Everyone is looking for the secret solution that will get more clients and customers into their business. The truth is, getting customers is the hardest part of business. However, there are many ways to promote your products or service that will help you get more business.

Let’s look at your website. First, does your business have a website? In today’s world, you need one. Before you run out and get a website, you must ask yourself one question: “What do I want my website to do?” There are so many websites on the world wide web today that do nothing more than confuse the person who is visiting them. Do not let this happen to you. Pick one main thing that you want your website to do. Is is to collect a marketing lead? Is it to tell about your business or service? Pick just one and three at the most. Anyone who sets up websites should be able to help you with this step.

Another thing you want to do is to print your web address on all of your marketing materials. This includes business cards, postcards, flyer’s, company letterhead and everything else.

Do you have customers and clients already? If you do, keep in contact with them. You can run sales or send them newsletters, postcards, special offers, bounce back cards. It does not matter what you send them as long as you stay in touch on a regular basis.

The next tip is to make your business user friendly. Do everything you can to make it easy for the customer to do business with you. Give him or her payment options, customer service, selection – you name it. When you make it easy for the customer to do business with you – they will.

Ask yourself: “Is there a way to make my product or service better?” The answer will always be a ‘YES’.  Find that way and improve your product or service. Make it known to your customer why your service or product is better than others. Ask your current clients to tell other people about your service. Why not run a contest where your customer can give you a name and address of one or more of their friends who might like what you offer? IF this method seems like something you are not sure about, give them a card and let their friend go check out your web page. Ask them who sent them to your page and tell them about your contest.

The next thing is to always be looking for new clients and customers. Never stop looking for people who want what you offer. It is sometimes hard to get customers and clients, but many times it is easy to keep them once you have found them.

Many small businesses outsource their online advertising to agencies to avoid the time and effort it would take to do it in house. Nevertheless, it is imperative for a small business owner to know exactly how their money is spent.

The purpose of this article is to provide a framework for the savvy business owner to ask the right questions to ensure accountability of how and where their advertising dollars are spent when trying to identify the best outsourcing agency for their company.

For example: you own a local small business and its monthly advertising budget is $1,000 and you are now in the process of finding an agency that will best suit your advertising needs. From a financial accountability perspective, here is the information you will need.

Find out if any campaign will use the search network, content network, or both. Using the content network is an easy way to deplete a budget with a lot of clicks but not enough leads to justify the spending. Internet yellow page advertising is geared towards search advertising, not the content network.

Ask if the advertising spend will be on both Microsoft AdCenter and on Google AdWords. Remember, Microsoft AdCenter is also running Yahoo. Any agency that just runs on one platform will reduce your reach and frequency, which will mean far fewer potential customers.

For the monthly spend, ask for the percentage markup per click. Business owners should always know the daily spend by ad network. This is critical. If you do not know the markup per click and distribution of spend by ad network, you will have no idea where your money is going. Beware that several of high profile agencies that specialize in small business advertising charge 100%-150% markup per click.

In doing due diligence, I called the top four agencies that specialize in small business advertising and there was only one that had full disclosure of how their customers’ monthly advertising spend was allocated. This company is AdHui (www.adhui.com).

Some sales reps were clearly caught off guard and didn’t know while others sounded like they had a canned script to evade and down play the importance of the questions. Furthermore, none of the stats was displayed on their dashboard. Again, AdHui was the only agency that displayed daily spend by network and was the only agency that gave complete disclosure of their markup per click.

This is they way it should be. Any fortune 500 company that advertises knows how their budget is spent. The same should go for small business.

Effective advertising relies heavily on market segmentation and the elusive window of opportunity. If you want to get a product or service advertised, you have to make sure you do it in an effective way because otherwise, you could spend thousands on advertising and not sell a single additional unit than you did before the campaign ran.

The first thing to consider is your target market. This is where the idea of market segmentation comes in. You want to get to know your audience well and determine what media vehicles will be effective in advertising to them. If you’re selling a toy, for example, showing commercials on ESPN is probably not the wisest marketing move. You want to target parents and especially, kids. So buy ad time on Nickelodeon or the Disney channel to get kids interested. They will do the rest of the work for you.

Another example especially relating to picking media vehicles, such as TV, internet, radio, or magazines, is trying to market a kayak. Someone who would buy a kayak probably likes the outdoors, which means they probably wouldn’t be sitting in front of their TV on a Saturday afternoon. So putting commercials for a kayak at that time might not be very effective. On the other hand, you should consider buying ad space in Outdoor Life magazine.

This all seems like common sense, but it is important to do research because some market trends are actually the opposite of what you would instinctively think. Consumers are very interesting creatures and it will benefit you if you thoroughly research the people you are trying to market to. You might also find information about what kinds of things get their attention or make them laugh to make your advertising even more effective.

Another important thing to consider is aperture, or the window of opportunity. You should always keep in mind that advertising is useless unless a customer is ready to buy a certain item. I love the Energizer bunny commercials but if I don’t need batteries, the commercial alone isn’t going to make me go out and buy some. You could set up a schedule of advertising that occurs on and off for some period of time. This is an example of what is called an awareness ad. If my computer breaks and I’ve been seeing commercials for the new Mac for months, I am more likely to look into that when I go out to buy a new computer. They make the consumer aware of the brand.

But for certain items, this kind of advertising is ineffective because they are seasonal or otherwise extremely reliant on when a customer is ready to buy. So you wouldn’t advertise for school supplies in the middle of the spring if the school year is almost over. Similarly, it is probably a good idea to increase advertising for video game systems around Christmastime because a lot of people are in the market for one.

If you keep these things in mind, you should be able to create effective an advertising and marketing campaign. Always remember to do thorough research. I cannot stress that point enough because it should be the basis for every other step you take in the advertising process.

In the end, all it took to connect the world was tiny speaker, a little microphone, and a whole lot of cable. From its conception the telephone emerged as a life altering invention, facilitating the nearly instantaneous communication we take for granted today. For the very first time in human history, friends and family were able to contact each other at any time, regardless of distance. It was a complete paradigm shift towards interconnected communities of people, all available and continuously open to one another.

Let us go back at the time (just a decade ago) when this big change was introduced to us.

The phone transformed the way people approach social life. The phone gave us the ability to make spontaneous plans; phone calls quickly replaced letters as the preferred form of long distance interaction, and today mobile phones have reached a status of ubiquity never before seen in a household appliance. From personal experience I find that cell phones have become a social hub, allowing for an unprecedented amount of control over making plans on the fly. The freedom allows for better coordination of our social lives.

Many Americans today are dropping traditional phone lines and making a cell phone their primary line. As technology improves, cell phones will become more and more sophisticated, and will connect us in incredible ways. There is one key innovation maturing alongside mobile technology that will open an entirely new chapter in the way we share information and communicate with each other.

At the same time that mobile phones began to work their way into public consciousness, the Internet was shifting the way that we store and share information. Transmission of information across great distance was finally possible, providing a network of information accessible by anyone with an Internet connection.

More importantly, maybe, is the vast and diverse user base. As of 2000, fifty-six percent of Americans were connected to the Internet; by 2006 the number had jumped to eighty-one. The social connectivity that cell phones produced was echoed on the web, where chat rooms and instant messaging connected people with similar interests across countries. Email revolutionized the way employees communicate with each other in the office.

In recent years, social networking websites have made the networks formed by cell phones concrete/tangible. Sluggish dial-up connections proved frustrating to work with because of its inherent speed limits. Broadband Internet, on the other hand, has gained footing in recent years, and now fifty-eight percent of Americans have cable or DSL modems, compared to thirty-eight percent with dial-up connections. Wi-Fi, the wireless standard for high-speed Internet, is gaining popularity across the country. Every college campus I visited before starting college boasted some form of wireless Internet access, and most computers manufactured today have wireless capabilities built in.

With both wireless technologies growing at the same time, it’s no wonder they’ve begun to resemble one another. Cell phone companies are investing money into faster wireless networks that will be able to provide typical web-based media: sports scores, updated stocks and weather, email, streaming video, even AOL instant messenger. On the other side, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) allows users of programs like Skype to make phone calls from their laptops using a Wi-Fi signal.

The next logical step is to move the Internet from computers to cell phones. It was only recently that sophistication in cell phones began to grow exponentially. Digital technology let users download ring tones for their phones, but integration of Wi-Fi will allow unparalleled access to the vast stores of information available online.

Mobile Internet will keep us connected to the web twenty-four hours a day. It will also provide incredibly accurate on-the-spot information; for example, if you get lost on the way to a friend’s housewarming party, you could call him up, ask for his address, go online to mapquest.com, type in the address to get directions, hang up with your friend and pick a song to play for the drive…all in one device.

The major media trend a decade ago and to date in cell phones will be convergence of several media on one device-they’ll assume an all-in-one role in our daily lives. The best example of where mobile media was heading is a product called the Apple iPhone.

The iPod is the brainchild of Steve Jobs, Apple Inc.’s founder and CEO. Jobs envisioned an mp3 player that would be elegant but powerful, and his invention lived up to his hopes. The iPod mp3 player, coupled with Apple’s iTunes music software shook the market up. The iPod itself has gone trough many changes, and the latest iteration has the capacity to play video, further evidence of convergence of media into single devices. The iPhone is the most prominent of a group of next-generation cellular phones that take the philosophy of mobile Internet to heart. These “smart” phones as they’re called will be aware of your location, give you directions, suggest restaurants, take digital camera quality pictures, and play movies and music.

Apple’s iPhone is based around the concept of blending a computer with a phone. Other companies have built phones with this premise in mind, but none have come close to Apple’s breakthrough interface. The phone is about the same size as an iPod, but the entire face is a long, shiny screen that was sized specifically to play widescreen movies. There is only one button, and the entire screen is touch sensitive. Apple ported a version of its OS X operating system, which blurs the line between phone and computer with full text editing software, single-purpose news feeds called widgets, and the first full HTML browser available in a phone.

Other companies haven’t sat around idle, though. When the HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) mobile network is finished, compatible phones will be able download data at speeds up to 14 mb/s-for comparison, my Wi-Fi network rarely makes it above 1 mb/s. In commercials the company Helio asks not to be called a phone company; its phones are touted as all-around multimedia devices. One interesting component that I think will become very popular is the buddy beacon. Any of your friends with GPS enabled phones that turn on their buddy beacons will immediately become visible on your buddy beacon map, a visual representation of your social network in the real world.

In the future, I believe that the trend towards wireless broadband Internet access will continue to revolutionize communications. Mobile devices will grow more refined, and technology will improve to the point where all of our information can be obtained and accessed anywhere in the world at anytime.

It sounds far fetched, but wireless technology expands its reach everyday. Wi-Fi signals are great if you have a router, but otherwise the signal doesn’t travel very far and can’t bend around walls (compared to cell phone signals). WiMax is a recent invention that gets around this by using amplifiers in each router to boost the signal as it passes through. In the near future, it will bring Internet to otherwise secluded areas of the world.

With the advent of the Internet, we moved from the industrial to the information age. Very soon I believe we’ll see the emergence of a new interconnected age and an information economy.

Here is a condensed collection of some of the most effective, quick-and-dirty Google search techniques out there. These examples will make it easy for you to perform efficient searches just by using the standard Google interface.

Have you ever been baffled by the sheer number of search results you get while searching in Google? Who hasn’t? There are often just too many results to be able to deal with them effectively. This summary of search tips for the standard Google interface will help you make your full-text searches become more productive. After all, less is more. So let’s get going!

AND

The Google search engine uses the so-called Boolean AND by default. All that means is that Google automatically searches for all of the words you enter.
For example, the entry moped aardvark peanuts will only find the entries that contain all three of these words.

OR (or the “pipe” symbol |)

You can specify that any of those three words are acceptable by using the modifier OR. If your entry is now moped OR aardvark OR peanuts you will notice a considerable difference in the number of returns you get.

Quotation marks

What’s the difference between typing pink monkey and “pink monkey”? Because of the default Boolean AND, the pink monkey search will result in finding all documents in which both the individual words pink and monkey are present. The “pink monkey” search will only locate the documents in which the term pink monkey is present.

Parenthesis ( )

If you are sure about one search term, but not so sure about the others, you can group them together with parenthesis. For example, moped (aardvark OR peanuts) will search for all of the instances of aardvark or peanuts along with the word moped.

Minus sign –

If you want to make sure that a particular query item does not appear in your search results, simply use a minus sign. Example: moped aardvark -peanuts.

filetype:

The term filetype: helps you to search for specific filename extensions. For example, moped filetype:doc will only show you the search result documents that have the extension .doc.

site:

The term site: will help you to search at either a specific site or a top-level domain. Try idaho site:gov if all you are looking for is information about Idaho in the .gov top-level domain.

intext:

The term intext: searches for text in the body of a page. Try intext:”the blue moped” or intext:”four score and seven years ago”.

intitle:

intitle: will limit your searches to titles of web pages. For example: intitle:”tiny tim”.

inurl:

inurl: cuts your search down to the URLs of web pages. Example: inurl:”google search tips”.

phonebook:

That’s right! You can also search for telephone numbers in Google. Try phonebook:george bush DC.

bphonebook:

Search for “businesses”, too. bphonebook:airport san francisco.

And remember the 10 word limit!

Google doesn’t like your queries to be any longer than 10 “words” (the keywords and the syntax included). In some instances you can help yourself here with the wildcard symbol: *. Google doesn’t count this wildcard toward that limit.

Technology is a great part of our daily lives these days, and so many devices we use are based on new technology. With people all over the world using various tech gadgets, it might be hard to narrow down a choice to just one. Tech gadgets are great but there is definitely one that stands out to me, which I would not want to be without.

If I had to pick just one tech gadget to use for all of my personal needs, it would definitely be a laptop computer. Laptops these days have everything inside them, which incorporates a variety of applications and programs. Laptop computers basically can be your cell phone, video or camera and it can also function as a place to find all your needed information. Anything you need is right there in front of you on the webpage, which fits all of my personal needs and more. You have the ability to watch videos and clips through websites such as YouTube and you also have the ability to view movies through websites like Netflix.

A laptop computer can basically do everything that all of the other tech gadgets do, but just in a different format or program. Skype is a video chat program you can use to video conference with your friends and family, so you could use that instead of a cell phone. Yahoo! Mail also has a chat or mobile text feature built into their mail service, which enables someone to chat with someone via text or regular chat. Although it can be annoying at times, it is a great way to communicate with friends and family, especially if they are long distance. Not to mention that you can still use your regular electronic mail to get in touch with those you need to communicate with, so you really do not need a phone anymore.

The laptop computer, especially for me, signifies every tech gadget into one where there are endless possibilities. It comes down to the ability to do everything I need to do in one general location, without having to worry about an application for this or a cell phone for that. Laptop computers also have the ability to call people, where you can talk to them just as you would on the telephone if you have a microphone. Most computers come with a microphone although they are usually pretty cheap and often break. Newer computers come with so many different programs that enables you to have virtually anything you need within a click.

I am also partial to choosing the laptop as my only tech gadget because of freelance writing and online surveys I take. Without my laptop computer, I would not be able to write articles or do surveys, which all earn me various types of compensation. Since I use my laptop for income purposes, I do not think I could choose another product because I need it to make money. I also use the computer a lot for watching videos on YouTube, which I am unlikely to ever give up. If I could not listen to my music everyday then I would be very upset, because music is therapeutic for me. Without the ability to login to YouTube and click a video, I would literally go insane and probably get depressed. I know that a lot of phones have the ability to handle videos from YouTube but it is not as good downloading the videos fast without buffering. Also, the ability to maximize a video or movie and watch it in full-screen on your laptop is something I enjoy. No matter how fast or small they make cell phones or how Internet-equipped they are, nothing beats having a laptop. Choosing one tech gadget is easy for me because my laptop is essentially a big part of my life and without it, I would definitely be lost and more broke than I am now.

These days it is easier than ever to setup your own website. Advances in design software and browser technology has brought us into the era where web pages can be created and published in a matter of minutes. Community web portals such as www.weebly.com and www.tripod.com allow users to create web pages using plug-ins that run in the browser itself.

When you create your web page, you are creating something that you want other people to see. Maybe you just want to share photos with your family, or maybe you’ve written some great fan fiction that you want to show off to every other Harry Potter fan. No matter the reason for creating your page, you are going to want people to look at it, and while they are looking at it you want to keep them happy so they come look at it again.

Designing a really good web page is hard, well beyond the scope of this article. So instead of telling you what you should do, we are going to tell you some things that you should not do. By following the advice in this article, we can’t guarantee you that you will have a great web page, but we can guarantee that it will drastically reduce the number of people who are horrified by it.

Big Blocks of Text
Ideally, your web page will look a lot like a page out of a magazine. Your text will be evenly spaced with breaks between paragraphs. Reading long passages on a web page is not as easy as reading one in a book, so give your reader’s eyes a break by giving them nice bits of white space. This will allow them time to take a breath, absorb what you just said, and move on to the next chunk.

Horizontal Scrolling
Unless you use some really specific coding on your web page, most web browsers will happily wrap the text at the end of the screen. This way your users just have to keep scrolling down to read what you are trying to say. Sometimes however, even the most well intentioned web page designer can accidentally “break” the browser window and cause it to think that it is bigger than it actually is. This is most often caused by having wide pictures on your page. If your picture is 1000 pixels wide, then any user who has their desktop set to 800 by 600 will suddenly find that they have to horizontally scroll across your page to not only see the entire picture, but anything that you have written.

Mouse Followers
Imagine going to a web page that you really want to read. You arrive at that web page and while you are navigating around, you notice something odd. There is stuff following your mouse around! Maybe it’s a cat, maybe it’s a hundred cats, or maybe it’s a bunch of different colored text that chases your mouse around, and when you stop moving the mouse, reassembles itself into a clock. No matter what it is, it’s distracting and annoying. They were kinda neat 5 years ago for 2 minutes, but not anymore. You want people to read your page, so stop distracting them!

Music
You are sitting in your office/den/bedroom, browsing the web looking for the latest figures/antiques/American Idol gossip when all of a sudden Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” starts coming out of your speakers. Only it’s not even the real version of the song, it’s a cheap MIDI of the song that sounds like someone is playing it on their Gameboy. When people are browsing the web, if they want to listen to music they will choose their own and put it in their CD player. They don’t want you forcing music on them, especially if you are doing it just for the heck of it. There might be a few, a very few, web pages out there that warrant having music embedded in them, but I have yet to run across one. If you insist on doing this, at least give your visitors fair warning.

Animations
The human eye is naturally drawn to movement. If you have a happy face on your web page doing the Macarena, then that is what your visitor’s eyes are going to keep being pulled toward. Do you want your readers reading your vacation story, or staring at the dancing happy face? If you need to draw attention to something, use different colored text or a different font. Never, ever, have more than one animation in one browser window unless you are intentionally trying to trigger epileptic fits.

Unnecessary Plug-ins
People are uncomfortable downloading unfamiliar software to their computer, and rightly so. Therefore you should avoid placing anything on your web page that forces your users to download a plug-in. People have gotten used to Java and Flash, and putting something on your page that requires one of those is generally okay. However people are not going to want to download “Joe’s Super Cool Weather Info Plugin” just so they can see the current temperature (plus great offers) whenever they visit your web page.

Conclusion
Your website is a gift to your friends, family, or the whole world. Try to make your web page as neat and clean as possible. Most likely you want your web site to be one that people come to again and again, so you want to make sure that when people are reading your page they are not distracted or annoyed by a bunch of cutesy bells and whistles. Respect your visitors and they will respect your website.

YouTube spam is when a video is posted for the sole purpose of being a sales pitch. It is simply a way to try and get a quick buck from the YouTube community. You definitely want to avoid putting up things like this and start earning a great amount of money on the internet.

You definitely want to consider posting an incredible message that can add value to the users experience. Not only will this increase your chances for a sale, but it can also help your chances of trying to build up your reputation and have subscribers as well. When you have subscribers to your video – you ultimately increase your chances of sales as you will have repeat buyers – depending on what the purpose of your website is. You just want to make sure that you have content that is relevant to the keywords listed on your page.

If you have a website about dog products, and you have a video posted about dog products – then why not post a “how-to” video instead of a “buy-now” video. People actually hate those advertisements as they seem like a cheap way to get some quick cash – these days it can be rather hard to separate people from their hard earned money.

If you are an affiliate marketer, you definitely want to consider the use of redirect links as people don’t like affiliate links – they seem rather spammy. Therefore you want to consider the possibility of using redirect links so they seem like legitimate website URL’s as opposed as long unnecessary links that point towards the web site. By combining this with excellent video messages, you can ensure that your YouTube etiquette will be grade “A.”

youtube-communityAnother thing that you want to consider doing is to start building a friendship/YouTube community with many of the members that are around. You can start commenting on their videos and even start e-mailing them. You don’t want to start spamming, however, you want to make sure that you build a relationship with many of the YouTube people so that you can help them and help yourself at the same time. Remember, marketing is nothing if you do not have any contacts or networking. Be sure to treat Youtube marketing like a real-world business. By doing this you can achieve an incredible amount of success with YouTube!

When looking at the two department stores Walmart and Nordstrom’s, it is much easier to contrast differences than compare similarities. This is because they are at opposite ends of the economic spectrum; Walmart specializes in discounted prices, while Nordstrom focuses on quality at a higher price. Both companies enjoy much success, however. To attract customers that are more interested in each company’s characteristics, their marketing strategies differ from one another greatly. A marketing mix is defined as “product, price, place, and promotion – the controllable set of activities that a firm uses to respond to the wants and needs of customers”. . The differences in these four areas become obvious when we look at them at a glance.

Walmart offers many different products to suit every possible need of their customers. From automobile repair services to groceries to a variety of products in between, it is a one-stop shopping excursion for most of their customers. They also produce private label goods, such as Great Value, Sam’s Choice, and Equate. They even have a real estate division for commercial development. Walmart jumps on the bandwagon whenever they see an opportunity – and seem to prosper because so.

Nordstrom’s also strives to meet customer satisfaction through offering an array of products. “Our goal is to offer a well-edited range of products for a variety of lifestyles.”. While they don’t offer common, everyday needs like toiletries, groceries or cat litter; they do offer more upscale products such as apparel and home décor. Nordstrom, like Walmart, offer a private label – but without the notable discount.

Walmart has developed quite the reputation in our country for its low prices. Many name brands are apprehensive of Walmart’s private label. “In July (2006), Coca-Cola disclosed in a lawsuit filed in Atlanta that it changed its distribution of Powerade because it feared if it did not, Wal-Mart would come up with its own, competing version of the beverage.” . Nordstrom’s does not use a low price tag to attract customers; instead they use quality. While it is pricier to shop for clothes and home décor at Nordstrom’s; most designer labels prove to be of better quality, uniqueness, and durability.

Walmart’s private label brands goes directly from the assembly line to their store shelves. Eliminating the middle man helps them to offer such inexpensive store labels. Other suppliers they use to stock the shelves are bought from in bulk quantities. Nordstrom’s, in contrast, has one distribution center located in Newark, California. While they do not have as many stores as Walmart, they can still enjoy sizable profits from selling high-end products at retail prices.

By now, word of mouth definitely works in Walmart’s favor. But they also advertise on TV. “Everyday low prices” is their current slogan, but I think most of us think of the little “Rollback” smiley face cutting all of the prices down. While I have never seen an ad campaign addressed to a television audience, Nordstrom’s does pride themselves in utilizing ‘word of mouth’ from satisfied customers. They also advertise in magazines aimed for the higher-income-bracket female.

The marketing efforts by both companies clearly show that each company aims toward a different audience. There is a difference in the market between customers that want to spend no less than $200 for a pair of shoes, and customers who will pay no more than $10. Each company aims towards their target, and most likely do not share a customer base.

 

References

Grewel, D., amp; Levy, M. (2008). Marketing (Second Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Nordstrom Inc. and Subsidiaries. (2002). Annual Report 2002. Retrieved August 4, 2009, from about.nordstrom.com: http://about.nordstrom.com/aboutus/investor/ar/2002/NOR2002AR.pdf

Nordstrom’s. (2009). Nordstrom’s. Retrieved August 3, 2009, from Nordstrom.com: http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/6011957/0~2377475~6003903~6011957?origin=tab-promo

Reyes, S. (2006, August 21). brandweek.com. Retrieved August 4, 2009, from Study: Wal-Mart Private Brands Are Catching On: http://www.brandweek.com/bw/news/spotlight/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003020035 imw;=Y

The team appreciates this article input from Franco, who we have met online and is running an online business for more than a decade already. This is based on his own experience while he was on the early stage of outsourcing his startup business. 

Growing a business from its simple, humble, home-based roots can be tricky. Things can start to get awfully complex within a very short time. You’ll find yourself dealing with the issues of licenses, employees, workers comp, lines of credit, outsourcing, and other “real” business issues. You’ll find that you may not just be able to roll out of bed, put on your bathrobe, and go to work anymore. Then again maybe you can if you play it right.

Growing a home business the right way takes finesse and planning, like how a doctors office floor plan is initiated at its first stages – already considering the possible future additional functions it will provide to patients. In fact, you should have made up a business plan at the very beginning that outlined how the business would handle future growth in various stages. If you are one of those business owners who has a plan, pat yourself on the back. Despite all the conventional wisdom and advice that clearly says that all businesses need to have a workable business plan, many, particularly home-based businesses, still do not. Is it any wonder why more than 50% of small businesses fail?

The secret to growing your home business wisely is by leveraging yourself. Leveraging yourself means utilizing the time and skills of others as an extension of you, so you can be more productive. If you have five people working on a project under your direction and supervision, you now have five pairs of hands, eyes, and ears working on the project. This is leverage. Many times leveraging yourself mean giving yourself a promotion right out of the trenches, so you can run the business. This is done by utilizing outsourced services, independent contractors, and when necessary, in-house employees.

When I started my Internet company more than ten years ago, I was the only employee. I was the web designer, programmer, accounts payable/accounts receivable departments, marketing director, and president all rolled into one. It was as though I was having social anxiety in terms of dealing the workloads with other professionals. But as business grew as it rapidly did, I realized that I needed to delegate tasks and responsibilities so I can effectively run the business. I hired a creative director/web designer, a head technician, and an office assistant who also handled our billing. I then started outsourcing all our programming work to partner companies that we worked with in Canada, Israel, and Russia.

I became more of a project manager rather than a “hands on” developer, and coordinated projects among the people we had engaged on them. Finally the business had to move out of my home office. Yet I was able to stay home most of the time and run the show from there. Which was important to me.

Make a firm plan to expand your business as needed and you will see productivity, sales, and profits all increase steadily. Your expenses will increase as well, but the increased sales volume will more than cover your higher costs, as long as you’re growing wisely. Some business owners make the mistake of going from a home office to a large, overpriced office in a high-rise building downtown in one bounce. This can overextend the business and destroy its ability to maintain profitability. Grow wisely only as needed according to your set plan, and you will better be able to maintain profitability.

Some points to ponder when growing your home business:

  1. Have people “on deck” ready to work with you when you need them – This means creating relationships and farming out work, even when you don’t yet really need to. This is done in order to establish solid working relationships with contractors before the business tsunami comes. The time to interview and identify your potential outsources is when business is still manageable and you don’t quite yet need the help. When business goes crazy, you know you’ll have people in your camp who can handle the load .
  2. Understand that geography no longer has relevance, thanks to the Net – If you are able to tap a good outsource in another part of the world and work with them on-line, do it. Especially if you can save on labor costs without sacrificing quality. One of the best moves I ever made was take on a programming shop in Siberia to do much of our smaller programming projects. What was really great about it was that their daytime was our nighttime. Clients would give me a programming job or modification, and many times it would be done by the next morning. Since the Russian programmers worked on the project during our nighttime, completions were amazingly fast. The clients loved our turnaround times, were happy with our work, and we saved big on programming labor. Everybody wins.
  3. Market yourself professionally! – When marketing your business, always market yourself as a professional company capable of taking on any size project, even if you are just one person. Go by a company name, and not your personal name, this is a common mistake. Being a corporation or LLC helps your professional image. As growth demands, hire an office assistant who can handle your calls and appointments. It will greatly enhance your professional image and help you optimize your time. If your business requires you to meet clients, then consider renting a small office in a commercial office center that will allow you to utilize shared conference rooms, secretarial services and so on as needed.
  4. Be prepared to hire employees – At some point, you will need in-house help to handle various office or shop tasks. Be ready for it and figure out the best scenario for you and your business. Often, low-cost space rented at an office park or office center will suffice. There are no long-term leases, and you can move the office whenever needed to more space if and when the time comes. On the flip-side of that, you can get out of the space fast if business takes a dip and you can no longer handle the cost.
  5. Build your organizational skills! – You will need strong organizational skills when managing multiple projects, departments and people. Figure out a good way to get and stay organized. I find a white board on one office wall helps keep things organized and keeps info available at a glance. Use teleconferencing, instant messaging, skype and email to maintain communication with your people and outside help. Remember, the people working with you are your team, and you’re the quarterback. You call out the plays.
  6. Know when to give up the reins! – At some point your business may get too big for you to run yourself. If that’s the case, be honest with yourself, know your limitations and have a plan in place to deal with this possibility. Hiring a professional manager or executive may be the way to go. Then relegate yourself to a position where you can be the strongest asset to the business. Selling or merging with another company may also be a worthy option. Make sure you’re aware of all the options you have in this case. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with cashing out of a successful business at the right time, and/or letting others continue to grow it for you.

Use leverage, surround yourself with good people, watch your expenses and let your business grow according to your plans. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid of growth. Properly managed, it’s a great “problem” for your business to have.