Monday, October 31, 2011
TASTE, TRENDS AND TECHNOLOGY
What does your research indicate is the trend in your field? Will it stay the way you are currently offering supplies and services or will it change? This item covers the developments you expect for the next few years. Evan a 'perfect' business can become obsolete overnight due to future developments. Specify a 5 year forecast of your field in your area.
SALES REVENUE FORECAST
Have you developed these targets? This section shows your estimates of future sales revenue for your business. Your strategic plan, needs to spell out the specific actions you will take to achieve your forecast sales revenues.
DIFFERENTIATE YOUR BUSINESS FROM THE COMPETITION
How does your business differ from the competition's strong and weak points. Again, remember to carefully look at your business from the customer's perspective. If you're not sure how your pricing policies compare to the competition, here are some guidelines. Most people associate high prices with high quality and extra service, while they associate low prices with low or average quality and minimum service. Make sure you provide extra quality and service if your prices are higher than your competition or make sure that your prices are lower if your quality is average and your service is minimum.
DECIDE HOW TO REACH CUSTOMERS
Once you describe your target customer, it's easier to create a list of possible ways to reach that person. One of your jobs as a businessperson is to decide which of all the possible methods of communication will give you the most exposure for the least cost in money or time.
EVALUATE THE RISKS FACING YOUR BUSINESS
COMPETITION: Most businesses have competition. How will your business differ in significant and positive ways from your competition? If your competition is strong, don't minimize that fact, but figure out ways you will adjust to or use that strength. For example, if you plan to open a restaurant next to an extremely popular one, part of your strategy might be to cater to the overflow. Another might be to open on days or evenings when the other restaurant is closed.
PIONEERING: If you anticipate no direct competition, your business probably involves selling a new product or service, or one that is new to your area. How will you avoid going broke trying to develop a market?
CYCLES AND TRENDS: Many businesses have cycles of growth and decline often based on outside factors such as taste, trends or technology. What is your forecast of the cycles and trends in your business? For example, if your forecast tells you that the new electronic product you plan to manufacture may decline in three years when the market is saturated, can you earn enough money in the meantime to make the venture worthwhile?
SLOW TIMES: Every business experiences ups and downs. Is your business small and simple enough, or capitalized adequately enough, to ride out slow times? Or do you have some other strategy, such as staying open long hours in the busy season and closing during times of the year when business is ?
OWNERS EXPERTISE: Nobody knows everything. How do you plan to compensate for the knowledge you're short on?
Write your risk analysis by first thinking of the main dangers your business faces. This shouldn't be hard, as you have probably been concerned about them for some time. Some of these may be on the list set out above; others will be unique to your business. Once you have identified the principal risks facing your business, write out a plan to counter each. But don't bog yourself down worrying about all sorts of unlikely disasters.
Above contribution By Kenneth Larson
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Essentially, people do business with people (or businesses) they know, like and trust and that can take time to build.
They can get to know, like and trust you from meeting you face-to-face at networking meetings, seeing your expertise through articles, demonstrations, blogs, referrals and recommendations, a regular newsletter ... etc.
Leaflets, advertising, email and direct mail campaigns, free offers, events, workshops can also work. Pick half a dozen and try them out - test which ones work best and stick with those. If something doesn't work, adapt, modify or change it to see if you can improve your response rate or find something that works.
For a web designer or internet marketer - I would choose someone I know or who was recommended to me. I certainly wouldn't pick someone from the many emails I receive, on an almost daily basis, offering their services.
I've gained most of my business from networking - both online and offline. Social media has widened the opportunities and the audience but can be a slower, more long-term method.
I can recommend the Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book - by Dee Blick which has great tips for small businesses and more importantly practical examples.
Above contibution by Clare Evans
Monday, October 24, 2011
The consequences, for offline marketers, have been brutal, with them increasingly fighting over a shrinking piece of the pie. They are in the unhappy position of investing an increasing amount of resources (both time and money) for a constantly shrinking return, while online marketers dine on their lost market share.
Ask anyone who has been doing it for a while how hard it is to get a new client, or sale, from networking, telemarketing, cold email campaigns, direct mail and a host of others. Especially compared to 5 years ago.
Regularly, on LinkedIn Q&A, there are questions from traditional marketers, that reveal the strain of trying to adjust to the tectonic shift from offline to online.
At the risk of mixing metaphors, the online marketers are catching the wave. The offline marketers are pushing a rope. Naturally, there are exceptions to both of these, i.e. successful offline marketers and failed online marketers, but that is exactly what they are, the exceptions.
As I say, the trend is accelerating. There is still plenty of time to catch the wave. You don't have to plunge in with a big budget. You can baby-step into it at a pace you can digest. A year or two down the road, you will be glad you did.
There is tons of free information available if you search 'Inbound Marketing'. If you want to accelerate the learning curve, there are plenty of people out there you can hire to help out.
The big winners here, will be the ones who learn how to substitute website visitors for sales calls.
Above contribution from Carl Diamond
Thursday, October 20, 2011
October 21, 2011 BY Neil Licht, VP Online Reputation Management for Reputation911
Your online image arrives before you do these days and makes an incredible first impression to employers, dating partners, business partners and anyone else who knows how to turn on a computer or use a mobile device.
Welcome to the digital age !
To make matters worse your online image is often created by others who might tag you on inappropriate photos, post about you on facebook or review you or your business on yelp all in an effort to tarnish your online image.
Reputation Management Products from Reputation911 like My Online Privacy will help you analyze your online profile, giving you a full report with a free online reputation score just like employers and insurance companies now use to rank and judge you.
By taking the appropriate actions Reputation911′s online image team will help you raise your online reputation score by deleting the negatives and building on the positives. Here are just some of the areas we have recently work with clients.
- Online Dating Profiles – Searching and deleting old online dating profiles and conversations that may be hurting your online reputation score and making current profiles private or invisible to search engines.
- Facebook Accounts – Deleting or complete privacy option, only allowing access to friends and family that you add and everyone else will just see your picture, so opt for the fully-clothed shot !
- Find My Old Accounts – Searching and deleting all old accounts that may be sitting idle in cyberspace waiting for an employer or stranger to find.
- Blogger Post – Searching and removing any negative or inflammatory metion of you in a blog or micro blog post.
- Video and Photo Sharing Sites – Searching and removing racy photos and or inappropriate video content that you did not wish to have posted.
- Professional Social Networking Sites – Deleting and or completing privacy options for old or new sites you may have online.
- Private Personal Information – Deleting and protecting your private information from where you live to your income, marital status etc.
Online can make building those relationships easier and more accessible more often. Honestly, I would combine on and off line. Just be sure that anyone you meet offline you also find and connect with online to nurture the relationship you've started.
There's tons of ways to generate leads online. Just keep in mind that they all flow back to people having access to you. I've been designing websites and coaching/teaching my clients all about marketing and converting online for more than a decade and I've not once had a client who came to my website, found a 'buy now' button for my services and paid me without first talking to me.
Marketing/selling a service is different than a product. With products your conversion is list signup and buying - that's it. And the list signup leads to buying.
But with services you have two conversion points - one from marketing and a second from sales. The first, from marketing, gets people to engage with you - email, phone, in person, etc. They get to meet you and sense for themselves whether they want to work with you. Then, the second conversion point is the sale. That's when you work through a conversation toward a purchasing decision.
Service providers have to do both - build leads and then convert the leads into paying clients. So don't shortcut either process. And be clear that something like a website isn't there to 'sell' your services. Rather, it's there to generate leads. You, on your sales calls, will be the one who generates sales.
Along with all this, it's really helpful to read a couple of good books about selling if you have any confusion around it. I'm one of those sort of naturals at it but even so I've read a ton on sales and negotiation. The bottom line is be comfortable with the sales process and know that the biggest secret to sales isn't in what you say it's in how well you listen.
Above contributed by Dawud Miracle
Monday, October 17, 2011
Higher interest rates
Slower economic growth
Increasing numbers of retirees
Less consumption; more saving
A more diverse population
A shift in the balance between private and public sectors
More uncertainty in our personal & national futures
2. APPRECIATING NEW CONDITIONS AND HOW THEY EFFECT SMALL BUSINESS
Chronic government deficits & cuts in service
Worries about how to pay for past promises
Creative destruction/disruptive innovation will change the way we deliver services
3. RECOGNIZING A WHOLE NEW WAY OF LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITIES
Future economic growth will depend increasingly on increasing productivity and less on labor force size.
Education has been the key to productivity and prosperity.
Future productivity increases will depend on decisions and the investments we make now. Public sector productivity growth will be essential.
"I skate to where the puck will be,not to where it has been." - Wayne Gretzky
Thursday, October 13, 2011
There will always be difficult situations or problems that arise that cause distress and need to be dealt with, issues with clients or customers that are way beyond the norm, like if you are being sued or you are suing someone.
Anything to do with money, revenues, taxes, payroll, cash flow and the like if there are problems in that area and that tends to be dependent on existing and new business. For without customers you have no revenue.
The other thing is your employee satisfaction, productivity, loyalty and camaraderie. If there is dissent or friction in the office, if employees are sabotaging another, it can be hell on earth. When employee issues arise, they can cause big headaches.
So these are the areas that would be the cause for consideration if they are not going well.
Monday, October 10, 2011
If Small Businesses Are Economic Engines Of The US ... What Changes Are Needed To Re-ignite The Passion Of Innovation And Entrepreneurship?
If small businesses are successful, the economy benefits, America enjoys higher rates of employment, better conditions for workers and a better market for the consumer. But government has got to free it's grip first.
Most small businesses are taxed as individuals. In every case if you want to drive hypergrowth of our economy you ought to be considering a change from income taxation which punishes productive behavior to end use only consumption taxation, which taxes people only on the amount they choose to consume from our economy. The whooshing sound you would hear would be investment dollars and seed money pouring into the US to fund productive businesses that can now compete on price due to the removal of all or part of the embedded taxation inherent in the price of goods and services in an economy where income and/or value added activity is taxed.
The passion for entrepreneurship and innovation burn brightly, as always. Government just needs to get out of the way.
Small businesses pay ten times more proportionally than do large corporations to comply with regulations and tax codes, according to my friend Charles Wilson, a risk management consultant. If compliance costs a big company 1% of revenues, it costs us 10%. And that’s just doing the paperwork, not paying the taxes, fees, and premiums.
The time and money it takes a small business to deal with taxes (fed, state, payroll, local), insurance (health, liability, workers comp), employment compliance, etc. adds up to a sizable proportion of our annual hours. Every hour we’re answering a query from the IRS or the payroll tax people is an hour we’re not being productive, generating profits, creating jobs, providing products and services wanted by our clients.
All these government agencies pay lip service to the importance of small business as the engine of job creation and innovation in our economy, but their policies toward small business say just the opposite.
The cost: tax revenue lost on the profits we don’t earn, and payroll taxes on the jobs we don’t create. Multiply this by millions of small businesses, and I bet it’s a double-digit hit to the nation’s productivity.
While discussing the challenges of small business ownership with a friend and advisor, he equated the challenge of limited access to capital with starting a fire. He said, "To start a fire, you need two things: A spark and some wood. Unfortunately, in today's world, the higher value perception is placed on providing the wood."
The passion of U.S. innovation and entrepreneurship is not dead. It never even dimmed, despite the current economy. The challenges facing entrepreneurs are more centered in limited education, access to relationships and the costs of customer acquisition than in a downward facing economy.
While passion and innovation may fuel a business, they are rarely sufficient to grow and sustain a business. Experience, capability, quality products and services and the ability to compete - and to win - are essential to business success.
Sure, favorable tax policies would certainly help but they would also dramatically increase the number of competitor companies. What's needed are policies that do not punish the small business owner for being small and provide for a "period of sustainment" during which the small business owner is freed from excessive capital gains or other taxes that result from successful execution of business fundamentals.
I also think that we, as entrepreneurs, need to learn some lessons from our big business counterparts:
1. We need to band together and partner more often.
2. We need to seek out alternative means of financing, including bartering of products and services. Starting off with or acquiring huge debt means having to make a lot more money before you can turn a profit.
3. We need to work more closely with local Chambers of Commerce, elected officials and the media to bring more attention to small business issues.
4. We need to arrive at the discussion with real and achievable solutions that are applicable to a broad range of business types. After all, we don't want to necessarily remain small forever.
5. Finally, we have to learn when it is appropriate to set passion aside and apply old-fashioned common sense to the situation. One of the hardest things for a passionate business owner to do is to accept when we're in over our head, close up shop and try again.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Mr. Buffett should continue to be the symbol of why he and the President are calling for higher taxes - don't ask someone to do something you're not willing to do yourself. Asking someone to pay higher taxes - yet fighting tooth and nail when you / your company is asked to pay higher taxes - doesn't make sense.
Instead, the folks in Washington should be following the Constitution, getting rid of job crushing regulations, providing certainty in the private sector and tax incentives for work ethic, success, savings, marriage and charitable contributions in the private sector. But do not take my word for it, read up on Nobel prize winner Milton Friedman.
In the end Mr. Buffet made himself and many people very rich by careful investment in business in his country. A lot of tax was paid on that money and what was not paid in tax was re-invested into businesses in his country - creating jobs and more income and more taxes.
It is easy for a politician to point fingers. And often those who are simply envious of a man's success start to sound like jackals as they complain about his success.
Picking on the rich tends to drive money and investment out of the country.
If Obama wanted to make things start happening maybe he should actually start looking at how successful business becomes and stays successful.
No government can give to someone without taking from someone else.
When the well goes dry people will go thirsty.
Monday, October 3, 2011
A small business owner wants to build the business knowing the soundness of the firm's business plan, but to finance the business plan the small business owner must create a major debt.
Both the kid and the small business owner could play it safe, take no risks, and be content with the fact their future is stuck in park while taking satisfaction in the knowledge they don't have any debt.
The Kingston Trio had a song describing such situations very well. The name of the song is "Desert Pete", and the lyrics are as follows:
I was travelin' West of Buckskin on my to a cattle run, 'cross a little cactus desert under a hard bargaining sun. Thirsty down to my toenails, I stopped to rest me on a stump, but I tell you I just couldn't believe it when I saw that water pump. I took it to be a mirage at first. It'll fool a thirsty man. Then I saw a note stuck in a bakin' powder can. "This pump is old," the note began, "but she works. So give'er a try. I put a new sucker washer in 'er. You may find the leather dry.
You've got to prime the pump. You must have faith and believe. You've got to give of yourself 'fore you're worthy to receive.
Drink all the water you can hold. Wash your face to your feet. Leave the bottle full for others. Thank you kindly, Desert Pete.
Yeah, you'll have to prime the pump, work that handle like there's a fire. Under the rock you'll find some water left there in a bitter's jar. Now there's just enough to prime it with, so don't you go drinkin' first. Just pour it in and pump like mad and, buddy, you'll quench your thirst.
Well, I found the jar, and I tell you, nothin' was ever prettier to my eye and I was tempted strong to drink it because that pump looked mighty dry, but the note went on, "Have faith, my friend, there's water down below. You've got to give to really get. I'm the one who ought to know."
So I poured in the jar and started pumpin' and I heard a beautiful sound of water bubblin' 'n' splashin' up out of that hole in the ground. Then I took off my shoes and drunk my fill of that cold refreshin' treat. Tthen I thanked the Lord, and I thanked the pump, and I thanked old Desert Pete.
It takes priming the pump to get what you want and need. Desert Pete and his mason jar are the government and the stimulus while we are the desert traveler and the pump is the economy. If we drink what is in the mason jar, the pump remains out of commission.