The Web For Business.com Blog

Internet marketing observations, perspectives, tips and tricks for your education and enlightenment.


Sir Richard Branson's Advice is Sound - So Why are You Still Struggling?

Mark Kawabe - Friday, August 08, 2014

Richard Branson's advice on how to market your business cheaply is currently making the rounds on social media. It's great advice. My distillation:

1) Know your core values - the reason why you do what you do -  and communicate them.

2) As an entrepreneur or business owner, you should be the one driving - and be the face of - your company's marketing.

3) Use social media to engage with your customers in an authentic and fun way and listen to feedback to understand how you can do things better.

4) Enjoy what you do and share that enthusiasm.

Wonderful advice. Very inspirational. I am momentarily uplifted.

Reality Check

I would add some items to Sir Richard's list. My suggestions are:

  1. Improve your communication skills. All of them. Practice speaking in groups. Enhance your writing ability. Focus on listening and understanding. Richard Branson would not have been effective if he were not a good communicator. He was a poor student academically and has dyslexia but has a great ability to connect with people. The ability to connect with others in a variety of contexts is a must for entrepreneurs.

  2. Be creative. We are all born creative beings. Our innate creativity often becomes suppressed by our parents, peers, educational system and sadly, by our own selves. Embrace creativity and open your mind to new perspectives. When you limit your thinking, you limit your growth.

  3. Persist. We may not have the resources or the natural talent or the charisma of Sir Richard, but we can choose to persist. If you truly believe that what you're doing is reflective of your core values and you want to make your own personal dream come true, then persist.

  4. Accept that you can't (or shouldn't) do everything. Branson didn't build his business empire on his own. He has had help all along the way. His mother re-mortgaged the family home to pay for unpaid taxes and fines that Sir Richard's record company racked up in 1971. Even though Branson is a visionary, there are many other people who have contributed to his current success.

    Building a team of people you can rely on for your business is crucial to your success. Chances are you can't do everything well. Focus on what you're good at and let your team help you with the rest.

Everyone knows the path of entrepreneurship is not easy. It's a special person who chooses this path. It's great to be uplifted by the many great thinkers of our time, but when reality strikes, it's you who is going to have to put in the countless hours of work to make your dream come true.

What Level Playing Field?

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Remember those heady days when people used to announce that "the internet has leveled the playing field"? Well, it's still kind of true. The abundant existence of online tools to help entrepreneurs and smaller companies get their message out to their target audience means that there are no longer significant technology or cost barriers preventing small companies from getting bigger.

That being said, the playing field is still not a level one for several reasons.

  1. The DIY Mindset- small companies start small and most of them stay small if they make it past the first five years of life. I believe the mindset of the owners prevent them from growing their companies in a meaningful way. Many take on too many tasks that prevent them from developing their core strengths. Bookkeeping, graphic design, printing and website development are a few categories that come to mind. It reminds me of the saying "Just because you can doesn't mean you should".

  2. Budget - closely tied to point #1, small companies are loathe to spend money unless it's guaranteed to produce results. The flipside of this is that they then do things themselves, not realizing the damage they do to their brand and in the long-run, to their companies.

  3. Knowledge - There are a lot of tools available at little to no cost that companies can use to market themselves online. Many companies either don't know they exist or don't know how to use them effectively. A little bit of knowledge can go a long, long way. An example of this is with online metrics. There are many ways one can measure how effective one is being online but most companies don't even know how many people are visiting their website.

  4. Willingness to Change - Many companies do the same thing, year in and year out, getting largely the same results as they've always gotten. As long as you're happy with that, then life's wonderful. If you want to grow, you have to be open to doing things differently.

There's a lot of new-age speak about how your intention determines your outcome. I think this is a good place to start. You should intend great things for your business. What I suggest is to clearly define your intended outcome and then think about the ways you're going to achieve it. Identify internal and external roadblocks and work on eliminating or neutralizing them. Take the time to learn how to EFFECTIVELY use the tools that are available to you and start working on your plan. That will be much better than intending great things and fumbling around without a plan on how you'll achieve them.

Changing Routines

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On Sunday night we had a happy, apparently healthy cat. On Monday morning, I had to euthanize him. Over the past couple of days, it's been very apparent to my wife and kids how big a role Tiger played in our lives because as we've gone through our daily routines, we notice how much he's missing.

Routines are how humans "get through" the day. We have a routine for getting ready for work or school. Work has its own routine. We tend to do the same thing or same variations of things, day in and day out. It's comfortable to have a routine and we get stressed when they get messed up.

Sometimes changes to routines are forced on us, but I think it's valuable to examine our routines and ask why we do things the way we do them. Perhaps there are easier or more effective ways to do things. Maybe there are things we SHOULD be doing that aren't yet part of our routines.

In my opinion, most entrepreneurs don't have a routine for their marketing themselves online. I've set up blogs and websites aplenty for clients only to watch those tools gather dust. I've consulted businesses large and small on better ways to do things only to hear later they've decided to stick with what they know. There are countless ways we could make our businesses and lives better. The only thing holding us back is our lack of desire to change our routines because self-directed change takes work.

Notice I didn't say inability. If you are forced to change, you will. Craig Bowman at Road to Recovery Nutrition , Sandra Alvarez of Alvarez Fitness and Andi Miller of Embrace Fitness tell me they see this behaviour all the time. People go through a health crisis and decide they need to change their routines. They'll start eating vegetables for the first time in their lives or embark on a fitness program because the alternatives are worse. They change their routines for the betterment of their lives.

I suggest that in our businesses we have an obligation to ourselves and our clients to examine ways we can do things better. Developing and sticking to an internet marketing plan is a challenge, but if you can make it part of your routine you'll be improving the online health of your business

Waiting until change is forced upon us is how most of us operate. Those who proactively change and continually work on finding the best way to do things are more likely to be successful in their endeavours and masters of their worlds.

Thank you, Tiger for your inspiration for this article. RIP little buddy.

New Logo

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yep. There it is. Our new logo.

So, what does it really mean?

Since 1998 we were using the spiderweb-based logo. In 2009 we switched to a wordmark instead of a logo and now, we're back to a logo. Whether it works for you visually is up to you, so I will withhold judgement on it. Needless to say, I like it enough to move forward with it, and ultimately, that's really the point - moving forward.

I've been helping companies market online since September 8, 1997. The internet landscape has changed a lot. Instead of getting into Yahoo's directory in two days, it now costs $299 US a year and takes up to a week to get reviewed. Google didn't exist. The only companies using video online were porn sites (so I heard). Blogs, Facebook, MySpace and their ilk? Far off concepts back in 1997.

Despite all these changes, the fundamentals of marketing online have remained the same. There are more options now than there were 13 years ago, but the base requirement is still having something worth saying, saying it well and letting people who will care about what you're saying know you're saying it.

So the new logo displays the company name in a different way, but what we do remains the same: we help companies use online technologies to grow their business. One day I'll get that down to three or four words and make Dennis O'Neill a very happy man ; )

To my clients: as I enter my 14th year in business, I want you to know that I appreciate your support more than words can communicate.

To my friends: thank you for putting up with my stories of entrepreneurship.

To my business acquaintances: thank you for sharing the journey.

To all of you, thank you for being a part of my life. The present is a gift and the future is exciting. Let's see how we can grow together.

Moving forward.

Launch of Road to Recovery Natural Health

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, September 09, 2010

Today is the "official" launch of a new website for Craig Bowman. Craig's a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who is on a mission to guide people to better health through changes in diet and nutrition. He's a hall-of-fame weightlifter, husband, father and now, he's online.

Introducing: www.RoadToRecoveryNutrition.com

Ta da!!

Welcome online Craig!

Now, of course, the fun stuff begins. As I tell all my clients, getting online is the first step. Figuring out what to do online is where it gets interesting. We will be marketing Craig's guaranteed customized nutritional support programs throughout the GTA. In particular, Craig has developed a special cancer support program that has produced some spectacular results in some clients.

If you need some help getting your diet sorted out, give Craig a call.

On another note, the video on Craig's website marks the first collaboration between me and Merv Wrighton of UBU Video Productions. Merv's a long-time acquaintance and has gone into business to pursue his passion for making movies.  I'm sure you'll be seeing more of Merv's work on our websites in future.

New Business, No Website. Really?

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I went to a restaurant that had been open for three months for the first time today. The food was good, the place was clean and the owners were very nice people. The restaurant had a nice logo and it looked to me that their chairs were custom-made to incorporate the logo and the initials of the restaurant in the design. All in all, they had put in a lot of effort to make the place nice.

However, the one thing they didn't have was a website. I asked why and they said it was because they're still working on finalizing their menu. They also didn't have flyers with a take-out menu as that's still in flux.

I can understand not wanting to print 5000 flyers with a menu that is likely to change, but not having a website to help market the business didn't make sense to me.

At the very least a single webpage with their own domain would have given people their address and phone number and possibly directions (with a Google map) of where to find them. Cost: under $200 / year.

Phone directories are the new doorstops to many and the younger generation searches for everything online. Not being online when the costs are so low is inexcusable.

Please pass this message along to any business owner you know who doesn't have a website. I'd love to know what's keeping them offline.

Do You Know Your Sushi?

Mark Kawabe - Monday, March 22, 2010

My dad's a 2nd generation Japanese Canadian. As you might suspect about a guy with this heritage who grew up on the west coast, he knows when his fish is fresh and he knows his sushi. He reminds me that the word "sushi" means "vinegared rice". "Su" is vinegar, "shi" is rice. Pretty simple stuff.

Most restaurants that serve sushi don't have any discernable taste of rice vinegar in their rice. My dad comments that they're not really serving sushi - it looks like it, but you can taste the difference. Most people haven't a clue this is even an issue.

That's the way it seems to be for almost everything these days. We can look at something and think we know what it is - like sushi - but really, we don't have a clue whether we're getting the real deal or something that looks like it. Seeing all the happy people chowing down on sushi in the local all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants, it makes you wonder why it's important. After all, people are happy not knowing the truth, aren't they?

It's gotta be tough to be a trained sushi chef in this world of cheap sushi. These chefs spend years learning their craft. They make the honest-to-goodness product. That's great, but the average consumer doesn't know enough about their craft or the product. The all-you-can-eat sushi places are hopping while the restaurants that sell the more expensive authentic product have empty seats.

Does this sound vaguely like your market? It should. As entrepreneurs we face this dilemma every day. Somewhere, somebody is offering something similar to your product or service for less money. Your challenge is to communicate your value powerfully to the people who will actually care about what you have to offer.

No matter how well you know your sushi, if your market doesn't know what goes into real sushi you need to get to work educating them about the product. What makes your tuna roll better than the one at the all-you-can-eat place? Why does it make a difference that you use snapper instead of the cheaper tilapia? When prospective customers know why you offer more value than your competition you'll get more business. Without education your prospects can't make an informed decision.

The internet gives all businesses access to the same tools but the tools are meaningless unless you can communicate your value clearly and effectively. If you're not doing this now, you can get started right away by looking at your existing marketing and comparing it with your competition's. See how they are communicating their message and look for ways you can improve yours. Keep looking with a critical eye at your approach and over time you'll come up with ways to make your message stand out from the crowd.

Start now.