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Online Business Blog

News and information about online business, marketing and sales. Published by Chuck Vosburgh at Pro Techniques.

Chuck Vosburgh - Monday, August 30, 2010
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What the new Digg Site Means to Your Business

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, August 26, 2010
The popular web site, digg.com has launched its redesigned site this week with one new feature that is important to business owners - RSS Auto-Submit. Getting an article on Digg is a great way to get a major increase in your traffic and helps your search engine ranking. The problem was that it was a good bit of work to submit your articles. Now it can be automatic. Here's how:
First, you'll need a free digg.com account, then in your settings you can add the address of your feed into the import feeds section. That's it. Of course you'll need an RSS feed and compelling content. You do have those, right? If not, e-mail me or call and I can help you get set up and get you help with the content too.
Time will tell how beneficial this will be, but I am convinced that it will be big.

A plan for extended unemployment

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, July 22, 2010
The New York Times reported today that Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke projected the unemployment rate would remain well above 7 percent through the end of 2012. If you're among the unemployed, that is very bad news. Although another extension for unemployment benefits has been approved, the question remains; what if I don't get a job soon? It's been said that unemployment is the mother of entrepreneurship and that might be the answer.

About ten years ago, I heard a presentation on the topic of the future of jobs in America. He predicted that eventually there would be no permanent, full-time jobs. He went on to say that we all should get prepared to become our own salesmen. Although I didn't dismiss the idea altogether, it did seem very unlikely. Now here we are. If you're unemployed, you need a plan. Self-employment may be your best hope.

I know entrepreneurship isn't for everyone, and if you're like most people, the thought of being self-employed induces immediate stomach pain. I'm not saying you should or shouldn't be self-employed, this is just food for thought. I live in Florida where the maximum unemployment benefit is $297 per week, which is a little more than $15,000 a year. Not enough. Here are some general thoughts to consider:

  1. Have you cut your expenses as far as possible? If you still have cable and a lawn service you haven't.
  2. Do you have a written plan? You need one now.
  3. Do you know when you will run out of money?
  4. Do you have a plan if that happens?
  5. Can you do any kind of freelance work in your field?
  6. Is there some kind of marketable skill that you can promote?
  7. Are you leaving no stone un-turned?

The best part about trying to get freelance work is that you can do it at every interview. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Ask for freelance opportunities as well as employment.
  2. Ask for referrals to others who may need your skills.
  3. Get some business cards. I recommend moo.com
  4. Report any income to your unemployment office.
  5. Set aside about 25% of your freelance income for taxes.
  6. Get up and go to work every day. You job is to get work for yourself.
  7. Talk with your spouse.
  8. Talk with a trusted friend.
  9. Stay away from negative talk.
  10. Remember that anyone can be a prospect.
  11. Make sure everyone you know knows what you are looking for.
  12. Network.
Finally, do your best to stay positive. Join Toastmasters, trust me on this one.

If you're among the unemployed, I wish you well in your search. Let's help each other with ideas in the comments below.

PS: Remember the saying that unemployment is the mother of entrepreneurship? It was for me in July of 1986. Self-employment is hard work, but it's the most stable job I've ever had.

Does it seem like you see the same thing over and over?

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, July 08, 2010
Take a look at these home pages. They all have something in common:












All five of these businesses seem to have the same staff.

You probably recognized these as a stock photo right away. Stock photos are ubiquitous on the web for good reason, they're fast and cheap. In fact this image came from a popular stock image site and probably cost about $3. The problem is, most everyone else recognizes them as stock images too. So what do you think that does to your credibility? I know, times are tough, and sometimes it makes sense to use stock images. But on a home page implying that these are your people? Come on.

Your image has value. It amazes me how many marketers who would cringe at the thought of wearing a suit that was fast and cheap will do this to their business without realizing it. I say there is no savings of money when your reputation is harmed. In fact, just the opposite. First impressions do count and it's a well known fact that people usually form an opinion about your business before they read a single word. I'm not saying never use stock images, they do have a place. Just don't risk your reputation for a few dollars.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments :)

6 secrets to more e-mail responses

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, June 03, 2010

I routinely get nearly triple the industry standard open rates and click-throughs with my e-mail campaigns. More importantly, there are real results in customers and sales.  The secret is simple. Here are some important rules to follow:

  1. It's all about quality, not quantity. One good address that results in a customer is better than 10,000 that don't. In fact, sending e-mails to people who have no interest in your product or service can actually harm your business in the long run.
  2. Never use lists that you have mined, scraped, borrowed, or stole. Ever. In most cases I'd include purchased lists as well on my never use list with very few exceptions.
  3. Abide by the CAN-SPAM Act to the letter. Read all about it here.
  4. Only send to people who have given permission. Don't just meet the legal definition of permission, respect the difference between explicit and implicit permission.
  5. Follow the 80/20 rule. Make sure at least 80% of the content of your messages is genuinely helpful to the recipient. 20% or less should be in your interest.
  6. Stop obsessing about the numbers on the report. What really matters is the effect the campaign has on your bottom-line.

If you have questions, let me know I'd be happy to help you if I can.

Now it's your turn, what's working for you? What doesn't work. Please share in the comments :)

PS: I recently won the Constant Contact E-Mail Marketing All-Star Award for the second year in a row! An award given primarily for e-mail marketing response.

Mission statements are bad even if they are true.

Chuck Vosburgh - Wednesday, May 26, 2010

There, I said it. They're bad because they are b.s. They're bad because the people who come in contact with your customers most likely have never read it, and if they have, they view it as b.s. too. They're bad because they've been so badly abused, no one cares.

I searched "mission statement" on Google and here's the first one that came up. I removed the company name and industry, but it could have come from any business:
We are people who make it our business to be like a good neighbor; who built a premier company by selling and keeping promises through our marketing partnership; who bring diverse talents and experiences to our work of serving the xxxxxx customer.
Our success is built on a foundation of shared values -- quality service and relationships, mutual trust, integrity and financial strength.
Our vision for the future is to be the customer's first and best choice in the products and services we provide. We will continue to be the leader in the xxxxxxx industry and we will become a leader in the xxxxxxxx arena. Our customers' needs will determine our path. Our values will guide us.
Do you actually believe any of this? How many hours of meetings do you think were spent on this? Was it worth the effort?I have sat in dozens of marketing meetings where a decision maker will say something like "Let's tell them..." as if telling "them" is good enough. What about being? BE something good, don't just say it.

Here's my advice:

Don't waste your time on mission statements. Spend your time deciding what your business will be. Then use that as the measuring stick for everything you do. For example, the company who's statement is above wants to be a good neighbor. The measure is simple, does this make us a better neighbor or not? Terms like best and leader are too subjective to be used as a measure and keeping promises is a prerequisite to being a good neighbor. To be fair, the company is one I have some experience with and they do a good job of being consistent with their mission statement. They do indeed try to be a good neighbor. Which proves my point, no one will believe statement anyway. It's conditioning.There are those who talk and those who do. Which one do you want to be?
What do you think? Write some comments :)

Everything I need to know about online privacy I learned from my Mom

Chuck Vosburgh - Friday, May 21, 2010
FaceBook isn't private. Shocking!
There has been a lot of news and opinions lately about FaceBook and it's ever-changing privacy policies and I really can't see what all the fuss is about. When I was a boy, way before the internet was even thought of, my Mom told me something that has served me well over the years. "Don't ever put anything in writing that you don't want to have to answer for later". It was true then, and it's just as true now. I can't think of anything I could add to that statement that would make it any more clear and relevant.
It's always amazed me what people would put on their FaceBook, Twitter, blogs and other online media. I mean really, would you hand out flyers with all the news of your drunken escapades to everyone you know on Monday morning? Along with photos? Of course not! At least I hope that would be your response. But every day, millions of people do just that, and then some. Think. Someday you may be a Mom or a Dad, you may be looking for a job, you may run for public office or have a public career, you may meet someone special, your Mom or Dad may get a computer. Things that seem funny now may not be to them. Anything you put on the internet, or e-mail to anyone is public forever and once it's out there there's nothing you can do about it. A good friend of mine calls it "career limiting behavior".
If you're like most people, you have things out there that you would prefer people not see. That's okay, but stop and think from here on out. Decide what you want people to think of you, not just today, but in ten years and beyond. If you remember nothing else about online privacy remember this: Don't ever put anything in writing that you don't want to answer for later.
I'm glad my Mom is so wise.
Have you seen any career limiting behavior or have any stories? Put 'em in the comments below.

Welcome to my new online business Blog!

Chuck Vosburgh - Friday, April 16, 2010

This is my first blog post on this website - this online business to be exact!

Feel free to grab a cup of tea and a cookie, put your feet up and take a look around. You'll find lots of great content and information about my business, and there are plenty of goodies.

I hope you enjoy and feel free to let me know what you think!

Some Philosophical questions

Chuck Vosburgh - Friday, April 16, 2010