This is especially important if you have a blog. A stagnant site will cause visitors to quickly lose interest and never return.

In addition, search engines love fresh content. Making the search engines happy means more traffic for you.

Conclusion

Making your site sticky can boost sales exponentially and it isn’t hard to do. With a little thought and time you will have your visitors begging for more.

 

 

Evergreen Topics versus Hot Topics – Which Is Best?

topic, content creation When you’re trying to come up with content for your website, the question of green topics versus hot topics often comes up. Green content, often referred to as “evergreen” content, is content that will usually be good for many months or even years. On the other hand, hot topics are immediately “old” after a short period of time. Even a day or two might be too long for hot topics.

The clear as mud answer as to which kinds of topics are best, is that you definitely want to have a website full of green topics, interspersed with some hot topics.

Most of the things you write about should be evergreen, which makes green topics more important than hot topics. However, you should still use hot topics. The right mixture of both evergreen and hot topics depends entirely on your niche. You might have 80 percent evergreen and 20 percent hot topics in order to put some new information into the mix and excite your readers. Try different percentages to see what works best for your niche.

Green topics last longer than hot topics in terms of how long people can read them without feeling like they’re reading something out of date. That isn’t to say that you won’t eventually have to update and freshen up your evergreen topics – you will eventually. But with hot topics you can’t freshen them up. As soon as they’ve expired their shelf life, they’re just content that’s basically taking up space.

Having plenty of green content on your site will pay off, month after month and even year after year. Plus, writing regular green topics is a great way to show off your personality, and tell stories that are interesting to your audience. But, people are much more likely to share hot topics with their friends. A well-timed hot topic post will be shared more immediately with friends across social media. Also, hot topics are terrific for when you just can’t think of anything to write about. You can search industry news and come up with a hot topic off the cuff to add some excitement to your content.

But! … Hot topics are a great way to bring excitement to your blog posts and content on your website. They are great for getting discussions going. However, it’s important not to be behind the curve when writing about a hot topic. You have to get to the hot topic right away because it’s not going to be relevant tomorrow or next week. Writing about hot topics requires you to stay aware of industry trends so that you can be fast on your feet with getting the information out there.

Conclusion

In summary, to create a well-rounded and interesting website the content should be mostly green topics with a splash of hot topics. By doing both green and hot topics, you’ll provide your audience with more well-rounded choices of content. In addition, having a variety of content to choose from will make your blog or website that much more interesting, current and relevant to your target audience.

Deciding What Products to Sell This Year

products for sale, what to sell Making product choices can be tricky. Everyone wants to have products that customers want to buy – products that bring in sales and profits. But how can you predict what’s going to be hot, especially if there aren’t any discernible trends yet?

Here are some ways for getting a firmer grasp of the market to help decide what you want to offer.

Talk to Vendors and Suppliers

One of the best things you could do is pick up the phone and give your vendors or suppliers a call. While you might only sell to one metropolitan area or one specific online sub-market, chances are your vendors are in touch with a much wider market.

They’ll know what’s currently selling all over the country. They’ll know which products are picking up in demand. They’ll know which products are selling like hotcakes.

Get on good terms with manufacturers, wholesalers, vendors and suppliers. They can be a godsend when you’re trying to pick products.

Research Products on Google Trends

Head over to Google Trends and type in the product names that you’re considering selling. Check and see whether more or fewer people are looking for the product each month.

Ideally, you’re looking for products with an upward trend, but which aren’t oversaturated in the market yet.

Talk to Your Customers

Talk to your customers about what they’re excited about next year. What items would the buy if you stocked them?

Try talking to your customers in person, as well as sending digital surveys to your customer list.

Monitor Your Website’s Search

Keep a log of all the search queries performed on your website’s search box. If you notice people regularly searching for products on your site that your site doesn’t offer, that’s probably a good indication that you should stock those items.

Check Out Your Competitors

Check out your competitors, both online and offline. What are they stocking? What aren’t they stocking?

Seeing one competitor do something might not be a great indication that you should do it too. But if a whole slew of competitors are all doing the same thing, then you should probably pay attention. Chances are they’re catching on to a trend that you aren’t aware of yet.

Err on High Profit Margins and Consumable Products

If you’re ever in doubt between several products to stock, all else being equal aim to stock items that have a high profit margin and are consumable. Consumable products need to be purchased again and again, which results in a lot of repeat sales.

Conclusion

Use these techniques to get a better sense for where your market is at. There’s no crystal ball to see into the future, but these tactics should make it a whole lot easier to predict what will sell and what won’t.

Over to you: How do you determine when and what you are going to offer?

 

 

Easy Tips for Managing Your Business Hours

time management, business hours, managing business hoursTime management is one of the biggest challenges home business owners face. New technologies have given us more freedom to have flexible schedules and many more opportunities to slack off. Here are a few tips you can use to get yourself on track to being more productive.

Write a to do list and keep it in a prominent place. It is also a good idea to prioritize your list and do it in (or close to) that order so you know the most important things are getting done. Or, if you know when you’re most productive during the day, do the #1 item during that time.

Cross off everything below #5. If something is #8 on your list, it’s probably not going to get done that day. And if it’s not important enough to be high on the list, you probably don’t need to do it that day. It will probably just sit there, looming on your to do list, making you feel unaccomplished. Besides, if you get everything done on your list, you can always make a new one later in the day.

Take care of your most difficult task first. Often we spend a lot of our day coming up with ways to avoid tasks we don’t want to do. We may do this by getting other tasks done, or we may just play solitaire on the computer instead. If you get your worst task done first, you’ll not only get to your other tasks rather than avoiding them, but you’ll also have a sense of accomplishment to help motivate you through the rest of your day.

Take short breaks by doing something you really like doing. It’s always been said that you should keep your mind on your work and not let other things distract you or you won’t get any work done. However, recent research has shown that this isn’t true. In fact, it’s the opposite of the truth. Taking breaks actually increases your productivity when you get back to work. Take short breaks, but set a specific time limit and stick to it. You should also pick your activities carefully and stay away from those you know you won’t be able to stop doing once break time is done.

Clear your desk (and computer desktop) of distracting things. If multitasking helps you get stuff done, then go ahead and work on several projects at a time, but don’t multitask between a project and an internet conversation or reading a funny website. Keep your fun time away from your work time. Otherwise you’ll find you have very little actual work time.

Conclusion

It’s not that difficult to manage your business hours and get more down. By just making a few small adjustments, you can drastically increase your productivity.

Now to you: What tips do you have for getting more done?

What Is Inbound Marketing?

If you have been keeping up with marketing tactics online, chances are you are doing some inbound marketing.

What is inbound marketing?

It’s marketing that focuses on customers finding you. This differs from previous tactics that were more in-your-face with paid advertisements all over the place. Today’s marketing methods are subtle. They are more smooth and slick. They work at getting customers to like and trust you before jumping in and selling products.

Want to know more about inbound marketing what is working for businesses out there? Check out this infographic.

Infographic: How Effective is Inbound Marketing?

Infographic found here.