Collecting Sports Posters As Autographed Art

Sports teams are a very popular part of today’s culture. We can put our support behind these professional teams, which gives us the chance to live vicariously through their games. We can go to their games, support their players, stick with them through the good times and the bad. Professional sports teams give us the opportunity to regularly follow an event that we feel passionately about. We can bond with others over the sports teams and identify fellow comrades by those who display their support. It is only natural that we would want to decorate our homes with images of support for our favorite teams.Posters can be a very common form of decoration for certain sports teams. Many sorts of posters exist for any given team, from shots of the complete team from a current year to individual players during some of their glory moments. You could find posters which proudly show all of the different uniforms which the team has worn over its existence to posters which highlight stats from the team’s record over a certain time frame. There are a number of different approaches that one could easily take toward finding the perfect sports related poster. However, if one wants to make their collection of posters valuable as well, there are steps that the person could take to make it so.Autographed art is something which many people consider to be a valuable addition to any collection. This holds true for sports posters as well. Some people may not want to classify sports posters as art at first, but this notion is unfair. One could consider art to be anything which produces a reaction in a person and sports posters can certain do this. They will often produce a feeling of pride in a person. This, in conjunction with the fact that sports posters will adorn a wall like other forms of art, fully classifies sports posters as art. Once these posters are autographed, however, their value can greatly increase.These autographed posters will generally have a signature on them from someone who was in the photo. If the poster is of a certain player during one of their glory moments, having an autograph from that player on the poster can certainly increase the value of the poster. If the poster is of a team as a whole, having an autograph from any and all members of that team will help to increase the value of the poster.The autographs on a poster will greatly increase the value of an item, although one must take into consideration the autographs which are put onto the work. If one had a poster of a certain sports team from a decade ago, getting the autographs of the current roster will not make the poster any more valuable. Additionally, autographs from any other celebrities will not make this sports poster any more valuable. Some discretion must be given when collecting autographs. Doing so, however, will not only give one a goal to achieve but will often fill a person with delight once the goal is achieved, for not only do they have a valuable piece of autographed art now, but they got to meet some of their favorite players to get those autographs.

Small Business Ideas – Phases and Basics

Most small business ideas are born out of inspiration, frustration, circumstances or almost any reason other than well thought-out logic and plenty of pre-planning. How about your small home based business idea?As a result, the ever cycling phases of plan, finance, start, run, grow, sell are random and chaotic. Each phase is dealt with, if at all, in a reactive mode rather than a responsive mode. This pattern seems to work as long as you see your small home based business as a source of wages versus a business entity responsible for making a profit with your “wages” being paid as part of the business’s employee overheadA few small business owners eventually break out of this mode and into a true business ownership role where they begin to, as Michael Geber described in his classic book “The E-Myth”, work on their business rather than in their business. This transition can be difficult for many because it requires some forward thinking and functional discipline. In other words, you’ve got to think about the future not just react to it. You need to focus on the basic business functions and how to apply them to your business at every phase of the business cycle.A simple way to begin your move into the role of true small business owner is to become familiar with six phases of the small business cycle and the eight business basics you’ll need to apply in different ways at each of the six phases.Small Business PhasesThe six business phases are plan, finance, start, run, grow and sell. Typically, small home based business owners attack the phases of business development in order of their own strengthens or the greatest source of pressure. It takes a strong sense of discipline to move through each phase in logical order. It’s not a matter of slowing your small business down, but, rather, accelerating its success and profitability by not skipping a step and moving from one to the next.Small Business BasicsIn different ways in each of the phases you always be dealing with each of the eight business basics of objectives, management, finance, personnel, marketing, operations, production and resources. Each small business basic is a point of education and implementation for new small home based business owners. Think of each basic as a function to learn about and a section in your business plan. Learn about each basic and then take your own current or projected data and move it into your small business plan.It takes time and discipline to cycle through each of the business phases and master all of the business basics but the rewards for most small business owners are success and profitability. Your small business idea is too important to penalize yourself by not earning those rewards. Start right now by assessing what phase your small home based business is in and what basic needs your immediate attention.

More Value at Upstream Layer in Technology Pyramid

Technology is the leader of the enterprising world. And it leads using a constitution. Unlike the traditional political structure, this constitution is Algorithms written by engineers, scientists, etc and not congressmen and politicians.The global competition is largely who has the best technical group to write the best one; in this case, Algorithms, that comprise of patents, technical processes, tools, and so on. As a nation develops, adopts, applies and diffuses appropriately the contents of this constitution, it elevates the lives of its citizens. The more innovation a nation pursues, the more it refines this constitution.Economists have shown a correlation between Knowledge Economy Index (KEI), productivity and standard of living. The challenge for any nation is to improve its KEI number. Doing that involves good education, economic regime and other variables that help to improve technology capability.The age of natural resources dominating global commerce and industry is gone. What matters now is creating knowledge and applying it. Some nations will create, others will merely consume. But wealth is concentrated at the creative stage and nations that focus on consuming, without creating technology will not prosper.Even with abundance of natural resources, which in many instances, the consuming nations cannot independently process without the knowledge partners will not change this trajectory of limited national wealth without technology creation.On this basis, I separate the two layers where nations use and compete with technology as upstream and downstream layers. It is like a two layer pyramid where the downstream is at the bottom with the upstream seated on top. What happens here is that some nations focus on the downstream layer while others combine both the downstream and upstream layers.The most advanced nations combine the two layers as they seek international competitiveness. They provide technology roadmap that looks at the future and have plans to take advantages that technology brings. They create and develop things and in the 21st century are classed as knowledge driven economies. In those nations, there is planning for continuity and technology succession.For the other nations, usually developing, they compete at the technology pyramid primarily at the downstream layer. They lack the know-how to create things and commercialize technology intellectual properties. The nations are not driven by technology, rather commodities. They are prone to trade shocks and are usually economically non-vibrant. They fail to create wealth using technology and participate in the pyramid as consumers or prosumers.Let me illustrate using Nigeria where they speak the language of petroleum. In the petroleum industry, there are the downstream and upstream sectors. While the upstream focuses on exploration of crude oil, downstream does the distribution and marketing.The money is in the upstream sector, a major reason we have the foreign partners concentrated therein. That is where the knowledge creation is done and utilized in the industry. I am cautious to say, without the knowledge partners in Nigeria, helping to explore this crude oil, Nigeria cannot mine this product. Verdict: the oil will be there and of no tangible economic use.This will follow a pattern where villages have water underneath them but no drilling expertise to harness the water for cooking and drinking. That is the problem of anchoring national strategy at the downstream level. It lacks inventiveness.In Africa and many developing countries where ICT has been embraced, they rarely know that there is more value than what ICT gives them. Sure ICT has helped many developing countries to improve their business processes, tools and people. They are so excited on the powers of quicker and faster communication. They savor the wonders of email, Internet and mobile phone and many more. These experiences are primarily on marketing, distributing and installation of these ICT systems. They rarely make them and can only play at the downstream layer.There economists point out repeatedly the innovations ICT has brought to the economies. I agree, ICT is wired for innovation in so many areas. Nonetheless, the good news is that there are more benefits up in the pyramid if you move up to the upstream layer. By not creating technology, our techno-economic benefits are limited and this will not change until we move up the pyramid.Though this point can be illustrated with any technology, I will use the ICT because it is common and familiar to people. I have already illustrated the point in the petroleum industry where many developing nations depend on petroleum refining technology of the developed countries to extract the oil. Even if they develop technologies for the distribution, the upstream idea will triumph. Nations make more money to license technologies at the upstream level compared to the downstream.Back to ICT, the upstream level will involve designing computing systems, cellphones, routers, device drivers, and all other infrastructures that enable ICT revolution. Instead of importing the latest cellphones, we will think how to design them. In 80% of the developing nations where mobile technology is used, less than 2% of the technologies are designed and manufactured there.Yes, there are businesses that distribute and sale these gadgets and make marginal profits. They can import a laptop from China at $500 and sell to their customers at $650. Because the barrier to entry is so weak, the margins are small. Everyone is selling and there are shops everyone. They are technology firms to their nations because they can load the software and configure the networks and get the laptop working.Compare that with giants like Intel and AMD that take a piece of sand (silica) and process it. At the end, that piece of sand of say a $1 can be sold for $3,000 because of the knowledge involved to transform the sand to a microprocessor. That is knowledge and the very best of human imagination and creativity. It is playing technology at the upstream level and that is where the value is.Nations win at the upstream level because the sale margins are so huge because the products are niche and in most cases innovative with few players internationally. It is not just the trade or margins. Upstream technology layer create good jobs, whether in developed or developing nations. Some of the best jobs in Africa are in the oil giants where upstream technology rules. You create enviable good jobs for the citizens. They have the money to spend and lift other areas of the economy. They hold jobs that bring honor and dignity and they use their brains to shape the world.You can make the same case for Pharmaceutical firms that mix elements, compounds, etc to create drugs. Some of the drugs are really expensive but the ingredients are cheap. People pay for the R&D invested in developing that drug. In developing nations, they focus on marketing and selling the drugs. As in petroleum, ICT, it is all about the downstream. Why the big Pharma can have margins of 1000%, these entities can barely command 6% margins.So in essence, in this century, there are opportunities for nations. For developing nations, if they continue to compete at the downstream layer of the pyramid, they will find it hard to move forward since competition is basically synonymous with technology. There is more risk, more knowledge requirement and more value at the upstream. And we need to get there.How do we do that? Our nations must have fundamental changes in our national policies on technical education or better Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). That is the answer. I believe in knowledge and education evolves it. It is about expansion of commitments on microelectronics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, mathematics, chemistry, physics, computer science, engineering, medicine, and so on and within a generation we can become players at the upstream level of technology pyramid. And reap that great value therein.

Choosing the Right SEO for Your Small Business Needs

SEO could benefit many businesses who are looking to increase their online presence and drive more targeted traffic to their websites. Unfortunately the SEO industry is not known for its transparency and this can be confusing for businesses that are wondering just what exactly they will be getting in return for their investment.The SEO industry has also attracted a lot of cowboys who employ “black-hat” techniques that go against the policies of Google and the other search engines. You should make sure that your SEO will be done using ethical “White Hat” techniques.Businesses that unwittingly employ an SEO that uses these techniques may see short term results until Google discovers the footprints left behind by these techniques, at which point they will see a negative effect on their search engine rankings. The black hat SEO offers quick fixes and is usually long gone by this point!What’s With all the Hats?The term “Black Hat” comes from the old western movies, the bad guys always wore black hats! The good guys wore white hats, you will hear ethical SEO referred to as “White Hat” SEO. Remember the bad guys always got their just deserts!What Should your SEO be Doing for Your Business?It is important to know exactly what your SEO will be doing for you and how they will provide you with measurable results. Be wary of any SEO who offers a guaranteed ranking, it is impossible to guarantee a ranking with Google or any other search engine!Any SEO who can guarantee results without even knowing which keywords you want to target is using this as a marketing ploy, how could they guarantee results if you wanted to compete for keywords like “Apple”, “Google” or “Facebook”?!Without conducting keyword research it is impossible to tell how likely the success of an SEO campaign will be and how long it is likely to take. SEO is an ongoing process of research, testing and analysis. It takes careful planning to identify the best keywords and to then put a solid strategy in place to rank for those keywords.On-site and Off Site SEOSEO takes into account factors that are both on-site and off-site. On-site SEO entails an analysis of your website. It involves looking at many factors including the site structure, use of keywords, the sites content, page loading times and the HTML and CSS that the site is built with. Good on-site SEO benefits the end user and also helps to avoid any technical “Gotchas” that search engines don’t like, such as duplicate content.A good SEO will start by analysing your site and making recommendations to improve an optimise the site for both users and search engines. Off site SEO involves creating relevant backlinks from other sites to yours.Each backlink is counted by the search engines as a vote for your site. Websites are given an authority score called Page Rank. Each time a site links to you it shares a little bit of its page rank with you, links from high authority sites share more of this page rank than lower authority sites. Incoming links to a site are known as backlinks.To Follow or to Nofollow…Some links carry no authority at all, many links carry a nofollow attribute that tell the search engines not to count that link as a vote. Webmasters and bloggers might add this attribute themselves if they don’t their link to be counted as a vote for the external site or it could be automatically added by the platform they are using to publish their content, this is often the case when a site offers its user to add comments or content and the webmaster has little control over what links get created by the sites contributors.Links without the nofollow attribute are termed “dofollow” and pass page rank from your page to the linked page. In HTML there is no actual dofollow attribute, dofollow happens by default in the absence of a nofollow attribute. You should never nofollow internal links as this will cause any page rank that would have been passed to that link to just evaporate!Where Did You Get Those Links?You should ask your SEO how they will create backlinks, a good SEO will try to build a varied backlink portfolio for you. This portfolio should include high value links that are found in bodies of text such as blog posts. These usually carry the most page rank but also require the most work as the SEO will need to build connections with blog owners and often provide the content themselves.Any good SEO will look for quality over quantity, anyone promising a high number of links is probably best avoided. The search engines like to see “Natural Links of Love”, a few high quality links will go a lot further than many low quality links.Other linking strategies include using quality business directories or commenting on blogs and forums as well as using social media and social bookmarking sites.Link exchanges are best avoided as these two way links don’t look like natural links. Search engines can see the Internet as a series of connected nodes and easily detect unnatural patterns like this.Your Business, Your NeedsYour SEO should talk with you about your business needs and goals and also try to understand as much as they can about your target audience. If they don’t do this then they are unlikely to pick keywords that will attract and convert the right audience for you business. They should conduct extensive keyword research and be able to identify the keywords that will bring in more of the right traffic. Traffic is useless if it doesn’t convert!Added ValueYour SEO should also be able to research your competition and tell you what keywords they are targeting and also how much time it is likely to take to compete for the same keywords. They should also be able to come up with alternative strategies if those keywords are far too competitive for your budget or to bring in traffic while you work towards competing for the main keywords.SEO takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight. Your SEO should be able to provide you with a monthly report that shows how you are progressing through the search engine results for your keywords. They should also be able to run PPC campaigns on your behalf and also create content and copy for your site.Many SEO’s will also be able to promote you via social media and advise you on other Internet marketing techniques such as building mailing lists for email campaigns.The Bottom LineThe rate for an SEO varies an awful lot. Some agencies will charge upwards of 1000 a month! A small business should be able to find a decent SEO for around 300 a month, this depends on the level of service required but 300 should buy you a good campaign targeting 5 keywords.The first month is usually a bit more expensive as this is the month that the on-site SEO takes place as well as the keyword and competitor research.Some SEO’s offer a very cheap service, you get what you pay for and keep in mind that SEO takes a lot of time as it involves a lot of research, analysis and content creation.If the price seems too good to be true then it probably is! Don’t risk falling foul of black hat SEO techniques for a cheap price!

10 Unusual Things Can Impact Your Quoted Life Insurance Rates

There is a defined moment when many of us start to consider getting life insurance to protect family members and loved ones. It could be after a child birth or a catchy insurance commercial that tweaks your interest. When this moment strikes, the first thing most people do is get a quick online quote to understand their ballpark rates. A more detailed assessment follows afterwards. Some elements of this assessment are intuitive (age, health condition, smoking status, occupation, etc.). There are, however, some other surprising assessment criteria that underwriters also consider. Such as…
Driving History: Yes, your driving history matters, not only for your auto insurance premiums but also your life insurance rates. If you had a DUI accident in the recent past, you will likely experience significant higher quoted rates than somebody who has a clean driving history. Remember that smaller offenses fall off your driving record after three years (for insurance purposes).
Be Happy: Having a history of depression can hijack your life insurance premiums, almost doubling them. Happy people experience less health issues and stress, and thus represent lower risk for insurance companies.
Policy Date: The policy’s starting date can be sometimes adjusted (also called backdating), meaning that in some cases you can benefit from lower premiums (based on your younger age; if you turned 50 this week but backdate your policy to last month, for example). Obviously you will need to pay all the premiums starting from the backdated time point, but you can benefit from a lower rate going forward.
Dangerous jobs (e.g. stuntmen, bomb squad member) can mean higher risk for your life and thus lead to higher insurance premiums. Do you think that your job is dangerous?
Payment frequency: Paying for a life insurance policy on an annual basis saves insurers administrative costs, and they reward you with lower premiums than if you’d paid for your insurance monthly. In this case, though, you’d need to plan carefully because a big annual charge can create a significant hole in your household budget if you forget about the annual premium.
Travelling (to dangerous destinations): Some destinations are more dangerous than others and some are very dangerous (war zones, areas with known history of kidnapping, etc.) Consult an insurance broker or your agent to understand how your future plans can impact your insurance coverage. Your policy can be declined or you might be able to get a life insurance policy, but it would explicitly exclude the time you are abroad. In some cases, a simplified issue no medical life insurance policy is a solution since it does not ask travel questions. It is important to know, though, that a simplified issue policy is more expensive than a standard one and its coverage is typically limited to $50,000 – $300,000. You can test this out by getting an anonymous simplified issue no medical life insurance quote via one of numerous insurance online platforms.
Sports (extreme): Being involved in extreme and/or dangerous sports, especially professionally, can impact your life insurance premiums (for example: sky diving, cliff diving, scuba diving). Similarly to getting insurance while travelling to dangerous locations, you need to understand which cases are not covered by your life insurance policy.
Private pilot licenses: This one usually falls into a category of dangerous hobbies – licenced pilots (only private) might experience higher insurance rates. When calculating insurance premiums, an insurer will consider both the pilot’s age and experience. This information will probably not asked during the initial quoting process, but will be required during the detailed assessment later.
Your citizenship: If you are not a Canadian citizen or resident, you will not be able to apply for a Canadian life insurance policy.
Your income: Insurance companies can decline your life insurance policy if your household income falls below a particular threshold, typically $30,000. The reasoning behind this is so insurance does not stretch your budget beyond its capabilities. Note that you should still speak with a broker to create a detailed future plan for insurance protection, and brokers that are also financial planners can help you triage your upcoming financial expenses to best manage your needs. It’s a good idea to check with your insurance broker, if your income might be an issue, before submitting your application. Remember, that once you have been declined for a life insurance application, it may impact your next applications since some insurers include in their surveys, “have you ever been declined for a life insurance application?” Similarly to a pilot license, this question might be not be included in initial quote questions, but will be asked later by your insurer.
As you can see, many aspects outside of your health impact your life insurance quote and policy. You should remember that underwriting rules (application assessment) are different across insurers and thus, it is advisable to work with an insurance broker who deals with numerous life insurance companies and can share his/her expertise with you as you navigate through this complex process.

Caring For a Cherry Entertainment Center

You’ve just purchased a cherry entertainment center that you love, but with a few nicks and scratches, it needs a little TLC to return the cherry wood to its original state. Learning how to restore and maintain it will help it last for many years to come.Restore Your Cherry Entertainment CenterIf you buy a brand new entertainment center, then restoring it won’t be an issue. However, if you found a piece of cherry furniture that is a little beat up, but would make a great TV stand, here are some tips to get it back to tip-top shape.Clean ItThe first thing you’ll need to do for your new entertainment center is get rid of any built up dust or grime. Give it a once over with a damp, soft cloth and a mild soap made for wood, such as Murphy’s Oil Soap.Cracks and ScratchesExtremes in temperature and humidity cause any wood to expand and contract, often creating cracks in the wood, while scratches are simply inevitable. The following are a couple tricks you can use to fix wood entertainment centers:* Use humidity to your advantage by putting some water in the crack or large scratch. Cover it with a soft cloth then press down on the cloth with a warm iron until the water evaporates. This causes the wood to expand and fill in the empty space.* For minor scratches in cherry wood, fixing them can be as easy as applying darkened iodine or a red shoe polish. Rub it into the scratch with a soft cloth and watch the scratch disappear.StainsStains in wood entertainment centers can be caused by many things: rings left by glasses, burns or spills. These stains can often be fixed by using items found right in your home. Rub mayonnaise or butter (anything oily) into the stain and let it sit overnight. When you wipe it away, the stain in your cherry wood should be gone. For burns, try using toothpaste.Preserve the Beauty of Your Entertainment Center
Once you’ve gotten rid of any nasty scratches or stains, and your cherry wood is looking beautiful, you’ll want to make sure it stays that way.PolishCleaning it often with a mild soap will help your entertainment center maintain its natural luster, but it’s also a good idea to polish it periodically. For cherry wood, use a lemon oil polish or a linseed oil.SpillsLiquid in general is never good for any kind of wood entertainment center, so when a spill happens, make sure you clean it up quickly to avoid a stain. If a stain does appear, follow the steps mentioned earlier to keep it from staying in the wood.WeatherYou can’t control the weather outside, but you do have some control over what happens in your home. Keep your entertainment center out of direct sunlight and don’t place it in front of anything that might dry it out, such as a fireplace or a radiator. If you do live in an area with extremes in humidity levels, consider purchasing a humidifier or dehumidifier, depending on your needs.

Top Seven Strategies to Help You Market Your Local Business Online and Market Your Virtual Business

Roughly 75% of the business owners I speak with in any given town or city see little, if any, need for an online presence. They believe in doing business the way it’s always been done, with local advertising, foot traffic, telephone book listing or advertisement, special promotions, and word-of-mouth marketing, and assume that local residents will find out about their business in these same ways.There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these promotional methods, but it does create a tunnel vision view of marketing in this day and age. In September 2004, a Kelsey study found that more than 74% of respondents said they had conducted local searches and confirmed that 20% of all searches among respondents was local. Whether business owners acknowledge it or not, the Internet is here to stay, and using the Internet to find local businesses has now become mainstream, and will only continue to grow as today’s children and teens, who have been online almost all of their lives, become adults.I know that when I do a search for local businesses, I am often taken to one of the local city directories, where I am given the address and phone number of the business, and if I’m lucky, the website URL, if they have a website. Most days, I search out the website of a local business to “check them out” before deciding to do business with them.One of my most frustrating times comes when I want to place a takeout order at a local restaurant and don’t have a takeout menu handy. I’ll go online to find the menu of the restaurant, and unfortunately, unless it’s a local chain with multiple locations, I don’t typically find what I’m seeking. That restaurant usually ends up losing my business to one in which I can scope out the menu online and call in a takeout order.If you have a brick-and-mortar business, how much business are you losing because you don’t have an online presence, or your website doesn’t contain enough information to help someone decide to do business with you? Or, if you have a virtual company, what if no one can find you when they conduct a local search of businesses in your industry?I do no marketing locally, as there is little demand for the type of services I provide in this area. However, I began to wonder if I were losing out on what little local business might exist for my virtual company, so I did some research to find what websites would help my company website show up in any local searches.1. Local Portal Sites: Search Google, Yahoo, and MSN for your city name and see what comes up. Are there any sites on the list with which you can exchange links, buy advertising, purchase a membership, submit articles, etc.? If you live in a small city, as I do, you might also search for larger cities that are close to your location, or search for a regional name that your area might have. For example, I found more portal sites by using “Southeast Texas” as a search term, rather than an individual city name.2. Search Engine Directories: Search Google Directory, for your city name and look for a category that ends with “Guides and Directories”. When you click on that, you’ll see the directories listed by importance, as determined by Google’s Page Rank feature (you’ll need to download Google’s toolbar to see this info. The toolbar can be found at The higher the rank (10 is high), the more traffic the site has. Or, you can manually search Google as follows: Regional Directories (by continent/country): By state in the US: can also search Yahoo Directories, To suggest your business for inclusion, see Yahoo’s guidelines here: Yahoo’s regional directory listing can be found here: and listing for the US states is found here: Yellow Pages Sites: There are a number of bigger city options here: (SBC and BellSouth): Super Pages (Verizon): http://www.superpages.com4. Nationally-Based City Guides: The largest of these services, CitySearch,, drives content to many other city guides. Other city guides include AOL CityGuide,, Area Guides,, Online City Guide,, and Associated Cities, Newspaper-Based Local Sites: If you live in a larger urban area, your local newspaper may sponsor a site for your city, like, sponsored by the Charlotte Observer) or, sponsored by the Boston Globe.6. Locally-Based City Guides: Again, in larger urban areas, your local chamber of commerce, convention and visitor’s bureau, or a private business may operate a local portal for your city. Here in Southeast Texas, our locally based site is, owned by a private business. Others, like, is sponsored by the Ft. Worth Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.7. Association Guides: Your membership to your local chamber of commerce, convention and visitor’s bureau, professional association (by industry), general business groups (networking groups, men’s or women’s business associations, civic groups) may pay off if the association has an online membership directory where your listing might be found. Make sure that the listing includes both your contact info and a link to your website.I’ve only scratched the surface of the local possibilities available for both virtual and brick-and-mortal companies. In doing the research for this article, I discovered there are thousands of businesses who aren’t listed in these directories. Don’t let yours be one of them. Get your business listed locally so you local customers can find you!Copyright 2006 Donna Gunter

Contractor Marketing: Branding Vs Lead Generation

When an advertising rep comes to your office and starts talking about branding, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? I know what pops into mine….. a brand on the backside!Most advertising reps push heavily on the idea that you have to “get your brand out there”, “get people to know who you are”, and so on. What a bunch of garbage… sort of. Advertisers use branding as an “escape route” when they didn’t deliver enough leads to make the advertising worthwhile. Worst yet, we trust our rep, and then write another check to get “branded” some more.So is branding bad? Is it good? Should you be thinking about your “brand”? Let’s talk about that…What Is Branding?Jon Jantsch (Duct Tape Marketing) offers a simple definition that I like:”Branding is the art of becoming knowable, likeable and trustable.”Notice three key points here. Being knowable, being likeable and being trustable.So, your advertising rep can help you with the “knowable” part. But, however, what can they do to help you with being likeable and being trustable?What Can Branding Do For Your Contractor Business?I’ve seen branding do some amazing things, and so have you. Here’s a good example. What do you blow your nose with? Facial Tissue? Nope, you use a Kleenex. That’s how you know branding does work. When the product name is so closely associated with what it does, you don’t even realize you’re using the brand name anymore.Well, that’s great if you have millions of dollars to spend in advertising. But that likely doesn’t apply to your company. For the average contracting company, this approach to branding simply isn’t viable, as not every person who hears your message is your potential buyer. Some people will never want your product/service. Some will never be able to afford it, and so on.But, for the ones that can use your company, branding can have a pretty big impact. I’ve personally seen a direct impact on Closing percentages, and average sale amount due to efforts I’ve help with to brand a company.Why does that happen? As Jon Jantsch mentioned, branding also makes you likeable and trustable. When someone likes you and trusts you, they buy from you. And they’re OK with buying a lot from you.That, my friends, is the biggest benefit branding can have for your contracting business. Lowering the anxiety related to buying from you.Many of us feel the “third party” lead referral companies generate crappy leads. Want to know a big reason why? You guessed it, the branding factor. Because there is no branding of your company compared to the other companies the customer gets referred to, you won’t be seen as any more likeable, or trustable than the other guys. Thus, sales resistance and anxiety will be high – and price typically is the biggest motivator for the prospect…What Branding Can’t Do For Your BusinessBe wary though, branding isn’t the magic pill that makes your business skyrocket. Branding alone will not help you with lead generation. Let me explain it to you.I conducted a test marketing similar companies in similar areas to prove this point. The first company is well established, spends a lot of money in advertising and branding. The second company was newer and wasn’t well known in the market.In a yellow page ad promotion, both companies generated similar amounts of leads from full page ads they were running. The well branded company did not do better than the no-name guy when it came to lead generation. They did, however, do MUCH better in the sales portion of the business. We attributed this to many things, and branding was one of those factors.So, if branding doesn’t bring leads, then why bother with branding at all?Your Work Is Your BrandThis is the one that most contractors miss the mark on. It’s the one that advertisers don’t want you to think about.Are you ready for this? Repeat after me:”Your Work Is Your Brand.”When you have a modest to medium sized marketing budget, pursuing branding alone is a sure fire way to go out of business. If you succeed in getting people to know about you, but no one contacts you to get an estimate, you’re out of luck.But think about it. How many times have you had those great word-of-mouth referrals from a past customer? Were they pretty easy to sell to? Were they happy to meet with you and excited to see how you could help them? Did they trust you because their friend/relative/neighbor recommended you?The answer is yes. When you do great work and promote yourself through the work you do, you get the best branding you could ask for.Your work can get you known. The recommendation makes you likeable by the potential client, and trustable because a happy past customer referred you.Balancing Branding & Contractor Lead GenerationSo, we’ve discussed good things about branding and what it can do you for your contracting business. We’ve also discussed the things it can’t do. So what should you do in the end?I heard a great saying from a fellow marketing friend of mine that sums this article up nicely:”Generate lead flow daily, build branding over time.”I think it’s a good approach for most all contractors to use. Get leadflow going first so you have a pipeline of potential customers coming to your business.Do quality work that would make your customers want to refer you to others. This will get your “branding train” started down the tracks. Finally, devote more effort (and marketing dollars) later to build your brand awareness, which will further help with your sales efforts.

Reasons to Choose Online Education

What is Online Education?Online education is the education which we obtain from digital media such as recorded videos or live streaming through a satellite or internet. It is the kind of education in which we don’t need the instructor or educator physically, but we meet them virtually. It’s becoming a very effective way of studying, as a person needs not to go somewhere else to study. Everything is present on the screen. The industry of online education is growing rapidly and has become widely accepted by the masses.Online education can be classified into two parts:• Synchronous learning.
• Asynchronous learning.Synchronous learning:It occurs in a real time environment. All the participants are present at the same time of the discussion. Example of synchronous learning is skype, or discussion going on simultaneously.
Asynchronous learning:In this kind of learning all the participants are not present at the same time. Examples of this kind of learning can be said as emails, blogs etc. It provides a more flexible way of learning.
Benefits of Online Programs:There a number of benefits of online education. Online education is faster, better, cheaper and easily available than traditional classroom training.• The biggest benefit of opting for the online program is the convenience it provides. We can study as per our wish. All we have to do is access the classroom through our internet connection. It’s not necessary to be present at some fixed place. We can access from anywhere across the globe.• It’s cost efficient. We need not to travel to any particular destination or location to study. We can study this from our office, home or park anywhere.• It becomes easier for us to learn because the syllabus moves as per our wish. In online learning it’s not necessary to cover a particular piece of syllabus in some fixed amount of time. When we learn as per our wish and mood, learning becomes easier.• Different learning styles can be developed for different individuals. A learner gets the chance to learn with the pattern in which they are most comfortable.• Learner learns as per their needs. They can skip the portion which is not of use to them.• Simplicity is another benefit of online programs. All we need to do is to go to our respective tutorial and click on it. And our instructor is in front of us to teach us at any hour of time..

Social Networking and the Workplace

Social networking – how it impacts you in and out of the workplace. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the emergence of social networking and its use in today’s workplace. Issues surrounding privacy and how information from these networks is being used are emerging at a rapid rate. The most popular sites are reported to be: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning Network.Two Trends to NoteTwo trends are important for both employees and employers to note. The first is that an increasing number of people are using a variety of these networking sites. A recent ISPOS survey noted that 24% of adults in the USA have visited a social networking site with two-thirds of those having done so in the past 30 days. This phenomenon is not limited to North America. In Korea for example, the number of adults reported to have visited such sites is as high as 49%.The second is that employers are using these same networks in recruiting activities. CareerBuilder reported that 22% of hiring managers used social networking sites to screen job candidates. Of these, 34% reported they had obtained information that caused them not to hire a candidate, while 24% reported they found content favourable to the candidate.It seems that the use of these networks is increasing and will continue to do so for some time. While individuals are using these and other sites to stay connected and build and expand their personal networks of friends, colleagues and business associates, employers are using these networks for recruiting purposes.A Darker Side?The U.S. based Society for Corporate Compliance and Ethics reported that 24% of respondents to a recent survey indicated that employees had been disciplined by their employers for inappropriate activities on social network sites in the workplace.
This is made all the more fascinating when you consider that other reports indicate that only 34% of employers have policies that address employee social networking site activities both on and off the job, while 50% responded they did not have a policy that relates to off the job activities on these networks.Why Employers Use these SitesEmployers use these sites for many of the same reasons employees use them:
- They are easy to use and offer an inexpensive source of information;
- Employers feel they can obtain information about an individual that may not always become readily apparent on a resume or during an interview;
- Network sites often provide an insight into how the person represents themselves; and
- Employers feel they may be able to learn about an individual’s basic communication style and skills.It should be noted that it is likely impossible for an individual to determine whether their application was screened out due to their social network profile or representation. It has been said that employers may not always believe what they see on an individual’s social network page, but they may not like what they see.What do Employers Look For?A wide variety of unintended information may be available to employers from these sources such as:
- Illegal behavior
- Heavy Alcohol use
- Derogatory comments or potentially offensive behavior
- Risqué photos
- Poor writing or grammar skills
- Comments made about previous employers, coworkers or others.Policy ConsiderationsThe complex and emerging area of social networking poses a major opportunity for misunderstandings and conflict between employees and their organizations. Employers are well advised to establish and implement clear policies relating to employee use of social networking sites both on and off the job. Reasonable boundaries can be set in policy to promote and protect business interests and the employer’s reputation. Care needs to be taken to ensure policies are not excessively restrictive or unreasonable. Once established, the employer needs to ensure that a comprehensive communication campaign is undertaken and maintained to ensure employees are aware of and fully understand policy requirements and their implications.