Larry Brauner

More Critical Success Factors

This time last year I posted on my blog 10 Simple Success Strategies for 2008. My strategies for 2009 are net very simple, or in any case, they’re not easy.

We were already aware that the mortgage crisis would badly hurt American home owners and the real estate industry, but few people realized that the crisis would quickly snowball into a major global recession.

While I stand by last years recommendations and believe that they are valid today, I feel that I need to add new critical success factors to the mix for 2009.

  1. Be flexible. What worked in the past may no longer work in the present economy. You may have to make some tough personal or business choices going forward.
  2. Focus on your finances. Spend less. Earn more, even if it’s difficult, and even if you have to compromise and do something that’s less than perfect for you. Pay down your credit cards, even if you have to sell some belongings. That’s the advice Dave Ramsey gives in his excellent book, The Total Money Makeover.
  3. Be cautious and use common sense. I hate to sound like a broken phonograph record, but while it is important to earn more, don’t fall prey to someone else’s hedge against recession. Before you invest substantial time or money, read Home Based Businesses Don’t Work and The Darker Side of Funded Proposals.
  4. Persevere. I noticed this year how many people failed to follow through on important plans and prematurely abandoned their blogs and social media projects they had started. Perhaps in some of the cases they should have done more soul searching beforehand, but on the whole I think people get frustrated and quit before their work has a chance to bear fruit. If you think you might lack motivation or need encouragement, create a support system for yourself or work closely with a mentor to whom you can be accountable.
  5. Reach out multiple ways. Network with people online and offline using online business and social networking sites and your local Small Business Association, Chamber of Commerce or BNI. Besides my new social networking site and other Ning social networking sites, I strongly recommend Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. Connect to me at all these sites and let me know how I might be able to help you. It might be useful to you to visit Social Networking vs. Advertising, especially if you have never before seen that post.
  6. Develop expertise that will serve you now and in the future. In The 80/20 Rule I wrote, “Expertise is a valuable asset when it comes to personal branding. As an expert you can teach and mentor others and differentiate yourself from your competition.” I went on to explain that with a medium amount of reading, studying and experimentation, you can learn more about a subject than 80% of other people.
  7. Smile and laugh as much as you can. Laughter is good for you and for the people around you.
  8. Prepare not only for the recession, but also for afterward. These tough economic times won’t last forever. Think how you might be able to position yourself down the road to profit from the many new possibilities which will emerge in a couple of years.
  9. Keep the faith. No matter how hard life gets, don’t give up hope. Persist as best you can and be ready to start over. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities.
  10. Subscribe to my blog if you’re not yet a subscriber. I have a lot planned, and we can face 2009 together.

Now it’s your turn to share your ideas. Please feel free to comment.

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Larry Brauner

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began to blog. I had lots of great reasons for blogging, so I just got started and hoped for the best.

As Mike Litman says, “You don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going.”

I did do some keyword research before choosing a main topic and a domain name. I chose as my main keywords online social networking and made them the name of my blog.

In hindsight I see that I could have easily taken on keywords that were more competitive. Fortunately I realized before too long that I could venture off topic and rank well in the search engines on keywords other than my primary ones.

Content Attracts Traffic

Online marketing begins with content and traffic. A site needs to communicate with and pre-sell visitors and then ultimately monetize, i.e. sell them, and content is the catalyst.

One article I wrote about the Spider Web Marketing System has attracted more than 4,000 visits and one on Ad Surf Daily more than 5,000. The content in these two blog posts plus the content in the many comments they received drove them to the top of the search engines.

Overall my blog has received about 12,000 visits from approximately 5,000 keyword combinations making me a big believer in the power of content to draw substantial search engine traffic.

Blogs Are Problematic

Blogs are great for ongoing conversation with readers. However, their reverse chronological orientation makes it easy for visitors to access only the newest content. Older content becomes obscured. Bloggers attempt to compensate with extensive cataloging and liberal use of cross-linking — look at my blog’s sidebars — but this problem is never totally mitigated.

Traditional websites on the other hand are great for organizing and presenting large amounts of information. Their hierarchical orientation aided by site maps and cross-linking make it easy for visitors to access the most important and relevant content.

The Best of Both Worlds

The best way to market is to build a conventional website with a blog embedded in the site to communicate with visitors and customers.

This marketing idea works equally well for small businesses and large ones. I will be taking this direction for myself as I continue to develop my own web presence.

Conceptual and Technical Challenges

Starting a blog is easy in many ways. Blogger, for example, allows a novice to get up and going in a jiffy. Simply create an account, choose a theme and start writing. That’s it.

Building a marketing website is much more involved, both conceptually and technically, creating a major obstacle for the typical entrepreneur.

Faced with this obstacle most small business owners either

  • do nothing
  • opt for a simplistic small business website that resembles a big business card
  • rent of buy an expensive template to build a second-rate small business website that doesn’t get any traffic
  • hire an expensive web developer to build their second-rates mall business website for them

If they’re lucky they find somebody good, but the average web developer doesn’t understand marketing. I’m sure that what I’m saying will ring true for some readers.

My Recent Discovery

What we’re discussing isn’t new to me. I’ve been thinking about regular websites vis-à-vis blogs and conceptual and technical issues surrounding them for a number of months.

This past week I happened to listen to a conference call introducing a service that I knew existed but that had never managed to grab my attention. I listened for nearly 90 minutes as Ken Evoy explained how he arrived at his Internet business solution, Site Build It!, how it worked and why. He dealt with the blog vs. build issue as well. I was impressed by what I heard.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Site Build It! costs $299 per year — everything included. No high price template. No expensive consultant.
  2. SBI! makes online business do-able by hiding all the technical issues and structuring the conceptual ones. The process is simplified to such a degree that success (i.e. profits, not the mere presence of a website) can be achieved — with serious effort — even by a motivated beginner. The 80/20 Rule still applies — of course — but why shouldn’t the lives of the 20% be made easier?
  3. Online profits require more than just having an online business card or a collection of Web pages. The SBI! service appears to include the tools and the proven process required to build a long-term, profitable e-business.
  4. SBI! is more than just a “site builder.” There’s no need to worry about separate hosting, a separate keyword research tool, integrating autoresponders, etc.
  5. There’s also no need to know anything upfront about building a website. The tedious, “under-the-hood” stuff is handled automatically.
  6. The SBI! service helps clients to design a profitable business, before they jump into building their sites. For beginners, the learning curve will be shorter and they bypass show-stopping errors.
  7. The Action Guide presents a step-by-step process in both written and video formats. The most successful site owners are the ones who follow the guide and don’t get sidetracked. They don’t have to guess at what to do next, since the guided approach helps them reach their goals. Continuous mentoring via the Action Guide and online help is always available.
  8. A keyword brainstorming and research tool helps verify that a site concept has acceptable profit potential, saving site owners from making a common fatal error. The SBI! service helps to find topics related to the site owner’s niche that will pull in traffic and generate income.
  9. SBI! provides fully customizable, easy-to-use templates (this page shows a range of styles).
  10. The SBI! service includes domain name analysis, optimization, and registration, as well as fast and reliable website hosting.
  11. Unlimited customer support and forums that are supposedly friendly and helpful are major selling points for me personally.
  12. There’s a no-risk, 30-day money back guarantee.

In Conclusion

I can see the Site Build It! service helping both existing small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs reach their online marketing objectives. My only caveat is that sufficient internal motivation is a necessary prerequisite for success.

If you find that building your website is not “your cup of tea”, please get help or exercise the 30-day refund option. Don’t waste your money.

Now it’s your turn. Feel free to share your small business website experiences.

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Larry Brauner

The Case for Social Media Marketing

It is becoming increasingly more difficult and more expensive to reach potential customers using mass media. That’s one reason why so many marketers are turning to Web 2.0 social media marketing.

Not only do marketers want to reduce their advertising expense, they also want to connect more directly with people and learn how to better serve their target market.

Social media marketing is especially attractive to small business owners operating on modest budgets, since most social networking sites and other social media sites are generally free to use.

Steep Learning Curve

They read a story such as Beyond Blogs in the June 2nd issue of Business Week, and they rush off to embrace Web 2.0 social media unprepared for the steep learning curve that lies ahead.

The social media landscape is uncharted and sprawling. Social media sites are vying for your attention, and searching the Internet for advice turns up sharply conflicting recommendations.

Need for Mentor

Clearly you need a mentor, somebody smart and knowledgeable with especially strong communication skills. You should find somebody with whom you feel comfortable, because you’ll definitely be getting to know each other. Picking a mentor is difficult.

Effective Communication #1 Challenge

Once you find your mentor mastering essential social media marketing skills will be difficult. To get fully up to speed might take a year or even longer.

That is the bad news.

In my opinion, the hardest part of social media marketing training is learning effective communication, i.e., to write, speak, listen and persuade well and in a professional manner.

There are certainly plenty of technical challenges to overcome, but by far communication is the chief obstacle new social media marketers face. If you happen to have the right mix of communication skills, you’re way ahead of most newcomers.

Your mentor can teach you personal and business branding, online social networking, blogging, video marketingsocial bookmarking, SEO and other important skills. He or she can also critique your communication style, but it will be you who will connect directly with your target market and build vital business relationships.

Get Started Now and Learn as You Go

Now the good news.

You don’t have to master every skill, dot every “i” and cross every “t” before getting started.

Find a good mentor to guide you, jump in and get your feet wet. Learn by doing.

As Mike Litman always says: “You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going.”

Your results will serve as feedback to help you to make the necessary corrections along the way… and that is good news.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

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Larry Brauner

This post is somewhat longer than usual. Sorry for that, but I put a lot of work into it. I hope you like it.

Last Wednesday during my regular bi-weekly business mentoring tele-conference I revealed several powerful business success secrets.

While I was specifically addressing entrepreneurs, small business owners and sales professionals, these principles apply to all people and to all areas of our lives, not only business success.

Have you noticed? The year 2008 is half over.

Near the end of 2007 I posted Personal Development: 10 Simple Success Strategies to “help turbo charge your personal development in the New Year”. This may be worth re-reading if some of your goals and objectives have lost much of their earlier inertia.

Commitment

What are you committed to?

Mike Hernacki in The Ultimate Secret to Getting Absolutely Everything You Want wrote:

“In order to accomplish something, you must know what you want and be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish it.”

It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? However, it is your intention and commitment that set The Law of Attraction into motion on your behalf.

Want proof?

Reflect back on your most important accomplishments, such as raising a child, getting a college degree, running a marathon, starting a business, or developing an Internet presence, and you’ll agree that your commitment to your success was absolute.

It wasn’t that you felt obligated. Rather you felt that the goal was extremely important to you, and that you would deal with any obstacle that might arise — without knowing in advance exactly what would be demanded of you on your way to success.

Without total commitment The Law of Attraction would have probably delivered an obstacle that you would not have been willing to handle, and you would have failed.

This success secret is so important that I’ve read Mike Hernacki’s timeless book about a dozen times over the past decade.

Acquiring New Skills

I am commited to ongoing personal development and acquisition of new knowledge and skills. I read mind expanding books, blogs and e-books.

Your objective may require the mastery of new skills – or it may not. Your willingness to do what it takes is what really matters. If new skills are required, then you must be ready and willing to learn them.

Working Hard

You may be required to apply a great amount of effort. When I wanted to run the New York Marathon in 1984, strenuous preparation was absolutely necessary. In 1985 that was still true but to a lesser extent, since I had maintained a high level of fitness in the interim.

Tenacity and Persistence

Let’s bring this home.

You want to develop a presence at one of your favorite social networking sites – or you want to write a blog – or you want to build an Internet presence. These objectives usually require a high degree of tenacity.

So often people abandon online social networking, blogging or social media optimization without realizing their objectives. They weren’t willing to persist. Perhaps their belief system was weak.

I have been social networking online for many years. I have continuously posted to this blog for nearly eight months.

Why?

I know what I want, and I’m willing to persist until I achieve it.

Belief

As I stated in Personal Development: The Law of Belief, “Our motivation and how we act is determined by our underlying beliefs.

“If we don’t believe that something is possible, we won’t even try to make it happen. Please listen to a conference call I recorded on 8/22/07 that illustrates this concept.”

A healthy belief system is critical to success in business and life.

Treat Your Business Like a Business

Production

Showing up counts for something, but it doesn’t count for enough.

Success in business and life depends on producing value either directly or indirectly through people you influence.

If you have a job and don’t produce, you won’t get very far, and sooner or later you won’t have a job.

If you have a business and don’t produce, you won’t have money in the bank.

If you don’t come through for people, you won’t have their friendship.

You must make a positive contribution in order to be successful.

One way to ensure that you’re productive is to set daily or weekly goals or benchmarks.

For example, let’s suppose you’re in sales. You need to make six product sales per month to meet your business objectives. In order to make six sales, you need to make 15 presentations. To get 15 appointments, you’ll need to speak to 60 people.

You work about 20 days per month. On average you will have to speak to three people per day in order to speak to 60 per month.

Your benchmark or goal becomes three a day. If you focus on 3+ per day with consistency, you will likely make your six product sales per month.

You’ve succeeded at breaking down your abstract monthly goal into concrete daily actions.

Diversification

Big corporations employ a wide variety of media and messages to bring their product to market. They advertise on television, radio, in print and through direct mail. They experiment with many versions of their ad copy.

You cannot do everything a giant company can do, but why not learn from their example?

If you use half a dozen methods to reach out to your potential clients, you’ll enjoy these benefits:

  • You’ll achieve success with some approaches, even if others fail.
  • You’ll attract a wider variety of clients than using a single method.
  • You’ll be able to see which methods perform better relative to each other, so that you can refine your marketing plan.
  • You’ll lower your overall risk through diversification.

Here are some of my favorite marketing channels:

Over time you’ll develop your own favorite marketing channels if you haven’t already done so.

Tracking and Analysis

If you want to make informed business decisions, you must track your results and analyze your data. If you can’t do it yourself, then you must get an expert to do it for you or show you how to do it.

Tracking and analysis are not something optional.

Let me ask you, would you even consider driving your car with your eyes shut?

You can’t afford to run your business with your eyes shut or even partially covered.

Cost per Acquisition

One of the most basic marketing measurements is cost per acquisition, the amount that you’re spending on average to complete a sale using each marketing method. Simply put, it’s the total spend divided by the total number of sales.

It is important to consider your staff costs including your own time, not just the out-of-pocket expenditures for design and media.

Cost per acquisition is an excellent way to compare marketing channels, but there is one very important caveat. Customers from one marketing channel may be more valuable than from another. Therefore marketers must take into account customer long term value, the other side of the equation.

Customer Long Term Value

Customer long term value can be difficult to calculate, but it is generally approximated as the income you expect to earn from a customer over a 12 to 24 month period. If your business is on the risky side, lean towards 12 months. If it is very stable, then 24 months may be appropriate.

To be successful, cost per acquisition cannot exceed customer long term value. It ought to be less.

Trend Data

You can also track your performance or the performance of your staff. Trending performance data and marketing data over time will help you see the bigger picture.

Masterminding and Mentoring

As stated in my post Even Mentors Need Mentors, “I learn from reading many books, e-books and blogs, and from speaking frequently with friends and mentors. Having mentors has greatly shortened my learning curve.”

Masterminding with your peers and seeking out mentors will help you as much or more than any other single strategy mentioned in this article.

Please feel free to comment and share those strategies that have made the biggest difference in your business and personal endeavors.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about me and my social media and web marketing services.

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Larry Brauner

As 2007 draws to a close I’m going to share with you something that can make all the difference between success and failure in the coming year.

Your inbox is filled to the brim with ca-ca touting the latest greatest system, juice drink, compensation plan, survey site, list building techniques, Web 2.0 course, etc. etc.

How do you react?

“Maybe at last this one will work. I sure hope. All the others were scams. It better not cost anything.”

Ya-da ya-da ya-da.

Friend, I have to tell you this.

Business success is centered around people not systems, products, compensation plans or techniques.

The number one person is you. Invest in your continuuing education and personal development. Be willing to change.

Next come your mentors to guide you and “tell it to you like it is”.

Finally there are the people who look up to you. Learn what they really want and need and dedicate yourself to helping them get it.

Focus on people and relationships, and you’ll be more successful in 2008.

Find the right mentor and make a commitment to learn and grow. Everything else will gradually fall into place.

Or focus on systems, products, compensation plans and techniques, and 2008 will be deja vu all over again.

I wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous new year.

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Larry Brauner

Critical Success Factors

With 2008 right around the corner let me share some simple strategies that can help turbo charge your personal development in the New Year.

Each idea stands alone. Use one or use them all. Add your comments to this post to share your own personal insights and success tips.

  1. Power down your computer. Take a break. Stop e-mailing and messaging. Tackle the important things waiting for you offline. Meet with people. Make important phone calls. Get some exercise.
  2. Prioritize. Before you go to bed ask yourself, “What can I do tomorrow that will take my business or personal life forward?” Write six or more things you can accomplish the next day on an index card and rank them in order of importance. The following day get the top six things done in the order of importance. Follow this formula for 30 days, and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.
  3. Acquire mentors. The most successful people know better than to go it alone. Be willing to accept advice, to stretch and to change. Your mentors might coach you one-on-one, in a group, or through their speaking or writing. Like a computer you need good programming and input to produce good output. I have several mentors and advisors including more than one close friend and a senior manager at the corporation where I work.
  4. Meet new people online and offline and really get to know them.
  5. Profit in the margins. Supposing you earn $60,000 per year which is $5,000 per month. If you can increase your earnings or cut your expenses by $250 per month that would reflect 5% of your income. However if your current savings or disposable income is $500 per month, the additional $250 would give you 50% more to work with. You can save it, pay down credit cards, or buy a new outfit.
  6. Start a home business, a sensible one, to increase your income. Choose a mentor to guide you and help you. You can only work so many jobs, so you need a way to leverage your time. As your business grows, so will the leverage it affords you. But beware. Before you start a home business you ought to read Home Based Businesses Don’t Work and The Darker Side of Funded Proposals.
  7. Exercise moderately almost every day. It is so easy to get busy and push it off. I’m adding walking to my daily list of priorities effective immediately.
  8. Be grateful for all the good in your life. Don’t let unfulfilled desires negate all the good. If you are reading this post, be grateful that you can. Take a deep breath right now and appreciate that you are alive. I appreciate you!
  9. Praise the people in your life. They need it. They crave it. Don’t criticize. Spread around more of your love, and it will come back to you with interest.
  10. Give to charity, a little or a lot according to your means. It will help you as much as it helps the receiver.

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