Monday, September 21, 2009

Help for your Struggling Small Business!

It's really tough out there for a small business owner right now. Your friends and family called you foolish when you went out on your own – but you proved them wrong when you built a successful small business. You’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into your company – it’s your baby! Although you're struggling again, you're also fighting hard to keep that dream alive. It does appear that the federal government realizes small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and it's reaching out to help.

Here are a few resources to help you get through this difficult time.

Recently, the SBA introduced the 2009 Recovery Act intended for small businesses. SmartBusiness explains the complicated loan and recovery plan without the legal goobly-gook.

Check out Office Depot's Survival of the Smartest, an interactive website with resources for struggling small business owners.

Recommended Reading: Recession Storming: Thriving in Downturns Through Superior Marketing, Pricing and Product Strategies There are over 100 marketing strategies from 80 companies from 5 recessions and 40 industry downturns. This has been the #1 book on Recession on Amazon.com for over a year.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Become A Pro (For Free)!

Become A Pro!

If you service the Real Estate Industry, you need to check this out: ForSaleByOwner.com created the Find a Pro network for their customers who demanded a reliable source of Pros to assist them during the FSBO process. Join their network of Pros and get connected to buyers and sellers who need your expertise. Their basic listing is free, but you can always upgrade to add additional features.

Why Join the Pro Network? (from their website)

~We are the largest "by owner" real estate marketplace with over 50,000 active daily visitors. Our customers come to us as a trusted source for all their real estate needs.

~Unrepresented FSBO buyers and sellers make up almost 25% of the real estate market. Tap into a lucrative market that is missed when marketing only through agents.

~Consumers spend tremendous amounts of money on goods and services surrounding a move. A Harvard study found that relocating households spend 20-25% more on home improvements than those that do not move.

~Get maximum exposure by promoting your services online. Our flat-fee plans provide a cost effective way to advertise online, without costly pay-per-click fees. Plus, the cost is most likely tax deductible.

Sign-up to become a Pro today or call 888-367-7253 to get started.

Check out Real Vision Studio’s ad HERE!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Outright: Simple And FREE Bookkeeping Online

Outright: Simple And FREE Bookkeeping Online

Free online financial tools; simplify your bookkeeping by organizing your business records and tax documents, freeing you to grow your business.

Outright is a very simple-to-use web service that helps you track income and expenses, pay estimated taxes on time, and see how your business is doing. It's perfect for self employed people. Outright is designed for sole proprietors and single-member LLCs who file a Schedule C tax form.

Save Time!

Small business bookkeeping fast and painless. Enter income and expenses quickly by hand or import directly from FreshBooks or Shoeboxed.

Save Money!

Know exactly what you can deduct so you save as much as possible come tax time. We'll let you know when taxes are due so you avoid costly fines and late fees from the IRS.

Outright: Simple And FREE Bookkeeping Online

Streamlining the work involved with owning a business, helping entrepreneurs pay the right taxes, record financial transactions, and keep their businesses on track and growing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Are You Blogging?

Are You Blogging?

Blogging is arguably the simplest (& cheapest) way to start generating traffic to your website. It is extremely powerful and very easy to do. Whether you have a blog already, or aren’t yet familiar with them, understand that they are a key factor in your online marketing.

Blogging is not only a great way to drive traffic to your site but is incredibly important in building your credibility and brand.

Some Benefits of Blogging:

Boost Traffic: Blogs and RSS feeds can make a positive change in your web traffic. By adding new content to your site on a regular basis, you ensure that the search engine’s spider crawls your site more often.

Back Links: Through blogging, you can find a number of business partners together because people having different interests and thoughts are closely knit with each other.

Lower Costs: Blogging is a low-cost alternative to having a web site. Small business owners that don’t have the time to learn web html or the money to hire a designer/developer, blogging offers an economical method to get your company's name out on the Internet.

Cheap Marketing: By Blogging you can raise your website profile and increase visits to your site.

So, are you blogging yet? If not, you should be!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Interesting data on the cost analysis of promotional products versus other advertising media.

Interesting data on the cost analysis of promotional products versus other advertising media.

ASI 2008 Survey – Issued November 11th 2008

http://www.asicentral.com/html/open/EducationandEvents/powersummit08/Impressions_Study.pdf


Summary of Conclusions:

Instant recall: More than 8 out of 10 (84%) respondents remembered the advertisers of the promotional products they’re received.

Very impressionable: 42% of respondents had a MORE favorable impression of an advertiser after receiving the item. And nearly a quarter (24%) said they are MORE likely to do business with the advertiser on the items they receive.

It’s all business: Most respondents (62%) have done business with the advertiser on a promotional product after receiving the item.

Pens are in: Writing instruments are the most-recalled advertising specialty items (54% of respondents recall owning them), followed by shirts, caps and bags.

User-friendly: The majority (81%) of promotional products were kept because they were considered useful.

Staying power: More than three-quarters of respondents have had their items for more than 6 months.

Bag it!: Among wearables, bags were reported to be used most frequently with respondents indicating that they used their bags an average of 9 times per month. They also deliver the most impressions: Each bag averages 1,038 impressions per month.

Most impressive: The average CPI of an advertising specialty item is $0.004; as a result, marketers get a more favorable return on investment.

Interesting data on the cost analysis of promotional products versus other advertising media.

http://frugalmarketingu.blogspot.com/
http://www.webwizardcreations.net/
http://www.realvisionstudio.com/

Thursday, August 6, 2009

SAY NO to Info@!

We’ve all been there. Having a busy day, working hard and multitasking a million things at once and getting more accomplished than an Internet cowboy on a pot of latté. Then it happens…you go to forward an email to someone and everything comes to a screeching halt. You’re trying to send an email to Jason but Microsoft outlook does not have the Jason that you’re looking for stored. If only Jason had used his name at the beginning of his email everything would be fine but now here you are searching for his email address. Screening through your sent mail from last week; pouring over your deleted emails in search of the last time you had heard from him.

Yes…. you are stuck in the inefficient zone.

The inefficient zone can be easily avoided in two simple ways. You can make habit of always adding new people to your address book as they come in to you. This way as long as you know that Jason’s name is indeed Jason, your program will automatically find him and show you that his email is jlava828@yahoo.com. Something that only C3p0 could possibly remember.

Secondly you can start spreading the word right now and encourage all of your business associates to use their name when selecting an email address for their company.

In addition, there is nothing that screams unprofessional as an email address that you got for free at one of the many email sites like Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, and so on. So how can you fix this? Simple, get an email address that is associated with a domain name that you own. This is an easy way to increase your online business credibility by at least 110%. Don’t forget to use your name in the e-mail address: yourname@yourdomain.com, forget the info@ or any other gobblygook you can come up with! SAY NO to Info@!

Let’s keep America moving!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tell Google, Yahoo! and Bing that you are important!

By quickly filling out a listing on these 3 sites (Google Listings, Yahoo Listings and Bing Local Listings), you instantly let the major search engines know that your business is important, and they show it to more potential customers.

Google Listings: Free listing - Local customers already search Google for the products and services you offer. Create a business listing to be sure they find you. Free updates - Keep your address, phone number, hours of operation, and more up-to-date. Even create coupons and display photos and videos, all for free. Free insights - Use the power of Google's data to learn where your customers come from and what they search for to find you.

Yahoo Listings: A Local Basic Listing displays your information in Yahoo! Local Search results when customers search for businesses like yours in your area. Add or update your business' name, contact information, and category. You can also add information such as hours of operation, accepted payment methods, services offered, and products available for sale. Leverage the power of Yahoo! Local, a leading destination for motivated customers looking for local information online.

Bing Local Listings (Formerly MSN): Bing Local lets users find businesses near them, or near where they want to go. Because listings are returned in search results, businesses don't have to search for new customers—the customers have already found them. It's free - It's like free advertising! The more information you provide, the easier it is for customers to find you. It's fast - Improve or update your listing anytime to suit your needs. There's no schedule or hassle. Reach your customers - Customers are already searching for what you provide. What better time to reach them?

Tell Google, Yahoo! and Bing that you are important!

Discount Dining!

O.K. so, your expense account has taken a big hit in this rough economy, but your clients don't need to know that. You can still afford to treat them, a deserving employee or two or even a co-worker to a nice meal. Your secret, you savvy frugalist, you? It’s Discount Dining, FREE websites that offer discounts to your favorite local and chain restaurants, including some high quality ones that are sure to impress your hungry guests.

At Restaurant.com, purchase $10-$25 gift certificates for your favorite restaurants for just $4-$10 – you can even print them for same-day use. Sign up for their free newsletter and get exclusive savings that is at least two to four deep discount offers a month. (Be aware of the fine print, some of the restaurant offers require a minimum purchase – be sure you are going to spend that before purchasing the certificate).

OpenTable.com provides a fast, efficient way to find available tables that meet desired criteria for cuisine, price and location at a specified time. When you make reservations through OpenTable.com, you earn at least 100 points toward the 2,000 you need to get a free $20 off coupon at any participating restaurant.

DinnerBroker's mission is to use technology and the Internet to make the fine-dining experience more enjoyable, accessible and affordable. You’ll get an instant 10 to 30 percent discount on off-peak hours when you make your reservations through their system. In addition, you’ll earn points towards free gift certificates and have the ability to purchase discounted gift cards.

Don’t forget to take advantage of the dining reward programs offered by many credit cards, airlines and hotels. Purchases, hotel stays and air travel can gain you points towards your favorite dining destinations. Check out the Rewards Network, they offer dining and hotel programs in partnership with major airline frequent flyer programs, several of the nation’s largest bankcard issuers, numerous key players in the loyalty marketing industry, and dozens of national corporations.

Discount Dining!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Free Stuff From VistaPrint

Vistaprint offers small businesses everything they need to market their business. They offer high-quality printed marketing materials, promotional products and marketing services such as copywriting, design, websites and postcard mailing. Every month Vistaprint offers a choice of FREE business cards, rubber stamps, calendars, postcards, tote bags, t-shirts and business stationary. Yes, I said FREE! Ok, so the weekly e-mails can be a bit annoying but who cares, it’s FREE!! This week I ordered a free tote bag and all I paid was $4.41 shipping. The retail value of the tote is $12.99! On top of the free products they also offer free Webinars, On Demand Marketing Tips, Expert Advice and More. Check it out in their Marketing Learning Center. So, what are you waiting for, get your free stuff now!

Free Stuff From VistaPrint

Monday, July 27, 2009

Resources for starting up and maintaining that DREAM of YOURS (A.k.a. Your Business!)

SCORE informs and assists small business owners with national workshops, counseling and more. SCORE is America's premier source of free and confidential small business advice for entrepreneurs.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has more than 1,100 branches nationwide, their Small Business Development Centers help new and existing entrepreneurs with marketing, finances, legal issues, free regular workshops and much more.

For those businesswomen out there, check this out: Make Mine a Million $ Business RACE.

Resources for starting up and maintaining that DREAM of YOURS (A.k.a. Your Business!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Free Publicity!

You're a small-business owner, an expert at and in everything (or at least it feels like that). You’ve figured out the majority of it: customer service, marketing, management, finance, and product development. When it comes to PR however, well, not really. You wrote an awesome press release and spent valuable time making follow-up calls – and nada…. nothing.

Getting media attention is a top priority, you know, but you can't afford a publicist just yet. The good news is you may not need one.

Journalists are turning to alternative sources to find stories. With layoffs and cutbacks journalists have turned to these handy source sites to find leads. Sign up for a "source" account and get their inquiries e-mailed to you directly.

HelpAReporterOut.com will send you up to three e-mails a day with 15 to 30 inquiries or listings in each one. If you see something you'd be a good fit for, send a note to the reporter.

Profnet from PR Newswire offers quite a few avenues for promoting your business, but you’ll have to pay for this one. You can create a profile that journalists can see and also browse specific listings.

Bonus PR Helpers:


PublicityHound.com
10 Powerful Ways to Boost Business With Free Publicity

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Using Voice Mail Messages As A Sales Tool

The telephone is an integral part of business communication, especially sales. Today, knowing the correct way to use voicemail can mean the difference between success and failure. What is so frustrating about voicemail is it gives the decision-maker the opportunity to reject you before you even get a chance to talk to them! If you're starting to feel like a failure because people won't return your messages, try these seven tips. There is no guarantee that any of these methods will get you calls back a 100% of the time, but they will definitely help improve your odds.

Speak Clearly When Leaving Voice Mail Messages
When people listen to voicemail messages there are often a whole host of distractions and most messages do not get returned because people are overwhelmed. Therefore, it is essential that you be clear. While you might be familiar with your own name, don't assume others are. When you leave a message say your name slowly and clearly. In fact, it's recommended that you leave a distinct pause between your first and last name so that the listener isn't confused. Spell your name if it is difficult, unusual or of foreign origin. Speak more slowly and clearly than normal, don't slur or run your words together. The person you are calling is not as familiar with your material as you are and will quickly become irritated if you make them replay the message because they could not understand it.

Identify Your Business During the Message
If your business name does not offer a description of your business (and you're not yet a household name), be sure to offer convincing descriptors that tell people what you really do.

Tell Them Why You're Calling At Least Once in Every Message
Many callers are under the misguided impression that keeping the reason for their call a secret is a gripping reason for the prospect to call back. They are very wrong. Today's customers are smarter and frankly, don't have the time to play guessing games. Plan your message before you place your call. Tell them why they'd want to take the time to call you back.

Make "The Connection" During Your Message
If you've met before, were referred by another person or have a common acquaintance, be sure to tell them. Don't expect them to hear your name and remember that they met you. Be precise about your personal association and you'll have given them another reason to call you.

Eliminate Minimizers From Your Speech, Especially The Word "Just”
Examples:

"Just a little reminder about how our Virtual Tours can help build your business."

"I'm just calling to follow up on our meeting yesterday"

"Nothing important. Just wanted to a follow up on yesterday's presentation."

Repeat Your Contact Information At Least Twice in Every Message
Be sure to leave your name and phone number both at the beginning and end of your message. If the person you are calling missed your number at the beginning they will not have to listen through the entire message again to get it and your chances of being called back increase significantly.

Speak With Energy, Enthusiasm And Confidence
Sit up straight or stand when you leave the message. Visualize yourself as being confident and self-assured. Use powerful body language, including hand gestures. It may look goofy, but it works! And, don’t forget to smile! Place a small mirror on or next to your desk and look into it when leaving voicemail messages. A smiling face leaves a much brighter-sounding message.

Don't Sell Anything IN Your Message
Because people are continually bombarded with advertisements, many people have developed a strong resistance to the sales pitch. The person you are calling may reject you unless you happen to catch them at a moment when they have need or desire for your product.

Determine Needs, Provide Solution
This is an outstanding technique to use as a follow up to a sales presentation. In your initial meeting with the prospective customer ask questions to determine where their "needs" are. Make a list of these "needs" and how your service or product can provide specific assistance for each need. When you leave a follow up message, be sure to mention one of your prospect's "needs" and hint at how you can provide a solution. If calling more than once, refer to a different problem each time you call.

Examples:

"Mr. Roberts, this is Mary Smith from Real Vision Studio at 888-541-8595. I'm calling to offer some solutions as to how our virtual tour services can give you a more professional visual presentation on your web site and get rid of that frustrating flat slideshow that was bothering the company president. My number again is 888-541-8595."

"Mr. Roberts, this is Mary Smith from Real Vision Studio at 888-541-8595. I'm calling with an easy, cost effective way to help you provide visual information to your web site visitors. You seemed concerned about this in our last meeting and I wanted to discuss some of the ways we help our customers meet this challenge. My number again is 888-541-8595."

Close Their File
Making sure your voice is not hostile or impatient; leave a polite message that conveys the message that you will not be calling anymore.

Example:

"Mr. Thompson, this is Mary Smith from Real Vision Studio at 888-541-8595. I've been attempting to reach you for the last several weeks regarding the estimate you asked us to send you on June 24th, but we have not received a call back. We don't want to bug you or congest your voice mail with unwanted messages, so would you please call me back and let me know if you would like me to close your file? My number again is 888-541-8595."

Make Sure YOUR Outgoing Voicemail Message Is Professional
When people call your voicemail do you sound friendly, honest, energetic and sincere or do you sound irritated, bored or uninterested? Follow these steps to prepare a successful voicemail message:.

Script your message. Writing it out will help you say exactly what you need to say. You'll also be less likely to make a mistake when reading from your script.

Practice, Practice, Practice your message before you record it. Say it over and over again out loud to become familiar with the words.

Smile while recording your message. A smile will make your voice sound warm and welcoming.

Stand up while recording your message. This will definitely add energy and animation to your voice.

Get feedback from family, friends or colleagues. Does your message sound as good? If it doesn’t, do it again!

Include a unique selling proposition, a phrase that articulates a key benefit to your customer. For example:

"Thank you for calling Real Vision Studio, Your Online Marketing Specialists. We CAN Spin Your World! Leave your name and number at the tone and we'll get back to you as soon as can.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Get More Referrals!

Marketing is a critical step to any business plan. Many companies focus there marketing efforts on seeking new customers, but forget to go after the important referral. Getting referrals is easier and less expensive than marketing to new customers, and referrals are often more loyal customers. If you ask for a referral you are likely to get one. Here are some tips to help get more referrals for your business.

~When handing out your business cards, hand them an extra to give to a friend or co-worker that may your services. Do this with your brochures as well.

~After completing a job well done communicate a thank you personally or via e-mail. Say something like this: Thank you for your business, please tell your friends about us.

~When sending out mailings to your clients attach two coupons for your business, one to print for your customer and a second to print for a friend.

~Provide follow-up via several methods. Do not just send an email, Spam filters often re-route these. Send email, make follow-up calls, and send traditional greeting cards through the Mail. Many times more traditional forms of follow-up are sometimes the most effective way to connect with a client. Sending a sincere thank you note is a great way to follow-up with a customer. Do not fill your message full of advertisements, coupons, and sales offers. Share how much you value your customers business and how you will be supportive of his or her future needs. Personal contacts are a great way to keep your name in front of your customer, hence yielding more referrals.

~Offer a small incentive if possible if a client refers others. You may also ask your client if they know of any friends, co-workers or business acquaintances that would like to be sent discount coupons. Always send a thank you note when you receive a referral.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Grow Your Business with Professional E-Mail Marketing

Are you looking to grow your business with e-mail marketing? Do you need help keeping track of clients?

Here are some easy, effective, and affordable ways to reach your customers using professional, email-based communications. The best part is they all have FREE trials! Even when the free trial is over you will find them very affordable and effective!

Recommended: AWeber - "Creating an Email Marketing Campaign? We Can Help. AWeber Creates Lasting Customer Relationships For You With Email Newsletters, Autoresponders, RSS to Email and Other Email Marketing Tools."

Constant Contact - "We've helped more than 275,000 customers use Email Marketing and Online Surveys to grow their businesses."

Vertical Response - "The easiest way to build, target, send and track email marketing newsletters, online surveys and direct mail postcards."

ResultsMail - "Allows you to quickly and easily design attractive, attention-getting email newsletters, promotions, advertisements, press releases, and other mass email messages."

Organization Equals Dollars!

Do you know that you could save hundreds of dollars just by getting organized. Organization is easy to learn, staying organized maybe hard to do. But once you get used to it, you won't be able to live without it.

Calendar for jobs to complete? Check. To-do list for home? Check. List of clients that owe you money? Wait. Where is it? You're a smart, successful entrepenuer so you're a multitasking genius. But even geniuses can drop the ball when there are too many up in the air. So below we've found the best online organizers – to help you get your many to-do lists (and your sanity) under some sort of control.

Zoho.com helps you organize your life with loads of handy applications – like an easy-to-use calendar, an online word processor, server space, and an invoice-making application so you can bill clients from anywhere.

Having problems keeping up with your family's extremely busy schedule? With Microsoft Outlook-sync and customizable lists, Cozi.com gathers up appointments and color codes them by family member so you know where everyone is in just a glance.

The Things application for Macs and iPhone consolidates and prioritizes lists and tasks and e-mails you reminders. It's like a virtual assistant who doesn't require a paycheck.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Keeping Up With Economic Conditions

Your intuition is sharp. You pick up on undertones most people miss. But when will all this economic turmoil end? All the different predictions in the air would cause Nostradamus to scratch his visionary head.

According to the National Association for Business Economics, seventy-four percent of economic forecasters predict that the recession might be over by the end of the third quarter. But you've heard that before.

In these market conditions you need to be on top of your game and in the know. The following sites will help you stay up to date on key economic indicators:

While the number of job losses dropped in May, the unemployment rate rose again – to 9.4 percent. Visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics's Editor's Desk to follow current conditions.

MarketWatch keeps track of the bankruptcies and profit gains.

The twenty, still-unsold homes in your market area aren't the best way to gauge the market's current condition. HousingPredictor.com provides housing news and statistics per state and per city, as well as info on current booming markets.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What is Jobvana?

The Social Marketplace! Start a business, grow a business, market your passions! Increase your exposure, build credibility, and leverage our web presence, all FREE!

Jobvana is a network that utilizes user provided content. Their mission is to increase your value by creating a market for the skills you have, enjoy and want to share.

Check it out here: http://www.jobvana.com

View Real Vision Studio's & Web Wizard Creation's Profile here: http://www.jobvana.com/profile/3330/

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Can Social Media Sites Cost You Money?

Imagine your customer seeing an embarrassing photo of you. How would you feel? Do you ever want a business client to read your comments about a bad day at work? How about your personal problems?

If you use Social Media for both your professional and personal life, you need to be careful! Here at Real Vision Studio, a Detroit Virtual Tour Company in SouthEast Michigan, a full service virtual tour provider for RTV, we need not only maintain a level of business decorum for ourselves, but for the reputation of RTV. RTV is a global company and maintains several national accounts that we are affiliated with, hence the need for professionalism.

Below are some excellent articles that provide examples of how (not) to use social media appropriately, while maintaining your reputation.

~How to tweet your way out of a job

~Social media can get you in trouble! Be careful what you tweet!

~How not to embarass yourself when using Facebook as a business tool.

~Be careful what you post

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tips For Using The Phone To Build Your Business!

Need to call a new customer and explain your product or service? Get a lead and want to make contact? Here at Real Vision Studio in SouthEast Michigan, at full service dealer for RTV, we get and make numerous business/sales calls a day. Phone skills are critical for the success of our business, any business for that matter.

The telephone is the most important point of contact with your prospects and customers. Improving your phone skills with these tips can make a big difference in the level of your success and how quickly your business grows.

The telephone can be one of the most valuable as well as inexpensive resources available to you. These practical tips will help you with becoming more productive and profitable, whether you are making the call or your customer is calling you!

~Prepare yourself by getting mentally set for the task ahead and by having a purpose and an agenda ready.

~Follow your script, but be flexible. Don't sound like you are reading.

~Create index cards (or cgeat sheets) with specific points that keep you on point. If it's more natural for you to just strike up a conversation, then just do it!

~Keep it brief, and get to the point right away. Make sure you are clear concerning your reason for making the call.

~Be friendly but try not to get off topic.

~Be a good listener. That way you will be able to help your customer with making the right decision, hopefully about using your services or products.

~Avoid the hype. Show enthusiasm, but make sure it is sincere.

~Smile! Keep a smile on your face, your attitude can show through the phone.

~Understanding how your business works will help you feel more confident when talking to customers over the phone.

~Don't get on the phone if you are in a bad mood.

~If someone is not interested, then don't keep calling them. This will only make you look desperate, not to mention waste your time.

~Be aware of two things as you speak, what you say and how you say it. The sound and tone of your voice is just as important as what you are saying.

~Alway's leave a message! Let your potential customers hear your voice and know that you are available.

~When leaving a message don't speak too fast. Slow down so your message is not hard to understand.

~Say your name clearly. If it's not common spell it, just make sure the caller understands your name.

~Slowly leave your phone number. Assume that the listener is writing it down, so make it easy! Repeat the number at the beginning and end of your message, if possible.

~Most importantly, if you don't get an answer, leave the reason for your call. Why would they call you back if they don't know what you want?

~People can be very impatient, so it is important to answer your phone by the third ring or make sure your voice mail is set to pick up by the third ring.

~Your answering machine greeting should make a good first impression. Be short and to the point and don't drag it out. Leave clear instructions and what information they should leave. Such as their name, phone number and the best time to call them back.

~Check your messages often. A customer may be waiting on information to make a decision, and by taking to long returning their call they may choose someone else.

~Return all phone calls! This could be the most important thing that you do to build your business. Set a goal to return all calls within 2 hours.

~Avoid using a speaker phone. It will make the caller think that the call is not private and that you are not concentrating fully on them.

~Put together a list of answers to frequently asked questions (Price List, Features, etc.) and post it by your phone.

~Decide what you will say if someone answers the phone other then the person you are calling. Should you leave a message with them or call back later?

~Don't type or shuffle paper while you are talking, it can be distracting to the other party.

~If you must put the phone down for any reason, do so gently so you don't startle your caller.

~Never chew food or anything else while talking on the phone.

~Cover your mouth and the receiver, if you have to cough or sneeze.

~Always speak directly into the receiver.

~Don't hang up if you dial the wrong number, just explain yourself and verify the number to avoid repeating the call.

~Avoid any background noise such as TV, radio and computer beeps and clicks.

~Listen to how people talk and not just to what they are saying. You can learn how to connect with a person over the phone by reading "between the lines".

~Be prepared. Have a list of calls that you need to make including the name, phone number and any other information that you may need.

~When you first begin using the phone rehearse in your mind what you are going to say. Once you do it enough, it will come naturally.

~Know what your schedule is before making any calls. That way you can set up any follow up appointments if necessary.

~Do not procrastinate. Get you calls done first thing in the morning. Putting them off may mean losing business.

~Make sure you are not hungry, cold or need to go to the bathroom before making any of your calls.

~Record whether you left a message, if you need to make a return call, who you talked to and what was said.

~Leave an email address as an alternative communication option. Many people will use email to get back to you rather than the telephone.

~Always enunciate clearly keeping the volume of your voice moderate. Speak slowly and clearly.

~Speak properly while sounding professional. Avoid using slang or jargon.

~Think before you speak! Offending potential customers will not encourage them to use your service or product.

~Never say "I don't know", instead say, "Let me find the answer for you". This is a great way to set up a return call.

~Don't do all the talking. Give the person on the other end of the line an opportunity to answer you, to ask questions, or to make comments. Never interrupt your customer.

~Remember the Number One Rule Of Selling Anything: Ask for the order. The reason most often given by people for not buying is, "No one asked me to."

~Have fun! Remember that some will and some won't, just keep at it!

Good phone etiquette is good for business. It can set you apart from your competition and it can actually get you the results you want much faster. Many customers are calling on an impulse. They have developed a sudden need and want that need filled. You have a great opportunity to bring additional revenue to your business. People buy where they feel comfortable and appreciated. Give them that feeling when they call. It's just common courtesy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tips For Writing More Effective Emails

Most business people receive dozens, even hundreds, of emails each and every day. As email has become the primary means of communication in the business world, it’s very important to create messages that effectively communicate your point while presenting a professional image.

Have you ever needed to email someone - a stranger, a business associate, asking them for a favor? How can you compose an email such that they will be read and responded to? How do we effectively email someone who gets a lot of email?

Here are some helpful tips for writing emails:

~Keep it Clear & Concise. To write with clarity it is essential to keep the message no longer than necessary. Keep it concise, including only the most important details, and be sure to get straight to the point. If an in-depth discussion is needed, schedule a phone call rather than trading drawn out emails. It’s more efficient. Also, try to stick to just one point. If you want to cover several topics, write different emails with the title showing the correct topic. This also makes archiving emails easier.

~Use proper spelling and grammar. Poorly spelled or grammatically incorrect emails make you appear unprofessional and reduce the effectiveness of your message. Always double-check your emails before sending them, and make use of spelling and grammar-check tools. Remember the quality of your English will also have a subconscious impact on how you are perceived by others.

~Think (and read) before you write. In our swiftness to respond to all our emails in a timely fashion, many of us neglect to fully read the mail we’re answering and consequently overlook vital bits of information. Most people will have had the experience of sending or responding to an email, which soon after, they regret writing. So before you send a message or respond to one, make sure you’ve completely read and understood the original email or the text you are writing; if not, ask for a clarification to avoid further confusion.

~Be polite. Email is a convenient way to communicate, but convenience shouldn’t be an excuse for overlooking manners. Remember that an email can easily be misinterpreted because it is a very limited form of communication; usually when we speak we have the advantage of using facial expressions. When communicating with clients or superiors, it’s important not to ignore fundamental courtesies. Address the recipient with a salutation like “Hello” or “Dear”, and be sure to include a closing like “Regards”. Always use “Please” and “Thank you”!

~Use subject lines effectively.
Your subject line should be a concise summary of the content of your email. The recipient should directly know what the email contains or what the request is.

~Keep it Simple and Short. Simplicity is the essence of a good email. Try and convey the point using the smallest amount of words and sentences. Don’t be afraid to use bullet points or numbers to better organize your thoughts.

~Set Time Aside for Writing Emails. Just because we have a few minutes to spare doesn’t mean we should check our email again and again. The trouble with that is if we try to respond to emails when we have a lack of time, our replies will be rushed and perhaps inappropriate. It is better to set aside time during the day when we can write the best response without any unnecessary time pressure.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Need To Draw Attention On Your Web Page?

It is so funny that I ran across this little tag generator... Mike (from Real Vision Studio) worked on a tag for his web site for numerous hours using Adobe Photoshop and it has been repeatedly "stolen" for use on other web sites. So, now you no longer need to spend hours looking for a tag graphic to modify for your web site and then spend more hours trying to get it the way you want it! Check out tinytags. tinytags will generate a tag graphic with the words of your choice and then you can download it to your computer for use on your web site, newsletter or e-mail marketing. Easy, cheap and time-saving!

Are You Spending A Fortune on International Calls To Your Clients?

If so, check out this great service from Jaxtr. Jaxtr's mission is to enable new conversations worldwide. They do this by making it cheap, easy and fun to stay connected. Over 10 million people in 220 countries use jaxtr to receive calls from people visiting their social networking pages, to make calls to their friends and family worldwide and to get to know fellow jaxtr members on café jaxtr, the world's largest talk network. Their basic package allows users to make free, unlimited calls around the globe. Now, it won't cost you a fortune to call those clients in Canada or Mexico or wherever you are doing business. Real Vision Studio here in Michigan deals with a good number of clients in Canada and this service is going to save them a minimum of fifty dollars per month. Maybe the high cost of calls has prevented you from doing business globally? Well, now you have no excuse! So, go out and get 'em!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is LinkedIn Worth Your Time?

You know people who've used it to grow their businesses – people who swear by it like your teenagers on Facebook do. You’ve posted your picture and filled in your profile, and then it just became a virtual address book. Consequently you stopped spending any time or energy on it other than intermittently accepting contacts that found you.

So, here are some strategies for effectively modifying your profile to get results:

~Bnet.com provides a step-by-step guide to setting up your account effectively – from defining yourself, to whom to connect with, to how not to be friends.

~Improve your Google PageRank and make your name pop on popular search engines with these great suggestions from Guy Kawasaki.

Here are eight things you can do to get work using LinkedIn from Freelance Switch. If you are in the market for a job, Freelance Switch is one of the top 10 most effective websites for job searchers.

Don’t know what LinkedIn is? Basically, it is a social network focused on your professional life rather than your social life like such sites as Facebook and MySpace. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 40 million members and still growing. LinkedIn connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange information, ideas, and opportunities with a wider network of professionals.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Improve Your Internet Presence

Newsletter - You can send out a monthly newsletter that gives all the news from last month to all the subscribers who have signed onto your website. This way, people can forward this to their friends and bring more business to you.

RSS - Allows people who frequently visit your website to receive updates from the entire website on their RSS reader. You can have multiple RSS feeds (news, product updates, blog), and this way people can sign up for the one they are more interested in.

Blog - Write interesting things for your customers every few days. It is best to set up a schedule. Blog on Mondays and Thursdays, keep it consistent week after week and your visitors/clients will expect to see it. Always keep one blog article on the back burner in case you come down with the flu or something - you can still keep up.

Make profiles on Social Media Sites - Facebook, MySpace & Twitter are a must. Local - Localtweeps and Tweeple Pages

Track and analyze your web site traffic. This is one of the most important tools at your disposal in measuring the effectiveness of your internet marketing techniques and overall website performance. You can improve usability, identify bottlenecks in website navigation, track media and promotional mixes, increase customer acquisition and more through web traffic analysis. If you take the time to understand this data, you can begin to understand the motivations and interests of your visitor/client. Recommended: Google Analytics

Get Graded - Website Grader Website Grader is a free seo tool that measures the marketing effectiveness of a website. Run your site through the Website Grader and TAKE the advice!

Make sure your Website is Clear and Concise - Your internet marketing methods should have a clear purpose, meaning that every page on your site should focus on getting the visitor to take an action. This could be filling out a form, sending an email, purchasing something online or making a phone call, or just simply moving on to the next step. It is important that you compare your website to an actual store. Is everything clean and organized, or is it messy and cluttered? Many websites give bad first impressions with things that could easily be avoided. Broken links are a sign of sloppiness that are fairly common. There are several websites that will automatically scan your site and identify any broken links. Seeing little red "x's" where a graphic or photo should appear is another common problem that is easily addressed. Does your site maintain its look and functionality with most browsers? Make sure your site maintains its look amd functionality with ALL popular browsers such as Internet Explorer, AOL and Firefox. The time and resources required to fix these problems are small when compared with the cost of tarnishing your professional image.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Classified/Posting Sites

Stumble Here - Find what you are looking for! Free and easy to use.

Kijiji - Your Free Local Classified Ad Web Site. Use Kijiji to buy & sell new and used goods, look for cars and pets, find local real estate, jobs and more. Quick, simple & free.

OLX - OLX is the next generation of free online classifieds. OLX provides a simple solution to the complications involved in selling, buying, trading, discussing, organizing, and meeting people near you, wherever you may reside.

Web Cosmo - Classified Advertising made easier then ever with our countrywide, statewide, and local classified ad posting feature. We are offering Classified Ads on for sale, pets (dog classified ads etc), personals, jobs, apartments and much more

What is Google Base?

Google Base is a free Google service that helps you publish virtually any kind of information -- be it your latest riveting screenplay or a listing for your slightly dented 1989 Honda Accord -- on Google Base or other Google properties.To post an item to Google Base:

1. Visit Google Base.
2. Click One at a time.
3. Select the type of information you're submitting (or create your own item type).
4. Click Next >.
5. After you've entered and reviewed your item's formatting, click Publish.

Within a few hours, your item will be visible to the world. Your item will fall into one of several categories based on its content. This category determines which Google property will display your item. For example, your screenplay and robot schematics may appear on Google Base, and your humble Honda may appear on Google Product Search. Learn more about Google Base.

Google Base is currently in beta.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Simple SEO Tips for Good Search Engine Rankings

Making simple changes to your website in order to improve search engine rankings and drive traffic is not as complicated as it sounds. Below details the elements that can be simply manipulated yet produce big improvements if implemented correctly.
These are worth book marking and/or printing so they can be used in the future as a checklist when creating new pages or reviewing your website.

1) Key Phrase Research
Before you can begin implementing any of the optimization techniques, you will need to know which key phrases you are going to optimize your site for. Once this is decided, everything will become much clearer.

You should be able to get a general idea of target key phrases from the content on the pages within your site. If there's not any content upon which to target optimization, achieving good search engine rankings will be extremely difficult and ultimately futile! Visitors will leave promptly if they are not provided with the content they are searching for.

A common mistake is to target the key phrases that drive the largest search volumes. It's more important to target key phrases that directly relate to your websites content, and the more defined the key phrases are the better.

Using key phrases that may drive 125 high convertible visitors to your site each month is likely to be much better than targeting a highly competitive broad key phrase that is only vaguely related to your business, even if it does attract 25,000 searches each month.

2) Page Titles
This is one of the key elements that can be optimized. Each title should be different, and full of key phrases related to the content of its individual page. Search engines often only display the first 65 or so characters of the page title, so it's imperative to get the most important key phrases at the beginning of the page title. In addition, the characters near the front of the page title are given more weight in algorithms.

The page title is displayed in the search engine results, so it must make sense and encourage searchers to click the link. Finding a balance between readability and key phrase concentration is a challenge but something that will improve with time and practice.

3) Meta Description
The Meta description is not actually included in search engine algorithms, although as it is displayed in search engine results pages, it is vital it is optimized. Similar to page titles, the Meta description should be specific to every page and contain text that is relevant to the key phrases that page is designed for.

The Meta description is limited to approximately 160 characters, so it can often be difficult to fit all the required info into such a small space. However, if no Meta description is entered, search engines are inclined to grab a indiscriminate chunk of text from the page, despite if it makes sense or is useful to the searcher. You can avoid this from happening; by making certain every page has a Meta description of some form.

4) Page Content
Page content is viewed as the best way of attracting visitors and incoming links to a website, so it's essential that it is given sufficient time and resource. Search engines thrive on content, so the more content on your site the better for your search engine ranking.
Content is less important now in search engine algorithms than it has been previously. However, it is suggested to make certain every key phrase that is being targeted is mentioned about every 100 words or so.Beware - don't fall into the trap of key phrase stuffing (being non-specific and just trying to cram every word imaginable in)! Search engines employ advanced techniques to track this and will more than likely pick up on it immediately and you could end up with a blacklisted site that is impossible to rank.

Social Networks as a Customer Service Tool

I confess, at first I did not understand or realize the power of blogging sites like Twitter and Facebook. While other professionals have raved about the contacts, referrals, etc. that they have obtained from Social Networking sites, I initially did not see its true value or potential. However, a recent news story and my own experiences have shown me the power of these Social Networking sites.

If you have any misgivings about social networking’s business value, let me dismiss them for your now. Although social networks and online communities may not drive instantaneous sales, they can absolutely help you build customer retention - through gathering feedback, responding to concerns, sharing informational content, and more. In the case of responding to customers’ concerns, social networking is turning out to be a powerful retention tool. Many companies today are surfing online communities and social networking sites for customers’ comments and following up as a result. So, if you have a complaint many businesses are actively listening and willing to resolve the issue.

In this week's publication of BusinessWeek (March 2, 2009), there is a short article called "A Social Networker's Story: Zappos CEO and UPS Step In.“ The story describes how Tara Hunt, a marketing executive with Intuit, initially contacted UPS regarding the tracking of a delivery package and received a generic response from the customer service representative explaining that packages sometimes aren't delivered until 9 p.m. during the Christmas season. Not satisfied with the response, Tara called upon the power of Twitter and posted a message (known as a "tweet") describing how she wanted to walk her dog and was waiting on UPS to deliver a package. The message or tweet was relayed to the CEO of Zappos who was having dinner with UPS's President for the Western Region, who then mentioned the tweet to the UPS exec. The Zappos CEO replied to the tweet "someone will call." The UPS exec contacted the operations manager who then was able to schedule a pre-set delivery time. The UPS driver arrived not only with the package - but also flowers, chocolates, and dog toys. It was an excellent example of customer service. The question is though; did it pay off? Absolutely! Ms. Hunt now goes out of her way to use UPS and even purchased a pair of shoes from Zappos.

As word spreads of these types of stories, customers will increasingly want to experience it themselves—and may actually go to online communities before contacting a customer service department directly. (Or may look to see if they can contact a customer service team through their Social Network site.)

So here is what I’ve learned from the BusinessWeek article and my own personal experiences:

~Customers don’t like automated replies or generic responses.

~Customers love good information.

~Customers can accept mistakes and problems if they know what is going on with their problem or complaint and obtain timely updates.

~When blogging or posting, remember that others are or may be listening (including friends, family, employers, competitors, etc.).

~If you are a company, you may just want to listen in on Twitter to see what your customers are saying about your company and the service it provides.

~A satisfied customer is more likely to be a source of repeat business and referrals.

~An unhappy customer will shout (louder than the happy one) from the rooftops the bad service they received.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What is Kijiji? (Free Classifieds)

What is Kijiji?
Kijiji is a free, person-to-person local community classified site. You can use the site to post and find Ads for electronics, furniture, jobs, cars, pets, services, housing and much more. Kijiji is simple to use, local, completely free, and lots of fun!

Where does the name "Kijiji" come from?
The word "kijiji" (pronounced like key-gee-gee) means "village" in Swahili. This name was chosen because it captures the essence of what we are creating - a site where people can connect with others in their community.

Is Kijiji really free?
Yes, Kijiji is completely free. This includes both posting an Ad and replying to an Ad. You will not be charged if your item sells through a posting on Kijiji.

http://www.kijiji.com/

See our ad here: Real Vision Studio Virtual Tours

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Plum Card® Gives You A Choice Every Month

I found out about this card and the great benefits being a BzzAgent. Saving money while using credit is definately frugal.

"Cash flow management" are three very important words for small businesses. But glexible and powerful trade terms that make it easier to manage cash flow are generally only available to larger companies.

That's why American Express Open created The Plum Card. It provides flexible trade terms - like and Early Pay Discount or a Defer Pay Option - virtually everywhere, so you can do what's best for your company's cash flow each month. Ad in all the other benefits you'd expect from American Express, like no pre-set spending limit, and your business has got itself a card!

If you apply before March 30, 2009, you can get $100 back when you spend $1000. See site for details.

The Plum Card® Gives You A Choice Every Month
Plum Card® from American Express OPEN

Early Pay Discount

~Pay your balance in full within 10 days of your statement closing date and receive a 1.5% discount on all eligible charges

~Discount is delivered on your next month's statement

For example: Charge $10,000 worth of supplies and inventory — when you pay it all off early you can get $150 back.

Defer Pay Option

~Take up to two months from the closing date on your monthly statement to pay your balance in full, without interest or finance charges

~Just pay 10% by the Please Pay By Date on your statement to extend payment on the rest of the amount until the next month's Please Pay By Date

For example: Charge $5,000 worth of materials and pay off at least $500 by your Please Pay By Date to receive 30 additional days to pay the remaining balance.

In addition, the Plum Card also provides these benefits:

~No pre-set spending limit

~You can choose the time of the month your bill is sent: beginning, middle or end

~To make it even easier to pay early, you can choose to pay bills online and OPEN will send an e-mail reminder when your statement is ready

~The first year has no annual fee, with an annual fee of $185 for subsequent years

~You can give an employee an Additional Card for no annual fee (extra Additional Cards come with an annual fee of $45)

In addition to the flexibility of the Plum Card®, you also receive a host of other benefits courtesy of American Express OPENSM, including:

Purchasing Power

~OPEN Savings®: Save even more at select partners, including FedEx, Delta, JetBlue, Hertz and Hyatt

~Worldwide ATM Access with Express Cash6: Use your Plum Card to get cash at over 600,000 ATMs around the globe

~Worldwide Emergency Check Cashing: Cash personal checks for up to $10,000 at over 2,200 American Express Travel Services locations

Management & Reporting Tools

~Account Alerts: Get free notices on account activity and updates

~American Express Bill Pay: Set up automatic payment on recurring bills

~Track Business Spending: Track, analyze and control spending on your company's Plum Card

Security & Protection

~Baggage Insurance Plan8
~Extended warranty mirrors manufacturers' warranties for up to one additional year9
~Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance10
~Customer Service
~Emergency Card Replacement
~Fraud Protection Guarantee
~Identity Theft Assistance
~Manage Your Card Account Online
~Purchase Protection
~Return Protection
~Travel Accident Protection

For full details on all Card benefits, visit PlumCard.com.

Those who might particularly benefit from the Plum Card:

~Wedding and event planners, caterers and photographers
~Restaurant and food business owners
~Financial consultants
~Print vendors
~IT contractors and consultants
~Businesses that rely on raw materials or online advertising
~Businesses that have seasonal business cycles (flexibility is extra important for them!)

What is BzzAgent? We're an international network of consumers who voluntarily participate in word-of-mouth (WOM) programs for a variety of products and services. Basically, we're a community of communicators.

What's "Bzz"? It's what we call word of mouth. It's what we all do every day. It's the sharing of honest opinions about a product or service between two or more people.

What do BzzAgents do exactly? You get to learn about new stuff and influence some of the biggest companies in the world. You try products and services (often for free) and share your honest opinions with people you know. Then you fill us in on those conversations to help companies improve their products. There's no obligation, no nonsense and no pressure.

Is there a cost to join? Nope, there's no cost to join BzzAgent.

Become a BzzAgent here!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Newsletters Turn Buyers Into Customers!

Will They Buy From You Tomorrow?
So they bought your product yesterday, but will they buy it tomorrow? In many markets the differences between products has narrowed to the point of insignificance. For this reason, your ability to build a relationship with people who buy your products is more critical than ever. And newsletters can help build those relationships. They can show customers how to get more value out of your product or service, perhaps by showing how other customers are finding new uses for them.

You want customers to know as much about your products and services and your company as they possibly can. And you want to keep your name fresh in their minds. If you can do this, they are going to be much more likely to do business with you again, even if a competitor is offering the same product or service at the same price.

Creating Product Leaders!
When Apple dominated the emerging market for personal computers, it was phenomenally successful at creating product leaders. These were people who not only liked Apple computers, they loved them, and they loved them so much they told everyone they knew to go buy one!

Newsletters can help create product leaders by building a connection with your product/service users. You may also want to send newsletters to key influencers - people that are in an unusually good position to be able to recommend your product to many others. In the Real Estate industry these key influencers could be brokers, high-producing agents, office managers or board of director members.

Avoid The Hype!
One of the reasons many newsletters work is that people read them, no small deed when you consider the typical mail volume at most businesses. The reason people read them is that they think they might find something useful, interesting or possibly free, not just a blatant sales pitch.
For example, the leading publisher in the book trade, Random House, has a newsletter that is well read. People love the chatty, casual, informal style. The newsletter has tremendously added to the company’s credibility and readership popularity by occasionally recommending books published by competing firms. Like a lot of other newsletters, the Random House newsletter is available free of charge on the Web.

Cracking The Tough Accounts!
A marketing manager I know loves newsletters because in her earlier twenty-year career as a retail store buyer, newsletters got her to place orders, but extravagant brochures and flyers went quickly into the trash basket.

I've had varied results mass-mailing newsletters to cold contacts, acquiring just a few new clients. I do find however, think that newsletters work well as one part of the sales mix, when you are already calling or visiting a significant, but difficult, new account.

Side Benefits Of Newsletters
Newsletters are great not just for customers, but also for getting employees, contractors, commission sales associates, the media, and others excited about your company.

Tricks for the Frugal Budget!

Small start-up businesses don’t usually have the money to launch huge advertising campaigns in multiple media formats. In fact, even if you are already in business, chances are you don’t have an extensive cash allotment set aside for promotion, or you’ve tried many different advertising approaches and haven’t hit on a really successful campaign yet. Believe me, you aren’t alone!

Advertising can be extremely expensive. Despite ample funding, even large national companies often find it difficult to develop successful advertising campaigns. And, with an increasing number of companies advertising through every imaginable communication outlet, it is becoming increasingly hard to attract the attention of consumers.

There are other approaches to promotion. They generally require less money to apply and are often more effective. The only catch is that they require time and imagination to develop.

Coupons
You don’t have to distribute coupons in print advertising or in big direct mail campaigns. You can hand them out on the street corner, at trade shows, real estate offices or just about anyplace else. You can send a few to your best customers, or you can include “next purchase” coupons in customer orders.

Coupons are easy to design and print because their selling point is price, not image. To assure your chances of getting an additional sale or establishing an ongoing relationship with your customers, make your coupon offer extremely generous.

Contests
People love contests. They even love to see other people win! Just check out the extraordinary success of game shows on television. If you choose to develop a promotional contest, make it with fun, make it silly, and don’t forget to really talk it up. If your contest is crazy and different enough, you should be able to get good media coverage—and remember, this is essentially free advertising!

Gifts
People love to receive something for free, even if they have to pay a premium price for a more expensive item to get the freebie. Don’t ask why! It doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t have to, as long as you make money. While this technique has been used most successfully in the beauty and cosmetics industry, it can be used in almost any business endeavor. It isn’t unheard of to see deals such as a free computer desktop with the purchase of a higher-priced notebook computer or, even a free subcompact car with the purchase of a full-price luxury sedan!

Frequent Buyers
Frequent-buyer programs can be very powerful tools for building loyal customers for both retail and service businesses. The more widespread approach is to give customers a card that is marked after each purchase and results in a free or reduced-price product or service offering after a specified number of regular-priced purchases. For example, ten haircuts may gets you one free haircut. Another approach is to give regular customers a discount on purchases upon presentation of their “Frequent Buyer” discount card.

Some businesses charge a small fee for their frequent-buyer cards. Others tie freebies or discount levels to purchase volume. For example, after buying 5 tours from a virtual tour provider the agent might receive a free tour. After spending $250 you might receive 10 percent off your next purchase of $25 or more.

Events
Hosting a special event in your business establishment, such as a celebrity appearance or a charity fundraiser, is a terrific way to introduce people to your business or maintain contact with existing customers. It also will create an aura of excitement and goodwill. You may even obtain media coverage! You can also sponsor a local event to gain exposure. For example, Real Vision Studio of Metropolitan Detroit sponsored a client appreciation event for Coldwell Banker at the Woodward Dream Cruise. They gained new clients due to that exposure.

Cross-promotions
You don’t have to be a movie producer or own an international fast-food chain to cross-promote your product with another business. You might consider offering free tickets to the local theater with each purchase of a particular item or price level. Another great business-to-business cross-promotion might be to offer free tickets to a ball game to any business willing to invest fifteen minutes of time just to listen to your sales pitch.

Trades-Barter
Ever notice the ads for car washes on taxi cabs? Car washes don’t pay cash for these advertisements! They get the exposure in exchange for cleaning the taxis every so often. If you are absolutely sold on developing an advertising campaign, remember that smaller media venues will sometimes accept products/services in lieu of payment. Barter Perk: Ever wanted to take that awesome vacation at that little Bed & Breakfast or that fabulous houseboat trip, but could never afford it…. Barter your product/services for the trip or stay. For example, the owners of Real Vision Studio of Metropolitan Detroit wanted to take a houseboat trip in Tennessee. They contacted several companies and offered their services (virtual tours) in exchange for a trip. Low and behold, they had some takers. To date they have been on 3 bartered houseboat trips which in turn gained them new clients due to the exposure of those virtual tours.

Giveaways
You’re probably wondering how you can make money if you give away product! It’s really a lot easier and less costly than advertising. In actuality, giveaways have their place in just about every type of business.

Selling business-to-business, you can generate goodwill with the people you choose—your best customers or a select roster of potential clientele—by intermittently giving them a small gift when you call on them. The giveaway should not be so expensive that a feeling of bribery is conveyed, but nice enough that it doesn’t end up trashed the minute you leave.

For consumer service businesses, you may want to offer your product for free trial periods, or offer free estimates if you are in a service-oriented business.

New customer offers
Attracting new customers is one of the most difficult marketing challenges to achieve. That’s why different businesses—national manufacturers to local delivery services—offer incentive pricing, freebies, or extra advertising allowances for new customers. Even lawyers customarily offer a free first consultation.