The Perfect Business Card

The business card: if the art of business can be summed up by a single object, this is it. A business card is the first token of a potential professional relationship. It can be the first step of a dance between business partners, or the opening salvo in the battle for clientele and strong networks. It can be the reason someone offers you the opportunity to do what you’ve chosen to do for a living. Designed well and offered properly, a business card is a small but vital part of the competent businessperson’s arsenal.

It may seem like business cards are less relevant in the age of e-commerce and general paperlessness, but that’s a misreading of modern commerce. Business cards are still relevant in the same way that business people still are: as components of the physical world in which all business ultimately takes place, no matter how digitized. Ultimately, business is something people do with people, and a quality card is the first step towards establishing yourself as someone with whom business is worth doing.

A business card has essentially one function: to cause you to be remembered. That means that the card itself has to be memorable, by being as unique and impressive as you are. It also means that the way in which the card is presented has to be memorable, by being a conscious act and not an absent, automatic gesture.

If you’re to be remembered, your business card has to act as a wallet-sized surrogate for yourself, bridging the gap between the time it’s received and the moment the recipient uses it to reach out for that second contact.

The Layout

A quality business card is simple, but evocative. It’s unique, but unpretentious. It denotes seriousness, but also creativity and wit. It uses as few words and graphics as possible to convey as much about your business as a few square inches of card stock can. It creates a lasting visual impact that the recipient files away into that part of the subconscious where things about which we want to know more are stored.

The first rule is not to overload the card with too much information. Too many words can turn an introduction into a reading assignment, and the things that matter can get lost in the deluge. Use only the information the recipient will need to remember who you are, what you do, and how best to reach out and get things started. Your name, the name of your business, and a web address may be all that’s needed.

For example, if the recipient is a potential client, and you run an online business, there’s no need for a phone number. If you have more than one email address, pick one. If your business address isn’t an actual storefront, forget it. Every word cuts into a very small budget of space- both on the card and on the mental palate of the recipient’s first impression.

Fortunately, the 21st century is a great time for super-efficient use of card space, thanks to the Internet. As long as your business has an online presence (it does, right?), a web address or social media handle is all the recipient of your card needs to access the rest of your information.

For the truly futuristic minimalist, a simple QR code can replace anything that would otherwise have to be printed. Of course, a business card with only a QR code may seem too impersonal, so think of it as a supplement that allows the rest of the design to be appropriately sparing.

Besides contact info, the content of the card should very succinctly encapsulate the essence of your business. It should, in as few words as possible, declare what your business can do better than anyone else’s. “IT Solutions.” “Fitness on your schedule.” “Expert grooming for TODAY’S ferret enthusiast.” Whatever it is, boil it down to a confident slogan that will convince the recipient to reach out and learn more.

Making an Impact

A great business card is unique. The best way to make yours truly stand out is through its graphic layout. Colors, patterns, aesthetically interesting symbols- these are your opportunities to burn an impression into the memory of the recipient. Be cautious, however, because this doesn’t mean that the card should be loud, obnoxious or cluttered. Think Andy Warhol, not Ed Hardy.

For example, our card here at Business Republic is immediately eye-catching thanks to a simple, liberal use of one bright color:


The vibrant hue makes it unforgettable, and it also makes the card look less like a random piece of refuse. Subconsciously, the color denotes that the card itself has some value, simply by virtue of not being the color of scrap paper. It’s a basic psycho-aesthetic statement that turns card stock into something that mysteriously seems wrong to discard.

By keeping the primary focus on one thing (the contact name) and printing the rest relatively small, the card encourages closer inspection. This urge to really look at the card, not just glance at it, is further encouraged by the slogan subtly printed on the background. Contrasted with the bold and somber font of the contact info, it draws the recipient in.

The card works well, and is more likely to lead to a second contact, because it has strong visual impact. By being interesting and memorable, the card helps the recipient remember the person who gave it to them, especially if it’s offered in the proper way (more on that below).

Great design is worth the investment, and these days there are plenty of great online card printers that offer professional design quality at affordable prices. On sites like and, even the higher-end models are reasonably priced. For something more strictly personalized, is a great resource for customized graphic design. Take advantage.

The Material

Besides finding a simple, bold aesthetic scheme for your business card, it’s also important to have it printed on quality material. A card that’s flimsy or paperlike isn’t the mark of a professional who cares. Remember, the card is a reflection of your business, so you want it to have a certain heft, and therefore a certain gravitas. When it comes to card stock, thickness is seriousness.

No matter how great the design is (or how affordable the price is), physical flimsiness is the business card equivalent of faux-wood paneling. It’s the greasy pompadour of the used car salesman. It is, in a word, unprofessional. If a printer is offering prices that seem too good to be true, be wary that inferior materials could be the reason.

The Handover

Once you’ve designed and printed the card, the next step is getting it out there. Opportunities for networking are everywhere, so always keep a few in your wallet- and bring more than a few to workshops and professional conferences.

The way a business card is offered matters. Too often, it’s done passively, in mid-conversation or even mid-sentence. This absent-minded approach is part of the reason so many business cards end up in the trash can (after a brief residence in a back pocket). In order to make a business card worth the effort and expense of printing, the handover has to be a conscientious act.

Take the example of Japan, perhaps the only place where business is consciously performed as an art unto itself. There, the proffering and accepting of business cards is a sacred, ritualized act. The card itself is treated reverentially, and to casually slip one into a pocket is an unpardonable offense.

While the complex ritual would be seen as overkill in other parts of the world, the Japanese have the right idea generally. When offering your card, take the time to spotlight it. This is no time to multi-task. Stop whatever else you’re doing, and present the card as if it’s something valuable, which it is. By using the same social cues and mannerisms one would use to give someone a gift, the recipient is obliged to at least take the time to glance at it, and to put it somewhere they’re likely to find it again.

By making this act a conscious one, you’re implanting a memory. By obliging the recipient to look at your card for just a few seconds, you’re creating an automatic subconscious association between yourself and your (impressive) card. To do otherwise is to waste a valuable tool.

In business, the little things matter. By putting time and effort into its design, and care and mindfulness into its presentation, a tiny piece of card stock can be the key to new business opportunities. Treat your business card like you treat your business itself- worth investing in, worth getting right, and worth offering to the world. The results can be a lot bigger than 3.5” x 2”.


And just for kicks, enjoy this scene from American Psycho.


3 Factors That Separate Good Branding From Excellent Branding

Today’s post is a guest post from branding expert and good friend of The $100 MBA, Caroline Winegeart. Caroline has built one of the fastest growing brands we’ve seen with Made Vibrant, and for good reason…She knows her stuff. But more importantly she knows how to share her branding expertise in a language that us less artsy humans can understand. This is why we were happy to have Caroline share her kick-ass knowledge on branding with us in today’s post.

If you give this post a read and find you loved what you’ve learned then join Nicole and I as students in her latest course, The Better Branding Course. It just launched today!  We’ll be taking the course ourselves as we are both working on building our own personal sites next month and know Caroline’s course will help make our sites amazing.

We all know that branding is a vital part of building a successful online business. Cohesive, modern branding helps lend credibility and professionalism to your online presence, which is key when you’re trying to get your name out there and start cultivating a community.

But, when does branding go beyond simply lending legitimacy to your business? What elements of branding actually have the power to move the needle when it comes to expanding your audience, or - even better - your revenue?

In my experience, I’ve found that three different factors lead to varying levels of effectiveness in brand design. They are attention, understanding and resonance.

But, the major catch here is that all three of these are NOT created equal. Each one conveys a different level of connection between your company and someone who comes across your brand, contributing to whether that person becomes a paying customer/client. (And we can all agree paying customers/clients is a very good thing, right? Right.)


Let’s dive into each factor, but first I want to paint a little picture for you.

Imagine you’re strolling through Times Square on a busy day. Every 20 feet or so you run into a different street performer, each one vying for your attention. Some are aggressive, some are boring, some are intriguing and others are just flat out entertaining.

The truth is, though, they all have the same goal in mind: to get you to stop walking, hang out for a while, and eventually to drop some cash into their hats.

Hmmm… stop, hang out for a while, and offer up some money. Sound familiar?

Yep, that’s online business in a nutshell, my friends.

Think about it. That’s all any of us is trying to do: go out there, put on our best show, and try to capture the hearts of people browsing the web so we can create a profitable business.

Now, as any good street performer knows, if you’re going to get someone to give you a few bucks, you’re first going to need them to stop walking and pay attention.

Which brings me to our first factor:

  1. Attention

If branding was a video game, Attention would be Level One. (Yep, for those of you keeping track at home, that’s street performers and video games. What can I say? I’m trying to keep it interesting for ya!)

It’s no secret that, as a culture, our attention spans are as fleeting as ever, and if you have any hope of building an audience, you first have to get on their radar. The mission of Level One is to use your brand to simply stand out in the sea of your competitors.

I love how Seth Godin defines the term “brand” on his blog:

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Inherently in his definition, Seth implies that the whole point of developing a brand is to rise above your competitors. But to do that, you first have to be seen.

This means doing research. Take a look at the competitive landscape in your industry. In what ways are they zigging that you could be zagging?

Be careful, though. Make sure that whatever branding you develop comes from an authentic place, not just an interest in standing out from the pack. Don’t drench your site in neon colors just because you don’t see anyone else in your category doing it. If you do that and you’re a watercolor artist that sells pastel florals, your brand is going to feel dissonant with your business foundation. On the other hand, if you’re a fun and energetic resource shop for creatives with vibrant in your brand name, it just might work.

When Omar and Nicole started The $100 MBA, they did so with the belief that they could challenge the norm when it comes to business education. The advice they give is practical and energetic. That mix of rebelliousness (challenging the norm) and energy/enthusiasm brings an underlying authenticity to their red, black and white brand color palette.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re trying to achieve attention:

  • Does my branding stand out in a lineup of similar businesses in my category or niche?
  • Would I stick around if I stumbled across a site like mine?

Now, The only problem with striving for a brand that only aims to garner attention is that it’s fleeting. A flashy street performer might be able to make you stop for five minutes to watch, but unless there’s something to keep you there, then you’ll eventually just move on, right? If you’re only attempting to gain attention, it’s likely that whatever traffic you do manage to get will come and go.

Which brings me to the next level of branding achievement: understanding.

2. Understanding

Once you have the attention of someone, if you want any hope of keeping them engaged for the long haul, you’re going to have to effectively communicate what you do. Great branding should be designed to reinforce and support your company’s message. You can use elements in your brand identity to give contextual clues to your audience, letting them quickly decipher what your business is and if it might be for them.

Take Evernote, for example. I love the elephant icon in their logo because it reinforces the original purpose of their product, which is to help you keep track of and remember things. Though someone might not make the connection right away, if they see the logo in context, the elephant image is a memorable icon that supports the understanding of their product.


Image source

Branding not only has the power to enhance understanding of a product, it can also lead to a deeper understanding of a company’s differentiator (which is especially useful for a service-based company.)

Take the design studio, Ghostly Ferns, for example, a creative studio that declares on its website that it’s “Not your average design studio” and they only work with “happy companies.”

Aside from the large and direct brand statements, as a visitor to the website,


I immediately notice that the branding is unexpected and whimsical. Not only have they grabbed my attention with a distinct, inspired brand, but now I understand that their aesthetic and differentiator is the unconventional nature of their designs and the value they place on friendly client relationships. The branding reinforces the communication, and if I leave the site, I walk away with a deeper insight into what their business is about.

Some questions to ask yourself if you’re trying to achieve understanding:

  • Does my brand have a tone or energy that is aligned with the basic facets of my business (who I’m trying to target, what my focus is, what I believe in?)
  • Does my brand identity offer any clues as to what my business is about or who it’s for?

Attention and understanding can be powerful, but I would argue that most of the time neither one is enough to ensure that a passerby converts into a customer, or better yet, a fan.

So, then, what turns a person from a casual visitor into a customer, a client, or a brand advocate? What makes the person in Times Square throw their fiver into a street performer’s hat, or - what’s even more powerful - go tell their friends about the experience they had with that one special performer.

The answer is resonance.

3. Resonance

You did it! You’ve made it to the final level of effective branding and if you can tackle the Boss - Brand Resonance - then you win the ultimate reward: a brand advocate.

Resonance is all about going a step beyond speaking to someone’s mind and instead, speaking straight to their heart and their soul.

As Simon Sinek poignantly said in his TEDx talk, Start With Why, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

After working with dozens of branding clients - from solopreneurs to large marketing companies - one thing has become clear to me: crafting a powerful brand story is the first step in connecting with your brand’s true fans.

Just to be clear, when I say “brand story” I’m referring to the unique narrative that conveys the heart and soul of your business. I like to think of brand story as the melting pot of answers to all those important, juicy, deeply-rooted questions about your business and what it stands for.

Questions like:

  • What does your business believe in?
  • Why did you get started?
  • Who are you passionate about serving and why?
  • Why do you get up every morning excited about your business?

Every place and way that you communicate that narrative - whether it’s through your brand identity (your logo, color palette, photography, typography, etc.), your copy, or an event experience - is an opportunity to make an emotional connection with a potential customer or client.

Tweet: Brand resonance happens when the values and beliefs of a brand align with the values and beliefs of an individual. @ckelso via @bizrepublic

But, in order for brand resonance to occur, you have to invest the time in understanding what your beliefs and values are as a business. You have to know what you stand for and bake that into your brand. That’s what will give you the power to create lasting members of your tribe.

For example, my business, Made Vibrant, is based on the belief that when we show up as our truest, most vibrant selves, the world is a better place. It’s an imperfect process, but it’s about the growth we all experience along the way. This underlying belief is reflected in the bright and vibrant colors of my brand, and the emphasis on imperfect process comes through in the hand-drawn elements seen throughout my branding. Those visuals, coupled with the direct, mission-driven copy, were intentionally created to resonate with creatives that are motivated to grow.

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received with sentences like:

“It’s like you were talking right to me!”

“I found Made Vibrant at the perfect time!”

“This is exactly what I needed.”

That is the exact kind of response you’re aiming for.

Resonance gets you an engaged audience and an engaged audience gets you clients, sales and revenue. Not only will people stick around to hear what you have to say, they’re going to buy, and - even better - they’re going to tell their friends to check you out too.

So, let’s recap.

There’s attention (“Ohh, look at that.”)

There’s understanding (“Ohh, I see what that company does.”)

Then there’s resonance. (“Ohhh, that company is talking to ME.”)

Remember, branding isn’t JUST about your logo or the fonts you choose for your website. It’s the sum of every tangible and intangible connection someone has with your business.

Most branding - even good branding - stops at levels one or two of this list. Good branding is well-designed, professional, and aids in the communication of what a company does. But excellent branding? Excellent branding transcends attention and understanding and hits you right in the heart.

I encourage you to take a look at your own branding and see where you stack up against each of these three levels.

If you’re dressed as a break-dancing grandma in Times Square, sure, I’ll probably stop for five minutes to watch you dance.

BUT, if you’re dressed as a break-dancing grandma in Times Square with a big photo of your own grandma beside you, wearing her track suit because she loved to dance and  back in her heyday she taught you everything you know about break-dancing... well then HECK YEAH I’m going to give you my money. And HECK YEAH I’m going to remember you AND tell my friends about you because I love my grandma and she taught me things too.

Resonance, my friends. That is when your branding will truly start to move the needle.

Headshot_CarolineWinegeartCaroline is the brand designer, artist and writer behind the online resource shop, Made Vibrant. She creates relatable learning resources for creative entrepreneurs. Her latest e-course, Better Branding Course, teaches solopreneurs how to DIY their own powerful, authentic branding at a fraction of the cost of a custom branding package. You can check out the details by clicking here.


What You Really Need To Know About Getting Sponsorships for Your Podcast

Recently, I have been doing 2-3 interviews a week about podcasting. I’ve been speaking at conferences in the last few months about the topic as well.  And believe it or not, the number one question I get asked when I get off the interview call or the conference stage, is “How do I get sponsorships for my podcast?”

Sponsorships have become an attractive revenue stream for podcasters. Podcasters want to know how they can directly monetize their podcasting efforts. And why wouldn’t they? Many of the top podcasters that do publish their monthly income make north of $30,000 a month on sponsorship revenue. That’s at download numbers starting at 30,000 an episode. I can only imagine how much some of the very top podcasts on iTunes make with 250,000 to even over a million downloads an episode. Yes, shows like This American Life and Serial get well over a million downloads for each episode upon release. The numbers just keep growing as the weeks keep rolling.

It’s no secret why big brands like Ford and Squarespace, who run Super Bowl ads have gotten into podcast sponsorships. Even Hollywood has gotten into the game, running podcast spots for their newly released films hitting your big box multiplex cinema. The payoff for advertisers is huge—one survey of 300,000 podcast listeners found that 63% bought something a host had promoted on a show. It looks like a gold rush for us podcasters, right? Well, not exactly.

I did my own study on how many podcasts on iTunes have sponsors. I looked at every category, from comedy to spirituality, to find out what percentage of podcasts are securing sponsors. What I discovered is that only about 3% of podcasts have regular sponsorships on their shows. Three percent!

I don’t say this to discourage you, rather to illustrate two important points.

1. You have to qualify for sponsorships. No, there is no formal qualification process but think about it- sponsors want to get their advertising dollars worth. They want a show that is going to convert for them and get them an ROI on their advertising investment. Not every podcast out there is going to do that for them.

2. Podcast sponsorships are still young. Sponsors are getting their feet wet, but they’ll be deep sea divers soon.

So given what we know, how can you secure regulars sponsorships for your podcast? Well, my goal is to show you exactly that. But before I get into it, a quick disclaimer:

Not all podcasts are meant to have sponsors. If your intention for creating a podcast was to further develop your communication skills or to spend an hour a week with your best bud gabbing about the NBA playoffs, that’s cool. If you have no inclination of marketing and growing your show to thousands of listeners an episode, you are alright in my books. I’ll be starting a personal blog this year at some point. I totally get doing something for personal development or enjoyment.  I am not a believer that ever podcast out there should have sponsors. It’s your show. Do what’s best for you.

This guide is organized into 6 steps, each one building upon the last. Not all steps take an equal amount of time to complete. You’ll figure that out as you go through them. Let’s get into it!

Step 1: Create a Show that’s Worth Sponsoring

Many people don’t know that Nicole and I worked full time on The $100 MBA Show for two full months before it was launched. We took on no other work and no other clients. Our sole project for 60 days was to create the best business podcast we could. We went hard, 7 days a week with 12 hour days. I think we took off 2 days in the entire 2 months. Why so much time? Why all the hard work?

We knew going in that the first step in creating a successful podcast, above everything else, was to create a show worth listening to. We studied shows we found to be exceptional and dissected what made them so popular. We question everything. We wanted to create a show that not only added value to our listeners, but also to the world of podcasting. We re-recorded our first 5 episodes at least a dozen times . The bottom line is, we saw our podcast as a production, just like any hit show on Netflix. We aimed higher than we felt comfortable aiming.

When I’m asked the question “What is your one piece of advice when it comes to getting sponsors for your show?” My answer is always, “Create a great show.” As the creators of our own shows, we are often biased. That’s it’s always better to get people other than yourself to say your show is great- major publications, thought leaders in your market; or better yet, your platform- iTunes or Stitcher.

Step 2: If you Build ‘It’ They Will Come

In this step, the “it” I’m referring to is not the show itself, but the audience. Your audience is your biggest asset with any podcast, YouTube channel, blog or business for that matter. Build a thriving audience and the sponsors will be knocking at your door. Very few podcasters that I have met that have sponsors on their shows, had to chase down sponsors. This is because they let their access to a captive audience do the talking.

As your show grows, the easier it is to secure long term sponsorship deals. This is because your podcast becomes more than just a podcast. It’s a brand, and you the host, become a celebrity of some sort. When you are a celebrity in your field you’re not chasing down sponsors. LeBron James is not begging for a shoe deal and Beyonce is not cold emailing Pepsi. They have an audience. They build a brand and an identity that sells itself and so can you.

Focus on providing more value than your audience is expecting and creating a podcast that fills a void in your market and your audience will come. This doesn’t mean you do not need to do any marketing, it just means when you do market you convert visitors to your podcast into subscribers. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever have to approach sponsors. It just means it’s a whole lot easier to secure them when you have large captive audience to offer.

You might be asking, “But Omar, how many downloads/plays an episode do I need to start seeing or approaching sponsors?” In my experience, most sponsors I interacted with want to see at least 5,000 unique downloads an episode to be interested. There are exceptions of course, but that’s generally what I found to be true. Not there yet? No problem. You can get there over time. Podcasters that are successful know, it’s a long term game. We aired 82 episodes on The $100 MBA Show before we had our first sponsor and 130 episodes before we had sponsors on every episode.

Step 3:  Create a 1-Page Sponsorship Guide

Now that you have your audience and you’re communicating with sponsors, they will start asking you for your sponsorship rates. There is no real, set in stone standard for podcast sponsorship rates. They really can be whatever you like.

With that said, podcast sponsorships are often calculated by CPM or Cost per Mile (1,0000 downloads). A common CPM for a pre-roll ad spot of 15 seconds is $18 and $25 for a mid-roll. So if your show gets 5,000 downloads and your show does one pre-roll and one mid-roll an episode, you’re looking at: $18 + $25 = $43 X 5 = $215 an episode.

Once you set your rates, you need to display them in an easy to follow Sponsorship Guide for your sponsors. This is like a 1-page info sheet that not only shares your rates but sells your podcast. Remember, this is business. Show what’s in it for your sponsors and why your show is not only worth their dollars but worth them being associated with.

Need an example?  Take a look at The $100 MBA Show’s 1-page guide we created for our sponsors below. This one was for March 2015. Each month, as the show grows in audience, we update this guide.

$100 MBA Show Sponsorship Info Doc-MAR

If you do not want to deal with the work involved in securing sponsors and rather someone else handle it all, we recommend Midroll.  We’ve secured many sponsors for our podcasts but so has Midroll. Midroll is easy to work with, transparent and in my opinion the best agent in the game. They work with and are trusted by great podcasts like StarTalk Radio, WTF, Startup, Comedy Bang Bang, Entrepreneur on Fire and Smart Passive Income. When your show is ready to take on sponsors, we highly recommend you give them a look.

Step 4: Under-promise & Over-deliver

If you look at our sponsorship guide, you’ll see we actually guarantee our sponsors more listens per episode than we charge. Sponsors that secured spots in March pay for 16,000 listens an episodes but receive at least 20,000. It’s important to note that these listen numbers are calculated as the total listens per episode over a 6-week span. So in other words, you have 6 weeks to secure these numbers. But we play it safe and we make sure we can deliver the number of downloads we promise within the first few days of release. We don’t want to disappoint.

And that’s the whole point. Give them more than what they are paying for. We all want to feel like we got a deal, so always under-promise and over-deliver. It’s the best way to get sponsors coming back to you quarter after quarter.

Step 5: Nail Your Reads

I’m a big fan of Marc Maron’s podcast WTF. Yeah, he’s a funny guy and his guests are often interesting but that’s not the real reason why I listen to his show. I listen because, he is great at delivering his sponsorship reads. I’ll hear Marc do a read for the same sponsor I had on a show last week and immediatly feel like I got work to do after hearing his version of the read.

Your read or sponsorship ad is something you really need to invest in. Take the time to rehearse your reads. Make sure you are keeping them natural and cater them to your audience. The reason why sponsorships for podcasts are so sought after lately is because brands are realizing how powerful the voice of the podcast host is with his/her audience. Give examples of how or why your listeners should check out your sponsors’ product or service.

Need an example? Have a listen to some of my reads.

The first is for Hostgator on The $100 MBA Show. I do a pre-roll at minute 1:00 and a mid-roll at minute 6:05. I try to give real world examples of why our audience should sign up for their service. I also reference previous lessons on the show (WordPress) and how it applies to Hostgator.

The second is a mid-roll at minute 2:42 we did for XERO on our second podcast, Webinar Ninja. Here, I try to show how Webinar Ninja and Xero are alike, why we love them and why you should too.

Step 6: Go Beyond The Read

Any additional value you can offer your sponsors will help them not only remember you but have them wanting to do business with you again and again. Feature them in your show notes, show them some love with a tweet when you market your episodes or mention them in a blog post like I just did!

Sponsors help support your show, so help support them. We all know it takes a lot of time, effort and money to run a podcast with high production and content value. Take pride in your relationships with your sponsors. Let them know when a listener of yours has taken your recommendation via your sponsorship read. Here are some examples of some of our awesome listeners showing both our sponsors and us some love:

Cat shows how The $100 MBA Show and Squarespace helped her start her website.

Dean asks a question on our show about what are the best pieces to pick up from our sponsor Combatant Gentleman for a business conference.

Final Words

I believe sponsorships are like any relationship- it’s a 2-way street. You got to provide for your sponsor so they can provide for you.

There is one last thing I do want to mention before I close off this post. The content of your show should be your top priority. Understand that when you take on sponsors, this is a principle that will be challenged. Your job as the producer of the content is to make sure your sponsorship reads do not affect or contradict your show’s value. This is where pros shine and amateurs reveal their audience’s interests are not a priority. Remember, your audience got you here. Never forget that your show only really maters if they listen.

More About Sponsorships 

To learn more about securing sponsorships for podcasts or anything else, check out our guest teacher episode of The $100 MBA Show with Jason Zook. I would also highly recommend Jason Zook’s and Matt Giovanisci’s full course on securing sponsorships- it’s the best I’ve seen on the topic. It’s called How to Secure Sponsorships for Anything.


The Cost of Mastery

I recently watched a suprisingly insightful interview with professional basketball player Kobe Bryant. In the interview he shares his personal pursuit of mastery; his drive to be the best at what he does. The interview is worth watching regardless if you are a basketball fan or not. There is a lot to learn from anyone that is committed to becoming a master.

If you’re building a business and feel like there is no time for anything else, you’ll find comfort in Kobe’s perspective. Kobe wanted to be the best basketball player of his time at all costs. He’s asked in the interview why he isn’t more social or more this or that. He simply responds, “I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the time away from basketball to do those other things.”  He practiced far longer and harder than the rest of the players in the league. His love for the game and competing at the highest level trumped all other activities.

In other words, he was focused. He was willing to pay the price to be a master at his craft.

This had me thinking about how much are we, as budding entrepreneurs, willing to give up in order to produce great work, a great product and ultimately a great business? Do we have that drive to be exceptional? Are we willing to take on the challenge of mastery? Or are we on a path to fall into a life of mediocrity in the pursuit to be “good” at everything?

I don’t know about you, but I’m with Kobe. I want it bad. I want to create a significant difference in my industry. I am willing to commit to the path of mastery, even if it means I’m not the most well-rounded person. Well-rounded? I’m not 17 applying for colleges here. I have no time to waste. I’m not getting any younger and life is too precious to not build and leave a legacy behind.

If you’re interested in watching the interview with Kobe Bryant, I’ve included it below. I hope you find it as meaningful as I did.


How to Grow Your Business When Money Is Tight

If it was easy, everyone would do it. Nowhere is that old axiom more true than in the world of business. Odds are no matter what kind of business you run, eventually you’ll reach a bottleneck, financially speaking. Funds get tight. Sales plateau. Your business is running, but it’s running in place.

The good news is that this state of affairs is almost always temporary. The bad news is that if your business doesn’t move forward, it risks falling behind.

The first instinct for some business owners is to hunker down, to batten the hatches and wait out the drought. They fear that trying to grow a business when the coffers are low is too risky. That makes sense, at first glance. However, the problem with this approach is that it’s reactive, not proactive. It’s never more important to make a move than when stasis is threatening to freeze your business in place.

Business is like muscle- if it’s not moving, not growing, it becomes atrophied. When your business is stuck, there’s really only one solution: to grow your way out.

Find A Way

So how can you get your business moving? When the wheels are spinning, getting the traction you need to go forward comes down to one thing: resourcefulness. No one, not even the best businessperson, can plan for all contingencies. No business model addresses every possible obstacle. No product sells itself through thick and thin. The difference between businesses that make it and those that don’t comes down to the ability to adapt.

The ability to innovate, to meet the challenges set by unpredictable market forces with creativity and finesse, is what sees a business through the rough patches and into its successful future. Every good business has within itself the keys to its own salvation, and every good businessperson needs to have the imagination necessary to find those keys- sometimes in places they wouldn’t normally look.

Grow Your Way Out (For Offline Businesses)

Growing a business when money is tight will require different strategies depending on the type of business. Growing an offline, brick-and-mortar terrestrial business is a somewhat different challenge from that of growing an online business. With offline business, the goal is to physically get people through a literal door. That means getting creative.

The best overall strategy is to utilize one of the best resources any business can have: the loyalty of its existing customers. Your business couldn’t have gotten far enough to have you contemplating growth strategies unless it was doing something right, right? Now it’s time to cash in on some of the goodwill that’s brought you this far. It’s time to establish (or ramp up, as the case may be) your referral program.

No matter what your business sells, your regular customers know other people who want the same thing. For instance, if you run a tutorial business like a yoga studio or cooking class, almost every customer of yours has a friend or acquaintance who enjoys the same pursuit. What they may not have is a reason to go beyond a casual recommendation (“You should try this place, I really like it!”) to an active referral action (“Come with me on Tuesday. I’ll pick you up!”).

Give them a reason. Don’t be afraid to make it a good one, either. The greater the reward, the greater the incentive to bring new business your way. Resist the temptation to be overly stingy, despite the tight funds. Why not offer a free month of service for every referral that signs up? At worst, the new member’s first month cancels out the loss of the referring customer’s monthly fee, and you break even. At best, you’ve parlayed a single monthly fee into years of payments from a new customer who can in turn bring in new business of their own!

Another key strategy to grow an offline business is to do so online. In fact, every 21st century business that doesn’t have a website is leaving money on the table. A strong web presence is essential for everything from restaurants to auto shops, if only because online searches are the first thing potential customers do when seeking a product or service.The negligible cost of hosting a website is well worth the business it will bring in. Especially considering the range of hosting and design services like SquareSpace available to help, maintaining a web presence is well worth the effort.

Use your website to establish your business as the best choice. Tailor it to your target audience. Build your online presence to climb the rankings of search engines like Google, guaranteeing a steady stream of potential business. Soon enough, the business you do on the web will lead to business in person- and it will barely have cost you a thing.

Lastly, to really bring in the foot traffic, encourage customers to visit in groups- the bigger the better. Much like a referral program, offering group rates incentivizes like-minded friends to hit your business en masse. The easiest method is to offer a sliding rate scale depending on the size of the group. The more people come in together, the less each of them pays. Not only does this work according to the standard bulk-sale logic, it grows your customer base exponentially and pays off indefinitely.

Grow Your Way Out (For Online Businesses)

For an online business, the key to growing your way out of a tight spot is outreach. Like the offline business, the online business needs traffic above all in order to expand, only in this case, it’s cyber-traffic.

First, produce content- lots of it. Sheer quantity of content draws people in, and keeps them coming back for the latest. If nothing else, it gives the enthusiast a way to explore their interest, repeatedly bringing them back to you for inspiration (and eventually for purchases). Adding new content on a regular basis extends the sales pitch by keeping the long-term conversation going. The more quality content a business website offers, the more eyeballs it attracts- so keep that shark swimming.

Another great strategy for growing an online business is to team up with another, related website. Cross-promotion between your website and other relevant sites makes their audience yours, and vice versa. If you sell books, reach out to literary websites. If you sell food, reach out to food blogs. The possibilities for symbiotic relationships are endless as long as what you’re offering has value to both audiences. If necessary, incentivize partnership by offering an affiliate commission or a percentage of sales from the other site’s referrals.

Lastly, offer innovative online products. Whatever you sell, supplement it with online products of your own design. Instructional products like eBooks, video tutorials, and printable infographics cost virtually nothing to produce, yet provide a value worth paying for. An eBook doesn’t have to be long, it simply has to contain valuable information from someone (that’s you) with expertise. A video tutorial requires nothing more than an iPhone and decent lighting. The return on investment for products like these is twofold: you make the sale of the product itself, but you also build the relationship and the reputation. The former is essentially a bonus; the latter is the key to getting out of a rut.

Seeing Opportunity

A stalled business is frustrating, to say the least. The drive to grow is a hard thing to see denied, even temporarily. However, when money is tight, it can be an opportunity. It can foster creativity and lead to innovation. If necessity is the mother of invention, a financial tight spot can be one of the best opportunities a business will have to dig deep and discover the new strategies and approaches that will set it apart from the competition.

In your search for answers, look everywhere. Look to other markets and see how even unrelated businesses stimulate growth; you may be able to pioneer a version of it specific to your business. Look to your customer base and try to identify a need that no one else is addressing.

Above all, look inward. Look to the creative spark that turns business into an art, and turns sales into whole new outlooks.

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8 Must-Haves for Your Business Website

Every great business needs a great web presence. That’s every as in every, not just online businesses. Brick-and-mortar shops may ply their trade in the terrestrial world, but they and their customers find each other through the same internet that drives most 21st-century commerce

Today, the hunt for most products and services begins on a search engine. More than likely, the first thing a potential customer sees regarding a business is its website. Your website is the opening salvo, the tip of the spear. It’s the first impression- and you’ve heard about second chances regarding those.

To create a lasting, bookmark-worthy site, make sure that it includes all of the following 8 key features:

1. A Clear, Strong Headline

What’s the first thing a potential customer thinks, feels, knows, or understands about your business? Hint: it’s whatever your headline says. It’s also what your headline suggests or implies. This is the first impression of the first impression, the first fleeting eye contact across the wide and crowded room that is the internet. This is your hook.

So what makes a great headline? The first thing a business headline should offer is understanding. A customer is essentially searching for a solution to a problem. Your headline should announce in big, bold terms that your business understands exactly what that problem is, and exists to solve it.

If the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one, the first step to getting someone to pay you to solve their problem is making it clear that you recognize it.  Identify the customer’s need, and offer to address it. That’s the goal of a good headline.

2. An Enticing Opt-in

The next important thing any business website needs is a way to continue the conversation after the customer has clicked on to other things. Simply put, your website has to convince the customer to leave their email address behind. You must persuade them to give you the opportunity to earn their business (if you haven’t already), and to continue earning their business down the road.

Of course, some people don’t like opting in- not without a little convincing at least. This is where the “freemium” comes in. Your customer needs a reason to open the lines of communication, so give them one. Offer a little gift, a bonus, a sweetener if you will.

For example, a clothing line can offer downloadable and/or printable style guides. A food website can offer a recipe. A tutorial site can offer an e-book. It doesn’t have to be (nor should it be) anything that necessarily costs your business anything materially, but it must have value- value in the form of the expertise and competence you want to display.

The opt-in is the first time you’ll be asking your customer to give you something in exchange for your services, even if it’s just an email address. It’s a microcosm of your possible future together. This is the first transaction. Close this “deal,” and more are sure to come.

3. Valuable Content

Web design, headlines, hooks, email outreach- all of these things are trying to draw the customers towards one thing ultimately: the content. A great website with poor content is a beautifully wrapped box of nothing. Content is what divides the serious business website from the amatuer. This is the substance, and all the dressing in the world can’t compensate if it’s lacking.

So what makes content valuable? Valuable content offers one or both of two things: expertise and personality. It articulates what your business can do, and why you want to do it. It reassures the customer, now open to your overtures, that you know what you’re doing. It also shows them that you’re doing it out of passion and commitment, and not solely out of the desire to lighten their wallet.

Great content can come in many forms. The most common is the blog: medium-length articles that describe your business’ process in an engaging way. A restaurant website can offer a cooking blog, sharing the business’s approach to the art. An online clothing retailer can muse about their approach to fit and fashion. A tutorial site can articulate its approach to the skill it purports to teach.

Blogs aren’t the only kind of content. A photography or other artistic business should have a portfolio. Tutorial websites should offer infographics. Any website can and should offer videos. Any written or visual articulation of how and why the people behind your business do what they do is valuable content, the kind that will keep customers engaged- now and in the long term.

4. Your Story

Business, like everything else, is a narrative.  It’s been said that in a courtroom, whichever side tells the best story wins, and the same is true in commerce. Stories are how we understand the world, our history, and each other. When your website tells a meaningful story, it’s worth more than all the clever advertising in the world.

This means that you’ll have to know what your story is. Ask yourself- why did I (or we, as the case may be) start this business? How did I come to this pass? Somewhere in the answer to that question is a story.

It may be a story of perseverance. It may be a story of love for a particular craft. It may be a story of family tradition. Whatever it is, the story is there, and telling it honestly and soulfully will win you the hearts of your customers. Not incidentally, finding and telling your story can also help you to better understand and focus the goals behind your business.

Your story establishes your values, and thus, your value.

5. Calls to Action

Ultimately, the goal of every visit to your business’s site should be an action by the visitor. The visitor is not just there to enjoy the fruits of your e-labor. They’re there to take a step towards addressing the need your site has been insisting it can address, ever since the headline.

They’ve read the blog, they’ve watched the video, they’ve perused the portfolio- great! Now what? This is when your site prompts the customer to take action. It might be signing up for the email list, it might be scheduling a consultation, it might be placing an order; whatever it is, don’t let them leave the website without encouraging them to do it.

The call to action is the bridge between the site about the business and the customer’s actual engagement in the business. Omitting the call to action, then, is almost as bad as getting someone into the store and forgetting to sell them anything. It’s time to get the customer to make their move.

6. Contact Info

This one might seem obvious, but the number of business websites that don’t offer the customer adequate means by which to get in touch is staggering. Especially in the case of terrestrial businesses, there’s almost no point to having a great website if it’s not leading customers to the business itself.

At minimum, there should be an email address for customers to contact the business with questions. For brick-and-mortars like restaurants or boutiques, a working phone number is an absolute must. Don’t bury these things in obscure locations on the site; you want to encourage customers to reach out.

Don’t let words be the limit of communication, either. Make it easy for customers to visit. Have exact location information with hyperlinks to a mapping service like Google maps, and post your hours. How many sales have been lost because someone couldn’t find the place, or didn’t know if it was open? We shudder to think.

Besides, any press (food critics, local entertainment and shopping profilers) that may be interested in essentially advertising your business for you should not be met with any difficulty in seeking your business out.

7. The Answer

The question being: why you? Why is your business the one, the only one, to address the customer’s need? The difference between the business that wins the sale and all of the businesses that don’t is…well, difference! What about your business is likely to meet your customer’s needs and can’t be found elsewhere?

This question needs be answered quickly and concisely. The Answer should be shouted from the metaphorical rooftops of your website; all signs should point to it. It must be wrought in neon across every page.

Like telling your story, finding The Answer may require some healthy introspection. If you don’t know why someone should choose your services over the rest, it’s time to figure that out- because you can believe the competition has.

Pro tip: Resist the temptation to set your business apart by insulting the competition. To define your business via the flaws of other businesses might seem like a good idea, but it’s a long-term loser. Negative advertising is tempting, and has its uses, but it generally comes off as arrogant and bullying. It also hurts your relationship in whatever industry you’re in.

Worst of all, it reeks of insecurity. A great businessperson is confident enough in what they can do without having to denigrate anyone else, so keep it positive, and keep it about you.

8. Your Promise

Finally, the heart and soul of your business website is its promise. Every business proposal is more than the sum of its specific features. In the end, a proposal is a promise, a vision of a future situation in which something is different (read: better) for the customer.

What are you promising? You’re not promising a wedding cake; you’re promising a memorable wedding. You’re not promising clothing; you’re promising an impression. You’re not promising business tutorials; you’re promising the potential for success.

Your promise is the final product, the end result of what your business does. Articulate it, and invite your potential customer to visualize the future post-transaction. What version of tomorrow is your business offering? Make the promise, keep it, and watch the business return.

Bonus: A Word on Social Media

Having read through this list, the savvy e-entrepreneur may be asking: what about social media? A whole article on building the ultimate business website and not a word spared for Facebook? Drag over the fainting couch, Dear, I feel the vapors coming on.

Here’s the thing: social media is an important part of online marketing, but it is not the be-all end-all of e-commerce. Far too much is made of Twitter followers and Facebook likes, both of which are great tools for guiding customers your way. However, if you’re not careful, social media can have the opposite effect- driving traffic from your website and into the black hole of cute kid pics and kitten memes.

As a rule, never put something on your website that will send the customer you’re trying to engage away to another website, especially a social media website. While social media friends and followers are desirable, they can’t be gained at the cost of the thing they’re meant to earn: business.

Place social media icons in the footer of your home page, or better yet, confine those links to the emails you send once the visitor has subscribed. Remember, social media is a pathway- it’s not the destination.

So there it is. These 8 features are the keys to the success of a truly effective website, one that engenders interaction with the customer base, fosters relationships, and ultimately brings you the business. With these features in place, your website can truly drive the success of your enterprise.

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The Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Next Product

Whether you’ve written an ebook, are selling iPhone accessories or your talents as a photographer, things can get overwhelming. It’s common to make mistakes and drop the ball when it comes to selling your product when your focus is being pulled in different directions. But without sales, there is no point to it all. You’re not in business to go out of business.

There are certain things when it comes to selling your products or services you just cannot ignore. We all make mistakes but some mistakes hurt more than others. Mistakes in these areas, can cost you more than just a few sales, it can cost you your business.

So here they are, in order of bad to worst:

Coming in at number 5…

#5 Not Providing Enough Info 

We can only form an opinion about a product or service based on what information is provided to us. If you don’t provide all the info your potential customers need to make a decision, they will simply go with someone who does. As they say, you can never over communicate. Don’t assume that your audience knows what you know. They don’t. You are in the trenches and eat and breath your products all day, everyday. They are just learning about it for the first time when they visit your website.

Provide ample images and videos of your product in action. Make sure you include a rich FAQ section to help answer common questions. See your sales page as a verbal and visual conversation between you and a single customer.

Alright. Let’s move on to number 4…

#4 Not Tiering Your Prices

We all like a few choices when we shop. Maybe I’m the kind of person that wants the package that has everything. Maybe I’m a middle of the road kinda guy. The point is, if I am offered one choice, the question becomes “Should I buy or not?” But when I have two or three choices, the question now becomes “Which one should I buy?”

By not offering a few different tiers you are simply not offering enough value to your customers. Also, when you have a lower price option you allow customers to try your product at a lower price point. Make sure you offer the option to upgrade at anytime. Chances are if they like what you got, they’ll want the option to get more value from you with a minimal additional cost.

Moving right along. Rolling in at number 3 is…

#3 Not Addressing Risk Aversion 

We all have a voice inside our heads before purchasing anything that whispers “What if you buy this thing and end up regretting it? What if this is not what it seems?” You need to answer these questions for your customers.

Offer a money back guarantee of some sort. But most of all, let them know about it. Make sure it’s clear before and during the checkout process that if your product is not a good fit for them, they can easily get a refund. There is no risk of making the “wrong choice” if the choice is reversible.

Making its way to number 2 is…

#2 Not Providing Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

“Why you?” are the two most important words in sales. What makes you or your product the stand out choice in your market? The answer to this question needs to ring loud and clear on your sales page. Is it your service? Your convenience? Does your product offer valuable features not available elsewhere?

DO NOT make the mistake of making your USP your prices. Competing on price is a disastrous route to take, there will always be someone who is willing to undercut you. Just ask Bradlees, Caldor and McCrory’s. Never heard of them? That’s because you’re probably under 30 and Walmart undercut the heck out of them and ran them out of business before you were given your first allowance.

Your USP is the reason people love doing business with you. Apple’s USP is their products just work. Tesla’s USP is a powerful, luxury car that is 100% pollution free. What’s yours?

And now…for the BIG MAMA of all mistakes. The number 1 goof-up you can make when selling your next product or service is…

#1 Not Focusing on The Pains and Issues You Are Solving

Every product is a problem solver. People buy a Playstation 4 because they are bored and want to get lost in a great gaming experience. I recently bought bought a mini watermelon for the first time because I wanted a whole watermelon but didn’t want to throw out half of it because the regular ones are so huge. You may want to start doing webinars but haven’t because the tech is too convoluted with all the moving parts. You might then join Webinar Ninja to have an all-inclusive and headache-free solution- shameless plug. Hey, it’s my blog 🙂

Identify the problem your product solves and showcase it on your site beautifully. This should be the theme of your whole sales page. Illustrate what pain or problem your audience is experiencing and how your product solves this for them. Need a clear reference? Think pharmaceuticals. Sleepless nights? Take Nytol! We’ll help you get your Zzz’s.

The features, options and bonuses are worth mentioning but they should support your solution and add more reasons to why the customer should buy. They are not the main reason why people buy, they just push them over the line.

Final Words

Well there you have them. Make sure to bookmark this page and keep it handy when you sell your next product. It might just surprise you how much avoiding these mistakes can improve your sales.

Extra Resources

You may want to check out these free resources on this topic right here on our site.

Why Build a Product Based Business?:

What is a Minimal Viable Product Anyway?:

Guest Teacher: Brennan Dunn- How to Price Your Services:

Q&A Weekends: Working on a informational product. Where does education fall short?:

What to Consider When Selling Physical Products:

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