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Entrepreneurship is alive and thriving on the internet

Many people now have strictly online businesses.

Many people now have strictly online businesses.

Or: If you have a strictly online business, are you remembering to offer your customers and clients good customer service?

If you have email, and/or a website, and/or an online business or participate in any other kind of online activity, then you receive lots of invitations to look at new income opportunities.  Most of these are “advertisements,” or junk mail – the nice way to say “spam.”  Which, by the way, is not legal.  You know, just by the sheer volume of it all, that there are millions of people now who do business on the internet.  And with a strictly online business,  it’s sometimes easy to forget about customer service.

Let’s say you have a group of little ventures online.  You’re an affiliate for a couple products and you’re a member of an online network marketing business.   Some types of businesses offer an affiliate program that gives you a share of revenue only.  Other types of businesses give you, as an affiliate, the task of advertising the product or service.  For this you get a percentage share of every sale.  Some of the companies that offer affiliate status and sales also give you access to the buyers thus giving you a list of possible leads for other ventures you might be involved with.  If you have an online network marketing business, you have two objectives: selling your products and advertising for downline members.  So you are utilizing advertising and email protocols.

Even though 99% of your business is done via email and other internet correspondence, do you offer your customers and potential clients/downline members good customer service?

  • Do you answer email promptly?  If you advertise an online network marketing business do you actually contact the people who respond?  Do you welcome them with a personal email contact or do you rely solely on autoresponders?  Autoresponders are handy tools, but people begin to feel like just another number if every message they receive has the feel of a carbon copy.  If someone does respond to an autoresponder program sales letter and the system sends out an automatic “hi hello” letter, you might consider disabling that function and handling all the follow-up “in person” so-to-speak.
  • If someone responds to an advertisement you’ve placed and asks a question, do you respond in a timely fashion?  These are people who are interested in your product or opportunity and need more information.  Why would you delay in getting back with them?

If you have information in your ads or on your website that says you have follow-up materials like e-books or reports and someone orders one [providing there is no instant downloading function], do you send it out in a timely fashion?  It doesn’t matter that the material is “free;”  your point, hopefully, is offering added value to the relationship with a potential client.  If the client paid for the e-book or report then prompt turnaround shows them respect.

If you are among the growing number of people operating strictly in the online business world, remember that behind every click of the mouse, every email sent, is a real person.  If you take your online business as seriously as you would a brick-n-mortar business, then offer your customers good customer service.  Offer quality and value.

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What’s so bad about direct selling?

Direct selling is a great vehicle as a home-based business. That said, why does it get such a negative vibe?  You mention “direct selling” to someone and they squish up their face as if they’ve just bitten into an unripe lemon [which is a truly bad taste].  However, people all over the world purchase products from direct sellers every day of the week, every week of the year.  Products like cosmetics and functional beverages and vitamin supplements and baskets and food containers and scrap-booking supplies and home decorative elements and health and life insurance are all examples of direct selling products.  In fact, some of the most well-known products in the world cannot be purchased in a retail store…they have to be purchased from an independent contractor [or consultant or distributor or agent].  Billions of dollars in sales every year are generated through direct selling.

So what’s so bad about direct selling as a home-based business?  Here are some of the inaccuracies I’ve heard:

  • I don’t want to go door-to-door.  If you were interested in my product, you would never hear about it because I knocked on your front door.  Most products sold by direct selling independent contractors are done by invitation and referral.  In fact, the income opportunities with which I’m affiliated discourage this type of selling mechanism…it’s a pure waste of time and effort.
  • I can’t sell. Good, then don’t.  As sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer says, people don’t want to be sold they want to buy.  Don’t “sell” something, share information.  Ask questions.  Let’s say you are in conversation with someone and the subject of health comes up and your product is a vitamin supplement; ask the person how they are managing that aspect of their health maintenance and would they be interested in some information about your product?  Give them the information and let them make their own decisions.
  • I can’t represent something I don’t believe in. Well then, don’t.  You can’t get excited about something you aren’t excited about.  For instance, I could never talk passionately to you about the juice product I represent if I was not already passionate about it.  And I’m passionate about it because I use my own product for my own health benefit.  And because I do benefit from it [and so does my family] then I’m quite excited to tell you about it.
  • I can’t afford a large inventory.  That’s a good thing because now-a-days not only don’t you need one, with many direct selling companies you ought not to have one.  With the internet and the availability of sales websites, your customers have the convenience of shopping online and having their orders drop-shipped to them.  You don’t have to stock your garage with product that you aren’t sure will move.   To me, in my business, this means I have the assurance that my customers are getting the freshest product direct from the distribution point…not from stock I’ve had sitting in my garage.
  • It’s too expensive to start a business.  Depending upon the product or service, this may not be true.  There are some direct selling companies that cost in the $200-300 range to enroll [which includes kits/samples] and there are direct selling companies that cost far less to enroll [one of the two income opportunities with which I’m involved is offering no-cost enrollment this year as example].
  • I don’t have the time.  Time spent working your business is a personal choice.  A direct selling home-based business differs from a “job” where it is your employer who sets your work hours.  With your own business, you decide how many hours per day/week you’ll work, what time during the day – when you start, when you stop…you even decide if you don’t work at all any given day.  It’s your business.

There is, in actuality much that is great about direct selling…so much so that about 59 million people worldwide are involved in this industry.   If you are among the thousands of people wondering if a direct selling income opportunity would help you in your current financial situation, then give it a look.  It costs nothing to look and the benefits of involvement are rich.

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Needlework advice for Sybase applicable for small business too

I like reading the business section of my morning newspaper – it often has interesting news – if not always news that I can actually use.  Today was different however.  There is a very interesting and well written story on the front of the business section titled, “Defying gravity – Economic slump can’t stop Sybase,” by writer George Avalos with The Bay Area News Group [which you can read at this link]. What I found most intriguing was at the very end of the article.  Mr. Avalos quoted Terry Tillman, an analyst with Raymond James & Associates as saying:

  • “…’Sybase has to stick to its knitting,’ Tillman said. ‘They will have to make good bets. They will have to be very focused and make the right kinds of bets on where they spend their resources.’….”

This was the summation to an article that talked about the success Sybase is enjoying in the face of a tough global economy.  Seems this company and its leadership have been making good decisions based on sound vision.  My translation of Mr.Tillman’s final comment is that Sybase needs to stick to what’s been working up to this point and stick to the basics of good business to keep on this successful track.

Now this is good advice for any business.  Stick to what is working and stick to the basics. If the fabric of your business is remaining strong, then don’t change the needles at this point, just keep doing what you’re doing.  Stay focused and make good decisions. Wow.  If this is advice a huge corporation like Sybase should follow, then how much more should we who have home-based businesses follow this same advice?

Here’s what I think we ought to do:

  • keep the vision alive – for the small, home-based network marketing/direct selling business or other type of home-planted business, the vision for the business is born in the dreams you have.  Do you dream of early retirement?  Would you like to pay off your mortgage?  Is financial control something you’d like to hold in your own hands?  Whatever your dreams, put on your leadership hat and use them as the driving vision for your business.
  • make good decisions – you already made the hardest and best decisions when you chose the business you’d start.  I chose direct selling after much research.  [I consider my art work to be my “product” and I consider fine artists to be artist-preneurs.]  My only decisions now are centered around daily business building.
  • focus on the tasks before you – keep distractions to a minimum.  If you are like me, with a similar type of business, you do much business utilizing online resources for communication.  One of the challenges is ignoring the influx of notices about “the next great thing.”  Here’s what I think: either you are committed to your business or you’re not.  If you did your due diligence and chose a company and product(s) [or service] about which you are comfortable and passionate, then you won’t be lured away by promises of greater riches with some other company.  For most of us financial success is not instantaneous...rather it is the result of planned hard work: consistency and determination and persistence.
  • work well and make good choices of where you place your resources – one of my greatest and most valuable resources is my time.  It is the optimal allocation of my time that is most important.

You know what else I liked about George Avalos’ story in today’s paper?  I liked that it was about a company experiencing success.  The current national and global economy causes our media outlets to highlight the gloom and sad stories…it helps to know that there are some people who are not losing their jobs.  It helps to know that there are products being purchased and that there are people purchasing them.  Hope is a precious thing.  Yes, my home-based business has only one employee – me, and I’m not a global player, but there is no reason that my business can’t succeed; there is no reason to think that there won’t be customers for my products.  If Sybase can do it, so can Linda C Smith [the name of my business].

And so can you.

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Working from home is better than a picnic

There is an old saying that goes something like, “It’s no picnic.”  Doesn’t matter what “it” is, just that it is being compared to a picnic.  So, what is a picnic?

  • something fun
  • relaxing
  • done in nice weather, usually outdoors at the beach or in a park
  • can be enjoyed alone, with one other person or a whole group
  • involves special food items like watermelon, cheese and crackers…everyone has different favorites

The saying then, implies that whatever “it” is, just can’t compare with a picnic:

  • it’s not fun or enjoyable
  • it’s certainly not relaxing
  • it involves stress and perhaps unpleasantness
  • it has no good accoutrements– not special foods or beverages and no special picnic blanket
  • it does not involve working with people you like or love

What would qualify as being “no picnic?”

  1. a trip to the dentist for a root canal
  2. a job interview
  3. sitting two hours one-way in daily commute traffic
  4. going to work knowing that your work load has doubled because your office staff was cut in half due to budget constraints
  5. working everyday, doing the same job you’ve been doing, but at a decreased rate of pay due to budgetary cutbacks
  6. working 80 hour weeks and never seeing your family

There are lots of things in Life that are no picnic.  But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that having a business that you work from home is better than a picnic.  Here’s why:

  • you pick your work hours: I have a business I work from home and I work when I want to.  There are some days I’ll work 12 or 14 hours and others where all I’ll do is check email.  My choice.
  • you pick your work environment: I have two places in my home where I can work.  One place I work is a room dedicated as my office and studio.  It’s uniquely mine and has my personal touches…my personal feng shui, if you will.  There are times when I’ll choose to sit on the sofa with my laptop and work there…as I’m doing at this very minute.  It’s nearly 3 o’clock in the afternoon and our parrot, George, is taking a nap and the two parakeets, Ruford and Pippin are running around on the floor chasing one another, often coming right to where I’m sitting.  I love these moments when my house is quiet and I can concentrate.
  • you can work around illness or injury: currently I’m recovering from something and my doc says my recovery is going to take awhile…well, I’ve already said that one of my favorite work environments is the sofa in the living room, so I can do that…and I’ve already said I can choose when I work and when I don’t.  I work when I feel well enough to and don’t worry about it otherwise.  My business is such that it is set up with a workable system that doesn’t require my constant babysitting.  I literally can afford this semi-down time.
  • your business is just that – your own: I’m the owner/operator of my business.  I don’t have to rely on the work or decisions of others to ensure my paycheck.  I make the decisions and set the vision. The dreams I dream are mine and fulfilling them is my responsibility.

I’ve chosen business vehicles that are perfect home-based businesses and that make working from home so much more than a picnic…it’s a joy.

**little commercial here: I’ve mentioned that I have a great “system” in place for my business…if you’d like information about it, send me an email.

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Direct selling business and health emergencies

At first glance you might think that these two things – direct selling business and health emergencies – wouldn’t have a commonality…you’d be incorrect.  [I hate to tell people they are wrong, so I like the term “incorrect.”]  The commonality in these two things is that it is possible to have the one and know that the other will remain viable.

My direct selling business has been chugging right along for the past 8 days as I’ve dealt with a health emergency.  [I’m doing much better now, thanks.]  I actually have two businesses I work from home, one is brand-new and not yet incorporated into a system...the other, however, is incorporated into a system that keeps working 24-7 even if I’m laid up on the sofa mind-numb on pain killers.  And, for that, I’m very grateful.  The letters keep going out and the information remains available and the website for ordering and/or signing up is always available. This is one of the beautiful things of having a home-based direct selling business.  My being ill or injured or otherwise laid up [or even on vacation] doesn’t hamper the business of those people whom I’ve sponsored…they continue working their own businesses…and my current efforts at growing my business don’t stop just because I do.

The particular business I’m a part of has a weekly paycheck compensation plan so that if your business is producing a profit, you will continue to get that weekly profit even if you aren’t “on the clock.”  This can’t be said for many jobs anymore.  I know people who literally can’t financially afford to get sick.

There are many good benefits to having a home-based direct selling [or use the term ‘network marketing’] business.  If you haven’t looked into this, you might want to.  Listed in the right column on this blog page under Business Links are links to my two businesses.  Take a moment to check them out.  Send me an email if you have a question or comment.  Can you afford to get sick?

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Business is like a game of spider solitaire

Do you play solitaire?  How about spider solitaire? This is a challenging game where you have to match more than one deck, suit-by-suit.  I have spider solitaire on my laptop desktop and do admit to playing it – a lot.  My daughter Kim also plays and I have to say, her win ratio is much, much higher than mine.  I’m not the sharpest tool in the box when it comes to strategizing.  However, I don’t quit trying.

I was playing yesterday and my win-to-lose ratio was continuing to look pretty sad, but I didn’t quit trying – because I know from experience that sooner or later I will win. Sometimes I’ll even win several in a row until that losing thing comes back and I have to keep starting over until next I win again.  And this made me think of business.

This is much like business.  Especially a direct selling, network marketing business. You get so many “no’s,” so many “not interested’s” that it gets discouraging.  But, just when you think no one any where sees what you see in either your business or your products, someone says “yes.”  You win again.  So you keep trying.

I admit to envying those people born with natural sales abilities...I’m not one of them.  What gifts I do have include determination, faith and dogged stick-to-it-ness. After all, there are 6+ billion people on this planet and sooner or later a few will see what I see in my business and products.

Having a direct selling, network marketing business is not easy for the majority of those who venture into those waters.  But those are worthy waters…most of these companies are fine, quality businesses with competitive, high-quality products and services.  It takes work, perseverance and faith.

So, I let the computer deal the deck and I start once again to match suits and see if I can add to my win ratio.  After all, I want to be like Kim.

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Have you ever been scammed?

I have joined the ranks of the scammed.  It feels awful.  And I feel stupid and taken advantage of…and it was my own fault for 1) not reading the really tiny, hidden fine print…2) for not even thinking there was really tiny, hidden fine print.

I won’t mention the company that burned both my pride and my bank account…if you’re a reader of my blog you know it’s not my practice to bad-mouth anyone or any entity unnecessarily…but if you want to know details of this one, just send me an email.  But here’s what happened:

Because I’m a network marketer/direct seller with a home-based business, I spend much time on the internet doing business.  I get a lot of emails and I read a lot of blogs.  Well, this one was actually a comment sent to me with regards to a post I did on this blog…I didn’t approve the comment because it wasn’t relevant to the post, but the comment was interesting enough that I checked the sender’s accompanying website.  It appeared to be a blog itself.  I read it and it appeared to be about searching for government and other grants.  [I can hear you groaning already…you’re wondering to yourself “surely Linda didn’t fall for this!”]  Well, she did. I did.

The post on the “blog” appeared real enough so I looked at the links.  The link was for a “free” cd that required only shipping and handling of $1.98.  I swear to you that no where on that web page was there wordage that any other strings were attached.  You paid the $1.98, were sent the cd and that was that.  Well, that was not that.

I was sent an email with a link to my account that would be useful with the cd when I got it.  I looked at the  page and it had a database on it of grants but it seemed that none of the search items would work and none of the “webinars” would come up.  Here’s where I failed…at the bottom of the home page, in the very bottom right corner – you had to scroll down to see it – were the words in tiny print “Terms of Service.”  I didn’t see this.  I didn’t even know to look for this.  And I went on my week’s vacation.  When I got back my account had been debited $69.95.  I was upset to say the least.  It took some real doing to find a phone number – which I finally got from my bank – to get that account closed and learn about the “7-day free trial and then you’re charged $69.95 per month.

Legally, I don’t have a leg to stand on to get my money back…or my pride.  They did put their terms of service on their web page…but here’s where I have a problem with their ethics and integrity:

  • the initial “free” cd site should have been very clear about what this was: a monthly service with a fee of $69.95 and what you would get for it
  • the “terms of service” should have been first and foremost before you even do anything to obtain the “free” cd
  • “free” should be “free”

I then did a search engine search for their company and came up with a host of others who have been prey to this…in some of those cases the offending company seemingly had sold those persons’ account numbers to another scammer who used it to draw money from their accounts unauthorized.

When I went to the bank to see what I could do to further protect my account [I shall keep confidential my actions] my banker told me that it was sad, but he sees the results of scams every day.  He said, “It’s sad because we even have a process to deal with this.”  It’s not a once-in-a-while occurrence…scammers are out there and “marks” like me fall prey to them everyday.

Here’s what I have learned:

  • if it’s “free” but you have to pay postage, look again
  • never, ever use your bank account number, use a credit card so that disputes can be handled in a better way
  • check with the Better Business Bureau
  • do a search of the company…see if negative things come up
  • if there are no “terms of service” chances are it’s a scam

Readers, do you have comments and advice you could pass along?

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