Every small business owner knows that competition is tough, but he
or she may not be able to pinpoint exactly what changes are needed
in order to get to the top. Conducting business as usual may no
longer be sufficient. Investing in the technology that is now available
can be a great help or a bank breaker. It seems that most small
business and home based business are either starving (they don’t
have enough technology) or they are obese (they have everything
piece of new technology that comes down the pike).
There is, however, some fairly new technology that every small or
home business owner needs. It can answer questions like; how can
small businesses identify noteworthy trends, Identify an existing hot
demand and make better decisions faster? Answer: business
intelligence software. Business intelligence is the crystal ball of the
Purchasing business intelligence (BI) software is one of the most
strategic investments that a business can make. Using data mining,
reporting and querying, BI helps businesses understand, monitor,
manage and respond to specified situations. This software empowers
decision-makers — and staff — to connect the dots around key
business numbers in a way previously unimaginable. BI helps you
• Which customers are profitable?
• Which customers appear profitable but aren’t?
• Are you close to — or far from — reaching critical milestones?
• When is the best time to launch a marketing campaign?
• What was the best performing product or service last quarter?
Business Intelligence software may be more of an investment than
small businesses can bear. It can certainly be pricy. Small business
or home business owners, however, can subscribe to BI services on
the Internet at a fairly reasonable cost. There are several to choose
As has been said, there are several types of BI software out there. As
an affiliate marketer, here are some of the ones that I personally use:
• Keyword Elite
• Search Automator
eBay also published a “Hot Items” list the first week of each month. It
gives valuable information to eBay sellers who use drop shippers.
When you first start your online business, the first and most obvious
question you will ask yourself is…what am I going to sell? Points to
consider when deciding the answer to that question are:
• Is it light and easy to ship?
• Is it a digital good that is downloaded (e-book or software)?
• Is it perishable or fragile?
• Does it have to be seen and held (designer fabrics, perhaps)
• Is there enough demand to make your venture profitable?
• Does it have little competition from large online companies
The last two characteristics are the ones that can be hard to pin
down. Here is a generally accepted method of arriving at an idea of
how heavy the demand and competition is for a product.
If you have a special interest in some products that meet the above
criteria, great, but don’t limit your investigation just to items you like.
You are looking for a niche product with relatively good demand
(enough to make it profitable), but without heavy competition.
One way to see what the demand is for products you are interested in
is to look at search engines to see how frequently people search for
the product you are considering.
The result of all this research should be that one or more products will
fit into a niche market – products with some demand, and relatively
little supply. For the best results, focus on one niche product
category, and offer a wide selection. That way, you can become the
best online source for that particular category. For example, instead
of offering general craft supplies, offer the widest possible selection of
needlepoint kits. This strategy will also allow you to rank higher in
search engines because you can optimize your pages for fewer, more
specific, keywords. When you are just starting your online business finding the right
products to sell online is the number one problem. Knowing where to
look can help.
1. Drop Shipper Directories Drop shippers are wholesalers that will
ship direct to your customers so that you don’t have to invest in or
store inventory. Directories of drop shippers are for sale online, but
make sure you’re buying a reputable one.
2. Local Businesses: You may find businesses in your backyard that
offer just the right products, but are not yet into e-commerce. Offer to
sell their product online in exchange for a percentage of any profits
3. Crafters: Local crafters are a good source of unique products, and
may be willing to reduce their prices for you if you purchase in
quantity. Either buy the item outright, or set up a consignment
arrangement with them.
4. Garage sales and flea markets: G garage sales are a good place
to look for items to sell online. Do some research into categories that
interest you, and then start scouring sales for good prices.
5. eBay: eBay itself can be a source for products. Look for wholesale
lots that can be broken down for individual sale.
6. Wholesaler Directories: Your local library will probably have
directories of manufacturers, wholesalers, and/or distributors. Most
directories are organized by SIC code so that you can zero in on the
product categories that interested you.
7. Trade Shows: Trade shows are a great way to source products.
Lots of merchants gather in one place to look for resellers. To find
trade shows in a particular industry, contact trade associations and
8. Importers/Exporters: You might want to consider contacting
companies that import goods from overseas. It’s possible to source
directly from overseas. This requires a lot of expertise, but many
companies do it successfully.
With the goal of profitability in mind, the most important question a
web site owner must address is how to maximize the value of visitors once you get them to visit the site. One important element of the
strategy is to make use of an auto- responder.
One of the best marketing tools on the Internet is the auto-responder.
This widely used marketing tool responds automatically to any email
message sent to it. They are triggered by a blank email sent to the
auto-responder email address.
For example, when someone sends an email to an auto-responder,
the person receives an already prepared email message with the
requested information. This happens automatically and almost
instantaneously, depending on the Internet and email servers.
If you have properly set up opt-in plus an auto- responder series, you
aren’t personally involved in follow up. The auto-responder contacts
the prospect with the initial reply and beyond, becoming in effect
you’re constantly at work, automated sales force. All you have to do
is set it up one time. Write the follow up messages, program the
intervals at which you want your messages sent, then the autoresponder
set-up works for you again and again on autopilot.
Always keep in mind that the visitor isn’t interested in your objectives.
They only want to know what is in it for them. They’ve given their
email address mainly because they want to get information, not so
they can read your advertisements.
So give them what they want: accurate and useful information on a
particular subject. Earn their trust. Then, you can tell about how your
products and services could benefit them. If you don’t give good
content, prospects won’t keep opening the emails in your series.
Make it a win-win. They get good information and you get a wellqualified
prospect thanks to your auto-responder messages.
No matter what type of email you send out, you’ll need a mailing list.
The basic way to build a mailing list is by capturing name and email
address information for everyone who buys or shows interest in your
An email list that YOU COLLECT YOURSELF is worth its weight in
gold. This can be accomplished by using a list manager on your site.
List managers also provide the HTML coding for the form on the
Gateway pages. A list manager collects the email addresses that are
gathered with the form. Thus, your email list is collected. This might take some time so there are methods to use until you get your own
email list built.
One way to build a mailing list is to do ad swaps with other list
owners. The way this works is, you (as company A) have an email list
that you send newsletters to and another list owner (company B) has
a list they send newsletters to. Company A and Company B place
ads on one another’s mailing lists. Each of you is promoting the
You can rent or buy targeted email lists. The list you develop using
your own customers’ names is called your “house list.” Of course,
when you’re first starting out, your house list is likely to be skimpy. To
augment it, one way to go is rent or buy a mailing list. There are two
ways to buy or rent a mailing list—approaching the company you
want to rent from directly or using a list broker. Any company that
emails information to its customers usually has a list manager, who
handles inquiries and orders for the mailing list.
Another way to build an email list is to list your newsletter in all of the
You’re probably searching for additional revenue streams to keep
your business solid and secure in this contracting economy and
uncertain world. Producing specialized content for sale is one of the
fastest, most reliable methods of making extra income fast. Writing a
“white paper” or a special report, is a great way to set yourself up as
an expert in your field, and share valuable information with your
You may already have most of the ingredients for an e-book or
special report in your files or archives. Find out which ingredients
make customers willing to pay you for material available from other
sources, and what elements you should include in your marketing
copy to spark their interest in buying now.
Here are the steps to take when writing your special report:
• Have your end goal in mind before you start.
• Do you want to find a way to increase sales, while reducing
your cost to acquire those sales?
• Who are you trying to impress and what is important to them?
• What distribution method will be best?
• How many people do you want to impact with this report?
• Make sure the layout of your special report looks pleasing, and
is very easy to read.
• Keep in mind that it’s basically salesmanship in print.
• Keep your facts accurate, very brief and to the point. The
denser your information, the more valuable and more likely to
keep the interest of your reader.
• Write an attention getting headline. 95% of your readers will
decide if they will read your special report based totally on your
headline, so make it great and make it benefit driven.
• Get it on the web. When emailing others, include your white
paper URL in your SIG line of your Email or include the URL
when promoting your special report on Email discussion lists.