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[GREEN] TIP: Just Google It

If You’re Stuck, Just Google It.

Laying the Foundation - Green TIPI can’t begin to tell you the number of times that customers, colleagues or friends have been stuck on something and don’t know what to do, so they’ve called and asked me.

Do you know what I do if I don’t know?  I google it.  Sounds obvious, I know. But many times, the obvious is un-obvious.

Yesterday, I had a customer ask me what to do because they got an error message when trying to open a document on their computer.  I googled the error message, and told her the answer.  Yes, you can copy, paste and search on a specific error message.

I’ve had a customer ask me industry-related questions.  I googled the question and looked for the answer.

I’ve had a customer ask me which software program works better.  I asked google for a comparison, and got the answer.

The information is there if you want to find it.  But, you do have to discern between real and make-believe.  For one, I don’t look at the first few search results because they are ads disguised as results.  I scroll down and then look for valid sources, keeping in mind that everyone is a blogger with an opinion these days.

A few examples of good question and answering websites (based on my google search just now … and experience) include:

I just want to remind you that not everything is a crisis when you don’t have the answer at hand. Perform a quick search before you panic; you may just be pleasantly surprised at how easy the solution is. 99% of the time I respond to those seeking answers with the statement that I just googled it, they always say, “I don’t know why I didn’t do that.  Duh!”  There’s a wealth of knowledge out there at your fingertips, just be sure to follow valid sources of information.

Happy googling!

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[Plugin] UpdraftPlus

Plugin for Backups

Positioned as the world’s most trusted backup plugin, UpdraftPlus is the world’s highest rated and most-installed plugin. UpdraftPlus can back up WordPress sites of any size. It runs wherever WordPress does, has more storage options than any rival and makes cloning simple.

Your WordPress backups are worth the same as your entire investment in your website. The day may come when you get hacked (or your hosting company does or they go bust) — without good backups, you lose everything.

Do you really want to entrust all your work to a backup plugin with only a few thousand downloads or to one that has no professional backup or support? With a 4.9/5.0 rating and over 3 million downloads (500,000+ installs), UpdraftPlus is the backup plugin we use and recommend.

Key Features:

Easy Storage: UpdraftPlus offers many remote cloud storage options: Dropbox, Amazon, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, FTP, etc.  With ‘Updraft Vault’, you get the zero hassle option. Manage and download backups for all your sites at one central location. No complicated setup or fiddly keys, no accounting hassles. Just press a button to make the connection, and you’re done! UpdraftPlus Premium gives you 1 GB of Vault storage for free, with the option of purchasing more.

Scheduled Backups: With the paid option, you can ‘set it and forget it’ with automated backups vs. performing manual backups (free version). Choose exactly when and how often to backup – every 4, 8 or 12 hours, daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly – your choice! UpdraftPlus can also automatically run a backup before you update a plugin, theme or WordPress itself – even when WordPress updates itself in the background; so, whatever problems a new update brings, you’re covered!

Restoring Backups: Download backups directly from your WordPress control panel.You can restore individual entities (e.g. just your plugins after a problematic update) or restore everything at once. You can also import backups from other sites, or import them from your remote storage (e.g. your Dropbox).

Migrate (Clone/Duplicate): With their ‘Migrator’ feature, you can easily clone or migrate your website to a different URL all from the dashboard in only a matter of minutes.This feature is useful if you want to clone a site for testing, or if you’re a developer wanting to build a custom site on a local or temporary domain and then shift it all over to a live domain later on. You can even send data directly from one site to another.

Stats:

The UpdraftPlus plugin has been installed more than 500,000 times, so you can rest assured that it’s been vetted by the crowd.

Price:

You can enjoy the free option with minimal storage. Or, upgrade to a premium account with 1 GB of data storage for as low as $70 per year for more small, individual sites (2 licenses) or $95/year for business/multiple sites (10 licenses).

Psst…be sure to check out the Q&A section where you can get a coupon for the upgrade!

You can download and learn more about Updraft Plus here.

 

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CAUTION: Don’t Rely On Gurus

Don’t do it.

After spending most of the past year laying a solid foundation for my resort-based websites, I found myself listening to guru podcast after guru podcast instead of concentrating on things that really mattered to drive my business.

I was of the opinion that everyone else (except for me) had uncovered the secret to online success. If I could just listen to each worthwhile podcast or attend the ‘mustn’t-miss’ webinar, I, too, would learn the secret and be on my way.

Three things happened that not only changed my mind, but more importantly, corrected my course.

The Perceived Experts

There were two back-to-back instances that didn’t just make me take pause, they stopped me cold in my tracks.

I was following one social media guru who I thought had all the answers. First, I noticed her healthy twitter following and her impressive guest lineup for her webinars. I opted-in to receive her free manifesto and purchased one of her online courses on social media.  I even participated in her members-only social media groups.

And then I decided to take the day off, away from the computer. Relaxing by the pool with my podcasts fired up and ready to go, I had the first “oh, say it isn’t so” moment.

This nice guru of mine was being interviewed as a guest entrepreneur for another podcast. Truth revealed, she was barely scraping by and admitted to almost throwing in the towel numerous times.

Here I was, thinking she was making well over six figures a year when she had just surpassed four. I did learn some things from her, but to assume she was the ‘be-all, end-all’ because of her following and connections was a miscalculation on my part.

By the way, you’ll start noticing, once you hop on the guru train, that clusters of gurus begin to form in order to build each other’s email lists via guest posting and webinars. It’s not a bad short-term tactic, but it seemed to me to be more about tit for tat than forging real partnerships focused on bringing genuine value to the end customer.

Mistake #1: Don’t believe everything you hear.

I invested less time in following the second guru.

He appeared to have credentials and came recommended by yet another guru in the circle I followed (one who actually walks the walk), so I was almost hooked when our less-than-impressive encounter occurred.

I registered on his website for his enticing offer to be considered for one of the free spots in his mastermind class. He clearly knew of one proven online secret: the money is in the (email) list.

He got this sucker’s email address.

Yet, instead of gaining access to his ‘expertise,’ I was given random reasons why we weren’t a good fit — one being the name of my company of all things. Another reason?  He wanted members of his mastermind class to possess a robust email list in order to help promote his business.

After I provocatively pushed back, he conceded. I unsubscribed after seeing others complaining in his email threads about similar tactics.

Mistake #2: Believing you can get something for nothing.

It was at this moment that my chutzpah returned, and I finally realized it was time to quit looking outside myself for some illusory magic potion.

Guess what? The secret is that there is no magic potion other than putting in the work.

Interestingly enough, when I stopped looking at the gurus and started looking in the mirror, I realized I possessed more sales and marketing experience from a longstanding sales and marketing career than they had since graduating from college (or not) just a few years earlier.  I’m guessing I also made more money.

Because I came from a corporate sales environment, I was under the wrong impression that my past experience wouldn’t translate into this new online world.

Mistake #3: Thinking online sales is completely different from offline sales.

With 20+ years of solid sales experience, I know one thing for sure: sales is sales is sales.  If you can sell offline, you more than likely have the ability to sell online, given the right tools.

Because of your experience, you’ll know that it boils down to offering value where demand exists.

Yet, since there are so many new variables that impact an online business, ranging from community development to search results, it’s easy to become sidetracked in the confidence department.

Confidence Builders

It wasn’t until I reinstated my confidence and started unsubscribing from those pundits who didn’t deliver real value to my work day that I got back to doing real revenue-generating work.

For one, the time I saved from emptying my inbox of guru solicitations has been nothing short of amazing.

Since unsubscribing, I have used that extra time to complete Technology Entrepreneurship e-145 which is a course offered through Stanford University (it is one of my endorsed programs).

This third ‘eye-opener’ was time well spent.

If you want to succeed in any online business, I suggest you start there, learning from the best (really).  This course, which was difficult and time consuming, was inspirational, educational and invaluable.

I just learned that out of 2,000+ teams who participated in Stanford’s foray into online learning, my Food Compass Team Project is one of a handful being considered by Stanford for promotion of their online course.

This compliment (and my team’s five star rating) drives home the point that when you stop looking to others for all the answers, it’s amazing what you’ll uncover — all by yourself.  You’re more competent than you think you are, and the truth is that no one knows your business better than you do.

Now, if you’d just start taking the time to listen to your intuition over their podcasts.

Bottom line?

I may have been prey to some of the self-proclaimed gurus who didn’t deliver, but that’s a thing of my past.  If you don’t have proof (such as a solid Alexa ranking, huge community or a professional write up vs. a guest blog post) or years — not months — of experience backing up your claims, count me out.

You need some feathers in your cap if you’re going to be called a guru in my book.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are many experts, both online and offline, who can teach you more than a thing or two, so don’t rule out building partnerships and learning wherever you can.  I just recommend choosing your gurus wisely by teaming up with accomplished entrepreneurs who have built real businesses and/or products that generate real revenue.

I’ve accomplished a lot this past year — but my primary focus from the start should have been testing and confirming my hypotheses about the market. I’ll continue to use Lean Launch Lab to do more of that going forward.

And although I will still follow a few of the proven gurus who have taught this old dog new tricks, I’ll be refocusing my efforts and trusting myself more.

I hope you’ll do the same.

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[Plugin] Yet Another Related Post

Plugin for Engaging Readers

YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) lets you display a list of related entries on your site and/or feeds based on a unique algorithm, drive incremental page-views and provide more value to your reader.

Problem:

You need to encourage your readers to stay on your site and truly engage with your content so they become raving fans, loyal followers and ultimately, paying customers.

YARPP helps you introduce your reader to other relevant content on your site, making it easy for them to discover interesting articles that meet their needs.  Also, you’ll notice increased page-views as well as longer average site visits in your analytics.

Bottom line?  If you’re priority is to build a solid community of followers-turned-customers, you need to proactively ‘draw them in’ by demonstrating your expertise and showcasing your solutions any way you can.

One way to achieve that goal is to install YARPP.

Key Features:

Some key features include customization via the YARPP template system, which puts you in charge of how your posts are displayed.  You can also showcase related posts, pages and even custom post types.  YARPP organically caches the related posts data as your site is visited, greatly improving performance and accuracy.  Finally you can disallow certain tags or categories, giving you even more customization when it comes to the related posts that you’d like to appear.

Stats:

The YARPP plugin has been downloaded more than 1.6 million times, so you can rest assured that it’s been vetted by the crowd.

Price:

It’s free.  Enjoy!

You can download and learn more about YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) here.

 

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[Plugin] Welcome Gate

Plugin for Capturing Email

A Welcome Gate™ is a cross between a popup and a squeeze page.  But it’s far less annoying and aggressive than both (while still delivering serious results).

Problem:

Markets are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, and that’s why you need to shake things up and try new things to capture emails.  The jury’s still out, but I’m thinking that pop-ups may be getting a bit stale (although I do the Qoate Scroll Triggered plugin (keep scrolling and you’ll see it fade in, lower right).

Bottom line is that if you’re going to generate a solid community of followers so you can generate income both online and offline, you need to be smart about building your email list…and building it sooner rather than later.

Solution:

The new Welcome Gate plugin helps you capture those much-needed email addresses. According to the Clay Collins, of The Marketing Show and plugin creator, Welcome Gate outperformed pop-ups by 20 times. It was 10 times more effective than their side bar opt-in box and it was 3 times more effective than a feature box.

Here’s how a Welcome Gate works . . .

  1. When someone goes to your home page, they’re redirected to a squeeze page (the page is at a url like http://www.YourSite.com/Welcome/).  You can see this sites live example here: http://www.resortentrepreneurs.com/welcome.
  2. Your Welcome Gate has a “skip this step” link, so folks aren’t required to opt-in.
  3. Folks are only redirected to a welcome gate when they go to your home page (i.e. if someone links to a specific blog post on your site — from twitter, or their blog — your Welcome Gate won’t display)
  4. If someone goes to http://www.yoursite.com, they’ll be redirected to your Welcome Gate at http://www.yoursite.com/welcome. But if they got confused and type in your home page URL, they’ll simply be taken to your home page
  5. A visitor will only see your Welcome Gate once in their lifetime (unless they go to your site again with another computer or browser or clear their cookies).

Setting up this plugin is somewhat simple, although it does take a bit of time to get everything right (it took me about 20 minutes). As you know, I only recommend things I know, love and use.  You can see a version of Welcome Gate in action on my site here, or view a different version used on Barack Obama’s website (no joke!).

Price:

It’s free (for now).  Enjoy!

You can download and learn more about the Welcome Gate Plugin here.

 

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[Plugin] Fast Secure Contact Form

Plugin for Building Forms

We all know how important having a contact form on your website is.  Adding a contact form is actually one of the first things you should do when starting a new WordPress site.

After all, it’s one of the biggest ways to capture much needed customer information.

But what if you need a form builder to capture more than just someone’s contact information?

The Fast Secure Contact Form plugin makes it easy for you to create customized forms on your website in order to capture much needed data.

Problem:

You need your users to do more than just submit an email address on a simple contact us form.  For example, you would like your user to upload a logo, picture or file…you’d like your user to answer questions in detail with more than a yes/no answer …you’d like your user to not be spam.

Solution:

The super customizable Fast Secure Contact Form plugin by Mike Challis allows a webmaster to easily create and add contact forms to WordPress.  It lets the user send emails to a site’s admin and also send a meeting request to talk over phone or video. An administration panel is present, where the webmaster can create and preview unlimited forms.

Features a super easy admin panel, multi-form feature, autoresponder, no templates to mess with, and an option to redirect visitors to any URL after the message is sent. It includes CAPTCHA and Akismet support to block all common spammer tactics, so spam is no longer a problem.

You can add extra fields of any type: text, textarea, checkbox, checkbox-multiple, radio, select, select-multiple, attachment, date, time, hidden, password, and fieldset.

Setting up this plugin is so simple.  Each field on the admin panel has user-friendly descriptors attached in case you have questions, making set up quick and easy.

As you know, I only recommend things I know, love and use.  You can see a simple version of the Fast Secure Contact Form in action on this site here, or you can see a more complicated set-up on my sister site ResortLocals.com here.

Plus, with over 1 million downloads, you can rest assured that this award-winning plugin is safe and secure.

You can download the Fast Secure Contact Form WordPress Plugin here.

 

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[Plugin] Qoate Scroll Triggered Box

Plugin for Building Email Lists 

We all know how important building your email list is.  After all, that’s one big way you turn prospects into customers.

One of my favorite plugins to use is: Qoate Scroll Triggered Box plugin.  This plugin makes it easy for you to create scroll triggered call-to-actions on your WordPress post pages and build your email list.

Problem:

You need to build your email list.  Yet, you don’t want to overwhelm your website visitors with a call to action until you’re fairly certain they like you and your posts (in other words, they’ve actually started reading your posts!).

Solution:

This “free” call-to-action plugin provides you with an opportunity to capture emails when you make an offer via the scroll triggered box.  You can choose from a fade or a slide animation, and pick a point where you would like the box to appear. This can be done by filling in a percentage of the page/post read before the box is triggered or choosing to have it appear when visitors have reached your comments.

Setting up this plugin is pretty straight forward. Just activate and choose your content. It took me about 15 minutes to get the plugin installed, activated and then set to the right percentages and box size that makes sense for your offer.  You can change pretty much everything, from box height to placement to animation.

If you choose to use the Social Bookmarks options you just have to check a checkbox, and choose which social networks you would like to use!  I suggest that you don’t pick all of the networks, cause in this case more is less.

Play around a little with the plugin until you get your desired result.  Scroll down now to see the plugin live on this site (view the lower right hand corner until it appears).

You can download the Qoate Scroll Triggered Box WordPress Plugin here.

 

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[GREEN] TIP: 50 Tasks in 90 Days To Start Your Biz

Is it time you start turning your dreams into reality?

Over the last three months, I’ve been working like a fiend trying to get my new brand building company off the ground.

In addition to the Resort Lifestyle Network that I manage, I had been providing consulting services on the side to generate additional revenue.  However, with more business coming in than I could manage, I decided to turn my ‘side gig’ into something more.

And thus my new online marketing company, Hammond Media Group, was born.

It’s possible to realize your dream.  Just taking the first step is all it takes.  Before you know it, you’ll have your very own business up and running.

Here’s a list of the 50 or so tasks that were completed in 90 days.  There is still a lot to do, but this is a great start.  Use these tasks as a checklist.  Use them as motivation. Use them for ideas.  Just do one of the tasks each day, and in three months time, you’ll be that much closer to living your dream.

I’ve included links where appropriate to make it even easier for you to get started.

Ready, Set, Go!

Business Set-Up

Website

Social Media

  • Embedded social media links (follow and share) on website and in email signature
  • Created a Facebook Page
  • Integrated MailChimp sign up form into Facebook page for list building (view sign up form on FB)
  • Created a Google+ Page
  • Created a Twitter account
  • Set up Twitter lists (clients, vendors, bloggers, etc.) to monitor conversations and manage news feed for resort sites and Hammond Media Group
  • Created a Hootsuite account to monitor twitter conversations
  • Created a Vimeo Channel for videos
  • Created a LinkedIn account for professional networking
  • Created a MailChimp account for email marketing / list building
  • Created a SlideShare account for presentations

Marketing

  • Attended Entrepreneur and Tech MeetUps to network and promote new biz
  • Ordered business cards, thank you notes and other printed marketing materials from VistaPrint
  • Set up email Auto-Responders based on different target audiences (huge time-saver for lead generation; learn more about the benefits of email automation)
  • Completed pro-Bono work for a worthwhile charity
  • Joined local area Chamber of Commerce organizations to network / generate new business opportunities

Other

  • Completed a website audit for a client
  • Set up an editorial calendar for a client
  • Completed two major proposals totaling approximately 30k in revenue
  • Worked out preferred partnership arrangements with two vendors

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If You’re Struggling Financially, Weak Social Skills May Be the Culprit

By Steve Pavlina of StevePavlina.com

Often when people are struggling financially, they try to make improvements that never quite work out. One reason is that they’re working on symptoms while overlooking the real core issues.

If I may be direct, much of the time the main reason people struggle in this part of life is because they have very weak social skills. They may think that limiting beliefs about money, or perhaps a lack of self-discipline, are holding them back, but even people with very abundant lives have limiting financial beliefs and self-discipline challenges.

The real problem isn’t your financial skills or your beliefs about money. More often than not, the problem is that you’re trying to make money in ways that could be described as socially inept.

Are you socially inept?

People who are socially inept don’t understand that money is a social tool. Money is communication.

Instead they treat money as an object, as something to collect and acquire. But by using money in this way, they don’t realize they’re actually trying to use people. And trying to use people is a socially inept way of communicating. People generally don’t like to be used as tools, so money doesn’t easily flow to socially inept people who attempt to relate to others in this manner.

If you’re trying to get more money, you’re behaving in a socially creepy manner, and so you’re going to meet a lot of resistance and will most like meet with failure and frustration.

If you’re having some difficulty improving your level of financial abundance, let me share a perspective with you that I think will help. This will be a very down to earth perspective — no need to invoke the Law of Attraction or use terms like “vibrational match” here.

What is money?

We know that money is a medium for exchanging value. But what does that mean?

Let’s set aside all conspiracy theories for the moment and focus on the practical reality of what money does for us in our daily lives. Money is used for trade. When we use money, we’re trading one kind of value for another kind of value.

Using money amounts to trading goods and services, like trading apples for salt, or shoes for a massage.

Now who participates in these trades?

People. Human beings.

Money may seem more abstract than hard goods and services, so it’s understandable that people get confused about how to earn it, but imagine what your financial life would be like if there was no money. What would it mean to talk about financial abundance in the absence of money?

Without money in your life, you’d basically have two options for creating abundance.

The first option would be to produce everything you desire for yourself. You’d have to grow your own food. You’d have to self-educate. You’d have to design and build your own shelter, harvest all the resources for it, and invent and build your own tools from scratch. You couldn’t use anything like a computer or the Internet unless you invented and developed all your own technology, including building your own communication networks. If you wanted to participate in modern society to any meaningful degree, we can safely rule out the go-it-alone approach.

Your second option for creating abundance would be to engage in trades with other people. There are two aspects to this. First, you need to have something to trade. Second, you need to conduct trades, which are social interactions.

So if you go the trading route (which is the only practical choice for most people), there are two fundamental skill sets that will determine your ability to create and enjoy financial abundance:

1. Your skill at creating value such that others are willing to trade for it.
2. Your skill at executing trades with others.

Both of these are social skills. Let’s explore this more deeply….

Creating Value

It’s common to think about creating value for others in terms of your mental and physical abilities, including your technical and artistic skills. Can you write software, create music, fix plumbing problems, or mop floors?

But how do you learn these skills in the first place? From your parents. From schools and teachers. From books. From the Internet. And probably from many other sources. Ultimately, however, you learned your skills from people. You wouldn’t even have the most basic skills of reading, writing, and speaking if not for other people.

Yes, you can also learn through direct experimentation, but I’m sure you’ll agree that most of what you’ve learned so far ultimately came from human beings. People created those resources and chose to share them with you. If not for the help of others, you’d pretty much be an idiot, at least by the standards of our modern society.

Now think about what an upgrade in your social skills could do for you here. If you were even more skilled socially, you’d be able to gain access to more and better educational and training resources.

Despite the massive amount of content on the Internet, a lot of knowledge is still fairly private, including some of the most current info that hasn’t yet trickled down to the Internet. The only way to learn certain information is through people. Additionally, some skills are just much easier to learn directly from people than through free resources.

What determines your ability to gain access to the best proprietary info? You can buy it, but in the absence of money, your access will largely be determined by the strength of your social network, which in turn is largely determined by your social skills.

So the better your social networking skills, the more opportunities you have for skill building.

Additionally, how do you learn the relative social value of different skills? How do you learn which skills have high trading value (like performing heart surgery) vs. low trading value (like mopping floors)? You learn this from other people too. Do you have a social network that encourages you to learn and develop skills with high trading value? Or do you have a social network that lets you settle for skills with low trading value? If you have the latter type of social network, why haven’t you consciously created the former?

If you aren’t able to create much value for others (i.e. high trading value), that will surely depress your income. If this is a problem you’re currently experiencing, it means your social network isn’t doing a very good job of training you to deliver strong value. And if your social network isn’t training you properly, then we have to take a serious look at your social skills, don’t we? After all, you’re the one who’s maintaining your social network. If you wanted to change it badly enough and had the skills to do so, you could certainly do that. Lots of people do.

Some people are just lucky. They’re born into amazing social networks that prepare them for lives of abundance. Others have to work at it. Either way, your social network is your responsibility. If it isn’t serving you, why not change it?

One again, if your finances are lagging and you’d rather not experience that reality, it means your social network isn’t doing its job, which means your social skills are lagging, which means you’re not doing your job socially. Financial failure and social failure are the same thing.

Trading With Others

Now let’s look at the second aspect of creating abundance. Once you have some value to offer, you can engage in intelligent trades with other people to fulfill the desires that you can’t or won’t fulfill on your own.

What makes for a successful trade? In the long run, this is also determined by your social network and your social skills. Opportunities for trade will come from other people, largely through your social network. If your social networking isn’t bringing you abundance-producing, win-win trades on a regular basis, then again, your social network isn’t doing its job. And if your social networking isn’t doing it’s job, why not? That would imply that you aren’t doing a good job of creating and maintaining an empowering network, which in turn points to social skills that are lagging.

My intent isn’t to beat you down here. My intent is to help you target the right strategy for growth if you’ve been struggling to create financial abundance. Some people don’t see much improvement even after years of working to improve their finances, and that’s largely because they never address the underlying social problems that give rise to scarcity. I think you’ll experience a lot more growth if you reinterpret your financial problems as social problems. At the very least, it will give you a new avenue to explore.

How Strong Social Skills Can Create Financial Abundance

So how does abundance result from strong social skills?

Let’s revisit our two aspects of trading:

1. Your skill at creating value such that others are willing to trade for it.
2. Your skill at executing trades with others.

Imagine a person who has amazing social skills. What would that look like, and how would it affect the two trade-related skills above?

First, this person would have more educational and skill-building resources than most people. Great social skills can be used to build and maintain an empowering network of intelligent and resourceful friends and contacts. If this person ever wanted help learning anything, there would always be someone to turn to, someone to suggest and offer quality resources.

As great as Google is, there are some questions that are best answered by human beings.

Moreover, a human network can provide abundant emotional support, encouragement, and accountability. Google doesn’t care if you procrastinate. Good friends, however, do care.

This socially skilled person would also have a better sense of other people’s needs. Better social skills means better empathy and listening skills. So s/he would have an easier time figuring out what to do to create strong value for others, value that people would gladly trade for. The socially inept person, by contrast, would be more likely to create something that nobody wanted, which can be very discouraging.

Next, this highly social person could cultivate a social network that delivers a continuous flow of choice opportunities for quality trades. If this person wanted a job, it could be found through his/her social network. If this person wanted to start a business or offer a new product or service, his/her social network would provide plenty of assistance to make that a reality, including abundant referrals of new clients and customers. Suffice it to say that this person would have a serious advantage.

Our socially inept counterpart, however, would suffer major disadvantages across the board. S/he wouldn’t be in the best position for attracting educational and skill-building opportunities, and s/he would also miss out on the choicest trading opportunities. Long-term financial scarcity would be the most likely outcome.

My Social and Financial Expansion

When I look back over the past 20+ years of my life, I see a major correlation between my social skills and my experience of financial abundance. During those times when I was the most solo-minded in my thinking, my finances lagged. But when I put some serious effort into social skill-building and expansion, my financial life improved markedly shortly thereafter.

For example, when I decided to become active in the Association of Shareware Professionals in 1999, I went from earning about $300 per month from my computer game sales to more than 10x that within a matter of months. I can directly attribute the improvement in my finances to the education and opportunities that came to me through my expanding social network.

Until I made that commitment to reach out socially in my industry, hardly anyone knew that I existed. I was never invited to speak at conferences. I had no chance of winning awards and getting free publicity for my products. I never had friends emailing me advice and suggestions and sharing resources.

Both in my own life and in the lives of others, I’ve seen ample evidence to convince me that financial abundance is largely a result of strong social skills and the intelligent application of those skills.

Specifically, this includes the following:

1. Your ability to proactively befriend intelligent, resourceful people and add them to your social network.
2. Your ability to inspire people to refer helpful opportunities to you (resources, leads, clients, etc).
3. Your ability to serve as a positive source of inspiration and opportunities for others (maintaining win-win connections).
4. Your ability to prune and release dead-weight relationships (avoiding win-lose and lose-lose connections).

To be very direct once again, people who suffer financially generally make the following social mistakes:

1. They often behave as loners and spend a lot of time alone or with the same few people (social isolationists).
2. The frequently suffer from approach anxiety and low self-esteem, which discourages them from initiating new connections and creating social expansion (social timidity).
3. They clutter their social lives with losers who have little to offer in terms of support, resources, and skill-building (low standards).
4. When they do meet intelligent and resourceful people, they act passively and fail to establish new friendships (lack of intitiative).
5. They remain loyal to a pity posse that consistently blocks good referrals with fear, jealousy, or sarcasm (clinginess).

I know this sound harsh, but pause for a moment to see if any of this resonates with you.

The Good News

The good news is that if you’re currently suffering from financial lack, and if you can see and admit that it just might have something to do with your lagging social skills, there’s hope for you yet. :)

It will take time to upgrade your social skills and to overcome related fears and limiting beliefs, but this is a rewarding journey to undertake. If I can go from a shy child who used to play alone in the sandbox to a man who thinks of 3-day public workshops as a form of play… and from debt/bankruptcy to seeing money show up whenever I need it… then why not you?

I can’t offer you an overnight fix here (and beware of anyone who promises such silliness), but I do think it will help you to focus on a social upgrade as the key to financial abundance. You can start by browsing my blog’s archives and reading some articles on social skills, but this time read those articles with a fresh perspective. How could a social skills upgrade impact your experience of financial abundance?

And if you’d like more help along these lines, please consider attending our February Conscious Relationships Workshop. Although financial abundance isn’t the main focus, it’s very likely that you’ll learn new ideas, tools, skills, and perspectives at this workshop that will help you improve your finances.

Do Something Different

As a final thought… the key for me in creating this change was to admit to myself that being a social isolationist wasn’t working. So maybe… just maybe… I should try doing the opposite for a while.

I was already going bankrupt at the time I made this decision, so I figured I had nothing to lose by changing things up. It seemed worse to perpetuate the patterns I had while sinking into debt, so “do the opposite” seemed like a valid strategy.

It took a while to feel comfortable with a more active and varied social life than I was used to, but it worked — faster than I expected. In fact, on the Myers-Briggs test, I actually flipped from an INTJ to an ENTJ during that time, meaning that I switched from an introvert to an extrovert, at least according that that particular personality test.

In the meantime, after sending this newsletter I’m going to fully enjoy some socially abundant time in Hawaii this week with 130 friends. As I sit on my balcony overlooking the ocean, it’s a sunny 79 degrees with a light cool breeze blowing through the palm trees.

Lately I’ve been noticing how much I’m enjoying my life — and how different things are today vs. how they were many years ago when everything seemed like a struggle.

A key turning point was when I decided to step outside my socially comfortable cocoon of familiarity and to become a more active participant in the world.

I started small, first by becoming more involved in an industry trade group, then in a larger subset of my industry, then by writing articles for lots of people, and so on. But it all began with the admission that my comfort zone was becoming a cage, and that I had to abandon it in order to keep growing.

In the long run, growth is a lot more rewarding and fulfilling than comfort.

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Do You Own A ‘Semi-Local’ Business?

UPDATED:

View Survey Results Here.

What is Semi-Local?

It seems that everywhere you turn, people are taking their ideas, causes, and now more than ever — their product and services — to the internet.

Local businesses that were once traditionally categorized as “brick-and-mortar” operations just a few years ago have discovered that their products and services are well-suited for online.  From dog grooming accessories to designer children’s fashions to even local consulting services, a wide range of businesses are now selling their goods and services online, opening up another revenue stream for the business owner.

This foray into the internet gives these businesses the new classification of ‘Semi-Local.’  And this money-making “click-and-mortar” combo allows the business to grow faster than when they operated solely as a “brick and mortar” establishment.

Are you curious?

Do you ever wonder how many local businesses really earn some of their income locally as well as remotely? Do you have questions about how they do it?  Do you wonder how long it took them to get there?  Would you like to know what struggles they had to overcome along the way?

If the answer is yes, then we want your help in supporting our friends over at FirepoleMarketing.com by taking a quick survey.  Take the Survey.

Resort Entrepreneurs is one of only 14 participating businesses who are actively promoting this survey to help gather this extremely worthwhile semi-local market data.  In exchange for your time, the Resort Entrepreneur community will receive free access to the summarized survey results…results that could impact your bottom line! 

You don’t have to already be semi-local to participate.  If you’re an aspiring semi-local business or entrepreneur, there are  questions for you too.  Thank you for your support!

Take the Survey

VIEW THE SURVEY RESULTS

 

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CAUTION: Don’t Hide Behind Your Computer


Are you launching an online business? Heed these warnings that will save you time and money. Tip: Don’t hire a website developer too soon.
For most of this year, I’ve been hunkered down, hidden behind my Dell laptop screen.

I’ve been working day and night in order to lay a solid foundation for my Resort Lifestyle Network business.  I’ve been building websites from scratch.  I’ve been doing lots of research. I’ve been writing a lot of content.  I’ve been playing around with graphic design and branding. I’ve been taking lots of online courses.  I’ve been building databases. I’ve been putting systems in place.

In other words, I’ve become a loner.

Anyone who knew me prior to 2011 would never have called me a loner.  Throughout my life, I’ve been told over and over again about my outgoing personality…that I never meet a stranger….that I’m a total extrovert…that I’m a natural born salesperson.

Anyone who has met me this year would probably say I’m some weird loser geek who sits and stares at a computer screen all day long and has no life.

Your Online vs. Offline Personality

So, which personality am I?  A little of both, I suppose.

I’m afraid living on the web really has more impact on who we are than we’re willing to admit.

This morning, my loner self chose to engage with a friend who’s having some difficulty in her real-world job.  Her struggles come from being a 43 year old Chatty Cathy living in a 28 year old Loner Larry environment.  She finds it extremely odd that her colleagues come into work, put on their headphones and stare at a computer screen all day vs. engaging with her face-to-face.

Her current office environment, albeit different from mine at the moment, resonated with me. So much so, that it left me pondering one very disturbing question.

Have I actually joined the Loner Larry crowd?

Now that I’m almost done with laying the foundation of my business, I’m gearing up for the promotion stage.  These natural business transitions are definitely a good time to stop and reflect before barreling into the next phase.

What I didn’t expect to happen during this brief period of reflection was that fear would envelop me.

Overcoming Fear

It’s natural to feel apprehensive when you bring your ideas to market.  After all, no one likes to be judged.  But my fear had more to do with the question:

What if I’ve lost my offline mojo?

As Brad Hunter wrote in the Subtle Benefits of Face to Face Communication:

“Online interactions often provide anonymity and an ability to present ourselves differently than we might ordinarily. The predominance of written communication gives us a way to edit our utterances until they fit the image we want to project, something which is not quite so simple in a real time environment. Since our words are our only connection to others, it is much easier to be duplicitous or even self-deluding.”

It’s been so long since I’ve ‘worked it’ offline that I’m afraid my out of shape sales personality needs to be whipped back into shape (along with my hunched over, out of shape body that usually comes with living the Loner Larry lifestyle).

I’m fairly confident that re-engaging will be just like riding a bike.  I just need to get back on that bike.

Although I participate regularly in online communities, telesummits, forums and hangouts as a sole proprietor, it’s scary to ponder how long I’ve gone without any real consistent offline interaction that one normally encounters in an office environment.

And I know that the lack of offline interaction negatively impacts my bottom line.

Engaging Offline Brings Quick Results

It’s critical that I engage my community, customers, affiliates and partners in a variety of ways to create the best possible results.  So over the last few weeks, I recommitted to raising my offline social capital.

When I changed the means of communication to phone calls and in-person meetings, I was immediately struck by the speed with which things happen offline vs. online paradoxically.  So much so, that I’m committing to having a minimum of three real phone calls or face-to-face meetings each day.

My offline encounters were more in-depth vs. skimming the surface. They seemed more deliberate and results-oriented vs. meandering happenstance.

Whether real or imagined, I was left with the feeling that it would have taken 1-2 months of online back-and-forth to reach the goals achieved in 30-minutes of intense and deliberate offline conversation.

Maybe it’s as simple as having too many self-indulgent distractions when working online that cause you to be less mindful or present when engaging with those on the other side of a laptop screen.

The Bigger Health Concern of Isolation

Loner Larry’s take note.

In his book [amazon_link id=”0743203046″ target=”_blank” ]Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community[/amazon_link], Robert Putnam argues that involvement in community actually increases a person’s biological and mental health. Biologists and psychologists have also shown that without physical contact, people become depressed and ill.

“Does typing ‘LOL’ on a keyboard have the same benefits?”

Hunter continues, “Malcolm Gladwell argued in [amazon_link id=”0316346624″ target=”_blank” ]The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference[/amazon_link] that much of communication is done non-verbally and emotions can easily be transferred from person to person without the utterance of a single word. If community loses its physical aspect, I believe that many of the subtle benefits that go along with physical face-to-face contact will also be lost.”

Resort entrepreneurs (or any lifestyle business owner) may rely more heavily on non-physical means of communication to  connect since they are less tied down geographically.

Hunter worries that “in such a system, the value of each connection is lessened and that the benefits we gain from each connection decreases. I think that in this world of the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging, cell phones, pagers, faxes, and the World Wide Web, we should keep in mind the importance of face-to-face communication.” 

I couldn’t agree more.

Get the latest TIPs and TOOLs:

     

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[GREEN] TOOL: Instapaper URL Clipper

Laying the foundation for your online businessWhat is it?

Instapaper is the best thing I’ve come across all year.

It’s been around for quite some time, has 1 million registered users and was named “Best Publication App of 2010,” but I hadn’t heard about it.  So I figured it’s worth sharing just in case you missed it too.

For quite some time now, I’ve been searching high and low for a simple tool that would do exactly what Instapaper does: save webpage urls.

Instapaper allows you to easily save those URLs for later when you do have time to read them, so you don’t just forget about them or skim through them like I normally do.

I love it. It’s free.  And it takes less than one minute to install the “read later” button in your toolbar.

I tried Evernote with all its bells and whistles, but I never took the time to learn it or use it, because I don’t have time to spend an hour figuring out and adopting another tool.

It’s simple.

I wanted an uncomplicated tool to do one task and one task only: save a web page url with the click of a button.

It’s time consuming to sit and read everything my eyes fall upon when I’m browsing through 500 feed items, responding to email, chatting, and watching Dancing with the Stars or some other background noise that only serves to distract me.

Yet, well-written content is out there, and I do want to read it — just not when I’m in information-skimming, speed-overload mode.

How to use the tool.

As the website states, Instapaper is designed to store links you’d like to read once and then discard. There’s no limit to how many articles you can store, and your archive of read items is kept indefinitely (unless you delete from it).

But Instapaper isn’t optimized for keeping track of thousands of pages like Evernote.  This tool isn’t the right solution to collect, categorize, tag, filter, and search the contents of every web page you’ve ever found.  See screenshots below.

It’s compatible with the iPhone and iPad.

Once you’ve found those great web pages, read them at home or on the go even without an internet connection. Simply install the Instapaper app and download your unread articles when you have Wi-Fi or 3G coverage, then read them on the train, on the bus, in an airplane, at the bank, or in your favorite chair.

The universal app for both iPhone and iPad costs $4.99.

Like Instapaper’s web interface Text option, the app downloads a mostly-text version of each page, using ideal formatting for maximum readability on the iDevice.  You don’t need to zoom in to read the text, and you can’t accidentally side-scroll when reading a long column.

Screenshots.

Here is the screenshot from my account that depicts how simply the articles appear.  Notice you can archive your article, edit it (edit the title and add a summary), share it, move it (to a folder you can choose to set up) or delete it.

Here is the screenshot of how your saved articles look on the iPhone and iPad:

Live and Learn.

Get the latest TIPs and TOOLs:

     

~ by Connie Hammond ~

Posted on

INTERVIEW ON REVIEW: Marc Ostrofsky

Entrepreneur:  Marc Ostrofsky

Interviewer:  Andrew Warner

Subject: General Business

Length: 1:04:51

 

Entrepreneur Bio:

Marc Ostrofsky is a professional speaker, consultant, venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur.  He wrote the book [amazon_link id=”0982769601″ target=”_blank” ]Get Rich Click[/amazon_link], which teaches readers how to make money, save money, and achieve financial independence through internet commerce.

His current Internet companies generate $75  Million+ annually and include Blinds.com, CuffLinks.com, eTickets.com, MutualFunds.com and Photographer.com.  He’s also know for selling the domain name Business.com for $7.5 million which  landed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive domain name ever sold.

Interview On Review:

On Revenue:  “You don’t want to create income.  You want to maximize the dollars to create equity.”

On Tradeshows: “The big money doesn’t come from advertising or exhibitors although those are good.  The sponsorship money is the big money.  The biggest money on the floor is the banners on the ceiling.”

On Products:  [paraphrased] “You can make money using Reverse e-Commerce which means you don’t need to own the product to sell the product.  1. You sell the product.  2. You collect the money.  3. Then you buy the product using the collected money and keep the difference.  Of course, you don’t sell one-offs, but there are many products (ie. pens) that have enormous inventories.”

On Becoming Rich: “I think differently; I think much bigger because I can afford to now.  I never took on debt.  If I didn’t have the cash, I didn’t buy it.  Now, it’s more about the quality of things vs. the quantity of things.”

On Hiring Talent: “One $50,000 person is worth a lot more than two $25,000 people.  Hire the best people you can afford.  And if you can’t afford them, ask them: ‘Is there some way I can work with you, because I know you’re the best?'”

On Continuous Learning: “I have a trademarked saying: ‘Learn More. Earn More.’  Go to seminars, listen to podcasts, pay people to teach you how.  It’s about the time-value of money.”

On Smart People: “The smartest people in the world know what they don’t know, and they know where to find what they don’t know.”

 

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[BLACK] TOOL: Amazon Associates

Making Money

Do you write blog posts (you should) about your business?

If so, you have an opportunity to create another revenue stream for your business by recommending Amazon products which apply to the subject at hand.

What is it?

Amazon Associates is one way to make money when you advertise the products on Amazon.  When you sign up to be an “associate,” you’ll be given a unique associate id which is embedded in the URL for tracking and payment purposes.

Links and Banners

One way to use Amazon Associates is by posting links and banners.  When you add these links and banners to your web page and visitors click on them from your page, you can earn up to 15% on all purchases made during their shopping session. 

So, not only would you make money if they bought your recommended item, but if they continue to shop during that specific online session, you’ll keep earning a commission.

There are three options for promoting the Amazon product: text links, image links and enhanced image links.  Your links will include your unique Associate tag for tracking purposes, allowing you to get paid for qualifying revenues coming through this link.

Or, link to Amazon product categories and promotions using their stylish, graphical banners.  Banners come in a variety of sizes adn shapes.  They’re easy to add, and you can show special graphics for special Amazon promotions such as Back to School or Mother’s Day. 

Widgets

Amazon Widgets are rich, interactive mini-applications that bring Amazon functionality to your website. There are 14 different widgets to choose from including: search widget, my  favorites and a carousel widget.  You can customize your widget and grab the HTML for you to use on your site.

Site Stripe

If you want to go gangbusters, turn the Site Stripe on so you can build your Associate links right from any Amazon.com page.  It’s a quick and easy way to build links while browsing Amazon.  You also get short-cuts to Associates news and reports, it’s easy to configure and completely compatible with the Product Links.

WordPress Plugin

I use the WordPress Amazon Associates plugin by Matthew John Denton which quickly and easily allows you to monetize your website through the integration of Amazon products and widgets tagged with your associate id.

It’s extremely easy to setup.  All you do is download and activate the plugin, then insert your unique Associate ID.  Once set up is complete, you’ll have the option of inserting relevant product recommendations into your posts while editing.  This plugin even makes product recommendations based on your subject matter.

It really doesn’t get much easier than this.  Below is a screenshot of what the plugin looks like in wordpress.  You just enter the search term and choose which index (ie. books), and then it suggests relevant products.  You can see an actual example of what the enhanced image link looks like at the end of this post.  I’m suggeting the “KaChing” book (one that I’ve actually read and do recommend) about Making Money Online.

Bottom line?

Unless you have huge traffic numbers, don’t expect to make a lot of money.  But little things do add up, and this is one simple way to generate extra money while also providing the additional service to your readers of recommending relevant products. 

Recommended Reading:

[amazon_enhanced asin=”0470597674″ /]

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CAUTION: Don’t Hire A Developer…Too Soon

Don’t do it.

When I started planning my first website, the first thing I did was call the smartest developer I knew and trusted.  Unfortunately, that should have been the last step in the startup process, not the first step.

The truth is, I had no business going into an online business without doing my homework first.

Keep the control.

When you hire a developer without basic knowledge in place, you’ll soon realize that your hands are tied because you can’t make updates or even the most minor edits without engaging your developer.  Don’t put yourself in this precarious position.

If you are going to have an online business, you have to learn, at a minimum, the basics of website development: Basic HTMLSEO, Use Cases, Wireframes, Membership Sites (we recommend Wishlist Member), Squeeze Pages, Email Marketing (I use MailChimp), Payment Processing, etc.  Not to mention, you should learn the design basics (check out this exceptional article on visual design basics).

Don’t shortcut this step.

Before hiring a developer, please do yourself a favor and go to Lynda.com, pay the $29.00 monthly subscription fee (which you can cancel at any time), and access Lynda.com’s online training library.  Then dig in and actually take the classes (you can even learn at your own pace, so no excuses).

One of the first classes I recommend is WordPress Essential Training. It takes 5.5 hours, and it can be a bit tedious for the novice.  But endure it.  It’s worth it if you’re launching an online business via a self-hosted WordPress site (which I recommended doing). Trust me, it will be time well spent.  That way you’ll have an idea of what you’re developer is doing. Go to Lynda.com for more information and to sign up.

Spend wisely.

Had I just taken the time to take some online courses in the beginning, I could have saved over $20,000 which was the development fees that I paid on the front-end of my startup and instead spent that money now that I know what I’m doing.  Granted, my interactive website, HireMeAspen.com, had lots of customization and complicated functionality like posting profiles, connecting users and ratings / recommendations.  It was also built to scale and will serve as a great foundation for profile sharing on the Resort Workers website.

My trustworthy developer did a fabulous job and delivered what I asked.  However, I should have gained the necessary knowledge about which features are worth pursuing and which aren’t before blindly spending the money and forging full steam ahead.

Mostly, I would have known how to engage my developer in a more productive way vs. naively trusting his opinions.  Knowing what I know now, I would have asked more questions, acted more deliberately and learned more about technology and market needs.

I wish I would have spent that money more wisely out of the starting gate.

Take Your Time

Had I just waited a bit longer and started with the most basic product features, I would have known what’s really involved in launching a site. I would have known that no matter how gung-ho you are, there is a natural learning curve that is difficult, if not impossible, to bypass quickly.  I would have known that it’s not necessary to have all those bells and whistles on your website that you think you need. I would have known about the Minimal Viable Product.

I would have been able to discern which features were nice-to-haves vs. ones that could really impact sales.  For most (not all) online entrepreneurs, a do-it-yourself hosted WordPress site will more than suffice for the Round One learning curve.

Minimum Viable Product.

As Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley-based retired serial entrepreneur, will tell you: your goal in the beginning should be simple: to launch the most basic, minimum viable product you can get away with so you can test your idea in the marketplace as soon as possible, and then change course or pivot as needed.

Your vision will evolve based on what you learn during the first year of planning and launching your online business…guaranteed.

To be clear, I’m not saying spending money on a developer is wrong; it’s just the timing that matters most.  In my case, it was premature when launching my first online business to hire a developer without knowing more about technology (since I was launching an online biz), fine-tuning my vision (including my target market) and testing the waters.

My developer did a fantastic job by delivering a custom site built from scratch that functions properly.  He did what I asked.  I just asked the wrong questions and wanted the wrong things.  (And if you shirk this advice and hire a developer anyway, at least be sure to have measurable deliverables, firm deadlines and a no-frills, get ‘er done and roll ‘er out policy).

Bottom line? I wish I had hired my awesome developer during Phase Two vs. Phase One.