The thread at UKBusiness Forums started me thinking – how many crazy business ideas have been started and were they successful? The answers on the forum varied from:
‘Give me a million and I’ll tell you’
‘Sell an E-book on ‘How to Make a Million’ for £5 to 200,000 people’
but it sent me searching for the most crazy ideas I could find. Here they are:
Honestly! Imagine limiting yourself to 140 characters! Who would have thought…
They patented it but it never took off. I wonder why? Could be a winner at airports and hotels…!
Beer flavoured ice cream
Self-explanatory. Launched last year by a Yorkshire company. I think it was probably a hit!
Glow in the dark golf balls
The inventor of these is now a millionaire!
Dog Wash (as opposed to car wash)
I thought I had seen everything, but apparently not! Poor dog!
Jelly fish art
This sounds oddly calming and soothing – it could work, but is it cruel to jellyfish?
Apparently there are many crazy business ideas out there and who is to say that they won’t work? The fact is that when you have a business idea, write it down, think about it for while and plan it out. The craziest ideas just might make you the most money.
For small businesses, it can be difficult to have the skills to do all that your client may want you to. Your client may be looking for a web designer who also has graphic design skills, or they may look for someone who can design mobile apps as well as designing an e-commerce website.
You might not have the skills necessary to complete all the work, but do you know someone who does?
Teaming up with other small businesses can be a way to compete with bigger companies who can afford to have people specialising in different aspects of website work in-house. You both gain from the business and the client can have everything that they need for their website to work. You can have people who you go to for web design, mobile app design, graphic design, copywriting, in fact anything that you think may be required by future clients. The small companies that you form alliances with may also be able to reciprocate and send business your way too.
How do you find companies that you will be able to work with?
Business forums can be a good way to find business partners. Joining forums can be a good idea to raise the profile of your company and enable local people to find you, but it can be a place where all kinds of business people gather to answer questions posted and chat about business issues. You can normally get a good idea of what kind of person someone is by their replies. Many business forums allow private messages or pm so you can open a conversation with someone and find out their rates. It is best if their rates fit in with yours so that there is not too big a discrepancy.
You may also meet people when you contact companies to advertise your services. As you get to know people and work with them, you can get a good idea of whether or not you would work well together and whether you would recommend this company. This should encourage you to always produce your best work, as you never know who might recommend your company.
Business networking meetings can help you to meet people that you might be able to work with. It is preferable to know the person that you are recommending and that means spending time with them and getting to know how they work.
If you are a business owner, and particularly if you offer a service, then you cannot just wait for the opportunities to come to you. Mingle and meet people; you may never know when your next job is going to come along, but you will be in the best possible position to meet all of your clients’ needs if you can form some friendly networks with business people that you trust and that you know you can whole-heartedly recommend.
Just a short post today to point you to an interesting article that I read today at About: Marketing.com which is run by Laura Lake. Laura makes some interesting points about the differences in the ways that men and women use the internet.
She suggests that these differences should have an impact on the way you market your business. Effective marketing is about narrowing down your target market and aiming your sales message directly at it. Laura is suggesting that gender should also be taken into account.
What do you think? Do the differences between men and women indicate that their gender should be taken into account when planning marketing campaigns?
Is this something that you already do? Let me know in the comments below.
Collecting an email list is a great idea from a business point of view. Allowing people to opt in means that you are gathering a list of people who are expressing an interest in you and what you do which can only be good for your business.
Simple Opt-In is Best
Make it easy for potential customers to opt in to your newsletter: include a big opt-in at the side of your blog posts. You can offer free giveaway e-books to encourage subscribers, or offer email courses. Do include some form of validation to ensure that the sign-up is genuine. This can include ‘Captcha’ code which asks the person subscribing to type in a code. This is in order to exclude automatic web crawler programs. Other forms of checks can include your email program asking the subscriber to click on an emailed link to complete their subscription.
There are some great email programs out there such as mailchimp and feedburner. This article is more about the kinds of things that you can include on your email newsletter.
Items to Include in Your Subscription Newsletter
The idea of the newsletter is to keep your business to the forefront of your customers’ minds. Use your logo at the head of the letter and keep it easy to read in an email window. Use a clear font which is a reasonable size. You can post a short contents section with links at the beginning. Include any special offers fairly quickly. You can offer vouchers to print off or special coupon codes which can be used at checkout. You want to encourage people to visit the website and buy.
Next include some hints and tips. It can be a brief article about some aspect of your business – something that adds content value to your newsletter. You can talk about new products coming soon and perhaps mention an exclusive introductory offer for customers receiving your newsletter. Do include low resolution photos which are clear and self-explanatory. No customer will wait forever for a newsletter to load and they may get impatient if it is blocking the rest of their email, but pictures can add extra interest as well as demonstrating the product.
Encourage Feedback on Your Service
Finally, you can encourage customer feedback by posting a survey and asking for client recommendations for your website. Including client recommendations on your site helps to validate the site and offers encouragement to other potential customers browsing.
I have long been a fan of Enterprise Nation, the UK website devoted to helping small businesses. Recently Enterprise Nation added another website to its stable: Bitsy.
Enterprise Nation was always good for regular Twitter chat and had really helpful forums. Bitsy has take that community one step further and created a way of listing your business as well as joining a lively community and chatting about all kinds of issues whether business-related or not.
It is free to join the Bitsy community and as it is such a great resource, I highly recommend that you do so. The access to experts across the full business spectrum is amazing considering how long the website has been going. If you want to be listed as a seller, it currently costs £5 + VAT or you can choose to become a premium seller for £8 + VAT and list numerous ventures.
The website is growing all the time. It will be holding monthly web chats for members and there is Twitter chat daily on Monday to Friday. For the solo business person working from home alone, it offers a great sense of community.
If you want to link up with me through Bitsy, please feel free to do so. Let me know that you came from my website.
Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter and editor available for writing gigs large and small. She is listed on Bitsy, but if you want to contact her through this website, then do use the Contact Me form.
Finding good clients and customers is can be difficult. Small business owners have to work intensively for their leads and to gain new clients. The most important thing to do to make sure that all your hard work does not go to waste is to cultivate a relationship with your client and keep them for a long time.
This is not a hard thing to do, but it can take a little forethought and planning. Looking after your clients is a way of looking after your business so here are some ways to help you keep your clients.
The way you treat other people says a lot about you. Treat people nicely – all the time, not just when they are potential clients. Try not to get pushy about sales, chill out and relax and make sure that you maintain the same easy tone when writing emails as well as on the phone. It is incredibly easy to be misunderstood on email, so make sure that your emails send out the information that you want them to, professionally and with courtesy.
Return Calls Promptly
There is nothing worse than sending an email or leaving a phone message and being left hanging. This is especially important if someone is waiting for important information. Try and get back to clients promptly with information as soon as possible. This can be difficult if you are waiting for a third party to come back to you. Even so, you should keep your client informed as to what is going on and do your best to press your person to get back to you asap. Keeping communications open keeps your clients happy.
Establish Project Parameters
Know exactly what it is your client wants. This applies particularly to businesses that offer a service such as copywriting and web design. Some business people ask clients to fill in a questionnaire to help explore their needs for the project.
Deliver Products and Services Promptly and on Time
This is one of the most important things that you can do related to customer service. If you can consistently deliver your work on time, or deliver your products quickly, then you will get a great reputation and recommendations from other people. When estimating service times you should include extra time to make sure the work is done.
Ask for Customer Feedback
If something went wrong, then you need to know about it. Encourage your customers to talk to you about your services and products. Hopefully you’ll pick up some nice comments and references. If something went wrong, then make sure you put it right.
5 Smart Ways to Find Clients (blogs.sitepoint.com)
The caveat of a happy client. (xemion.com)
Client Retention is Easier with This 5 Step System (bettercloser.com)
It can be good to talk to people about their opinions on how your business is doing. When we deal with customers, it is important to know that we are doing a good job and that our customers are happy with what they are receiving for their money. When you are first starting out, it is important to get feedback from a trusted source: someone in the same line of business, perhaps with more experience. This is valuable feedback that can help inform your business and what you decide to do.
Feedback from Peers
When we seek feedback, the response is usually thoughtful and helpful. However we can be given unsought feedback from peers and friends which seems to be more like unhelpful criticism.
Although your first response might be to get angry and be rude back, it is best to sit back and take stock of what has been said. You may need to separate the words from the manner in which they were delivered and consider them both separately. Some people do not come across well when delivering feedback. They feel awkward and struggle to find the right words to say. If this has been the case, then you know at least that the feedback has come from the heart and perhaps the words should be considered carefully. You can ask other people about the issues to try and confirm whether the first comments were correct or not.
However, occasionally you feel that the feedback can have ulterior motives: that the speaker wants to put you down for some reason. You might feel that they are jealous because you have a job that you can do from home, or your business is doing better than theirs – whatever the reason, the possibility is that the criticism stemmed from a desire to bring you down rather than build you up.
Hard as this can be to take, the correct response is to do nothing that will reveal how cross you are. You will need to calm down before responding to the criticism and then answer in a measured way. Don’t feel the need to justify yourself, but if you must answer their comments, then do it calmly and don’t let them know how much they have upset you. If possible, allow time to go by before responding. The best way to answer criticism is to allow time to prove them wrong and for you to be even more successful than you were before.
Feedback from Customers
Feedback from customers on how your company is doing is a positive thing and should be sought out wherever possible. Ask customers for references; provide feedback forms on your website and encourage them to use them. Post glowing praise on your website for other customers to see – with their permission of course!
You can use your company Facebook fan page to ask customers to give you feedback or you can pick up comments through Twitter. Some bigger companies are now monitoring Twitter chat so that they can improve bad experiences of customer service. However you do it, encourage your customers to engage with you and tell you their experiences good or bad. You need to know how your company is doing and your customers are the best-placed people to tell you.
Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by Tambako the Jaguar
What Are You Doing To Engage Your Facebook Customers? Here Are 5 Tips You Can Do! (socialmediadudes.com)
Turn a Bad Customer Experience into a Good One (blogs.constantcontact.com)
Freelance copywriter, proofreader, editor, web articles, writer. Your words are my business