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The Smashing Business Blog

The Blog from Smashingbusiness.co.uk. We're all about helping you run a "Smashing Business." Whatever your niche, we hope you find some inspiration or help here. If you'd like us to feature a particular topic just email us at hello@smashingbusiness.co.uk

Do You Spend Everyday Trying To Keep Up With Your Competitors

Ben Lumley - Monday, December 14, 2009
It's all good trying to keep abreast of what your competitors are doing but if you just try to be them then what's the point in existing. 

If someone came to you and said they wanted to start a version of Amazon, you'd say they were mad and walk away.

But we all, from time to time, try to be like our competitors. The thing is you need to be really carefully because if you aim to be like them too much you'll never develop your own business model or pick up any new customers. 

Dilbert, as usual, sums this thought up perfectly. Enjoy


5 Reasons why Apple Stores are Great Examples of How You Should Run Your Online Business

Ben Lumley - Thursday, December 03, 2009
I’m a geek and a proud geek at that. I love all things techy and gadgety and can think of nothing better than a Sunday afternoon of playing around with some gadget or building something cool and funky. For a real treat I love to go to an Apple store and stare at wonder at all of the shiny gadgets and gizmos. I’m assuming that my response in an Apple store is something to that of a child who gets to see Santa’s Toy Factory.

I’ve never been to an Apple store in the US but if it wouldn’t surprise me if they were the same as the ones we have here in the UK only much bigger. (So I apologise to anyone reading in the US but I only have experience of UK Apple stores.) 

There’s something amazing about going in to an Apple store if you’re a geek like me. Rows upon rows of neatly laid out shiny Apple products all begging to be touched and played with. Everything in an Apple store is exactly where you’d expect it to be and help for a cool looking dude in an Apple t-shirt is never too far away. 

Whenever I go into an Apple store, even if I don’t buy anything, I leave feeling inspired. Inspired to build a better Online Business. 

Here are my 5 reason why Apple Stores are great examples of how you should run your online business. 

1. Like Santa’s Toy Factory. 

Does your site make people jump up out of their seat when they see it like walking in to an Apple Store or does it leave your customers wanting more? Now I’m not trying to get into the whole Form over Functionality debate but I do think your site should look the business to really engage with your customers. If you’re not a designer then spend some money on a really nice template for your site that will give it the wow factor. If you are a designer then spend some time before you launch your site making it look good. 

But whoever you are and whatever you do make sure that you’ve got the content on your site to back up the design. There is truly nothing worse than a site that looks really good but is completely useless. Apples stores aren’t just pretty, they are also full of loads of really cool stuff, your online business should be the same. 

2. The “Oh now that’s cool” effect. 

When Apple release a new update or a new product they expect the “oh now that’s cool” response from the public. There’s always something they’ve done to make a product better that Apple know their customers will love. Does your online business make your customers say to themselves “oh now that’s cool” whenever you release a new product or service or update an existing one? Or does your business leave them feeling indifferent? 

Your customers should be impressed with what you offer whether it’s a product or a service. If they are they’ll keep coming back for more everything. 

3. Sensible help from cool looking people. 

I have never met an Apple Genius who didn’t know what they were talking about or demonstrate some personal experience in order to help you. When you ask for someone’s help and they talk from experience you nearly always take their advice, don’t you?

Do you offer that kind of personal customer service experience? Do you know your products and services inside out? You should do because then when a customer asks you a question you can give them the answer there and then. There is nothing more frustrating as a customer than a business owner whose stock response is always “I’ll get back to you on that.” Don’t be that person. 

4. The simple yet stylish factor. 

Apple stores are stylish, there’s no denying that. Beautifully laid out with everything just where you’d expect it to be. There aren’t packaging boxes everywhere blocking up the aisles or products slung here there and everywhere. Shelves and surfaces are uncluttered, enabling the products themselves to truly sell themselves. 

Your online business website should be the same. It should make sense to your customers so that they can find what they need when they need it. Your customers shouldn’t have to click on stupidly hidden links in order to find your products. Everything on your site should be clear and easy to find. 

5. Leaving with a shiny new product that does what it’s supposed to. 

When you buy something for an Apple store you always get that excited feeling of walking out with your new product. You get it home and it does exactly what it’s supposed to do, straight out of the box. 

Your online business should offer the exact same thing, every time. Your business will crash and burn within days if you ship dodgy products and you’ll end up with no customers if the service you provide doesn’t live up to what you originally offered. In online business you should always exceed your customer’s expectations and give them more that they were expecting. 

Does your online business run like an Apple store? Let us know in the comments.

Fighting the fight of the small online business owner.

Ben Lumley - Monday, November 23, 2009

Sometimes running a small online business can be really hard. 

Most of us aren't fortunate enough to solely run our online business, at least in the beginning anyway. We work for the man from 9-5 and then come home and start working again on something more meaningful and purposeful. 

We put family and friends to one side while we busily work away trying to get our passions off the ground and take them to a place where we can walk away from the 9-5 and begin living the internet lifestyle. 

I'm in that situation right now. I'm in the exciting position to be involved in a new start-up, something I've wanted to for a while and the fact that I'm doing it with a good friend makes it even better. 

But I'm also in the position where I'm working in a very demanding day job that requires a lot of my time both in and out of work hours. It's a really good job and I really enjoy the work, don't get me wrong but it's very tiring at times. 

I've also got a young family that I want to be with and spend time with, which I don't think anyone can argue with. 

Most small start-ups are the same. It's not easy but it's what we do. Why do we do it? 

Well my answer is simple. Most don't like it, especially my wife sometimes but the answer is always the same. I do it because I know I want help small business owners make the most of their online business because so do I. 

 So if you're finding the fight hard just do what I do. Take a deep breath, think about the goal you're trying achieve and get right back to it.

Be Obsessed with your Business and Watch it Grow

Ben Lumley - Monday, November 16, 2009

Ever wondered why some entrepreneurs are so successful? Ever think about why these truly successful business owners can do so much and reap so many rewards?

Easy! They’re obsessed by what they do. They love it. They eat sleep and dream the business and their goals.

Want to start being as successful as them? Become obsessed. 

3 ways to better sales and how they can impact not only your business but your customers

Ben Lumley - Friday, November 13, 2009

Getting your customers and users to pay attention to your business is harder than ever. People have an infinite number of choices compared to 2 or 3 years ago and a lot less time. By taking a different approach to selling and marketing you can begin to make more enquires and more sales.

For regular readers, you’ll have noticed that I’ve talked about marketing guru Seth Godin before (even reposting articles direct from his own blog). Seth attracts many followers for his insightful take on modern marketing and is not afraid to be a bit controversial. I highly recommend anyone to check out his blog or videos.

My 3 ways to better sales is inspired by some of Seth’s ideas that I really dig and think you guys will get a lot out of.

Be on the fringes

Many small businesses play safe when they’re approaching things. They follow the crowd when it comes to things like marketing, branding, sales and customer services. They do what they see others doing as they see it as being safe. But no one says you have to play it safe.

Do things differently to others. Approach your strategies from a different angle and make your customers sit up and take notice.

10 years ago in the era of mass marketing playing safe was the safe thing to do because everyone listened. Now people (your potential customers) don’t have to time to sit through the ads and listen. Now you have to be on fringes to be noticed.

Be Remarkable

You get on the fringes in business by being remarkable. By becoming something or someone that people want to make a remark about you can create a buzz around you and your business. When they have something to say about your product or service they tell someone else. They’ll want to share the story.

That doesn’t mean you have to come up with a new product or service that is out of this world, just that maybe you need to do something that is remarkable with what you have.

When Google announced Google Wave earlier in the year they did something that was remarkable with their marketing. They only opened it up to a handful of developers. If you didn’t get an invite first off, you desperately wanted one. The buzz about Wave and the fact it was a limited invite-only spread like wildfire to the point where now they haven’t even fully released it yet and people are trading invites on eBay for crazy sums of money.

By taking a remarkable approach you can get your future customers to sit up and take notice.

Sell to those who are listening

With a massive choice and not a lot of time, consumers don’t have to listen to everyone that tries to sell them something anymore but they’ll most certainly buy from someone they already listen to.

Why waste your time and effort (and maybe even money) trying to sell to the large percentage of people who aren’t listening or aren’t interested? What’s the point?

Apple doesn’t try to sell its stuff to the non-tech savvy customers. It aims the majority of its marketing to the geeks, the fashion conscious, the tech savvy, the trend-setters and to those who appreciate great design because they know that they’ll be the one’s listening.

Talk to the people who are listening and you’ll be able to sell to them far better than those who couldn’t care less. 

How do I make quick money from my blog or website when I first start out?

Ben Lumley - Thursday, November 12, 2009

I must see this question all over the internet all the time. So many people want to know how they can start their new online business off with a bang and be instantly making money. There are loads of options out there that look to offer some amazing results to first timers offering a massive financial return for very little work.

The easy answer is no! No you can’t make quick money from an online business. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and a great deal of patience, something of which many people entering the online business space don’t seem to have.

When they don’t get any revenue in the first few weeks from their products they begin covering every piece of html real estate with click though ads, affiliate links and adsense code. Expectantly they sit back and wait for the money to pour in. And guess what? None arrives.

Simply there are no quick money fixes on the internet. You need hard work and patience. With a lot of commitment and constant work you’ll begin to make money, maybe some serious money but you won’t get there with quick fixes. 

Picking yourself up and Dust Yourself Off - The Life of an Entreprenuer

Ben Lumley - Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Sometimes life really sucks. We all know it so there's no point in me sugar coating it. Some days, the constant uphill grind takes its tolls and all of your mind is consumed with thoughts of giving up.

Today was a day like that for me. I spent all day talking to people who didn't want to listen to what I had to say and I'll be completely honest and say it was a massive chore. I got back in my car to drive home and thought "why am I bothering - I give up!" Thankfully I had an hour drive home and could think it all through which really helped me to sort my head out. By the time I got home my motivation and determination was back and I'm already raring to go again tomorrow.

Sometimes running an online business can you and your brand in front of people who don't want to know and no matter how hard you try can't get through to them. So what do you do?

  1. Give 100% to the opportunity
  2. Pick yourself up and dust yourself down
  3. Look to the future
  4. Remain yourself of your ultimate goal
Everyone has a bad day at the office whether it's your fault or not. But a successful entrepreneur just moves on and keeps going.

What Does Success Mean To You?

Ben Lumley - Monday, November 02, 2009

It’s often said that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell. When we look at the definition of success though we see that things are not black and white and that there are actually many subtle shades of grey.

 Success means different things to different people. Ask a young person what they understand of success and they’ll usually talk about money and fame because this is what they see in the media every day. They look at celebrities and want to be in the same position one day themselves. However if you ask the same question of someone who has been out in the world of work for a time what their idea of success is, they are less likely to talk about fame and financial reward but will bring up words like family, security and fulfilment.

Why is this? Well it’s really due to experience. When you are younger the idea of fame and fortune is very attractive but as you experience more of life you begin to realise that these things aren’t for everyone and that actually you crave other things. Some people do go on to achieve fame and insurmountable wealth but they don’t always bring happiness and as we all grow and mature many of us seek happiness.

Why it’s important to define success?

When you can define success into something that makes sense and is relevant to you, you have direction in which way to travel to achieve it, much like a map of a journey. Once you’ve defined your success you can move toward whatever you have to do to achieve it. It sets the goals and parameters by which you need to work.

Here are some ideas if you’re struggling to think about what success means to you.

  • Do you want to build something?
  • Do you want to be part of a team?
  • Do you want to win something?
  • Do you want to do something remarkable?
  • Do you want to do something less than remarkable but do it exceptionally well?
  • Do you want to be in position to be able to do anything you want?
  • Do you want to be able to provide for your family?
  • Do you want acknowledgment from your peers?
Once you’ve defined what success means to you, you can begin to move towards it.

12 Characteristics of Successful Internet Entrepreneurs by Focus

Ben Lumley - Monday, October 26, 2009
Focus, a site for business makers and IT professionals, recently posted an article that any budding online enterprenuer should read entitled "12 Characteristics of Successful Internet Entrepreneurs". Its a really interesting and inspiring read for anyone who has dreams of making their living online.

The article covers the 12 main characteristics that make Internet Entrepreneurs successful, citing some well known online greats to offer as some examples.

The 12 characteristics include:

  1. Determination
  2. Innovation
  3. Frugality
  4. Experimentation
  5. Eccentricity
  6. Simplicity
  7. Consumer-focused
  8. Iconoclastic
  9. Ambition
  10. Focus
  11. Opportunism
  12. Flexibility

Jump over to the article 12 Characteristics of Successful Entreprenuers and have a read. It's a good one and it'll be well worth it.

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