From the Desk of the Editor
Welcome to the 88th issue of the MLM Woman Newsletter. This month we feature articles on how to brand your local business on the Internet, the secrets of an MLM Mom, an A to Z list of marketing tools and ideas, and how to uncover hidden markets.
Linda Locke, Editor MLM Woman
Take Your Local
Branding. You've heard this term bandied about for years, but what does it mean exactly? And what does it have to do with local business?
If you think about what a brand represents, the answer is obvious: everything. Your brand IS your business, or at least how it's perceived by your prospects and customers.
Here's my definition: Branding is the process of establishing, nurturing and sustaining meaningful and rewarding RELATIONSHIPS with your customers. Notice the key word in that sentence.
It's more than logos, slogans and marketing materials. It's not complicated or expensive. And it's something that any business can do, even the one-person shop. Now, the Internet has taken brand-building to another level, even for small local businesses. Here are some examples:
1. RELATIONSHIP IS KING
Ultimately, branding is about relationships. Relationships enable us to attract new customers, and do more business with existing customers. And the face-to-face nature of most local businesses puts them in the perfect position to create, nurture, and sustain customer relationships.
You've heard the phrase "Content is King"? Well when it comes to sales, the "Customer Relationship is King".
Before the Internet, the relationship could only be enhanced in person, by phone or snail mail. Obviously these methods are labor and time intensive. In other words, costly.
But the Internet has made relationship building a lot easier and cheaper. A website can serve as a trusty salesman, available 24/7 to answer questions, accept requests, and gather feedback.
And email is the jewel in the Internet's crown. Yes, in spite of the nasty spam problem, email is and will continue to be the killer app, the one tool that everybody uses.
With email, it's possible to have ongoing, meaningful dialogue between brands and customers. Heck, even one-way communication works, especially when it keeps your business in the customer's subconscious and provides her with valuable information that she needs. No other medium comes close to providing this level of interaction.
Yes, the Internet can be a powerful relationship building tool, the local business owner's best friend. Of course, most of them don't realize it yet, but hope springs eternal. Maybe they will, someday.
2. WHAT'S YOUR USP?
What's your USP, or Unique Selling Proposition? Why would someone choose to do business with you over your competition? Please don't say price. Only the Wal-Marts of the world can afford to compete on price. Everybody else will go broke in the process.
No, there has to be something special about your business that sets you apart from the pack. That something is your brand, and it's what causes your customers to prefer doing business with you instead of your competitors, regardless of price.
And whatever your USP may be, the Internet is the perfect way to reinforce it. You can take your local business brand to the Net by creating a web presence that incorporates your uniqueness. The website can be your hard-working marketing rep, available 24/7 to broadcast your USP and remind customers why you are the only solution to their problems.
Local businesses have a unique opportunity here. You
can build your brand in person, and use the Internet to enhance it.
This is something that most large corporations and online companies
cannot duplicate. Yes, there is an advantage to being "small".
But how many local businesses
3. KEEP IN TOUCH
The Internet should be the small business owner's dream. What else allows you to easily communicate with customers, get almost instantaneous feedback, and nurture one-to-one relationships?
Every time you "touch" the customer, it communicates your brand and hopefully inspires more trust and confidence in your company. Each interaction is an opportunity to add to (or detract from) your brand.
Here are some ways the Internet can be incorporated into your "brand-building" marketing mix:
Use email to notify customers of special promotions, invite feedback, respond to inquiries.
Use the telephone (live or voice-mail) to remind customers they can visit the website for information or to find web-only specials.
Encourage "word of mouth" referrals by offering incentives; for example, a dry cleaner in Florida offers a $25 gift certificate to the customer whose referrals lead to 3 new online accounts.
Include URL and email address on all company literature and every piece of paper that may come in contact with a customer: business cards, brochures, letterhead, fax sheets, postcards, invoices, merchandise bags and packaging, catalogs, snail mail; whatever the medium, the same logos, colors, fonts and typeface should be used.
Include URL with all traditional advertising print ads, television, radio, etc.); also include on company cars and depending on the product, perhaps the merchandise itself
To summarize, there are many customer-focused reasons for building an online presence for your local business. One of the best is to build your brand. The Internet offers small businesses a cost-effective and convenient way to:
Deliver targeted communications to prospects and customers, and engage them in two-way conversations that would be impossible using traditional marketing tools.
Emphasize and reinforce your USP.
Focus on building long-term relationships that are profitable to both the business and the customer.
Over time, consistent brand-building will allow local businesses to compete with larger companies in ways they could never do before. For local business, the Net has truly leveled the playing field.
About the Author
By R. Droppa
Can you imagine finding this advertisement in your Sunday paper?
Help Wanted - Full Time Pay for Part Time Efforts. Work at Home. No supervision. Pick your own hours. Free training. Constant support available 7 days a week 24 hours a day. Use only your best skills. No experience required.
As unrealistic as it may seem, this was the job I was looking for as I scoured the classifieds. You see, shortly after the birth of my son, I realized that my heart's desire, my focus, was changing. My successful 10 year career in the corporate world, that I had been so proud of was taking a back seat to my desire to stay home and raise my baby. But alas, our family budget depended on my income. Where was I going to find a company that would pay me to stay home?
I considered my alternatives. I arranged with my employer to work part-time from my house, but after a few weeks it became obvious that this was not a solution. I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be around my son full-time. I wanted to be able to not work for days in a row and then work as long and as hard as I could on weekends or during the night. I wanted a job that involved few clothing changes, and as little face to face contact as possible. I needed to be self-employed, but how could I afford it? I was determined. I had to find a way. I stumbled across some information on Multi-Level Marketing and discovered the perfect business for women like me. Here are just a few of the reasons Multilevel Marketing makes sense for working mothers.
You can begin building your business, part-time, while you keep your regular job. This may seem like an extraordinary feat, considering you are already over loaded with family and work responsibilities, but keeping the goal in mind, couldn't you find an hour each week night, and maybe a couple more on the weekend? The first 3 to 6 months in any new job are considered a training period. How many new businesses can you try out while keeping your current job as a safety net?
The top quality MLM Co's have compensation plans that are designed to reward the part time distributor and emphasize depth. This means you will be working with a sponsor who is financially motivated to help you succeed. Any sponsor will be thrilled to take on a majority of the "work" knowing that they are helping you build towards a goal of working the business full-time.
The start-up costs of your business are lower than most any other type of home based venture. Even if you are planning to start your own business providing consulting or some other type of service. Realize that in order to be successful you will probably need some or all of the following: logo, letterhead, forms, business card design & printing, newspaper/trade advertising, legal counsel, accounting services, permits, licenses, yellow pages advertising, brochure production, office supplies and equipment, and so forth.
Also, remember you can't be out "selling" the business if you are at home "doing" the business. The reputable MLM's have minimal startup costs. In my case, I paid less than $50 for a distributor kit, and then invested a small amount of money in the products I wanted to use for myself and my family. My total start up cost was under $300.00.
You can leverage other people's efforts for your own financial gain. Yet, you do not have the hassle, liability and other problems associated with having employees. If your family schedule will not allow you to devote normal working hours to the business, but you feel it is critical to contact a prospect base that only operates from 9 to 5, then recruit someone who can work those hours. If you feel your business would be best built on door to door sales you can find someone who enjoys this and sponsor them into your company. Think of yourself as the coach, not the quarterback of the team. You don't even have to be out on the field. This way, you can still be building your business through other peoples sales efforts, while you are home, managing the business.
You can work when and how you want. One of the key factors in successful network marketing is staying in control of your prospecting activities. Therefore, you are encouraged to let people leave messages so that you can get back to them, when you are ready. Think about this. You do not have to run around the house, panicked, rounding up and hushing the kids while the phone rings, because you are expecting an important call. One of the basic principals a good MLM'er will teach you, is - let your prospect leave a message.
You can schedule your return calls for when the baby is asleep, the kids are at school, etc... I do much of my communicating through E-Mail and voice mail. Instead of holding meetings in my home, or setting up one on one presentations, I send my prospects videos. When they are ready for the next step, I will attend a business opportunity meeting with them, but in my company, these are held at 7:30 pm. Conveniently, this is half an hour after my son goes to sleep.
You can be "working" while you do normal parenting things. The world is your client base. Think of all the "warm" prospects you have with other children's parents, school personnel, or church acquaintances. You don't have to be annoying. You can simply share a product success or drop a hint during a normal conversation. The best sales tool is your own success. If you look great, and are obviously doing well financially, people are going to start asking you about that weight loss product they heard you were selling. If you are happy and everyone around town sees you out with your children during the day, some conventionally employed moms might start asking what your secret is.
You can save money as well as earn it. Most experts will tell you to ask yourself this question when evaluating MLM's - "Would I buy this product for myself if I wasn't a distributor." In my case, the answer was an overwhelming yes. I represent a manufacturer who is selling over 100 products via network marketing. Many of these have replaced more expensive items that were already in my family's monthly budget. An additional benefit, is that through our use of the products, we have become living testimonials. Many of our friends and family members have approached us about trying something before we even had a chance to ask them.
In my situation, another benefit is that I have been able to help other mothers realize their goal to work at home. I highly recommend this business to anyone who is looking for a way out of the "rat race". Thanks to Multi-level Marketing, I can now earn a living and still have time to play peek-a-boo with my son, read him stories and rock him to sleep at nap time.
Tools of the Trade for MLM Moms
Cordless Telephone (ideally, cordless headset) with Mute
An Alphabet Soup
By Barbara J. Winter
Attention-getting device - grab people's attention with a unique approach: color, a catchy name or provocative headline are a few ways to get noticed fast.
Business cards & brochures - these most common marketing tools deserve to be memorable. A good card or brochure should serve as a mini-billboard, going beyond the bare facts.
Customer mailing list - keep building a list of names and mail to them when you have something special to promote or just want to remind them you're there.
Demonstrations - television is a powerful medium, because it allows us to see events and products in action. Find ways to show, not just tell, your story.
Easy to Find - ask yourself this question: "If a newcomer arrived in my city and needed my services, how would they find me?" If you're hard to locate, you'll miss opportunities.
Freebies - can you create a mini-sample to give away? Everyone loves to get little perks.
Gift Certificates - an easy way to suggest to your customers that they share your product or service with others.
Host an Event - use your imagination to come up with a celebration or appreciation event. Invite lots of people.
Impeccable Service - a commitment to fabulous service will make you feel good...and earn you a ton of word-of-mouth advertising.
Joint Projects - look for ways to multiply your efforts by joining forces with another entrepreneur to create a special project that will benefit both of you.
Klassified Ads - (okay, so I'm stretching here) these inexpensive ads can keep your message in front of thousands of people for pennies. Learning to write a good one takes practice, but it's worth it.
Letters to the Editor - an overlooked tool for getting your ideas and name in print.
Manners - if yours are wonderful, people will be amazed. Make politeness one of your trademarks.
Newsletters - almost any kind of business can benefit from a customer newsletter. Although these take time to produce, the resulting surge in business will make you a believer.
Offer - give your customers an incentive for acting quickly or buying a certain amount.
Postcards - a wonderful way to communicate with your customers and save postage at the same time.
Quality - this important ingredient doesn't necessarily have to cost more money, but in order to build quality, you may have to spend more time and attention to details.
Radio, TV and Newspapers - never underestimate the power of a media story to build your bottom line. Look for ways to be newsworthy...and let the media know.
Surprise - customers love the unusual and unexpected. Try dazzling yours!
Teach & Talk - if you have something to teach, you'll not only create a profit center, you'll also meet new customers for your other ventures. Think of all those program chairpeople looking for a fresh speaker. It could be you.
Ubiquitous - a grand word meaning "appearing to be everywhere at once." Keep it in mind as you go about your marketing and find many ways to appear.
Variety - try different ways to get your message out. Most businesses get stuck in one way of doing things and miss the fun of trying new approaches.
Write - establish credibility and visibility by putting your ideas on paper and getting them published. You might even consider doing a regular column in your local newspaper.
X - some extra ideas include...get yourself listed in local and/or national business directories... gather testimonials and use them on promotional pieces and ads...put together a tip sheet of useful info to give out.
Yellow Pages - not an inexpensive way to advertise, but many businesses report it is their single best investment.
Zest - we all love to do business with people who are enthusiastic about the service or product they offer. If you love what you're doing, everything will fall into place.
About the Author
Uncover Your Hidden Markets
Copyright 2004 Bob Leduc
Want a simple, low-cost way to boost your sales? Just uncover the narrowly defined sub-markets hidden in your main market. Then create special versions of your advertising to focus on the specific needs of prospects in these hidden market segments.
1. How to Find Your Hidden Markets
Start by evaluating your existing customers. Look for groups of customers with similar characteristics you do not currently cater to in your advertising. Then create new versions of your sales message appealing to their specific needs. You will attract a lot more customers just like them.
For example, the owner of an accounting service marketing to small businesses noticed that many of his new clients were landscapers or insurance brokers. Therefore he created separate web sites highlighting the unique benefits his service provided to clients in each of these businesses.
The two sites looked similar, but their sales content was customized to appeal to the specific needs of potential clients in each market. Visitors to either site probably assumed he specialized in working with companies in their industry. Within 2 months he was able to increase the number of new clients from each group by over 25 percent.
Tip: You can also narrow the appeal of an existing web site without losing its effectiveness with your main market. Just create customized web pages for each market segment you want to target. Then add a link to each of these specialized pages on your home page.
2. Adapt to Your Customers and Become a Specialist
As you work with a lot of customers and prospects in a narrowly defined market, you gain special insight into how they think and what they need. You will be able to communicate with them as in "insider" using their own special vocabulary and style.
Prospects and customers will think of you as being "one of us" ...a specialist who caters to their unique needs. They will want to do business with you because you understand their special situation and know exactly what they need.
As a specialist you also eliminate much of your competition ...even if their prices are lower. Most customers will pay a little more to buy from a specialist so they can avoid the risk of doing business with a competitor who has little or no understanding of their special needs.
Bonus: When you deliver results as a specialist you also establish yourself as an expert in your field. Customers will proudly refer other prospects to you. They appreciate what you did for them and are confident you will deliver the same results for others.
You can boost your sales significantly by using the two
simple, low-cost steps revealed in this article. Just (1) identify the
narrowly defined sub-markets hidden in your main market. Then (2) become
a specialist catering to the unique needs of the customers in each of
About the Author
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Copyright 2004, Regent Press