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The five key growth drivers

If there was a guaranteed formula for fast growth, more companies would be achieving the same kind of stratospheric revenue increases as Mobile Interactive Group (MIG). And somebody would be getting very rich selling it. Nevertheless, entrepreneurs can help their companies develop quickly by simultaneously harnessing five key growth drivers.

The first key growth driver is strategy. Every fast-growing business starts with an idea, which turns into the business plan. The strategy might revolve around bringing a new product to market, or be based on an existing product or service applied or delivered in a new way. Accelerated growth can be driven by developing more new products, and/or expanding into new markets.

Alongside strategy, people and operations represent another key growth driver. Companies that grow fast often have a key individual driving them forward – the person with the initial vision, energy and determination to step out along the entrepreneurial road. However, growing a business fast relies on teamwork. Entrepreneurs need to draw around them a group of individuals who they can trust, who share the same dreams and apply the same values when trying to bring that dream alive. On the operations side, a growing business needs to develop an appropriate infrastructure and keep adjusting that infrastructure as the business grows. This involves IT systems, processes, even basic office space. If you are growing fast, will you have enough room for your expanded team in six months’ time? And as the business grows, new operational systems may need to be developed to maintain efficiency.

Clearly no business can grow fast without the right funding, and so capital is another key growth driver. Finding the right form of financial backing, and at the right time, is critical. That’s not to say that high growth can only be achieved with large amounts of funding, or that high funding levels will automatically result in fast growth.

Transactions are also important for driving growth. These could include alliances in the form of strong supplier relationships. In addition, as the business grows, mergers and acquisitions may offer the potential to achieve a step change in growth, or facilitate entry into a new geographical market or a complementary service area.

Last but not least among the five growth drivers comes risk and reporting. As the business grows, so it is essential to establish controls to manage the inevitable risks that accompany rapid business development. The reporting element is also important for growing companies, both internally and externally. Management teams need to communicate clearly between themselves, to understand business performance and delivery against future targets. Similarly, the company needs to report effectively to external investors and other stakeholders to maintain their ongoing confidence and support.

Managing all five growth drivers can be a complex challenge. As the business grows, so new approaches may be required in each area – a different form of capital injection, a new type of staff reward structure, an improved financial reporting system. The entrepreneurs who understand and leverage the growth drivers are likely to be leading the fastest-growing, most successful businesses.

by Ronnie Bowker, an audit partner in Ernst & Young’s Birmingham office.

Key differences between a strategic plan and a business plan.

You’ll want to create a Business Plan when you are looking to:

  • Start a new company
  • Organize their thoughts
  • Judge the viability of your business idea
  • Identify your general business strategy
  • Understand potential financial results
  • Present to bank or investor for financing

And you’ll want to create a Strategic Plan in order to:

  • Grow an existing business
  • Identify the best opportunities for growth
  • Determine and prioritize your financial and HR needs
  • Effectively communicate your plan to your team
  • Provide a detailed and focused game plan

As you can imagine, strategic plans are reserved for entrepreneurs who are serious about growing their companies.
And strategic plans are the single biggest factor that separates average entrepreneurs from super-successful entrepreneurs.

Strategic Plan

A great strategic plan, the kind that works big time, is one that eliminates all “strategy execution gaps” so that achieving the desired results is straightforward. It usually 13 sections:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Elevator Pitch
  3. Company Mission Statement
  4. SWOT Analysis
  5. Goals
  6. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  7. Target Customers
  8. Industry Analysis
  9. Competitive Analysis & Advantage
  10. Marketing Plan
  11. Team
  12. Operations Plan
  13. Financial Projections

5 Key Sections

Elevator Pitch.

As you may know, an elevator pitch is a brief description of your company that you could tell to a stranger in the time that it takes for you to ride an elevator from the ground to the top floor of a building. This is an important part of a strategic plan because if both your employees and your customers can’t concisely explain your business to others, then you’ll lose out on tons of new customers. If you think about it, for all great companies, like Fedex, or eBay, or Google, pretty much anyone can quickly and easily explain what they do to someone else.

SWOT Analysis.

As you may know, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is a critical exercise in growing your company. Clearly, you want to make sure you identify the best opportunities available to grow your company, and choose to go after the ones that best leverage your company’s strengths. Doing so, dramatically increases your success. Likewise you need to make sure you identify weaknesses you need to improve, and minimize the impact of or remove potential threats.

Key Performance Indicators or KPIs.

Setting KPIs and viewing them frequently in what we call a “financial dashboard” is one of the hallmarks of successful companies. So what are KPIs? KPIs are the metrics that judge your business’ performance based on the success you would like to achieve. While setting KPIs allows you to identify and measure the performance metrics that your company needs to achieve, which puts you in a much better position to achieve them.

Operations Plan.

This is another area where most entrepreneurs and companies break down. Because even if you come up with good ideas and opportunities for growth, if you don’t have an action plan for executing on them, they’ll never materialize. Your operations plan should transform your opportunities into reality by mapping out the timeline and game plan for completing all projects. Among other things, the operations plan identifies the smaller projects that comprise the big opportunities, and details how these projects will be completed.

Financial Projections.

Your Financial Projections show the revenues, profits and expenses that will result from executing on your strategic plan. They show what the results of going after different opportunities will be, to make sure you choose the right ones. They show you the financial resources that are required to execute on your strategic plan. And they allow you to judge and improve your performance as you embark on your plan.

So there you have it.those are key tips about some of the strategic plan sections that allow companies like yours to dramatically grow.

by growthink.com/

Labuan: Asia’s near-secret haven for an offshore corporation

Labuan is the “secret weapon” of Asian companies like AirAsia that want the benefits of a tax haven with the perks of a legitimate offshore corporation.

Reporting from: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I’m sitting at the Kuala Lumpur Airport Low Cost Carrier Terminal, and directly in my view out onto the tarmac is the Air Asia jet that will take me the 50 minutes or so to Singapore.

It’s not the first class travel I’m used to, but for $11 plus a few taxes, it was a hard deal to pass up. Even on my way to the gate, I checked the ticket kiosk for tomorrow’s departures — still just $11 one-way, a rarity for low cost carriers.

What most of my fellow passengers probably don’t know is Air Asia’s secret to maintaining such low fares.

On the other half of Malaysia lies an obscure offshore financial center that has quietly been attracting a small following of businesses since establishing itself 23 years ago. The autonomous region of Labuan is Asia’s well-kept secret and is home to several thousand international corporations, including Malaysia’s Air Asia.

Malaysia’s Offshore Jurisdiction

Labuan is an interesting place. As an autonomous region of Malaysia, it is given wide latitude to govern its own affairs. Yet it is also part of Malaysia, which allows it to avail itself of a number of benefits of Malaysian sovereignty. Those benefits include tax benefits for foreigners.

Back in the 1980s, Malaysian leaders got together looking for ways to attract businesses seeking economic freedom. Hong Kong was the 800-pound gorilla in the Asian offshore sector at the time, and Malaysians wanted in on the game. So they declared Labuan, a small island off the coast of Borneo near Brunei, as the latest offshore jurisdiction.

The idea was simple: offer low and no-tax corporate structures for Asian and foreign businesses and attract investment to the region.

Thanks to Hong Kong’s continued economic freedom under Chinese rule, as well as other jurisdictions like Singapore, Labuan has remained largely under the radar. Yet, it has become more popular with some Asian businesses. And its connection with Malaysia makes it an interesting proposition to consider.

How to set up an offshore corporation in Labuan

Setting up a company in Labuan is straightforward. You can do so with only one director and one shareholder; foreigners qualify to be both. Your offshore company can be incorporated in just a couple of days.

For example, Labuan has full access to the sovereignty of Malaysia. That includes access to Malaysia’s nearly seventy dual taxation agreements with other countries. A foreigner using a Labuan company can therefore elect to be taxed in Malaysia rather than at home using the tax treaty.

And tax rates in Labuan are low. Holding companies — those that hold fixed assets or collect dividends, royalties, or other passive incomes — are free from tax on all earnings sourced outside of Malaysia. Whatever you earn is yours to keep, and there are no other superfluous taxes or fees.

For businesses that trade with the public (i.e. an internet business or an airline), there are two options: your company can elect to be taxed at either a flat rate of 3% or to pay an annual tax of 20,000 Malaysian ringgit (around US $6,600). That’s all. Unlike countries like the United States where you can make a one-time election which you’re then stuck with, Labuan allows companies to elect the best option for them in each tax year.

Have a new internet business that only generated $10,000 it’s first year? Choose the 3% tax rate and pay $300. Have a booming operation bringing in millions? Choose the flat tax payment of $6,600 and keep the rest.

Like any other offshore jurisdiction, the government does require you to pay an annual fee of around $750. It’s more expensive than a place like Seychelles, but it comes with a better image. The government also requires you to file an annual report with a statement of your accounts. This puts Labuan in line with other stable offshore centers like Hong Kong which require a bit of extra reporting. If you’re looking for something more than just a boiler plate locale, this can work to your advantage and may be worth the extra expense.

How does Labuan compare to other offshore jurisdictions?

Unlike places in the Caribbean where many banks could raise some cause for concern, Labuan is home to a long list of familiar banks, from DBS to Bank of America and JP Morgan to BNP Paribas. It’s a serious financial center, as opposed to some others where hack lawyers quickly churn out corporate paperwork like a mill and charge for introductions to questionable banks.

The good news is that anyone can come to Labuan and open an account. It’s more open even than Hong Kong, where banks often play coy about opening a bank account with them.

Also, because Labuan is part of Malaysia, you’ll enjoy being at the confluence of Asian and Islamic culture. Kuala Lumpur has declared its interest in becoming the world’s Islamic finance capital, and having access to these two spheres of influence can be very helpful.

Despite the Islamic influence in Malaysia, Labuan mostly uses common law, and non-Muslims are not subject to any Islamic finance dictates. The only real restriction is that you can’t settle transactions in ringgit.

In addition to companies like Air Asia, many wealthy Asians — especially Chinese — have begun to learn more about Labuan as another option for conducting business overseas. If you’re looking for an offshore company with a bit more flexibility than some of the banana republic jurisdictions, it might be one worth considering.

by Andrew Henderson (http://nomadcapitalist.com/)

How to Successfully get Project Funding?

Project funding is an important part of many industries and businesses, from the transportation industry to sports stadiums to business acquisitions. Getting the project funding needed is often the biggest hurdle one faces when trying to get a project underway. Residential development from apartment complexes to condominiums and commercial developments from golf courses to hospital and medical facilities all need funding to get built and operating. Project funding is a tricky area with much competition. No matter what type of project funding one needs there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other people looking for the same funding from the same sources. That is why understanding the basics of project funding and how to get it is important.

The first and most important thing for a person to do when trying to get project funding is to develop a plan. Throughout the process of obtaining project funding a person will find that they will have to explain over and over about the plan they have. The people or organizations providing the funding want to know that the money will go to good use. They want to be assured the project will be successful and is realistic. A plan tells them exactly what they want to hear. The plan should include information about the need for the project, the goals, timeline, budget, future issues and how they will be handled, all materials and equipment that will be needed and other pertinent information that will help to clearly define the project. It is important to show with the plan how seriously the project is being taken and that it will succeed.

Once the person has a plan they can begin looking for project funding. It is best to start with groups or lenders that match well with the project. For example, a lender that is focused on expanding growth of the cities entertainment and recreation will most likely to accept projects like shopping malls and casinos rather than something like office buildings. It is important to contact the lender to ensure the project fits with their organization.

Applying for project funding is a matter of following the process. There will be plenty of paperwork and a lot of explanations. A well prepared person will find the process easier than one who has not prepared. If possible a person should read other project funding proposals to get an idea of how they should write theirs. They should be prepared to prove why their project deserves the finding over someone else and how their project is different. It is also important to have statistics and studies ready to provide to the lender and to show proof to back up any statement made. A prepared person is most likely to get project funding because they will prove they are serious about the project and will not waste funding.

Project funding is a hard business. Getting the money needed to fund a project is not cut and dry. It can take a long time for someone to secure the project funding they need. The best way to make the process quicker and smoother is to have a plan and be prepared. Project funding can open new opportunities and help to make communities better places, but when a person attempts to secure funding without a plan or being prepared they will likely never see their project funding come through.

The 50 Best Marketing Strategies for Small Business

Social Media Marketing Strategies
Social media is about connecting with the people in your niche: customers, potential customers, people who are interested in what you do, or who share similar interests and circles or hubs with you. It’s about building relationships and networking, not selling, although that does come as a result.

Get Out of The Store
Business owners with a brick and mortar store need to reach out to a bigger audience online. Social media isn’t new. People have always gathered to talk about business, life and community events. Social media is about doing that online. Establishing a presence on the Internet even if you have a physical store, is critical. Create an interactive, regularly updated site or blog, or by build informative yet informal profiles on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Being active on social media sites will not only increase brand awareness, it’ll also boost your company’s rank on search engines, and prove that you’re a business that is in sync with the times.

Share Your Expertise Freely
Let the public know what you’re an expert at and use that to boost your credibility and value. Publish tips, share your expertise through public speaking, even try pitching the media… make it super easy for people to associate you and your business with excellence and expertise in your field.

Many communities now have online forums/bulletin boards that offer varying levels of paid memberships. Purchase a membership that allows you to advertise your business and USE IT. Every time you post with your business ID, your business name (and web page link) you’re putting yourself out there in front of potential customers. Just remember not to get caught up in community drama as every post represents you and your business!

Not all exposure is online. Make yourself the expert in your field in your local community as well. Volunteer to teach seminars through your local Chamber of Commerce about your area of expertise. Your business will receive promotion through the event itself, as well as through all marketing for the event.

Never Stop Growing Your Network
Expand your network of contacts and potential clients. Ask your best, most powerful, most influential friends or business associates to introduce you to the five people they think you should meet to expand your business. Take each of the contacts out for coffee and get to know them. Discuss your plans and future goals, tell them about why your business is special and ask for their advice. You will be amazed at how these new contacts will pay off ten-fold with recommendations to you for new business and innovative ideas you hadn’t thought of.

Twitter Giveaways
Give away your product or promotional item on Twitter. Ask a question about a product on your website or blog. The first person to answer wins. When you send the item write, “Retweet upon receipt,” to be entered in a second contest.

Network Your Networks
Network with friends who then network with their friends. There’s power in numbers. Don’t spam of course, but utilize your network to get the word out to your people who know people who know people. Someone ultimately knows someone that can help you out…and believe it or not…will want to. When networking, do NOT focus on getting a referral or lead. Instead, focus on helping others. If you help them first (by adding value to their life/business), they’ll help you later.

Maintain Relationships With Clients
The difference between a successful company and a mediocre one often boils down to an owner’s commitment to building (and sustaining) relationships with clients and prospects. While it’s important to keep up traditional communication and PR, business owners should also be extending their relationships through online forums – website, blogs, and social networks. Conversations are happening all around you – are you listening, are you participating? Are you a thought leader? Be visible!

Listen. Tweet. Listen. Listen Again.
Identify your ideal clients and find them on Twitter. Then start following them! Spend weeks listening to them; you’ll be amazed what they will tell you about their concerns, their ideal products, their current frustrations with their vendors. It’s a great way to get open honest market research.

Get a Twitter account in your business name. Post links to your articles educating people in your niche market. At the bottom of the article have links to your products & services. Also offer discount coupon codes to twitter members. This has worked very well for me.

Leverage Linked-In
Join as many Linked-In groups as you can that are related to what you sell and post a question or tip on a regular basis. If you have a blog or e-newsletter, post an announcement to your Linked-In groups with a link whenever you release a new issue or blog posting. It’s free, you’ll be recognized as a leader, and you’ll reach thousands of business people interested in your field.

Facebook It!
Your Facebook friends can be your greatest free marketing tools so enlist their help! In Facebook, use the NOTES application to create a special, limited-time “friends and family” promotion (i.e.: enter “facebook09″ at checkout to receive 10% off), tag all your friends and ask them to pass along your exclusive deal to their own friends. A great offer goes a long way quickly…especially through our favorite social networking sites!

Tweet It!
Twitter is a great place to share photos (TwitPic), host contests, shout out to loyal customers, have scavenger hunts, and promote events. Think of ways you can incorporate Twitter into your promotions in a fun, engaging way. Thank loyal customers, retweet their tweets, and even host fundraisers. All the cool kids are doing it. Why shouldn’t you?

Traditional Marketing Strategies

Blog Tour
Blog tours are like book tours, but without all the flying and cheap hotels and fast food temptations. They’re a great way to get seen and discovered outside your usual niche, all from the comfort of your own office, or home. Simply contact bloggers at any specific blog sites that fit your product and ship out a t-shirt, book or other product you offer and then also ask them to do a contest with their viewers. Point your readers to each blog site that reviews your product.

Readers at the blog tour site are told to go to your site to sign up for a free sample, or chance to win a free sample, as well. By having contest entrants choose among several products you get them familiar with your other products and get their email address too!

Inspire Customers To Call You
Do something really different. Send a monthly postcard instead of a hard copy newsletter. Self-printed cost is $0.46 ea. including the stamp. Make it fun and colorful with a strong “Call to Action” title, like: “100 reasons to call us. List 10-to-20 reasons, including your skills, talents, and tasks. Give customers a coupon for a discount, or a free doughnut, or something fun to inspire them to call.

HARO Gift Bags
Each Friday in the second edition of Help A Reporter Out (HARO) there are Gift Bag Requests. Look for decision makers with events that are a match for your product or service. Good fits mean quality networking opportunities. Make sure your gift bag offering has your website address, business card and additional offers that inspire recipients to follow up or at least check you out. For instance, if you’re giving away t-shirts, include a list of celebrities who also wear the shirt they’re getting.

Be Generous
To keep customers loyal to you, instead of a frequent buyer program, send your customers small “surprise” gifts. Customers come to expect rewards when they are members of a program. Surprises always work to instill loyalty and retention.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that promotional items are only for conferences and tradeshows. When given out with (or in place of) a business card at a lunch, a meeting or in passing, small promotional items become a gift. People expect free stuff at conferences, they don’t expect gifts. Keep a small, branded (and useful) item with you. You can be sure they’ll remember you. They don’t have to be expensive. Tip calculator cards, tea bags, pens and pads, small flashlights or things very target specific to your industry, like small packets of flower seeds for a gardener or landscaper with their contact information on it.

Donate several of your products or services to a non-profit organization that is sponsoring a live auction and the proceeds will be donated to the charity. Your store name will be displayed on the products for the duration of the event and the donation is tax deductible. Plus, you’ll be helping others.

Own Your “Wow”
Marketing gurus often refer to it as “differentiation.” Academics who fancy themselves as marketers – they’re the ones who write marketing textbooks – prefer to call it a USP, your Unique Selling Proposition. What they’re both taking about is more correctly described as the “Wow!” factor. Whatever it is that separates your Stuff – your products or services – from the similar Stuff your competition is selling, that’s your Wow!

Low Hanging Fruit
Turn to those in your field for the low hanging fruit. Find larger companies, or older, more experienced businesses and invite them to lunch. Ask them to consider referring their smaller cases or business they don’t have time to handle, to you. With every successful referral send them a hand written thank you card enclosing a Starbucks (or their favorite restaurant) gift card thanking them for their support. This will help you build your customer or client base without having to spend a lot on advertising.

Feed Them And They Will Come
Anything involving food gets attention. At least it gets my attention. Partner up with local neighborhood businesses and a restaurant (or other service providers in a complimentary but non-competing industry if that’s your gig) to throw a special event, complete with noshing. Combining your database with other businesses will expose you to an entirely different segment of people for a shoestring of the price. Use food to generate PR for your event too — one company I know of sent S’more’s kits to local TV newsrooms to help promote a camper and RV show. They got great results. Make it fun and different.

Help Other Employees
Offer employee incentives to various big businesses, or to smaller businesses in your hometown. For example, offer Southwest Airline employees 20% off their bill. Call their HQs and ask how you can offer discounts to their employees. It’s usually called ‘Employee Perks Program’ or something similar. All you need to do is tell them what the discount is and they will post it on their website or post it in some other capacity. You can also print off coupons for their Human Resource department to distribute, or send them a digital coupon they can email to employees to print off. Don’t forget to put an offer ends date (usually 30-60 days) and a “customer must show employee ID to redeem coupon” requirement on the coupon!

Online-Map Listings
Online map listings are essential for businesses with brick-and-mortar locations. They are the first thing people see on search engines. They offer a concise snapshot of business info so customers can easily contact you or visit your store. And best of all, they don’t cost any money!” Make sure your business is on Google+ business, as well as all the local review sites and other map listings you can find.

Small Groups
It only takes one person to start a movement. So don’t hesitate to start an informal group that can provide something of value to the market in which you specialize. For example, a monthly breakfast discussion on current news and events in the smart phone app industry, or manufacturing or outdoor gear retail industry. Leaders and business owners will come together in this informal, low-pressure situation, because keeping an eye on the state of the industry is their job. Since you’re the one providing the benefit of this group, they will already be predisposed to a positive relationship with you, and it’s a short leap to noting your business savvy in their field.

Content Marketing Strategies
Content is any articles, information, video, infographics or stuff people can read, watch or look at that tells them something they didn’t know already about your product or service. If you can consistently amaze and thrill readers with new content and new information or entertainment about your product or services, you’ll grow quickly!

Great Relevant Content
We all know content rules, but what kind of content should you use? Simple. Relevant and related content the reader can use. Lots of people have the relevant content part down, but also create content areas, not just content. These areas should be able to (1) attract users and (2) position you and your business as an expert in those areas. For instance, if you’re selling hunting knives, create a content area on how to sharpen knives, or how to skin certain kinds of animals, or how to filet a fish. The content area should utilize your product if possible, but mostly it should have related content that attracts knife owners to your site.

Write For A Trade Magazine
If you want to get people’s attention and have them call you, there’s nothing like writing an article for a trade magazine (for B2B) or local magazine (for B2C) to gain credibility and get the exposure you want. This may be content you have in some form on your website already, but having it in a trade magazine dresses it up and sort of puts a tuxedo on it. I mean it makes you seem more credible because a publication is publishing your content. Demonstrate your expertise and position yourself as the go-to person for your product or service with this service. You’ll attract people in the “ready-to-buy” stage. Here is a list of trade mags to help get you started.

Memorable Stories
A convincing (and free) marketing strategy you can use to sell your service or product is by telling true, credible stories (hopefully that include awesome facts and incidents involving your product)—give specific and practical examples of what you have accomplished for clients. Use real-life examples of projects you completed, specific problems you solved or successes you achieved. If you’re a new entrepreneur, create a realistic scenario about how you would help your ideal client overcome a typical challenge. Relate your story through articles, blog posts, public speaking or by publishing a special report.

Cell-It-Up
Mobile marketing connects businesses and each of their customers—through their mobile devices—at the right time and at the right place with the right message and requires the customer’s explicit permission and/or active interaction. Kim Dushinski’s “5 Steps to Creating a Dynamic Mobile Marketing Campaign” are 1) figure out what your target market wants and offer it, 2) align what your target market wants with your desired outcome, 3) choose the right mobile marketing tool for this campaign, 4) launch your mobile marketing campaign and market it, and 5) track what is working and make any necessary adjustments.

Free Content
Who doesn’t love free, right? Offer your customers, potential customers, and visitors to your website a free resource, such as a guide or report that is packed full of solid information related to your product or services in exchange for their name and email address. The guide is delivered electronically to their mailbox so there’s little cost involved. Every two weeks, or so, follow up with more useful content, not a sales pitch, but do include your company’s info at the end. You’ll be building credibility, establishing trust, and reminding those potential customers of your product or services. When they’re ready to buy you will be the first company they contact.

Write A Book
Write a 150-175 page business book and self publish it with on-demand printing. Heck, write a 50-page book and self-publish it. The status of being a published author provides you with unprecedented access to media, speaking gigs, and other opportunities like nothing else can. (cost = $0 other than some time). You say you don’t have the time, knowledge or expertise to produce a book? Then write a white paper. Don’t have the time, knowledge or expertise for a white paper? Then write a series of short articles. Article marketing is a subtle way companies can gain exposure for their business by writing articles that provide information about news and trends occurring within their respective industries. Companies that incorporate article marketing into their marketing campaign demonstrate their expertise in their respective industry while simultaneously attracting new customers. If you can’t write, find someone who can and pay them to write your content for you. That’s legit.

Online Reviews
Let your fans review your business, then incorporate their reviews in your blog post — good or bad, unless of course it’s obscene, not-safe-for-work bad. Online reviews are a critical component of your business’ reputation and can do wonders for converting new customers. Services like RateItAll.com/Promote allow you to submit anything for review – whether it’s a local business, a blog, a website, a product, or a brand. Other popular review sites include Yelp (local businesses), TripAdvisor (travel related items), and Viewpoints (products). And you can use this strategy for getting countless, legit, reviews on Amazon.

Get Endorsements
If you are introducing a revolutionary new product, an endorsement from a top expert makes all the difference. Read your trade magazines and write the expert. You will be surprised at how generous some of them are. Include their comments, or if you can snag an interview, put the highlights of that in your blog post as well.

Teleseminars
Host a one-hour tele-seminar with time for content, a specific offer and questions from people on the call. People are hungry for information and like to learn. Create a web page with a sign up form and use email and social media to announce the call. Then make sure you have a really meaty, information dense, rocking teleseminar. Be awesome and attendees will return again and again.

Be The Local Expert
Volunteer to write a “Dear Abby” type Q&A column for your local newspaper on whatever your area of expertise is. Whether it’s plumbing, or chimney cleaning, or car repair, volunteer to answer readers’ questions in exchange for a link to your website and business name. If the paper isn’t interesting in paying or swapping you for the column, then pay for it yourself — and make it an ad. Once readers get used to seeing it and it disappears after three to six months, most papers will do what it takes to get it back if it’s popular.

Web Branding Marketing Strategies

A web presence is more than just having a website. Heck, even the animals at the local animal shelter have websites, some of them better than mine! A web presence is how people find you as well as what they find. To get found in good ways, like winning awards etc. is better than getting found because you have a booking photo or mug shot. To get found for the good stuff, do this:

Keywords
Statistically, 3-out-of-4 Internet users live in North America, making exposure on the web critical. Even with all the changes to Google and to search algorithms, having a website that is keyword optimized is critical. You need to be SEO optimized for what your small business does and where you are located. Your website works as an online brochure as well as a “24 hours a day” sales person for your services and products, so make it work efficiently.

Participate in Trade Associations
Business-to-business professional service organizations get the most bang for their buck when they impress prospective referrers with their capabilities. One of the best ways to do this is through active involvement at trade associations where prospective referrers’ congregate. This participation enables them to a) increase their visibility and b) gain the opportunity for the consistent and frequent interactions it takes to build lasting relationships.”

Google AdWords On The Cheap
Run market research on the cheap by using Google Adwords to target an audience. Make the landing page a question survey. A snappy question to attract people, along with Google’s Geo-targeting can provide great results, for next to nothing.

Enter a Business Award Competition
There is nothing like entering a business award competition to strengthen the reputation of your small business. Winning an award can catapult your reputation within your industry and with the sales audience you aim to attract. Many competitions cost nothing to enter – except for the time it takes to prepare your entry.

Professional and trade organizations, chambers of commerce, Better Business Bureaus, universities – even churches are all organizations that host business competitions. Keep your eyes open for opportunities. Don’t forget, the secret to winning is taking the time to prepare well-written entries. If you can’t write, then pay someone who can to prepare your entry – or barter services if you’re trying to save money. The rewards for winning a business award can last seemingly forever. Brag about winning on your website; send a letter to clients; post the award in your office or store so whoever comes in will see it. And of course, send out a press release and get your picture in the paper!

Email Lists
I can’t say this often enough. Build your email list with quality names. Use opt in email marketing to talk to your best customers – this means the ones that want to hear from you and have signed up to receive your marketing messages and offers. No spamming! Be sure to deliver relevant, unique and valuable messages to their inbox. This can build loyalty, drive sales and cut other costs. Don’t be shy about creating a short but compelling video that succinctly explains your product or service. Short is under 3 Minutes MAX. Compelling is that not only informs, but entertains and/or personalizes you and your company. This can be done quickly and easily using a camera like a flip video. Post the video to your site and as many video sharing sites as possible.

Be On YouTube
Seriously consider starring in your own YouTube Series. I don’t know if the camera loves me, but I sure love the camera! You can learn to love it too! Take your product or service and dramatize it through a simple, homemade YouTube movie. Go a step further and script out a four-part series that you can post on your website. Heck, run a loop of the videos in your business.

Study the ad campaigns that get people’s attentions and come up with something of your own — unique counts. Virally spread your marketing message by making sure influential local bloggers see your video. Twitter short messages, driving traffic to specific pages of your website; Send a Network Update via LinkedIn conveying what you’re working on that will pique the interest of those needing similar services. Use Facebook to give your small business a “personality” so that people feel comfortable doing business with you — ask your customers to become Fans.

Leverage Local
Get online locally, like on Craigslist, Yelp, and Angie’s list. There are hundreds of websites that people use to search out local businesses. Most are free to use and easy to find. Make sure your business is listed. Go the extra mile and upload pictures, menus, or something relevant for your service or product.

Host Educational Events
Partner with companies which target the same audience as your firm to host “educational” events. A small accounting firm can partner with a small law firm and a marketing firm to hold a seminar on “strategies for surviving the recession,” and invite small businesses to attend. Split the cost and the work that goes into creating the event, including inviting prospects and clients. It’s a cost-effective way to market to the other firms’ clients, to prospects, and to build a relationship with these other partners in order to gain future referrals.

Join forces to create posters, contests and other things that benefit all companies involved.

Pay Per Click
The fastest way, bar none, to create a strong Internet presence and get in front of potential customers when they are in active “search and buy mode” is pay-per-click search engine advertising. Start with Google – set a budget and bid, select your keywords and write a quick ad. Now you’ll be there when some “Googles it!”

Logo It Up
Use Your Logo- Now that you have a logo it is time to use it everywhere both online and in print. Put it on all of your marketing materials including business cards, letterhead and even envelopes. Include it in your email signature, on your Web site and use it in all correspondence to reinforce your company and encourage repeat customers and referrals. Once you have a solid logo that makes an impact, it should be synonymous with your company name.

PR Marketing Strategies

Blog, blog, blog and blog some more. PR is all about getting your business in front of people’s eyeballs. Keeping your own blog updated, and writing guest blogs for other well-known or popular bloggers in exchange for a credit and blog link, or a reciprocal post is a major part of getting publicity. You can also:

Make Reporters’ Jobs Easier
Instead of always pitching reports with story ideas, schedule a coffee or lunch meeting with the local (relevant) beat reporters in your market. Start the conversation by asking, “How might I be able to make your job easier.” When reporters know you’re out to genuinely make their lives easier without trying to sell them your story, you become a valuable resource, not a pain in the neck.

Local Charities
There are hundreds of charities you can help, but you’re better off picking one or two charity organizations or causes and only donating to them for the year. You’ll be able to do more and give more that way. That will make you more visible plus, the organization will get to know you and who you are. When you’re highly visible in one or two organizations, it’s easier to say “No,” politely, firmly and credibly to the twenty others who also want your attention, but who aren’t in your target market.

Sponsor Your Local Sport Teams
Sponsor a local sports team. For less than the cost of a 1/4 page ad in a local paper, you can buy team uniforms for a local soccer, basketball, baseball or other sports teams. Not only will you get the team, and their friends, family and fans attention and show that your business is a genuine part of the local community. It’s a great PR technique too.

Create An E-News For Your Biz
Having a great e-newsletter with valuable content may sound old school, but it works. E-News doesn’t have to be or sound like a sales pitch. Consider it an opportunity to position your business as an expert, provide relevant information, and to add another layer in relationship building. Build a strong database with a focus on media/bloggers. Give your clients the opportunity to subscribe. Publish frequently, but not obsessively. Done right E-News is one of the least expensive, but most effective marketing tools in our arsenal. Don’t be surprised by how often your content will be tweeted or covered by bloggers, or open the door to a more extensive PR pitch.

Tell Your Real Story
The best way to get noticed in today’s market is to tell a personal story. The more authentic, amazing and relevant, the better. As newspapers and magazines continue to lay off thousands of reporters across the country there’s an even bigger demand for well-written stories. Have ready-to-run articles prepared to send off at a minutes notice will create a great relationship with papers. They may edit or rewrite parts of it, but you’ll get their attention.

Long Shelf Life
Leverage your exposure by putting yourself into situations where your marketing efforts have a LONG shelf life. Web radio shows are a great place to start. Email or call those who are looking for guest interviews. Don’t forget to make sure you tell the host that “if your line-up is already scheduled, I’d make a great filler-inner when someone has to cancel”. Those words alone will get you remembered.

Network With The Media In Your Niche
Maintain relationships with media contacts that cover your industry, even when you don’t have news for them. Check in with them every month or so and ask how you can help them as an expert in your field. Better yet, send them tips and insider news they might not otherwise have access to. Become a resource. Follow reporters’ stories and take time to read their articles and comment on them without pitching yourself. Develop a professional relationship where you can spark dialogues about your community. Then, when you do have news, it’s that much easier to get them to print it!

Be Outrageous
Be outrageous, or weird, or truly innovative and wacky. Reporters want to cover the unusual/wacky/even controversial. One article about your business can be worth thousands of dollars. Give them what they want, but make sure that there’s steak after the sizzle is gone. Once people are attracted to you, you want to offer them something to keep them coming back or staying put.

Survey Your Customers
Reporters love numbers! It validates their story pitch to editors and piques the curiosity of their readers. So, look for surveys other companies have done on a national scale, and then conduct a survey with your customers and prospective customers to get a local angle to a national story. Most papers won’t look at a locally conducted survey unless it ties into a larger survey or is done by a major company. Compile the results, put them into a press release, and pitch to editors at your target publications. Write an article about it and post it as a downloadable PDF on your website. And of course, blog about it.

Leverage Existing Customers
Most companies do a poor job of leveraging existing customers to create new ones. If your company does events, give people a discount or free gift to bring (or just invite) a friend. If someone buys your product online, send them a coupon for the same item suggesting that they pass it on to someone they think will use it.

by http://mikemichalowicz.com/

The Importance of Writing a Business Plan

If you’ve started a business, you may or may not have written a business plan. After all, writing one is a long, tedious process and takes up time you could be spending marketing and selling. So why should you take a week out of your hectic schedule to put together a business plan?

The largest misconception among entrepreneurs regarding the importance of the business plan is what value it adds to the venture. The truth is that the plan itself only adds minimal value. The actual process of researching your market, industry and competitors and planning your marketing and implementation plan is the important part.

You may believe that you have every little detail laid out in your head, including Plan B and Plan C, but unless you have written a detailed business plan, you don’t. The time and effort you put in researching and planning now will pay off later down the line when you avoid disastrous roadblocks and are able to speed through your implementation plan because you anticipated every little aspect of the plan and synchronized everything as efficiently as possible.

Eventually, whether it is to compete in a competition or secure funding from an investor, you will need a written plan. If you reach that point in your venture, it is safe to say that the business is fairly successful up to that point. If you already have a plan put together, you can easily update it and submit it to the necessary parties. If you chose to overlook the value of a business plan up until that point, you are going to have to drop everything you are doing and throw one together quickly.

This will force you to put off important projects and due to the hectic circumstances, you might end up with a sub-par business plan that does not get accepted into a competition or attract funding from investors. So please, do yourself a favor and write a detailed business plan very soon.

by www.entrepreneurspro.com

Do I need a business plan?

Not everyone who starts and runs a business begins with a business plan, but it certainly helps to have one. If you are seeking funding from a venture capitalist, you will certainly need a comprehensive business plan that is well thought out and demonstrates sound business reasoning.

If you are approaching a banker for a loan for a start-up business, your loan officer may suggest a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, which will require a business plan. If you have an existing business and are approaching a bank for capital to expand the business, they often will not require a business plan, but they may look more favorably on your application if you have one.

Reasons for writing a business plan include:

  • Support a loan application
  • Raise equity funding
  • Define objectives and describe programs to achieve those objectives
  • Create a regular business review and course correction process
  • Define a new business
  • Define agreements between partners
  • Set a value on a business for sale or legal purposes
  • Evaluate a new product line, promotion, or expansion

What’s in a business plan?

A business plan should prove that your business will generate enough revenue to cover your expenses, but a business plan may vary depending upon whom your audience is. If you are writing a plan for your colleagues and partners, for example, to expand an existing business, then the focus of that plan may be more operational than financial. Yes, you are going to show your partners how this expansion will mean more revenues, but they are going to want to know the nuts and bolts of how this new venture is going to be implemented.

If you are writing a business plan for a bank, your bank manager will want to see that your ideas are well thought out, but the most important aspect to him or her will be your financials. Are your assumptions realistic? And will the cash flow of the business be enough to ensure that you can make the monthly payments for the loan that you have requested? If your business is making $1,000 a month and your payments are $1,200 a month, the bank is likely to turn you away.

When considering an investment opportunity, most venture capitalists look at the obvious trends and market niches. Transcending the business elements, however, the most important factor in a decision to invest in a company is the quality of the people. In real estate, the three biggest criteria are “location, location and location.” The venture capital axiom is “people, people and people.” VCs will ask, how experienced are the people that are going to run this business? Do they have knowledge of the industry? Have they started successful ventures in the past?

What makes a successful business plan?

  • Presents a well thought out idea
  • Contains clear and concise writing
  • Has a clear and logical structure
  • Illustrates management’s ability to make the business a success
  • Shows profitability
  • Bringing it all together…

Your business plan is like your calling card, it will get you in the door where you’ll have to convince investors and loan officers that you can put your plan into action. You want your calling card to look impressive, so make sure your business plan is printed out on good quality paper, you have checked the spelling and grammar and that your numbers add up. Anyone who sees errors while reading your plan will wonder whether you are going to make similar errors in running your business.

A great business plan is the best way to show bankers, venture capitalists, and angel investors that you are worthy of financial support. Make sure that your plan is clear, focused and realistic. Then show them that you have the tools, talent and team to make it happen.

Source: bplans.com

12 Things Entrepreneurs Should Be Thankful For Customers.

Getting to pick the exceptional people we work with.

An opportunity to add value, big or small, to people’s lives.

Not having to ask permission to try something crazy.

The patience and understanding of our family and friends — especially when we likely don’t deserve it.

Receiving payment for value delivered. There’s no feeling like it.

The joy of seeing a sliver of light after some dark, dark, days.

The freedom to change what’s not working. It’s sometimes painful, but at least it’s possible.

Not having to rationalize to your family and friends why you took that Wall Street investment banking job.

Day 2,743, when the world celebrates your “overnight success”

The pleasure of helping team members create memories and experiences that will last a lifetime. Most of them good.

The chance to try. To fail. To try again and flail around. Then, with some luck, to flourish.
By http://onstartups.com

10 Ways to Grow Your Business

Looking to take your business to the next level? Then check out these 10 practical ways to expand your business.

When you first started your business, you probably did a lot of research. You may have sought help from advisors; you may have gotten information from books, magazines and other readily available sources. You invested a lot-in terms of money, time and sweat equity-to get your business off the ground. So…now what?

For those of you who have survived startup and built successful businesses, you may be wondering how to take the next step and grow your business beyond its current status. There are numerous possibilities, 10 of which we’ll outline here. Choosing the proper one (or ones) for your business will depend on the type of business you own, your available resources, and how much money, time and sweat equity you’re willing to invest all over again. If you’re ready to grow, we’re ready to help.

1. Open another location.

This might not be your best choice for business expansion, but it’s listed first here because that’s what often comes to mind first for so many entrepreneurs considering expansion. “Physical expansion isn’t always the best growth answer without careful research, planning and number-planning,” says small-business speaker, writer and consultant Frances McGuckin , who offers the following tips for anyone considering another location:

Make sure you’re maintaining a consistent bottom-line profit and that you’ve shown steady growth over the past few years.

Look at the trends, both economic and consumer, for indications on your company’s staying power.

Make sure your administrative systems and management team are extraordinary-you’ll need them to get a new location up and running.

Prepare a complete business plan for a new location.

Determine where and how you’ll obtain financing.

Choose your location based on what’s best for your business, not your wallet.

2. Offer your business as a franchise or business opportunity.

Bette Fetter, founder and owner of Young Rembrandts , an Elgin, Illinois-based drawing program for children, waited 10 years to begin franchising her concept in 2001-but for Fetter and her husband, Bill, the timing was perfect. Raising four young children and keeping the business local was enough for the couple until their children grew older and they decided it was time to expand nationally.

“We chose franchising as the vehicle for expansion because we wanted an operating system that would allow ownership on the part of the staff operating Young Rembrandts locations in markets outside our home territory,” says Bette. “When people have a vested interest in their work, they enjoy it more, bring more to the table and are more successful overall. Franchising is a perfect system to accomplish those goals.”

Streamlining their internal systems and marketing in nearby states helped the couple bring in their first few franchisees. With seven units and some time under their belt, they then signed on with two national franchise broker firms. Now with 30 franchisees nationwide, they’re staying true to their vision of steady growth. “Before we began franchising, we were teaching 2,500 children in the Chicago market,” says Bette. “Today we teach more than 9,000 children nationwide, and that number will continue to grow dramatically as we grow our franchise system.”

Bette advises networking within the franchise community-become a member of the International Franchise Association and find a good franchise attorney as well as a mentor who’s been through the franchise process. “You need to be open to growing and expanding your vision,” Bette says, “but at the same time, be a strong leader who knows how to keep the key vision in focus at all times.”

3. License your product.

This can be an effective, low-cost growth medium, particularly if you have a service product or branded product, notes Larry Bennett, director of the Larry Friedman International Center for Entrepreneurship at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. “You can receive upfront monies and royalties from the continued sales or use of your software, name brand, etc.-if it’s successful,” he says. Licensing also minimizes your risk and is low cost in comparison to the price of starting your own company to produce and sell your brand or product.

To find a licensing partner, start by researching companies that provide products or services similar to yours. “[But] before you set up a meeting or contact any company, find a competent attorney who specializes in intellectual property rights,” advises Bennett. “This is the best way to minimize the risk of losing control of your service or product.”

4. Form an alliance.

Aligning yourself with a similar type of business can be a powerful way to expand quickly. Last spring, Jim Labadie purchased a CD seminar set from a fellow fitness professional, Ryan Lee, on how to make and sell fitness information products. It was a move that proved lucrative for Labadie, who at the time was running an upscale personal training firm he’d founded in 2001. “What I learned on [Lee’s] CDs allowed me to develop my products and form alliances within the industry,” says Labadie, who now teaches business skills to fitness professionals via a series of products he created and sells on his Web site, HowToGetMoreClients.com .

Seeing that Labadie had created some well-received products of his own, Lee agreed to promote Labadie’s product to his long contact list of personal trainers. “That resulted in a decent amount of sales,” says Labadie-in fact, he’s increased sales 500 percent since he created and started selling the products in 2001. “Plus, there have been other similar alliances I’ve formed with other trainers and Web sites that sell my products for a commission.”

If the thought of shelling out commissions or any of your own money for the sake of an alliance makes you uncomfortable, Labadie advises looking at the big picture: “If you want to keep all the money to yourself, you’re really shooting yourself in the foot,” says the Tampa, Florida, entrepreneur. “You need to align with other businesses that already have lists of prospective customers. It’s the fastest way to success.”

5. Diversify.

Small-business consultant McGuckin offers several ideas for diversifying your product or service line:

Sell complementary products or services
Teach adult education or other types of classes
Import or export yours or others’ products
Become a paid speaker or columnist
“Diversifying is an excellent growth strategy, as it allows you to have multiple streams of income that can often fill seasonal voids and, of course, increase sales and profit margins,” says McGuckin, who diversified from an accounting, tax and consulting business to speaking, writing and publishing.

Diversifying was always in the works for Darien, Connecticut, entrepreneurs Rebecca Cutler and Jennifer Krane, creators of the “raising a racquet” line of maternity tenniswear , launched in 2002. “We had always planned to expand into other ‘thematic’ kits, consistent with our philosophies of versatility, style, health and fun,” says Cutler. “Once we’d begun to establish a loyal wholesale customer base and achieve some retail brand recognition, we then broadened our product base with two line extensions, ‘raising a racquet golf’ and ‘raising a racquet yoga.'”

Rolling out the new lines last year allowed the partners’ current retail outlets to carry more of their inventory. “It also broadened our target audience and increased our presence in the marketplace, giving us the credibility to approach much larger retailers,” notes Cutler, who expects to double their 2003 sales this year and further diversify the company’s product lines. “As proof, we’ve recently been selected by Bloomingdale’s, A Pea in the Pod and Mimi Maternity.”

6. Target other markets.

Your current market is serving you well. Are there others? You bet. “My other markets are what make money for me,” says McGuckin. Electronic and foreign rights, entrepreneurship programs, speaking events and software offerings produce multiple revenue streams for McGuckin, from multiple markets.

“If your consumer market ranges from teenagers to college students, think about where these people spend most of their time,” says McGuckin. “Could you introduce your business to schools, clubs or colleges? You could offer discounts to special-interest clubs or donate part of [your profits] to schools and associations.”

Baby boomers, elderly folks, teens, tweens…let your imagination take you where you need to be. Then take your product to the markets that need it.

7. Win a government contract.

“The best way for a small business to grow is to have the federal government as a customer,” wrote Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, ranking Democratic member of the House Small Business Committee, in August 2003. (Click here to read that article.) “The U.S. government is the largest buyer of goods and services in the world, with total procurement dollars reaching approximately $235 billion in 2002 alone.”

Working with your local SBA and SBDC offices as well as the Service Corps of Retired Executives and your local, regional or state Economic Development Agency will help you determine the types of contracts available to you. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the SBA also have a Business Matchmaking Program designed to match entrepreneurs with buyers. “A fair amount of patience is required in working to secure most government contracts,” says Johnson & Wales University’s Bennett. “Requests for proposals usually require a significant amount of groundwork and research. If you’re not prepared to take the time to fully comply with RFP terms and conditions, you’ll only be wasting your time.”

This might sound like a lot of work, but it could be worth it: “The good part about winning government contracts,” says Bennett, “is that once you’ve jumped through the hoops and win a bid, you’re generally not subject to the level of external competition of the outside marketplaces.”

8. Merge with or acquire another business.

In 1996, when Mark Fasciano founded FatWire , a Mineola, New York, content management software company, he certainly couldn’t have predicted what would happen a few years later. Just as FatWire was gaining market momentum, the tech downturn hit hard. “We were unable to generate the growth needed to maximize the strategic partnerships we’d established with key industry players,” Fasciano says. “During this tech ‘winter,’ we concentrated on survival and servicing our clients, while searching for an opportunity to jump-start the company’s growth. That growth opportunity came last year at the expense of one of our competitors.”

Scooping up the bankrupt company, divine Inc., from the auction block was the easy part; then came the integration of the two companies. “The process was intense and exhausting,” says Fasciano, who notes four keys to their success:

Customer retention. “I personally spoke with 150 customers within the first few weeks of consummating the deal, and I met with 45 clients around the globe in the first six months,” notes Fasciano. They’ve retained 95 percent of the divine Inc. customer base.

Staff retention. Fasciano rehired the best and brightest of divine’s staff.
Melding technologies. “One of the reasons I was so confident about this acquisition was the two product architectures were very similar,” says Fasciano. This allowed for a smooth integration of the two technologies.

Focus. “Maybe the biggest reason this acquisition has worked so well is the focus that FatWire has brought to a neglected product,” says Fasciano.
FatWire’s acquisition of divine in 2003 grew its customer base from 50 to 400, and the company grew 150 percent, from $6 million to $15 million. Fasciano expects no less than $25 million in sales this year.

9. Expand globally.

Not only did FatWire grow in terms of customers and sales, it also experienced global growth simply as a result of integrating the best of the divine and FatWire technologies. “FatWire finally has international reach-we’ve established new offices in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Germany, China, Japan and Singapore,” says Fasciano. This increased market share is what will allow FatWire to realize sustained growth.

But you don’t need to acquire another business to expand globally. You just need to prime your offering for an international market the way FatWire was primed following the integration of its technologies with divine’s.

You’ll also need a foreign distributor who’ll carry an inventory of your product and resell it in their domestic markets. You can locate foreign distributors by scouring your city or state for a foreign company with a U.S. representative. Trade groups, foreign chambers of commerce in the United States, and branches of American chambers of commerce in foreign countries are also good places to find distributors you can work with.

10. Expand to the Internet.

“Bill Gates said that by the end of 2002, there will be only two kinds of businesses: those with an Internet presence, and those with no business at all,” notes Sally Falkow a Pasadena, California, Web content strategist. “Perhaps this is overstating the case, but an effective Web site is becoming an integral part of business today.”

Landing your Web site in search engine results is key-more than 80 percent of traffic comes via search engines, according to Falkow. “As there are now more than 4 billion Web pages and traffic on the Internet doubles every 100 days, making your Web site visible is vital,” she says. “You need every weapon you can get.”

Design and programming are also important, but it’s your content that will draw a visitor into your site and get them to stay. Says Falkow, “Putting together a content strategy based on user behavior, measuring and tracking visitor click streams, and writing the content based on researched keywords will get you excellent search results and meet the needs of your visitors.”

by www.entrepreneur.com

 

15 lessons to business success

Here are some tips to consider before you start a business, and to help your business grow in the future. As Ringo Starr might have sung: “You’ve got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues. You know it don’t come easy!” This is a fantastic point for all of us in business to grasp.

Out there are thousands of admired businesses where some business leader has learnt the simple rules of creating not just a good operation but a great one. And he or she has committed their resolve to make it happen. That old cliché that nothing worthwhile comes easy definitely applies, but it shouldn’t stop anyone from searching for the simple rules that you hitch your business’s wagon to.

Fred DeLuca, one of the co-founders of Subway, reckons 15 key lessons explain how he created this international franchise juggernaut. Let’s have a quick look at them. I’ve sampled these from DeLuca’s book Start Small Finish Big with a comment or two:

1. Start small – This will keep the pressure of fixed costs like rent off your back and means you can learn about business on the job.

2. Get the cash coming in – Earn a few pennies and make sure you get cash into the business early. Cash is your best friend in business.

3. Be distinctive – Begin with an idea that separates you from the market and gives you a good chance of success.

4. Think like a visionary and dream big – DeLuca’s partner suggested they dream of 32 stores in 10 years. They were reaching for the stars and giving themselves motivation to work hard and smart.

5. Keep the faith – And even when early failures knock around your belief, stick to your guns but don’t be afraid to adjust your sights.

6. Ready, Fire, Aim! This one looks odd but DeLuca says thinking and planning too much can stop you “learning from doing”. (I think there has to be balance with planning and doing but some of the profoundest business lessons can’t come from books.)

7. Profit or perish – This was a lesson his accountant taught him after registering his first year of a million dollars worth of sales but also a loss of $100,000! (There is balance here as sometimes to build your name you can sacrifice profit, but make sure the cash position is comfortable. During those brand-building times, keep the profit goal foremost in your mind. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, as Rod Stewart’s ex-wife once said, but it must happen.)

8. Be positive – In business, we establish goals and we don’t know what will happen along the way to make this goal harder to kick. By being positive you eliminate one thing that can go wrong to stop the goal happening — negativity!

9. Continuously improve you business – This is a ripper and should be taken on board by everyone in business. Don’t be complacent and always seek customer feedback to ensure you’re delivering on their needs.

10. Believe in your people – This is a good one but make sure you hire the right people and train them so they can deliver. A mate of mine, Tom O’Toole, who is a very successful baker and business speaker, once told an audience that they had to train their workers. One guy complained saying “what’s the use of training people when they get up and leave?” Tom’s reply was succinct: “Imagine the opposite — you don’t train them and they stay!” Point made, I’d suggest.

11. Never run out of money – This is a basic one but a cash flow crisis is the number one reason why businesses fail. Take this as a tip — if this is your weakness and you can’t fix it, then get someone in who can!

12. Attract new customers everyday – This sounds basic but this is crucial and underlines the importance of marketing. The best tip is to listen to customers and then deliver what they tell you they want. Research is vital and the best kind comes from you asking your customers what they want. Basic, isn’t it?

13. Be persistent and don’t give up – There will be plenty of negatives along the way to success but you have to be focused on identifying problems and creating systems to KO them.

14. Build a brand name – This means people will want you for no apparent reason apart from the fact that they have been brainwashed into wanting you. (Headache pills are basically similar but in Australia we opt for Panadol because they have been the best at branding.)

15. Opportunity waits for no one – This tells you that procrastination is not a characteristic of winners in business, sport, or any of life’s endeavours.

Remember, do the work, see the results. There are more lessons that will help you make a success of building a great business but these are 15 damn good ones.

by Peter Switzer


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