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When you think of public relations, the first thing that comes to mind is a press release. A press release is, and will always remain to be an important tool for reaching the media and getting the word out about your business.But there are other ways to tap the media, and here are some strategies you can use for your business:Bullet articles = readers and editors love articles with numbered tips -- e.g. 10 Ways to Save on Taxes; 6 Steps to Losing 10 Pounds; or 81 Tips to Market Your Business on the Web. Editors love this type of article because they can easily be used, especially if a space ne
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eds to be filled up quick. However, the articles should really be useful and not a veiled advertisement about your business.Market Studies = one type of press release that never fails to get a lot of usage from the media are results of quantitative or qualitative surveys. Editors as well as bloggers (myself included) love publishing survey results because of the unique perspective and information they provide. Think of your market and what would others find interesting. Then come up with a possible survey. You can enlist the help of market research professionals or use do-it-yourself tools such as SurveyMonkey.com.Talk radio = Radio shows are always searching for interesting guests. If you have an expertise that you can share, and you can speak well (no long pauses or aaahhhs punctuating every sentence), radio shows can be a great tool to reach a wide variety of audiences. For detailed tips on how to use talk radio, read the article "Using Talk Radio To Market Your Small and Home-Based Business"Article Reprints = If you or your business has been previously featured in a print publication, make sure you get reprints of that article. Not only can you use it to include in your press kits, but you can send those reprints to editors of other publications to see if they would be interested to feature your products or service, or about your success.

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One asker at Yahoo Answers raised the question of why her website was not getting any traffic. The site has been live for several months, but it is nowhere to be found in the search engines. Being a newbie who knows nothing about designing and creating a web site, she spent her meager resources to hire a web designer to create her website.And of course, she expected orders to start coming in once the site became live. Alas, that was not the case. Worse, the site was not even getting any traffic.I looked at her site, which focuses on her consultancy business, and it was very pretty. Problem was
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, everything was in graphics and no text. The whole site was in .jpg -- both the text and the graphics! The only text of the site can be found in her navigation bar. No wonder she's not getting any traffic -- there's nothing for search engines to chew on.The sad part is that she's not the only one. I've seen several websites of small business owners done by web designers that simply focused on looks, and did not consider how search engines will see the site. As a result, they wasted precious resources as their websites cannot get top rankings for their keywords.Aside from firing those web designers, here are some basic tips to optimize your website:Select the keywords or key phrases yout think would best to optimize your site for, and then analyze your competition.Make sure that those keywords are present on the pages you want to rank for those keywordsCreate good quality content -- ranking in the search engines is all about contentStart finding quality links to your siteContinue building your site's reputation through quality content and linksRead full article "5 Tips to Optimizing Your Website"

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I envy the young would-be entrepreneurs in the universities today. A growing number of schools and universities are offering classes, mentorships and valuable support to students with entrepreneurial dreams.First there's the business plan competition, where students' business plans are critiqued and judged and the best ones receive valuable startup capital ranging from $10,000 to $25,000. There are even stories of situations where students presenting in the business plan competition got funding for their fledging business ideas because some venture capitalists or investors heard about the busi
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ness plan and want in on the action (case in point: how Jenny Lefcourt started WeddingChannel.com ).Some schools with business plan competitions include:UC Berkeley http://bplan.berkeley.edu/Rice University http://alliance.rice.edu/alliance/RBPC.aspPepperdine University http://bschool.pepperdine.edu/students/bplan/Johns Hopkins University http://www.jhu.edu/bpc/University of Texas at Austin http://www.mootcorp.org/University of Washington http://bschool.washington.edu/cie/bpc/University of San Francisco http://www.usfca.edu/sobam/nvc/bpc/index.htmlAside from business plan competitions, there's incubation assistance that some universities provide.Belmont University , for example, runs a business hatchery program for students called Practicing Student Entrepreneur Program. Under this program, students can get access to an office space complete with desks, phones, fax machines, copier, etc. Students also get the chance to interact and get advice for seasoned entrepreneurs in the university.The University of Central Florida offers a technology incubation program which offers mentorship and advice-giving in all aspects of business development, access to office space and office equipment, networking opportunities, marketing and PR support, among others.The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New Year offers one of the oldest incubation programs wholly owned by a learning institution.

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Someone asked if it is possible to earn online through advertising by simply creating a website and then not really doing anything after that.Don't we all want that -- to earn on autopilot without doing anything at all?One of the first mistakes is thinking that you can create a website, leave it and not do anything yet continue to earn from advertising. I know of sites "abandoned" by their owners that continue to earn good advertising income, but these are sites where some great work was done early on (i.e. get optimized for the search engines and links developed).I think it is possible if y
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ou have a page or a few pages of REALLY COMPELLING content that have legs -- meaning without any work in terms of adding new content or promoting the page, you can still get constant stream of traffic and people are responding to the ads. This is possible if you have a viral website that attracts visitors like magnet who then share it to others. But that is not easy to pull off.With millions of websites out there, your first work is to make people find your site. You cannot assume that you simply create a website, forget about it and people will find it -- that's not how the Web works. Without traffic, you won't have visitors to view or click on the ads -- which means no incomeWhen you create a site, you need to think of two major things:content creationtraffic generationIf you don't want work in terms of content (meaning you don't write the articles or you don't hire writers), then do something like MySpace or Digg or Craigslist where it is the users who actually generate the content. But even then, there's a lot of work involved in terms of cleaning up the content and keeping the community in check and ensuring that the right technology can support the activities of the site.If you want to earn online income, then you need to work on it. Maybe not "working hard" but more by "working smart."

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I previously wrote about the how to survive life as a work at home mom , which got a great comment from a reader.Today, an article at Lousiana's ShreveportTimes.com focused on the same topic as well, with some additional tips on how to balance home business and family:Prepare a realistic schedule -- and stick to it.Write down your priorities for each day.Keep work and family commitments separateKnow your boundariesChoose the right kind of home business, as not every business can be managed well from your home if you have a familyYou can read more tips on this topic from our Your Home Business
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and Family section

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Nothing is forever; even your business. There may come a time when you want out, and one way is to sell the business.Selling a business is not easy, and you need a lot of preparation and even assistance. When thinking of selling a business, here are some questions to ask yourself:Why are you selling your business? Is selling the best option for you?Is it the right time to sell, considering the state of the economy and the industry?What type of business are you selling? What are the unique characteristics of this business that may come into play when selling?Who can help you with the process of
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selling your business? Do you have a lawyer, financial advisor, etc?Should you use a business broker?What type of advice do you need to establish your selling strategy?Where and how can you find the best qualified buyers?How do you put a value on your business?Can your financial statements withstand the scrutiny of buyers?What will the terms of sale specify?Are you willing to finance any part of the deal?How are you going to handle the sales proceeds?Do you want to be involved with the business after the sale, perhaps in a consultant or full-time manager capacity?

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One question frequently asked by many small and home-based online entrepreneurs is: how will I get my website to rank well in the search engines -- without spending a fortune?Many make the mistake of thinking that there's a magic software to get to the top of the search engine rankings. Or that there's an easy trick that can be used. Well, many resort to trickeries but search engines have become so smart and savvy that they catch up to these tricks -- and banish the offending websites from their databases.The best and most inexpensive way is to have the BEST and MOST RELEVANT content for the s
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earch term you want.It's all about content. With good content:Users will visit your site more; even spread the word about your awesome siteOther sites will link to you without you asking them to link to you, and having more links will boost your search engine rankingUsers clicking on your page in the search results will stay longer in your site because they find your content relevant to the keywords you searched, and that tells the search engines that your site is indeed relevant to the keyword and will rank you higherLook at those sites currently ranking for the search terms you want. Analyze the following:Look at how they wrote the title of their site (metatag title)Look at their other metatags particularly description metatags Determine what content they have on their site and how they present their contentGo to Yahoo Siteexplorer and do a search to determine how many sites are linking to top ranking sites, and what these sites areNow ask yourself: how can I do better than these sites currently ranking for the terms I want? What type of content will set me apart from the other top sites? What metatags should I use for my site? How can I get the sites linking to them to notice my site?Getting top rankings in the search engine is a continuous work. You continue to work on your content; continue to build links; continue to get the word out there about your site. Your competitors are not resting, so should you.

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Ryan Allis, CEO of the marketing and online communications firm iContact Corp., in his book "Zero to One Million: How I Built a Company to 1 Million in Sales ... And How You Can Do" has a great section on what makes a product great.According to Allis, the perfect product has the following attributes:It fulfills a need or wantIt has either niche market appeal or mass market appealIt has at least a 2:1 markup ratio; 5:1 or higher is optimalIt has a high perceived valueIt must be replenished or repurchased by the consumer oftenIt is easily up sold and cross-soldIt has a related backend productSo
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how do you know if your product is great? To find out, you need to assess your product against two factors: inherent qualities of the product and the state of the marketplace.Inherent Qualities of a ProductIs the product of high quality?Is the product effective?How valuable are the benefits the product gives to the consumer?Does the product increase pleasure, increase utility, or reduce pain?Must the product be reordered?Can the product be developed easily?The State of the Marketplace Can it be obtained or produced for a low cost so as to support a high margin?What is the current demand for the product?How many other competitors are selling the same or a similar product?How many serious competitors are there?What are the sales figures of these competitors?What are the product's substitutes?Are there any factors that might increase or decrease sales of substitutes?How hard will it be to differentiate the product from competing products?

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