Free Ways To Have A Web Presence

There are many ways to have a “web site” on the internet. Tons of companies do have web sites with their own name and it does create a positive image for a company to have their own web site name. But if you are starting with no money and want a web presence, you do have options. My current favorite is blogger.com which allows you to write and post blog entries. It also allows you to set up your blog any way you want to, so effectively it is a web site. It is free to start a blog and they give you a name like bigfishmlm.blogger.com.

You can also use the social networking sites such as MySpace.com, Facebook.com, and Twitter.com. All three are free to join and allow you to post a ton about yourself and your business, then connect up with your customers. You can promote your social site if you like although I don’t think you get a very nice web name. There may be options available to have a better web name so make sure you look through all of the options.

You can look through a google search for free web space and probably find many more options.

As I had said before, one of the functions of a web site or web presence is to give your sales presentation. Getting visitors, leads, or prospects to look at your sales presentation requires you to promote or advertise your web presence. In my next posting, I will talk about some of the ways to get links to your web presence for free.

How To Write A Website That Sells

So you want to write your own website? I would suggest a good web page designer and a lot of practice before moving on to a hosted web site with your own URL. What is a URL? It is a website name like SplashPlan.net. But I digress. The technical aspects of your web site are important, but there are many sources for this information. What I want to talk about is the general design of a web site to sell a product, an opportunity, and to support your customers and your distributors’ needs on your website.

The basic design of your website should have a menu of links near the upper-left-hand corner of the page, either along the left side or along the top. The menu will be jumps to various places on your website, major categories. Your home page should begin selling the product, opportunity, or both. The presentations on the website should be kept at a high level with links to more detail should the visitor want to see it. Under the individual page’s presentation should be three links, with the most logical next step first, one where the user will request more information by mail, and one where they can place an order.

Graphics should be kept to a minimum to speed up each page load. Links can be text rather than graphic links. Pictures should be relevant and not frivolous. For instance, a product picture is a good idea but pictures just to support the idea being discussed are not really needed. People use the internet for the information and not the pictures. The text, though, should be well presented and readable. At the bottom of each page I usually include a copyright notice and webmaster email address.

Contact information, frequently asked questions (FAQ), and other information can be presented in major categories. Information to include should be anything that supports the business and its functions, such as providing information that somebody might call to ask. Information about the company’s founders or history should only be included if relevant to supporting the business’s functions.

Having said all of this, most of this represents my own personal preferences. Today most people have high speed internet; however, there are some people that still have dial up, as incredible as this sounds. Including graphics, videos, or other media that takes a while to download may or may not be an issue for your customers. It is important to know who your customers are to make this determination. For instance, we learned that many people shopped our web site over lunch at work, that they typically paid well, and that they were suspicious of paying with their credit card on the web site (in a lot of cases). We gathered a lot of information about our customers and made our overall marketing plan support our customers’ needs.

I am a technology professional by trade, but when it comes to creating a web site, I am an artist first, a salesman second, and a techie third. I pour over my website making little changes here and there on a daily basis. I test all the links over and over again. I create test orders to make sure everything is working. I read and reread my web pages over and over again to make sure there are no spelling errors and that I am getting across the meaning I intend. I get feedback directly from customers by telephone about their experiences. I test with several different browsers to make sure the web site looks and acts right with each one.

After our e-commerce site was in its final condition, I rewrote the pages in perl (a computer language) so I could do various things that maybe someday we’ll talk about.

I don’t think I would ever expect a business person to do the kinds of things I did. Still, writing a web site is easy; making it effective as a sales and business support tool is the hard part.

Elements of a Good Sales Presentation

We give a sales presentation to our warm prospects who respond to our mini-marketing message. Our mini marketing message was given during our networking calls or through our advertising. These mini marketing messages are meant to get our prospect asking for more and our sales presentation is the more that they will get. Sales presentations are typically used to get the prospect to the point of buying the product or service, though they may still have questions or objections after the sales presentation. A good salesperson will be able to handle any questions or objections the prospect may have, as unusual as they may be.

There are many ways to present a product sales presentation. You can give a stand up speech with slide show, you can give the prospect a video or brochure, or you can have a web site that gives your product demonstration. The easier on the prospect is usually the best, as their time is valuable to them. In my opinion, a web site is usually the easiest on a prospect.

A good sales presentation will provide product features and benefits, reasons to buy over competitive products, common questions and answers, and reasons to buy from your company over others. You can tailor your presentation to the prospect, giving them a quicker presentation unless they ask for more detail. You can also build on your presentation by getting feedback from your prospects and using their suggestions to improve the presentation.

On a web site, keep the presentation concise but give the visitor the option of looking deeper into the details. The more details you can offer online, the more the prospect will feel comfortable buying the product. You can give technical details on how the product was invented, who the inventors were and their biographies, and details about the company that manufactures it. You can show the product label, the packaging, and the raw product. You can give testimonials and show people using the product. Feel free to use your imagination to provide your potential customer with anything you think may be relevant.

At the end of your sales presentation, you must give your customer a way to buy. The easier it is for them to buy the product the better. We used to take orders from our website, by 800 number, and by fax. We allowed the customer to pay with credit card or send in a check. Again, the easier you can make it the better. If you are doing a personal product demonstration, you can simply ask for an order.

Sometimes your customer will continue to have doubts about purchasing your product. If this is the case, you can give your prospect samples or offer a trial discount on the product, if the product is consumable. You could also offer a guarantee or free trial on the product, which could work even if the product is not consumable.

Our goal for the sales presentation is to provide enough information to the potential customer so that they can make a buying decision. The better we can make our presentation fit this goal, the easier it will be to make the sale.

How To Get Free Effective Advertising

Having warm prospects is the gasoline for your business engine. Too little gas and the engine stalls, too much and you can have a fire or explosion. However, too much is usually better than too little. So how do we go about getting warm prospects without spending money?

Networking can be done step by step using the telephone. First you write down everyone you know and their telephone number. Then you call each person and ask them if they know anybody that fits into your demographic profile (don’t literally say this, say “Do you know anybody who cooks?” etc.). Then you get the name(s) and phone number(s) and add them to your list. Then you repeat. If you are unclear what I mean by demographic profile then go back and read my previous blog posts on demographics.

Networking can also be done by meeting new people at the bar, gas station, golf course, grocery store, etc. and exchanging contact information with them. You want their contact information and you want to give them yours. Then you socialize with them. You can add them to your contact list at any time and do what we talked about above, but just like your normal family and friends, you want to continue being close to them and socialize with them. For most people, this kind of networking comes naturally but for introverts like me, this can be difficult.

Other than networking, our option for finding warm prospects is to advertise. You can advertise for cost in many different ways. In addition, you can advertise for free in many different ways, some more effective than others. The most effective advertising you can get is when lots of people in your demographic profile see your ad. However, if you are advertising for free, lots of eyeballs seeing your ad can be a good thing, even if they are not part of your profile. They can filter themselves, you just want to get noticed. The best way to get noticed is to be featured in an article. An article that mentions what you sell and how to contact you is the best. Often companies write their own articles and submit them to newspapers or news outlets, and try to get published. It really is possible to get published and this is one thing you may want to consider attempting.

There are many outlets on the internet to advertise for free and there are websites devoted to telling you where to advertise for free. Just do a google search. Personally, I like the social networking sites but I have also found that responding to blog posts is a good way to publicize your company.

Off line, you can put a big sign in your front yard or a magnetic sign on your car as a couple of ideas. But if you really think about it, there are tons of ways to advertise your business. I often put business cards on bulletin boards at grocery stores for instance.

Use your imagination to see if you can come up with more free ways to advertise. Did you read about the 911 call about the balloon carrying the little boy? DON’T DO THAT. There are limits to what you should do to drum up publicity.

Be ready for when people start to contact you. How are you going to do your sales presentation?

Tales From The Dark Side

I don’t want to write a really long blog entry, but I wanted to talk about what happens when things go right. I mean they go really right. When your hopes and dreams about a successful business come true in a week, or a month, rather than the one to two years or more that businesses usually take to start up. When you are starting with no money and you get publicity you weren’t expecting, or perhaps your purchased or free advertising works better than you expected it to, and you get flooded with orders or requests for information, and you just don’t have the money or ability to keep up with this much business. I mean, you do have to buy product first in order to deliver it to your customer, in order to collect from your customer. That’s called accounts receivable. In some cases you have to deliver free information to a potential customer before it is converted into an order. This can add up to a lot of money fronted.

We lived this dream turned nightmare, as we went from getting one customer order our first week to being drowned in orders. It was two of us, one working a full-time job and the other a full-time stay-at-home mom. We built our website and got it listed several places. We got the granddaddy of them all at the time, a top spot on Yahoo for the product name. We did not have the capability of taking credit cards, so we shipped the product to the customer with an invoice and they sent back a check. This worked for us for a while but soon it was too much to manage. I charged $30,000 a month on my American Express fearful for the day I could not pay it on time.

We switched to taking credit cards and took a haircut with the fees, but we got our money in two days. We went beyond cases of 12 bottles to ordering master cases of 144, to ordering 12 master cases at a time. Each of the cases was about $350 or so, so we’re talking about $30,000+ worth of product delivered at a time to a three bedroom townhouse. Our business quickly took over our garage and our whole house. We were constantly working until midnight trying to keep up.

At one time, the MLM company completely stocked out of product and we could not get it. We set up an autoresponder email that said that we were out of product and were waiting, but we would ship as soon as it was available. Nobody cancelled. We shipped when it came in and everyone paid without a fuss.

We got email after email from potential customers and distributors for free information. I created a program that converted our emails into mailing labels because we couldn’t rekey the information. At one time I also converted product orders into mailing labels and credit card information that we could run right into the credit card program. Later we switched to using a secure server for orders where we would print the order information from the screen; so at that point we had to rekey order information.

We had to subscribe to a telephone system to prevent calls from coming in during the nighttime, although our fax machine would be cranking out the paper all night long. The telephone system took some pressure off of us by distributing phone calls to some of our distributors. Once we bought our current house, we got a four line telephone server and set it up for our own purposes.

Many of the ways we did business kept customers that we attained from our free advertising, but the original inflow was crazy. Please take our experience to heart and be prepared for the unexpected.

A Salesperson Is A Problem Solver

Whether you act like a salesman or a recruiter, you are a problem solver. Objections to your product or opportunity are problems in the mind of the prospect and you are there to find some sort of agreement that can be made. For instance, if your prospect says that your product is too expensive you might be able to offer them a discount.

Typically, though, a deal should be a synergy. A synergy is something that works out better for both you and the customer than you originally imagined. This may not be possible in all cases but it is the goal.

I almost gave up once with a prospect who kept saying they had no money. This was a distributor prospect who needed something to make money but had no money to start with. I finally offered to allow them to show the catalog, call the company using my distributor number, and order for the customer with their credit card. Then he would send me the customer’s information, I would match it up with the order, then I would send him the commission. This was agreeable to him and ended up being a great way for him to find the money to sign up.

For product sales, the objection is sometimes cost or the risk that the product won’t work. It is easy enough to give an introductory discount or a guarantee to the customer to overcome their objection.

Getting a prospect’s objection is a good thing because it means that they are communicating with you. When they shut down and stop talking, the negotiation is over. Don’t give up when the prospect objects, it’s just the beginning.

Similarities and Differences Between Small Business and MLM

A multi-level marketing distributorship typically is a small business run by a person, a couple, or a family. It can also be a larger distributorship run by a company with several employees. I have known distributorships to have revenues of several million dollars per year.

In a typical small business, a product is invented, manufactured, and or purchased, and can be sold to a customer or to another business. Similarly, a multi-level marketing distributorship purchases product or the product is purchased on behalf of a distributor from the company, then is sold to a customer. A distributor will recruit other distributors to sell the product, which is similar to finding other businesses to sell the product.

In a small business, you could have the product drop-shipped to your customer (which could be another business). Similarly, the typical multi-level marketing company allows the product to be sold from the MLM company directly to the consumer with the distributor getting the credit. Drop shipping typically allows a company of whichever kind to keep their inventories low or non-existent.

So we see that the typical small business and the typical MLM distributorship function in exactly the same way. They buy and sell products for a profit. They can sell to customers or other businesses. They can both keep their inventories low or they can stock to meet customer demand.

The main way MLM is different is that it earns commission on several levels of business to business sales, i.e. your downline or network. This gives you a great incentive to help out those you sponsor, those they sponsor, and sometimes those 10 levels below you. MLM is a helping business. Multi-level marketing is also the kind of business where you can build up income over time for a less than superhuman effort today. You leverage your efforts with independent business people rather than employees. The income you generate can take you through retirement and you can potentially leave it to your heirs.

Now a multi-level marketing distributorship is a business and it can get busy. Busyness is a good problem to have though.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

You are excited. You sign up and buy the kit. You are going to make big money. All you have to do is sponsor three and teach them to sponsor three. Sounds soooo easy. You call all of your friends and none – zero want to be your distributor. But but all you have to do is… Then you try and try and try, you get more and more frustrated. Then discouragement sets in. People are telling you that you seem like you are part of some cult, and that this will never amount to anything. You know what else your sponsor told you? That you never have to sell… Hey, you’ve been selling your opportunity to your friends and family right?

These are the two lies that sponsors tell: You only have to sponsor 3 – and you don’t have to sell. “Everybody” uses these lies, because they are true in theory. I mean, you don’t have to sell if you are buying for yourself and sponsoring others, or do you? Sponsoring is recruiting and is very similar to selling; so technically – it is selling. And you do sell to yourself. If you advertise, your marketing message is a sales pitch and usually requires a sales presentation as a follow up. Even if you are recruiting this is true.

As far as needing to sponsor just 3 people and teach them to sponsor 3, in my experience your attempt to sponsor from your warm market is nearly impossible and where else would you get just 3 from? Let’s say that you beat your head against a brick wall long enough and it crumbled… in other words you sponsored 3. The likelihood that all 3 will want to do anything is slim and none. Especially if you use the same “sales” pitch: sponsor just three, no selling involved. Some people will just sign up to get you off their back. Others will sign up and get busy. Others must watch Monday night football and have a case of beer nightly. Some just have the misfortune of getting sick, injured, fired, divorced… you just never know what you’re going to get.

Ok, so what do you really have to do? First, realize that you are in business. You started a small business and you will need to know how to sell your product. No way around it. You must sell to yourself, your warm market, people you know, and people you don’t know. You do this to learn their objections. Hey if you sell something, that is great, but your greatest learning experience is when people don’t buy. Why did they choose not to buy? Very important stuff because we need to learn how to overcome the objections to your product… mainly because the product is also the opportunity.

When you sell an opportunity, you are selling yourself as sponsor and your lifestyle, but you are also selling your product. Because… who is going to buy the product? We know from earlier posts that legal MLM companies must have product sales in order to pay commissions to distributors. If everyone is recruiting and nobody is buying or selling the product, how much money do you make? That’s right, zero. “Gasp,” you say, “I don’t want to work my butt off and earn nothing!” Well then, you must sell the product to yourself, to customers, and to your downline distributors.

Second, you must realize that even though theoretically it’s possible to only need to sponsor three (or four or five), the reality is that 95% or more of distributors will drop out. No matter how they are recruited, no matter how much support, no matter if you build their business for them, no matter if you have the greatest product ever… they will drop out. So you will constantly need to replace your drop out distributors in order to keep your business growing.

Another sad reality is that good distributors (i.e. big fish) work not with all of their distributors constantly, but mainly with their best producers. Do I agree with doing this? Absolutely. You should be there for all your distributors but usually it’s the best ones who want and deserve help. The others are bothered when you call them.

One thing you can do to keep drop out distributors happy: Don’t oversell your opportunity. If you tell your distributors they can make money while playing on the computer, they’ll be playing solitaire wondering why the checks are not flowing in. Tell them that hard work pays, they will either work hard or not, but they won’t be unhappy either way.

What Do You Do with Distributors?

On my blog, I have discussed the methods used to attain distributors which I will quickly review here: People will become your distributor in their time not yours. You need to have the patience of a fisherman, otherwise you will scare the fish away! Your job is to support them during the process of consideration, give them what they need to make a good decision then stand back. Any pressure or hype will probably get you distributors that will do nothing.

Once you begin signing up distributors, your focus really switches to supporting them. You should give them encouragement, train them, and help them as much as they will allow you to. You should give the most help to your best and most trustworthy distributors, and you could go as far as building for them with them by your side if this is agreeable to them.

You do also want to train them on the product.  The product’s uses, features and benefits, and why a customer would want to buy it.  Make sure that the distributor buys for himself so that he or she can experience the benefits personally.  Ultimately you want customer sales but customer sales follow personal use.

That is mainly it. Of course you continue to gather leads and work with prospects all along for yourself but now you have the added work of supporting distributors. The added burden is not huge and is usually enjoyable. However, don’t frustrate yourself because somebody is not doing their part, just work with the ones who are.

The Use of Loss Leaders, Discounts, and Promotionals

I don’t believe in giving away the store but there are times when loss leaders and discounts are in order. Loss leaders is product, samples, information, booklets, catalogs, etc. giving away at a loss in order to secure future business. A discount is a reduction in price but not so much that it creates a loss. A promotional item is something useful to someone else that promotes your business.

Many people expect samples, catalogs, and promotional material to be given away for free but they do cost you money. One thing I will say about giving away these kinds of items is that you only want to give them to people who want them. For instance, if you are doing door hangers, use cheaper materials and give catalogs to people who respond. People who receive catalogs otherwise will just throw them out and they are very expensive to you.

Giving away product is similar. It is very expensive to you so I would try to avoid this practice. Samples cost less. However, if you have a very warm sales prospect or very warm distributor lead, giving away an item might be in order. Use this practice sparingly or it may get very expensive very fast.

Sharp discounts should definitely be given to your warm market, i.e. family and friends. In fact, I would sell at cost to your warm market because they will be your best source of word-of-mouth advertising. Smaller discounts can be given to your best customers or those who buy a lot of product.

Promotional items are useful in some cases. For instance, I like to use inexpensive key chains or pens with my company name and web site address. I usually give them to people who ask for information. More expensive promotional items can be given to your best customers or prospects who may mean a lot of money to you. The more useful an item is, the more they are likely to use it and look at it. Still, I would not use it as a substitute for networking or advertising.

One thing you should never, ever do: You should never pay for a distributor to sign up. However, offering freebees to your best prospects is useful, especially to promote good will and to get them to open up to you. I like mailing postcards offering to send them free items to help them with their decision. Now they may call you because they have something to talk about, and that can lead to questions and answers about the business.

Even using freebees to people requesting them, i.e. free information and samples, can get expensive. We used to spend our entire profit from selling products on freebees, and we sold a lot of product. Especially when first starting out it is important to give yourself a business budget and stay within that budget, because you don’t want to find yourself out of business before you even get started.

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