Thinking Like An Online Entrepreneur – E-Commerce Tips

So much has been written about entrepreneurial thinking that I won’t try to distil it here. However, there are certain behaviours I have noted about how some web owners approach the development and running of their e-commerce websites which deserve a little discussion.

Let me start with the most important, influencing factor to any web owner’s success: belief.

Belief

Starting your online entrepreneurial activity with the right mindset and beliefs is like winning the match before you’ve stepped out onto the court. It’s what separates the really successful businesses from the average ones.

Ask any sportsperson or sports psychologist and they’ll tell you that your beliefs profoundly affect your performance.

What we believe is possible in our online entrepreneurial life is the limiting factor in our success.

Let’s take an example. Lots of people wish they were millionaires, but of those who want to become millionaires, very few actually believe they will be millionaires. Those that do, however, stand a far greater chance of becoming what they believe. Why? Because at a conscious and subconscious level they are doing everything they can to pursue that one objective. Now I’m not suggesting that being a millionaire should be your life’s goal; I’m just using it as an example. The point is that your underlying beliefs in what you are capable of fundamentally affect the actions you take and the choices you make.

All this may seem more like some New Age incantation rather than hard-edged business-speak, but there is good reason I mention it. Owning and running an e-commerce website is not for the faint-hearted. It is complex and demanding and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Be prepared for long hours, headaches and hard work, but also be prepared for more customers, a growing bank account and a sense of achievement. Your belief that you are doing the right thing is what will see you through and keep you on course for success.

Owning an e-commerce website can be a wild ride but how you handle it is totally dictated by your mindset and your beliefs. For example, many e-commerce websites fail because their owners give up – they lose confidence, interest and commitment, especially in the early days of their website’s life. It’s easy to give up if you’re struggling or faced with outright failure. However, those who believe they will succeed don’t see failure as a setback but as a learning experience – they have the right mindset and they will do well because of it.

I’m telling you this because you know that success isn’t a set of purely mechanical step-by-step processes. (If it were, we’d all be millionaires.) Success comes from your mindset: what you believe you can achieve and the expectations you set yourself. This mindset is as important as knowing how to Search Engine optimize your e-commerce website or write compelling sales copy.

RMS Titanic Insurance Claims

It is exactly 100 years since the pride of the White Star Line, the RMS Titanic, hit an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean and sank with the loss of over 1500 lives.

The centenary has prompted many insurance companies on both sides of the Atlantic to publish documents relating to the greatest maritime loss to date in relative costs, mostly showing their company’s involvement with claims payouts.

When the Titanic sank on the 15th of April 1912, the Lutine Bell was rung at Lloyd’s of London, and a very rapid claims process was begun.

A few months earlier the ships owners, the White Star Line, had instructed insurance brokers Willis Faber and Co. to find cover for the hull, cargo, contents and personal effects of the ship. Willis Faber passed the ‘slip’ to their Lloyd’s mercantile division where it was assessed and subsequently underwritten by multiple syndicates and insurance underwriters acting on behalf of members.

The Titanic’s hull was insured for total loss for $5 million or just over one million pounds sterling at the exchange rate of the time. The policy also included total loss cover for cargo at $600,000 and contents at $400,000 a value equivalent to two hundred thousand pounds.

The original broking slip passed around Lloyd’s has been lost, but was photographed and can be seen in Wright and Fayles book of 1928 called ‘A history of Lloyd’s’. It shows that seven large insurance companies took nearly forty percent of the risk between them and the other sixty percent was underwritten by over seventy individuals and Lloyd’s ‘Names’.

According to documents recently released by Willis the marine insurance policy cost White Star £7500 or $38,000 to insure the Titanic at a rate of 15 shillings per hundred. Modern day rates for cruise liners are considerably lower.

The Ship was considerably underinsured for a value of only five-eighths of its replacement cost. This was apparently because the owners thought the hull to be unsinkable and were prepared to bear the additional $3 million dollars of risk themselves.

Willis state that despite the owners belief in the vessel being unsinkable, they had trouble placing all the hull cover at Lloyd’s and some forty thousand pounds was underwritten in Germany. There was also an extremely high excess or deductible of 15% of the insured value.

Four days after the Titanic sank the US senate held a preliminary investigation at the Waldorf Hotel in New York. The surviving officers of the ship presented their evidence to the panel describing the events of the sinking and signed what is called a ‘protest’ which enable insurance claims to be paid.

Incredibly White Star were reimbursed for the loss of the hull within seven days of the sinking, presumably minus the excess, and fully paid up on cargo and contents losses within thirty days.

They were however grossly underinsured for their liability to others given the value of the people on board. Claims against the company exceeded their cover by over $1 million and whether they had private P and I accident cover for their staff liability, remains a mystery. Suffice to say that payouts to families of lost members of the crew, were paltry.

Claims for the loss of people amounted to in excess of five times what the value of the ship was worth, for those lucky ones who happened to have had life insurance policies or had taken out travellers personal accident cover. Although no disputes about loss of life occurred, families had to wait a lot longer than White Star for compensation.

The final payout for human losses has never been fully asserted as over one hundred and fifty different life of accident insurance companies were involved in cover, on both sides of the Atlantic. American companies took the bulk of the claims, due to the many rich entrepreneurs and millionaire family members who were drowned.

The total loss is estimated to be in the region of $20 million and one of the largest payouts was by the Travelers Insurance company of Hartford who paid out a life policy for over $1 million.

The sinking of the Titanic also brought about the first and only insurance claim for a car being hit by an iceberg, by a Mr William Carter who claimed five thousand dollars for his 25 horse power Renault, lost at sea.

How Can Email Marketing Help My Business?

You simply can not have a good online marketing plan if you do not involve yourself with email marketing. Email marketing, when done correctly, will enable your business to attract new customers, keep existing ones, upsell, cross-sell and cut costs. Let's take a look at some of the specific ways that email marketing can help your business.

It Allows You To Automate Your Business

If you're running a small business, you're probably busy doing lots of different tasks. An email marketing autoresponder acts like your silent salesperson who works for you 24/7. If you have offered something for free in exchange for somebody's email address, your autoresponder can send it immediately. Or, it can instantaneously send a welcome message as soon as someone joins your email list. It would be impossible to do this manually.

An autoresponder allows you to automate your email messages to your customers, leads and prospects. This means that messages that are educational, standard (like thank you messages) and more are created once and sent to each person when appropriate.

You Can Provide Value To Your Subscribers

When you use email to contact people who have signed up to receive your messages, you can reach out to them 24/7. This means that you can provide serious value to your customers' lives by sending them information that solves their problems or makes their lives easier. The more value you provide, the more likely they are to want to buy from you.

You Can Get To Know Your Audience Better

The best thing you can do for your business is to understand your audience backwards and forwards. The more you know who you're crafting emails for, the better you can word everything to get the response you want. Your email marketing autoresponder software will provide you with information on who opens your messages and who clicks the links.

Your Email List Is Your Greatest Asset

As you build your list of email addresses, it becomes your greatest asset. These subscribers are the people who have bought from you or have expressed an interest in your business. You need to develop a relationship with the people on your list and regularly provide them with value. This way they will see you as an authority in your niche. From the emails you send out to them, they will start to know, like and trust you and then be more inclined to buy from you.

Successful Investing – Helping Investors Avoid Common Investment Mistakes

The Top Mistakes made by Investors

In my dozen plus years of advising individuals and businesses I have found a number of common mistakes that have derailed even the best laid financial plans. I thought by sharing them I might be able to help others sidestep the pitfalls and the negative impact they can have on your portfolio and long-term financial plans.

1. Failing to establish a time horizon and investing accordingly -

If you have expenses that need to be funded in 3 years or less, you should not be investing the cash for them in the stock market or other risky investments. These monies should be carved out of your investment portfolio (the money earmarked for long-term investing) and invested appropriately in liquid assets such as money market funds or term-certain fixed income offerings. If the money is not going to be needed for 3 years or more, an investment plan should be established based upon specific a time horizon and risk tolerance for these funds.

2. Failing to thoroughly diversify your portfolio -

Many investors know about the concept of diversification and think that by owning different investments, they are diversified. Diversification of an investment portfolio makes good sense on an intuitive level. However, it wasn’t until Harry Markowitz published his model of portfolio selection that this concept became a formalized part of sound investment practice and formed the basis of today’s Modern Portfolio Theory. Beyond this basic concept of diversification, the key to Markowitz’s premise is the revelation that the risk of any investment can be reduced and/or performance increased by forming a portfolio of diverse and non-correlated assets. That is, it is important not just to seek a diversity of asset types, but also to seek assets that have low or near-zero correlations to one another. It’s not about owning different investments; it’s about owning different, non-correlated investments.

3. Letting potential tax implications rule your investment decisions –

Many investors delay selling an investment that has done well regardless of how good or bad the future looks for the holding. Their response is, “I will have to pay taxes if I sell.” By not selling, they set themselves up for not having to pay taxes at all – usually because the investment starts on a decline and their concern switches from “having to pay taxes” to one of “hoping for a turnaround.” Don’t be afraid to take some profits off the table. While taxes are an unpleasant result of investing, I prefer to look at them as a positive sign as it indicates you are making money and your investment plan is working.

4. Buying a stock based upon a “hot tip” -

Too many investors listen to a friend’s advice because he or she always seems to have the next “great” money making idea. They don’t take the time to assess the idea personally and jump in because it’s only a few thousand dollars they are investing. Unfortunately this is not investing – it’s gambling. If you want to gamble, go to Vegas and at least get free drinks, dinner, a show and a room for the risks you are taking. Any investment that is being considered for your portfolio should be thoroughly researched and have passed a comprehensive financial screening scrutiny.

5. Attempting to time the market -

Waiting an extra day, week, or month to try and buy in at the “right price” just doesn’t work. No one can predict the future. If they could they most likely wouldn’t be sharing this knowledge with you for free. Successful investors use time, patience and a disciplined approach to increase the likelihood of maximizing their investment returns – not trying to time the market. If you have done the research and the investment is sound and meets your criteria then buy it, regardless of timing.

6. Failing to regularly reevaluate your investments -

Over time all investment styles, strategies and types fall out of favor. So, like timing the market, it becomes virtually impossible to know what is going to be “hot” in the next bull market and what isn’t. For this reason it is always prudent to stay up-to-date on your investments to insure they are still the same investment that you originally purchased (segment drift and manager changes can be one reason they may have changed). If your investments consist solely of mutual funds then an annual review is a good place to start.

7. Basing investment decisions on emotion -

Maybe the stock market is going through a bad time because of a short-term geo-political or economic event. Stay calm and make an educated, well thought out decisions about what, if anything, to do. Assess whether the event will affect the economy long-term or if it’s just a short-term blip. The best move is often no move at all. If it is a short term incident, many times the smart, prudent investor will make additional investments because the current decline provides them with an excellent buying opportunity. The key to successful investing is to have a disciplined strategy and to stick with it.

8. Cashing out gains and dividends rather than reinvesting -

Once you’ve realized gains or had distributions and dividends paid out, insure they are reinvested back into your portfolio. If you pull out your capital gains, dividends and interest, your money won’t compound as quickly, thereby leaving you with a smaller chunk of change down the line. Letting your investments compound is one of the major tenets of successful investing.

9. Owning too much employer stock -

Many people get over-weighted in employer stock because of options and stock purchase plans made available in today’s competitive compensation packages. While these are great supplements to their annual salary they can put an employee in a position of having too much money invested in their employer’s stock. Additionally, it is quite common for people to invest in “what they know” and what do you know better than the company you work for? To compound the problem many people will add more employer stock to their 401k holdings and individual brokerage accounts. Not only does this create a diversification problem in their portfolio but it also subjects them to excessive single stock risk. A good rule of thumb to follow is to insure that no more than 5-10% of your entire investment portfolio is in any one single stock. If you find yourself in this situation the importance of creating a well thought out reduction strategy cannot be overstated.

10. Following the herd -

The most successful of all investors are moving in the opposite direction of what everyone else is doing. They buy when most are selling and sell when everyone else is buying. By following this simple plan you can preserve your capital and potentially sidestep the next bubble (can anyone remember real estate, internet stocks, and technology growth funds?).

11. Not investing at all –

Somehow in today’s society that Mocha Cappuccino Latte seems to take precedence over saving for the long-term. We are a society who wishes to satisfy the “here and now” rather than the securing our future. The important fact here is that those two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, BALANCE is the key in any long-term endeavor, but by always keeping an eye on the end goal you can make sure it is not out of mind while satiating the here and now.

12. Investing without a plan -

Investing without a plan and lacking the discipline to follow it is a sure way to lower your chances of success. The chances of obtaining any long term goal can be greatly enhanced by creating a strategy, following it and regularly reviewing it frequently enough so it reflects any changes that have taken place since implementation. Many investors start off with a small amount of money and start putting it to work without a plan. As time progresses they find they have a mish-mash of investments in their portfolio with no clear strategy or direction. It’s never too early to invest but it’s even better to invest early with a plan.

13. Taking too little risk -

Some people don’t want to take any risk and cannot stand the volatility involved with risky investments. While it may seem like you are keeping your money safe and secure by not taking risk, it is more than likely you are not because of inflation. If your time horizon is greater than 5 years it is recommended that you have no less than 25-30% in growth investments (i.e. stocks) in your portfolio to ward off the effects of inflation. The actual percentage to own is dependent upon many factors including but not limited to age, time horizon before money is needed, current financial situation, etc. A good general rule of thumb to use as a starting point for the percentage of equity you may include in your portfolio is “120 – your age.”