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8 By-products Offer Some Seriously Overlooked Opportunities

According to this entry in Wikipedia – A by-product is a secondary or incidental product deriving from a manufacturing process, a chemical reaction or a biochemical pathway, and is not the primary product or service being produced. A by-product can be useful and marketable, or it can be considered waste.

by-product marketingWhile the practice of creating products from a primary product’s waste (lanolin – from the cleaning of wool) is commonplace in manufacturing environments, I think there are some great opportunities for innovation through by-products lounging around in every business.

The key is to simply start leveraging everything you’re good at doing – even if it’s seemingly unrelated to your core business.

For example, if you’ve gotten very good at online marketing and social media use, why not set-up a series of workshops and teach your clients how to do the same? There are countless examples of businesses creating successful marketing or management systems and then turning them into products for their industry.

If you’re good at hiring super stars, good at lead conversion, good at technology, good at creating buzz, you probably have an opportunity to turn that skill into a by-product.

Some may think, “sure, I could create all these by-products, but wouldn’t that just divert my focus from our core products and services?” Maybe, but you may also find something that should be your core product. Jason Fried, co-founder of 37 Signals, tells a story about how his web design firm needed a project management tool so they created one for their own use. Clients liked it so much they started offering the tool to others and before they knew what hit them, they had created Basecamp and altered the direction of their business forever.

Another great reason to start mining your business for by-products is that it’s a great way to up your expert status. Even if your by-product doesn’t ever offer long-term revenue and profit possibilities, there’s a good chance you can leverage it to get more exposure. By taking a leadership role in teaching your clients or an entire industry how to do something well, you’ll open up opportunities for media exposure, industry event speaking, access to suppliers, and in all likelihood, the ability to charge more than your competitors for your core offerings.

This notion is so powerful it should be part of your marketing plan and Marketing HourglassTM

21 7 Virtual Collaboration Tools I Use Daily

Drop BoxCollaboration, outsourcing and virtual workforces and offices are trends that are here to stay and getting even hotter as companies look for ways to work more efficiently and cut overhead costs.

Low overhead is one of the competitive advantages of small businesses and each new online technology that supports getting work done without employees makes this even more so.

Today I would like to share 7 of these tools that I use every day without fail. Some you may have used some may be new to you. Most are free, some I pay for. (Hint: I would pay for the free ones but they don’t ask me to)

Dropbox – online file storage and sharing. This is simply a high powered FTP site, but the interface and workflow is so great. I use a desktop application from dropbox and simply drag files there and they are stored online automatically. I can share folders with anyone and when they upload files they show up on my desktop. I can even set-up public folders so anyone can send large files without clogging email.

Basecamp – this is an online project management tool that allows you to set-up projects with collaborators and customers and manage all manner of communication, file and document sharing, and chat. I use this with the Duct Tape Marketing Coach network as a form of Intranet.

iLinc – virtual collaboration is great, but sometimes you need to work in real time, face to face (sort of) iLinc is web and video conferencing tool that really shines when it comes to online collaboration. You can work on documents together via the web, video chat, access files and programs off each others desktops and visit web sites together with a live browser – so you can take someone to a page and walk them through a real demo or sign-up process. Disclosure: iLinc sponsors my podcast.

SimpleEvent – this is a free conference call service, but it has a ridiculous amount of features. I love to put together meetings on the fly and have multiple folks join. I also use it to host my large web meetings for the audio portion. I can have up to 96 full talk to talk and 1000 talk to listen on at once. There’s no scheduling, it’s always on and always live.

GMail – this is just big, fat, free, email service, but I love the way it works and takes advantage of being fully online. You can run your own domain through GMail (I use it to send as I don’t have to worry about my local ISP quirks when I travel) and create multiple profiles for all your various rolls in life. I use Google Talk for IM and it’s built right into GMail.

Jott – Jott allows you to record voice memos that get turned into email text. You can set-up boxes for anyone you collaborate with and send notes as you wiz down the freeway. You can create groups for distribution, post appointments to Google Calendar, and even update your twitter feed all with voice messages.

Google Calendar – Another Google tool, I know, but I like setting up calendars and sharing them with collaborators and also tapping the fact that these calendars produce RSS feeds so I can publish them in cool ways to websites and have anyone I give access produce content for those sites. Also sync with desktop and phone calendars over the air.

I know there are lots of great tools out there to do everything I’ve mentioned above. So, what tools do you use for virtual collaboration.

12 Your Backpack just got a lot bigger

BackpackI’m a big fan of most of what comes out of 37signals. (I’ve posted about many of their offerings over the years.)

One of their tools, Backpack, just got a whole lot more useful for the small business.

Backpack is a tool that allows you to keep track of what you’re doing online, calendars, to-do lists, reminders, files, even pages organized around something you are working on. The problem was that until recently this was a single user tool. Great for keeping your stuff together, but not so easy to share.

Backpack now comes in a multi-user version that really makes this tool more like an on-demand Intranet for small business. You can create as many users as you like and each user can have their own calendars, effectively creating an online sharable calendaring system. The newsroom feature is a like an activity dashboard that also keeps group messaging tidy.

There is a lot of crossover from Basecamp in terms of functionality, writeboards, lists and the such, but while Basecamp is more about project management and shared collaboration from outside, permission based, resources, I think Backpack is really more company focused. I can see small companies organizing it much like a knowledge base to house company documents, processes and manuals.

I really think it’s killer when combined with Basecamp. If you use multiple offerings from 37signals, one tip I would suggest is to get an OpenID and use it to log in to your accounts and then you will have the ability to jump back and forth to all of your accounts from a simple dashboard interface.

Here’s a nice side by side comparison of the 37signals offerings.

21 Automation, the small business marketer's friend

Marketing AutomationFrom a business standpoint, a lot of small business have some pretty distinct advantages over much larger organizations.

Not always, but in some cases, they can be more flexible, offer personalized options, provide faster/better service, and involve senior experienced level people in implementation.

From a marketing standpoint, I do see small organizations get out sizzled from the sheer wake of bodies and moving parts that a larger organization can throw at a sales pipeline.

This is a place where technology, and the automation it can afford, can come to the rescue.

Technology exists all around us today that allows any small business or one woman band to create robust, multi-part, segmented and personalized campaigns that rival those of the fully staffed marketing departments.

Lots of CRM software makers talk a about automation, but for most small businesses it’s just overkill. The key is to find the right suite of tools that allow you to create the engine to automate contacts, sales follow-up, tasks, email, marketing materials distribution, orders, upsells, referrals and campaigns. It’s about marketing automation, not customer relationship management.

When you take the time to design your lead generation, nurturing, and conversion processes like the big guys, and then hook the system together with the right moving parts, you can compete with any size organization.

And now for some tools to check out!

  • SwiftPage – email lead tracking and scoring that helps identify hot prospects
  • Infusion Software – the best all in one solution for contacts, sales, orders and email marketing
  • Vtrenz – automation for direct marketers
  • Get Friday – outsourcing that is automated
  • Wufoo – creates forms of all type on the fly
  • GotVMail – automates phone messaging, extensions and message deliverability
  • Jott – lets you post to Google Calender, post to blogs, Twitter and send email to yourself or groups from a phone.
  • TripIt – forward air, hotel and car reservations to an email address and get an online trip page with local info and maps added
  • TextExpander – automatically insert any amount of text into an email or document with a phrase – great for commonly written email responses
  • Basecamp and Backpack – automate collaboration with teams, vendors and partners
  • Create Space – on demand CD and DVD publishing and fulfillment
  • Amazing Mail – send pre-designed post cards to 1 or 100 contacts in 24 hours

What are some of your favorite marketing automation tools?