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Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, July 10, 2012
There are many forms of marketing which help entrepreneurs and small business owners get new customers.
Referrals are perhaps the most powerful. I mean, what's more powerful than your customers urging their friends, family and/or colleagues to also buy your product or service.
The second most powerful is publicity. Because if a prospective customer learns about you in most media sources, you gain massive credibility. And this prompts them to seek you out and buy from you.
There are many ways of getting publicity for yourself and your business. And when you do get it, there are several varieties. For example, a journalist may give you a simple quote in their article. Or, they may quote you several times or attribute the entire theme of their article to you. Or, in the best case, they write an article solely about you, your company and/or your product or service.
The point is this - the more the article talks about you, the more likely the reader will seek you out after reading it.
Now one concern entrepreneurs and small business owners may have when getting publicity is what the journalist will say about you. Virtually all the time, the journalist will position your company in a positive light. But even if they don't, the saying "there's no such thing as bad publicity" is generally true.
Importantly, there is one way to accomplish both the goals mentioned above: getting publicity (particularly articles) that fully discusses you and your company AND gaining 100% control of what the article says about you.
And that way is to write the article yourself.
Articles are a professional way to get the word out about your company without advertising, because they have educational value. They are an "under-the-radar" way to get positioned in front of people.
What should you write about in your article?
Think of something you've learned in your line of work that your customers or prospective customers would want to know more about. Simply write out a one-page "how-to" article teaching the reader, or presenting facts (and even debunking myths).
Where should you send your article?
Send your articles to relevant newspapers, magazines, trade journals and bloggers to reprint with your permission.
Make sure to add a "bio box" at the end of your article. Your "bio box" includes your name and contact information (e.g., website address) so that readers of the article can easily contact you.
How to get started quickly
The fastest way to get any article published is to submit it to an online article directory like www.ezinearticles.com. On this site, web searches will find your article, and many will click on the links in your bio box that link back to your website.
Also, many website owners and bloggers syndicate articles from EzineArticles; in doing so, they re-publish the article on their website but must keep the bio box and links to your website.
Here are two important notes for using EzineArticles. First, search through the site to see the types of articles others have written about your topic. This will give you new ideas and also alert you to topics that have already been covered too much. Second, more prominent media sources (e.g., magazines, newspapers) want original content. So, if you have a great idea for an article, pitch it to the more prominent media sources first. Since, once you publish it elsewhere (e.g., on EzineArticles), they won't be interested (although you could then pitch them on another article).
Getting your articles printed in media sources is a simple way to get the word out about your company, control the message, and build lots of credibility. And it doesn't take much time.
And one final tip to make this technique even more efficient - don't start by writing the article. Rather, just start by creating an interesting article title. Then pitch the title to newspaper and magazine editors to see if they are interested (simply call them and/or email them). They may say it's perfect as is, or they may suggest something slightly different. Doing it this way saves time and ensures you write an article they'll publish, which will get you great media exposure and new customers.
Suggested Resource: Countless entrepreneurs and small business owners have realized both immediate and long-term increases in revenues and profits from getting publicity. And oftentimes these increases are massive. Learn how to easily get tons of publicity for your business with Growthink's Publicity Playbook.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, July 9, 2012
The founders of wildly successful companies - with their world-changing impacts and their awe inspiring wealth creation - receive much well earned praise and financial rewards for turning their great entrepreneurial visions into reality.
But what about those with 1-2 degrees of separation who also benefit immensely?
Folks like Andy Bechtolsheim - who invested $100,000 into Google in September 1998, a position now worth more than $1.7 billion.
Or a Mark Cuban, who rode the Internet wave perfectly, to the tune of selling Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $5.9 billion in Yahoo stock. Even better, he had the additional good luck to sell nearly all of that stock near the peak of the Internet bubble.
For that matter, how about Mikhail Prokhorov, now with a fortune estimated at over $18 billion, and other rags to riches stories like his driven by having the right friends at the right time?
Prokhorov as a young man had as his sponsor Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Potanin - just as many of Russia’s largest state-owned enterprises were being privatized.
Prokhorov parlayed this relationship into a controlling interest in the huge Russian nickel business before it became a stand-alone publicly traded company.
And he - like Mark Cuban - had the additional boon of turning his equity stake into cash at the absolute right moment (and the circumstances of which are high comedy to say the least).
These stories of great luck and fortune are timelessly inspirational for entrepreneurs, investors, and dreamers everywhere.
At the same time, they are frustratingly vexing and opaque to turn from descriptive narrative into prescriptive guide.
I.E. – if it were only so simple doing “A,” and then having “B” magically appear.
But of course luck and good fortune - as a whole lot of business philosophers from Nassim Taleb to Malcolm Gladwell to Joshua Ramo have opined - just doesn’t work that way.
There is, however, a LOT that we all can and must do to “let luck in.” Author and speaker Stephen Shapiro offers three great ideas to do so:
1. Grasp the Critical Difference Between the Probability of ANY Good Thing, versus a SPECIFIC good thing, Happening. To illustrate, Shapiro puts a twist on the famous birthday example:
“…if you ask the question, “How many people do you need in a room to have a 50 percent chance that two people will have the same birthday?” Some people immediately assume it is half of 367, or roughly 184. While that is a logical guess, it is actually incorrect. In fact, you would only need 23 people. Shocking? Try it some time and see what happens. With just 40 people you will have a nearly 90 percent chance that two individuals will have the same birthday.
Now I’d like you to consider how many people you would need in a room to have a 50 percent chance that two people share a particular birthday? For example, I was born on April 25. How many people would I need to have in a room to have a 50 percent chance that there is another person with my exact birthday? Surprisingly, the number now increases to over 600.”
The business point?
While specific goals and objectives are great, be careful to not limit the various permutations that a business journey might take to arrive at a desirous destination.
2. Understand the Difference between The Value of Planning, and being Wed to “A Plan.” Shapiro quotes General and Future President Dwight Eisenhower’s poignant quote that "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
3. The Great Ones Above All Else, Act. All of the stories of business success are many things, but above all else they are tales of ACTION.
Of writing the code. Of making the investment. Of going to the conference. Of talking to that beautiful stranger.
Now thinking and being like this does not guarantee that you will become a famous General, or a wildly successful entrepreneur or investor.
But the opposite is assured - that without cultivating the mindsets of boldness, of action, of positive expectation, one runs the serious risk of living - as a man of famous great action once so famously said - “with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, July 4, 2012
There's an old marketing strategy that lately has been helping more and more entrepreneurs and business owners grow their companies. And I used it myself a few months ago and am starting to do more of it.
This strategy is event marketing. Which simply means holding events. Events, particularly when they are physical (versus online workshops or webinars) are very powerful. Particularly in today's internet/virtual age, being able to meet your customers, prospective customers, partners, investors and others face-to-face is very powerful. And much more so than simply email and telephone conversations.
Below I discuss several types of events you can hold, and how to get maximum publicity for them.
Importantly, companies of ALL sizes can hold events. And, they can use them to get lots of free publicity.
What kind of events could you organize (or even just attend) and mention in your PR efforts?
Here are a few that just about any business owner or entrepreneur can do:
- Set up a workshop teaching something about the problem your product or service solves
- Business dinners
- Golf tournaments
- Networking events
- Product launch parties
- Holiday parties
- Customer appreciation parties
- Happy hours
- Seminars for your team or the public
- Charity functions
- Exhibiting in, sponsoring or speaking at a trade show
- Exclusive VIP events for your top customers
Note that even if you don't have office or retail space, you can hold an event. Simply find some other firm that does have space, particularly if that other firm would benefit from it. For example, if you are a consultant, find a law firm that will allow you to use their office space. The law firm would benefit from exposure to the same customers/prospective customers you serve.
Once you've chosen your event and scheduled it, the next step is to get the word out. Here are several free methods you can use:
1. Event Websites
There are several popular websites such as Meetup, Eventful and EventBrite that show visitors a list of local events in their area. Announce your event there, which includes giving the description and details, and some visitors will find it and contact you (or just show up).
Make sure to include everything someone would want to know before making a decision to attend, because it's harder to get people to leave the house these days or attend an online event. Have a compelling call to action and a way to register or RSVP (online or by phone) in order to build a contact list as well as firm up attendance.
Also, the pages you create by announcing events on these sites are search engine-friendly, which means that web searchers may find them searching the internet before the event. They may find it years later, too, and if your contact information is there, consider it a free advertisement for your brand.
2. Local Event Calendars
In addition to these nationwide websites, there are often community calendars and directories that will allow you to submit your activity or event.
Try googling "your city" + "event calendar" to see what comes up. You may find a few websites dedicated to events in your city. Check out the sites' rules to see if it's free to add your listing, and how to do it.
Also, make a list of local newspapers and magazines and check to see if they post upcoming events in the community. Most daily newspapers have one that they publish on the same day every week. Magazines have them in every issue, but you may need to announce it to them 2-3 months ahead of time.
See if the magazines also have event calendars online. The publication itself or its online version should tell you how to submit an event to announce. If not, call them and ask to speak to the person in charge of the events calendar.
3. Social Media Event Marketing
Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to set up events and announce them to your contacts there. This is an additional avenue of reaching your customers (and the press, if you have connected with them already).
The simplest way is to click the "Create an Event" feature on these sites, and copy and paste the description of your event used in the methods above. As you can see, the core strategy here is announcing your event in as many places as possible.
4. Local Broadcast Media
Call your local newspaper reporters and TV/radio stations and let them know about each event. Make a handy list of 10-20 reporters/journalists in your area and you can complete the calls in an hour or two. Or use email or fax; or a combination of these formats.
Nowadays it's fairly easy to visit the websites of these stations and publications to get the contact information of the reporters/journalists you want to target.
Finally, make sure to take plenty of photos at each of your events. This will help you get more coverage now (reporters will write about the outcome of your event) and it will help you with promoting future events.
These 4 methods are simple and easy while maximizing your return for the effort that goes into putting on a great event. This return includes, among others, improving your relationships with existing customers, securing new customers and partners, and getting lots of free publicity.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, July 2, 2012
On this great day when we celebrate America, our freedoms and our way of life, please enjoy (and please share with a Facebook like below and on Twitter with the hashtag #SpiritofAmerica) our list of twenty of why this is the greatest country in the history of the world:
#20. Hollywood. Disneyland. Broadway. Entertainment happens here.
#19. Red Sox - Yankees, Celtics - Lakers, The Super Bowl, The Final Four. Sports are spectacle here.
#18. Jesus. Moses. Mohammed. The Buddha. Religion gets along here.
#17. Gates. Jobs. Page. Zuckerberg. BIG stuff - invented here.
#16. Murphy. Martin. Seinfeld. Rock. Life is a laugh here.
#15. Madonna. Mariah. Whitney. Elvis. Michael. Frank. Songs are sung here.
#14. Faulkner. Hemmingway. Roth. Franzen. Stories are told here.
#13. Kaiser. Pfizer. Genentech. Merck. Healing happens here.
#12. Boeing. Caterpiillar. Deere. UPS. FedEx. Stuff gets built here and gets there.
#11. Amazon. eBay. Ecommerce - transacted here.
#10. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Networks - connected here.
#9. Google. Yahoo. Bing. Information - organized and accessible here.
#8. Kleiner. Sequoia. Mayfield. Ideas - backed here.
#7. The Inc. 500. The Fast Company 50. Entrepreneurs - inspired here.
#6. Alaska. Montana. Wyoming. Space - open here.
#5. Chicago. Boston. San Francisco. NYC. Cities pulse here.
#4. Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt walked the Earth here.
#3. The first guy in charge here voluntarily gave up power, when he could easily have been named ruler for life. Character stands here.
#2. The current guy in charge was born to an immigrant father and a teenage mother who was so poor that she received government assistance in raising her only child. Possibility abounds here.
#1. The Greatest Generation was born here, fought and won there. And then they came home, put their heads down, and built a new America. Civil rights, cities, suburbs, highways, schools, and more.
So on this day especially, we say THANK YOU!
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, July 1, 2012
Fact: Most businesses never reach $1 Million in annual sales. They start small and end small. While you can certainly create a great income with lower revenues, depending on your net profit, it's also true that staying small does not necessarily ensure that your business will survive.
There are no guarantees in business or in life! Every entrepreneur is faced with the risk that all their hard work and sacrifice will go belly-up. You have two choices for dealing with this uncertainty-shrink and survive, or survive through evolution and growth.
If you increase your annual revenues, you'll find you have more options. You'll be in a more likely position to ramp up your advertising or fund your own growth. There's also the old saying, "Revenue covers a multitude of sins," meaning that you don't have to have a perfect business to do well, as long as revenues are high and cash flow is healthy.
If times get tough and people aren't buying as much, you'll have your savings to weather the storm, your revenues will have room to decrease without putting you completely out of business, or you may have the cash on hand to get aggressive and attack your way out of the slump. Plus, you'll make more from the sale of your business, after all your hard work.
Whereas, if you stay small in order to keep things more manageable, it is often just a case study in shrinking back within the confines of your comfort zone. Yes, I know, you're a fearless entrepreneur and nothing daunts you, but let's get real here. Everyone has a comfort zone, and the fulfillment of dreams rarely happens within their limited boundaries. You will have to grow ahead of your business.
So with the mindset of achieving and maintaining fast growth, here are some tips for forming a growth strategy of your own.
Start with the most common ways for a smaller company to grow. Each of these involves some risk, effort, and uncertainty, though less than with other growth strategies. I suggest choosing and working on one of these at a time to stay focused and minimize the risks.
These strategies are as follows:
1. Sell more to your existing customers
The growth strategy with the least risk is continuing to sell more of your existing products to your current customers. You can do this by offering upgrades, maintenance and service packages, or finding new ways that your customers can use your product or service.
If you can't figure out what else to sell to your customers, try this - ASK THEM. Yes, it's really that simple.
2. Attract new customers
The next straightforward way to grow is to sell more of your product to adjacent markets-customers in different cities of states, or business buyers in related industries.
3. Additional sales and marketing channels
This could mean making sales through new channels-such as online transactions if you're a brick and mortar store or selling clothing at fairs and shows instead of strictly online. Or, you can advertise the same products through different lead generation channels, like pay-per-click, direct mail, etc.
4. Offer new products
Creating new products to offer existing customers is one sure-fire way to make more sales without having too much risk-compared to making new products for new customers.
Think of new, related ways to meet their needs, or meet them better, or more easily. Try personalizing. Different colors. And, once again ask them what they want so you can give it to them!
5. Growth through acquisition
Another way to grow is to acquire other companies, though this is usually more capital-intensive. In addition, often-times mergers and acquisitions fail to deliver the full value predicted for them.
Nevertheless, keep your eyes open for opportunities to buy competing businesses (especially if they're in a tough spot), or buying out one of your suppliers and even distributors to pass the savings through to your bottom line.
I hope you choose to grow your business versus staying small, and that you grow through one of these proven strategies. The horizon is constantly changing, and changing with it is a reliable way to stay ahead of the game and in a strong cash position.
Suggested Resource: Would you like to know more ways to maximize the value of your business. And specifically to turn it into one that exceeds $10 million in revenues? Then check out Growthink's 8 Figure Formula. This video explains more.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Outsourcing tasks and projects allows you to get more work done, more quickly and for less money. And it frees up your time to complete higher value-add tasks and otherwise grow your business. When outsourcing, a natural question arises as to when you should use several outsourced individuals or one virtual assistant, or both. This article will help you better answer this question, and allow you to outsource more profitably.
Of the many types of providers to which you can outsource work, there's a certain amount of leverage you can achieve by hiring a virtual assistant trained to do many things.
Would you rather hire and manage different people for each of these tasks?
- Administrative tasks
- Editing and posting blog content
- Keyword research
- Contacting customers
- Scheduling appointments
- SEO / Getting backlinks
- Customer service
...or just hire one person to do them all?
Something I have found very helpful is to write up a big, long list of every task that currently must be performed for your business to operate. Make it a list of ongoing, necessary tasks (not project-related tasks-more on that later).
Now go through the list and note which tasks are already handled by someone, which tasks could be done more inexpensively, which tasks you're currently doing yourself, and which tasks should be done but currently are not.
Doing this will leave you with a list of ongoing tasks that should probably be completed by a virtual assistant. So, what is a virtual assistant? A virtual assistant is a freelance service provider like any other, but who is more of a catch-all to handle numerous things for you (as opposed to an outsourced provider specializing in one thing, like design or computer programming).
Ideally, you can find one virtual assistant with previous experience doing everything you need done. If not, hire whoever can do the most and train them to do the rest. And/or for specialized projects, continue to hire individual outsourcers.
Virtual Assistants vs. Outsourcing Projects to Service Providers
There are pros and cons to both virtual assistants and individual outsourced providers.
One benefit of virtual assistants is that it's a lot easier to screen, hire, train and manage one virtual assistant for eight tasks than eight individual outsourcers for one task each.
Conversely, the benefit of an individual outsourcer is generally that they are well-trained in their area(s) of expertise. If you need a writer for example, you will probably get better quality work from a professional writer than hiring (or training) a virtual assistant who does a variety of things including writing.
Another difference is the length of time they work with you. Virtual assistants tend to be a longer, more ongoing commitment. Versus individual outsourcers who are often hired to complete just one task. Each of these scenarios has their benefits. Ongoing relationships cost more, but the virtual assistant often gets better with time as they learn more about you and your company. Individual outsourcers are only paid for the specific project they do, but there is more work to constantly find and educate them.
But with regards to cost, you can hire full-time virtual assistants in the Philippines for only $5 per hour, or $400/month full-time! So the cost might be very reasonable.
What should I have my virtual assistant do first?
The list of tasks you wrote up above can also be used when posting a project to hire a virtual assistant. These core tasks become their job description. As you think of new tasks your assistant can perform for you, add them to the list and train them to do it when the time is right.
You can't teach them everything all at once, so you've got to have a planned and orderly
system for training your assistant. Number each of the tasks in the order in which
you want to train them.
I recommend numbering only the top five at first so that you will stay focused. To number more is a waste of time, and your priorities might change in the meantime, anyway.
When you're almost done with the first five, choose a new top 5 tasks to teach, with the current #5 becoming the new #1.
There are three methods you can use to prioritize what to teach your virtual assistant and when:
1. Based on Frequency
Using this approach, the first things you would train your assistant to do are the ones they will be responsible to perform every day.
This makes sense, because these tasks are needed most often. And, they will begin to establish a daily routine. These tasks will become a habit, which will ensure they are done on time, every time.
Once these are taught, you can then move on to items that are to be done weekly, and then monthly. Think of training your virtual assistant in things that happen regularly as the foundation. Once it is laid, you can build upon it by adding other tasks that arise from time to time.
2. Based on Time Consumed
The first things you would teach your assistant to do using this approach are the ones that currently take YOU the most time to do. By doing this, you free up your time a lot faster.
Some of these tasks take a long time to train; others will only require an hour or so. You may prefer getting these monkeys off your back sooner, and like this method better.
3. Based on Importance
There are some things that each of us really needs to do, but we just can't seem to find the time to accomplish. You may wish to teach these to your assistant first in order to make sure they get done.
You may also decide on some combination of the above. Use your judgment, and don't put
off things that should be trained just because they take a few hours to teach properly.
While outsourcing can certainly save you a ton of time, there is still some unavoidable work on your part to get it set up for success and to manage and coach your virtual assistant over time. So the point is...you have to put in the hours and pay the price in order to get top-notch results consistently.
But would you spend one hour to save ten? Ten hours to save one hundred? I hope so. Taking the time to properly train and manage your virtual assistant and individual outsourcers is one of the best ROI's you'll ever see in business-but there is still an investment to make.
I'm hammering this home because I see a lot of entrepreneurs hiring someone, throwing them into the work, and then getting busy again with other things-wishfully hoping that everything will just run on auto-pilot from the beginning. It won't.
Suggested Resource: If you don't outsource, you can't compete. The math is simple...if your competitors are outsourcing and only pay $X to complete a task, and you pay $3X, $5X or $10X, your competitors will eat your lunch. You simply must outsource to stay competitive. Outsource the right way using Growthink's Outsourcing Formula. Learn more by clicking here.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, June 25, 2012
Today, investors, entrepreneurs and executives are all faced with a variant of the same challenge: how to find the right balance between the pursuit of the “perfect” – the perfect investment, the perfect strategy, the perfect prospect and the reality of our so opportunity-filled but always very messy modern business world.
For investors, evaluating any asset or security requires reviewing, assessing, and drawing conclusions from a never-ending stream of information and analysis, much of it contradictory and none of it in any way definitive.
For entrepreneurs, everyday across the wire comes another story of a new company with an innovative, different and promising to be world-changing business model and strategy compared to which one’s own business model feels tired and flat.
And for the marketer, the salesperson, the project manager, the time immemorial refrain is that these channels, these leads, these clients well they are okay and all but golly if they were only better, richer, more open, then we in turn too would be better, richer, do better work and have more fun.
This is the slippery slope of modern business.
It is one that I have seen way too often stop otherwise intelligent and ambitious investors, entrepreneurs, and executives from profiting from the opportunities that they do have while seeking that fantasy world that on so many levels the Internet especially makes us believe is out there somewhere.
So what to do?
Well, the first thing is to get real.
Like the golfer who one time hits their eight-iron 175 yards conveniently forgetting that the shot was downhill and downwind and that there was 40 yards of roll post landing, or the investor that rates buying Google at its IPO price, or for the salesperson the prospect that only asks for wire instructions as the forevermore guide to the kind of investment worth making, the kind of work worth doing is not just foolhardy, but also very close to downright sinful, too.
It is foolhardy in that while waiting for the perfect, worlds of opportunity pass us by.
And it brings into the business day all those not so admirable mindsets of greed, sloth, and pride.
So awareness is a start.
And from that awareness will flow that joyful beginner's mind and idealism that lets us see the possibilities and opportunities that are abundant and all around us in every conversation, every offer.
Yes, on occasion this so called "naiveté" will burn.
But it will be far outweighed by that “genius of endeavor” that Henry Adams described the great Teddy Roosevelt as possessing, namely in approaching life and business as a game of "pure act."
And dare I say that when life, work, and even investing are approached like this that they are a heck of lot more fun, too.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, June 22, 2012
In today's business environment, you absolutely must outsource to stay competitive. No, I'm not talking about outsourcing your core competencies. But I am talking about outsourcing those business functions and activities that someone else can do faster, cheaper and/or more easily than you.
Unfortunately, when they start outsourcing, most entrepreneurs and small business owners make several mistakes. In this essay, I'm going to outline the 10 most common mistakes made when outsourcing work or projects to freelancers or other service providers not on your internal team [note that I use the term "freelancers" below to describe folks to whom you outsource].
Feel free to print this out as a quick checklist to run through when setting up your next outsourcing project. For each of these, think of how you will address or avoid these mistakes in advance to ensure smooth sailing.
Mistake #1: Define the task/project clearly
This is something I would do before even posting the project [i.e., to find the outsourced candidate]. Because you need to really understand the project in order to write an accurate job description. The process of defining the task/project clearly will also help you to estimate the costs, time frame, and skills needed from the person you hire.
One way to do this is to write down a very clear and descriptive explanation of the task. Another way is to record yourself speaking the description. Finally, another great way is to take a screen recording of yourself doing the work you wish to outsource (or taking a video of you doing the work if it's not computer based). Try using a free screen recording program like Jing to make a quick video.
Mistake #2: Not having a well-planned estimate of costs
The more clearly you can define exactly what you need done by breaking it into parts, the better you can estimate how much time it will take - and therefore how much it will cost at the person's typical hourly rate. You don't want to just hand a bunch of work to someone and then get surprised when you get their bill and/or incorrectly assume they took too long to complete a project.
If the project you need completed is something that requires specialized knowledge, describe the project to potential freelancers and get their opinion on what is really involved and how long it should take. If there's no typical hourly rate for the work they're doing, then just get a solid estimate of the total project cost and consider it to see if it makes sense compared to the revenue it should generate (or costs it should save).
Mistake #3: Know your timeframe for starting and finishing the work
If you've ever provided services for a client in a rush, you know how stressful it can be to drop everything at the last minute and make their emergency yours. The people you outsource to are no different, and it will benefit you to plan and begin things in advance and not at the last minute.
So for whatever work it is you want to do, figure out how long it will take and when it absolutely has to be completed. You'll come out with a rough idea of when the work needs to commence. Then, give yourself a week or two before that to post projects, screen candidates, and choose the right person...maybe more.
Mistake #4: Hiring someone without enough experience
Nothing is worse than the blind leading the blind. When I hire someone to do something that I do not know how to do personally, they need to know how to do it - period. They need to educate you on their chosen skill set, not the other way around.
Your role is to describe the end result you want, ask for and listen to their suggestions, and rely on their expertise and talent to achieve it according to your description.
Mistake #5: Not screening or testing enough freelancers
In choosing the right candidate, I would rather have more options to choose from than fewer. If you run a project only on Elance, for example, you are only going to get a few providers from Elance bidding on your project. This might be enough, but suppose you posted this same project (copy and paste) on Guru and ODesk as well? [Elance, Guru and ODesk are 3 of my recommended websites for finding freelancers and outsourced help]
I would rather have 30 applicants and choose from among the top three than to have 10 applicants and choose from among the top one.
Also, your goal is to build a list of qualified people to contact whenever you need them for projects or ongoing work. So even if you post a project and only hire one person, keep tabs of the runner-ups so to contact or test later on for future projects.
Mistake #6: Choosing someone with no room to grow
If you are outsourcing a project (e.g., graphic design) that you know you'll need again in the future, you want to have one eye on the present project and your future needs. Think about what similar services you'll need in the future and to what extent?
Or, if you have a freelancer build something that, once done, needs maintenance, then be sure to ask them about their work hours and schedule. Find out if they have enough time left for your needs in addition to their other clients. It's terrible to go back to a great freelancer later on who is apologetic but too busy to help you.
Mistake #7: Outsourcing your weakness
If your business is weak in a certain area, it may also be weak at managing someone performing the work outside of your company, too. Think about it... every worthwhile endeavor requires some basic knowledge and strategy, as well as some understanding of how to perform the work and measure the results.
At least get this working knowledge upfront so that you can be effective at managing your freelancers. It doesn't matter if someone else is doing the work or not, if you don't start the project with a clear outcome and strategy, and continue to stay on top of it (not washing your hands and hiding somewhere) it will fail regardless of the skills and intelligence of your outsourcers.
Mistake #8: Lack of communication
You heard of management by walking around... well, this here is called seagull management. A seagull manager will be gone for days on end and suddenly come sailing in with the wind, squawking and dropping tons of work on everybody, and then flying away never to be seen again for days or weeks on end.
What seagull managers don't realize is that you have to constantly be there for your team. This doesn't mean it needs to take a lot of time, but they would appreciate fast responses just as you like them from others.
Again, just because someone else is performing the work does not mean you can abdicate your responsibility to support and manage them to achieve the result.
Mistake #9: Insufficient feedback
If you plan on using your freelancer for more than just a few quick tasks, then you will want to invest in your relationship with them from the beginning. Your job as a manager is to coach them and help them to do things exactly as you want over time.
You should expect them to make mistakes and encourage them to fail quickly so you can give feedback and show how to do it the right way. Don't be a perfectionist, and don't make them afraid or hesitant to admit challenges or mistakes and then blame them later.
Many managers just assume that the people who are working for them can read their minds and know all the little details without being told. This is not true, even when the person is highly intelligent. It's your job to communicate clearly and often.
Mistake #10: Underutilizing hired talent
This probably keeps most entrepreneurs and small business owners from outsourcing in the first place. As entrepreneurs, I have to admit that we can have some pretty big egos. While this helps in the vision and confidence departments, it can also lead to the "no one can do it as well as I can" syndrome.
Maybe not, but I would still rather have 10 people who are 80% as good as me doing 90% of the work. Think about it! Besides, with proper coaching and support, you can make a good person great-as long as they are coachable and motivated to grow.
And even when you are outsourcing work to someone, don't miss opportunities to give them even more work once they have proven themselves with some smaller task. I like to list all the work required on a consistent basis and check the sub-items off as I outsource them, one at a time.
Implement these suggestions and your outsourcing experience will be a lot more effective and hassle-free!
Suggested Resource: If you don't outsource, you can't compete. The math is simple...if your competitors are outsourcing and only pay $X to complete a task, and you pay $3X, $5X or $10X, your competitors will eat your lunch. You simply must outsource to stay competitive. Outsource the right way using Growthink's Outsourcing Formula. Learn more by clicking here.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, June 17, 2012
Normally, if I were to ask an entrepreneur or business owner how they could double their sales, they'd propose increasing their sales force, trying to get customers to buy twice as much, or doubling their advertising budget.
But often, a superior strategy can get the same results with less effort. In this case, your pricing strategy might be this superior strategy.
There are several pricing strategies to choose from when offering a new product/service or trying something new with one you're already selling.
Making even minor price changes to find the "sweet spot" where the most people will buy can massively increase your results. Think back to economics class, when they covered the Price Elasticity of Demand. Now, if you're still awake, remember how you might raise your product's price down or up and lead to an increase in sales.
Price it too high, and your margins will be great, but you'll generate less revenue because fewer people buy it. Don't price your product too low, for obvious reasons, but don't be afraid to try going lower (even temporarily, like during a promotion) and observe the results.
Test this enough and you'll find the sweet spot that works the best for customers and your bottom line.
Changing your price (and therefore the number of units you sell) can affect your other expenses, so take these into consideration and work it to your advantage.
For example, say you lower the price of your widgets and sell many more of them. You have more sales, but the cost to create and deliver your widget stays the same (meaning lower margins on each widget sold).
This would be a great time to negotiate a volume discount with your vendors and suppliers, since you are bringing them more business. Then your customers get a lower price, you make and keep more revenue, and the vendor does more volume-everybody wins.
Another key consideration is your customers' perception of your product-or, more importantly, how you want it to be perceived. If you price a premium item too low, customers may not believe the quality is good enough. They are accustomed to paying more to get more-and trust me, this is not necessarily a belief you need to go about changing.
On the other hand, if you price something too high, customers will go elsewhere to buy it for less, unless it has something very unique and beneficial.
Some additional pricing strategies to consider are ...
Based on Competition
With this strategy, you'll need to gather the top competitors' prices to use as a starting point.
Determine if they are positioning their products to be on the low end, high end, or right in the middle, and compare that with your own positioning strategy. Also assess whether their product or service is of higher or lower quality than yours?
Consider market trends and your product or service's value, and either price it a little under or a little over that of your competition. Having one or two advantages over the competition can lead to more sales, especially when the price is near the same as those with fewer benefits.
Based on Cost, Plus Markup
In this strategy, you determine your product or service's costs to create and fulfill, and then choose a price above this amount based on the gross profit you want to make when selling each item.
Loss leaders are products or services that you offer at or below your cost, in order to attract more first-time customers who you hope will buy higher-ticket items or a variety of items over time.
The hardest sale to make is the first one, so sometimes it's wise to make the offer so irresistible (by undercutting the competition) that you get to start a relationship with more new people-knowing that you'll recoup your money in the future.
My advice is to also have a plan for what you will upsell them, when, and how. Ideally, it will be as soon after the time of the first purchase (or perhaps as an upsell or cross-sell at the same time as the first transaction), so your cash flow is not affected as much.
Higher Perceived Value
Some products come out of the gate with higher prices, to take advantage of the premium image and psychological positioning. Make sure the quality really is high when you do this, though it doesn't have to be the absolute best product on the market.
Make sure you don't arbitrarily raise the price of your existing products, because people will note the change and not see the justification for it.
Also called "liquidation sales," you can try this strategy when you have excess inventory. Your goal here isn't to generate the most profit-it's to minimize your costs of continuing to store the items, or throw them away. Though it isn't a long-term strategy, it can get you out of a cash flow crunch when needed and/or clear out old inventory.
This is a way to reward people for making larger purchases from you. Offer discounts on bulk purchases, such as "Buy two, get one free." Or, make special deals with the repeat customers who bring you the most volume.
Like the above, but applicable when a customer buys several different products from you-not several of the same ones. You can offer these bundles and their pricing at the time of the sale to sweeten the deal, or you can make it the focus of a marketing campaign.
Some speakers and trainers package together a group of related books, courses, and seminars so that the total price if you buy now is much less than getting them all separately, or at different times. It's a great way to build urgency into your offer, if customers know they'll have to act now to get the savings.
You see this pricing technique used often with services, or technical products like software and apps. With this, you sell the same product in two or three different versions. The trial version (often called Basic) is usually priced very low or is even free. Think of it as the loss leader that gets people in the door and wanting to expand to the full functionality that it offers (often called the Premium, or Gold/Platinum version).
You would then offer upgrades or additional features and services at a higher price. A good example of this would be Tom's Planner-a simple online software for making charts to schedule project-related tasks. You can create one chart with the free version (I used it to make a few charts, one at a time) or upgrade to the paid version where you can make unlimited charts. Think about how you might apply this to your products and services-especially the ones with monthly, recurring income.
So there you have it -- eight proven pricing strategies at your disposal. Make smart use of these pricing strategies and your bottom line will soar!
Suggested Resource: Want more ways to increase your profits? Check out our "Double Your Profits" training. You'll learn tons of quick, proven tactics that will grow your revenues and profits right away. Check out the "Double Your Profits" training here.
Written by Jay Turo on Sunday, June 17, 2012
The depressing and high-anxiety inducing combination of punchless public equity markets, historically low interest rates, and significant inflation risk has fueled desperate pleas for new, workable, and performing investment ideas and strategies.
Any reader of these pages know the author's enthusiasm for private equity investing, both for the entrepreneurial spirit it represents and demands and because as an investment class it has outperformed all others by a wide margin.
But unfortunately poor public market performance has adversely affected its return profile substantially.
Quite simply, 14 years of flat public markets has just cast a big pall of “blah” over the entire equity investing landscape - private and public.
Entrepreneurs have responded well to this “contagion” - via innovations such as electronic secondary marketplaces like SharesPost and Second Market, and via the coming new world of investment-based crowdfunding.
These innovations in turn have made one of the most overlooked yet best returning forms of private company investing more viable and attractive for investors of all sizes than ever before.
It is commonly described as project financing, but a more accurate description of where the real smart money is being deployed these days are in Discrete, Opportunity- Based Investments, or “DOBIs.”
DOBIs differ from traditional private equity investments in that - like project financings – they are not based in investing in a company as a whole.
Rather, like a real estate project or an investment in a movie or a television show, DOBIs involves financially backing a discrete – in kind and scope - business initiative where a) the payoff timeline is measured in months, not years and b) the investment return flows not from a third party purchase of the underlying investment security but rather from the generated cash of the project itself.
The concept is not new. But the types of opportunities being funded and the speed and their level of performance certainly are.
DOBI examples include social media “harvesting” - where investors fund pay-per-click and other forms of marketing that drive “freemium" giveaways, with investment return then being generated through high margin residual sales within a few months or even weeks of the initial campaign.
Or, as has been increasingly seen on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, rapid product prototyping and development driven projects that offer both in-kind return consideration, and an effective level of coupon return most typically associated with accounts receivables financings through factoring.
While DOBIs have the technology, market, and execution risk factors of any investment, they also offer many mitigating, "walk before you run" features usually unavailable in the traditional “you are in or you are out” private equity investment form.
And, nicely because the time horizon of DOBIs are so naturally short, the ability to gather multiple points of performance data is naturally much easier.
How to find them?
My favorite places to look are sights like the aforementioned Kickstarter, along with peer to peer lending sites like Prosper.com and Lending Club.
While the “on the board” opportunities there are often good enough, smart and hard-working investors will go deeper and invest not just at the “rack rate” but rather connect directly with the entrepreneur or project team to see if a “one off” deal can be made.
Quick and easy to do? Of course not.
But for those investors tired of the variously weak choices offered through traditional channels, the out-sized and often-times pretty quick returns offered by DOBIs are often well worth the risk and more.