WORDS TO BUILD BUSINESS BY

Tips for Starting and Growing Business

Starting a Business? Reach Out

Published on June 14, 2014 by Eric Weld

I learned a very important lesson early in my business-building experience. It’s so important and such an essential lesson that I have placed it among the small list of business mantras I repeat at least once a day.

Every time I reach out something good comes of it.

reachoutblogI write it down and repeat it daily because if I don’t remind myself of the importance and effectiveness of reaching out, I may tend to forget how valuable it is. The fact is, for some people, outreach to others is easy and fun. I envy that ease some people have with schmoozing and building relationships. For me, and many others, the prospect of approaching someone you don’t know and striking up a conversation out of the blue can be scary.

But believe me when I say, it is well worth it. What I have learned over time is that reaching out to others can be difficult to initiate, but enjoyable once it begins, and easier the more you do it.

Reaching out and letting people know you’re here and you are launching and running this business, and you can help them in such-and-such a way, is one of the most important early steps.

Its importance goes beyond just informing people of your business. It also provides a reflexive mental boost. It solidifies your status, in your own perception, as a business person. Once you’ve stated, out loud to another person, your availability to serve them or provide a product that they might need, it becomes real for you. And the more that person shares the news, and the wider your original statement spreads, the more actual your side business becomes, both in existence and in your self-attitude.

So tell people about your side business, proudly and loudly. Even if you’re in the run-up stage, tell people about your soon-to-open business, get the word circulating, receive some feedback, have a conversation.

Here’s How

Something else I’ve learned about reaching out is this: people are interested in business, and fascinated by entrepreneurs. While I believe anybody can launch and run a side business, most people who would like to won’t even try it (that’s a good thing, it cuts down on your competition!). It involves a little risk, some serious intention, commitment, sociability, perseverance, and know-how about your product or service.

Entrepreneurism can be very rewarding, and a lot of fun, but it’s not necessarily easy. Most people would rather punch a time clock than initiate their own business. So they’re intrigued by those of us who do have the chutzpah to step out and make our own business. And they want to talk about it.

Try this: next time you’re having a casual conversation—with a receptionist at the dentist’s office, or the check-out person at a retail store, your server at a restaurant, at the post office, at a party, or wherever—mention that you are starting a business, and see what happens. I would put money on the next sentence that comes out of the other person’s mouth: “What kind of business?” or “Interesting, tell me about your business” or something to that effect.

Then you’re on. Time for your elevator pitch.

The same applies to other forms of communication: email, telephone, texting, letter-writing (does anyone do that anymore?), Facebook, LinkedIn and other online options.

In addition to casual mentions of your business, you should plan early intentional communications as well. Compile a list of all your business contacts, friends and family members who you think would be interested in your side business, for whatever reason, even if it’s just because they love you and are interested in your activities.

Prepare an email note, in a conversational tone (in your voice) detailing your business, what it’s called, what it offers or will offer, ways you or your product may be of service, and—most importantly—how they can get in touch with you, including an invitation to respond to the email with feedback, thoughts, comments or advice.

You will likely be surprised by the positive response. I know I was. My first outreach resulted in more business than I could handle, and my first company was up and running. I’ve since employed many other marketing methods, but word-of-mouth continues to be where a good percentage of my business comes from.

Losing Your Balance

Published on June 1, 2014 by Eric Weld

This week, I forgot all about balance. It completely slipped my mind, the absolute importance of maintaining a blend of activities in order to remain enthused, passionate and energetic.

Whenever that happens, everything suffers. My work becomes less impassioned. My mental and physical energy atrophy. I become less outgoing and open.

balancefbDoes this ever happen to you?

Balance means different things for different people, of course. For me, balance generally means spending time on 6 Key Ingredients for Fulfillment—distinct activities and pastimes that provide contentment and satisfaction—either every day or at least several times a week.

My 6 Key Ingredients for Fulfillment are:

  1. Work. Spending several hours on my businesses six days a week (this one is perhaps the easiest to maintain because it’s directly tied to getting paid, so it has its own supply of exigency. However, it’s equally important, for balance, to avoid working too much as it is working too little)
  2. Family Time. Spending time with my 2 teenagers, as well as my mother and siblings
  3. Physical Fitness. I’m a runner, but increasingly I work in other forms of physical activity, like biking, swimming and hiking
  4. Creativity. Most often, this means playing classical or jazz piano, but sometimes I might pick up the guitar, sing or write a piece of fiction
  5. Social Life. Hanging out with friends at least a couple times a week
  6. Rest and Relaxation. Last but NOT least. I am a strong advocate of the importance of relaxing and recharging, and getting enough sleep.

Some people have more than 6 Key Ingredients, some fewer (if you can get by with it, I recommend fewer!). Some are not even aware of the Key Ingredients that provide their fulfillment.

Take a minute and think about your own Key Ingredients for Fulfillment. What regular aspects or activities in your life provide you with satisfaction and contentment? It helps immeasurably to be aware of what you need to do to maintain balance.

It’s a challenge for me to fit in my 6 activities as often as I’d prefer, especially amid all the other forces and unexpected occurrences that occupy one’s time.

The weather can disrupt physical workouts. Take a vacation and the creative outlet might slide. As teenagers my kids have their own lives, so I don’t see them as much as I’d like.

Because of that challenge, sometimes I fail—the balance is thrown off, and I forget about its importance. Usually it starts with a couple days of skipping the workout. With my energy down, I decide not to play any music. Closing down, I opt not to go out with friends. After a few days, my work becomes less impassioned. With that, the frustration level builds, which only exacerbates the lack of balance, and the cycle regenerates into an unsustainable morass of confusion and stress.

This is where your list of Key Ingredients for Fulfillment comes in. To get back on track, pick one of those activities and force yourself to do it, as soon as possible.

For me, a good run will usually get me back on track. Then the ideas begin to flow again. The creativity cranks up. My energy level rises, and my appetite for social activity picks up. My work returns to the source of enjoyment I expect it to be.

Balance is tricky, whether it’s maintaining equilibrium atop a tight rope, or keeping your mental and physical energy in sync. It takes intention, vigilance, and awareness of what healthy balance means to you.

What do you need to do to stay in balance?

Seven Steps to Heaven

Published on May 19, 2014 by Eric Weld

OR, The Miles Davis Approach to Business

As a longtime jazz pianist, and former trumpet player, I’m a devout Miles Davis fan. Miles was one of the most innovative, creative musicians of all time, and belongs among the Mozarts and Stravinskys in music history annals.

stepstoheavenIn the early 1960s, Miles was in his stride, cranking out classic album after classic album and jazz standard after standard. One of his greatest compositions is a tune called Seven Steps to Heaven, from his 1963 album of the same title. If you don’t know it, check out a recording on YouTube. It has Miles’ exquisite simplicity combined with his subtle whimsy, alluring melody and driving rhythm. Coupled with the improvisation of Miles and band members George Coleman on tenor sax and Herbie Hancock on piano, plus the powerhouse rhythm section of Tony Williams, drums, and Ron Carter, bass, the tune is one of his all-time greats.

Okay, now that I got my homage to Miles Davis out of the way, the real reason I bring up Miles and Seven Steps to Heaven is to point out that I use his tune as an analogy in setting goals—in business and personally.

MilesDavis

I don’t know if he meant it this way, but Seven Steps to Heaven is a perfect concept for goal-setting. Of course, any big (or medium-sized) goal has to be approached in steps. That is, you have to establish footholds along the way toward the ultimate finish line. That applies whether you’re climbing a rock face, running a marathon, writing a novel or building a business.

Every goal consists of multiple smaller goals. But how do you go about breaking it down into manageable chunks? That’s where Miles’ song comes in: In seven steps, with Heaven standing for the ultimate goal, the completion, the fruition, the finish line, publication, the peak, success.

For this analogy to work, it doesn’t matter what you call the end line, nor even if you believe in an actual heaven. It’s just a concept. History is riddled with similar adages:

  • The longest journey begins with a single step.
  • Or one I used to tell my kids: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Still, I prefer Miles, just because he’s Miles and has made such an impression on so many people, me included. So for the sake of illustration, and in honor of Miles, here are my Seven Steps to Heaven.

  1. A First Long Look. Whatever big goal you have in mind to pursue, take a moment before you begin and step back to take it all in. Close your eyes and picture the project in its entirety. Be aware of the big, final achievement while taking in the path to get there. Don’t worry about how you will get there in this step. Just take it all in.
  2. Set an Ultimate Deadline. This is important. Decide when you want to reach that ultimate goal. Mark it on the calendar. Picture the moment. Add in details: what will the weather be like then? How will your life change for the better?
  3. Set a Timeline with Smaller Goals. Break down the larger goal into bite-size chunks, scheduled out regularly along a timeline toward the ultimate deadline. If your large goal is to run a marathon, you’ll want to set smaller goals along the way, like running 8 miles, then 12, then 15, etc. If you’re building a business, you might designate the income you want to achieve as the ultimate goal, then break it down into smaller monthly revenues in order to reach the big goal.
  4. Apply Short Deadlines. For each of those smaller goals, or footholds, give it a deadline. If your Heaven is one year away, for example, break down the smaller footholds into monthly intervals, or even weekly deadlines, so that you are regularly achieving victories. Be sure to mark these shorter deadlines on the calendar as well. You might even obtain a separate calendar just for this project.
  5. Reward Yourself Along the Way. Every time you meet a small goal, be sure to acknowledge that achievement in some small way. Perhaps it’s a day off of running. Or a nice glass of wine every time you finish another chapter in your novel. Small rewards are a way of incentivizing achievement of the next goal. In the back of your mind, your brain knows there will be a payoff.
  6. Step Back for a Broad View Occasionally. All along the way of achieving your large goal, you’ll want to repeat Step 1 on occasion: taking it all in, assessing how far you’ve come, and readjusting goals as necessary. Look, we all know, life doesn’t always go the way we chart it out. Be realistic. When things come up that disrupt your momentum, deal with them, then get back on the path toward your goal. And rather than kill yourself to get back on the timeline, simply move back the goals slightly, in accordance with the disruption. The important thing is not to cause stress and create a situation for failure; but rather to stay on the path toward your goal, and to stay positively moving forward.
  7. Celebrate! You’ve completed a marathon! Or wrote your novel! Or built your business into a self-sustaining entity, helping others and generating a solid income for yourself! Time to celebrate. When you reach your ultimate goal, be sure to set aside a day or an evening (or a vacation!) and pat yourself on the back. Surround yourself with friends and loved ones and let them know you have done what you set out to do. Enjoy. You deserve it.

And don’t forget to accompany your celebration with Seven Steps to Heaven. In memory of Miles.

How Much Does It Cost?

Published on May 5, 2014 by Eric Weld

Surprising Realities of Today’s Business Start-up Costs

Money? It takes money to start a business?

The answer might surprise you. Because it’s not a definite “yes.”

moneyblogOh, you can spend money, of course. You can spend a lot of money starting your business. You can also launch a business on very little money. But the surprising truth is, you can launch a business with next to no money at all.

That is not a typo. With today’s technology and marketing structure, it is possible to build and launch a small business without spending a single dime.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the components necessary for starting a small business, and their costs (or not):

1.  Business cards

No matter what type or size of business you’re launching, you will need business cards. Those little cards provide way more benefit than their minimal heft. Not only are they a necessary piece for handing out broadly, thus starting the all-important word-of-mouth stream (a topic for another blog); business cards also give you instant credibility as a business owner, and provide you with a sense of confidence and legitimacy. Business cards don’t have to cost a nickel. You can design and print them yourself, and there are several online businesses that offer free templates.

2.  Municipal (and state) registration

Is it absolutely necessary to register your business name with your local and/or state government? No. And if you do, it may carry an unavoidable fee (of between $50 and $150), depending on where your business is based. It’s a good idea to register your business, though, to provide a basis for:

  • tax purposes, if you plan to deduct expenses (which you should)
  • name protection
  • business loans or grants

But that’s only a recommendation, not a must.

3.  Website

Is a website an absolute must to start a business? Again, no. But if you plan to conduct any marketing beyond word-of-mouth, a website is strongly recommended. That said, there are, again, many businesses online through which you can build a website for zero cost, using their templates. At the same time, I’ve known entrepreneurs who have launched businesses strictly using (free) social media sites for all their marketing.

It Depends

So, the answer to this article’s headline? It depends. On you, the business owner; on the nature of your product or service (for example, if you need ingredients to build up a small inventory, or equipment and supplies); on your target market; and on how fast you want to grow.

But if you have a great business idea, and have been putting off starting because you think it costs too much to start a business, strike that notion from your thinking. Spending a lot of money to start a business today is an option, not a necessity. With today’s wonderful and myriad zero cost services available on the Internet, it’s possible to launch a business without spending any money at all.

Interested in learning more? Contact me directly, or comment below.

Don’t Forget to Wear Your Glasses

Published on April 29, 2013 by Eric Weld

Help Your Readers Get the Message with Clear, Focused Copy

I don’t like wearing my glasses. I’m not required to wear them all the time, only if I want to see things sharply in the distance. It’s not that they’re uncomfortable; modern frames are so light and balanced, it’s easy to forget they’re perched on your nose. Still, I don’t wear them sometimes when I should.

glassesThe problem is, if I go to a movie, play, concert or sporting event, say, and I don’t wear my glasses, the images on stage or screen or field/court are not clear. They’re blurry, fuzzy and unfocused. It significantly hampers my enjoyment of the entertainment and action.

It’s the same effect as reading copy that is unclear and unfocused. It feels sloppy, it reads blurry, the message is fuzzy, and the words’ lack of clarity becomes a distraction. The message becomes undecipherable and readers will quickly give up and move on.

If you created a visual masterpiece and put it on public display for others to enjoy, would you want people looking at it and experiencing it without their best eyesight? Wouldn’t you hope they’d put their glasses on?

Well, your masterpiece is your web site. That is the place where most people will first meet you, make their first impressions and decide whether to continue the relationship.

Without a clear message in the written copy on your web site, it’s like your visitors are wearing the wrong prescription lenses. Most likely, they won’t stick around.

How do you produce a sharp, focused message? And how do you make sure your message is coming through clearly?

These are big questions, and one answer is to hire a professional (like Weld Communications) to make absolutely certain that your copy is strong, engaging and focused.

For those in business who produce their own copy—either on their web sites or for other business materials—there are a few points to keep in mind while writing:

  1. Get to the point quickly. Modern attention spans are short. Thirty years ago, we had an average of 30 seconds to capture a reader or prospect. In today’s online world, it’s 4 to 6 seconds. So make your point fast.
  2. Use short sentences. Ideally, readable copy varies in sentence length. You can create rhythm by inserting a short sentence amid a couple long sentences. Like this one. Keeping it varied helps keep readers engaged. That said, short sentences, especially in marketing copy, are more reader-friendly. Between 15 and 25 words is optimal, with some 4 to 10-word sentences thrown in. Never should a sentence contain more than 35 words. It’s too much information for the brain to assimilate. Also, break up your sentences with punctuation—like em-dashes, semi-colons and commas.
  3. Use a conversational tone. This is important, and it’s a common breach in web site copy. No industry jargon, unless you are expecting and catering only to industry insiders. Keep your marketing copy light, as close to casual speaking style as possible. Pretend you’re talking to a particular person, at a party or networking event. How would you say to them what you’re trying to write?
  4. Know who you’re talking to. Okay, it’s more grammatically correct to say, Know to whom you are talking.  But that’s exactly my point above. Using conversational language sometimes might mean being a little grammatically iffy, or at least informal. Don’t let that scare you. Think of your ideal prospect—give the person a name, gender, age, job and physical characteristics—and speak to that person directly. No condescension. No stuffiness.
  5. Say what you want people to do. This is another very common mistake in marketing and web site copy. You could create the most beautiful marketing copy ever written, but if you don’t tell people what you want them to do—like “Click here for more information,” “Sign up for our monthly newsletter” or “Buy Now”—it won’t do any work. Make sure your copy includes a Call To Action (CTA); a clear message inviting them to do what you want them to do to begin the business-client relationship.

There are endless layers of rules and tips for clear, concise writing. But keep these five points in mind when producing your marketing copy and you will be well ahead of 90 percent of those writing their own copy.

Just remember, when you’re writing marketing copy, to put your glasses on.

If you found this helpful, please share it with others, and make a comment below. Or check out Weld Communications on Facebook.

To Cold Call or Not to Cold Call

Published on April 22, 2013 by Eric Weld

First in a Two-Part Series

For many small business owners, it’s one of the scariest, most objectionable prospects in business: cold calling.

It literally turns some stomachs—the thought of picking up the phone and calling an executive or another business owner and making a pitch. The fear of rejection overwhelms, and telephoneconvulsions of hesitation and trepidation can paralyze the cold caller before he even dials.

So you’ve got to ask: Is cold calling really a necessary aspect of business prospecting?

Not necessarily. It depends on a few factors, such as:

  • What kind of product or service you offer
  • Who and where your target market is
  • Where your strengths lie as a salesperson
  • How much and how fast you want to grow

If you run a side business planning weddings on the weekends and you’re getting all the business you can handle through word-of-mouth and a few well-placed ads, no need to reach out via cold calling. If you have a neighborhood shop for lawnmower repairs and garner more business than you can keep up with by advertising in the local newspaper and via a web site, certainly skip the step of cold calling.

And if your business is selling software, eBooks, seminar or Webinar tickets or any other type of information products, email prospecting might match your outreach needs better than spoken-word conversations.

However, if you are starting a business providing a service, such as cleaning, for homes and businesses in your area, and you want to let people know you’re now available for service, cold calling can be an effective arrow in your marketing quill. Likewise if you’re trying to grow your clientele beyond local geography.

Whether this age-old method is right for you and your business, here is what a lot of people never find out about cold calling: it can be a fun, enjoyable activity, believe it or not, and is certainly educational and instructional.

I, like so many, dreaded launching into my first cold-calling campaign. For days I put off making my first phone call, forestalling visions I had of nasty, abusive business executives castigating me for wasting two minutes of their valuable time, ending with a loud click when they hang up (knowing full well, of course, that phone hang-ups don’t make a clicking sound anymore!).

Finally, I mustered the nerve, gave myself a number of rallying messages: You have nothing to lose; Think of this as practice; Just have a nice conversation.

Here’s what I found out: every one of those messages was true.

On my very first cold call—which was a follow-up to a small direct mailing a week earlier—I reached the owner of a fast-growing business in my area, and had a very pleasant, unhurried conversation about what strategies they’ve employed and ways I think I could help. We set up a time for me to drop by, meet and discuss possible next steps.

Let Off the Pressure

One thing new business owners get caught up in is putting too much pressure on the outcome of cold calling, or any other type of outreach for that matter.

If you boil down the goal to be nothing more than practicing your sales pitch, then you’ve already succeeded within the first 30 seconds of the call. Another goal is to set a time to meet.

In other words, as most seasoned sales professionals will tell you: a cold call is not a sales call. It is a component in the sales chain, yes, but its point is not to close. Rather, the point of a cold call is simply to facilitate the next step—a meeting in which a sales close might take place; a request for more information about your product or service; permission to send detailed information and/or follow up with another phone call.

Above all, and ideally, a cold call is nothing more than a pleasant conversation in which information is exchanged. The cold caller states his business and the callee responds with his or her needs.

Cold calling is one of the oldest sales techniques there is. It’s been around a long time because it works when done well.

Next post, I’ll continue the cold call discussion, focusing on scripted calls: good or bad.

Where Do You Get Your Best Ideas?

Published on April 15, 2013 by Eric Weld

I was talking with a close friend and business owner recently, who told me she was planning to install a water-proof notepad in her shower.

In the shower is where she tends to get her best ideas, she said. The warm water first thing in the morning opens her pores and her mind, like magic. Never fails. She often jumps out of the shower and scurries to her desk to jot down the great ideas she came up with. But with a water-proof notepad (such as AquaNotes Waterproof Notepad) she could just scribble her ideas without dripping water into her home office. Great idea, I thought.

trailIt started me thinking, where do I get my best ideas? I get a few in the shower, too, and I may install that AquaNotes pad, too. But it struck me the other day, while out on a run. When I’m running—especially on a trail where traffic isn’t a distraction—the ideas just begin to flow. They wash into my mind like a
creative flood, so fast that I can’t keep track of them all.

So I’ve decided to start running with a digital recorder. I purchased a second Sony ICD PX-312 Recorder ($59.95) just for the purpose (I already own one, for interviewing, but didn’t want to potentially ruin that one with the jostling and bouncing on a run).

Where do you get your best ideas? It’s important to pay attention to which regular activity in your life stimulates your creativity. When working in the garden, does your mind begin to percolate? While mowing the lawn, do you suddenly begin to brainstorm great possibilities? Is it on your evening walk that good ideas churn in your head?

Almost everyone has some daily activity, or something they do several times a week, on a regular basis, that, for some reason, gets their creative wheels turning. Cleaning dishes, folding laundry, mopping floors, pruning trees, taking a shower or bath, working out at the gym, taking a walk, brushing your teeth…

What is it for you?

Whatever it is, try to find a way to capture those ideas at the moment they’re hatching. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy treatise; just jot down a couple sentences or keywords to trigger development of the idea later.

Without the step of recording your ideas, you will inevitably let at least a few slip away. It’s very difficult to keep more than two or three ideas in your head at a time, until you get somewhere where you can record them later.

When I started carrying my digital recorder on my runs, it was an eye-opener. When I realized just how much valuable material I was able to capture with a (breathless) sentence or two, I was
astounded—and alarmed at how many good ideas I probably lost before taking that step.

Of course, every idea hatched on a run, or in the shower, or wherever, isn’t going to be good, or even viable. But some are. And by recording your creative ideas in the moment, you’ll be sure to capture the good ones and build on them rather than letting opportunities die off with your short-term memory.

And here’s the kicker: when you get in the habit of writing or recording your ideas in real time, it has a positive brain-building effect, and you will become better at remembering your ideas, and encapsulating them.

Gardening, running, hiking, driving or feeding the animals…whatever it is you do on a regular basis that sparks your best creativity, visit that activity as much as you can, and find a way to record what happens inside your head.

Give Them Something for Free

Published on April 8, 2013 by Eric Weld

It’s one of the oldest business concepts there is, and it’s been around for as long as people have been doing business: give a prospective customer something for free, and you will have his or her attention.

Their attention, which you bought with whatever you gave them for free, may not last very long, depending on what the free item or service was. But it at least gives you a chance to move them to the next step—selling them your product or service.

This business practice, of giving something away for free in order to attract prospects’ attention, is nothing new. These days it’s called Inbound Marketing (or sometimes Pull marketing) because its objective is to direct traffic inward, from the prospect to the business.

Get them to come to you, as a business owner, and the potential for sales gets a huge boost. Numerous statistics illustrate the power of Inbound versus Outbound (or Push), in which sales people or other business representatives approach a prospect with a pitch for the product or service.

As I said, Inbound marketing is as old as business itself. This concept has helped build international newspaper and magazine industries, catapulted radio to the top of the media mountain, until television came along and surpassed radio. All these industries give away something for free (or close to it, if you include a subscription fee) in the form of content.

Newspapers, magazines, radio and television thrive on the Inbound Marketing model by providing news and entertainment, for free or very cheaply, so that readers, listeners and watchers will encounter their advertisements.

Now, with the Internet, and mobile networks, Inbound Marketing has become the default strategy for business, and it has leveled the playing field for small businesses, who before couldn’t afford to participate. The costs were prohibitive to create a publication, or a radio or TV station where you could host your inbound content.

Now, all it takes is a web site or a blog. Or an e-newsletter—some type of simple platform for providing Internet readers with helpful content. As you provide content and build an audience of users and fans of your content, a certain percentage may be interested in the products or services you sell.

You’ve given them something for free. Now have their attention. Sell.

Time to Start

Published on April 1, 2013 by Eric Weld

I’m a runner, and I love making analogies between running and business.

As a runner, I’m a believer in stretching, before and after running. But I tend to stretch more before I run (I know, many experts say to stretch after, that stretching before running reduces energy for the run; I’ve tried that and it just feels better to my body to stretch beforehand).

Here’s the thing: on days when I don’t really want to go out there, when it’s particularly cold or windy and I’d rather just relax inside, I tend to stretch a lot more. I tell myself I’m preparing for my run, but I know, at some point during the stretching, it’s become procrastination.

My analogy? New and aspiring business owners and entrepreneurs are wise to prepare well before launching a business venture; to research the market and educate themselves about their product or service so that they can claim some expertise as they start their business.

Let’s call that early prep period the stretching phase. It’s when we’re getting the blood flowing, circulating warmth through the joints and gearing up mentally to take on the calisthenics of running…a business, in this case.

The stretching phase—the education and research—is an essential precursor to a business launch, just as (I believe) it is to a successful run. It can be a lot of fun, too, learning about an industry or a product, or about business and marketing and all the details involved. And in fact, there is so much information out there that you could read and learn and research for an entire lifetime without running out of material. There will always be another corner to peek around.

But at some point, you have to decide to jump in. To close the books and launch in with what you have. To head out the door and run.

Because, here’s the secret: you will learn a hundred times more from real-life experience than you ever will from books and the Internet. Your own experience will always yield many times more valuable insight than reading about the experiences of others.

You can’t build muscles by stretching them. Only the actual run will build muscle.

So, by all means, stretch (your mind), learn all you can, read a few books or eBooks, set aside a little time for trolling the Internet, take lots of notes.

But put a finite time limit on the learning-stretching phase. Whenm it's over, it's time to try something.

It’s time to start.

Please, Don’t Beg

Published on March 21, 2013 by Eric Weld

It may seem obvious, and most business proprietors probably know it’s a bad idea to ask your customers explicitly to give you their business.

Of course, in all our marketing efforts, we are implicitly asking customers to do business with us. But ideally we are inspiring our customers to engage with us, and moving them to buy what we are selling as an equal exchange of goods or services for payment.

And yet, I received an email just last week from a large online retailer with the subject line: “Give Us Another Chance.”

It’s unfortunately not an uncommon device, to harangue customers into responding, or to attempt to play upon their sense of devotion (i.e. “You’ve been doing business with us successfully for three years, so you owe us your loyalty”).

But it’s a mistake, and will most likely drive customers in the opposite direction.

When I received the email titled “Give Us Another Chance,” I had an immediate negative reaction. Why should I? When I offer goods or services, it is incumbent on me to give prospects a reason to do business with me, not any sense of devotion. Why would any customer feel an obligation to give a business anything, other than fair payment for a value delivered?

Out of curiosity, I opened and read the email. “We haven’t seen you in a while,” it said. “We'd love for you to visit again.”

The message went on to offer a 20% coupon for purchase on a single item. Now THAT’s an incentive to do business. Had that been in the subject line I likely would have responded favorably.

Nonetheless, I still felt put off by that opening line, “Give us another chance,” and didn’t click through.

There are thousands of approaches to marketing and getting prospects to respond, and I don’t begrudge any business owner trying different tacks. Some will work better than others.

But save yourself the waste and frustration of “begging for business.” It won’t work, it will harm your brand, and it will most likely cost you customers.

Instead, give them a reason to engage with you. Give them real value, like a discount on goods or services. That will increase your CTR (click-through rate) at a much higher percentage.