Thursday, October 18, 2007

Make Networking Work!

by Sandy Geroux

I’ve been to many networking events where introductions are routinely done near the beginning of the meeting. Yet at most of these events, despite the awesome opportunity to make a big impression and become memorable to the group, most professionals go through a weak, unimpressive litany of what they do… and end up sounding like every other professional in their industry (and most in the room), therefore failing to make a memorable impression.

Contrast this with the Event Promoter who had such a catchy “jingle” that when he stood up to give his elevator speech, everyone in the room recited it with him! Or the Children’s Party Clown who blew a funny whistle before introducing himself, then stood up with a red nose on his face. Or the car wash/car detailing company owner who stood up and blew bubbles in the air as he introduced himself… and then gave a bottle of bubbles containing his company name and contact information to everyone in the crowd. Or the business adviser who gave out casino-style chips with the words, “Don’t gamble with your business” printed on one side and his contact information on the other.

Compare the humdrum words of those who merely state their name, occupation, and company name (as if stating name, rank and serial number) to the lawyer who stood up and said, “If you’re working with a lawyer (or trying to work with a lawyer) who isn’t calling you back, call me. I’ll call you back!” BAM! In one sentence, he let everyone in the room know he knew one of the biggest customer problems in his industry - and let us know that he had a solution for it. I contacted him myself (because I was experiencing that problem at that very time with a different lawyer!); I later referred another client to him, who eventually put him on retainer with his company… simply because he let me know at our very first meeting that he could solve one of the biggest problems with lawyers!

Compare this, as well, to the people who toss unfamiliar jargon around in their introduction, leaving the rest of us scratching our heads trying to figure out what they actually do!

Many of us spend an awful lot of time driving to, attending and driving back from networking events because relationships are the name of the game in this competitive climate. What are you doing to differentiate yourself right from your introduction, let your customers know you understand their problems, show them that you ARE the solution to those problems - and get them to notice and remember you?

Let’s look at some important concepts when networking and trying to make an impression, so we can ensure that our time and effort are not wasted:

If I don’t know what you do, I can’t use or recommend your services. Don’t toss around jargon, abbreviations or terms that people outside your industry don’t recognize or understand. Never assume that everyone has the same knowledge you do. If you must use an acronym or industry term, be sure to explain it by saying, “In other words…” or “which is just a fancy way of saying…” (remember that using humor ALWAYS helps!) Explaining terms never hurts; but not explaining them will practically ensure that someone will not know them and will not ask, for fear of looking foolish for not knowing their meaning.

If I don’t know what to listen for after the meeting, nothing will trigger my memory so I can recommend you. Don’t simply tell people what you do; tell them what situations occur out in the real world with which you can help. For example, the financial adviser who started out telling us he “worked with business-people and entrepreneurs to help them with their financial needs” wasn’t helping me recommend his services until he came to a meeting one day and said, “If you know of someone who has just had a change in their life circumstances, such as having a baby, getting married or divorced, or retiring, they can use my services.” BAM again! Hearing the words and situations I could listen for out in the real world helped trigger my memory that my neighbor had just had a baby… and I could then make the recommendation. What life circumstances, conversations and words can you have others listen for outside of the networking meeting that would trigger their memory of you and what you can provide, so they can recommend you?

If you don’t make a memorable impression, I will forget I saw you at the meeting. Most business is not closed right at networking meetings… it’s closed after them, by people who connect, begin and nurture a relationship and create trust with each other. Remember: one meeting does not a relationship make. However, you can’t even begin a relationship if you don’t get someone to notice you and become interested in you in the first place.

Follow up with people after the meeting is over. Once you do begin a relationship, nurture it - don’t stick people’s business cards in a drawer and forget about them. However, don’t assume you can send automatic e-mails, such as newsletters, either. Always get permission to send automated items… and make personal contact occasionally through hand-written notes, cards, clippings, and phone calls.When you follow up (or even when you first meet someone), seek to serve rather than to receive. Ask people what you might be able to do to help them, connect them with a resource you may have, or give advice without expecting anything in return. Remember the old adage: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” The principle of giving back is wonderful; the principle of giving before is better. When you show others you’re willing to give, they respond in kind and give back to you.

The whole purpose of taking the time to network with others is to establish relationships, begin communications and build trust and rapport… all of which help others as well as helping you build your business over time.

Networking events are not sales efforts per se, in that they don’t always (or even usually) produce results immediately. Effective, high-impact sales efforts are still needed to continue to build “NOW” business.

But if you don’t want to waste your time when networking, you must do it effectively. This will build future business quickly and effectively… making it much easier to foster those relationships and have them come to fruition when the future becomes the “now.”

Sandy has been a national speaker, trainer and coach since the year 2000, speaking to organizations and individuals across the U.S. to help them achieve breakthrough performance in sales, customer service and personal and professional productivity through effective risk-taking.

She is a member of the National Speakers Association, is a former Dean of the Speakers’ Academy for the Central Florida Chapter of NSA and now serves on the Board of Directors for that Chapter. For more information, visit Sandy’s website at

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Transfer songs from your iPod to your computer

I have an iPod (love it, use it often). I have music from my computer as well my husband's computer on it. Sometimes I hear a song on the iPod that I don't have on my computer and would like to have it on my hard drive. I also re-formatted my hard drive this summer and no longer have a couple of songs that reside on my iPod. I'd like to get them back onto my hard drive.

Unfortunately, Apple's software prevents you from downloading music FROM your iPod to a computer. Very frustrating.

Fortunately, you can get it around it using Windows file explorer without too much trouble (although finding the specific song you want will take a bit of time).

PC Magazine walks you through the steps to do this - I guess I know what I'll be doing over the long weekend!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

In Search of Website Traffic

Where does your website rank on the major search engines? Are you on page 1 or page 10? Search Engine Optimization continues to be a mystery for many small businesses. How do you move your site up on the search engine's lists? The Wall Street Journal has a nice article that should help to clarify some of the mystery and help you get on the right path!

Monday, August 06, 2007

More VAs in the News!

ABC recently published a fabulous article on their site about Virtual Assistants. Several of our industry leaders were interviewed - it's great exposure for our industry!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Change What Program Your File Opens In

Has this ever happened to you? You double-click to open a .wav file, then have to wait an eternity for iTunes to open and do it's thing before you actually hear the file. Or you try to open a graphic file and it comes up in an editing program instead of a viewer. Frustrating, right?

The good news is that it's easy to change what program a selected file type defaults to. There are a number of ways to accomplish this but this is among the easiest I've found:

1. Find a file of the type you're having problems with (.jpg, .wav, .mp3, etc.)
2. Copy this file to a folder you can easily find (I like c:/temp)
3. Right-click on the file, select "Open With", then "Choose Program"

4. Select the program you'd like these files to open in for the future (click on "browse" and locate the program if it doesn't show up here). Then check the box that says "Always use the selected program to open this kind of file" and then click "OK".

That's it! The next time you open that type of file, it will open in the program you prefer!

Monday, July 30, 2007

How to Hire Some Help and Give Yourself a Raise

How to Hire Some Help and Give Yourself a Raise

by Donna Gunter, The Online Biz Resource Queen (TM)

"There's no way I can hire anyone to do what I do. No one can do it as well as I can."

Do you resemble that remark? If so, you've got much in common with most other business owners in the world. We never think that anyone else will give something the time, attention, and dedication that we will. And, you're right, to some degree. No one cares as much about your business as you do. However, if you don't choose to delegate those things that prevent you from engaging in business development, marketing, and sales activities, you won't be in business very long.

Whether you're just starting out or have been in business for awhile, the thought of bringing on a support team member can be daunting, and you wonder, "How can I bring in someone else when it's just going to increase my expenses?"

You need to make the shift to seeing this cost as an investment in your business, rather than as an expense, and let go of the need to be in control.

I recently read about a statistic quoted in the life insurance industry which stated that for every additional support team member employed in a small professional services firm, the firm experienced a 40% increase in gross revenues. Why does this increase occur? Because your support team takes work away from you, which allows you to focus on increasing revenues - either by making more sales or working on the marketing systems that will lead to more sales.

I realize this sounds overly simplistic -- if you want to increase your revenues by 40%, simply just employ someone on your support team. Of course, it is not that simple in reality. Hiring a support team requires you to trust your own judgment and use this extra time to generate more revenues. And that's the key here - if you hire a support person and keep doing what you're doing, the concept won't work.

You have to hire the person and ensure that you're taking on the role of business development.

The best way to illustrate this is to look at your "lost opportunity" costs. Say, for example, you're a marketing consultant and you charge $175 per hour. Yesterday, your ACT! database was malfunctioning and it took you 7 hours to fix the problem and do the mail merge and printing and mailing of your sales letter to the new list of 100 prospective customers that you just purchased. Do you realize that 7 hours really cost you $1225? How? Your hourly rate of $175/hour multiplied by the number of hours it took you to do this task (7) equals $1225.

What would have been more effective? Finding someone else (like a Virtual Assistant or Online Business Manager) to do this for you in half the time for a portion of your hourly fee. If you had hired the expertise of a masterfully skilled Virtual Assistant charging $45/hour, for example, my guess is that she probably could have completed the project in a portion of the time, say 4 hours, for a final cost to you of $180. Big cost savings over the $1225 it cost you to do the same project. With that project off your plate, you then have the time to go out seeking more $175/hour opportunities.

Amazing, isn't it? For a mere $180 investment, for example, you now have the time to complete the proposal to do that corporate training program you spoke about with an HR person two weeks ago. A week later, the HR person calls and tells you that they've accepted the proposal valued at $10,000 in income over the course of the year. Would you have had time to complete that proposal if you had not handed off this ACT database project? Perhaps, but I bet it would have forced you to work late into the night to complete it.

What operational aspects of your business could you delegate to someone else? If you had extra time, how could you increase the revenues of your business? Give these questions strong consideration--you may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.

Your Get Clients Online Assignment: Take some time and write out your delegation list -- all those things that you hate doing, things that you're now doing and probably shouldn't be, as well as all the stuff that's falling through the cracks. Surprised at the length of the list? Now jot down all those money-making opportunities you've missed out on (or don't have time for) because you're too caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business. What's the dollar value of those missed opportunities? Shocking, isn't it?

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Online Business Coach Donna Gunter helps independent service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To claim your FR*EE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at Ask Donna an Internet Marketing question at

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Make Your Networking More Productive!


  • Before attending another networking event, ask yourself, “What is my objective in attending?” Are you looking for potential clients? Business alliances? Getting your name out there? Socializing? Define your purpose & goals: “I want to add x number of new contacts to my newsletter”, “I want to find 1 new business alliance”, “I’m looking for a contact from xyz company”.
  • Who will be attending the event you’ll be attending? Attending every networking event in town leaves you little time for actual work. Maximize your time and pare down what you attend to those events where your clients will be. Are your clients Human Resources managers? Then connect with the local HR association. Are you looking for Realtors? Attend a meeting of the local Realtor association.


  • Pay attention to the use of your business card at the event you attend. Are you handing your cards out like a Vegas dealer – giving one to every person you meet then quickly moving on? Or do you engage them in conversation and only hand out a card when they ask for one? Will your card be of value to them? If not, it will just end up in the trash can and your name forgotten.
  • Ask intelligent questions to learn more about the business of a new contact. Otherwise, how will know if they are your client or if their clients could potentially be yours? What’s their target market? What’s their niche? What sets them apart from their competition?
  • Become a resource. Find out what your new contact is in the market for – both personally and for their business. Are they looking for a CPA, are they in need of marketing materials, do they need a house painter? Then introduce them to those you know and trust. By providing value to your contacts, they will see the value in you. They will remember you.


  • So what do you do after the event is over? Do you have a plan of action ready to put into place? How will you follow up with these new contacts? Call them to follow up, perhaps schedule a B2B meeting. Send a thank-you/”nice to meet you” note via e-mail or snail-mail. Add them to your newsletter list (but no spam!). If you sit around waiting for them to call you and use your product or service, it probably won’t happen. You need to initiate contact and begin developing a relationship that will lead to referrals and business down the road.
  • How are you organizing your contacts? It’s never too late to start your client database. It doesn’t have to be fancy and there are many free or inexpensive products out there – even inputting them into Outlook or an Excel spreadsheet is better than leaving them in a pile on your desk. The important thing is to enter all new names within 24 hours after the event - including notes about where you met, what you spoke about, their level of interest in your product or service. If you don’t already have a system in place, start by entering all new cards as you receive them then slowly add your previous contacts later.
  • Have email templates and voice-mail scripts ready to use when following up with your new contacts. While you’ll customize them for each person, this will save you tons of time and help keep you from procrastinating!

I know this can seem overwhelming. Start with one step at time and slowly add on the others. I know of many resources to help with each of these steps and would be happy to refer you to them for assistance – just let me know!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Art of Follow-Up

Great timing on the below article from Robert Middleton, since I'll be speaking on this very subject this Thursday at our local Chamber of Commerce!

Enjoy... Cindy

What's the most important marketing skill? You might be surprised at the answer.

It's not having a great marketing message, powerful marketing materials and a bullet-proof marketing plan. All of those are certainly important but not as important as...


In my teleclasses and talks, I joke how people are looking for a "killer marketing message" that will make people jump up and down with excitement when they hear it. Sorry, but that's as much of a myth as unicorns or a balanced national budget.

But people want to believe that myth, so they spend forever trying to perfect their message. Look, all your message can get you is some initial attention. That's all.

And virtually every single marketing action after that is follow-up.

When someone shows some interest in your services (when you deliver a decent, but not mythical, marketing message), you need to follow-up with some more information.

Once they've read that information, you need to follow-up to determine if there's a deeper interest. And if there's a deeper interest, then you need to follow-up to set up an appointment.

But it doesn't end there.

Once you have an appointment, you need to follow-up to confirm that appointment (yes, people flake out). And once you've had the appointment you need to follow-up with a proposal or to close the sale. Follow-up never ends.

Follow-Up Secrets

Here are some follow-up secrets I've learned over the years that are important to understand and master if you're going to attract more clients.

1. Know where you are in the game

When you follow-up with someone, the purpose is to move the prospect from one base in the marketing game to the next base.
If you try to jump bases (or move too fast), you tend to get rejected by the prospect. If you move too slow with your follow- up, you loose the interest you've generated up to that point.

2. Don't move too fast

When you get someone's interest (say at a networking meeting) and then say you'd like to call back to talk with them, that's fine.
But when you make that call and immediately try to set up an appointment, you'll likely get some resistance.

Remember, people want more familiarity and some information before they meet with you. So your follow-up system needs to build that in. One way to do this is with pre-written emails and links to articles or to your web sites.

3. Don't move too slow

If you give a talk and get cards from people who are interested in knowing more about your services, how soon should you follow- up? The very next day. For each day you don't follow-up, interest wanes. If you have only a few follow-ups, use the phone. If you have many, send an email to set up a time to talk in the upcoming week.

Stale follow-ups are just that. They've forgotten what interested them in the first place, so when you call back after several weeks it's like starting all over again.

4. Balance fast and slow

The key to effective follow-up is balancing the fast and the slow.
Fast to get back to someone when they show interest; slow to get to know them. Fast to provide information requested; slow to discuss what this information means to their business. Fast to get a proposal in the mail; slow to discuss the details of that proposal.

5. Watch your assumptions

What if someone doesn't get back to you? You've followed up promptly and you don't hear back right away. What does this mean? Only one answer: Who knows? It could be anything.

But we are quick to jump to the conclusion that it's bad news. Not always. They might be very busy with a big priority or could even be out on vacation. So don't jump to conclusions. Just keep following up. Just watch that you don't sound desperate!

6. When to stop following-up

Let's say you have a prospect you've either met with or done a proposal for. You thought everything was going well, but they aren't returning your calls. Do you keep leaving messages or do you give up? What I recommend is leaving one last message that goes like this:

"Hi John, I've been trying to get back to you about the project but haven't heard from you for a couple weeks. I don't want to keep pestering you, so if I don't hear back from you, I'll assume you don't want to move ahead. I'll leave the ball in your court. Please call if you want to take the next steps, but this is the last message I'll be leaving. Hope to hear from you. My number is ..."

This approach works. If they actually are interested, they'll call you back. If they don't, well there's your answer. It's time to move on.

7. Create follow-up systems

To streamline your follow-up, create systems you can use over and over again. A follow-up system consists of specific steps you take each step of the way.

It might work something like this:

a) prospect learns about your service and visits web site
b) prospect fills out form on the web requesting more information
c) prospect receives an automated email from you with web link
d) you send out personalized email requesting an appointment
e) you follow-up by email until appointment is set
f) you meet with prospect by phone
g) after phone appointment you send agreement
h) after a few days you send another email
i) after a few more days you leave a phone message
j) prospect ultimately gets back to you with a yes or no

Once your follow-up system is designed and fine-tuned, you can use it reliably to turn many prospects into clients. This is exactly how I built my business. It didn't happen by chance.

I invite you to use it to build yours.

The More Clients bottom line: The skill of follow-up is the glue that holds all of your marketing together. It's what bridges the gaps between initial connections, information, meetings and proposals. Make it a priority to master this skill as soon as possible.

By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert's web site at for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Our First Newsletter!

Our first newsletter is published! You can view and also sign up for the newsletter at:

Take a look and let me know your feedback!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Colorado VA gets on the Today Show!

Congratulations to Karen Reddick, one of my Virtual Assistant colleagues in the Denver area. She was recently interviewed by NBC's Today Show about her career as a Virtual Assistant! This is very exciting exposure for all of us in the industry and even more exciting since I have personally collaborated with Karen and we often refer clients to each other.

You can view the entire Today Show segment at:

For more information about Karen or other Colorado VAs, visit

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Meeting My "Virtual" Colleagues!

I love conferences. Always have. So I love that the premier Virtual Assistant organization (IVAA) holds a yearly conference! This year's conference was in San Francisco and was fantastic as always. I came away with new information, new ideas and more importantly new friends. Here are some of them - we had to stop for a picture before heading to dinner on Fisherman's Wharf!

Left to right: Donna Sutter, Cindy Opong, Debbie Tester, Lana Newlander, Lanyl Taylor, Candy Beachamp

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

How to write Web content for a busy audience

Here's a great article about writing your website content. Bottom line: keep it simple!

How to write Web content for a busy audience - Microsoft Office Online

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Daily Puppy!

Need a pick-me-up? It's impossible not to smile when you visit The Daily Puppy...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Going Phishing?

A few years ago, I received an email that appeared to be from Paypal. I clicked on the link inside and since the webpage I landed at looked like Paypal, I innocently entered my login and password. Imagine my surprise when the next day I found out someone had stolen my Paypal account and made fradulant purchases! I had just been spoofed.

This was early in the history of spoofing and Phishing and I'm happy to say I haven't been duped since.

What is Phishing?

"Phishers attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication." (from Wikipedia)
What can you do to protect yourself?

1. Are you expecting an email from this company? When I've made a purchase on Ebay, I expect to receive emails from them about my purchase. But when I received one today, I knew that I hadn't made a purchase and was immediately suspiscious.

2. Does it ask you click a link or have a sense of urgency? Rather than clicking the link in the email, go to your web browser and enter the known website address yourself. Once you've logged in, if there's something that needs attention you will see the message.

3. After clicking on a link, take a careful look at the website address. It should read the same as if you'd entered it yourself - or If it reads as anything else, be suspiscious. (examples are:,,, etc.)

4. When in doubt, ask the company directly.Paypal and Ebay (and I'm sure many others) encourage you to forward them any suspect emails. Send to or and they will let you know if it is legitimate.

Bottom line: When in doubt, check it out!

More information from Paypal:

More information from Ebay:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

How to Create Your First Blog

I've been blogging now for about 2 years, and I'm amazed at the amount of traffic that I get from my blog and the number of people who tell me that they first heard about me from my blog instead of my website. The word blog is derived from the term "web log", or an online diary or journal. If the HBO series Sex and the City were being filmed today, Carrie Bradshaw would be a blogger as well as a columnist, I think. Why? As she experiences her revelations about life, love, and relationships, she could post them to her blog for the world to see and comment upon.

Blogging has opened website creation to almost everyone, as it takes very little know-how to get a blog up and running. In fact, many service business owners are using a blog platform as their primary website, with some of them creating static pages as you would find on a traditional website, while others are using the platform as a blog and are posting updates regularly.

There are several advantages to using blogs instead of ezines or traditional websites:
1. Search engines love blogs. The strategy that seems to be attractive to search engines today is regularly updated content. I can log-in to my blog at the beginning of a day and submit a post. Within 24 hours I'll get a notification from my Google alerts account that Google has indexed that post.
2. Content can be distributed quickly. If you instruct your visitors to subscribe to your blog via updating services like Bloglines or Feedblitz, they'll be notified within hours of any new posts on your blog.
3. Little web programming knowledge is required. Once your blog is set up, it's simply a matter of logging into your account, typing the info for you post, adding graphics or photos as needed, and publishing your post to your blog.
4. Reader feedback. Your readers can give you comments and feedback about your posts almost immediately after you log an entry. Blogs are a great way to engage your audience.

Are ezines and traditional websites dead? No, because people consume information differently. Some are auditory learners and prefer to hear the info (great audience for podcasting, an audio form of blogging), some prefer to receive updates as they are published (blog readers), while others like a stable, stationary medium to which they can refer when they're ready (readers who archive ezines or bookmark web pages).

How do you begin to blog? Here are 10 simple steps you can follow:

1. Blogging platform. The easiest way to get started is to use the free service found at or The ability to customize your blog is limited with the free services, so I urge my clients to subscribe to, which will host your blog for you on their servers, or purchase a hosting account where WordPress can be installed. The downloadable version of WordPress is located at and is free of charge if you need to install Wordpress yourself on your hosting account. I use Typepad for my blog, so many of my examples will relate exclusively to blogs hosted on that platform.

2. Name. What do you want to call your blog? Blog names tend to be attention-getting and off-beat. However, for service businesses, I encourage my clients to use keywords important to their business when naming their blog. You will also want to acquire the .com version of your blog's name or your blog's name with the word "blog" attach as your blog URL. After you have set up your blog, your blog provider can give you more info about how to map your domain to your blog. (Note: You don't want to simply forward your blog to your domain name, as that impacts the URLs of your individual blog pages).

3. Look and Layout. How many columns do you want to display? Do you want links to static pages? What colors do you want to use? How about a signup box for a free giveaway? Should you use one of the templates provided or have something custom designed? Do you want your blog archives displayed? Do you want to be the only author or do you want to permit others to make posts, as well? There are many questions you'll be asked in the startup phase about the look of your blog. A Typepad blog permits you to change your mind about your layout at a later date. The best way to determine the look of your blog is to look at the layout of other blogs and determine what appeals to you.

4. Widgets. There are a number of widgets, or add-on programs, that you can incorporate into your blog. Check your blog software's site for more info about what features you'd like add to your blog. At a minimum you'll want to give visitors a couple of ways in which they can receive blog updates through various updaters, or feeder services, as mentioned earlier.

5. Comments. The newest sp*am making its rounds online is comment sp*am. Don't these guys have anything better to do? Set your comments to moderated, which means that you have to approve any comments to your blog before the post goes live. You'll save yourself a great many headaches and time by choosing to moderate the comments.

Once you've gotten this far, you should have a basic blog established and are ready to begin to blog.

6. Blog content. The time has arrived -- your blog is ready to accept posts. What do you write about? You can post content rich articles of interest to your target market, comment on a current event, answer questions from your visitors, present a before and after case study outlining how your business helped someone, etc. Keep your eyes and ears open for information relevant to your audience. I use my blog to bring forth info that doesn't fit well into my newsletter format or something that arises between newsletter issues. I post my ezine content to my blog, as well.

7. Posting frequency. Blogs are just like gardens -- they need watering regularly and require some care and attention. For maximum effectiveness, you need to post several times a week to your blog. I try and post 4 times per week in my blog -- 2 posts are items I run across or comment upon as noteworthy in the moment, and the latter 2 are the contents of my ezine posted over 2 days. And, respond to reader's comments when they arrive -- blogs provide a great forum for ongoing discussions.

8. Blog traffic. In the same way that you publicize your website URL on everything that you do, you can similarly publicize your blog. Submitting your blogs to blog directories is another way to get traffic. A very comprehensive list of blog directories, RSS Top 55, has been compiled by Robin Good. Searching out blogs that appeal to your target market and making comments to those posts will also drive traffic to your blog. Another trick is to post your blog on social bookmarking sites like Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, and

9. Measure the results. Some blog programs, like Typepad, have built-in statistics so you can view details of your blog traffic. Some of the feed/updater programs have built-in statistics as well, or you can install a metrics program as an add-on to your blog. Review your statistics regularly to determine how much traffic your blog generates.

10. Rinse and Repeat. Don't let the novelty of blogging wear off. Blogging is effective only if you continue your blogging efforts regularly over a long period of time. I know of several individuals who have gotten book deals from their blog and radio and TV interviews as well. Just think -- your blog might be your ticket to fame!

Every service business can benefit from blog technology. Few other marketing strategies provide the quick immediacy that blogging provides.

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Business Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at Read about running an online biz at our blog,

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Top 10 Ways to Make Your Website Sell 24/7

I've spent more hours that I care to count attending networking functions, and I continue to be amazed at all the people I meet who don't have a website. Many entrepreneurs love what they do but hate marketing and selling themselves. A well-written website is one of the most effective tools at your disposal that will sell for you 24/7, provided you have written compelling copy for the site.

Here are ten ways to make your website your unpaid sales force:

1. Networking
A website permits you to pass out your business card to thousands of potential clients and lets them know how to reach you and what you sell. If, in your sales copy, you tell your story of why you're in your business, write a bio that accurately reflects your voice and style for your site, and upload your photo, your potential customers will begin to get to know you, without having to meet them one-on-one. Nothing is more amazing to me that to walk into a networking event and have total strangers come up and begin a conversation with me as though we were long-lost friends. They think we are. Why? Because they've visited my website or read my email newsletter or blog to the extent they have begun to get to know me, like me, and respect me.

2. Make Business Information Available
Help your customers find out more about you. What are your hours? What methods of payment do you accept? Where are you located? Being the "Internet snob" that I am, I go online first to check out a business before deciding to do business with them. Sometimes it's to check the menu, if it's a restaurant. Sometimes it's to see if they offer a discount coupon. Other times I just need to find their hours of operation or driving directions. If I can't find their website, I'm apt to find their competitor's site that contains precisely the info that I'm seeking.

3. Better Serve Your Customers
Make doing business with you as easy and effortless as possible. With an online presence, you could make forms available to pre-qualify clients for loans if you're a mortgage broker, enable your clients to upload their files for typesetting and printing if you're a professional printer, or allow your customer to see if the coat he wants is in stock if you're a clothing store. My sister is a "shoes horse" and desperately wanted a particular pair of shoes from a nationally-known department store in Houston. She checked their website to see if the shoes were in stock in her size at the store closest to her. She discovered they weren't, but was able to find another branch that did have them in stock and was able to swing by and pick them up. When your clients are over-committed and trying to squeeze another hour out of the day, how much more will they appreciate your online presence if you can help them save one of their most valuable assets -- their time?

4. Release Time-Sensitive Materials
You may have a service business that relies on appointments to make your money, like a hair salon or a chiropractor's office. You walk in on Monday morning and discover that only about half of your appointments are taken for the week. Do you decide to take part of the week off? You could, if you needed a vacation. Or, you could email the customer list you've built through your website and let them know that you're taking appointments at a special discounted rate this week only, or on certain days of this week, or that they'll get a free widget if they book an appointment by a certain date or time. How quickly do you think your customers would take advantage of this time-sensitive offer?

5. Be Open All Night, 365 Days of the Year
Internet surfers don't go online to buy--they go online to find free information. However, we live in an immediate gratification society. If you have a product for sale that fulfills a need to a particular problem, you can add a shopping cart with credit card purchasing ability to your online product catalog and enable someone to buy something from you at 2 AM, for example, when most of us are in bed. If your shopping cart permits immediate delivery of an electronic item, like an ebook or audio file, all the better, as your customer can have the information he has ordered within minutes after purchase. How many sales are you losing because your prospective customer has to fax or phone in an order or wait for your office to open to talk to you? Your e-commerce-enabled website can be your 24-hour automated salesperson.

6. Make Pictures and Sound Files Available
What if your widget is great, but people want to see it in action? Your website permits you to add sound, static images, and video to better explain who you are and what you sell, or to demonstrate use of your product or service. No brochure will do that. Additionally, audio and video testimonials from enthusiastic customers are now becoming more commonplace on websites. If you hate to sell, have a happy customer tell your website visitors how wonderful you are and how well you solved his problem. People believe enthusiastic testimonials from others who've successfully used your product or service.

7. Answer FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Every business has questions that customers ask again and again. Do you have the staff, or want to dedicate staff time, to answering these questions? Instead, post the questions and answers to your website and remove another barrier to doing business with you. Or, if you have the staff to do so, install a "live help" program on your website so that your site visitors can click and log-in to ask their questions right away while the question is fresh on their mind.

8. Offer Special Membership Access for Current Customers
If you're selling a service on your site, you may want your current paying clients to have access to certain information that is generally not available to the public. With your website, you can create a password-protected, clients-only section, or special membership section, for certain groups of clients. And, as website visitors are always curious and will try to get into private areas for additional information, you can use the "authorization required" page as another opportunity to tell them about the benefits of your product and service and how their lives will be better and richer for purchasing it. And, upon purchase, they will then become a member of this "special clients" club and have all the information and privileges associated with that membership. American Express is right -- membership has its privileges!

9. Open to National or International Markets
For most of my adult life, I've lived in parts of the country that have never recovered from the mid-1980's recession. Because I've had a virtual business with a website, I've never had to rely on the local economy to make a living. If you have a product or service that won't sell locally, or you have a brick and mortar operation and are trying to break into new markets, a website can help you open up a dialogue with nationwide or even international markets as easily as with the company across the street. Can you stand to make more money in your business?

10. Test-Market New Services and Products
Got an idea for another line of products for your business, or an additional service you'd like to add? Create a special page on your website and see how your current customers like the new offering. Ask them about price, appearance, and usability. They will let you know what they think faster and easier than any other market you may reach. Take their feedback, make necessary changes, and then roll it out to a larger market.

If you don't currently have a website for your business, get one! If your website only serves as a pretty brochure instead of bringing you qualified customers or sales, perhaps it's time to hire an expert to bring it to the next level. What difference would it make for you to get 95% of your clients online?I bet that would make your marketing efforts much more streamlined, and who doesn't want to make more profit in less time?

(c) 2007 Donna Gunter

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Business Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at Read about running an online biz at our blog,

Friday, March 02, 2007

I'm the Colorado VA of the Month

One of the best Virtual Assistant groups I belong to is Colorado VAs. We meet mostly via an email list but do get together in person once a quarter. It's an invaluable source of support and encouragement for VAs!

I am proud to share that I was chosen as this month's "VA of the month" - take a look at my profile online:

Colorado VA of the Month - Colorado Virtual Assistants

Friday, February 02, 2007

Important Outlook Update - Daylight Savings Time!

Did you know that the start & stop dates for Daylight Savings Time are changing beginning this year? I had forgotten myself!

DST begins March 11 this year and if you're using Microsoft Outlook, you need to follow the steps below to make sure your calendar doesn't go haywire!

1. Manually run Windows Update and install the optional update labeled KB928388.
- Open Internet Explorer. Go to Tools, Windows Updates, Click the "Custom" button, wait for it to do it's thing, click on "Software-Optional" on the left side of the screen, look for and check the box next to "Update for Windows XP (KB928388)". Click "Install Updates"on the upper left side of the window, then click the "Install Updates" button near the center-top of the window. It may take a few minutes.

2) Then you'll need to download and install the Outlook Time Zone Update Tool available at (if you neglect this step, you'll find all meetings from March 11 through April 1 are off by an hour!)

Here's a link to the Microsoft article for detailed information. It is highly recommended that you read this article.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Business Networking Articles The Networking Gurus

Business Networking Events: How to Know Where to Go

You've heard all the buzz about networking being one of the best ways to grow your business or advance your career and you're ready to give it a try. You know it’s through your relationships with other people that you will make the connections you need to be successful in your career or business.

But how do you find these places to network? What do you need to get ready before you go to a networking event? What's the best way to work the room once you're there? And when it's all over, what kind of follow up should you do?

Don't worry, help is here!

This month's networking tip focuses on how to find places to network. To find networking opportunities, it helps if first you know who you want to meet. Once you know that, it's easy to discover where to go. Start by creating a list of the type of people you want in your network. Ask yourself:
- Who do I want to build relationships with? Customers, clients, colleagues, competitors? People from a specific industry or profession? What interests do these people share? Where do they spend time?

Networking opportunities occur almost every day, practically anywhere and at anytime. You've got your business functions, chamber events, the golf course, association meetings, and leads groups. And that's just the beginning. What about your athletic club, your yoga class, the PTA, the chair lift or an airplane?

You can network at any of these places, and we recommend that you do, however, there are at least five types of groups where you can go to grow your network:
1. Business Networking Groups
2. Leads Groups
3. Professional Associations/Industry Specific Groups
4. Community Service Groups
5. Special Interest Groups

1. Business Networking Groups - A wide variety of groups fall within this category, most of them meeting monthly. These groups are set up for the primary purpose of networking and usually include people from a mix of industries. They may meet at breakfast, lunch, or after work. Some groups have a structured format, while others have an unstructured mix and mingle format. Some require membership and allow guests; others are open to anyone and everyone. If you are shy, you may find that groups with a more structured format work better for you than the informal mixers and receptions.

2. Leads Groups - The primary purpose of a Leads Group is to exchange leads and contacts. These groups tend to meet weekly, usually at breakfast or lunch, and have a very structured format, which can be good if you're shy or new to networking. Leads groups require membership and are "exclusive," meaning that only one member in each category of business can join. Each group will have only one financial advisor, one coach, one massage therapist, one realtor, and so on. There are private Leads Groups and Leads Groups within most Chambers of Commerce.

3. Professional Associations/Industry Specific Groups - These groups are organized around an industry or a profession. While networking happens at these events, their primary purpose is usually educational. These are a great place to meet colleagues or competitors. You could also attend the groups your prospects, clients, or referral partners belong to.

4. Community Service Groups - A large number of public and private organizations exist whose main purpose is providing service to others. There are charitable or fund raising groups, civic, community, political and religious groups, to name a few. These groups allow you to meet like-minded people and to contribute at the same time.

5. Special Interest Groups - These are the fun groups! Another way to meet people is to participate in activities of personal interest to you. Whatever your interest, there's probably a group you can join. You'll find book clubs, chess clubs, and hiking clubs. There are dance classes, yoga classes, volleyball leagues, and more.

Now that you know who you want to meet and what types of groups these people might attend, it's time for you to find some events to go to. Here are five ways for you to begin creating your own list of places to network:

1. The easiest way to find networking events is to ask people. Ask your friends and colleagues if they belong to any groups or attend any networking events and let them know you're interested in going with them.

2. Your local newspaper or business journal will often list business networking events, but more and more these papers are publishing this list online rather than in their printed paper.

3. The Internet is a good place to look for events. Typing “networking events [your city name]” into a search engine will pull up a variety of events.

4. You can also look in the Yellow Pages or directories of associations for the names of associations and professional organizations. Your local library will have copies of these directories.

5. If you live in the Denver area, one of the easiest ways to find a comprehensive listing of business networking events is to subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter, The Networking Gurus News, a monthly listing of all major networking events in the Denver area. You can view it and subscribe online at

To decide which groups to attend, ask yourself some or all of the following questions:
- What kind of people attend?
- How often does the group meet?
- What is the usual structure of the meeting?
- Is there usually a speaker?
- How much time is allotted for actual networking?
- How many people typically attend?
- What is the cost of attending?
- What are the time, place and dates of upcoming meetings?

Once you have gone through this process, you will be set to find groups that are right for you and your networking needs. Enjoy, and happy networking. Be sure to read next month’s tip, which will tell you how to prepare for an event before you go.

This article, copyright Donna Feldman & Cindy Rold, The Networking Gurus. All rights reserved. The Networking Gurus web site is a comprehensive resource of business networking events, skills and information for busy business professionals. For free networking resources visit

Thursday, January 18, 2007

VA Virtual Summit downloads!

Are you a Virtual Professional? Did you miss the IVAA Virtual Educational Summit last week?

Never fear - the downloads are here! :)

We are excited to announce that all session recordings from last week's online Educational Summit are available for purchase for the next 30 days. For only $45, you can download 21 sessions covering topics including marketing, collaboration tools, Sharepoint, technology, subcontracting, VA training, and much more!

Go to to pay, after which you will receive a link to the download site.

Each session includes video as well as audio. Please note that in order to view the video files, you will need ActiveX controls enabled in your web browser during viewing.

Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to learn from experts in our field!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Before You Buy Software on eBay

I've found many great deals on Ebay - even on much needed software. Most of the time I get what's advertised. Once in a while I get pirated software. Before you buy,check out these important tips from Digital Inspiration!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

7 Strategies for Choosing an Effective Domain Name by Online Business Coach Donna Gunter

A great article from Donna Gunter...
~ Cindy
A friend of mine calls me the "Domain Queen", since at one time I owned around 50 domains. I've let many of them go (I own only 22 now) as my business has changed and developed, or I've just simply lost interest in the project. I'm often asked how I go about picking effective domain names, so as the "Domain Queen", I'll share my thought process with you.

1. What's the purpose of the domain name? Are you planning on using this name as the main website for your company, as a one page sales letter site, or squeeze page site? If the domain name will be your primary company website, try and find the closest version to your company name that you can. If you're just starting out, choose your business name and domain name with care. When I started my virtual assistant practice, I chose the name SOHO Business Solutions, as I thought everyone knew that SOHO stood for Small Office, Home Office. I think I've run into 2 people in my 7 years in business who knew what that acronym stood for. If I had it to do over again for this business, I would choose a business name and domain name with virtual assistant in the title, like, a name I just recently purchased.

If the purpose of a domain is for a one-page sales letter site or a squeeze page, think ahead as to how you might promote this site. Because content is king in today's internet marketing world, there's little chance that either of these types of sites would be picked up by the search engines on key words. Therefore, your best promotion strategy is PPC, or "pay per click", where you're buying keywords for placement in search engines. If you're buying keywords from Google, for example, the paid listings appear at the top of a search in a blue box, or down the right-hand side of your screen. You want to be sure that the info displayed there is compelling enough to get someone to click and visit your site. So, for example, I've created a squeeze page,, which has a compelling solution to a common problem that my clients have, as a side door gateway to my coaching website.

2. Brainstorm a list of ideas of the problem you're trying to solve or the solution that you have. A domain name that clearly indicates what you do, or a problem that you solve, or a solution that you have to a problem will give a visitor a fairly clear picture of what s/he'll find on your website. What I typically do is go to my domain registrar,, and just start plugging in the names I'm brainstorming until I come up with 3 or 4 that are available. If the domain name that you type in isn't available, the service will come up with 10 or so alternates for you to consider. I found this alternate listing quite helpful recently in picking the name of an article directory site that I want to create.

3. For SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes, it helps to have your keywords in your domain name. Marla Regan, who's a professional organizer, has put two keywords in her domain name, Retirement Coach Lin Schreiber has her keyword niche in her domain, Consultant John Reddish has the desired outcome keywords in his domain, I own a domain that I haven't yet developed for house sitters, Before buying your domain, make a list of keywords that someone might use to find you online. This list could include your industry, your target market or niche, a problem your target market has, or a solution that you can offer.

4. Shorter is better, if it's to be your primary domain. I haven't always followed my own rules here, as I tend to have business names that are quite lengthy. If the domain name is going to be your primary domain where your primary email address will be housed, you want your domain name to be as short, catchy, and memorable as possible. After a few times of spelling out your lengthy email address, you'll come to appreciate the beauty of a short domain name. Your domain name can contain up to 67 letters and numbers, although I would encourage you not to have one of this length, and can contain no special characters other than hyphens.

5. Purchase your your given name as a domain name. I typically tell my clients not to try and brand their given name as their business name, as that takes many years, much money, and lots of hard work to have the name recognition of Oprah, for example. However, it still pays to purchase your given name as a domain name, as well as any common misspellings of your name. Many people think my name is Donna Gunther, with an "h" in the last name, but I've been unable to register that common misspelling of my name, as a photographer in Venice, CA, has owned in since 2000. Once you've purchased your name as a domain, you can redirect it to your primary website. This means that when someone types in a domain, they land at the website to which you pointed that domain. So, currently redirects to because I don't want to use my name as a website, although that might change in the future.

6. Buy the .COM version of the name if it is available. When people hear a domain name, they "hear" .COM whether it's .NET or .BIZ or .ORG or whatever. So, it pays to find a domain name that you like that is part of the .COM family. If you just can't get the name you want, try a hyphenated version of the .COM name. For example, when I was seeking a domain name for my Self-Employment Coaching Gym, I really wanted, but it wasn't available. However, was available, so I grabbed that. Many SEO specialists state that search engines like hyphenated names, and many online business owners use hyphenated keywords in their domain names to be more attractive to search engines. I don't have a clear answer as to the validity of this theory, so I just advocate going this route before having to resort to the .NET or .BIZ of the name you desire. Some domain name holders may be willing to sell you the domain name that you want. You can find out who owns a domain name by checking the WhoIs Registry at Internic, For info about country codes (two-letter) top-level domains (.UK or .CA, for example) visit

7. Consider owning other versions of your primary domain name. If you are registering the .COM version of a domain for your business, you may also want to secure variations of the name, alternate spellings, common misspellings, and the .NET and .ORG versions of your domain and repoint them to your main site to keep them out of the hands of your competitors. You can also go broke very quickly by purchasing all of these variations, so exercise some restraint in your purchases and don't go crazy with purchasing every single variation of your domain name. For my coaching company site, I own both the and and decided that was good enough.

Your domain name is the beginning of the establishment of your presence online, Take some time and put some thought into the process so that the domain name serves you well in the years to come, and is an effective tool for helping you get more clients online.

(c) 2007 Donna Gunter

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Business Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at Read about running an online biz at our blog,

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bet your car!

As an admitted procrastinator who works well on a deadline, I found this week's article by Robert Middleton speaking directly to me!
~ Cindy

Bet Your Car

Last week I talked about your intentions for the New Year. But now that it's here, what are you actually going to do?

In my Marketing Action Groups, a participant would often set a goal to perform a marketing activity such as writing an article or setting up a speaking engagement. And frequently they would get stuck or go off track.

When this happened I often used my "bet your car" strategy:

"You've said you'd do this for several weeks and you haven't. I realize you're stuck. But I also know you know what to do. So I'd like to make a bet with you. I'd like you to bet your car that you'll get this done this week. Are you willing to bet your car?"

"You mean, if I didn't get it done, you'd get my car?" (Realize that a dozen or more other participants were listening in on the conference call at the time.)

"Yes. I'd get your car. Are you up to it?"

"Well, yeah, I guess I am. I'll do it. I'll bet my car that it will get done!" This was followed by loud cheers from the group on the call.

And guess what? It always got done. Usually with a lot less effort than they had expected.

The lesson is simple: When you make a promise with real consequences, something changes. Reality sets in. The mind's homing mechanism goes into action. Since there's no way they're going to give away their car, they find a way to get it done.

The thing is, you can't keep betting your car. (What if you actually lost it?!) This is a useful wake up call. But it's easy to slip back into the comfort zone of doing only what's necessary to get by. Before you know it, you're stuck and off track again.

So how do you get unstuck and stay on track?

There are some very practical and powerful ways to do this. Here are some that have worked for me and my program participants.

Action or Consequences
This is just a variation on the theme of betting your car, except the bet is smaller and it's for real. If you don't take the action, you pay the consequence. One of my favorite is paying $25 to a political party you don't like if you don't take the action.

Make a Public Promise
Declare that you will be doing a particular marketing action by a definite date. Make it public to a group of your peers (such as in a mastermind group.) And ask them to hold you accountable. Don't let each other off the hook. Be ruthlessly supportive.

Write it Down
Intentions that get written down have a much higher chance of getting completed. Put the goal on your master projects list; create a detailed action plan; put specific action steps on your daily to-do list. Keep them on the list until done.

Put it on the Calendar
If you want to do speaking engagements or teleclasses, book them first, then promote, then develop the program. Most do it in reverse, perfecting the program before committing to a date. This can lead to procrastination through perfectionism.

Get Support
Sometimes it's not just a matter of doing it, it's a question of how to do it. You may need input, brainstorming, guidance or consulting before you're ready to commit to getting it done. But my recommendation is to commit first, then get support.

Question your Thoughts
Once you commit to something, your resistance just may kick in.
And you'll find a way to talk yourself out of it. Thoughts that say, "I can't do it, I can't find the time, and I'll only be rejected anyway," are worth close examination. Don't believe everything you think! Be your commitments, not your thoughts.

Create a Bigger Vision
This may be the most effective of all. I've noticed that clients who have a burning desire to create a successful business don't get easily stopped by challenging marketing activities. They just find a way. Think big and your enthusiasm will carry the day.

The More Clients Bottom Line - It's often less important what marketing activities you do than it is finding a way to carry them through to completion. Master this and you'll be unstoppable.

© 2006 Robert Middleton, All rights reserved.
By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert's web site at for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.