Circle Time January/99

Our Best Advice:
Business Women on the Web Share their Tips for Success

We asked the members of several online groups of business women for the best advice that they could give to a woman just starting an online business today. Here are their answers:

Contributor: Sheri Stritof
Business: Roy's Phones
We can help you find the telephone you've been needing or looking for. We have business, residential, novelty, antique, and deco phones.
Advice: Respond within 24 hours to email inquiries.

Contributor: Ann Garner
Business: Ann Garner, Webmistress
Resources for webmasters and websurfers. Products that keep you healthy and help you get wealthy.
Advice: Learn html code so that you can maintain your own web page and keep it constantly growing and changing.

Contributor: Sharon Greenwood
Business: iWomen Online Network
A Woman Owned Business Search Engine. A Network for Women in Business. Women Helping Women Succeed In Business. A place to meet and network with Work At Home Moms and all women in business.
Advice: If you are just starting a business on the internet the best advice I can offer you (assuming you have done sufficient research to know that a business such as yours can earn good money on the net) is to ALWAYS make your important business information available through eMail-on-demand (infobots, mailbots or autoresponders as they are more commonly called) and to include them in every piece of eMail correspondence you send through your signature file and from at least your home page, if not every page of your web site. Also adding the eMail address(s) to all of your offline promotions, letters and business cards is also extremely essential. Information can include all the products/services that you offer and their prices, special discounts or sales promotions or even a table of contents covering your entire web site complete with URLs and detailed descriptions! Be creative and include any or all information about your business for your potential customers and making it easily accessible and INSTANTLY available to everyone who has eMail will only increase your profit potential. Too many online marketers still do not take advantage of this essential promotional tool.

Contributor: Terri Gray
Business: Terri Gray's Internet Consulting
Assisting small to mid-sized businesses in establishing, operating and promoting their online presence. Website design, hosting and marketing services available for all budgets.
Advice: Treat your online business just as you would an offline business. Too often folks get online thinking that all they have to do is put up a website and millions of people will automatically start buying from them. It doesn't work that way offline and it doesn't work that way online. Think about what you would do if you opened a store in a downtown building. You would probably get listed in the yellow pages, advertise in the local papers, join a networking group, hand out flyers, etc. The same strategies apply online. After putting up that website you need to: Get listed in the search engines, advertise in online e-zines, join networking groups, put up a website, use a signature at the end of each email you send out. And don't forget to market offline too. Have your URL added to everything! Business cards, letterhead, checks, invoices, print ads, pens, mugs on your vehicle - anywhere you would normally put your phone number!!! It takes time to get any business off the ground - on or off the net. Don't get discouraged. Just learn as much as you can about online marketing and adjust your strategies as needed and you'll get there.

Contributor: Ange (webmistress)
Business: Pine Hollow ~handcrafts~
Unique handcrafted treasures from the mountains of Northeastern Pa, USA.
Advice: Be sure to make every potential customer aware you are human! Answer all emails promptly. Send mails to customers, making sure they know you are aware of each move their items are taking. Example: 1st mail -- Tell them the order has been received and is being processed. Offer to answer any questions they may have. 2nd mail -- Estimated ship date and Offer to answer any questions they may have. 3rd mail -- The products have been shipped and approx. arrival date (given by shipper) 4th mail -- Follow up i.e. Have your items arrived? If so, what is your opinion and is there anything we can to do to improve our services. Throughout this process, you will establish an on-line presence. Build a relationship with your customers, which in turn, is great for business! This is only a guideline. Use your own judgement in dealing with each individual. They must be aware that you are honestly interested in their satisfaction and their comfort when dealing with your company. Your personal attention, or that of your webmaster's, is what will help your business excel. In this vast world of cyber space, the one thing to remember, you are not a "physical" storefront. A prompt response to mail is the one way to let everyone know there is someone 'taking care of business'!

Contributor: Ivy Lawhorn
Business: L J Processing
Web/Software Designer/Developer, Word/Document Processing, etc.
Advice: I would begin by saying to a perspective Entrepreneur, "Have patience, endurance, and long-suffering," and then be able to provide answers to the following questions: Do you have a company name/logo in mind? Where will you be located? Will you provide statewide or nation-wide services. Do you plan on advertising over the Internet? Have you chosen an Internet Service Provider? Will you do all the work yourself, or do you have contractors? What type of equipment/software do you have in order to perform your services?

Contributor: Mrs. Cynthia Hunter-Shupe
Business: Shupe Contingent Consulting
Temporary labor consulting for department managers to assist them in educating/training their staff for improved communication and direct interactions between core permanent employees and contingent labor force for improved production results and internal/external customer service.
Advice: The best advice I have to offer someone who is just starting out in business on the net is focus on your target customer market and use related news groups for research and learning more about their needs/wants and how you can provide them. Under NO circumstances should you purchase any products via e-mail that you did not request the information for and never send e-mail unless it is directly requested. An excellent resource are opt-in lists such as http://www.onelist.com and be sure to include one on your site that provides web site change or event information. Those who register with your web site information list are candidates to send a monthly update, reminding them to visit the site to see the changes - providing you with another opportunity for a sale through your site.

Contributor: Sharon Gladson
Business: Gratitude, Inc.
My Internet business is entitled "Your Gateway to Abundance in Cyberspace" and speaks to creating an avenue for success on the Internet, offering the best in successful affiliate programs, a stable hosting company (Worldprofit) with The People's Search Engine" http://www.worldsearchcenter , services for newcomers to the Internet (Free Classifieds, reminders, and postcards), and domain sales.
Advice: My best advice would be to start out with your own registered domain name and web design access (Frontpage 98 is very easy to use), and read all you can, contact as many different publishers as you can and stay in the traffic stream by linking and swapping ads.

Contributor: Gayle Dickson
Business: Advanced Body Care
Nutrition for sports, weight management, good health. French herbal-based skin care, and personal care products which include aromachology, marine botanicals and an aloe vera range. French fragrances for men & women, and salon quality hair products. Candles for mood enhancement.
Advice: Advertise everywhere you can - use the free sites, but don't overlook paid sites. I have found ezines to be the best. Find one that is applicable to your line, and advertise in it regularly, offering specials if they mention the ezine, etc.

Contributor: Patti Wolf
Business: Wolf Publications, Inc
We offer editorial services (editing, writing, page layout, project management), Web site design, and public relations and marketing services. We began by specializing in scientific and medical topics but now have branched out to other subjects.
Advice: Do something you love and develop a thick skin to handle the inevitable critics.

Contributor: Sunny Rhodes
Business: RoadWizards, Inc.
RoadWizards is a new media company offering information and adventures through an online publication called Mystic-Ink. We showcase writing, digital art and travel in unique ways by providing a take-off point where you'll be transported through an interactive maze of resources and hidden treasures. If you love to travel or have an artistic nature, you will find Mystic-Ink to be a wellspring of challenge and opportunity.
Advice: Having recently gone through the process of launching a new business that is based on the Internet, my advice is to begin by checking your motives and making sure your expectations are realistic. Do you have a passion for creating your business? And, are you willing to make a 100% commitment of time and energy to seeing it through? If you are dedicated to your dream, then go forward and build a strong foundation by starting small with your Web site. There's an intense learning curve and you must be willing to develop new communication tools. Starting an online business is no cakewalk and everything doesn't magically come together overnight. Being realistic will help you from becoming discouraged by the obstacles. It's helpful to connect with other women who are also working online and develop a community of support with kindred spirits who are going through similar challenges. RoadWizards has been my dream since early 1995, and my partner and I have worked very hard at turning it into reality. The process of bringing a dream to light is nothing less than a miracle; it's a labor of love. I'm very grateful that I now have an online business that allows me to communicate with fantastic people all over the world and help promote their talents to the world. I wish you the best of luck with your dreams.

Contributor: Heather Martin
Business: SuccessWorks
SuccessWorks is a virtual writing firm specializing in powerful, results-driven copy.
Advice: Network, network, network! Discover email discussion groups that relate to your business and post helpful advice. Participate in chat forums. Get yourself known as a knowledgeable, professional expert. Soon, you'll have your own group of faithful clients/customers - and you'll enjoy solid word-of- mouth referrals!

Contributor: Carla Davis
Business: Independent Broker, AmeriPlan Discount Dental, Vision, Prescription Drug Plan
Save up to 80% on Dental, 60% on Vision, & 50% on Prescription Drugs...Add Your Favorite Dentist to the Plan! Become a Broker.
Advice: Put a contest on your site and get listed at contest websites - you will have a traffic jam!

Contributor: Grace E. Aspinall
Business: Abateck, Ltd.--Business Opportunities and Network Marketing
Advice: My advice is that for me it was important to work with someone who compliments my knowledge and expertise. I work well with the web and Tim works well Network Marketing. Thus, as we commit more time to our business, we both have important and varied experience, and that's a winning combination. In a nutshell, my advice is: Seek a partner or a mentor who possesses the skills you need, and recognize your strengths so you can compliment each other. Also, allow yourself ample time to contribute to your new venture. I think that by giving myself a timeline regarding generating our web page and marketing our products, I was able to complete these important tasks. Without my sense of what I needed to do and when I needed to do it, I could have floundered. It's also very helpful to have feedback from friends. I often ask people to consider a proposal or check a web page and give me advice. Even people who have no direct interest in my venture enjoy looking at my creations and giving me feedback.
Here's my partner Tim Kentrick's advice: "I guess my one piece of advice would be to find a mentor to guide you rather than try to do it all on your own or learn it all from a book. My second piece of advice is to focus. There are so many things to eat up your time. If you take a jar and you have big rocks and little rocks and sand to put in it and you start with the sand and little rocks, it will get full and you can't put the big rocks in. However, if you start with the big rocks, then the little rocks and the sand will fill in between the big ones. This is the hardest thing for me. It is way too easy to do the little, easy, and insignificant things and then there is no room for the big ones."

Contributor: Regina Baker
Business: Computerize U-II
Web site design for small businesses. Tupperware & Mountain Gourmet products (cherry-wood utensils), Christian t-shirts, mousepads and neckties. Christian Bookclub too!
Advice: Always, first pray about the business you choose. Join email lists and get yourself known throughout the Internet by posting and answering questions. Hire someone to submit your site to the major search engines (I recommend Shannan Hearne). It's not easy to get noticed on the Internet so there's a lot of hard work ahead but dedication & perseverance is the key!

Contributor: Kathleen Ely
Business: Internet Navigating
Web Architecture, Maintenance and Marketing
Advice: Start filing now. Get your computer organized so you know where all the files are. Find a method for keeping all your business contacts together and keep those files updated.

For more information on working at home, check out Circle Time's Guide to Work at Home Resources and So You Want to Be a WAHM, Ma'am? My First Year as a Web-based Work at Home Mom.

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