Favorite video: Your business card is CRAP

haha, I love this video. It feels like I’m sitting in on Alec Baldwin’s motivational speech in Glengarry Glen Ross. Every sentence is an assault! Okay, so you might not agree with this guy (I don’t — I don’t have any business cards) and you definitely won’t want to hang out with this guy in a social setting (“my car is better than yours”; “my house is better than yours”; “my dog is better than yours”; “my wife is better than yours”; etc.) but he certainly can capture your attention! In amongst his many insults, you’ll find some gems of truth.

How to start a new business for $10: A step-by-step how-to guide

Want to start a business but not sure if you can afford it or what the next step should be? In this blog post, you’ll read a step-by-step guide about how to start a new business for $10. There are other ways to start a business but this is (in my opinion) one of the easiest and most affordable ways to start a new business!

Some people start off knowing exactly what they want to do: They might say: “I want to start a freelance writing business” or “I want to sell an ebook about making money online” or something like that. For others, this step is really hard: They might want to start a business but have no idea where to begin. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter if you know what you want to do or if you don’t. Just follow these steps to start a business:

Who do you like to talk to? What hobbies and interests do you have? What do you like to spend your time thinking about? Don’t worry so much about what you’ll sell just yet, start by thinking about who you will sell to. Pick a group of people that you can see yourself working with. For example, you might choose a vocational group (mechanics, dentists, entrepreneurs, etc.) or a demographic (women, seniors, teens, etc.) or an interest (video games, gadgets and tech, etc.). Narrow the group down a bit by combining some of these elements (women entrepreneurs, seniors with an interest in tech, etc.). This group is your target market. Get to know them well (especially if you aren’t part of that group). Read what they are reading. Talk to them. Watch the shows they’re watching. Browse the sites that they’re looking at.

List the issues, concerns, and problems that your target market has. It doesn’t matter at this point if you know the solution; it doesn’t matter if you already know what you want to sell. Just list all the problems they have. If you aren’t actually in this target market, it might be worth picking up the phone and calling a few people you know who are in that target market. List as many problems as you possibly can.

Go over to Blogger.com and sign up to start a blog. While you’re there, buy a URL for $10.00 (which you can do right in the Blogger interface).

Write content about the problems and solutions. (That’s right; you don’t have to know what you want to sell just yet. It doesn’t matter at this point). Write at least one blog a day. Write for as long as you can. Prewrite and schedule them if you don’t have time to write each day. Write and write and write and write. The point of this step is to build content, get your content out there on the web, and start to position yourself as a credible authority. The longer you can spend doing this, the better. If you have a job and you think you might like to quit it in a year to start a business, start blogging today. If you want to start a business and hope to start earning money soon, blog as much as you can right now. You’re not going to earn money off your blog in the first little while; just build up a big pile of authoritative, compelling content.

Now it’s time to start selling. Figure out what you like doing and how you can solve some of the problems that your market currently faces. Maybe there’s a service you can provide. Maybe there’s an ebook you can write and sell (or some already-written ebook that you can offer as an affiliate). Maybe there are a few things you can do.

For (real and digital) products, check out Amazon Affiliates, Clickbank Marketplace, and AffiliateScout. For services, check out Guru.com and Elance.com. These are the things you can sell.

Continue to blog. Make sure your products and services are available to buy (and any administrative stuff you need to have in place is, in fact, in place). Now market your business:

  • Write articles pointing back to specific blogs you’ve written. Distribute those articles on article distribution sites like articlesbase.com and isnare.com.
  • Submit press releases on press release sites like free-press-release.com and prlog.org.
  • Sign up to sites like Guru.com and Elance.com if you’re selling a service that is relevant to those sites. Sign up to Clickbank.com if you’re selling a product that is downloadable.
  • Find forums where your target market is active and get involved.
  • Go to Google AdWords and try out some pay-per-click ads.
  • Sign up to social media like Facebook and LinkedIn (or some other social media if your target market hangs out somewhere else) and participate there.

Now it’s just a combination of aggressiveness and consistency in marketing, along with the refinement of your message and product. At this point, you need to stay focused and just keep plugging away at marketing.

Note: There are other business models you can use to start a new business but many would-be entrepreneurs want to get their first business running quickly and affordably. In my experience, this is the most effective way to go.

Role-plays versus case studies: Which is better?

During my career in sales, and during my stockbroker and MBA studies, I encountered both role-plays and case studies as tools for teaching and learning. Later, as a writer who occasionally writes training content, I have the opportunity to use both. I always prefer case studies. Here’s why:

Role-plays are good in theory and they are supposed to give the learners practical experience in a safe learning environment. For example, in both my sales and stockbroker training, the role-plays we had to do were always about elements in the selling process (like how to uncover needs, how to transition, how to close, etc.).

Case studies offer a scenario (theoretical or historical) that outlines the situation and presents a problem that the learner must solve. For example, in my stockbroker studies and my MBA studies, I read numerous case studies where I had to identify the best investment portfolio mix or perform financial analysis or uncover an organizational problem.

The problem is, role-plays are usually conducted by like-minded people for a single purpose and to exercise a single skill or technique. For example, the role-plays I experienced were conducted between two salespeople (one acting as the customer, the other as the seller). In role-plays about overcoming objections, both parties were already convinced of the value of the product and the person playing the customer gave half-hearted objections that were easily countered with by-the-book responses from the seller. Role-plays, you might say, are too neat and tidy. Role-plays become a way to parrot the best practice rather than develop a skills.

Case studies, on the other hand, push the learner to learn. Case studies, especially those drawn from real life, are complex and messy and sometimes there is more than one possible answer… and sometimes there are problems that cannot be solved. Case studies push the learner to go deeper, to get creative, to bring all of their skills to bear on the situation to arrive at a solution. Case studies aren’t “safe” and there is a lot of room for error. But I like them because they require all skills to be used.

[Some of you might point out that role-plays and case studies teach completely different skills: That role-plays maybe teach the mechanics of a solution while case studies might offer a more theoretical application. But I disagree. Most of the occasions that I’ve encountered role-plays and case studies (and I’ve encountered them both as a learner and as a writer) they were used in similar ways: To teach a particular methodology, whether that methodology was breaking the ice, overcoming objections, analyzing a business problem, or performing financial analysis. The occasions when a role play serves a different role is when it is meant to build a skill-set through repetition. In those cases I would use the term “practice” instead of role-play.]

When you develop training for your employees, consider carefully the tools you’ll use to teach them. I don’t believe that role-plays are nearly as effective as case studies.

Identify the skills or methodology you want to teach and create case studies that require those skills or methodology to solve. Add other details — sometimes to act as red herrings and sometimes as a “foothold” for your learners to use to solve the situation. Encourage creative solutions but make sure that they are paying attention to the details of the case study.

Teaching your people in a way that requires them to use all of their skills to creatively solve a problem is the best way to create an effective workforce. Case studies help you do that.