What Can You Automate to Drop Your Overhead?

If you are a small business owner like me, you need to keep your prices low to garner business and yet keep your overhead low to make more profit. So, what can you automate or farm out to others in order to have the time to do what you do best – sell your services?

For me, it was automating much of my accounting as this was a huge time drain for me. By purchasing accounting software I made billing customers faster and more accurate.

My next step was to automate my credit card billing process. By integrating my credit card billing into my accounting software I cut multiple steps of having to manually log payments.

I then looked very carefully at the simple, no thought process, tasks that I perform daily that seem to take up time and I have trained an assistant to do them affordably. Sometimes paying a flat rate to do a task can work, especially when it is with your own children. For me, I have my kids check off that my writers have turned in their blogs and done their tweets. That way I can focus only on the problems or late items that need my personal action. My kids make summer time money and I get more time to sell jobs.

I also decided that I needed to train a helper. Not everyone needs this, but if you can find someone competent you can train a person to do some of the repetitive tasks you do daily or weekly. For me, I use a helper to add blogs that customers write themselves to their blog control panel and add links that I have selected and written up in advance to social bookmarking services. I don’t let me helper do things that really require sophisticated knowledge or decisions that the client is really paying ME for, but for the mundane tasks that are a part of certain service offerings I try to use my helper.

By really reviewing what you can move off your daily queue, you can allow yourself more time to follow-up with leads, have more time to really talk to and service existing clients and prospects, and time to have a vision for your own business.

When you are so inundated with daily tasks you have no brain power left to create new services, position your own business where it needs to be on the Web, or to look for new ways to serve your existing clientèle. So, what can you automate to get back to what you love, which is why you started your own business in the first place? Let me know what you have automated by leaving a comment below.


Signs Your AdWords Account Has Been Hacked

I just started up a client account in AdWords which had been dormant since 2009. When I logged in I told the client to me it appeared that the account had been hacked. This was verified by Google one day later and a credit was applied to the client’s credit card.

So how did I know the AdWords account had been hacked?

  1. Daily budget was set at $630 per day. That is a spend of $18,900 per 30 days. Previously the budget was $63/day.
  2. Keywords hidden inside an ad group with the correct name were payday loan related.
  3. The URL and ad text in the ad group had been changed from the client’s website.

This can happen to anyone. If you are not going to use your AdWords account it is best to either close it or to remove the credit card information.

In this case the client only got hit with a $10.00 charge before AdWords shut the account off. The last hacked account I saw had a $10,000 charge on their credit card for fraudulent clicks in less than seven days, so it is very important to watch what is happening in AdWords or better yet hire an account manager who will keep a careful eye on your account.


We Don’t Offer Google Maps Services – Why?

I just got another phone call this past week wanting to purchase our “guaranteed Google Maps placement services”.  This is the third client in two weeks or so that I have had to tell we don’t offer this service and to please be careful what they buy.

First no one and no firm can guarantee top Google Maps placement. In fact although I have written and researched intensively on the topic of Google Maps, even I don’t know what the winning combination is. It appears that neither does Google!

What appears to work in one marketplace is totally a mish mash without any direction or clear focus in another market. Google is adding new things to Google Maps with some changes to the name and AdWords integration just this past month alone.

Personally I think Google will work to monetize Google Maps errr Google Placements, but in the meantime a cottage industry has cropped up promising business owners guaranteed top placement. I’ve debunked some of these techniques and so at this time I won’t even take a customer’s money to perform services as there is simply no clear direction on what to do to place well.

I have guessed some things and am using some techniques for select clients, but we are not ready to roll out a service anytime soon.

If you are shopping around, make sure to read my blog and newsletter as I have openly shared what I do know about placement, but be very careful what you buy from others as there is no clear direction for success that I have found at this point no matter what the firm tells you.


Customers Really Do Want to Pay You On Time, Just Give Them Some Help

If you have been in business as long as I have (since 2001), you’ve had customers who are slow payers and no payers. But, in reality most customers do really want to pay you on time, some just need a little help being more timely than others.

I have found as my business has grown that my tolerance for slow payers has rapidly diminished. Slow payers directly affect my own pay check, as a small business owner. So, what do you do to help slow payers be on-time payers? For me, I changed several of my billing procedures. This is what I have done:

  1. Added online credit card payments both with Sage Payments (integrated with my accounting software) and PayPal.
  2. Instituted a policy that self credit card payers had to pay for services earlier than automatic credit card payers (where we process the card for them).
  3. Added in our contract we don’t provide services until we have payment in advance.
  4. Really policed my payment dates. Stopped services if we did not get payment in our contracted due dates.
  5. Sent gentle reminders before the payment deadline to all self paying clients.
  6. Gave more payment options.

In fact on number 6, I am getting ready to do just that with Pay Pal’s new enhanced recurring payment options. You can read more about this service we are now enacting in this link in the previous sentence. This new program allows you to give your client’s more flexibility in how they can pay. You can schedule monthly payments at different amounts, create monthly repeating subscription-type payments, and even installment payments. You and the client can also decide a monthly spend up to amount so you can bill automatically variable amounts each month.

For me, getting customers to pay on time is still about giving them options. However, chasing around your payments does take time and adds to your overhead. For my business, I am also instituting a new program – if you don’t pay on time two months in a row, you will now have to choose one of Pay Pal’s enhanced recurring payment programs or we will simply consider that we are not a good business match for you.

Slow payers and no- payers can really affect your bottom line and create an atmosphere where you are forced to raise your fees to all customers, as your overhead increases to cover the time you spend to collect payments from slow payers. So, help customers to help themselves (by keeping your own prices low) by offering more payment options.

P.S. PayPal did not pay me to write this post, I am signed up and will be using their new payment program and thought it was excellent for my own business use and wanted to share the details with you as well.


Get an Invitation to Google AdWords Experiment and Try Before You Go Live

Everyone wants to try the new tools when Google rolls them out and here’s one for you to try that is by invitation only right now. It is called AdWords Experiment and I think it looks like a terrific new tool for serious users of Google AdWords.

There is very little doubt that Google AdWords is among the most effective forms of Internet marketing available in terms of both effectiveness and cost.  With immediate visibility and completely customizable content, AdWords allows users to quickly and efficiently target the people who would be most interested in the product or service that they provide at a price they can afford. 

With the ability to now run simultaneous programs side by side in your account, you can do AB testing like never before. Previously if you tried to test on your own, AdWords would only service the keywords with the best CTR making it nearly impossible to test similar keyword lists. This is critical when your keywords are broad matched.

In order to offer their customers the best possible results from using Google AdWords, the company has just launched the Google AdWords Experiment, or ACE, which allows AdWords users to measure exactly how effective their changes would be, prior to making them officially.  The test is accurate because you would be comparing your proposed changes side by side with your current campaign at the very same time – so no extraneous situations which may or may not cause changes in web traffic would have any bearing on the results.

If you like what you see from your changes in keywords and placement – you make the changes.  If your original campaign performed head and shoulders above the one you were considering than you can consider yourself lucky for not having missed any opportunities while you tested out new possibilities.

If you want to consistently make the most of your marketing efforts without ever having to risk making a change that you’ll regret, grab your invitation to the Google AdWords Experiment here and get started managing your campaign to achieve optimal results. This new tool is in Beta testing and only available by invitation so grab your invitation and be one of the first to reap the rewards of improved AdWords performance. If you like this tool, you may want to check out other cool tools that Google is working on in beta testing by visiting the Google Labs page.


The Social Networking Phenomenon – Now a Must Have for Your Marketing Arsenal

If you aren’t advertising your business via social networking, you are really missing out a terrific way to sell your services and products to new customers. There are still a number of people, who are skeptical about the power of Twitter and Facebook. Some feel that these platforms are not viable for lead and sale generation. But I recommend that you take another closer look!

Facebook just recently beat Google’s number for visits per day and Twitter announced it’s popularity numbers recently. Twitter has over 105,779,710 users with 300,000 added each day. The reach and power of social networking sites can simply not be ignored and should not be a part of any Internet marketing program.

The growth pattern for Twitter has not just been consistently strong; the number of Tweeters has literally been astronomical. As of May this social networking megastar was topping out at two billion hits per month – the breakdown on that is more than two and a half million tweets per hour. That is a whole lot of opportunity to have your products and services exposed to potential new customers.

Though Facebook may not have the rapid fire succession of short communication that Twitter has reached, this social networking powerhouse actually managed to oust Google Search from the number one spot on the list of most visited websites in May. If this doesn’t speak volumes about the capabilities of social networking sites, nothing will.

The world of effective advertising as we know it has changed quite a bit over the course of the last few years, and with the emergence of social networking it will continue to change with each new day that passes. The old adage of spending money to make money may still hold true, but in terms of advertising it may no longer be the dollars you spend but the amount of time you spend Tweeting or posting status updates to your firm’s Facebook Fan Page that will make the difference for your future business growth.