Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Lo or No Cost Solutions to Online Business Set Up That Any Gumby Can Master


MP3 File 40:18mins

The early days of your business are the hardest.  Generally there is a lot of set up cost and little income flowing in.

There are certain critical tools you need at the start of your business but it can all become too daunting and hard.  Then valid but show stopping excuses begin to form as to why you aren't actively promoting your business.

I’m over hearing excuses from people who say they either don't have the money to get started or the computer skills to get online to grow their business.

So I’m giving you “The Lo or No Cost Solutions to Online Business Set Up That Any Gumby Can Master”.

Gumby was a piece of green clay that became a very famous cartoon character back in the 50s but a Gumby also is a tongue in cheek way to describe someone who can't use a computer.  So even if you are a piece of green clay when it comes to computers you will be able to either set these tools up yourself or bride a teenager or 5 year old to do it for you.

Marketing your business is about getting your message to as many people as possible in your target market.  The time to start is always yesterday.  When I speak to people who tell me they are WAITING for business cards or WAITING for a website or WAITING to finish their logo BEFORE they get serious about their business because they don't have any money or don't have IT skills, I want to cry.

  • Firstly because every day they aren't working on their business is another day they won't be getting the opportunity to help someone and 

  • Secondly there are some great free or lo cost products available on the Internet that make it SO easy to set up an Internet presence and they make it really easy to get started.
The truth is you can probably create a full online presence in a weekend using free or lo fee products which are freely available to anyone.  I recommend you start small and build up as opposed to “waiting” for the perfect time to get out and about or online.

Technology can be your friend and I’ve seen people who are complete IT gumbies get these systems set up and working for them within 24 hours.

So lets get over the excuses and get over the seven deadly excuses and get going right now!

#1 Excuse “I don’t have (have run out, the dog ate them, my details have changed blah - blah - blah) any Business Cards”

Excuse Buster:  Vista Print 

Vista Print will give you 250 free business cards with a choice of 42 designs – yes they stamp their branding on it – but don’t let that stop you.  A vista print brand on your card is better than scribbling out your old email address and writing on your cards in Biro which I see many people doing - that's a sin.

If you dont' want the Vista Print branding then there prices are ridiculously cheap, so #1 excuse handled.

Click here for more info on VistaPrint

#2 Excuse “I’m waiting on brochures.....”

Excuse Buster:  Vista Print

Again Vista Print will do a standard basic DL card for next to nix.  Anything else at the start of your practice is a waste of money.  A clear, basic message on the top of a DL card so it jumps out at people whilst sitting in a rack at your local coffee shop is much better than a fancy brochure.

Still can't afford it - then there is still a lot of sales to be made from a flyer that comes off your ink jet printer – there really is not excuse.

Click here for more info on VistaPrint

#3 Excuse “I’m waiting for my cousin/husband/wife/mate from work/teenager to finish my website”

Excuse buster: Blogger

Having a web presence these days is crucial – any presence is better than none.

At base level you can create a great looking site on Blogger for free

I just knocked up an information website this week for a Retreat I’m having in Daylesford http://www.sanctumforthesoul.com/ - I’ve already sold four tickets and to date haven’t invested one single dollar in the event.  By the time it comes to paying venue deposits I will already have the money in the bank to cover it.  I’m not ashamed to have a blogger website promoting a Retreat – and everything I have on that site is standard blogger issue.  Send me an email if you can’t figure out how to get something I have and I’ll tell you how I did it.

Wordpress is another way to create a similar product but frankly it does my head in and you need more IT experience to make Wordpress work - if you are a beginner don't go down the Wordpress route.  

Click here to enter the 3 step process to get your own blog

Excuse #4 “Getting a proper web address and professional email is too confusing and expensive”

Excuse Buster: GoDaddy:

GoDaddy hosts all my live websites, my email and my other 25 non live domain names.

Quite frankly I have little idea how all this stuff works.   Whenever I want to do something I phone up their 24 hour, 7 day a week hotline and they talk me through how to do everything.

They pride themselves on the person answering your question AND solving your problem on your first phone call.  I can confirm I have NEVER needed to phone back and they have ALWAYS delivered on their promises.

Their marketing is weird and their website has race car drivers promoting it but you just got to remember their target audience is mostly male IT geeks – having worked alongside a lot of big IT departments I can confirm you couldn’t find an IT geek in a corporate office when The Grand Prix hit Melbourne.  But non-nerds are well supported by the help desk, who are honestly some of the most patient and knowledge people I have ever met.

GoDaddy.com - World's No.1 Domain Name Registrar

Find out more about GoDaddy here


Excuse #5 “It’s too hard and expensive to get a newsletter out”

Excuse Buster: Mail Chimp:

Still today with all the social networking and ways to push your message out – the humble newsletter is still being used by the gurus around the world.  When they stop – I stop and so can you.

Mail Chimp is awesome.  I use it for my Retreat database and I also use it for a community event I run each month.  It is dead easy to use.  They allow you to store 500 subscribers and give you 3,000 emails a month before they even think about charging you anything.

The product they produce looks awesome AND this includes autoresponders AND the ability to set your campaign to run in advance AND it allows you to easily publish your newsletter to social media sites.

It’s also quirky as all get out and frequently encourages you to “eat a banana” and to “stop flirting with the monkey”.  They also have pre-designed forms to send out specials and birthday cards to members – and so long as you stay under 500 it’s free and well frankly if you have more than 500 people on your database you need to start getting serious about your business and paying for services.

Free is great in the early days but remember likes attract – if you aren’t prepared to pay for quality service neither will your clients be.

Find Out More About Mail Chimp here

Excuse #6 “I don’t have time or energy to do the admin for a workshop”

Excuse Buster: Eventbirte

I LOVE this site and it really helps sell events and workshops and they don’t charge you anything until you sell a ticket and then it’s just a small percentage of the price of the ticket. 

In return – your attendees type in all the info so you are assured your spellings are correct and that you have the right email address.  Anyone who has ever had to type up a registration list and name badge list will be jumping with joy at this news.

It has helped me sell out most of my events and the waitlisting function allows you to know who missed out and might like to attend your next event before you even release it.  It also posts your event on social media sites looking hot to trot and takes interested people directly to your registration page.

They also have an iPhone app that lets you check your participants in via your phone on the day of the event – gotta get an iPhone first  :-)

If you sell a ticket outside the site, they don’t even charge you to enter the person’s name but the details still print out on the rego list.  It saves a HEAP of time, energy and effort and your workshop goes out to the public looking really hot and will delay your need for a personal assistant or VA.

Find out more about Eventbrite here

Excuse #7 “I don’t have a way to collect credit card payments online”

Excuse Buster: PayPal

I still don’t have a formal Payment Gateway with my bank because it costs and arm and a leg to set up.  My shoppingcart simply connects to good old PayPal and they keep taking people’s money online without hassle or stress to me.  To be honest there have been a couple of people who had trouble with the system but I suspect user error was the cause because 99% of transactions flow without error or stress.

You can do recurring billing, have Buy Now Buttons which just sit on your website without you even needing a shoppingcart or you can simply do an email request for money if everything gets too much for you.

You can transfer funds internationally and it takes care of all the exchange rate nightmares. 

The only downside of PayPal is that it takes a couple of days to transfer funds to your bank account, whereas a full Gateway fill transfer overnight.  I can live with that.

If you want the hoots and whistles shopping cart I recommend and use 1shoppingcart.com

You do need a bit of IT nous to get 1shoppingcart working and to be honest I'm still only using a very small part of it. It is a big system that I recommend you either use or upgrade to if and when you are ready to very serious about online sales. Click here for more details

If you have found any free or lo fee resources that helped you get started I'd love you to add a comment and share your resource with others.

Full disclosure:  The above links are affiliate links and these people do give me coffee money if you sign with them.  It is not why I recommend them and I only ever recommend things I either use myself or have personally experienced or someone I trust has used the product.  


Amir said...

I also saw this at http://printdo.com. They have 5,000 full color business cards for only $49.99.

Sharon said...

Well done Mz Margz, There are a lot of us budding business owners hesitating because of all or some of these points. I am using wordpress for my website and find it easy to use (even if I sometimes don't like to add updates in case of the ...if its not broken don't change it.) but I am loving what is available for us to use.

Ocean Acupuncture, Curl Curl said...

Thanks so much for this excellent advice. I have a question for you and your readers.

A colleague told me about Joomla (http://www.joomla.org)

As they say on their site: "Joomla is a free, open-source content management system (CMS) and application framework that powers 2.7% of the entire web."

Apparently they even have a shopping cart add-on, and it's all free.

I tried downloading the trial but it didn't set up properly and that made me a little nervous :-)

I'd be interested if anyone else uses it. Sounds too good to be true, but then again so does Mail Chimp and Open Office (www.openoffice.org)

Margaret Gill said...

I haven't personally experienced Joomla because I have Infusionsoft as my CRM but what I'd recommend is that you perhaps invest in having someone set it up properly for you, then judge whether it offers the right solution for you.

Most certainly Mail Chimp is THE most amazing value and functional, fit for purpose solution I've ever come across for free. Many of my sworn "seriously non technical" people, once over their fear have stated that Mail Chimp was FUN to use and they love what it does for them for free.

The open source software like Wordpress is made by tech head gurus and takes a little more getting your head around, but once you master it - it sure does offer a lot.

But it all comes back down to energy - if you continue to seek free programs and not seek to pay for something in that energy chain - you can expect to get clients who will do the same.

Most certainly make the most of all that is on offer for free - but also remember to invest in the solutions for your business once you have these initial helpful leg ups fully mastered.