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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

Moving on in 2010

Ben Lumley - Monday, January 04, 2010
So here we are, the start of a new year and a new decade.

It's a perfect time to drive your online business on and take it to new heights. All you have to do is want it enough and put in the work every day. 

Many of us run online business as a second job, maybe to supplement income from another job while some of us are lucky enough to work on our passions full time. Whatever you do and how ever you work, 2010 is going to be the year for you. All you have to do is believe in your product.

2010 will be all about customer service. What will differentiate you from the rest of the online businesses in your niche, will be how you well you can communicate with your customers and how much you're willing to give them. 

With more and more online businesses popping up all over the web, the competition in your niche is hotting up and your customers now have a massive variety of businesses to go to fulfil their needs. You need to be their first choice - the way you do that is by having amazing customer services.

To get you all back in the mood for work (if you've taken a break over the holidays that is) here's an article from Sitepoint to help you get the most out of the start of 2010.

Get Back to Work: It’s Time to Shake Off the Holidays

Here's to a great 2010!

Website Statistics: Why constantly checking your Stats can harm your Online Business.

Ben Lumley - Monday, December 21, 2009
Everyone likes to constantly check their website stats. I know I do. It's a daily routine that depending on which site I'm checking, could happen many times a day just to see if that latest post or latest update or tweet is attracting more people to visit. Whether you check the inbuilt stats on your Business-Catalyst powered website or through a third party provider like Google Analytics, keeping up to date with the traffic movements of your online business can actually be harming your site and sales.

Here's why.

What are you checking? 

There's an abundance of statistics out there that you can check. From total visitors, page views, and entry pages, to search results, traffic sources and exit pages; all designed to give you a great idea about what people are doing on your site. The problem is people don't always look at the more important statistics and are just obsessed with the total number of visitors on any given day, while some even become so obsessed with stats that they are constantly changing what they do just to bring the numbers up. 

The problem with constant stat checking is that it makes you super unproductive. Think about it, if you spend 2 mins every half an hour checking your site's traffic that's 4 minutes over an hour right? Doesn't  seem like much. That's also the same as 96mins every 24 hrs but when do you every work for 24hrs straight? Very rarely. So say you're like me you work on your sites for around 15 hours a day. If you check your stats for an average of 4 mins an hour, now you're looking at around an hour in lost work time. That's more than enough time to write a blog post, catch up on emails, fix that bug on your homepage, spend more time interacting with potential customers on social networking sites or even making an hour's worth of sales! Can you afford to loose an hour a day? Think about all the sales you could be missing out on. 

Here are two of the stats that I think are useful for you to check from time to time during the day / week / month (depending on your level on desire to keep checking) 

Referral Sources: 

This will give you a really good idea about where the visitors to your site are coming from. Knowing where people are coming from can direct effect your marketing strategy because if you know that a large percentage of visitors are being referred to you via Twitter, or Google Search or some other site, then it's probably a good idea to try and promote your business there a bit more often. 

Exit Pages: 

Most website owners will probably disagree with me here but I think it's important to know which pages your visitors are leaving from. Are they all leaving on your pricing page? Maybe your pricing structure is turning them off or the prices you are giving aren't competitive enough. Is everyone leaving via your blog? This might mean that your blog content is poor and that your visitors are becoming disinterested or maybe you haven't provided them with enough call-to-action buttons to take them to other areas of your website. 

Don't worry about the quiet days 

There's really no need to worry about quiet days. I know lots of small online business owners do, it's just like having a bricks and mortar shop and having no one come in for the day. It's not ideal but it's just one of those things. No need to worry too much. Granted if you have a very quiet week when no one comes in at all then maybe it's time to investigate a little bit but if it's just a quiet day thats just part of business.Try to not fret about your stats and instead worry more about making those sales. 

What website stats do you regularly have to check?

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


What do you charge for? Or do you give back to the community when you can?

Ben Lumley - Friday, December 11, 2009
What things do you charge for? What's your reaction when someone asks to do something a little bit different with your product or service? Are you receptive to something out of the ordinary or do you flatly refuse without a second thought?

We took our two daughters to see Santa this week at the local tourist attraction. Joining the queue I marvelled at all of the added extras that Santa was offering apart from having to pay for a 1 minute sitting with the big man himself. Not only did the man in red want me to pay for my daughters to see him but photos, rides on his sleigh, and drinks for parents were all added extras. Fair enough I get that. It was a local event run by local organisations so the pull of all that potential money must of been huge. I get that. I understand. I have no problem with paying for kids to see Santa and may even stretch to the odd added extra if I'm in a good mood.

My problem with today's little festive outing was that if I wanted to take a picture of my kids with the special man I couldn't, I had to let the (so called) professional photographer take the photo and then in order to take it away with me I had to pay for it. The reason given for this was child protection. By not allowing me to photograph my own children they were ensuring that my daughters were being protected. The real reason however wasn't protection but revenue generation. Someone from the organising committee had obviously twigged that it would be a nice little earner to charge for taking memories away from the event.

What has this got to do with running an online business? Well go back to the three questions I asked right at the start of this post. Do you charge for absolutely everything you can or are you more relaxed and give something away for free? If someone comes to you with a suggestion of how they could use your product or service a bit differently are you excited or do you flatly refuse?

Look at Twitter. They built a platform and then opened it up to the world of developers to allow them to create some amazing applications using the API. Rather than keeping things close to their chest they said "look we've got this great platform come and have a play and build something cool with it." Most importantly they did it for free.

Gone are days when you can run an effective business online, especially a small online business and not even consider giving something back to your community. If you charge for absolutely everything and give nothing back to the community that surrounds your products and services then your customers will find someone else who does.

So how can you do that?

1. Free trials
2. Discounts for renewing subscriptions
3. Seasonal offers and discounts
4. Offer free advice via a blog
5. Offer limited offers to email subscribers
6. Share relevant links via Twitter
7. Offer savings for bulk buys
8. Price match or price promise
9. Free gifts
10. Free consultation sessions
11. Freephone customer services number
12. 24/7 support

These are just some of things you can do to give back to your customers. Do you do any of these or do you see the benefit of charging for everything you can? Let us know in the comments

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.

Inspirational Video: Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005

Ben Lumley - Monday, November 30, 2009

So we haven't had a inspiration video in a while so we thought, seeing as we could all do with some inspiration every now and then we drop this one, from Steve Jobs, in.

Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005 was given to the young minds of the future but as an online business owner there is a lot from the 3 stories he tells that we can take on board and apply to our business.

Why not let us know what you think about Jobs speech in the comments

I know what my customers want!

Ben Lumley - Thursday, November 26, 2009

No you don't. Get over yourself.

If you approach your online business with the mindset that you are able to solve some problem that your customers may have then you stand a chance a making a success of things.

However if you think that you know what your customer want because they don't because they're stupid then pack up shop its time to go home.

Don't ever second guess your customers. To do so will take you down a road of certain failure.

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.

My First Guest Post

Ben Lumley - Sunday, November 22, 2009
Today is a day of firsts for the SmashingBusiness.co.uk Blog. We've had our first ever guest post published on another blog.

The post is called Marketing a Small Fish in a Big Pond and it can be for on TheInfoPreneur.net

Go check it out but don't forget to come back here and tell us what you thought about it in the comments

Great Sites That You Just Can't Put Down: The InfoPreneur

Ben Lumley - Friday, November 20, 2009

Here at The Smashing Business Blog we're all about sharing ideas and great ideas at that but we're also the first to admit that there are other great places online to find great content that will help you make the most of your online business. So we've come up with a great new way of sharing some of the fantastic sites we've come across to help inspire not only our business but yours as well. We call it "Great Sites That You Just Can't Put Down!"

Each month we're going to be review a different website or blog that will enable your to create a smashing business with ease. We'll look at what their site owners do, how they do it and most importantly how it can benefit your business. We really hope you enjoy this series and would love to hear what you think about it as well as your opinions of the sites we review in the comments.

To kick off the series, the first Great Site That You Just Can't Put Down that we're going to feature is.....(drumroll please)........ The InfoPreneur 

The InfoPreneur - Information for your Business 

Author: The InfoPreneur (aka James Richmond) 

Focus: Helping others with their business and providing the necessary information for free! 

What's Cool About The Infopreneur?

The InfoPreneur has, (at the time of writing,) only been going for 18 days and yet is getting huge amounts of interest from around the internet already, with retweets and comments on almost everything posted so far. James writes with great passion about how to make the most out of your online business or website and regularly refers to personal experiences in order to get his point across. He also uses some brilliant analogies to help explains things, like with his most recent post Promote your Website with the Military in which he uses the idea that you should treat your website or online business like a military operation!

The blog is really well written, with some great topics while maintain lots of fun and a splash of humour. 

Why The InfoPreneur will help your online business or website.

James puts in to plain English advice that every online business owner needs to hear. Don't expect post filler and mindless ramblings this blog is all about clear, concise advice direct from James' own experiences, that will inform inspire and engage you. 

Go check The InfoPreneur today and join this new and up and coming community. 

You can also follow The InfoPreneur on Twitter

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