When you host a national radio show, you hear all types of people.
There was the famous photographer who asked me how to safely and privately store the racy photos he takes of his wife. Spoiler: Don’t just upload them to iCloud or Google Photos. Tap or click here for a secure way to store private photos.
I spoke to a woman whose daughter was being stalked and harassed. I am proud to say that I connected her with the right help and the man responsible was brought to justice. Tap or click for spooky details. This nightmare can happen to anyone.
I’m proud to say that I’ve built my own multi-million dollar business with no debt or investors. It’s gratifying for me to help the many small business owners who call and need a helping hand to get their business off the ground or get over a big hurdle. I went there myself.
Here are my tips from the trenches.
1. Know your competition
Unless you really go rogue with a brand new product or service, your customers already exist and are spending their money elsewhere. Competitor research is one of the best ways to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t in your industry.
It’s also a smart way to get in touch with your customers’ needs, including what they expect to pay and how much you can expect to earn.
Find a handful of companies that do what you hope to do and be a student. “How much can I learn here?”
- Study their websites. What stands out and what’s not so great? You can monitor website changes over time with Visualping. This free tool lets you navigate to a website you want to track, and you’ll receive email alerts whenever that site changes. You’ll know if your competitor has created great new landing page copy or swapped photos. Tap or click a direct link to try it out.
- Follow your competitors on social networks and subscribe to their newsletters. Take note of any posts that generate a high number of comments or shares.
- Sign up for Google Alerts for your business name, competitors, and an industry term or two that makes sense. Tap or click here for steps to set up a Google alert. I suggest you go with weekly alerts. Daily alerts can become overwhelming.
Get my trusted small business tips straight to your inbox. It’s totally free. Try it here.
2. Brand yourself with a memorable domain
A strong web presence is essential; the first step is to get a great domain name. You want something easy to remember, clear and concise. No one will remember a six-word URL.
Doctors, lawyers or other professionals who use their name for their business have an advantage. Hey, my website is Komando.com.
How much will a domain cost you? Take GoDaddy as an example. For a .com address, you’ll spend around $19.99 per year, paying just a penny for your first year. You can get a .me email address for $6.99 the first year, then $21.99 per year. A .biz URL requires a two-year purchase for around $37 in total.
The best domain idea means nothing if taken, of course. Namech_k shortens the process for you. Put your idea and see if it is saved or open. We’re not just talking about .com or .net either. It searches .us, .info, .biz and more.
It also scours social media sites to see if your favorite name is listed there as well. Consistency is key because it helps people find you much faster. That’s why I follow @kimkomando on all social media platforms, and by all means, I invite you to follow me. Tap or click here for professional advice on using Namech_k.
3. Speaking of websites, make yours smart
SEO is not limited to the keywords that put you at the top of Google’s search results. An optimized site is lightweight, loads quickly, and is compact enough to prevent visitors from getting stuck in a glitched drop-down menu.
If in doubt, you can hire a professional developer for a site audit, which can reveal frustrating flaws that turn customers off. You can also run these free online tests to see your site’s biggest issues.
A common problem is your website design. Remember that mobile performance is just as important as how your site looks on a desktop screen. Today’s website building tools make it easy to create a site that looks great and performs well on any device.
It’s worth browsing what that monthly fee gets you. Squarespace’s business plan, for example, includes advanced site analytics and a year of professional email through Google. Wix gives you access to dropshipping inventory and 100 GB of storage space.
4. Don’t Forget Email Marketing
I’ve been in the email marketing game since 1995. Back then, I was sending out one email a week. Today, my team produces a dozen different emails with millions of monthly sends that have an average open rate of over 50%. Tap or click here to try my free technology and digital life newsletters.
I had to invent ways to make it work back then. Today, there are tools that make creating and sending beautiful, engaging emails a breeze. Here are a few :
- MailChimp: Send up to 10,000 emails per month (2,000 per day) for free. Paid plans start at $11 per month and include email templates and custom branding.
- constant contact: You are charged based on the number of email addresses you import, starting at $9.99 per month for a maximum of 500. Up to 2,500 email addresses will cost you $35 per month.
- Emma: Starting at $99 per month for up to 10,000 contacts. You can add up to five users and set up an email automation campaign to entice your new customers.
- HubSpot: Ideal if you need a powerful marketing and contact center. The free plan is robust and you can add up to a million contacts. Paid plans with support, automation, and custom branding start at $45 per month for up to 1,000 contacts.
5. Make payment easy
Traffic increases, but you don’t earn more money. Your customers might hit a wall.
Are they frustrated with an inconvenient payment method? Is there a technical bug preventing them from finalizing the sale? Complete the entire checkout process yourself, using a VPN or incognito window to see your site as a visitor does. Take note of anything that is not going well.
If your payment processing options aren’t up to snuff, consider these:
- Square: Pay a flat fee plus a percentage of the sale. The cost depends on the type of transaction. For example, a customer entering a card number online will cost you 3.5% of the sale plus 15 cents.
- PayPal: PayPal payment works the same way. A standard credit card payment is 2.99% plus a 49 cent fee.
- Bandaged: For card fees, pay 2.9% plus a 30 cent fee.
6. Pay only what you need
There’s no getting around some of the expense, but I bet I can save you some cash with this gem: there are free versions of the most popular paid software that are just as good.
That’s not all. Here are 9 copies of freeware that work better than the real expensive programs.
7. Get advice from other pros
The Federal Small Business Administration has more resources than you might think. Use this link to find free or low cost training or business advice in your area. If you’re just starting out, you can also find guides to creating a business plan, registering your business, and mastering day-to-day operations.
SCORE can also connect you with business mentors who can help you start or grow your business – and it’s free. The non-profit organization operates the largest national network of volunteer business experts. You can get help by email, phone, or video if there isn’t a local chapter where you live.
I want to help you.
You can also reach me. I get emails and calls daily from small business owners and love helping out. Email me here. I have read them all myself.
Listen to the podcast below if you want to learn more about my business and my life. I was interviewed about the ups and downs of my success, and there were a lot of tough questions.
CHOICE OF PODCAST: An intimate conversation about business, life and loss with Kim Komando
I started my business over two decades ago. I had no investors and I took no debt. I’ll be honest – the early years were tough. I embraced struggle, however, and went through some of the toughest times in my life to find peace. In this podcast, I tell stories and talk about moments in my life that I don’t often share.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando”.
What questions do you have about the digital lifestyle? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, TV or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.