It is clear from looking at some comparison website forums that there are staunch supporters of comparison websites, just as there are people who seem to have the time and the inclination to swap their insurances, their utility suppliers, their phone packages, and anything else that can be swapped with the aim of always having the cheapest deal. Utility Warehouse do not claim to always have the cheapest deal.
But is there really a 'one stop fits all' kind of shopping? If so, why do we need around 40 comparison sites to find the right product? Are we really so naive as a nation that we will only go for the cheapest headline rate, regardless of the product behind it? According to the article "The British Insurance Brokers' Association, which has campaigned on behalf of its high street members against what it called "the worst offenders", said the latest problem centred on car insurance quotes that appear cheaper as they include an excess that can be as high as £500. Customers usually opt for just a £100 or £200 excess, which pushes up the price of a policy"
So why choose Utility Warehouse if they're not going to promise you the cheapest deal or advertise their products on tv. It must be a scam, right?
Wrong. The OFT report on comparison websites won't be published until next year, but Utility Warehouse is a Top 250 company that has already won a raft of 'best buy' awards for its utility, broadband & phone products as well as it's UK based customer service. By not advertising, and not paying commission to comparison websites, Utility Warehouse can help to keep costs low by selling through a team of independent distributors.
But it doesn't stop there. Because Utility Warehouse can also produces everything on one bill, a 5% cashback card, internet telephone, business services, free calls, a community fundraiser option and a triple value guarantee.
Not the absolute cheapest deal for every minute of the year? No, and it doesn't pretend to be. Are you tied in to lengthy contracts to get the best deals? No. Everyone gets the same deal - it's not a 'new customers only' sort of company. A good all-round product base with award-winning customer service? Certainly. And if the growing band of consumers signing up to the Utility Warehouse brand is anything to go by, they're getting something right, even if they don't subscribe to comparison websites.
Be prepared to work hard. As a complete beginner, I found it harder than I expected. There are currently four courses that you can take, either by attending face-to-face tutorials, or online tutorials, leading to a Diploma in Spanish.
For the complete beginner, start with 'Portales'. Using the theme of a journey, the course takes you through a wide range of practical situations such as travelling, shopping, working and eating out in Spain, Chile and other Spanish-speaking countries. There are six tutor-marked assignments, and an end of course assessment.
Next is the Intermediate Spanish course 'En Rumbo' - It builds on your existing Spanish and teaches more advanced language in the context of Spanish and Latin American society and culture. There are four tutor-marked assignments and an end of course assessment.
Following on from this is the upper intermediate course 'Viento en Popa' - The first course in the 'Diploma in Spanish', it will continue to develop practical language skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing. By studying a variety of authentic audio, video and printed materials from Spain and Latin America, you will learn how to communicate in situations ranging from everyday conversation to putting forward your point of view in a debate. You will also have the opportunity to work on grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary acquisition. The course has a compulsory residential visit to Spain where you will have the opportunity to practice and learn more of the language in a learning environment with visits to local places of interest. There are six tutor-marked assignments and a two-part examination; spoken and written.
Finally, there is the course 'A Buen Puerto' - fast forward in Spanish. This course continues to extend the practical skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing and aims to develop critical and analytical skills. It is structured around seven themes, which give a broad introduction to different aspects of society and culture in Spain and Latin America: cultural diversity, art, society, languages in contact, science and technology, trade and employment and the environment. They are quite in-depth and require commitment on the part of the student. There are nine tutor-marked assignments and a two-part examination; spoken and written.
So you can see that to take an Open University Spanish language course will take some dedication and, whilst it goes way beyond the basics, it's aim is to give the student a wider understanding of latin-american culture and heritage.
These are not easy courses for the complete beginner to undertake, but they are hugely satisfying in terms of beginning to understand and appreciate the heritage and diversity of another country.
For more information about studying Spanish, visit the Open University website at http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/languages/spanish/index.htm
But you also have the opportunity to earn an income from your utility warehouse business. But, like most home based network marketing businesses, your success or failure will be determined by how many customers you can generate, and how many new distributors you can bring into your team. For this, you will need a constant stream of leads. Here are two ideas using the internet that you can use in addition to the face-to-face marketing and other network marketing methods that you will practice every day to generate leads.
First, google 'homeworking forums UK' - choose two or three forums, create your profile making sure to include your utility warehouse site address details, and contribute to the forums. This is a good way to market yourself rather than your business. Be careful not to advertise in your posts; simply by giving good advice and information within the forums you will be positioning yourself as an expert. Over time, as people learn to trust you, they will check out your profile. After all, people are more inclined to do business with someone that they trust.
Secondly, write articles. This is not as hard as it sounds and you don't need any experience. If you read a few articles from different sites, you will soon pick out the ones that are interesting and give value. Follow the same style. Write about something that you know and give out information within your article. The principle is the same as contributing to forums - you have an opportunity to create a resource box or profile and it is here that you link to your utility warehouse site or opportunity page.
As you might imagine, using forums and creating articles is not a quick way to build your business. But they are free resources and, over time, you will build your credibility as a serious business person. As an entrepreneur you should be open to trying any method of lead generation so that you can pass on your most successful tips to other members of your team, because creating successful distributors within your team is the fastest way of growing your utility warehouse business.
If you are considering running a business from home that requires outside finance, then you will definitely need some sort of business plan, and the more comprehensive it is, the better your chance of success.
If you are going to have very little expenditure and few overheads, then your business plan need only be of a more personal kind that will allow you to keep track of your projected and actual daily activity, sales targets, marketing costs etc. Let's look at the difference between the two.
1. Using a business plan to secure finance - regardless of the kind of business you have in mind, this kind of plan ideally needs to follow a specific format and, unless you are an experienced business person, you may be well advised to take expert advice.
Alternatively you can purchase software that will allow you to tailor the plan to your specific sector. Google "Business Plans Academy" to find business-plans.co.uk for samples of templates for a variety of businesses, from child care to the hotel industry. Each one includes sections such as Executive summary, Description of Business, Product Summary, Business strategy, Financial Summary, Market Research, Market Trends, External Research, Market Estimates, Management Team, Business Location, Business Organisation, SWOT Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Customer Segments , Customer Demographics, Sales Strategy, Pricing Strategy, Marketing Plan, Advertising Plan , Objectives & Plans, Resource Allocation, Budget Allocation, Startup Budget, Forecast Profit & Loss Account, Forecast Balance Sheet, Forecast Cashflow, Sales & Profit Forecasts, Sales Charts & Graphs.
This, and similar, software can be purchased relatively inexpensively and will give you a professional-looking document.
2. Using a business plan to develop and maintain targets - Since you're not looking for finance this can be much simpler, but no less important. Statistics show that people who create and follow a business plan have a better chance of success. For the home based business entrepreneur it can be difficult getting into the habit of following a structured plan, but necessary.
Simply by looking at the elements of the full business plan, it is easy to see which sections will be important to the home based business, but it can be broken down into the following fields:
- know your product & prices
- know your market area
- know your competition
- know how to get help or training
- create daily/weekly/monthly 'to do' lists
- decide whether and where to advertise and compile costs
- set realistic goals and targets
Finally, a home based business is no different to a bricks & mortar business. It needs commitment and hard work to make it successful. Ask any small business owner how many hours they needed to put into their business when they first set up, and you might be overwhelmed by the answer.
Ask them if they would trade being their own boss to work for someone else, despite the hours, the headaches, the business planning, and everything else to boot, and in most cases you'll get a resounding NO!
Take the objection "I'm not sure I would be interested" How do we respond to this?
Well, consider that you've just had a conversation with your prospect. You've discussed what kind of work he/she does and they're shared with you a 'reason why' they want or need more money. Then say:
You know, from what you've just been saying about [their reason why], I feel that you can't really affort NOT to have a look at this. If you'll agree to keep an open mind, I'll give you some information that you can carefully review, then we can see if it will work for you.
Always keep in mind that you're only trying to help. You're not a pushy sales person. If this prospect comes on board you'll be spending a lot of time and effort helping him or her grow their business. If they don't come on board willingly and with enthusiasm then you're wasting your own time.
Called the Trump Network, it is set to lauch autumn 2009 and is designed to make people healthier with customised vitamins, whilst at the same time encouraging people to become entrepreneurs.
So what is it about network marketing that has caused such a well known and influential businessman to put the whole weight of his brand name behind it? Is it strong enough to overcome the perception by many that network marketing is just a pyramid or ponzi scam?
The simple truth is that genuine network marketing opportunities are not scams, but in our world of media hype, we see what we want to see, and believe what we want to believe, often without ever digging deep enough to get at the truth. For instance, how many believe that we need to drink eight glasses of water a day, despite there being no scientific evidence to support it? There is nothing wrong with drinking water, and no doubt it's good for you, but why eight glasses?
According to Donald Trump, "During hard times, people with an entrepreneurial spirit flock to network marketing opportunities." Certainly, people are looking more and more for ways to become financially independent and, as job losses, wage cuts and reduced working hours takes hold in an uncertain economy, there is nothing wrong with diversifying. Traditionally, as businesses fail during economic meltdown, new businesses take their place.
Donald Trump is placing his considerable expertise and marketing knowledge behind his new network marketing venture. It will be seen by many as a positive 'thumbs-up' for the industry that gives people an opportunity to earn a residual income; something that most bricks & mortar businesses fail to do. An industry that will allow people the opportunity to earn as little, or as much, as they want or need, provided that are willing to invest in themselves and their business.
Because no-one should assume that, just because an industry has the support of a business magnate such as Donald Trump, it will make them rich. As his co-author on the book "why we want you to be rich", Robert Kiyosaki says: "you need to ask yourself, "Do I have what it takes? Am I willing to go beyond my comfort zones? Am I willing to be led and willing to learn to lead? Is there a very rich person inside me, ready to come out?" If the answer is yes, start looking for a network marketing business that has a great training program - one that emphasizes education and personal growth."
Simply, self development is a means of continually evolving and updating one's learning and development. But is it necessary, and why can't we simply start up a business and get on with it?
Well, we can of course, but we'd better be prepared to be overtaken along the way. Because self-development is as important, if not more, than upgrading and beautifying the workplace from time to time if we are to be regarded as marketing experts in our chosen field.
So how do we go about it without spending loads of money on self-help, development and marketing courses? There are lots of ways, but the most important of all is quite simple... Take Action. Because by taking action, you are doing something, and something is always better than nothing!
The internet is a powerful self-development tool, because information is at our fingertips for free. Spend time every day reading articles that will help you develop your leadership skills, time management skills, financial skills, negotiation and marketing strategies. Learn how to set your own goals and work towards achieving those goals. Learn how to temper your creativity with sound business skills.
For the marketing entrepreneur, learn how to speak to customers, how to recognise buying signals and overcome objections. If your business is network marketing, make sure that you keep abreast of your product line and any changes. Attend as many training courses and events as possible. Align yourself with successful people and learn their methods.
Buy, read and re-read self-development and marketing books, google u-tube and watch videos, listen to cd's, watch dvd's. Constantly update and evolve yourself. Learn how to write yourself a business plan and follow it.
There are clearly many ways to improve skills and mindset, and to be a successful marketing entrepreneur then self-development is critical.
Or, as the inspiring Zig Ziglar says "Obviously, there is little you can learn from doing nothing"
In fact, the survey found that more than a third of the working mums said that they would give up work to look after their children if they could afford to do so, and 58 percent said that they would like to work fewer hours.
http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/answer.py?answer=97703 where you can also create your profile.
Whilst there are also many paid-for ways to advertise your business, all the above are free to register, so why not take advantage of these UK specific tools, and give your new UK home based business a head start?