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I need some advice

Discussion in 'Get productive' started by MissieK, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. MissieK

    MissieK Member

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    I hope you wonderful people will be able to give me some advice.

    I run a support network/site for Mums running businesses. There is a paid membership system in place as well as advertising opportunites that people can pay for.

    Almost daily, I receive emails from people asking for advice. I don't mind giving some tips, like I do on this and other forums, however recently I've received a number of emails along the lines of "I don't have any money, but can you help me and promote my business", and give me tales of why they aren't (often my first thought is "why aren't you charging for this service", but that's another post). Sometimes they are looking for mentors too.

    Currently I'm not making heaps of money in my business, and don't have heaps of time - as well as business, I have 2 small boys to raise.

    So, my question - how do I deal with these people? I don't want to completely alienate them, especially as I do want to help Mums in business, however I need to make money too!

    Well, if you've got to the end of my rambling - well done! lol. I hope I've made some sort of sense. I look forward to your replies.

    Oh, and I don't want to start being a business coach. The money was good, but it took too much time out of my day.

    Melissa
  2. ray_223

    ray_223 Active Member

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    Write a blog post about it, when someone emails point them to your blog post.

    You can even start your post with:

    "Recently a number of people have emailed me about ...."
  3. competitions

    competitions Member

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    I think you answered it yourself: have a standard email that paraphrases "I don't have heaps of time - as well as business, I have 2 small boys to raise", along the lines of "Unfortunately I'm unable to offer free advice as this would be unfair to the people who have paid and as you're aware, time is money. Like you, I have a business and if I were to offer free advice to all, I wouldn't have a business. Glad you understand."
  4. ray_223

    ray_223 Active Member

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    Hi Melissa,

    Isn't that also what your forums are for?
    Just direct those people you email specific questions to ask them on your forum.
  5. LeelaCosgrove

    LeelaCosgrove Member

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    Wow Melissa! What an awesome opportunity!

    What you have right there is a stream of QUALIFIED prospects for your business! They want what you have to offer ... they're coming to you ... you just need to convince them they need to pay for it.

    I agree with Ray - but I would take it a step further.

    Write an article that's very personal ... outline the issue and pretty much what you've said here.

    Then, do an outline of the benefits of your membership and how it helps all of the things these people are asking about ... include testimonials from current members ... and ask for the sale.

    If they are asking for it for free it's because they don't see the VALUE. If you can sell them on the VALUE of what you offer, they'll find the money for it. People only "don't have the money" when they don't see the value ... think about it. Traditionally, during a recession, sales in certain things increase - alcohol and cosmetics for example.

    Why are people with 'no money' buying alcohol and cosmetics? Because they VALUE these things.

    We will ALWAYS find money for the things we VALUE - you just need to sell them.
  6. MissieK

    MissieK Member

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    Thanks guys :) I replied to the latest enquiry letting her know the free opportunities (for example a weblink in the business directory) and suggesting she join to access the forums and the 6+ years of information contained in them.

    I'll definately work on blog posts & articles :)

    Melissa
  7. competitions

    competitions Member

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    Great advice Leela! (Wish I had thought of that!).
  8. Burgo

    Burgo Well-Known Member

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    Some years ago there was a website that had tips for cleaning and anything else you could imagine stay at home mums sort. This lady ran a newsletter with tempting stories but you needed to be a memberthrough her website which cost something like $ 37.00 a year. She ran a very profitable business giving advice which other members had given her for free. things like what do you do with plastic bags. How to save money buy sending your kids to school with their lunch instead of letting them buy it all very common sence. You only found out about these things by becoming a member. Unforyunately i cant remember the website but it was about tips on saving money.

    So dont be shy charge for your knowledge.
  9. competitions

    competitions Member

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    The lady is Fiona Lippy, her website:
    http://www.simplesavings.com.au
  10. Lisa Murray - Biz Coach

    Lisa Murray - Biz Coach Member

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    Hi Melissa
    I think Leela hit it on the head with the concept of what they value most - that would make a great blog post in itself!! Also, I have this happen quite frequently as well - there are a couple of things I do - direct them to my free resources, direct them to my services page (some of them will pay if they realise what you can offer), or direct them to someone else who may be better able to assist.

    I do have a couple of pro-bono clients going at any one time, but I do it on really specific guidelines, and if they are not taking action and moving forward, then I set them free gently...!

    Maybe you can consider one or two 'mentoring scholarships' for forum members that will enable you to set the terms of engagement, and choose who you help. All of us got somewhere good because there were people willing to help us along the way...

    Hope you are well
    cheers
    Lisa
  11. gregpritchard.virtualcio

    gregpritchard.virtualcio Member

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    Hi Missie,

    Good question, and a constant challenge for those in business.

    Something to consider is to hold a seminar or breakfast meeting where the people who have asked you questions come along and get a forum with you. You could charge a reasonable fee to cover your time and expenses.

    Carolyn Stafford from http://www.connectmarketing.com.au puts on breakfasts with a guest speaker for $65. Its a little different, but the end result could be the same for you (give advice, and get paid for it without turning it into a major consulting gig). So, you invite anyone who's ever asked for your advice, pro-bono or not. You could have a particular topic that everyone seems to be asking about; structure a presentation, talk for 30 minutes then open it up to the floor (and/or bring a list of the questions you've been asked in the past).

    This would perfectly complement the other suggestions on newsletters and forum memberships; as you could use these to promote the breakfast seminars.
  12. MissieK

    MissieK Member

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    Lisa, I love the idea of mentoring scholarships - would I be able to drop you a line about this?

    We do run events, and even a national conference (in June - some FS members are presenting ;) ). I am looking at ways I can run mini events to share my expertise.

    Melissa
  13. LukeH

    LukeH New Member

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    Some great advice on this thread.

    Essentially you want to leverage your time with these enquiries. Time is one of your precious resources for growing your business, so you don't want it eaten up by time-wasters whilst you search for a promising lead. I think this ties in with Leela's and Ray's ideas about articles, blogs and forums on your site.

    Your newsletter is another resource you can use to leverage your time. Anytime you can put your business and marketing on autopilot, you're leveraging your time. So here's the idea - instead of just having a newsletter, why not make it a "5 Steps to Success for Business Mums" Training Course. You write 5 articles/email and set them up on an Autoresponder, so they are automatically emailed in sequence to a new subscriber of your newsletter.

    You can automate the emails to send every couple of days or once a week - whatever you choose. You write the articles/emails once, but it sells your business time and time again every time a new subscriber is added to your list. You don't even have to press the send button - an autoresponder does it for you! As Leela suggests, don't be afraid to ask for the sale.

    If you are offering a free 5 step course, then you have to be sensitive as to when to ask for the sale - but plant teasers in the footer, allude to it through your emails with examples of how it has help other mums etc. And of course that person is now on your newsletter list too.

    I hope that gives you some more ideas for strategies for leveraging your time and automating your business.
  14. LeelaCosgrove

    LeelaCosgrove Member

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    Not a bad idea Luke ... but I wouldn't make it a free course.

    Make it a nominal fee (say, $17 or $27) - but charge for it.

    This will qualify the incoming leads - are they prepared to pay something? If not - do you want to waste time with them? I always say, anyone who doesn't have $27 to buy a product from me is NOT my client ... I also say, I would prefer 10 people on my list who are willing to spend $27 than 100 or even 1,000 people on my list who aren't.

    I've developed a number of courses like this for clients and have found, across the board, that they have a better response when they charge for it - because people don't value what they don't pay for.

    Charge
    Qualify
    Sell

    The money you make on the front end is nothing (and could even fund the scholarship you're talking about) - it's about sorting the wheat from the chaff, as it were.
  15. LukeH

    LukeH New Member

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    Point taken Leela. I think we've all signed up for something "free" and never bothered to read it or look at it. We do value that which we pay for.

    But there is merit in giving away something free as a strategy. Why? Firstly if it's not costing you anything to distribute or maintain, then you aren't losing time or money. You create it once and let your autoresponder and marketing system take care of it from there. You have people wanting advice or information from you and you are meeting that market need.

    I am not suggesting a course with hundreds of pages of content. I am suggesting some short, valuable, relevant information which will help customers decide whether they value what you provide. Of course some will never even open anything from you, but that's how the wheat and the chaff are sorting themselves out without you having to do it!

    Some will read and value the free information that you supply and will recognise your work/knowledge as having value, even if they haven't paid for it yet. And that's the key - they recognise your value. Then you can start working on them to get the sale. You have turned a website visitor into a warm lead, possibly a person that would never have bought anything from your site on their first visit.

    I agree that some businesses are better suited to charging for their information, but I have also seen the free alternative work very effectively.
  16. LeelaCosgrove

    LeelaCosgrove Member

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    I would recommend free if Melissa needed to prove that she had the knowledge ... i.e. in a cold call kind of a way.

    But these people want what she has already.

    So this is a low-level, cheap opt-in ... they've already expressed interest in the 'free' - so now she needs to determine who is actually a client - that is, who is willing to pay for stuff.

    As I said, I've created a LOT of these kinds of series for clients over the last four years. And I've tested both free and paid (as well as various price points). Free is great if you just want more numbers on your database.

    I'm the perfect case in point - I offered a book I wrote as a free download to a certain group of people. More than 100 of them took me up on it. I spent the next two years providing these people with information and marketing to them via various methods - and not one of them bought anything at any price range - they just wanted something for free.

    Meanwhile, of the people who bought the book, who paid for it at whichever price point, around 80% went on to buy something else from the exact same information and marketing.

    I repeated similar tests with other products also. They were worthwhile in that they told me this ... free information is, by definition, 'free'. It has no value.

    I also disagree with it not costing you anything to distribute or maintain.

    For entrepreneurs like Melissa (and a lot of other people on here) - the number one cost is TIME. Writing a course (even if it's only 10 pages) - takes time away from you and from your family. On average, a page takes an hour to write (when you factor in research, thinking time, writing time, editing time). That's 10 hours she's not with her kids. Or working on something else.

    That's 10 hours she absolutely deserves money for. And 10 pages of her hard-earned knowledge that she also deserves money for.

    "But there is merit in giving away something free as a strategy."

    Hmmm ... you've said that, but you haven't really backed it up.

    Your points were

    #1 - because it doesn't cost you anything - which it does - but even so, what difference does it make to your clients if it cost you anything or not? People don't weight up what they are going to buy based on whether it cost you anything ... "Oh well, I'm not paying $17 for this because it didn't cost her anything ... but I will pay $17 for this because it did".

    #2 - Some will read and value the free information that you supply and will recognise your work/knowledge as having value - we're talking about people here who already recognise the value.

    So where is the merit of giving this away and WHAT is the strategy????

    If the outcome is: To convert inquiries into paying customers.

    Why would you give them something for free?

    There's this real attitude with the internet that because everyone else is giving stuff away for free so you have to as well. And yet, I've seen $17 products get more customers than free products ... and $27 products get more customers than $17 products.

    I think it comes down to a fear of charging for your knowledge ... a fear of sales ... there is absolutely NO reason to give this product away for free. It doesn't help you at ALL ... the only reason to do it would be out of a deep seated fear that it wasn't WORTH the money you're charging for it. And if that is the issue, you need to spend some time working with a coach on your psychology ... because isn't that the very reason you're in business?
  17. LukeH

    LukeH New Member

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    Good response Leela with a lot of facts to back it up. I can tell you're passionate about this.

    I put it out there as a potential solution to the issue we were discussing, and hopefully this thread has helped spawn an idea or two for some forum members. I won't keep defending my ideas - some people will agree and some people won't. It will work for some people and it won't work for others.

    Do what works for you and stop what doesn't work for you - that's about my best marketing advice :)

    Cheers
  18. LeelaCosgrove

    LeelaCosgrove Member

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    You're right Luke ... I AM very passionate about this ... creating, marketing, selling information products is what my business does ... it's my hedgehog principal ... my USP ... what I am best at ... I've spent a lot of time studying it and doing it and have invested tens of thousands of dollars over the last couple of years in getting the strategies I needed to make it work.

    It's kinda my thing. :)
  19. tianakaesha

    tianakaesha New Member

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    As someone who has not joined Business Mums, but who DOES value what is on offer there and wishes I could afford it, there is some merit in offering free information to people you want to join you.

    I currently have a list of Advertising Sites, Directories and Forums that I wish to sign up to, prioritised in order of what is going to generate me money sooner rather than later. As I literally have NO money right at this moment, each sign up to these will be based on what product I can sell when I launch.

    By offering something free to someone like me, I prioritise your site as a place I need to be a part of. I physically see what you can offer. I've tallied up over $250 worth of advertising or forums that I want to be a part of today, but don't have a cent to spend on any just yet.

    I am trying to start up a business with no capital. That doesn't mean I don't value what people have to offer. It means I can't afford to buy it whether I value it or not.

    Business Mums is on my list of places to subscribe to - I think it will be very important to my business, but I chose another forum first because it was free and available to me instantly.
  20. LeelaCosgrove

    LeelaCosgrove Member

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    Not to be rude ... I know you're new tianakaesha so WELCOME! And thanks for having the bravery to post ... and please don't take this as anything other than an interesting point that fuels into the whole thing ... I look forward to having lots and lots of conversations with you! :)

    ... but this kind of proves my point.

    You'll take the product if it's free - but you won't pay for it ... I understand as a start-up business that that's the position you're in ...

    BUT if you think about it from the point of view of your OWN business ...

    If people can't afford to buy the products that you sell - are you going to give them away for free? Or maybe you'll have one or two products that you give away in the hopes that the people who take the free stuff will buy things later?

    People who don't want to pay for stuff (no matter how valid their reasons are) are NOT clients. A client is someone who gives you money.

    Sure, you value what Melissa has to offer.

    You just don't have the money to pay her for it.

    Which means you're not her client.

    (PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT trying to speak on your behalf, Melissa - just using you as an example to make a point)

    You're basically saying you would use Melissa's service if it was free ... but then, she wouldn't have a business! What would be the point of her providing the service at all?

    And to a certain extent it DOES mean you don't value it. At least, not as much as you do other things.

    What HAVE you spent money to in the lead up to your business?

    I'm sure there are some things.

    A domain name.

    Hosting.

    Business Registration.

    Computer.

    Software.

    Stationary.

    Our job as business people is to make our product / service as much of a necessity as these things - to have our clients see our product or service as OXYGEN ...

    When people feel this way about a product, when they value it this strongly, they will find the money for it.

    50 years ago the idea of a business needing a computer was ridiculous.

    Even 10 years ago, most companies still needed to be convinced that they needed to get on the internet.

    These days, having a computer and a website is like OXYGEN to businesses. You wouldn't DREAM of running a business without them.

    That's the end game ... to make your product a computer or a website (the target markets equivalent, of course).
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2009

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