Small Budget, Big Rewards

Small Budget, Big Rewards

Subject Line: Small Budget, Big Rewards

The Write Market Release
Vol. 3. Issue 4
Small Budget, Big Rewards

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CONTENTS IN THIS ISSUE

1. Editor’s Remarks
2. How to Write a Marketing Plan – Part VII
b) A Small Business Can be Smaller Than You Think by Mary Howard
c) Budget For Marketing
d) Dirty Little Customer Service Stories
3. What’s New at The Write Market
4. Get Your Ad in TWM’s Release!
5. Administrative Information

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EDITOR’S REMARKS

Hello everyone,

Is it hot enough for you? This is only my second summer in the Philadelphia area, but it’s the hottest summer I’ve ever experienced in my life. Hot and slow.

The good thing about “slow” is that it leaves you lots of time to think. Terry and I have spent the good part of July brainstorming and planning a new project.

We’re expanding our services by offering a 5 week course. The course will teach you how to design a web site specifically to sell products or services.

Some of the Topics will include:
1. Basic HTML
2. Web Design that Works
3. Writing your Content to Sell
4. Writing your Content for the Search Engines
5. Graphics that Work

Upon completion of this intense course, you will have a web site of your own that you can use to sell your specific products or services, you will learn the basics of promoting the web site, and you will have the ability to maintain and promote the site yourself. It’s everything you need to start your own web empire!

The cost of the course includes all the books and study materials, 2 days a week class time or “counseling sessions,” assignments, review of your work and more.

We are only accepting a maximum of 7 people.

If you are interested in signing up for this course, please visit this page for more details: http://www.thewritemarket.com/course/

Last month, we asked you for your dirty little customer service stories. We’re publishing three of the stories that were sent.

Also, this month we talk about “budget”. The following articles are written for small business people.

Write on,
Renee Kennedy
[email protected]

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QUICK OUTLINE OF MARKETING PLAN

(This is a quick review to show you where we’re at and where we’re going.)

1. Market Research
2. Target Market
3. Product
4. Competition
5. Mission Statement
6. Market Strategies
7. Pricing, Positioning and Branding
8. Budget ** We’re Here **
9. Marketing Goals
10. Monitor Your Results

For more details on this plan see: http://www.thewritemarket.com/marketing/

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A SMALL BUSINESS CAN BE SMALLER THAN YOU THINK
By Mary Howard, RN

A small home business was my goal. Something I could do and stay at home with the kids. It had to be something we believed in, something our family could enjoy and something we could all participate in. We came up with a small family farm, but since we only have 5 acres, we opted for getting some fruit started and growing a big produce garden.

My Mother used to say that a thrifty wife can earn her keep just by staying at home, growing a big garden, canning or freezing everything you can and cooking from scratch. We decided to take this one step further and grow enough to share with friends and relatives and earn a little at the same time.

At the first of the year, tax time, I was feeling a bit down because I could see by the numbers we just weren’t making it on my husband’s salary, but what was getting us by was the extra projects we were doing. We started doing some homework and began to learn a little about investing. What we came up with is that if I could do something at home even if it only made a dollar a day and then invest that for our future it would be worth it to us.

I started taking that attitude to the store, and found by buying the store brand instead of a name brand and by not buying something or leaving off a personal item here and there, I could also save my dollar a day. It was an empowering feeling to me, that even though I stay at home I can still make a difference in our financial future.

My first goal was to make $4.00 a day, one dollar for each member of our family. If we invest a dollar each a day in retirement accounts and a dollar a day in Custodial Accounts for the kids, the money can be in an FDIC account, invested securely (like in bonds), and it can earn 5-7%. If invested in mutual funds, stock, or something less secure it can make between 0-14%. You have to decide what kind of risk you are willing to take.

By budgeting in other areas of your life, as well, you will be amazed what you can earn and save by doing things the old-fashioned, slow-paced-lifestyle way. For instance, I make some of our kid’s clothes, mend and refashion clothes. We take hand-me-downs and appreciate having them.

Another way to save is to avoid using credit cards. Avoiding paying interest on the things you buy will help you save money. Or, if you do use credit cards for travel etc, only use them if the money is already in your account. Then pay them off as soon as you receive the bill. That way you do not pay any interest or service charges. Choose a credit card that does not have service charges and don’t bother with the extra insurance, you are still covered if the card is stolen or lost. Beware of cards that advertise low interest rates but then break the billing cycle into 2 cycles each month but only bill once a month. With these you can still accrue interest even if you pay the whole bill on time.

Carefully go over your mortgage, sometimes it is to your advantage to refinance if you can get a percent lower interest rate. Also, if you refinance and get a lower payment, but continue to pay the same amount, you will pay your loan off faster than if you didn’t refinance. One of the best investments you can make is paying extra on your mortgage.

For example, if you have an $80,000 mortgage at 7.25% for 30 years and pay an extra $1,000 on it you will knock a whole year off the loan. That’s an estimated savings of $7,200! What investments are there that can earn you this kind of money?! It is not always financially sound to pay off your mortgage but certainly paying it down where it is more manageable is a big help.

Don’t take someone else’s word for it, do your own homework on your financial situation and you will be amazed at what you can do for yourself and how easy it can be to save money. Call it budget, if you like, but I sure like the old adage, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” In my way of thinking, a dollar saved is a dollar earned and can make the difference of having a secure future or not.

Mary Howard is a Registered Nurse, mother of two, and owns a small business. Visit her web site at Howard Horticulture for homegrown produce and meats. .. http://members.tripod.com

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BUDGET FOR MARKETING
by Renee Kennedy

I’ve owned/operated 2 businesses for the past 10 years. The first business was a Refrigeration Service. My husband and I ran that business together for 7 years. It was our sole source of income. I handled all the financial aspects of the business, he handled the service end.

For the past 3 years, I have co-owned and operated The Write Market. This business provides supplementary income for myself and my partner (Terry Kent). Both of us have shared the budgeting tasks of our business.

If you own a small business, the topic of “budget” or “finances” weaves in and out of every area of your life. Mary’s article above, talks a good deal about how her business affects her family life. Mary’s principles of frugality work in both life and in business.

Before you develop your budget, you must have goals. Your profit goals will be a primary influence on your budget. If your goal is to earn $4.00 a day or $500 a day, the same rules apply. You will need to make a certain amount in order to cover expenses and profit.

Part of your expenses should be delegated to marketing. Marketing will bring in sales.

The amount that you specify for marketing will depend on your business goals and the type of business that you own. If you have an established business, you may be able to spend less on advertising and marketing. If you have a new business, you may need to lay out more money in order to get your business noticed.

You will need to consider ROI or Return on Investment. You invest a certain amount into marketing and you need to get a return on that amount. The return that you need will be dictated by your financial goals. The return that you get will be dictated by the economy, by where you place the ad, by the wording of the ad, and a myriad of other influences.

Do your homework before placing an ad or doing any type of marketing. I cannot give specific advice in this area; how much you spend on advertising and where you choose to advertise will be specific to your business, your markets, your goals, and your willingness to take risks.

When we first bought the Refrigeration Service, we spent a good deal of money on advertising in the yellow pages. (It was about $600 per month.) This is the only form of advertising that we used. We chose this type of advertising based on the experience of other people in the industry. We examined our target market and where they would look to find our services. In other words, we did our homework on it.

However, after two years of this intense and expensive advertising, we pulled the large yellow page ad because we had developed a steadier client and referral base. At this point, we chose a less expensive and smaller yellow page ad.

Our marketing budget for The Write Market, is quite different. This is a web business and we decided that the only money we would spend on advertising would be on the internet. Our advertising budget for The Write Market is approximately $50 per month. However, we delegate our “time” each week to making contacts or writing articles or other “free” forms of advertising. (I put the word “free” in quotes, because it’s not really free; time is money.)

Part of our philosophy for The Write Market has been to only spend what we’ve earned. (There were start up costs, but other than that we have never gone into debt or spent a penny more than we’ve made.)

We all cringe when we see the word “Budget.” However, if you think of your budget as being the key factor in achieving your “Financial Goals,” it really gives the word a little more respect. By putting your financial goals down on paper, it makes them more realistic and you can see if you are making your money work to its best advantage.

Next month, we’ll talk about Marketing Goals.

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DIRTY LITTLE CUSTOMER SERVICE STORIES

1. Cat Donnelly of http://www.purelypets.com gives us two customer service stories:

A year ago, we bought a ’92 Plymouth Voyager and have been thrilled with our new mini-van. With 2 kids and all the stuff we tow around, the mini-van was perfect for our lifestyle. Over the course of the year, I have thanked the auto-gods many times for sending me such a wonderful and reliable vehicle.

Lately, though, there has been a shimmy in the front end. We brought it into Complete Auto Care for a diagnosis and possible fix since we had many favorable experiences with them in the past. They looked, didn’t see anything wrong, charged me $26 for the diagnosis and advised that I get new tires, since there was uneven wear that could cause a shimmy.

We went out and got two new tires. The problem persisted. We were not happy. We went to another tire place who suggested it could be the transmission since it only happened between 30 – 40 m.p.h., and especially at 35 m.p.h. We brought it back to Complete Auto with that tidbit of info, and they referred us to a transmission shop since they felt that at that point, we needed a “specialist.”

I drove straight to the transmission shop. They were closed on Mondays! Arrgghh! Went home. Went back to the transmission shop on Tuesday. The mechanic said he knew it wasn’t the transmission, but he would take it for a test drive to be sure. He spent nearly half an hour with us and our car, and didn’t charge us a dime. (We will DEFINITELY use them and recommend them in the future!!). His diagnosis was one or both of the inner CV joints.

We went home and called other mechanics and the Plymouth dealership. Received all kinds of quotes and theories. We went BACK to Complete Auto and told them that we thought it was the INNER CV joints which are rarely checked when they diagnose the front end, but the dealership and most of the mechanics we spoke with felt that was what our problem was. They put our van up on racks, and by this time the inner baffles to the CV joints were visibly leaking, and we authorized for them to replace both, which is what the dealership recommended anyway since the van had more than 50,000 miles which was about their life span.

We went fishing with our children, and by the time we were done, it was completely fixed. Now, people are probably wondering why we would have given Complete Auto our ultimate business when they really seemed to fall down on this particular job. Here are our reasons:

They have given us courteous, profession, quick and affordable service in the past. They have not ripped us off in the past when they had the opportunity. They could offer us the quickest most affordable solution to our current problem. AND, when dealing with cars, you have to realize that a Jack-of-All-Trades shop will not have the same knowledge about your particular vehicle as the dealership, but armed with the right information, they can still fix your problem just as well.

NOW, for our DIRTY SECRET for our own business. At PurelyPets.com ( Purely Pets – Pet Nutrition – Natural Pet Food and Vitamin Supplements for Pets ), http://www.purelypets.com we give our refunds quickly and easily if someone isn’t satisfied. So far, we haven’t been challenged to give fraudulent refunds, so it works out well. Our company is still small enough where every refund does hurt, and do we ever feel it, but one bad customer can do more damage to your business than 10 happy ones can help!

We’ve even given refunds to folks who have ordered our stuff and then “chickened out” on going holistic. That is no fault of ours or the product, just the person’s state of mind. No problem, refund granted. Hopefully, they will be back when they feel more confident about it!

Cat Donnelly http://www.PurelyPets.com

2. E. Grace Wanamaker gave us the following customer service story about Ebay. It’s a great example of a customer (Grace) offering the company a “second chance” to sell, and the company falling woefully short. Here it is:

While reading the latest issue on customer service, I was immediately reminded of a recent incident I had with someone selling on Ebay, which is where I am purchasing much of the inventory for my soon-to-be-opening online business.

I was looking for special gift boxes and during the course of my search, I ran across an auction that had such a strident and combative message concerning slow and non-payers, I was completely convinced NOT to bid on the merchandise in question, even though I wanted and needed what this particular business had to offer.

Since I felt that such a message was counter-productive to what the business was trying to accomplish, I dropped an email off to them explaining that I felt the message gave a negative impression, one that convinced me NOT to buy from them, and maybe they should see about couching their necessary warnings in a more positive and/or subtle way.

You can imagine my surprise when I received the following response from the manager:

“Hahaha, that tells me one thing……….YOUR a slow payer or NON payer!!!!We don’t want that type of business…….. and thats why we TELL everyone!!!!

*******
Store Manager”

Please note that I have blanked out the name of the person who wrote the response, but otherwise the message is just as I received it. To say the least, it was quite obvious to me that this person had failed to check my feedback before replying because had the person done so, they would have known that a majority of my feedback reflects my policy of always paying quickly and maintaining good communication with those from whom I do make purchases.

However, the story doesn’t end there, as I was rather offended by the response I received, which was juvenile, obnoxious, and something any half decent English teacher would suffer a coronary over, so I again emailed the person to let them know how I felt about it.

I told them I knew quite well they had not checked my feedback, as well as pointed out that even though I was “put off” buying from them on the basis of their original auction ad message, they still could have salvaged the situation with their reply had they not destroyed it by responding in such a manner.

My initial email and their reply was in essence a “second chance opportunity” to convince me to become a customer and, indeed, I likely could have been swayed by a well-phrased & diplomatic response explaining why they were taking such a strong stance. I am well aware of the problems Ebay and its sellers have when it comes to slow and non-payers, but I have often read well-written and even humorous slow and non-payer policies that do not offend me at all, though they may take just as strong a stance as the one I had problems with.

Sadly for them, this business chose to take another route and as such presented me with one of the worst cases of customer service I have ever experienced. As a result, not only will I not do business with them, but I will make sure that anyone I refer to Ebay knows to steer clear of this particular business as well.

I guess the important point I’d like to make here is that if one is given the sometimes rare “second chance opportunity” to gain a customer, then by all means DON’T WASTE IT! As hard as it may be for some to grasp, too few people these days will give you that second chance, as we all know there is nearly always somewhere else one can go for the services and/or product they need, and wasting that chance is the equivalent of throwing money away – something many of us cannot afford to do.

Sincerely,

E. Grace Wanamaker

3. The following really dirty story was submitted by Mary Howard of http://members.tripod.com/homegrownmo was rather humorous and just goes to show you how every day in business is a new adventure! Here it is:

Hope your not too busy, I have got to tell someone my story. You talk about a determined small business. We had 3 1/2 inches of rain last night. The storm was so bad that sheets of rain were blowing horizontally. I live in tornado alley. It was so bad that my husband and I got the kids up at 4 a.m. and went to an inner closet. During the storm, my corn was flattened and there was water standing everywhere.

In the morning, I had customers come by for an order of beans and cucumbers. I went out to pick the vegetables, but first, I took my shoes off because I thought it would be easier to walk in bare feet. The kids came along to help. (I have two kids – a three year old and an 18 month old.)

The customers commented that I was pretty dedicated. Then my youngest got scared and didn’t want to walk in the mud to get to me. I let her cry a little, but then tried to carry her, but that made me sink about 4″ above my ankles. I could hardly walk and had customers standing there watching me. I said, “This sure isn’t very professional!”

I was so frustrated, I just stood there and laughed hysterically. Then, the customers were laughing, too. I managed to pick them a couple pounds of beans and found some cucumbers. I never worked so hard for $2.50, but I can still say I Love It!

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WHAT’S NEW AT THE WRITE MARKET

Some new articles: http://www.thewritemarket.com/articles.

The marketing course: http://www.thewritemarket.com/course/

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