As a home business owner, you spend a lot of time coming with what you think is a killer idea, and possibly developing it into a profitable business. That business is what makes you money and will help you quit your day job and work by the pool all day.
Except of course there is more to it than just that.
I would argue that instead of developing a one time killer product, what you really should be doing is developing your brand.
There are a lot of advantages to creating and developing a brand.
For starters, brand recognition helps drive repeat sales. It also increases the opportunity for word of mouth sales where you can capture traffic and sales without ever advertising. Building a successful brand establishes reputation, and authority in a subject matter.
And when you do this, you are essentially beginning to tear down the walls or barriers that people have and activate when you are trying to close a sale. People are more willing to buy from someone or an authority they trust. Its one of the reasons certain brand names (ahem…Apple) continue to completely out perform in terms of sales even though their prices are 2x, 3x, or 10x more than a comparable product. People buy the brand because they trust the brand.
OK. So here’s the question for you – are you killing your brand?
Chances are, yes, you are. And you are doing it without even knowing it.
Outsourcing too much of your “core” business
In terms of numbers, outsourcing seems like a n easy “win”. Let’s say you sell e-books on how to build professional websites. In order to do this, perhaps you have relied on article marketing in the past. (Article marketing is the practice of creating short articles that discuss a topic, filled with keywords, designed to get people interested in learning more and visiting your site. The thought is they would become interested and buy. The secondary effect is improving your own search engine results.)
The thing is, article writing is tedious. In order to be successful and reap the true reward, you have to write a lot of articles. You might not have time for that. So you decide to outsource it. You hire people, at perhaps $5 or $10 each article, to ghost write for you. You get the articles, publish them, and watch traffic and links increase.
But here’s the thing – everyone has a different writing style. And not all ghost writers are the same. This means you will get different quality from the articles you ghostwrite. (Am I bashing ghostwriters? No. But the article will be different than your own product.)
Let’s take another example – let’s say you sell custom pet collars. You saw a need, identified a target audience, and have a product. Now there are some things you probably have to outsource – perhaps the manufacturing or even the drop shipment. And because it is easy you outsource the market research or social media outreach. By taking yourself further from your customers you are essentially taking yourself further from their feedback and problems.
There is definitely a balance to be struck between what to outsource and what to keep in house. It is up to you as the home business owner to find it.
Ignoring customer feedback
Without your customers, no matter what kind of home based business you own or have started, you are not in business – you have a hobby.
Sometimes, we don’t want to hear feedback on products, services or offerings because we are afraid of criticism. Unfortunately that is the wrong way to look at it and is a pure brand killer. (You don’t want to be labeled as the business that doesn’t care about its customers…do you?)
When a customer gives you feedback, it is important to take it seriously. Think about it – someone took the time out to write to you, call you, post a message, and let you know their feedback. (Caveat: There is such a thing as malicious feedback that serves no legitimate purpose other than complain or put you down. You can turn those upside down as well – but it takes more practice.)
If you take the time to respond to feedback, and try to make it “right” you are not only saving a customer relationship (and potentially gaining an important brand ambassador for you free of charge), you are also sending a message that you are real and you care. Word of a bad experience travels fast on social media – don’t be that business.
Take care of your brand, and it will take care of you.
Take care of your customers and their feedback, and they will stick with you.
Not investing time in your business
We’re all busy. And chances are you are not doing this whole home based business thing without a day job.
And even if you are doing the home based business as your primary job, life gets in the way.
But not investing regular time in your business (neglecting it) will take its toll.
It might be taking more time to respond to customer emails, taking longer to launch a product or deliver a product to market, perhaps taking a day later to ship an item, or not writing as many blog articles per week that you wanted. Or maybe it is rushing through products, articles, posts, invoices, or whatever some of your core business practices are.
Guess what? That shows in your overall quality of work. It will reflect negatively on your business and brand. And if your brand suffers, your business suffers.
Most businesses spend a lot of time building a brand, an image or a company, that they can be proud of. It is recognizable, trusted, and ultimately profitable. Rushing through, not dedicating enough time to keeping the brand alive, fresh, and relevant dooms it to die a slow and invisible death.
So take the time to continually invest in your business – even if it is just a few hours over a few days. Generally the more time you put into the business the more you will get out, and the more value customers will see in it.
Keeping up with the changing times
Running a successful home based business brand is a challenge. Keeping it relevant in changing times makes the task even more daunting.
Here’s an example. I used the article marketing example previously on purpose because many years ago, it was the method so many home based business owners used to rely upon to deliver traffic and search engine rankings, which in turn deliver sales (if all goes well).
But that was then. Today, while some still use this method, most have moved on.
It used to be that you marketed to people using the good old fashioned mail piece. Then came email and the rise of SPAM. Then came search engines and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Then came online ads. Then mobile apps and ads in apps. Today we are at social media marketing.
If you rely on mail pieces (again, depending on your target audience and core business) you *might* be running the risk of making your brand look antiquated, worn out, or not modern – out of touch with your customers. (It bears repeating – it also depends on your target customer and product.)
You need to constantly evolve the business and change with the times. Otherwise your brand could get left behind. I am not saying to necessarily jump on bandwagon trends – but it is important to keep an open mind and ALWAYS, ALWAYS look to innovate and improve.
Being stagnant is never a good thing in home based business – no matter what business you are in.
It is also a good idea to keep in touch with your target audience and customers and continue to deliver what they want, how they want it. Keep them happy, keep in touch with them and solicit their feedback.
Beating them over the head with ads
Okay, I get it. Sometimes running a website is expensive.
Or perhaps your core business isn’t doing too great, so you want to supplement it and your bottom line.
So you sell some of the space on your web pages to advertisers and in turn they pay you per click, impression, or whatever.
This is a BRAND KILLER.
First, think of it this way. Most ads work through interest based marketing. Ads are presented with the intention of ripping people’s attention away from your web page, your marketing message, your product – and turning it to something else they are most likely interested in. If there is even a little bit of allure, that potential customer is clicking away from your website. And they may never come back.
Why would you ever do that?
Is it worth the $.50 or even $2.00?
Being overzealous with the ad space also clutters your website, takes away from the design (and you have no control over it) and distorts your message or products. Plus, placing ads on your site tends to slow it down because they take longer to load. And heaven forbid it hangs while your user waits for the site to load. They don’t know it is an ad outside your control causing the slowdown…all they see is a blank white screen, on your site, and boom – they are gone. And not coming back because of the bad experience.
“Wait”, you are saying “Amazon and the rest of big sites like that advertise all the time.”
That is true.
But look at their brand. And do you see tons of ads on Amazon that take people away from the Amazon experience? No – they supplement it.
When you are starting out, and ESPECIALLY if you are dealing with informational product where you are trying to build credibility and a brand, stay away from ads on your site. Nothing screams amateur hour and takes away from your business faster than web pages loaded with ads.