Unconventional Businesses and Progress

Hi, Everyone.

It’s been a while, as Stacey and I have been working on starting a new tutoring company in Bend. We’ve been lean and agile about growing this company, using some commonly referred-to tools here at Unconventure. Plus, we’ve hired a team of 8 awesome tutors to finish out the school year, and prepare us for a heavy market growth at the beginning of next year.

Sevenstar Tutoring Logo

So, here are the tools I’ve used to get this company going:

Infrastructure Software

Hiring/Acquiring

Advertising

So far, we are succeeding in getting most of our tutors working with students. There has been nothing but super-positive feedback on the pairings of our tutors with the students (personality matches, interests, etc.).

So, it’s going well, and we’re happy to be starting this unconventional business to serve the Bend community with a highly-needed educational service.

The Myth of Traffic

Colorful Traffic

Website Traffic is a myth. Or, at least a largely-held misconception.

Traffic is not a singular thing that can be measured and built forwards, but a result of a combination. It’s like looking at the “C” in the equation A+B=C and aiming to influence just “C” without looking at the factors “A” and “B”. Impossible.

Here’s what it really is: Traffic is a result of Awareness combined with Relevance.

In fact, relevance may not even be a strong enough word. It requires a conversion, or a sale to get someone to click on your link, type in your web address, or choose you from the options on the search-engine results page (SERPS).

This comes from a clear value-over-cost proposition.

Not everyone who is aware of you (even if you show up #1 in a list of 10, or top on the news feed), determine that you or your link/page is relevant to them at that time.

Not everyone who could benefit from your link/page is aware of your offerings.

Therefore, you must both:

  1. Increase the awareness to your link/page/offer.
  2. -and- Clarify your value proposition. (Who, What, Why, How?)

So, instead of fussing over the result “Traffic”, get to work on the two influencing factors that derive the result. Awareness and Value.

I hope that helps.

Photo credit: 27147

Social Media Traffic Building

I’m currently working on my next guide on social media for businesses. It’s looking like I’ll be focusing on the specific aspects of Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus separately, since they are all quite different.

Twitter tweeter icon

There is no “one-size fits all” solution for social media. And, I think that’s the big takeaway lesson. Each community is unique.

One quick tip: Twitter activity is non-linear. Meaning, if you post (on a week-day) links at 10:30am, 12:30pm, 3:30pm, and 5pm, you are more likely to engage in a Twitter conversation than you would at any other times of the day. These are the common break times for 8-5pm workers, and the most likely time for mobile phone twitter update participation.

In the guide, I cover how to setup, start engaging, and how-to create a routine that fosters quality leads through social media attendance and participation.

Look forward to the new guide arriving here shortly after the first of the year.

Pricing Your Product or Service

Two days ago, I was having a debate with some family members about how someone should price their services. The service in question was math tutoring for high school students.

Man tutoring a young girl in math

Generally, there are location and student-level standard pricing ranges for tutoring. For example, in Bend, one-on-one tutoring for a high school student generally ranges from $25-40/hour. In Las Vegas, the same tutoring ranges from $40-65/hour. Tutoring a college student may raise the price $5-10/hour more, and graduate school subjects $10-20/hour more.

Now, what happens when two students want to pair-up and get group tutoring? Should they each pay $40/hour, or should it be fixed at $40/hour?

One person proposed that the work is essentially the same, so the pay should essentially be the same. Another chimed in that there is increased liability with offering tutoring to multiples, so pay should increase.

Now, what about three students combining for group tutoring? (It didn’t go beyond three, because this was the tipping point for argument’s sake, and was pertinent to the sample-at-hand.)

It’s still only one hour’s worth of work. But, there is increased liability: meaning, if there was some sort of catastrophic change from B-students to F-students failing everything, the tutor might be held accountable by the student’s parent.

Here’s how I dissected it: The work input is essentially the same. The liability has increased. But, neither of these should be how pricing should be determined. Pricing is determined by the value that the customer is getting from the product or service.

I’m not saying that each customer should pay $40/hour. Because:

  1. The service changes when it turns from individual tutoring to group tutoring. No longer is each question your question. The pace may be different, and progress is likely to be slower. This should lower the individual rate significantly: it’s not tailored just to you.
  2. The students did a group purchase, making it easier to plan and organize for the tutor than multiple single-sales would be. This is the entire business model of Groupon. This alone deserves a discount.

Accounting for both of these elements, I believe that the rate should drop to about half the normal hourly rate per-student. And, as more students get added the value to each student changes (picture 15+ students) There should be a continued drop in price to a baseline. At which point it’s no longer tutoring, and instead an outside-of-school class.

If the service is different. The price should be different.

The Takeaway

The amount of work that’s put into a product or service is essentially irrelevant to the pricing. This is the employee-boss mindset. Forget it. It’s important for a boss to know when paying an employee to determine that employee’s general productivity and customer interaction. But for a business that charges customers, it’s irrelevant.

Whether I pay you $40 or $400 or $4000 is determined by the value I get from your product or service. If it only took you one hour to create something I can leverage to make $1000, why would I care if you charge me $200? I’d love you for it!

Know your customer.

Know the industry and market standard.

Know your service-value. And remember to price based on this.

But, if the value changes when you scale (ex. in-person math tutoring), the price also has to change.

Good luck! Ask questions in the comments below.

Photo credit: Tulane Public Relations cc

Clarifying Your Proposition

Recently, I was asked to view a friend’s website, and give my opinion.

I typed in the URL, and the page loaded quickly. As my eyes focused on the screen, I realized it would benefit him greatly if I wrote down exactly what I look for when I’m visiting his website for the first time. Specifically, I wrote down the questions I asked myself when evaluating and judging the new site – any new site, for that matter.

Here are the questions, and the order in which I asked them:

A Website’s First Impressions

Young couple overlooking big city
What is this site? Specifically, is it interactive, e-commerce, a blog, or a contact page so that I can get in touch with him for a person-to-person business?

What’s it called? For example: this website is called “Unconventure” and first-time visitors might wonder what is Unconventure?

What can I do here? There were two sets of navigation, but there was also a sign-up form. Visiting the links were options, as well as signing-up. I didn’t see any product purchasing offers yet.

Who is this site for? I saw a picture of the blog author – but not the target customer (something I’m guilty of here). And the name was not something like “shirtsforcatlovers.com” so, I was unclear as to the audience, and more specifically: was it for me?

Does the site appeal to me visually? Is it well-designed, easy-to-read, aesthetically pleasing?

All of these questions could be answered without navigating to a single page, and most-likely within the first 8 seconds of my visit.

User-Friendliness

As I navigated through the site, I began to ask and learn more.

What do I compare this website to? Do I think it might be useful for me? Useful now? Or, in the future?

Do I think this website might be useful for someone I know? Someone that’s in need currently?

What’s unique about this website?

And finally – mostly because I’m a web consultant – what would I do differently?

Full Site Evaluation

All new visitors go through a similar – if not this same – process when visiting your website. If you can’t clearly answer these questions, then you will suffer from lack of clarity or lack of relevance.

People always purchase the best whatever. Sometimes your product is the best because it’s cheapest, quickest, most thorough, easily understood, relevant, or emotionally-evoking. If it’s unclear what you’re best at, then you will not get the sale.

Photo credit: mohammadali cc.

Katie Moreno – the Freshman Who Built a Consulting Website

Katie Moreno is a freshman at Corvallis High School. She’s on the ski team and plays viola in the orchestra. Katie’s also a recent creator of a new consulting business website using Unconventure’s latest Website Quick Guide.

Katie Moreno and her Dogs

Katie’s mother – Sarah Maxwell DVM – is a veterinary opthalmic consultant, specializing in eye care and surgery for large animals. She is located in the Willamette Valley, and she frequently travels for her work.

The website Katie built is for her mom’s veterinary consulting. The domain she chose is perfectsarahmaxwelldvm.com – given that she is a highly respected professional specialist in her field, and her branding is part-in-parcel with her name as a consultant.

Sarah Maxwell DVM Veterinary Consultant Website

I asked Katie her experience developing websites, and other than a single instance in sixth grade where she added pictures to a site, she had absolutely zero experience building websites.

Recently, Katie was asked by her mom if she could build a website for her. Katie attempted to create one using Microsoft Publisher, but was left confused and unable to build the website.

She said, “I didn’t know if it would even go on the Web. I had no idea if would work or not.”

Although her older brother, Matthew, was more familiar with building websites, she was left to do this on her own.

I asked Katie if her mother would have been likely to pay $1000 to have someone set up a website like this for her.

“No. We wouldn’t have done it. And, I don’t know how to code myself. So we wouldn’t have it.”

Given her success with launching the website, I asked Katie more about her interaction with the Quick Guide. She said that the guide was “really easy” for her to follow, and it was “nice to walk through each screen.” It took her less than two hours to complete, and she was altogether happy with the process.

Katie feels confident teaching her mom how to edit and update the website. As well, she now feels comfortable creating an any new websites she wants.

Image sources: Both Katie and the website layout – sarahmaxwelldvm.com.

Building Traffic with Comments

When your website is brand-new, the only traffic it gets is from either 1) referral; or 2) direct access. Normally there is a third aspect of “organic” search-engine results. But, new websites take a few weeks to even show up in any of the results.

Direct access traffic comes from individuals (friends, family, business-partners) typing your URL into their browser, and visiting directly. This traffic is 1-to-1 correlational with your word-of-mouth networking.

Referral traffic comes from your link being clicked on in the content, comments, or profile of another website or social network. This traffic is correlational with your ability to leverage social networks, write or comment on blog posts and articles.

Social Networking requires its own treatise, and writing blog articles takes a lot of work. So I’m going to talk about commenting on blog posts and articles.

Where do I start?

Most importantly, you need to find a group of blogs, forums, or news-sources that are part of your target community. It is vital for the readers of these articles to be part of your customer market rather than your business network.

Technorati Media Logo

A great resource to start looking is Technorati. This blog network sorts blogs on different topics from technology to lifestyle and health. You can see the most popular blogs, recent posts, and movers/shakers.

I recommend putting these blogs in an Excel spreadsheet, or use an RSS reader like Google Reader to aggregate all of the blogs in to one place, and return to each one when a new post arrives.

How do I comment?

At the footer of each blog post or article is usually a section where you can provide input or reflection on the daily posting. Usually the required fields are name, email address, and comment. Often there is a place where you can put your URL as well.

The trick to building traffic with blog comments is not through search engines giving you credit for a large number of comment links. This is link-building through comments, and does not give you much search-credit by itself. Most all blog software sets these links to “nofollow” telling search engines to not give comment links any credit, anyway.

The real trick is through honest commenting and engaging other readers.

What does it mean to engage?

Read the article, especially if it pertains to your product, industry, or customer-segment. You have-to care. It matters to them, so it has to matter to you.

Offer an insight, reflection, thank-you mention, or a follow-up in some way. I don’t suggest adding links to your website inside the comment, unless it is key to your comment’s subject and relevance. All it takes is a single flick of the mouse-key, if they suspect you of spamming them, and you will be banned from commenting on that highly-valuable blog immediately.

The blog author, readers of the blog, and other commenters will all see your insightful and engaging comment. And, many of them will be curious to find out what you’re about or where you write/work/produce. These audience-members will “click” on your profile/comment link.

Especially if you are consistent with your presence, people will notice. Everyone will know you like Cheers knew “Norm”.

For the Slower Days

No matter how hard you try, there will be days you simply want to kick up your shoes.

I’m all-for rest between sprints. But, here are a few motivational quotes from Lifehack Quotes to get you through the bumps.

‟ The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goals. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach. ”
Benjamin E. Mays

‟ Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment. ”
Stephen Covey

‟ Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength. ”
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Check out the quote source, if you get the chance.

Most Interesting Versus Most Wealthy

Jeff Bezos isn’t the most wealthy man in the world. But he’s highly respected for being a successful entrepreneur and businessman. He founded Amazon.com and has a net worth of $23.2 million.

Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon

He attended Princeton, worked on Wall Street after graduation, founded Amazon in 1994 and has seen the company’s meteoric rise to this day.

He’s considered entrepreneurs’ favorite billionaire.

The second man I’m going to introduce you to is fictional. He’s a character from a highly successful advertising campaign. He’s “The Most Interesting Man in the World”.

The Most Interesting Man in the World - Unconventure

According to the Wikipedia page about this character portrayed by actor Jonathan Goldsmith:

‟…he performs feats such as: freeing an angry bear from a painful-looking bear trap; shooting a pool trick shot before an Indian audience…; catching a marlin while cavorting in a Hemingway-esque scene with a beautiful, young woman; winning an arm-wrestling match in a South American setting;”

Let’s assume you’re successful with your Unconventional Venture. In one direction, you could be successful as a “Lifestyle Entrepreneur” designing and scaling your business to enhance and grow your lifestyle. In the other direction, you could be a large-scale international entrepreneur, designing and scaling your business to capture the maximum market and global influence.

My question is: which one would you rather be?

Success is inevitable. Design accordingly.

Credits: Video by Christopher Pecoraro on YouTube. Image of Jeff Bezos from Achievement.org. Image of The Most Interesting Man from KnowYourMeme.com.

Find Your Keywords

Sometimes it’s difficult to describe your business. It may be easy to describe your products or services. Sometimes it’s clear who your target customer is. But, when I ask you what keywords or keyword phrases someone would type into a search engine to find you, what do you say? (Usually, it’s like flashing a deer with my headlights.)

Go to the Google Adwords Keyword research tool. Type in your website domain (example: unconventure.com) into the input box “Website”.

Under “Advanced Options and Filters” click the “X” on your country (example: United States) to change the locations to “All”.

In the left-sidebar, under “Match Types” unselect the box “Broad” and select the box [exact].

Type in the words/characters to the search box, and select “Search.”

This will show you the keywords and keyword phrases your website is most likely to be discovered under.

You can sort the data by in a number of ways (total searches, difficulty to advertise, etc.). But what I find useful, is that it automatically sorts the keyword phrases by “Relevance”. This is based on how high quality the keyword phrase is deemed by Google to describe your website and what people are looking for.

So, if your top results – sorted by relevance – is “Garlic Health Cures”. Be aware, that although there is a much smaller number of people searching that phrase than “Natural Health Cures”, Google already finds your website more relevantly-tied to the first. You might get an easier-time with advertising, and being found for those terms.

If nothing else, it will give you a quick answer to how Google’s bot see’s your website stacking up with the highest-searched keyword terms.