Using Forums To Network Successfully

According to one of the entries found at dictionary.com the definition of the word network is as follows: Something resembling an openwork fabric or structure in form or concept, especially: An extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support.

The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary at http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary gives the following definition for networking: the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions.

Successful networking occurs when the exchange of information or services is amongst people with similar interests or concerns. Maintaining the network of connections provides a networking opportunity when one has new information to exchange with others in this group of individuals.

Recently I decided to put a theory to the test that one of the best ways to develop networking relationships was through the use of online forums. My target audience of response was forums aimed at people involved in affiliate programs, network marketing, or internet marketing of some type. I mostly wanted to see who would respond if anyone and see how much of a response I would get.

I used a piece of software that has both a browser and a way to watch one’s forum posts for responses. In addition to seeing how many people would answer my questions another goal is to get my self-known among forum communities. No one wants to do business with a stranger.

Here is something that I discovered. The small forums that are part of groups such as Delphi Forums and Ezboards have very few posts and when someone does post, the posts are mainly advertising in nature. I would suggest that you are wasting your time if you post to these forums. Is all forum posting a waste of time? Definitely not, as there is much value in it, as you will see by what I write next.

I decided to go to some of the forums of well-known websites or well-known internet marketers and posting there. In creating an account I set up a signature file so that in every post that I made my URL would be shown. I was very careful for the most part to ask questions or give answers. Never once did I post what could be seen as an ad. And guess what the result was.

In the settings of the forums where it was allowed I set the choice so that I would be emailed when I had a response. I was very happy to get emails announcing that people had responded to my various posts in not one but several of these professional forums.

The forums I posted to all had to do with a subject that I am interested in namely affiliate and network marketing on the Internet. The people who responded were very knowledgeable and helpful and I hope that in situations where I answered someone’s question(s) that my answer(s) were of help to them.

What did my experience in the forums prove? By the fact that I shared information with people interested in the same topics as myself and that they shared their information with me it proved that forums are a very important part of networking on the Internet.

In researching to write this article I have also discovered an incredible online tool, basically a website that keeps track of posts to e-commerce websites. It is found at http://www.mikes-ecommerce-software.com/ecommerce-forum/ Mike also has a page for watching posts to marketing forums discussing internet marketing and search engines. The link for this is at http://www.mikes-marketing-tools.com/marketing-forum/ Although this tool doesn’t watch for replies to your post it can keep you aware of what discussions are going on in these forums. Then if you have questions about the particular subject or answers to someone’s question you can jump into that forum and network with the people in that forum.

Start an Internet Business in 5 Easy Steps!

Want to start an Internet business? Great! Let’s get started quickly by looking at five simple and necessary steps to getting your Internet business off the ground.

1. Select Your Domain Name – It is very important to select the proper domain name for your business. Why? It’s how customers will find you online. A couple of simple pointers: shorter is usually better, I’d stick with a .com name – not one of the other top level domains. It can also help search engines to list you higher if your domain name contains some of the keywords you want to be found for.

Believe it or not, there are still a huge number of domain names that have never been registered. Sure, the so-called ‘dictionary’ and common single word domains have all be registered long ago, but there are strategies to circumvent this issue.

Why not simply add a modifier to a word in order to create a compelling domain name? For example: let’s say that you sell bicycles and bicycle parts online – here are some domain names that come to mind that are almost certainly taken:

bike.com

bikes.com

bicycle.com

bicycles.com

bikeparts.com

bicycleparts.com

So how can we modify these common names to create names that are available? Let’s try adding some simple descriptive terms either before, or after the main word. For example:

Deluxe

Premium

Best

Superior

Cheap

Discount

Online

Universal

I’m sure you can think of many others that apply to your products and business. If you simply add this short list of modifiers in front of the original short names, you can create multiple new names that are available right now!

You can search to see if your domain name is available here: http://www.dotster.com.

2. Hire a Web Designer – Ask around to locate a great designer that someone else has used. The design of your site can make you look professional, or like an amateur – it’s clear which way you will want to look.

An alternative that can be very cost effective when compared to a custom designed web site is to use pre-formatted templates – either put together by another company, or filled in with data yourself. For example, Affinity Internet, Inc. offers a professional web design product through it’s ValueWeb brand that is billed out at a low flat monthly fee. According to the ValueWeb website the ReadyWeb product offers the following advantages: “A professional web designer will set up a consultation with you to better understand your business and online goals to ensure your web site is not only impressive but successful.Our web site professionals will make updates to your website on a monthly basis as needed. ReadyWeb includes two hours of maintenance and updates each month at no additional charge.” You can learn more about the ReadyWeb product at: [http://www.valueweb.com/readyweb/readyweb_learn_more.htm].

Alternatively there are do-it-yourself templates available at sites such as http://www.templatemonster.com.

3. Choose Your Web Hosting – Every small business that sets up a web site online will need to host it somewhere. According to industry expert Tamara Field, President of Apollo Hosting (www.apollohosting.com) these are the top three things to consider when selecting your web hosting company.

* REAL Live Support – Call their tech support number NOT their sales number, and see if you can talk directly to a technician. Or go on their live chat and see if you are able to talk to a technician. How long did it take for you to get someone on the phone or live chat? That’s very important. Just because they say they offer live support, doesn’t mean they really have people there when you need them.

* Guarantees – Money back guarantee, price freeze, uptime, and a guarantee of a refund on unused portions. There are so many hosting companies that don’t offer money back on unused months if you cancel early! If you sign up for 1 year, believe it or not, many hosting companies won’t give you ANY money back if you cancel 3 months later. A money back guarantee is important as is a prize freeze guarantee. But these days, look for the refund on unused hosting. Many companies don’t mention it because they don’t offer it.

* Upgrade Path – If you see your business growing, and you might want more products/services in the future, then you will need an upgrade path. It is a real hassle changing hosting companies. Just getting lots of bandwidth and storage is not the answer. Many customers don’t use near the amount of bandwidth and storage that many hosting companies are offering. This is really just a marketing technique for a lot of hosting companies. Look for extra products that they offer. What about ecommerce? Do they offer the best ecommerce products, SPAM/Virus filtering, marketing tools etc. Remember that these days hosting is not just about storage and bandwidth. It’s about a whole lot more. Don’t settle for just space on a box.

You can easily compare web hosting options by looking through web hosting directory sites as well. These sites offer information about multiple hosting providers, and special offers and product information. Several of the more useful directories are: http://www.websitehostdirectory.com, http://www.cheaphostingdirectory.com, and http://www.tophosts.com.

4. Set Up Your Email – It may seem like a no-brainer to some, but you simply cannot adequately conduct business on the Internet without an email address. Your email address will let your customers and potential customers communicate with you, and give you valuable feedback on your web site, products, services, and ordering processes.

You’ll also need a way for you to communicate with vendors and others who can help you market your web site. Each hosting provider has different protocols for setting up your email account, so you’ll have to look to your provider for help with your specific account. One other important note: be sure to include a signature line at the bottom of every email that includes your business name, URL, and a brief description of your products and services. This idea alone can increase your business.

5. Promote Your Site – There are so many ways to get traffic to your web site that it would require several separate articles to cover the topic. Here are a couple of basic ideas. Try to educate yourself about, and get listed on search engines. A few basic steps can go a long way towards traffic driving in this way. A great step-by-step manual is at http://www.searchenginewatch.com.

If you have a budget to advertise, you may want to try Google AdWords as a method of reaching the search engine keyword market. Information is available at: http://www.google.com/ads. Alternatively, if you simply want to pay someone else to manage your online search engine advertising campaign for a flat monthly fee, you could check out ValueWeb’s ValueTraffic program. ValueTraffic costs $100 per month, and guarantees traffic and impressions to your website. You can see further details at: [http://www.valueweb.com/online-marketing.htm].

Of course, you should print your web address on all of your existing marketing materials such as: business cards, stationary, brochures, newsletters, product sheets, etc. You may find that driving qualified traffic to your website is as easy as releasing information on where to find it in your company promotional materials. Customers are always eager to utilize faster and more convenient forms of communications with companies.

Good luck with your new site, and remember – it takes a while for any great project to get real traction – the same holds true for your website.

Working From Home – The Three Keys to Success

There are several trends that are driving forward the popularity of working from home. The main trend is the improvement of communication technology, mainly the Internet. The Internet allows people to access information and communicate with people all over the world in an instant. For employed people, this often means accessing company databases remotely and for the self-employed, this means marketing products, services or an opportunity online.

Another trend that is driving the popularity of working from home is people’s quest for a different lifestyle. People no longer want to work 40 or 50 hours a week for a boss, just to pay the bills. People are generally seeking more control of where and how they work and whom they work with. This brings us on to another trend…

A much improved scale and efficiency of logistics. People now expect to order something online or on the phone and receive their goods within a day or two. This has created new distribution channels for manufacturers and wholesalers and new income opportunities for people who can help those companies find new customers. These new distribution opportunities are usually in the form of Direct Sales / Network Marketing or eCommerce websites. The Work From Home era is truly here.

My Background

I first got involved in working from home on a part-time basis 7 years ago, with a British Direct Sales and Network Marketing company called Kleeneze. Their business model uses commission based, self-employed distributors who distribute their home shopping catalogues to households and then take orders and deliver products. The company takes advantage of the growing home shopping trend, improved goods distribution and people’s quest for a better lifestyle. Kleeneze are basically a goods warehouse that uses a catalogue distribution methodology, combined with a network marketing incentive structure to take their products to market. It’s a strong model.

Over the past several years, I have built up a team of distributors, whose sales contribute to my group turnover, which the company pays me a percentage on every month. This gives me a passive income that allows me to free up time to focus on other activities such as helping a selected team members, developing ideas and exploring new opportunities.

More recently, I have become involved in financial services. I am an appointed representative for a financial services practice and a consumer credit compensation company, both on a part-time basis. This means I am running 3 businesses on a part-time basis, all of which compliment each other quite well. In one role I am helping people earn a substantial extra income. In another role I am helping people with protection, insurance and mortgages. In another role, I am helping people to significantly reduce debt. I try and help people improve their lifestyle and finances in one form or another. The skills I’ve learned along the way include selling, public speaking, coaching, web design and Internet marketing.

Why Work From Home?

People will want to work from home for many different reasons and in many different ways. For example, the schoolteacher working from home marking exam papers is very different from an entrepreneur working from home trying to build a successful enterprise. For the purpose of this article, I will endeavour to give some useful advice for people who are looking to work from home to either earn an extra income, or build a business for the longer term. This will usually be a network marketing or eCommerce business.

The idea of working from home can be very attractive. Being at home for your family. Flexibility of hours. Home comforts and more. These are all real advantages but as with everything in life, there are two sides to the coin. Positive and negative. With children or other family members can come distraction. Flexibility can be hard to discipline, so time can easily be wasted and time wasted can never be gotten back. Home comforts can again distract your focus from important tasks that need to be carried out.

The Three Keys To Success

There are 3 things you need to be successful. Willingness, ability and a good opportunity. The good news is they’re all down to you. Willingness (motivation) is down to you. Ability (acquiring the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary for success) is down to you by how much you’re willing to learn. Finding a good opportunity is also down to you – research as many opportunities as you can and don’t just go for something because it’s initially appealing.

Let’s first look at finding a good opportunity. I will use the criteria I use when looking at an opportunity and these criteria should serve you well. Let’s assume you’re looking to join a Network Marketing company for example. Here are the questions to ask yourself:

  • Products / Services: Is there a good market for the products / services that the company provides. Are they priced to sell and priced for profit? Are they of acceptable quality? Are at least some of the products / services consumable, offering future repeat business? Can they easily be bought elsewhere more easily and cheaply? Is there a strong guarantee? Do the products / services satisfy a growing trend or need in the marketplace? Having all these criteria together is not critical, but the more you have, the bigger the advantage
  • Company: Does the company / supplier have a proven, successful track record? Does it have strong corporate and financial backing? Does the company have a positive public image, or if it’s a newer company, positive endorsements or testimonials? Does the company practice integrity?
  • Support: Does the company take support and training seriously? The vast majority of new distributors or representatives will probably need to learn specific skills, knowledge and attitudes to enable them to attain a certain level of success
  • Innovation: Does the company have the right people in place to help drive the development of the company through changing economic and market conditions? Change is the only constant in life and only those people and companies who adapt will survive and prosper in the long term.

My final advice when assessing a company is imagine you are preparing to invest a large loan that is secured against your house into the business. Do your due diligence and invest using your brain, not your emotions. Emotion can come later.

The second key to success is willingness. This means a willingness on your behalf to put the time and effort into learning the knowledge, skills and attitudes required and of course, quite simply getting down and doing the work. The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. Before you commit time and effort into something, you need desire and belief and they are both closely linked. Desire comes through pain or pleasure. You’re either motivated by something you want to move towards, or motivated by pain to move away from something. Here’s something interesting: for the majority of people, pain is more of a powerful motivator than pleasure, especially in the shorter term. Here’s a few quick tips to develop consistent desire (motivation):

  • Allow yourself to dream about what you really want your life to be like (the pleasure principle). If you find this difficult, remind yourself of your dreams you had as a child, before disappointment and cynicism took over!
  • Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you
  • Feed your mind with information that is conductive to helping you build the life you want. This includes books, audios and even refraining from watching trashy, negative TV!
  • Take yourself forward 5 years and imagine what your life will be like if you don’t follow your dreams (the pain principle). Now 10 years. Now 20. Now imagine yourself as an old man or woman looking back on your life. Are you proud of yourself or full of regret?
  • Set your goals and take immediate and sustained action!

Belief will come through being associated with the right company. By company I mean a physical company and of course people. If you did your due diligence before joining a company, then this shouldn’t be a problem. If this belief starts fade, then you need to ask why, because a lack of belief in what you’re doing or what you’re involved in will destroy your chances of success as fast as anything else. Here’s where having a good coach or mentor will help massively. Try and find a mentor or coach that you feel comfortable with and one who’s qualified to help i.e. one who’s done it or doing it.

Finally, I recommend you become a student of personal development, if you’re not already. Simply put, if you want to become successful, study success. If you want to become wealthy, study wealth. There’s a great range of personal development material on the Internet that you can explore.

The third and final key to success is ability. This simply means the ability to turn work into positive results. In other words, having the right knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA’s). What might the KSA’s be?

  • Product / service knowledge
  • Selling and negotiating skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Marketing knowledge
  • A knowledge of human psychology
  • Specific technical knowledge / skills
  • A focused attitude
  • An attitude of courage – willingness to expand one’s comfort zone to do things they haven’t done before

How do you develop ability? If you’re involved with a company that takes support and training seriously, they will have a training programme that you can join. It should be structured and allow people to work through it at their own pace, with various competence standards along the way so you can measure your progress over time. A good training and development programme should:

  • Be clear and in easy to understand language
  • Be organised and structured
  • Have clear learning outcomes so the student can measure their progress against set competence benchmarks
  • Allow feedback between the student and teacher. The ”student’ is usually the distributor or representative and the ‘teacher’ would be the coach or mentor that has proven success by using the information that is being taught
  • Have a certain degree of flexibility so people of varying experience and timescales can work through it at their own pace
  • Use various media such is written text, audio, visual and ‘hands on’ practical activities
  • Include group learning and fun!

One quality that is often overlooked by companies and trainers is character. Although having the right skills and knowledge is really important, just as important is a person’s character. This includes qualities such as trustworthiness, empathy, good humour and discipline. Character is developed through the interaction of life’s experiences and one’s own fixed mental attitudes. A great way of helping people grow is through group activities, and not necessarily business orientated. The key is to create and fun and conductive environment for people.

What I have outlined in this article is a general blueprint for your success in running a business from home, without the specific details for your particular company. I hope you have found this article useful and I wish you all the best in your current and future ventures.