The Home-based Business Phenomenon

Present-day American dreams

Present-day American families have the same dreams shared by families a few decades ago; buy a home, provide for the health and welfare of their children, and send those children to college. But the price tag for fulfilling these dreams climbs higher and higher every day, making it much more difficult to achieve the same standard of living that families enjoyed in past decades.

It used to be that a husband went off to work in the morning and the wife stayed home doing household chores and taking care of the kids; but the days of one-income households are long gone and both parents must now go out to work – when they can find it.

However, as the old familiar adage suggests, “necessity is the mother of invention” and accordingly, many enterprising single moms & dads, and even husband & wife teams are finding ways to stay home, and still earn a living via opportunities that are springing up all over the country as a result of the tremendous growth of an industry that makes work at home possible.

The Home-Based Business (HBB) industry has made it possible for anyone with some basic skills, a computer and Internet access to start a business at home. For example, an individual with a background in word processing can create his/her own in-home word processing business.

Getting started

Before you begin your Home-Based Business however, it is important to do your research. Find out what kind of software program will be most suitable for the type of business you intend on doing. You will also want your computer system to be compatible with your clients and customers.

Next, look at the make-up of your industrial area. An arts community, or a thriving business area? By checking out the demographics of your area, you can make a decision regarding the type of advertising you want to use.

In the beginning, you will want to try all sorts of advertising. Neighborhood newspapers are an inexpensive way to advertise, but they usually only published on a weekly basis and that may not be enough to keep the clients rolling in. You can put your name on the bulletin board at your local supermarket and pass out flyers door-to-door in large office buildings or other business complexes.

Although it may be more expensive than neighborhood newspapers, you may want to run an ad in your local daily newspaper (in the business services section). Church bulletins and university newspapers that sell advertising may also be a relatively inexpensive way to go. You should also get your business cards printed up right away; and don’t let a client walk out the door without one or two business cards. Repeat business and word-of-mouth may well be your best advertising tool.

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Whatever methods you choose to employ in your advertising, do yourself a favor and track the responses. Put a check list next to your telephone and whenever a call comes in (whether you get hired or not) ask the prospective client where s/he found out about you. It won’t take long for you to discover where your most cost-effective advertising comes from and when you know that, you can punch it up and drop the ones that aren’t doing anything for you.

Do your homework!

One telephone call will be the only opportunity you have to sell your service. If you hesitate when asked a price for a particular project, you will probably lose the job so do your homework. Call the competition and ask what they are charging. If the competition is out of your immediate geographic area (and you are therefore not a threat to their livelihood), you may want to be straight with them and tell them you are starting a home-based business in their field and ask for their input. You may be surprised to find them willing to help out with important information.

Keep in mind that there are myriad of tasks that need to be undertaken in order to establish the fundamental operations of your new home-based business. Whether you expect to get clients from the Internet or not, it is necessary to set up your business in a manner that will accommodate local clients/customers. So business letter heads, envelopes, forms, business cards, invoices and other paraphernalia will be necessary.

It will also become necessary to establish your pricing policies and have them available upon inquiry. Depending on your business, you could set a basic rate which can be a flat rate or a percentage.

For example…

…Using the business of word processing for a pricing example, a prospective client may call asking what you charge for 4 single-spaced pages. Your answer might be $45.00 per page straight text and then when the client comes, you discover that what s/he has is 4 pages of extremely complicated tables – definitely NOT STRAIGHT TEXT.

By not making firm pricing commitments over the phone, you will have the flexibility to charge a more accurate price when a client brings you something other than what you were expecting.

Elaborating further on the word processing example, to some clients a resume may be a single spaced page, but it takes a lot longer to type than a business letter and you will want to charge more for resumes. You will want to establish an hourly rate for tables, transcription and other more time-consuming jobs.

Always keep in mind that your pricing will change as you become more familiar with what your clients demand, and you may find yourself doing a lot of list maintenance and merge letters, or you may be doing work primarily for doctors, or attorneys; so you need to have a good basis for your pricing… but be flexible.

There are several home-based business models you can choose from, each one giving you the same flexibility to create your own USP (Unique Selling Proposition), as well as your own operational balance sheet. After all, the income & expense aspect of any business is usually an excellent indicator of that business’ prospects for success or failure; and truth be told, no business – new or old – start out with failure as an aspirational milestone. Therefore, it is success to which they aspire and choosing the type of home-based business to launch could make all the difference.

Choice of business types

The two business types that came to mind – based on my own – experiences are: Promotion and Distribution. You can choose to be a promoter or a distributor in addition to all the other choices that are available; but I have provided a glimpse of each vocation with the help of two other publishers whose knowledge of the topics is unquestioned.

According to a What is Promotion? article published to the Slide Player website, “Promotion is any form of communication a business or organization uses to inform, persuade, or remind people about its products and improve its public image. Product Promotion: 1) Explains the major features and benefits of its products (especially in relation to competitors), 2) tells where the products are sold, 3) advertises sales on those products, 4) answers customer questions, and 5) introduces new products…”

…And Distribution is described in the following manner: After a product is fully developed and offered at a competitive price, it must be delivered to an identified target audience. The place element of the marketing mix is where product production and distribution channels are decided and planned. The decisions made in this step directly affect the types of communication that are used to tell the target audience about a product.” This description is provided in the article, What Is the Difference Between Place & Promotion in the Marketing Mix? Written by Tim Burris for the Chron website. And there are so many more!

When Email Marketing Yields Unexpectedly Great Results

The basic concept

Sometimes the benefits of email marketing are quite different than anticipated. Most Web marketers understand the basic concept of email marketing which is to email promotional materials to a large group of Internet users in an effort to promote interest in particular products or services. This concept is easy for many to understand, but we will attempt to describe and, perhaps, elaborate on a few of the more beneficial aspects of email marketing.

In the following paragraphs we discuss the basics of email marketing, but we will also explain how – sometimes – email marketing can encompass much more than originally planned. This additional reach can be either a positive or negative influence depending on the quality of original emails and the reactions of subscriber list recipients.

Simple & cost effective

Email marketing is a very simple concept which can also be extremely cost effective; but the general idea behind email marketing can be narrowed down to this simple characterization: An email is sent to an email subscription (or distribution) list with the single purpose of creating an interest in the products or services being offered by the originator of that email. In theory this concept could not be simpler but email marketing can get significantly more complicated when being implemented.

One of the biggest complicating factors is the potential for emails used in a marketing campaign occur when one or more of those emails are misinterpreted as spam, either recipient of such emails or a spam filter provided by the Internet service provider. This potential alone creates a major complication because Web marketers have to make a significant effort to ensure that their messages are not trapped by a spam filter or immediately deleted by the recipients for appearing to be spam.

After clearing initial hurdle

Once the misinterpretation hurdle is cleared and email messages get through to recipients, they have a small window of opportunity to make a positive impression on those recipients and influence them to make a purchase or at least visit the business owner’s website. One effective method of getting such a result is to provide quality content while keeping advertising subtle and at a minimum while making sure to feature a clear call to action. These are all factors which have been proven to help get the message across and entice potential customers to make a purchase or at least visit a website to get a closer look at those products and services.

As previously stated the goal of an email marketing campaign is to subtlely persuade email recipients to either make a purchase or visit a particular website for more detailed information; and when an email recipient performs either of these actions, it is considered a huge success. However, thanks to the power of a forward button, email marketing can actually be much more successful than even the business owner intended.

Better than word-of-mouth

One of the great aspects of email marketing becomes evident when email recipients receive an email that they think is worthwhile and are likely to make a purchase, but may also forward the same information on to a friend or family member they believe may also be interested in learning more about the particular product or service. This ability to forward email messages can be compared to satisfied customers in the offline world using word of mouth to tout the quality of products or services they have bought and like.

However, the ability to forward a worthwhile email message is exponentially more effective than using word of mouth to spread the word; because with just a few clicks of the mouse the original email recipient can forward any message to several of his/her friends simultaneously. This can result in significantly better results than the business owner had originally expected with no additional effort and time being exerted or money being spent.

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Blend Email With Other Marketing Strategies!

The concept

Whether you choose to do your marketing online or offline one thing does not change: The concept that no single marketing strategy will be as effective as utilizing a blend of two or more marketing strategies. This does not mean that it is necessary to implement every known marketing strategy to promote your business; but rather, it implies that it’s worthwhile to market from a few different perspectives in order to help achieve business-related goals.

In this article we will take a look at the viability, need and practicality of combining email marketing with other types of marketing to create a successful, multi-tiered marketing strategy and in addition, offer a few observations on managing more than one marketing strategy simultaneously in the hopes that they will prove useful to you in your Web marketing efforts.

The adage

There is an old adage which states that, “Two heads are better than one,” and this could certainly be applied to a multi-pronged approach to Web marketing; because although you may enjoy a great deal of success with your current email marketing efforts it does not mean you should refuse to try other types of Web marketing strategies such as, website creation, participation in industry-related message boards, placing banner ads on your website(s), orchestrating an affiliate marketing campaign and generating inbound links to your website.

It is important to keep in mind that, while the possibility exists that not all of these strategies will be effective for your business, the liklihood that at least one other option which complements your email marketing will help you to achieve your business-related goals. But there is only one way to actually test the blend of marketing types, and that is to test each one in a methodical fashion simililar to the kind of “split testing” that proved to be so effective for many marketers a decade or so ago, and is still utilized by marketers to evaluate the effectiveness of their marketing strategies.

The offline factor

Alternately you even wish to combine your email marketing campaign with more traditional marketing strategies such as radio ads, television ads and the print media. Let’s face it, just because these types of advertising do not take place the Web does not mean they will be ineffective in helping you generate more business and profits.

In fact advertising both online and offline can allow you to reach a larger audience to which you can target your advertising. This is especially true in view of the fact that you can reach Web users around the world, but reaching potential customers who do not utilize the Web for purchasing or researching products or services similar to the ones you offer can only be accomplished using offline marketing strategies.

A powerful statement

Popular marketing strategies to combine with email marketing include banner ads and message board participation, but these are all online activities and each one individually is fairly simple. However, in combination these simple activities can create a powerful statement, in the sense that when you send out emails offering useful information about your products or services, while simultaneously purchasing banner ad space on websites with content which may also be of interest to your potential customers, you can earn the respect and pique the interest of potential customers.

Furthermore, let’s say you add a third marketing strategy like participation in industry-related message boards. When done right this could well be a powerful representation of your business, even if your potential customers are not currently in need of the products and services you offer; because seeing your business name so often will most likely have a branding effect that is credible and positive in their minds. And branding, which is essentially a process during which consumers see a company name so often that they are more likely to select a product from this company when they are in need of an item the company offers, will go a long way in boosting your reputation and customer base.

The caveat emptor mindset

Of course you must approach your experiment in blending marketing strategies with a “Caveat Emptor” mindset, because if you are planning to combine multiple forms of advertising, you should be aware that this might involve a degree of difficulty when evaluating the effectiveness of each marketing strategy.

This difficulty is especially true when the marketing strategies are implemented simultaneously. When using only one type of marketing strategy, you can generally attribute increases in sales or website traffic to changes in the marketing strategy. However, when more than one type of marketing strategy is in effect, determining which strategy is producing the most success can be quite difficult.

Methodical work

But remember, this experiment must be done in a careful and methodical manner. Meaning that the best way this situation can be handled is by not making changes to more than one marketing strategy at a time. By doing so you will be able to pinpoint which changes produce an increase in sales or website traffic. The methodical approach can also help you to determine when changes to your marketing strategy have a detrimental effect on your sales and website traffic. However, if you are having difficulty determining which marketing strategy is most effective you can consider asking customers to answer survey questions and provide information as to how they learned about the products or services your business offers.

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