Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What are you selling with your at-home business?

You know what your prospects buy when they become your customers. But is that what you are selling with your at-home business?

Successful small business owners agree that you -- and the value you bring as a solution-provider -- get as much scrutiny as your product details or pricing in your prospect's evaluation of your offer. This is especially true with direct selling businesses such as network marketing opportunities.

An old adage from the network marketing industry goes: "features tell, benefits sell." The new at home business owner has to overcome the temptation to major on the feature details and potentially gloss over the prospects real interest -- the benefits or value they will receive for doing business with you.

Expanding on this principle, you could say, "products tell, people sell". You are the most-valuable asset of your at-home business. Here are some examples of why:
  • Your prospect is wired toward valuing the person-to-person aspects of your transaction. Artists know this principle. Even the most exquisitely-depicted city scene or landscape, has an instantly deeper (if unconscious) appeal to the viewer if there is even a small representation of a human figure in the scene.
  • How your prospect assesses you is strongly connected with how likely they are to have ongoing relationship with you, and thus do future business with you. More so than the features of your product in many cases.
  • A large-population, long-term study of employees by the Gallup organization identified that relationship factors, such as manager-employee relationships, were more significant in affecting job satisfaction than salary. Again, your prospect has a built-in value around relating with you in a positive way that impacts their satisfaction with your business.
Your at-home business will have no revenue if you have no products, of course. But the successful entrepreneur knows that without leveraging your relationship with customers as a solution provider, you have no future.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Review: 4 Hot Ideas for Starting a Small Business

Genesis: (n) "coming into being."

The mighty oak tree needs many things to grow to its full potential. But none of the growth takes place without a viable, healthy seed -- the acorn.

The seed of your small business determines a lot about how well, and how quickly, your business will grow. And how well it achieves your goals for the business.

This short article on ideas for starting your small business, "Starting a Small Business - 4 Hot Small Business Ideas", focuses entirely on this critical starting point stage.

Part of a series on small business topics, the author uses a conversation-starter style to get the reader to think about how wide the range can be of potentially successful small business concepts. While the four ideas discussed are pretty unrelated to each other, they all involve low-startup, flexible operation qualities that are well-suited to the small business entrepreneur who needs to start as a home-based enterprise.

The article is a quick read and useful thought-starter for the entrepreneur who is just beginning the 'homework' phase of starting a small business, or exploring new ideas for additional business opportunities.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Is online network marketing really network marketing?

A Google search for "online network marketing" just now resulted in nearly 23 million hits.

Thank you for reading. Good night.

Well ... the questions are obviously not whether there is activity with the online dimension of network marketing. Or whether there is interest amongst online prospects. But I have heard a few maintain that only traditional person-to-person prospecting is what counts.

So how does online network marketing resemble the network marketing we knew before the internet was so dominant? I wasn't building a network marketing business back then, but here's what stands out to me as I pursue both face-to-face and online aspects of my business today.
  1. Regardless of how the door opens -- whether through online tools or on-the-street -- networking is most powerful when it's personal. And the internet is the preferred medium for personal interaction for a growing number of people.
  2. It's about the numbers -- contact with enough people to connect with those for whom you can fulfill a need right now.
  3. Network marketing businesses transcend distance very readily. The telephone was king for accomplishing this initially. The internet represents an additional tool for being effective at making a non-issue out of being remote from your prospect.
  4. Your network marketing business also scales in size more readily than any other business model. The availability of online tools and communication only enhances that advantage.
So there are no big drawbacks in choosing to grow your network marketing business with an online approach.

But one important advantage is the degree to which you can leverage attraction marketing via the internet. In more ways than ever, your prospects are initiating contact with you, already disposed to look at your opportunity. And whether old school or new, that is the enduring success groove for any network marketing business. Be sure you're leveraging that for your business.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Making home business easy: to inventory or not?

What could be better than working at home, you say? Good choice!

So, how do you do that, and succeed?

Embarking on your own home-based business adventure involves a myriad of up-front decisions, such as:

  • what type of business entity to create
  • whether to operate a product-based business or provide unique services
  • whether to invest in a franchise or develop a ground-up operation
  • deciding what of kind of marketing is required

Each of these up-front choices can involve some heavy-duty homework to assess what is best for you, what offers the best prospect to achieve your goals for starting your home-based business. Not to mention what will help ensure that you get to spend time doing the things that you love to do. You're doing research that led you this far, so a tip-o-the-hat for doing more homework than many who launch into a home-based venture!

But there’s more.

If you choose a product-based business like I did, additional choices show up to say "you're not done yet". For example, should you market products that you manufacture yourself, or resell products that someone else manufactures?

Like the idea of skipping the make-it-yourself alternatives? I know what you mean. A key decision then for growing a product-based, reseller-type home business is whether you will inventory the products that you resell.

Managing a product inventory was not an attractive option for me in considering home business options. Devoting space to that, physically handling the goods, optimally choosing buy points to ensure profitability, analyzing turnover, staying ahead of shrinkage and obsolesence. Argh. Hats off to those who do those things well every day. But not what I wanted.

Enter the reseller option with products that are shipped directly to customers by the manufacturer. What's not to like about that? In addition to avoiding the requirements of managing a product inventory at home, I also miss out on order fulfillment, returns, shipping, and so on. Now you're talking!

Although I'm not devoting space here to the advantages of the other types of home businesses, there are tradeoffs. And there are certainly some requirements, or things to watch, with an inventory-less home business. Not necessarily downsides, but factors that can affect your level of success with this type of business. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Quality of your products - obvious, you say? You'd be surprised how many opportunities basically push their system, marketing thunder, etc. and place a low priority on the products themselves. Long-term success with consistent repeat business and referrals is not realistic without unique, top-drawer products.
  • Quality of your supplier - you are essentially outsourcing critical aspects of how you will be perceived, and how you will succeed, to the company that provides your products, fulfills orders, and delivers to your customers. If they are less than excellent, it may cost you extra labor, customer satisfaction, and ultimately long-term business.
  • Your commitment to effective marketing - whether you leverage the tools and systems of your supplier company, or use a roll-your-own strategy, your business will live and die by the effectiveness of your marketing. A wonderful place to devote much of that time you saved by choosing an inventory-less business!
  • Your commitment to customer service - even with breath-taking products delivered by a best-in-class company, you have the most important relationship with your customers. And their experience throughout the lifecycle of your relationship is impacted most by the level of service you provide. Does the passion that launched you into your home business venture carry over into the long-term service experience that your customers have?

For me the choices narrowed the field to network marketing opportunities with proven performers. These opportunities provided the inventory-less style of product business that was right for our family (and my personal skills and priorities). Plus they offered a long-term residual income compensation structure that better leveraged our time investment.

I then found a unique internet marketing 'front end' that provided a turbo boost to that function of our business. So I can concentrate on doing my part every day in marketing that fits with who I am, and in surprising and delighting my customers with above and beyond service.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Living the law of compounding

"You are what you repeatedly do."

"If you were to improve just .003 each day - that's only three-tenths of one percent , a very slight edge - and you kept that up for the next five years, here's what would happen to you:
- The first year you would improve 100 percent.
- The second year you would improve 200 percent.
- The third year you would improve 400 percent.
- The fourth year you would be a better person by 800 percent.
- By the end of year five - simply by improving three-tenths of one percent per day - you will have magnified your value, your skills, and the results you accomplished 1600 percent."
Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

Try listing all the dimensions of your life in which this principle would apply. Or, perhaps, identify one dimension in which it would not apply.

Your success in business, relationship, personal growth, and impact on your world, all bear the mark of what your choices have been in small increments such as Olson suggests with each of those areas.

So what if you picked one when you finished reading this, and did something three-tenths of one percent different today? And did the same tomorrow, and the next day, and so on for even just a month?

You could start with getting your own copy of Olson's The Slight Edge!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Good for you, good for community

You're seeing the benefits in time freedom, sustained financial security, and wide-open opportunity. But did you know that your home-based business is also part of a growing trend that benefits your community and region?

A white paper on economic development alternatives published by Oklahoma State University offered: "... a 1994 survey found that 125,000 Oklahoma home-based businesses generated over $3 billion in income." (See Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, document AGEC-915.)

And consider how your business growth does not involve the overhead and infrastructure impact of traditional businesses. Your local chamber of commerce may focus on the folks with the storefronts and offices. But you are making your mark on your local economy. And your prospects have never been better to keep doing that in a bigger, and bigger way!