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Thirty Women Entrepreneurs to Follow-article on Forbes

I’m honored to be included in a list of  “Thirty Women Entrepreneurs To Follow On Twitter,” an article appearing at Forbes.com and written by Natalie MacNeil.   Natalie is a media producer and consultant, specializing in online media and marketing.  I did a blog post interview with Natalie that appeared here this past September.

In her article Natalie says, “… Twitter has been an incredible tool for connecting with like-minded people from around the world….”  And I agree.  I’m not a fast technology adopter, but I do have some marketing sense and I could see that Twitter would have value to business people and entrepreneurs early on.  It’s possible to do quite a bit with just 140 characters…it teaches you economy of thought.

If you remember that marketing is the process of telling everyone “out there” about your products/services in as many ways as possible for people to find and receive information, then you know that Twitter fits in here naturally.

Let’s say you are a shoe company and you are ready to launch a new brand…that you have a celebrity endorsement.  You’ll do all the usual marketing: print, ads, tv, radio, in-store displays, direct mailers.  With Twitter you would have a company account and the day you ship you Tweet: Celebrity Shoe available today! Given that there are tens of millions of Twitter accounts, chances are good some people are going to see your tweets [the term for those 140 character messages].  Also, you’ll want to monitor Twitter for the world mentions of your new product by using one of the Twitter search applications.  Why would you do this?  You want to know if folks are positive or negative towards your new product or if they are even talking about it.  It’s just another tool for your marketing toolbox.

 

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Innovative business ideas in a down economy

Who says you have to hibernate in a down economy?  There is an axiom in positive thinking that goes: act as if you are already successful and your mind will go to work to make it so.  I get a joy out of reading about people who step out and use their knowledge, imagination and enthusiasm to make a go of a business of their own.  I found two this week to talk about and found them in two totally different ways.  The Oakland Chocolate Company I found while reading the business section of this morning’s newspaper while having my breakfast.  The other I discovered through Twitter and was intrigued enough to check the website.

The Oakland Chocolate Company is a home-based business with a sole owner who is her own employee.  And she has a day job. According to the newspaper story by reporter Janis Mara, Nancy Nadel is also an Oakland city councilwoman who makes chocolate on weekends.  From the article:

  • “…Oakland City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel spends most Sundays whipping up chocolates in her role as founder of the Oakland Chocolate Co….And despite the sour economy, Oaklanders and others are finding room in their own hearts…for sweets including bonbons filled with quince and truffles made with chipotle pepper….”

I was intrigued with this story for a couple reasons.  One, this is a woman who has a fulltime, consuming  job who is also pursuing a home business based on a passion.  And second, because of her reasons for her business [from the article]:

  • “…Nadel founded her company in December 2007 with the aim of helping the cocoa farmers of St. Mary Parish in Jamaica…when she learned they were struggling….”

The website for the Oakland Chocolate Co. has a page titled, “Our Chocolate Story” that gives a photo description of the growing and fermenting of chocolate in St. Mary Parish.  I learned something new today in reading it: I did not know that the cocoa beans were fermented.  This story is very cool also because it shows interconnectivity between one small business helping another small business all helped by individual consumers who buy – and love – chocolate.  Incidently, not to give any undue promotion for someone else’s business, but Nancy offers a terrific deal on her Box of the Month Club collection…which I ordered today as one of my husband’s early Christmas gifts – the man does love fine chocolate.

There is an advertisement I saw recently somewhere – I think it was a commercial I saw while watching a television show online the other day – that talked about small neighborhood businesses, and their customers, who are the bedrock of a renewing economy.  That could just be true.

The other business I came across I found through a Twitter follow: checkthishouse.com – I looked at the website and checked the Twitter profile, but cannot find the name of the owner, so I shall just refer to him as Checkthishouse.  What made me notice the Twitter follow direct message was how different its pitch was.  Instead of a self-advertisement for just another online get-rich-quick scheme or network marketing opportunity or get-more-leads info…it was about home maintenance, remodeling and repair.  This was different indeed.

The checkthishouse website is rich with information.  It is a value-packed time well spent for anyone seeking good, solid information about maintaining a home – Checkthishouse has information from air conditioning to ventilation.  From the website:

  • “…It is apparently one of the most neglected tasks required of homeowners. I say that because 10 + years of working as an Illinois home inspector and results from over 4000 of evaluated properties fully stand behind this statement...And there’s nothing unusual about not maintaining our homes for several months, even years. Many of us are acting this way because we simply have no time to check the problem, until it becomes necessary to check … or too annoying….”

It’s obvious to me, from my first glance at the website, that this person is passionate about what he does.  And passion is key to business success regardless of what the overall economy is doing.

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Twitter’s news brings thoughts of customers

For some reason I can’t quite explain, I find yesterday’s news story about Twitter Inc.’s infusion of money very interesting.  This is a company, an organization, that is only 3 years old…just a toddler in the world of business, but is making headlines around the world.   The news story says, …The investment values the 3-year-old company at $1 billion, even though it has yet to generate any meaningful revenue, let alone profits….” And for some other reason, this made me start thinking of home businesses and customers.

The article says that Twitter right now has “…more than 54 million worldwide users…” which I can attest to…not that I know 54 million people, but of the 700+ followers that I currently have for my Twitter account, there are indeed people from other countries of the world.

I found the news story interesting on two counts:

  • that the company has yet to produce any meaningful revenue, even profit, yet it has millions of users
  • it has millions of users

In the current economic climate, I know of some home businesses [which I mention because this blog concerns itself home-based business] that are not making a profit.  They’ve lost customers because their customers have cut back on spending.  Also, home businesses have people who are “interested” in the products or the opportunity [if it’s a direct selling business the opportunity itself is one of the products]…but right now these are not paying customers.  Kind of like Twitter Inc.’s users...we are not paying customers are we?

If  Twitter is a company, then who are its customers?  Makes you wonder about the definition of customer:

  • someone who purchases a commodity or service

So, if all 54 million of us who tweet [send the 140 characters or less messages] on Twitter are not purchasing its services, then we users aren’t Twitter’s customers –  are we?  Then who is?

A good basic, foundational business question to ask of yourself is just that: who are your customers? Who are the people who will pay money for the goods or services you produce or provide?  It is through the medium of customers that revenue is generated and profit obtained.  You could make an equation:

  • business profitability = products&services x people who buy them

Math is not my long suit but I’m hoping that Twitter Inc.’s owners and stakeholders [those who have a share or interest in an organization] will figure out a way for Twitter to become profitable so that it can pay its employees and keep innovating.

When I was young I never dreamed of something like the internet and I certainly never dreamed of anything like Twitter.  I find it fascinating.  I have a prediction, based on only what I think: should Twitter turn its users into customers, it’ll lose…big time.  Rather it makes sense to me for Twitter to put advertising somewhere in its world.  Facebook does, YouTube does.  Again, both of these social media have users who do not pay for a presence, but do offer users and others ways to advertise their goods and services.  That’s our market system at work.

Here’s a question: Do you use Twitter?  For what?  Social interaction?  Business?  If not, why not?

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One way home business can use Facebook

I haven’t written about internet marketing previous to this…but thought I’d jump in with one small way in which a home-based business might utilize Facebook.  I don’t think I need to iterate what Facebook is…it’s been around long enough.  But what you might not know is what value it might have for you, the home-based business owner.

This was brought to mind this morning by an article in the business section of my newspaper which talks about “Facebook privacy to tighten.”  [This article has to do with third-party applications access to Facebook member info.]  However, it got me to thinking about Facebook and business.

I have a couple of recommendations to home-based business owners as to marketing their business using the internet:

  • have a presence on Facebook
  • have a LinkedIn account
  • have a Twitter account
  • write a blog about your business
  • if appropriate have either (a) a website for your business you’ve designed yourself, or (b) a replicated business website that is provided by the company you represent [this is the case with many direct selling companies – you are an independent contractor, but are prohibited from developing your own website for their products; however for a small fee, you can have a website developed by the parent company that links to and benefits your individual business.]
  • write articles and submit to Ezinearticles for instance

Each of these has a value, but I wanted to talk about Facebook in this post.  If you are utilizing all the above for your business as part of your internet marketing strategy, then everything must link back to a “home base.”  I’m going to suggest that your home base is either your business website, or your business blog.  You have to have somewhere you want people to end up so that they can either:

  • get information about your business
  • purchase product or services from your business
  • communicate with you about your business

If you have a Facebook account, there are a couple of ways you can do this.  The profile feature allows you to talk about yourself, give contact information and list websites to visit.  For the purpose of your business, have this account be just that: business.  Don’t load it up with games and trivia.  Make it very easy for someone to see that you have a business and where you can be found on the internet and how you can be contacted.

If you write a blog, there is an application that will put the new title of your latest blog post into the status update of your Facebook account.  There is also an application that will put the post in its entirety in the “notes” section of your profile so that people can read it there.  You can also link your Twitter updates to your Facebook account.  At a glance, someone looking at your Facebook profile could:

  • see that you are a business person and have a business
  • get a description of your business
  • find a website address for your online business presence
  • get the latest status update of your business – whether you’ve updated a status via Twitter [for instance just released a new product and you “tweeted” about that] and/or you have a new blog post related to your business
  • if you made it available, they could see an email address and/or phone number to contact you

Facebook offers ways to relate to other Facebook users through “friend” acquisition, joining or starting groups, making comments in groups…building relationships.

Doing business utilizing internet marketing techniques and tools requires coordination.  Know why you would use any application and know where you want the viewer to end up and why…do you want to inform them?  Give them access to an online store?  Know your business and know your reason.  And my advice is to include Facebook as one of your tools.  [this is just my advice, not an endorsement]

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