The Only Brainstorming / Mind Mapping Tools You Need in 2018 (Free)

The Only Brainstorming / Mind Mapping Tools You Need in 2018 (Free)

Mind mapping is a method of brainstorming ideas using visual outlines by demonstrating the connections between thoughts or data.  Whether you are brainstorming ideas for your next game-changing marketing campaign, planning an important project, or even just trying to gather your thoughts on a subject, mind mapping can help you get it together.

A few of these free mind mapping tools allow for more than simply brainstorming your thoughts.  With some, you can actually present your ideas in a visually-appealing way that will help your audience understand where you are coming from and how the various concepts relate with one another.  This is particularly important for putting together a marketing strategy to increase sales.

I’ve assembled this list of the top free brainstorming and mind mapping tools which will be more than enough to get you through the remainder of 2017 without having to stay up all night Googling around for ‘free mind mapping tools’ or ‘free brainstorming software.’

If you know others who may need some assistance with getting their thoughts organized or for planning upcoming projects, please feel free to share.  We use several of these mind mapping tools to create strategies for generating mortgage leads, business development gameplans, and more.

 

MindMup 2 – Create and Share Amazing MindMaps

Capture ideas at the speed of thought – using a mind map maker designed to help you focus on your ideas and remove all the distractions while mind mapping.

Create unlimited mind maps for free, and store them in the cloud. Your mind maps are available everywhere, instantly, from any device.

Brainstorm, create presentations and document outlines with mind maps and publish your ideas online and to social networks.

Coggle – The Clear Way To Share Complex Information


Coggle is an online tool for creating and sharing mindmaps. It works online in your browser: there’s nothing to download or install.

Whether you’re taking notes, brainstorming, planning, or doing something awesomely creative, it is super simple to visualize your ideas with Coggle. Share with as many friends or colleagues as you like. Changes you make will show up instantly in their browser, wherever they are in the world.

FreeMind – Free MindMapping Software

FreeMind is a premier free mind-mapping software written in Java. The recent development has hopefully turned it into high productivity tool. We are proud that the operation and navigation of FreeMind is faster than that of MindManager because of one-click “fold / unfold” and “follow link” operations.

So you want to write a completely new metaphysics? Why don’t you use FreeMind? You have a tool at hand that remarkably resembles the tray slips of Robert Pirsig, described in his sequel to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance called Lila. Do you want to refactor your essays in a similar way you would refactor software? Or do you want to keep personal knowledge base, which is easy to manage? Why don’t you try FreeMind? Do you want to prioritize, know where you are, where you’ve been and where you are heading, as Stephen Covey would advise you? Have you tried FreeMind to keep track of all the things that are needed for that?

Canva Mind Map – Organize your thoughts and present your big idea, beautifully.

Product-Launch-Mind-Map-tb-662x0

Color code your thoughts and ideas

Mind Maps can leap from topic to topic so keep your thoughts organized by color coding your design. Change a branch or text box color according to the topic they’re assigned to so you can easily find and connect interrelated ideas. Use Canvas color palette tool to choose any color in the spectrum or type in a specific hex code.

Use images, illustrations, and icons

Adding visual elements like images and illustrations can help you concentrate more because they speak to your brain’s natural language of imagery. In fact, it’s encouraged that you use an image for your central idea. Browse through Canva’s amazing media library of icons, photos, and illustrations to use on your mind map. Search from over a million stock photos and add it to your design by dragging and dropping it into the editor.

Collaborate with partners

Brainstorm with your team anywhere in the world by getting your team’s input on your Mind Map design. It’s as easy as sharing a link to an editable version of your design. Now your team can access your Mind Map and add their own edits, thoughts and ideas any time and from any desktop, laptop, iPhone or iPad device. When you’re all done you can simply download your design as a JPEG, PNG or PDF file, share it on your social media, or email it directly to someone.

Bubbl.us – Present Your Big Idea

This is a Bubbl.us mind map. A mind map is a graphical representation of ideas and concepts. It’s a visual thinking tool for structuring information, helping you to better understand, remember and generate new ideas.

To see how easy and fun it is to edit a mind map, try one of their free examples!

Top 8 Untapped Marketing Tactics | Increase Sales and Get Clients

Top 8 Untapped Marketing Tactics | Increase Sales and Get Clients

Whether you own a restaurant, a law firm, or an eCommerce business, utilizing under-saturated marketing strategies to maximize your sales revenue and optimize your client acquisition is crucial stuff.
But I can just put up some targeted Facebook ads and the customers will just start rolling in, right?  New customers will book reservations, fill out my contact forms, and call in immediately after seeing my ads, right?  Whether your objective is to create a mortgage lead generation system, to open a movie theater, or to grow your vape shop. you should always keep your eyes open for marketing opportunities which have not yet become saturated.
Doubt it.
If you’re not utilizing well-strategized online marketing to get noticed, followed, and consumed, it’s highly unlikely that you are going to get much out of running advertising.  Landing pages, ad copy, proper ad placement, keyword research, and having a proper keyword strategy are just a few additional considerations when it comes to generating business online.
After all, creating a powerful guerrilla marketing campaign would be an even better use of your time, but when you run out of viral marketing ideas, these tactics will come in handy.

Answer niche-specific questions on Quora showcase your expertise and generate specialized traffic.

Quora is one of my personal favorite websites.  Their self-proclaimed motto is righteously  ‘Answers to the Best Questions’ and after browsing for a few minutes you may find yourself sucked in.
The key to Quora is to utilize your experience and expertise to answer questions. In addition to having a standard Bio Section for your profile, which allows links to your websites, the site allows you to add your credentials to any question you’re answering.
The top answers are voted four by Quora users and the top answer becomes the main answer displayed under every question. After spending some time browsing some of the most popular answers you will see that users generally vote based on an answer’s entertainment value in addition to the quality of the information provided in the answer.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it is worth taking note of if you intend to get traffic from your Quora efforts.
The idea is to find the questions your target customers are asking and provide the best answers to those questions.  People will naturally start to follow you and read your profile / bio.
If you’re brand new to Quora, a good place to start might be “Why do people answer questions on Quora?

Reach the right customer with the right message and increase sales revenue with Google Adwords’ Similar Audiences for Search and Shopping. 

You may have heard. There is an old advertising rule of thumb called the rule of seven which is based on the idea that potential customers need to be exposed to your brand seven times before they make a purchase.  There may still be some validity to this concept in certain cases, but the truth is that if somebody is in the market to buy what you are offering, there is no reason that conversions cannot be made after 1-2 exposures to your marketing message.
Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) is an Adwords feature which allows you to reach out to recent visitors who have already visited your website but did not purchase.
Similar audiences for search and shopping takes this another step further, allowing you to target other people who behave similarly to the way your best customers behave, in terms of their search and shopping tendencies. Google recommends using similar audiences combined with RLSA for the best return on your advertising investment.
It is important to keep in mind that simply running advertisements is not enough in itself.  Landing pages, quality copy, legitimate offers, site speed, etc.. are all taken into consideration as Google prices and ranks your ads.  Lower quality = lower ranking and higher ad costs.
Discover how this could apply specifically to your business by contacting me.  I am certified in both Google Adwords and Google Analytics and I can help you determine the best way to implement this into your business.
Mitch_Smith_Google_Adwords_Search_Advertising_Certification
Google_Analytics_Certification_Mitch_Smith

Encourage your customers to drive more traffic to your local business by creating customized Snapchat geofilters.

This may come across as a particularly confusing marketing avenue, especially if you are not a Snapchat user.  Essentially, geofilters are graphic enhancements which can be added to an image which is taken within a specified geographic area.
For example, most major cities already have geofilters available to anybody taking and sharing an image or video via Snapchat.  In July 2017, the ability was given for anybody to create and establish their own geofilter which, once approved, becomes available to anybody within your set geographic area.  Some suggested applications for geofilters are for weddings, special events, business promotions, etc….  And with Snapchat’s user base estimated at 200 million back in 2015, there are enough people using the platform to give it some serious consideration.

Generate inexpensive search traffic by advertising on the Bing search network.  

Fewer people use Bing so fewer people advertise on it and the ads are simply cheaper.  But that may be changing.
If you have ever tried looking for specific information or answering a specific question on being, you likely know why there’s less search volume compared to Google. Research results just don’t compare, but that’s probably just because we are spoiled and have gotten used to Google’s AI search technology.
Fewer searches doesn’t necessarily equate to insignificance, however. As Bing’s number of daily searches per day approaches 1 billion, advertising on the Bing network is only becoming more expensive. Depending on your niche, you may still be able to find being advertising for only a few cents per click.
If you’re not advertising on Bing, now is a great time to look into it while the traffic is still relatively inexpensive (or, ask nicely and I might do it for you).

Discover the latest marketing tools and sales generation technology with ProductHunt.com.

Producthunt.com gathers awesome technology tools, apps and websites and showcases them all in one place. From productivity optimization tools to communication and artificial intelligence resources, producthunt.com has it all.
I recently found this website and discovered some pretty awesome eCommerce chat plugins that allow site managers to video chat with their visitors (maybe a little creepy but it’s coming), tools to quickly design virtual reality items, and some interesting productivity apps I had never seen before.
Pro tip: Save this website visit for a time when you don’t have anything pressing on your schedule or at least visit when you have an idea of what kind of technology you are looking for. Otherwise, you may find yourself lost in the abyss of amazingness.

Stay up to date with industry news, sales opportunities, and more with Google Alerts.

There are many potential uses for this tool and frankly, there’s no reason not to use it. Google Alerts allows you to get instant, daily, or weekly emails containing newly created internet content using the words you specify.
At a bare minimum, you should track your brand mentions for reputation management and backlinks opportunity purposes.

Increase sales and new clients by encouraging social media influencers to promote your product or service.

Instagram is the perfect platform to utilize influencers to promote your product or service and there are many great opportunities to find influencers who can give your brand the boost it needs, at the right price.
For a detailed step by step breakdown of how the process works, check out the guide to social influencer targeting from Kissmetrics.

Keep your customers in the loop and drive new business by keeping your business fresh on the new Google My Business post feature.

Google explains best:
With 82% of people turning to search engines to find local information,1 your Google listing is the ideal place to showcase what is unique about your business. Even when customers know exactly what they’re looking for, they still want to get to know the business and see what it has to offer. That’s why Google My Business is bringing Posts to local businesses — an easy way to help attract new customers and build relationships with the customers you already have.With 82% of people turning to search engines to find local information,1 your Google listing is the ideal place to showcase what is unique about your business. Even when customers know exactly what they’re looking for, they still want to get to know the business and see what it has to offer. That’s why Google My Business is bringing Posts to local businesses — an easy way to help attract new customers and build relationships with the customers you already have.
Posting on Google gives you new ways to engage with your customers:
  • Share daily specials or current promotions that encourage new and existing customers to take advantage of your offers.
  • Promote events and tell customers about upcoming happenings at your location.
  • Showcase your top products and highlight new arrivals.
  • Choose one of the available options to connect with your customers directly from your Google listing: give them a one-click path to make a reservation, sign up for a newsletter, learn more about latest offers, or even buy a specific product from your website.

Seventy percent of people look at multiple businesses before making a final choice.2 With Posts, you can share timely, relevant updates right on Google Search and Maps to help your business stand out to potential customers. And by including custom calls-to-action directly on your business listing, you can choose how to connect with your customers.

Top Free (or Low-Cost) Vape Marketing Strategies in 2018

Top Free (or Low-Cost) Vape Marketing Strategies in 2018

Many vapor industry business owners that believe the FDA’s deeming regulations have dramatically impacted or restrained the ability to continue pursuing vape marketing, but that is further from the truth than you think.  If you’re currently holding off on vape advertising to “see what will happen” over the coming months or years, you’re setting yourself and your business up for a drawn out demise.  It’s important that you know how to promote your vape shop or wholesale business utilizing free vape marketing resources so you may continue to thrive during this very interesting time.

Greg Conley – the American Vaping Association President & longtime vaping advocate, has shared in the past that “there are no advertising restrictions in place, other than modified risk claims.,” meaning that the advertising sector of the vaping industry was left nearly untouched by the Food and Drugs Administrations deeming regulations.  In addition, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., introduced legislation in the House of Representatives on February 16th, 2017 which, if adopted, could prevent the e-cigarette business from collapse.  The bipartisan legislation would alter Food and Drug Administration rules requiring products deemed to be tobacco products that came on the market after Feb. 15, 2007, (a predicate date) to undergo a prohibitively expensive and complicated approval process.

For the time being, it’s best to keep moving forward and fight for your vape business and all that is righteous.

This information is intended to provide a comprehensive overview of cost-effective vape marketing strategies you can start using today to drive more traffic to your business and increase sales.  Whether you are a vape shop owner, a vapor wholesaler, an eJuice manufacturer, or a hardware manufacturer – there is something here for you.  Also, see the 2016 guide to free vape shop marketings resources, which is elaborated upon in greater detail here.

Organic web optimization.

Establish and maximize your web presence to attract local consumers (vapers or vapor retail establishments) looking for your business.

The key to successful vape marketing strategy starts with identifying your target market.  If you already have a vapor industry business, you should have a good idea of your general customer demographics.  The basic concept of effective vape marketing strategy revolves around the idea of positioning your business in front of vapers (or potential vapers), anywhere and everywhere you might be able to catch their attention.

According to a recent study by Google, 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local businesses (see the infographic below, courtesy of Google).  Of that group, 88% are using their smartphone and 86% are using a tablet or desktop computer.  When conducting searches, these consumers are looking for specific types of information.  Google’s study found that 54% are searching for business hours, 53% are looking for directions, and 50% are looking for a local business address.  They also found that 18% of the smartphone searches lead to a purchase within 24 hours.

understanding-local-search-behavior - vape marketing strategy

What does this mean for your e-cig marketing strategy (other than the fact that people don’t use telephone books anymore)?

If your business is not appearing in the top 3 local search results, or at least close to it, consistently, then you are losing customers every day to competitors with more visibility.  Your customers (or could have been customers) are going elsewhere because the other place was easier to find.  It was more convenient.

In the image below, you will see the default local search results which are returned when searching today for ‘enid vape shop’.  The top 3 default listings are returned when searching Google for any kind of local businesses.  Making consistent efforts to rank your business so that it appears in this location is an essential part of an effective vape marketing strategy, particularly for retail businesses.

Google’s organic search results display directly below the three business listings.  You might also notice that Juicy’s Vapor Lounge holds the top position in the local rankings as well as the organic results which are returned for the search ‘enid vape shop’.  Although this has taken a considerable amount of effort to achieve, it is possible in some cases.

Keep in mind actual search results may vary from person to person, depending on factors such as location, search history, previously rated businesses, etc…

This free vapor marketing strategy is not only important for retailers looking for end users, but it’s also important for eLiquid manufacturers, vapor wholesalers, hardware manufacturers, eLiquid bottling companies, and every other vapor industry business.   Setting up your Google my business listing is an important factor for any vapor industry business, as it adds credibility to your operation.  Keep scrolling for more information on how to create an effective Google my business listing for your vape business.

How do I rank my local e-cigarette business in Google’s top three search results?
(Keep in mind, there is a big difference between local SEO and website SEO.)

While there are some best practice approaches, it is important to first understand that there are no any guarantees of ranking positions on Google, period.  If somebody tells you otherwise, they are likely scamming you or pitching you some sort of short-term ranking strategy which may eventually get you blacklisted by Google.  At the end of the day, search results are custom tailored to provide what Google believes to be best suited for an individual searcher.   Their objective is to know what you are looking for before you know you are looking for it.

Since the ranking algorithms Google uses are proprietary, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of way to go about this.  Every market is different and the location of the searcher, previous searches the searcher has conducted, and the exact search term being used may all potentially affect the results which are returned to Google searchers.

That being said, there are some general best practice strategies which should be followed if you are going to have a shot at optimizing your business’ online visibility.   If you can do these things better than your competitors, you have a better shot at becoming more visible and ranking higher than they do, which will, in turn, drive more traffic to your vape business.

Responsive Web Design 5

Buy a domain name and hosting package and get to work.  If you need help, feel free to give me a shout.  View some of my vapor industry website designs for ideas and examples.

There are businesses (rare exceptions) that manage to rank well in Google local search results without a website, however, in my experience, having a well-designed website for your vapor business increases your odds substantially.

You want a central hub for all of your citation listings and social media pages to link back to and in my opinion, a website is much more professional than trying to get away with using a Facebook page, for instance (although its a good idea to have one of these as well).

In addition, at some point you may want to sell products online.  A website will be necessary if you decide to take this approach, and the shop can always be added later. Also see, should my business have an online store? Retailers and service providers or keep reading.  I will discuss this shortly.

  • Implement Schema.org data markup on your website.  

This ensures that search engines are interpreting your data in a meaningful, indexable format.  You can easily check if your website currently implements Schema.org data markup and other types of structured data using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

The Schema.org markup for your address and phone number is below.  Change the text in bold to your own details and you are good to go.

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/LocalBusiness">
<p itemprop="name">COMPANY NAME</p>
<p itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
<p itemprop="streetAddress">ADDRESS LINE 1</p>
<p itemprop="addressLocality">CITY</p>,
<p itemprop="addressRegion">REGION</p>
<p itemprop="postalCode">POSTCODE/ZIP</p.
<p itemprop="telephone">PHONE NUMBER</p>
<meta itemprop="latitude" content="LATITUDE" />
<meta itemprop="longitude" content="LONGITUDE" />
</div>
  • Create a Google My Business account.  

Be sure to correctly categorize your business (vaporizer store, if you have a retail shop), create a detailed description including links and all relevant information, your business address, phone number, etc…   Be sure you remember the exact syntax you list your address and phone number here, as you will need to use this later to create your citations.

Google will mail you a postcard with a PIN number for verification.  Once you receive the postcard, verify your business by visiting the link on the postcard and using the PIN number to verify your legitimacy.

Once your business is verified…

  • Encourage (real) customers to review your Google listing.  

Reviews are definitely taken into consideration in the local ranking system.   By having more (real) reviews and a higher average rating than your competitors, you have a much greater chance at ranking your vape business higher on the local search results.  Don’t try to cheat the system and submit fake reviews. Google uses algorithms to determine the validity of reviews and getting caught submitting fake reviews is likely not a good thing in terms of your business ranking.

Google local business reviews can be a little tricky to submit if your customers have never given Google reviews in the past.  In order to find the place to submit a review, first, they must search google for the name of your business.

If using a desktop computer or laptop, the process is pretty straight forward. Your local business listing should appear off to the right side and look similar to the image below.  Your reviewer will want to click ‘write a review’ to submit a review about your business.  (They will need to be logged into their Google/Gmail account to submit a review.)

Google_Local_Business_Review_Submission

On a mobile device, the process isn’t quite as intuitive.

Once you search for the business, you will receive a similar-looking local business listing, but there is not a button to write a review.

In order to submit a review using a mobile device, first, the reviewer must either touch the star rating region or the ‘more about’ regions, highlighted in the images below.

How to submit a Google local business review using a mobile device

Scrolling down…

How to submit a Google local business review using a mobile device

Once the reviewer has selected one of these areas, a new version of the listing will appear.

Scroll down towards the bottom and underneath the other reviews, there will be an area to submit a new review, similar to the image below.

How to submit a Google local business review using a mobile device

 

  • Create and maintain applicable social media accounts & pages. 

Even if you don’t use all of them, I suggest creating as many profiles and pages as possible, just for the sake of being able to reach people who use each of the different social platforms.

When it comes to social media, I suggest picking 2-3 platforms and creating consistent content for those and forget about the rest of them.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Foursquare, Instagram, Alignable, and Snapchat are all examples of possible social media platforms to market your vape business.  If you are looking to expand your social media horizon, check out this list of 91 social networks.The Definitive Guide to Vape Marketing in 2017 - Social Media

  • Identify the most important online business directories and create listings (citations) on them, using consistency with your name, address, and phone number (NAP). 

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First, list your website in all of the free vape shop directories you can find, as well as YP.com, Yelp.com, Bing Places for Business,

After that, identify which directories should be prioritized and are most relevant to your specific area by conducting a Google search for ‘find a vape shop (your city)’ and identifying the directory listings which appear on the first couple pages of the search.   Make a list of the directory sites.  For example, if you live in Oklahoma City you might search for finding a vape shop Oklahoma City (shown below), and your results would look something similar to the images below.

Notice some of the listings will be for actual vape shops which have ranked well or that you have recently visited online and others will be actual directories. First, you will likely see the local search results.

 

Next, you will see the organic search results.  I have highlighted the directories and the actual shops to better explain how to go about identifying which are directories and which are local businesses which have just ranked well for the search terms you used.   If you are in doubt about which, just visit the sites and see what they are about.  

You should do this for each keyword you want to rank for, scanning and noting the first 2-3 pages of the search results.  These are the most relevant for your particular area.

After you do this you might try the same with ‘vapor store (your city)’, ‘pigs (your city)’, etc….  You want to make sure all of your bases are covered in terms of potential search terms used to locate your shop.
Free Vape Shop Marketing Resources: Find Free Directories

 

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Prioritize customer retention and upselling.

Identify and take advantage of free methods if increasing sales to your existing customer base.

Consumers have more options at their fingertips today than they have ever had in recorded history.   If your business has not implemented some form of a newsletter or opt-in vape marketing strategy, you are losing customers to other businesses who do have customer retention strategies in place.

Your existing customer base is the best resource you have for generating more revenue for your business, but if you are not giving your customers the opportunity to opt-in to an occasional text message or email, you have a much greater chance of never seeing them again.

 

How do I start a customer opt-in list?

There are several ways to go about collecting newsletter/marketing opt-ins from your customers, the easiest of which would be your point of sale system’s software, which can make the opt-in process easy on you and your customers.

Point of Sale Systems 

POS systems such as ShopKeep enable you to provide your customers with the option to opt in to receive further promotional communication from you.   Some also provide an email or text outreach system for you to send your customer’s promo emails from time to time, using the same system.

 

Email Marketing Platforms

Don’t have a modern point of sale system that enables you to collect opt-ins?   Email marketing services such as MailChimp or Constant Contact have opt-in pages which can be left open on a tablet in the area of your business where your customers check out.   I am personally a Constant Contact partner, so if you are in need of email marketing assistance, feel free to get in touch with me.

(In fact, I can manage everything in this article for you and have many satisfied customers.  Contact me for more information.)

SMS / Text Messaging 

If you don’t have an extra tablet laying around or would simply prefer the text message approach, setting up an SMS opt-in system may be the way to go.  Check out these 13 SMS text messaging services which serve the same purpose.

With text message marketing, however, you must be extremely clear with your customers that they are opting in to receive text messages and that they can opt out very easily.  Failure to communicate this clearly could lead somebody to get the impression you are sending them unsolicited spam text messages, which could put you in violation of FCC regulations and at risk for very hefty fines.

It would be wise to view/download the full details on the recently expanded FCC phone call and text messaging regulations before pursuing a text message marketing strategy.

How do I get customers to subscribe or opt-in to my vapor marketing or promotional messages?

When building an opt-in list, customers are not likely going to want to mindlessly sign up for anything.  You must incentivize them to do so, giving them a reason to read your texts or emails and ultimately return to your business.  Some ideas to obtain opt-ins include:

  • Hosting a regular puzzle, contest, or game.  Give discounts or prizes to customers who win or even participate.  Make it fun. Give incentives to participate.
  • Members-only discounts or promotions which are only shared with people who opt-in.
  • Random giveaways.  There is likely not a better way to retain a customer and gain their friends and family as customers than giving away unexpected prizes.
  • Get creative.  If you can’t think of a good way to encourage people to hear from you again then you might be in the wrong business.

What are some good examples of non-invasive or annoying emails or text messages to send my customers?

Five tips for better text message marketing (Entrepreneur.com)

Retail email marketing tips & templates (ConstantContact.com)

15 Examples of Awesome Email Marketing (Hubspot.com)

If you are looking for outside assistance in creating content for your text or email marketing outreach, give me a shout.

How can I achieve more sales to my existing customer base? 

  • Identify products or services the customer could buy but doesn’t. If you are in the vapor wholesale business, for instance,  maybe you primarily sell eLiquid.   But in evaluating where your customers are spending money elsewhere, you find that offering certain vaping devices might be a smart decision in order to keep them from having to go elsewhere. Communicate with your customers as frequently as possible, especially when you are face to face. If you can make their life easier and/or save them money, you may be able to obtain more of their business.
  • Develop a plan for encouraging your customers to refer their friends and family.  Referral business is one of the easiest kinds of business to obtain but you have to ask for it. Even if you have a wholesale business, shop owners generally associate with other shop owners and are likely to chat about these things when they get together.
  • Maximize value in all of your customer contacts. The most important contribution you can give to existing customers is your knowledge and expertise. What information do you possess that can be of benefit to customers? Define value in terms of what your customers are seeking. The possibilities of creating value are limitless: faster service, better products, wider selection, faster/better delivery, easier ordering processes, etc.  Go out of your way to help your customers and they will become loyal to your business.  It likely doesn’t hurt in terms of karma, either.
  • Make customers feel they have a special relationship with you. If they want to chat, take the time to chat with them with a smile on your face.  Being short with a customer is one of the easiest ways to lose them, or even worse, spread their experience all over the internet.  I believe the saying is: One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.  And it definitely applies here.  Upsetting the wrong customer who enjoys telling the world about their bad experiences will offset literally hundreds of happy customers.

Make your products or services easy to access.  Create an enjoyable buying experience.

On the other hand, if your customers have an enjoyable experience or the process is particularly easy, they will tell others.  Word of mouth is one of the most effective methods of vape marketing but it can also work against you if there are problems.

Retail Strategies

Optimize & organize your inventory arrangement.  Hire appropriate staff to minimize customer wait times. 

You hopefully have certain times of the day in which foot traffic picks up and customers are having to wait in line to buy products.    This is a great problem to have but it’s important to make sure your shop is organized in a manner which minimizes the time it takes to fulfill an order, allowing customers who are in a rush to get in and out.  If somebody comes by during their lunch break and has to wait 30 minutes to make a purchase, they will definitely think twice before coming in next time.

In terms of your staff, it is important to make sure you have sufficient help on-hand in order to accommodate customer flow.  If you manage the shop by yourself, you should consider hiring at least one other person, at least part time, to work during the busiest times of the day.  This will allow one of you to take the customers who are new to vaping or just need their hand held, while the other person manages the fast-track line.

Allow customers who want to get in and out quickly to do so, but plan to have staff on hand to ensure that newbies get equal consideration.  Not everybody is a pro when it comes to vaping and you should be happy to have newbie vapers coming in to your shop.  Take care of these people and they are very likely to keep coming back.

If you have your own eLiquid brand or product line, set up a website that allows your customers to order online.  If you don’t have your own juice brand or product line, do not set up the online store.   

 

Today’s consumers are driven by convenience and price.   If you are a shop owner and have your own line of eLiquid or even hardware devices, you are likely selling yourself short if you are not offering your vape products online.  Not only does this allow you to reach a much broader customer base, but it enables you to fulfill orders without having to spend time with customers.  It also makes life easier on your customers because they don’t have to take the time to visit your shop.

On the other hand, if you do not have your own line of products, I do not recommend reselling eLiquids and hardware on your website (unless you own a wholesale business, in which case it probably makes sense).    In fact, I would avoid discussing pricing on your website altogether.  Instead, create a professional, comfortable web presence that encourages customers to visit your shop for an enjoyable experience.  The reality is that there is so much competition online, there is no way for you to compete selling brand name products unless possibly you are buying in wholesale quantities.  Discussing pricing will just turn people into price shoppers, and possibly turn them to shop on the internet.  In my experience, it’s best to avoid taking this route unless you have your own brand of products to offer.

 

If you employ a shop manager, hire a secret shopper to evaluate customer interactions when you are not around. Advise your secret shopper to be somewhat of a difficult customer and to ask very basic questions. 

In working with hundreds of vape shop owners across the country, I’ve discovered a peculiar sort of ‘disease’ that haunts retail store owners from coast to coast.   This vape shop disease is called Asshole Manager-itis.  If you have owned a vape shop for any length of time and have ever tried to hire a manager, you likely know exactly what I am talking about.

It’s a nasty disease and nobody is certain of the reasoning behind it, but when you put a “Manager” title on a human, that also happens to be an experienced vaper, this disease has the potential to have wide-ranging disastrous effects on your business.

The symptoms of Asshole Manager-itis include but are not limited to: customers running for the hills, negative reviews on your social media and local business pages, unexplained drops in sales, and in the worst cases, disappearing Houdini-like inventory.

In many cases, the cause of the illness seems to be isolated to the manager in question acting as if they have become King of the vapor castle once you call them a manager.  In many cases, they will speak very condescendingly to customers, making them feel like idiots when they have simple questions.  They might forget that they are an employee (or even human) and suddenly decide that they are too good to assist in basic shop upkeep such as cleaning and organizing the shop.   You might even discover that they are delegating everything and don’t have much actual activity they can account for, except for possibly hooking their friends up with free product.

If you have found a manager who doesn’t infect your business with the itis, consider yourself very lucky.  Finding good employees who have knowledge about vaping seems to be one of the most challenging aspects of establishing a successful retail vapor business.

Wholesaler & Manufacturer Strategies

In 2013 I took on a position with a startup vapor hardware wholesaler as the business development manager/sales manager.  In this position, I lead the company from having literally zero sales to achieving $250k – $400k sales/month within about 16 months.

When I started, there was literally a warehouse full of vapor hardware, eLiquid, and accessories, but there had not been any sales processed.  The plan was to take orders on order forms that had to be filled out each time an order was placed.   I knew that wasn’t going to work if we were going to be successful and my top priority immediately became streamlining the ordering process, which made life easier for me, my sales staff, our warehouse staff, and most importantly, our (soon to be) customers.

I designed a wholesale eCommerce vape website which required account verification for shop owners looking to purchase products and created a spreadsheet-based wholesale order form for customers to fill out when placing their orders.  The order form contained all of the items we had in stock along with pricing.   Shortly thereafter, inventory management became an issue as we were taking orders online and through our offline order form, so we moved everything to online orders only.  This made a world of a difference.

As a vapor wholesale business, simplifying your ordering process is a crucial aspect of creating a successful operation.  The idea is to make life as easy as possible for your customers and keep an inventory of the products they need.  If you can do that, offer competitive pricing, hire competent account managers, and be consistent, then you can succeed in the business.

Most Effective Wholesale Cold Calling Script – Use to Obtain New Customers

I found the most effective strategy for obtaining new wholesale/manufacturing customers was to place a very simple cold call that went something like this:

‘Hi, this is ________ from Vapor Products, Inc., how’s it going?”

(Response)

‘Great, I’m not going to take much of your time. We’re a statewide wholesaler – we carry name brand products such as Smoktek, Innokin, and Kangertek. Our prices are very competitive. I am just calling you because I am about to send over some of our pricing information for you to check out.  Where should I send it?’

(Response) (get email address and send)

Managing Wholesale Customer Communication, Productivity, and Inventory

It is crucial to have a customer relationship management (CRM) system in place to keep track of what your sales people are doing, which customers belong to who, sales follow-ups, etc…  is very important.  Not only does it establish accountability for your sales staff/account management staff’s productivity and keep track of customer follow-ups, but it keeps the sales staff from stepping on each other’s toes – which is important if you intend to retain employees.

When I was at the vapor wholesale business, we used a web-based CRM system called Insightly, which did its job and was fairly priced.  The downside to Insightly was that it was not capable of inventory or order management integration, so it was an entirely different system than the one we used to manage inventory.  Our website was also an entirely different system, detached from the inventory or the CRM system.

There are much more comprehensive systems on the market which integrate the CRM with your inventory management system, website, and order management & fulfillment.  Systems such as Salesforce or Fishbowl have the capability to integrate everything.  The downside to these, however, is that the upfront cost can range anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000, with additional annual fees for updates and training.

 

Keep an eye on the competition.

This one is pretty straight forward but when it comes to checking on the online strategies being utilized by your competitors, it can get a bit more involved.  If you are going to run a vapor business successfully, you need to have an idea of what competitors in your marketplace are offering, and what they are doing online that you might not be – especially if their business has more visibility or is ranking higher in search results than yours might be.

Retail Competitor Evaluation Strategy

Online

First, identify the shops which make sense to pay attention to.  These will be the shops that rank higher than your shop on Google local listings.   You want to check with your mobile device and with a tablet, PC, or laptop as the results may be different, depending on where you are located at the time of the search and other misc. factors.

Mobile Check

  • Open your preferred internet browser on your phone.  Visit Google.com and make sure you are logged out of your Gmail/Google account if you have one.
  • Conduct Google searches for the following terms: vape shop, vape shop near me, vapor store, vaporizer store, closest vape shop, vape shop [enter your city], [enter your city] vape shop, etc….    You should receive the top 3 local listings before the organic search results, as discussed previously.  Take a glance at the organic results on the first couple pages to see what kinds of sites are ranking for your searches.
  • As you do this, pay attention to where your shop is ranked on the list (if it is).  Also, pay attention to the shops that are consistently ranking towards the top of the list.  Write these down, along with the website that their Google My Business Page links to if they have a website listed.

Desktop/Tablet/Laptop Check

  • Follow the exact same steps above, this time using a non-mobile device (computer), noting any differences in your findings.

Evaluate the Competition

  • There are a wide range of factors which can contribute to local search rankings including quantity and quality of citation listings, number of customer reviews, quality of the reviews, Google Plus page setup, social media factors, and more.
  • If you are looking to figure out how to optimize your vape shop marketing and increase your visibility on Google, contact me and I will evaluate your local competitors and create a customized game plan specifically for your shop.

Offline

Visit several local shops around your area.  Buy something from each.  Take in as much detail and overall vibe of the place when you go in.  Pay attention to things such as:

  • How the staff greets and interacts with you
  • How many employees they have on the clock
  • Any interesting product displays or decorations, televisions, couches, etc…  Take note of the overall layout.
  • Product/brand selection – Do they have their own lines of eLiquid? If so, do they mix it in-house?
  • Any types of flyers, handouts, promotions, punch cards, etc… that they might be handing out
  • Product pricing
  • Product availability – Do you have to go to the store to purchase?  Do they have an app, online shop, etc…?
  • How their products are showcased
  • Marketing opt-in lists.  Do they give you the option to subscribe or opt into any kind of ongoing marketing when you are checking out?

Wholesale / Manufacturer Evaluation Strategy

  • First, follow the same steps as above to see how your business is currently displayed in local search results.  Even though your business may not target a local audience, it does give off a more professional appearance when your potential customers look for your business and find a complete listing for your business. It also helps to have good reviews, of course.
  • Ask yourself a question.  How is a potential customer most likely to go about looking for your business? What answers does your business offer to the questions that potential customers are likely to be asking?    For instance, let’s say you have a vapor wholesale business and offer competitive prices and free shipping.   That would answer a question for a vape shop owner is looking for a new wholesaler asking themselves, ‘Where can I find a cost-competitive vapor hardware wholesaler that offers free shipping?’.  Their search might look something like ‘vapor wholesaler US prices free shipping.’
  • The key to receiving qualified organic traffic, is to first identify the specific advantages your company has to offer and create original, meaningful content which answers the question that your ideal customer is looking to have answered.   In this particular instance, the search results are shown below.  Notice that the first result is the only one on the page that guarantees the lowest prices and offers free shipping.

Wholesale vape marketing

Take advantage of local traffic and take advantage of opportunities to increase street visibility.

Depending on the city and type of area your vapor business is located in, there are likely anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 cars driving down a street somewhere with a couple miles of your location.  The question is, how do you capture their attention and divert some of that traffic to your shop with little to zero expense?  Because you definitely should.

Considerations for maximizing street visibility and re-routing drive-by traffic might include:

  • Keeping your storefront clean and tidy.  The front of your business should be cleared of any trash and swept on a daily basis.  If you have windows in the front of your business, wash them.  Make the place look nice.
  • Identify streets that are most heavily traveled near your shop.  Buy or create signs, similar to the open house signs you might see directing drive-by traffic to homes for sale in your area.   Post your signs on the busiest intersections, with arrows leading the way to your shop.  Don’t buy anything too expensive, however, as your signage is likely to be taken down by the city.  In fact, depending on where you live, it’s probably safe to assume they will be removed from time to time.
  • Make a flyer and distribute it to nearby restaurants, bars, etc… Ask them to make your flyers or advertising pieces available to their patrons in exchange for displaying their literature or advertising pieces in your shop.
  •  Create a guerilla marketing idea and go for it.  Do something crazy/legal and get yourself some news coverage.

 

There are many things you can do today to start bringing more traffic to your vapor industry business.   The misconceptions involved around non-existent bans on ecig advertising are simply not true.  The regulations are primarily geared towards the required warning labels on the bottles, eJuice sales tactics, checking ID’s, giving out free samples, etc…  For full details on new regulations, check out the FDA’s New Regulations for E-Cigarettes, Cigars, and All Other Tobacco Products.

If you need any assistance with any of the concepts discussed here, please contact me.  I have helped hundreds of vapor businesses increase their market share and would love the opportunity to do the same for you.

TTFN.

5.

The Only Brainstorming / Mind Mapping Tools You Need in 2018 (Free)

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Top 8 Podcasts for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs in 2016

Top 8 Podcasts for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs in 2016

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
— Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures

 

For the longest time, I listened strictly to music and/or sat in silence while I worked.  In my free time I produce music, so saying I am a music lover would be somewhat of an understatement.

Two months ago, a life-changing transformation took place.   I became the father of a beautiful 6 week old fur-baby, Lilly.

Recently Lilly decided to snack on my speaker cables (sweet angel) and before I took the time to replace them, I decided to try listening to entrepreneurial focused, small business podcasts from my computer speakers, as it had been a couple years since I made a habit of listening to The Art of Charm during my morning commute.  I haven’t looked back.

The cables have since been replaced and I have (somewhat) puppy-proofed my speaker arrangement, but I have not switched back to music. Once again, I’ve found myself entranced in the ocean of amazing podcasts available at our modern-day fingertips.

As a small business owner & entrepreneur myself, I have re-discovered the value to be found in listening to great podcasts including motivation, inspiration, productivity tips, organization, communication, health & science breakthroughs, and much more.   Plus, sometimes it’s nice to switch things up from strictly discussing small business web design & digital business development.

Some of my favorite business (& other) podcasts are linked below. (Say, ‘thank you, Lilly!’)

If you have other small business podcasts you enjoy listening to, please feel free to share in the comments below.

Most of these are all safe for work, except for the Joe Rogan Experience.  This is likely the least ‘business focused’ of all of the podcasts below, but there are also some very entertaining episodes to be explored.  If it’s not your cup of tea, skip it and check out the rest.

Tony Robbins Podcast

  • It’s hard to listen to Tony Robbins and not be inspired.
  • One of my personal life influences / motivators.
  • One of my favorite authors.
  • Language is safe for work.
  • Topics include – Motivation, Inspiration, Business, Confidence, Organization, Goals, etc…

Tony Robbins is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, philanthropist and the nation’s #1 Life and Business Strategist. A recognized authority on the psychology of leadership, negotiations and organizational turnaround, he has served as an advisor to leaders around the world for more than 38 years. Author of five internationally bestselling books, including the recent New York Times #1 best-seller MONEY: MASTER THE GAME, Mr. Robbins has empowered more than 50 million people from 100 countries through his audio, video and life training programs. He created the #1 personal and professional development program of all time, and more than 4 million people have attended his live seminars.

The James Altucher Show

  • Very Informative & Entertaining.
  • One of my personal-favorite authors.
  • Occasional strong language but not overbearing.
  • Topics  – Wide range including: Business, Writing, Marketing, Sales, Entrepreneurship, Misc. Other Topics
  • About: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/about/  (Full description is an entire interview)

James Altucher hosts various guests on each episode of his podcasts.  Most of them have at least one book published and interestingly, James has without failure, read their books before on the show.  This is very impressive considering there are around 175 episodes to-date.

I first discovered James on Quora (one of my favorite apps / websites) and naturally gravitated toward his writing style and some of his life experiences he writes about regarding his past business experience, making and losing money, etc…

Since he has read the books written by his guests on the show and remembers amazing details about them, he is able to get into their minds and effectively portray a fresh perspective during his podcast.  I have picked up something from every episode I have listened to.

Tim Ferriss Show

  • Informative, Entertaining, Motivational, and the topics are generally applicable to real-world situations.
  • Another one of my favorite authors (The Four Hour Work Week is a must-read)
  • Occasional Strong Language
  • Topics – Wide Range including: Business, Making Money, Life Optimization, Time Optimization, Efficiency, etc…

The Tim Ferriss Show is generally the #1 business podcast on all of iTunes, and it’s been ranked #1 (of all podcasts) on many occasions.  It was also selected as iTunes’ “Best of 2014” and “Best of 2015.”  In recent months, downloads have shot past 70,000,000 downloads.

Each episode, Tim deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use.  This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.

The Joe Rogan Experience (Podcast)

  • Very entertaining but if you work in retail or have customers walking in, this is likely not a good ‘at-work’ choice.
  • Entertaining real-world information and opinions.
  • Nice break from inspiration & business discussion.
  • Very strong language.
  • Topics include – nearly everything in life.  Funny stuff, serious stuff, and everything in-between.

The Joe Rogan Experience podcast is a long form conversation hosted by comedian, UFC color commentator, and actor Joe Rogan with friends and guests that have included comedians, actors, musicians, MMA instructors and commentators, authors, artists, and porn stars. The Joe Rogan Experience was voted the Best Comedy Podcast of 2012 on iTunes. In addition online listening, fans can watch a videocast of the show live on Ustream or tune in on Sirius XM’s “The Virus” channel on Saturdays at Noon ET and Sundays at 5:00 AM and 6:00 PM ET.

TED Radio Hour

  • Thought-provoking topics.
  • Shows tend to make good conversation topics.
  • Every episode contains language which is safe for a workplace environment.

From NPR, the Ted Radio Hour brings you fascinating and insightful speakers on a broad range of topics from global issues such as fighting hunger to individual journeys into the source of happiness. Based on the phenomenal TED Talks series, the show is hosted by Guy Raz and available on demand in weekly episodes.

The Art of Charm

  • Great, useful topics which are mostly all applicable to real life.
  • This is one of the first podcasts I ever followed and I still keep up with it from time-to-time.
  • Each episode has a ‘cheat sheet’ which comes along with it, on the website.  This is beneficial to review and see if the episode is something of interest prior to listening.
  • Topics include – business, personal development, confidence, style, entrepreneurship, productivity, etc…

You’ll learn top strategies to improve your career, confidence, lifestyle and love-life from top experts like life and business-hackers Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi and Noah Kagan to Seth Godin, Simon Sinek, Olivia Fox, The Art of Charm team and more.

Profit. Power. Pursuit. 

  • Excellent podcast, particularly for creatives but not exclusively, which hosts a different person on each show, most of whom have started very successful endeavors.
  • The description of the show gears itself towards primarily ‘creatives’ but I would consider any business / entrepreneurial endeavor to have a creative aspect / necessity to it.
  • Topics vary but area generally centered around the requirements, lessons, and implications of building a business and life around a creative drive.

Profit. Power. Pursuit. explores what it means to build a business and life on your creative drive. We uncover both the strategic and the tactical components of how creative people make money, take control of their businesses, and pursue what’s most important to them so that you can too.

Bulletproof Radio

  • Topics include – lifestyle optimization, time optimization / productivity, becoming the best version of yourself, ground-breaking scientific and nutritional breakthroughs, and more.

Tech entrepreneur Dave Asprey is the man behind Bulletproof Radio, a podcast all about streamlining your life and becoming the best version of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. Each week he brings you the knowledge of doctors, biochemists, nutritionists and meditation experts to help you find this “bulletproof” state within yourself.

 

TTFN

 

The Only Brainstorming / Mind Mapping Tools You Need in 2018 (Free)

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Top 7 Advantages & (Potential) Disadvantages of Online Marketing in 2016

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Top 7 Advantages & (Potential) Disadvantages of Online Marketing in 2016

Top 7 Advantages & (Potential) Disadvantages of Online Marketing in 2016

With 80% (or more) of adults in the United States having at least one social media profile, the exposure advantages of online marketing may be self-evident.  However, if you are just now considering internet marketing for your business, you are likely one of the few who has also taken note of the inherent disadvantages of internet marketing.

Yes, disadvantages.  You may be asking, “What is this wizardry you speak of?”.

If that’s the case, you may be surprised to find out that, even in 2016, there are still some situations which may potentially deem online marketing as a disadvantage practice. If these situations apply to you, they should likely be equally considered as you evaluate the pros and cons of marketing your business on the internet.  On a side note, if your objective is mortgage/real estate lead generation, there are not many disadvantages involved in online marketing.  Its actually essential.

social networking usage over years

Among American adults, the percentage who use social networking sites, by age. Courtesy of Pew Research Center.

Advantages of Online Marketing

  1. One of the greatest advantages is in regards to the sheer population of internet users in the United States.  With approximately 86.5% of the US population (or 286,942,362 people) using the internet, it’s wise to consider the possible ways to get your business in front these folks.
  2. The internet provides a considerably more cost-effective means of reaching out to potential customers than direct mail campaigns, going door-to-door, or outsourced telemarketing.  Postage is expensive, even with a mail permit.  And even if you take care of telemarketing and door knocking upon yourself (or your sales department), your contact may be unwelcome – or even illegal – in some cases.  Most social media profiles are free to create.  Web sites can be (relatively) very inexpensive.
  3. Your ability to reach out to an interested audience is dramatically improved online.  Social media, search engine optimization and utilizing an effective web design are all means in which you can reach out to an audience specifically interested in your products or services.
  4. An effective internet presence will provide your brand with geographic flexibility, allowing you to reach more of your local market or expand your products or services to a wider, national or international audience (whichever floats your goat).  Social media marketing, online advertising, and geotargeted marketing are all means in which the internet will allow you to target audiences in specific areas of the world.
  5. Your ability to quickly deliver information to potential or existing customers is greatly improved online.  No more flipping through hard copies of the Yellowpages or waiting for brochures to arrive in the mail.  By marketing on the internet, you are able to deliver information to your customers whenever they want it, wherever they are, regardless of the mobile device, tablet, or laptop they may be using.
  6. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.  The internet allows companies to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns very quickly, allowing them to eliminate or optimize ineffective marketing without draining their bank accounts.  Direct mail, offline advertising, and most kinds of offline marketing in general, can all be very difficult to analyze without spending significant amounts of money.
  7. Small businesses and large corporations are essentially reduced to an even playing field online. As a result, the number of competitors is naturally much greater.  Increased competition always benefits the consumer.  In addition to the fact we all want the world to be a better place, we are also all consumers in one regard or another.  Plus, a very small portion of the population are owners of large corporations.  More than likely, a level playing field is an advantage to you.

(Potential) Disadvantages of Online Marketing

Although there are many advantages to online marketing, there are some situations where it might be a less attractive consideration.

BTW, the examples provided are strictly hypothetical examples- not suggestions.  I highly discourage taking advantage of people or pursuing illegal activities and, therefore, am not responsible for your life decisions.

That said, internet marketing might be disadvantageous if:

  1. You’re Amish, a member of The Exclusive Brethren, or any other community or religion which might shun you for using the internet.  I previously managed Amish construction crews in Northeast Ohio and am quite familiar with the situation there.  Although many Amish communities have accepted the use of mobile devices (hidden out in the woods) for the members of the community which rely on the devices to maintain an operable business, online marketing is likely to be a different story (as of yet, anyway).   It’s unlikely that this applies to you if you’re reading this, however.
  2. Your business only works if you go door-to-door or hold ‘parties’ to sell your products on the spot.  If this is the case, allowing your prospective customers to do online research (or shop) is likely a great disadvantage to your sales strategy.
  3. You sell Facebook profiles, Gmail accounts, or any other online services which would otherwise be easy and free to establish if your customers only knew. Maybe your target market is recently-released convicts.
  4. You resell copies of the Yellowpages or other hard copy directories which would be free if your customers only knew where to find them (and happen to be in the 13.5% of the US population which does not use the internet, of course).
  5. You make money by taking advantage of people or by prowling on their lack of knowledge or ability to access it.
  6. You operate a black market business.
  7. Your business is top secret, classified, or does not exist.

Summary

There are many reasons to establish an effective internet presence for your business online and only a small fraction of the population which this may not be applicable.

As a general rule of thumb, internet marketing is a great investment of your time and resources to maximize your exposure.  If you are looking for an effective method of generating qualified mortgage leads, for instance, you will likely need to take advantage of online marketing resources.

As a small to medium size business owner, exposure is everything.   If you are going to capture the attention of the millions of people in the US who live their daily lives with their eyes glued to the front of their mobile devices, you have to catch their attention where it counts.

If you need help establishing an effective, mobile-friendly internet presence for your business, feel free to contact us anytime.

TTFN

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How To Use Behalf Financing for Web Design and Online Marketing

How To Use Behalf Financing for Web Design and Online Marketing

As a business owner in today’s world, having a professionally designed website and an effective online marketing strategy is as (if not more) important than having a phone number.  Considering a well-implemented online marketing strategy and business website will provide a return on your investment for years to come (as long as it is well maintained), there are some distinct advantages in using Behalf’s term payment program rather than paying cash out of your pocket.

Although this is not a topic I am asked about on a regular basis, I did receive a question about it recently and knew there were others in similar situations. I found there to be somewhat limited third-party information about this topic available – outside of using a credit card – which will generally be a much more expensive route than the method I am sharing here.

Maybe you have recently launched a new startup and have limited working capital or possibly found yourself in a difficult cash flow  situation and realized the importance of optimizing your brand’s visibility online.  Or maybe you can afford it but the low-cost of using the service is attractive to you, and you like the idea of boosting your business’ credit rating while taking care of your company’s web presence.

In either case, this process may allow you to get the ball rolling towards having an effective online web presence in place, working for your business around the clock.  An effective web presence has the potential to be much more effective than even your top sales person, yet ‘working’ 24/7/365 rather than only during normal business hours.

There are actually some distinct advantages of financing your web design and online marketing, even if you do have cash to cover the investment.

Luckily, for those who don’t, there still may be an opportunity to obtain financing on your web design and/or online marketing with Behalf Financing, even if you have some credit scuffs from the past.

Discovering A Need for Behalf (via the Liberation of Vapor Devices)

Through April 2015 I was involved in the business development and sales management of a wholesale vapor distribution company which strictly sold to retail businesses which offered vapor / electronic cigarette devices to the 18+ public.  During that time I ran into several situations where my customers came to the warehouse to pick up their orders, agreeing to  ‘send us a check later.’ Some just never came through on their end of the deal.

My customers, on at least three occasions over the year and a half I was in that position, intentionally stiffed the company for the product I ultimately let them walk away with. Although I may never understand or make an attempt to justify this type of behavior, I truly believe (really hope for their sake, anyway) that they wouldn’t have done that if they were not in dire personal financial situations.

While ‘liberating’ our vapor hardware was one way to finance their product, Behalf Financing turned out to be a much more attractive option.

Behalf Financing – The Cash Flow Savior

Having previously held a sales management position with the insulating concrete form manufacturer, BuildBlock Building Systems, the B2B sales and marketing world was not foreign to me, however, the vapor industry was indeed.

I took every opportunity to learn marketing and business growth strategies from our top producing clients, not only because I was truly interested in understanding their approach, but also because my experience at BuildBlock taught me that my role in that position would ultimately prove to be most effective once I was able to help our

I took every opportunity to learn marketing and business growth strategies from our top producing clients, not only because I was truly interested in understanding their approach, but also because my experience at BuildBlock taught me that my role in that position would ultimately prove to be most effective once I was able to help our clients by providing them with specific means in which they could each grown their businesses.

One day I ran into a situation with a client who had just placed a large order directly from a manufacturer  in China. Typically on these orders, pricing is greatly dictated by the quantity of product being purchased. In this particular situation, my client saved nearly 20% by ordering in bulk, which was significant enough for them to take the risk at that time. The problem, however, was that sometimes these orders could take 5 – 7 weeks to arrive, particularly when the weight and/or volume of the order made shipping by air a fairly expensive consideration.

Needless to say, this delay in receiving the product they needed not only left their bank account below their comfort level but it also put them in a situation where they did not have the product in stock they needed to run their business or a credit card to use to purhcase more product.

Mistakes like these often were made at the expense of losing customers as, in many cases, the retail e-cig buyers would become impatient and either go somewhere else or order their devices online.

The customer called to discuss their situation but since we did not offer any financing terms on purchases, I opted to research other possibilities and came across a company called Behalf which offered term payment solutions to businesses, for business purchases.

I called the company and had a long talk with one of their reps but since I did not have prior experience actually working with the company, I proceeded with caution as I pointed our customer in their direction.  The and I set up our business account which enabled us to receive payments from our clients who used their services.

As I discussed their services with more people over the  following days, I discovered that there were surprisingly more people who used their service than I anticipated. In fact, I found we were actually losing business by not having an account with them as many of our customers just went to another vendor when they were in a situation where it made more sense to use Behalf financing services.

I heard many stories of how Behalf financing had saved my customers when they were in tight cash flow situations and needed additional inventory, computers, and other products and services to run their businesses.  Not only that, but my clients found it made a lot of sense to use on purchases which had a longer return on investment.Behalf was the cash flow savior.

Behalf was the cash flow savior.

Behalf Financing

How Much Does Behalf Financing Cost?

This part was somewhat surprising and had me asking, “So, what is the catch?” a few times before I fully understood the company’s business model.

The founder of the company started the organization as a means of providing affordable financing to business owners who had found themselves in a bit of a tough situation financially, in order to purchase products or services for their business.

Behalf financing generally costs $10 – $30 / month per $1,000 borrowed. The company offers 90 – 180-day payment terms and allows customers to pay off their balance early without acquiring any additional fees or expenses.

Not only is this much less than what most credit cards would charge, this also makes considering the use of Behalf to cover expenses such as your company’s website design or online marketing.

This is due to the basic economics of the situation.

Hypothetical situation.  Let’s say you are shopping outsource web design companies (vs hiring an employee to design and manage).

One of the options you found costs $500 and the other is $1,000. You know the $1,000 option will ultimately drive more business because it is more comprehensive, but you are not comfortable making that investment out of pocket. $500 is a more comfortable investment but you have a feeling you may not get as much out of the finished product as you would with the alternative option.

Rather than going the ‘more comfortable’ yet less effective route, you consider the costs of using Behalf Financing to spread the $1,000 investment over the next three months. On the higher end of the spectrum, that might cost $90 in fees to Behalf and the additional $500 for the investment itself makes the higher-end option run $590 more to pursue.

What is the Return on Investment for Using a More Comprehensive Digital Marketing & Web Design Service?

The true answer to this will depend greatly on the nature of the business you are involved in.   In the example above, using Behalf Financing in addition to a more comprehensive digital marketing and web design service was $590 more than the alternative option.  vast majority of businesses will have a much greater than $590 return if the more costly option is even slightly more effective than the $500 option.

The vast majority of businesses will have a much greater than $590 return if the more costly option is even slightly more effective than the $500 option.

Plus, considering you will continue reaping the rewards of a well-established web presence long after it has been set up (as long as you provide it with necessary upkeep) it actually makes more sense to compare the two options on a several year time frame.

Extending the investment over a longer period of time likely makes more sense if you are able to do so affordably, especially if you are ultimately getting even a few more customers out of it than the lower-investment route.

For a custom home builder or contractor of any kind, just one additional customer would more than justify the difference. For a vape shop or restaurant, for instance, one new customer every couple weeks would likely more than justify the additional expense.

The profit per customer & per transaction with ultimately change how the return on investment works but the overall advantages to using Behalf Financing are essentially the same.

How Do I Go About Using Behalf Financing for my Web Design & Online Marketing?

The Behalf financing approval process has improved greatly over the past couple years and today it is even easier than it was before to use their services.

  1. Visit the Behalf website here and fill in your details to begin creating your account. Continue going through that process until you receive a notification regarding your pre-approval status. Behalf uses a proprietary method of obtaining a pre-approval without the need for your social security number. This means pulling your pre-approval will not affect your credit score as they are not reporting this to any credit agencies. They will, however, report your successful payments, which will help your business credit.
  2. Once pre-approved, either contact me or request your free digital marketing evaluation. This will give me the opportunity to review your current situation and create a customized online marketing game plan specifically for your business. The more information you provide up-front, the more effective this process will be.
  3. After we have come to a game plan to pursue in establishing an effective web presence for your business, you will go back to the Behalf website and enter my vendor details and the total investment we have decided to be most comfortable and appropriate based upon your current situation and overall objective, Behalf will arrange the funding of your project based upon the payment terms you established with them.
  4. You continue making on-time payments to your Behalf account and they report positively to credit agencies as a result.  Your account with Behalf works as a revolving credit line so as long as you continue to make your payments on time, you can continue using the account for many other businesses to business transactions.

If you have further questions you may feel free to contact me anytime or you may contact Behalf if your questions are directly related to their services .

If you have questions regarding FogPusher’s work or hearing about what my clients have to say about my work, feel free to view our portfolio and/or testimonials, where you will find real client feedback from real customers.  You are welcome to contact any of them as references (please just be respectful of their time / time of day).

TTFN

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