Archive for October, 2008

WSJ article: How twitter is used for business

Continuing my theme on Social Media and why mom entrepreneurs should take advantage of its offerings, I just read a great article in the Wall Street Journal about twitter. Here’s the link:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122461906719455335.html.

Are you using twitter? If so, how do you use it? How much time do you spend daily using twitter or your other favorite social networking platforms? What are the pros and cons of using such a service for promoting your business?

And of course, please feel free to follow me. I’m @mombizcoach or http://www.twitter.com/mombizcoach.

Why Social Marketing is Critical for Mom Entrepreneur Businesses–Part 1

Those of you who have spent any time around me, or on the phone with me, or reading my blog have heard me get a little preachy when it comes to Social Media and its marketing capabilities. Especially now, when the economy is giving us “the gift” of more time to plan, organize and market our businesses, I’d like to help you get some great exposure for the hard work that you do. For FREE!

Lately, I’ve been busy. Yahoo! In the last week, I’ve been invited to give a workshop to a parenting group in Ontario, I’ve been interviewed for a mini-documentary about my Mom Biz Coach business for a London, ON radio station, and I’ve been asked to contribute an article I’ve written and to consider collaborating with a phenomenal group of women coaches. In fact, I’m thrilled to have just received another invitation to be interviewed by a talk show hostess this morning.

How did all this happen?

I didn’t cold call anyone. I didn’t take out a large print ad in the local magazines and newspapers. I didn’t pay for specialized SEO for my websites. I didn’t pay for a booth at a networking event. I didn’t send out a press release to anyone. In fact, I didn’t pay for anything and I was probably wearing my pajamas in the comfort of my own home when my marketing was working for me. And rather than “pushing” my marketing message out to the world, I’m “attracting” an audience who is interested in what I do.

So what is Social Media? The easiest way for me to think about it is to compare it to a Chamber of Commerce or a small business networking group (like BNI). All of us entrepreneurs know that marketing is important, but we seldom choose to allocate large portions of our budget to it. Instead, we often choose the “free” marketing route of appearing at various business networking events, introducing ourselves to other small business owners, exchanging business cards, and giving and asking for referrals.

I did this for the first two or three years of my business. But then, when I moved across the border to Windsor, and had no babysitters for these morning Chamber/BNI meetings, I started seeing just how much these “free marketing” opportunities were costing me in time and headaches. As a mom of three kids aged six and under, attending a weekly 7am coffee at the local chapter of BNI simply doesn’t work. So how can we mom business owners effectively network, give and get referrals, and in general get the world “buzzing” about our businesses?

Enter Social Media! You may also have heard some other terms associated with it, like Social Networking, Social Marketing, Viral Marketing, etc.

Here’s the skinny:

Social Media is a fast, professional, easy and effective way to market your business. And in my own humble opinion, it beats using the traditional methods (print ads, radio ads, tv ads, booths at tradeshows, etc.) since it is 1) free and 2) working for you when you’re not even awake!

Some examples of Social Media I’m using are LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter and my wordpress.com blog. There are countless others out there, but I’m going to focus on the ones I use. Each of these sites allows me to set up an account for free. I create a profile of my business (including my bio/resume sometimes, or my background and interests, or my expertise on a certain topic), upload a professional photo of myself, and include links to all my other sites (websites, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter accounts).

All of these media allow me to build my online network by making connections (LinkedIn), inviting more friends (Facebook), increasing my followers and the people I follow (twitter), and offering an RSS/subscription service (blogs). Just as you would build your professional network via business card exchanges, referrals, attending networking events, etc., you build your community of people you are interested in and who are interested in you. Unlike traditional networking and marketing, you don’t have to hire a babysitter, dry clean your suit, and spend time commuting to and from your home or office. In fact, I do most of my social networking just two or three minutes at a time with at least one child on my lap.

As a coach, I’m in the services business. I don’t have a product (other than myself) to sell (yet!). My intention when I market my business is to get people to know, like and trust me. People like to buy from people they know, like and trust. Of course, you can use Social Media platforms to socialize with friends and family, but the reason I use it for business is because I find the online business community to be extremely approachable. I am able to introduce myself and be introduced to others by typing a quick message like, “Hi! I love your work. Look forward to learning from you!”

In very little time, I usually get a message back. There: a virtual handshake that’s informal, yet powerful. And if this new contact is interested in learning more about me, s/he can do so via my profile, which in turn links them to my websites, blogs and other Social Media platforms. After reading about me in these platforms, a potential client is pre-qualified to do business with me since I explain how I work, what I offer and what I charge on my website. So you see, I can end up with a pre-qualified sales lead as a result of typing 11 words and hitting send. How easy is that?

And it can be even easier. Since most Social Networking platforms (like LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter) allow all of my friends/connections to see who I’m connected to and to read my posts, I often get messages from people who are “friends of my friends” who I never contacted directly. This passing of information continues to spread, like a virus (hence the term “viral marketing”) to all of my friends, then to their friends, and so on. And it travels fast!

So this is where I’ll end my first installation about Social Media and why you should be using it to promote your business. I hope you’ll take a peak at some of the options out there. I’ll go into greater depth about how it works (including some examples) and offer some resources for more information in the next two issues of my ezine. If you have questions, please ask. I’m excited to help you grow your business

I need four more moms for a MasterMind Group!

Hey, MOM!!!

How many times a day do you hear that? LOL!

I was contacted a week or two ago by a woman who is a coach and who is also pregnant with her first child due next Spring. She is looking for some support for herself as a mother and as an entrepreneur, and wants to find a community of women who share her goals and challenges.

Are you interested in collaborating, sharing ideas, and getting feedback on how to grow your business?

Would you like to hear of some unique, free, and effective marketing tools and techniques that require little or no money and very little of your time away from your family?

Are you an entrepreneur who is preparing for maternity leave and want to know you can count on a group of peers for support to keep your business running and yourself sane?

I facilitate these MasterMind Groups and would like to find some others to join. For more info on how these groups work, please read below (excerpted from my website: www.mombizcoach.com).

Mastermind Groups for Mom Entrepreneurs

A Mastermind Group is a community of your peers, your colleagues or your employees who want the accountability, support, and shared wisdom that comes from going through a certain experience together.

Do you know of other moms who want to start a business or who have been self-employed for a while and who could really use a space to share their goals and concerns? A Mastermind Group provides just that.

The Mastermind Group meets once a month by phone at a regular time and date. The fee is $50/month for a 90 minute session.

Mastermind Groups are different from other coaching services in that  the group provides the knowledge, support and expertise the members need. As the coach, I act as the facilitator of the calls, supporting the group’s agenda. If I have something to add to the discussion, I will, but my role will be less as coach and more as active support.

Please forward this on to other moms you know who need some support for their business and their family! I’d like to start the calls by the end of October.

You can email me directly for questions: lara@mombizcoach.com

Thanks!

Are you the parent you always wanted to be?

I’m gathering some information for an upcoming speaking engagement. I’m interested in learning how you feel about yourself as a parent. Right now, are you the parent you always wanted to be? If so, what wisdom or advice can you share with other parents? If not, what do you feel is keeping you from being your version of the “ideal” parent?

Please share your successes and struggles. What keeps you up at night? What do you most wish you could do/be for your children? What did you finally realize that made you satisfied with yourself?

All comments welcome!

Entrepreneurs: There’s hope for sales this holiday season

Many mompreneurs, wahms, retail store owners and direct sales representatives are fretting like the rest of the nation, wondering how to survive with the current economic chaos. There’s so much bad news out there right now to keep us up at night.

How about some good news?

Read on!

——-

Direct sellers strike balance, maybe gold
Jewelry firm says sales are holding their own, even in tough economy

By Ann Meyer | Special to the Chicago Tribune
September 29, 2008

Raking in more than six figures her first year in business, Jennifer Samuels isn’t your typical kitchen table entrepreneur. But then neither is her mother.

Lemont’s Samuels, who is the sole provider for her family of five, and mother Debbie Rotkvich, a 17-year veteran direct seller from Burr Ridge who netted more than $3 million last year, are star producers for Lia Sophia, a direct sales jewelry business based in Wood Dale. The two are among 27,000 independent sales representatives who collectively sell more than $100 million of the fashion jewelry at house parties each year.

“Our family is supported by Lia Sophia,” said Samuels, whose husband stays home with their children while she and her sales team of 600 associates sell $700,000 a month in jewelry. “The bulk of the money comes from other sales reps I’ve brought in,” said Samuels, who earns commission from team sales.

Samuels is continuing to expand through recruitment of motivated women who like the idea of being their own boss. “A lot of women now need to find jobs but they don’t want to have to put their kids in day care,” she said.

Those who succeed in direct selling tend to be highly motivated self-starters with enough savings to see them through the early months until their businesses get going.

The Washington, D.C.-based Direct Selling Association reported direct sales as a whole declined 4 percent, to $30.8 billion, in 2007. Lia Sophia announced its business grew 55 percent in 2007.

Samuels’ sales have doubled every year since 2004, but they won’t increase that much this year, she said. “This is the first year I’ve seen it kind of stay the same.”

Rotkvich’s sales team of about 8,000 achieved $9 million in sales in August, holding its own from a year ago. Even in a down year, Samuels and Rotkvich are unusual. The median income of direct sellers is $2,400 a year, because nine of 10 sales reps work part time, said Amy Robinson, a Direct Selling Association vice president.

Lia Sophia offers startup kits for $149, but most sellers invest more to have a broader range of jewelry. The firm has been growing rapidly since 2004, when owners Tory and Elena Kiam rebranded the business to convey a more feminine, fashionable image, said Tory Kiam, president and son of the late Victor Kiam, who acquired the business in 1986. The company redesigned the jewelry, launched a Red Carpet line aimed at celebrities to generate buzz, and invested in capital improvements.

Samuels and other advisers earn up to 40 percent commission on their own sales. The firm also pays advisers 10 percent of their recruits’ sales once at least three recruits bring in $1,500 a month.

It’s not just Lia Sophia reps succeeding in a tough economy. Jeannine Marran, who is an independent sales rep for Silpada silver jewelry, rang up more sales this September than any September in the previous three years, she said. Marran, a mother of two, works about 30 hours a week from her Wilmette home and makes more than she did as a full-time social worker. She earned $825 at her last show, which sold about $2,800 in jewelry.

Marran also has recruited 12 sales reps. Silpada pays Marran between 4 percent and 12 percent commission on their sales. “When I started, I had never been to a meeting and had no training. I figured it all out on my own.”

Rotkvich, who grew up in public housing on the South Side, also made her own success. “This is not a get-rich-quick, overnight scheme,” she said. “But if you follow the program, it works.”


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