Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, April 8, 2012
In my many years of running businesses for myself, I've noticed (as you probably have) that no one cares quite as much about your baby as you do. I mean, no one is as committed to realizing your vision as you (or your co-founders if you have them).
This is okay! It's just human nature. It's one of those things you can whine and complain about, or you can accept it and work creatively with it. Look at it from your employees' point of view-they're not YOU! They are probably not as entrepreneurial as you are and what motivates you is not necessarily what "should" motivate them.
Yet it takes a motivated, productive employee to help you reach your vision. So how can you maximize your team's, and therefore your business' productivity?
I will describe a few ways here shortly, but first I want to drive home that some of the answers will seem counterintuitive. They may seem different from the way things have been done in the traditional workplace. But that doesn't mean they don't work, or that the principles behind them aren't sound.
Remember...you are not your employees and they are not you! Everyone is motivated by something. It's your job to find out what and then give it to them by creating an environment where your team can flourish.
1. Inspire them to be productive
If someone is working for an hourly wage, you just can't expect them to have consistently high levels of productivity when they have little incentive to do so. Yes, there's fear of losing their job, but is that really enough in today's world? This isn't factory labor from 1910.
Your team of human beings needs positive reinforcement from you. Be creative and find ways to reward doing a consistently good job. You could offer pay raises for good performance, bonuses for getting results, recognizing the most reliable employees, etc.
Be aware of and cater to the individual personalities of your team. For example, offering monetary bonuses is not going to motivate all employees. Salespeople...probably yes. Bookkeepers...maybe not. In many cases, non-monetary rewards like public recognition are more powerful than monetary rewards.
2. Lose the Overtime
Working more than 40 hours per week oftentimes hurts creativity. Particularly if your employees need to solve problems or do creative work (like most office roles an "information worker" engages in), their performance will drop from fatigue MUCH faster than the performance of someone working with their hands or in a factory.
The typical management model assumes that more hours will mean better results, but it's just not in harmony with psychology and human performance. Studies have shown that when someone works for 60 hours per week, they will have a short-term boost in productivity that lasts for about 3-4 weeks before declining far below original levels. The latter decrease and recovery period is not worth it!
So save overtime for finalizing the occasional deadline-driven project. Help your employees to be well-rested and vibrant. Hire more part-timers to work, if needed. Getting 8 hours of sleep (not something you can control, but you can make it easier without overtime) will increase their problem-solving abilities. And give your top people a rest to get even more of a boost from them. (And do the same for YOURSELF).
3. Have a Daily Focus Huddle
If you set big goals and come in to work each day with single-minded purpose, you're going to reach your goals sooner.
Start by documenting your goals and breaking them down into smaller projects. Then, make sure your team is focused on completing each project. You can do this by having a 3-5 minute "huddle" with them first thing in the morning (or work shift).
During this huddle, you remind everyone of the project at hand and the end results to achieve. Get quick reports or updates on progress, and then answer questions and assign or remind everyone of their individual commitments for the day.
I realize this is more easily done in a weekly meeting, but try it for yourself daily for a week and see how much closer you get to your goals when everyone gets grounded and on track every day.
4. Small team sizes produce best results
Studies have found that productivity is maximized in teams of 4 to 8 people. Fewer people than that usually results in a team that is not diverse enough in talents or knowledge to get the results needed.
And productivity is 30-50% LOWER in groups larger than 10. Maybe it takes too much time to manage that many people, or things get too cluttered. But regardless, think about how your team (or teams) of employees are organized and see if you can break things up a little. 12 people could become 2 groups of 6, or 3 groups of 4-each focused on creating some crucial result for your business.
5. Seat people on the same team together in a closed team room
Lastly, a work team's productivity can increase over 100% when they work together in a closed room. Give them at least 50 square feet of space per person to work.
When teams are grouped in a closed-door setting together, there is faster communication. Questions are answered faster for better problem-solving and decision-making. And there are fewer external interruptions to the team.
If your business is a restaurant or a place where this is more difficult than an office setting, you can't do this; but you can understand this key point: find ways to put people working on a common task in the same place at the same time.
Importantly, remember that productivity is the key to achieving your vision using whatever resources and time are available to you. Your team's productivity is even more important than your personal productivity, though you set the tone for everyone else.
Hopefully these 5 action items will help you to do more with less, and have a happy team and workplace in the process. Pick at least one and try it out for the next week!
Suggested Resource: Follow the tips above and you'll start maximizing the productivity of your team. And check out "Productivity Secrets for Entrepreneurs: How to Get More Done, Make More Money and Take More Time Off" if you'd like to access my complete program for maximizing your productivity and results.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, April 3, 2012
I speak to my friend Steve about once a month. And every few times we speak, he hits me with his latest new business idea.
Once in a while, the idea has merit. But most times it doesn't.
The other day Steve told me his latest idea. I could barely mutter two words in reply when he cut me off. "I forgot who I was talking too," he blurted out, "you don't like any of my ideas."
Interestingly, when he said that, I felt like a venture capitalist. You see, venture capitalists or VCs hear tons and tons of business ideas. And when you hear tons of ideas over many years, and see the vast majority of these ideas fail to materialize, you start developing a pessimistic attitude about new ideas.
And, after hearing so many ideas myself over such a long period of times, it seems that even I have gotten a bit negative or skeptical (well at least on ideas that my friend Steve tells me about).
Interestingly, I went to business school nearly 15 years ago with several bright guys who became venture capitalists. When they first became VCs, they were very positive people. They heard ideas with the mindset of "how can we make this work."
But after hearing thousands of ideas over many years, and investing in lots of companies that didn't pan out, their thinking shifted. In fact, today, their attitude is more like "what are the reasons that this idea won't work."
I tell you this not to be a downer. But to let you inside the head of a venture capitalist, or any investor that's been around a long time. Like it or not, these investors inevitably develop a bit of pessimism when considering new investment opportunities. And while you are speaking, their mind is constantly asking, "what are the reasons this idea won't work."
Why this matters is that you need to understand and play to this pessimism.
Here are four ways to accomplish this:
1. Pre-emptively address their concerns
As you now know, while you speak with VCs, they are considering the reasons your venture won't work. So, address these concerns before they even ask about them. For example, state in your presentation the top 5 concerns you think they might have and why you will overcome/address them.
Generally, you should address these concerns in the core part of your investor presentations. You should also have four or five back-up slides (that you keep at the end of the presentation for use if and when needed) that address other less-common concerns that you guess investors might have. By pulling up these slide when the investor voices the concern, you will have the best possible answer and seem ultra-prepared (which you will be).
2. Avoid superlatives
Most VCs I know hate superlatives.
Superlatives are words like "best," "greatest," "most powerful," "world-class," etc. Unless you can back up these words, don't use them. Since VCs have been promised everything under the sun, and are turned off by such claims.
3. Relate your ideas to proven companies
One way to make your ideas appear more viable is to tie them to proven companies. For example, say that your company is like eBay but you [fill in the blank regarding how you differ]. Both consciously and subconsciously, this simile gives VCs and other investors the impression that your company might become as successful as that other proven company.
Importantly, don't bad mouth another company (particularly a successful company); as this will cause you to lose credibility. Rather explain why you are unique and can perform better and/or differently.
4. Boost your credibility wherever possible
Skeptical and pessimistic people (including VCs) are skeptical of grand claims. Hence why I told you to avoid superlatives above.
But you should also avoid other grand claims and bolster your credibility wherever possible.
For example, having a financial model that shows you are going to grow from $0 to $100 million in revenues in 3 years is generally going to be frowned upon. Since achieving such a feat is extremely rare.
Conversely, by researching the growth profile of similar firms, you can come up with more credible forecasts that will escape skepticism and show investors you really understand the business and its potential.
Likewise, you can boost credibility by getting customers. One of a VCs greatest concerns is whether you'll be able to acquire enough customers. Proving this early on significantly enhances your positioning and chances of raising VC dollars. Even if you don't have a product or service that's ready for customers, there are things you can do. For example, you can get alpha or beta customers. Or, at the least, you could survey customers and show VCs survey results and testimonials from customers saying they are seeking the precise solution you are building.
Finally, building a Board of Advisors and/or hiring accomplished employees will boost your credibility and show VCs that you know how to execute, and can thus effectively grow your business with the funding they invest in you.
Don't get me wrong. Most VCs aren't pessimists or curmudgeons that aren't fun to be around. But many do develop a natural pessimism against new entrepreneurs and ventures they meet. It is your job to overcome this pessimism. And once you do, you can gain the funding and the guidance of a VC that could help you dramatically grow your business.
Suggested Resource: In Venture Capital Pitch Formula, you'll learn exactly how to find and contact venture capitalists, exactly what information to include in your presentation, and how to secure your financing. This video explains more.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, April 2, 2012
This week, the President is expected to pass H.R. 3606 - the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) bill, which includes provisions that for the first time legalize investment-based crowdfunding.
While the crowdfunding portion of the bill still needs to go through SEC rule-making, the die is clearly cast that a whole new social networking – based world of start-up and small business investing and financing is coming fast upon us.
So who will the winners be and who will lose ground once the new rules are fully live?
Well, the first group of winners will undoubtedly be the tens of millions of American entrepreneurs - and eventually hundreds of millions of worldwide - that for the first time in human history will have access to on-demand capital for their creative and future-focused projects and initiatives.
To envision this, visit (or revisit) Kickstarter.com, and browse through the incredible diversity of cause and passion - based projects, from charitable to design to artistic to technological, crowd funded on a donations basis on the site.
Then, layer in elements of the kinds of companies funded by angel investment groups and early stage venture capital firms – i.e. focused on hot technology spaces like mobile commerce, healthcare information technology and possessing fast-scaling revenue and thoughtful “Porter Five Forces-Friendly” business models.
Doing so will give you a good feel for what the first turn of investment-based crowdfunding will be.
But quickly following these early adopters will be the best of the best of U.S. small and medium-sized companies.
These businesses - think of the Inc. 500 list of America's fastest growing companies - are home to the most talented, hardworking, and just nose to the grindstone, money making and job creating entrepreneurs and executives in the world.
And, sadly and embarrassingly, these best and the brightest among us have been mostly abandoned by the U.S. banking system when it comes to funding their growth initiatives.
Well, for starters the very unfortunate “derivatives-focus” of the U.S. financial markets this past decade has resulted in an entire banking industry generation to simply not even know how to do the hard diligence work of equity and fundamentals-based investing in growth businesses.
Add to this mix banking industry consolidation causing smaller capital investments to just “not be worth the trouble” for way too big a swath of the industry and the sad reality is that banks are really no longer meaningful funding players in the small business communities in which they allegedly live.
Liberatingly, crowdfunding will allow smaller companies to simply bypass and disintermediate these broken financial sources altogether.
And to do so for such simple and each to grasp purposes as inventory and receivables financing, capital expenditures with shorter payback periods, and my favorite, for the kind of high ROI, Internet-based marketing and customer acquisition campaigns about which traditional bank underwriters wouldn’t even know the right questions to ask.
The result will be that American small business will innovate and grow faster, and oh yes have the wherewithal to create the jobs and pay the taxes that fuel our whole way of life.
And smaller investors will be winners too.
No longer will the best entrepreneurs with the best ideas and growth prospects only be available to be backed by the "1%" - the cadre of institutional and super high net worth individual investors that under current rules have a veritable monopoly on entrepreneurial investing.
With fully functioning crowdfunding markets, this high return world will be open to anyone with a few hundred dollars, an appetite for intelligent risk-taking, and an abiding belief in the power of entrepreneurship and innovation to improve our world for the better.
And as a bonus, won’t it be nice for the media to cover just a little more about entrepreneurial and fundamental investment successes and a lot less of the tawdry, “give them bread and circus” spectacle of our state-sponsored lottery cabals?
And points to who the losers will be in this soon to come crowd funding world.
Let’s start with the aforementioned banks and other questionably value-adding financial intermediaries (think travel agents in the late 1990s).
But really, all those trapped in cynical, pessimistic and legacy – based financial thinking and being will find these democratized and re-vitalized markets quite threatening.
Yes, financial market change for the far better is coming.
Not as fast as any of us hope, but coming inevitably nevertheless.
So let's thank those few brave souls that have made it happen.
They are the new drum majors for justice and progress on whose shoulders we will all stand.
And oh, yes, profit from too.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, April 1, 2012
When I think about the great entrepreneurs of our time like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Richard Branson, I not only admire the companies they built, but their leadership skills. Since even the best idea, or the smartest individual, can't evolve into a massively successful company without leadership.
Below I will explain the difference between leadership and management, and steps you should take to improve your leadership skills.
Leadership vs. Management
Leadership is future-oriented, and determines what the company's desired future should be and what strategy to take to get it all done.
On the other hand, management focuses on getting things done in the present through the wise use of systems, people, and resources.
Leadership skills tend to be more intuitive, "big picture," and holistic. Managerial thinking tends to be more analytical, detailed, and logical. Both can be creative, but management thinking is definitely more process-oriented.
So how can someone become a better leader?
There are several areas of leadership for which each of us has some degree of skill. Take an analysis of yourself and where you stand on each of them below.
While this can be a real eye-opener, doing this can let you know where improvement is most needed. It might just be the thing that is holding you back without you knowing it!
Seeing the Future
As I mentioned before, leaders have the ability to see the big picture and devise an effective path to make that vision come true.
As a leader, you have the vantage point of looking at your entire business or any of its parts - sales, marketing, accounting, management, etc. You can look for opportunities or accept the need for change and create a vision in your mind of what could be.
The clearer you are about what you want and what specific results are required, the easier it is to map an appropriate strategy that will get you there.
Leaders create the core values and philosophy of the business, grounded in their own values and passion. It's up to you to be consistent with regards to your company's values, so that it becomes "the way we do it" in your business.
For example, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh attributes much of his company's success to the 10 core values he helped establish:
1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More With Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble
Leaders are committed. You must be willing to make sacrifices to achieve success. And you must be persistent and passionate to see things through to completion even with setbacks along the way. No one is going to be more committed to the success of your business than you, and your commitment will inspire those who work for you.
And lastly, leaders are influencers. As you frequently and powerfully communicate what your vision and strategy are, others will catch your spirit as well and see what you see.
It can often be difficult to help other people to "get it," so as a leader you have to tailor your message to get through to them.
The funny thing about leadership is that it's the thing that most of us need to work on but we are perhaps the least aware of. After all, you don't know what you don't know. Where do you stand?
To help you, here are 3 simple steps to boost your leadership skills:
Step One: Take an inventory of yourself and your skills in each of the areas in bold above. Specifically, ask the following questions:
- Seeing the Future: Do you have a clear vision of your company's future? Do your employees know this vision?
- Values: What are the values you live by and that your company needs to follow. Do your employees know these values?
- Commitment: How committed are you to the success of your business? What would you forego in order to achieve that success (would you risk everything? give up watching TV? etc.)? Do you always follow through on company projects to completion?
- Influence: How much have you been able to influence employees and others? Have the 100% bought into your vision? Do they come to work with "fire in their bellies"?
Not only should you answer these questions yourself, but ask someone you trust (including key employees) to give you their thoughts as well so you get a second point of view.
Step Two: Determine where you are lacking and see how it has impacted your business. Specifically, are you happy with your answers to the above questions? If not, what might be the result if you don't change? What could be the result if you do change? Commit yourself to focusing on the area(s) in which you need improvement.
Step Three: Map out a plan for how you can improve in that area. Choose activities that will help you to practice that skill, and schedule them.
For example, if you feel like your vision for your business still isn't clear enough and needs some work, you might hold periodic vision meetings, attend conferences where you can scan for upcoming opportunities, or use some creative imagination techniques to explore possibilities in your mind.
Commit now to making your leadership skills an area of focus this year. With steady attention and effort, you'll find that you get results and realize your dreams more easily and quickly, and with a lot less confusion and spinning your wheels.
Suggested Resource: To become the ultimate leader, you need to do a lot of things, like hire the right people, create the right culture, establish accountability structures, etc.
If you haven't led a highly successful company before, there are a lot of mistakes you will make. However, I've put together a program that allows you to skip the mistakes and get it right the first time.
In my program, I'll teach you everything you need to do to find, recruit and train the right people, and build an amazing organization that allows you to thrive. Click here to access it now.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, March 27, 2012
While I believe every business owner should be an expert in direct-response marketing (e.g., marketing designed to solicit a direct response which is specific and quantifiable), I don't believe it's necessary to become an expert on building websites.
It's something a hired programmer can do while you focus on growing your business.
However, even hiring and managing someone to take care of this for you can be time-consuming-and you still have to know what to ask them to do in the first place.
So here are 5 simple things that can make your website more effective that either you or any programmer can easily do.
#1: Set up a blog
Even if you don't have a website, you can go to Wordpress.com and create one for free. Or download Wordpress and install a free Wordpress theme (google that-there are hundreds out there) to your existing site.
#2: Post at least once per week
Make a new blog post on your website at least once per week. Announce your new blog posts on Facebook and Twitter if you use them, as well as to your email list.
For your blog posts, think about what your customers and visitors want to see and learn that's related to your industry and product. What are their interests and concerns that you can address? If you solve a problem, what topics on prevention can you touch on that help them out?
You can also write about what you see in the news, and add your commentary. It's up to you, but the tried and true method is to ask your customers what they want, and give it to them.
Importantly, the more blog posts you have, the more likely you are to be found on search engines, which will bring more and more potential customers to you at no charge.
#3: Make & Upload Videos
If writing isn't your thing, then making short and simple videos might be even better. Get out your wireless phone's camera and film a 60-second video of you explaining how to clean out a garbage disposal, if you're a plumber, for example.
Upload the video to YouTube, and publish it for all to see. Then click the "Share" button on your video's page and get the "embed code" to paste onto a new post on your site.
Add some textual content to your blog post such as a keyword-based title (e.g., "how to clean out a garbage disposal") and text above the video (e.g., Check out the video below where I show you how to clean out a garbage disposal"). This will help you rank your blog post better in the search engines so you get more traffic.
#4: Add Tools for Sharing
Have you seen how on the Growthink blog, there are little buttons saying 'Share on Facebook'? You can get these buttons, called "badges," on your site pretty easily. Make sure to do so, at least for Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.
Each can be done in a pretty straightforward manner. Each of the sites have support pages to guide you through the process, so your best bet is to google phrases like "how to add twitter badge to website" and you'll find the instructions needed for your type of blog.
Or you can use services like ShareThis.com and AddThis.com that allow you to quickly and easily add sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and more.
#5: Register with Business Listing Sites
There are several local business sites where you can list your site for no charge. They don't take much time to get listed on, and they will drive traffic and boost your SEO rankings. So why not?
The most popular ones are:
- Google Places
- Yahoo Local
- Bing Local
- Merchant Circle.com
- Online Yellow Pages sites
You can implement each of these 5 tips pretty quickly and easily in order to generate more traffic to your website. So, add these to your "To Do" list.
Suggested Resource: Want to learn my complete strategy for methodically maximizing your online traffic, leads, sales and profits? Then check out my Ultimate Internet Marketing System.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, March 26, 2012
Thursday’s incredibly exciting news that the Senate approved H.R. 3606 - the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) bill - should hearten all that grasp the negative impact of the tangling knot of regulation on the flow of capital and the success of entrepreneurship in America today.
Included in the bill is H.R. 2930 - the Entrepreneur’s Access to Capital Act - which for the first time legalizes investment-based crowdfunding.
This is game-changing as startups and small businesses and investors can now directly (and socially) connect and transact investments in amounts as little as $500.
Correspondingly, these Internet-marketed, transacted, and settled offerings will be exempt from the Byzantine state-by-state rules that effectively prevent a regulatory compliant securities offering for anyone with less than a $100,000 legal budget.
The combined effect of these law and rules changes - once they wind themselves through the economy - will be powerfully transformative.
How much so?
Well, at a crowd-funding and private capital conference I attended last week, David Weild, former Vice Chairman of NASDAQ, and one of the most informed and respected observers of the US IPO market, made the startling observation that if the regulatory environment for IPOs and for venture capital and private equity financings was as it was in the late 1990s that the nation's joblessness rate - as opposed to being its current 8+%, would be less than 3%, or above the level of full employment.
As exciting, the amazing, networked power of crowdfunding will usher in a true golden age for U.S. startups.
What would this look like?
Well, try on for size quick and efficient financing for any project, any product, any company that a thoughtful and passionate entrepreneur, artist and/or cause-oriented activist can dream up.
And correspondingly, how about freedom for all those with the gumption to go for it to not to have to stay in a job they don't like just to pay the bills?
How about everyone - for the first time in the history of any society – living and working at the top of the hierarchy of needs and be about - and only about - self-actualization and causes larger than themselves?
In the words of the famed social scientist, Daniel Pink, how about all of us leading professional lives of full autonomy, mastery, and purpose?
Am I overstating the impact of one bill?
Am I not speaking to and about its drawbacks, especially to the dangers of fraud and to investor protection of the regulatory loosening?
No, I don't think so.
Smart people like David Weild, Vince Molinari, Michael Moe, Phil Reicherz, Dara Albright, and many, many others agree that fixing and updating for the Internet age the broken regulatory framework for our private and public equity markets is in the top 3 to 4 of all government levers to transform our economy for the better.
It is not as much a question of whether or not these law and rules changes will have this kind of impact, only of how long it will take.
So for those of you that despair for the fate of our world and of the inefficacy of our government and political systems, hold on just a little longer.
The arc of human progress is about to take a major upswing.
I can't wait.
Next week: Winners and losers in this new and coming frictionless financing and crowdfunding world.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, March 25, 2012
There's been a lot of talk about Facebook over the last few years, and many business owners feel overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the buzz and developments.
What if you had a simple punch list of the "if nothing else, do this" items needed to get the most out of Facebook?
I made the following list of action items to get you started with a minimum of things to do or learn.
The purpose is to get you more exposure and attract new customers, and improve relationships with existing ones (or those on the fence).
Step #1: Create It
If your business does not have its own free Facebook Page yet, I strongly suggest taking 10 minutes today to set one up.
Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php, follow the directions, enter your business' description and some photos, and you're done. Don't spend too much time on this right now, just get one up and running quickly to start.
Then, ask friends and family members in your contact list (your email contact list or Facebook friends you already have) to "Like" your business and become a fan.
Your immediate goal is to get 25 fans, at which point you can ask Facebook for a "vanity URL." In other words, you will be able to choose a custom Facebook address to give people, rather than the lengthy one they give you.
To do this, go to Facebook.com/username and follow the instructions.
Step #2: Grow Your Fans
The next step is to work on getting found by more people, so you're not posting to an empty room. You want maximum results for your efforts!
Here's 3 helpful ways to increase your Fans over time:
- Give your customers your Facebook web address. You can print it on your business cards, signs, and other marketing materials you use.
Give them your vanity URL to find you directly, or at the least, tell them you're on Facebook and what they will get there (discounts, updates, fun, etc.) and they can search for you once they're there.
- Run Facebook Ads. You've seen those ads with pictures on the right sidebar as you use Facebook. Did you know you can run them, too? Just go to Facebook.com/advertising and follow the instructions.
Facebook gives $50 vouchers for ad credit for new advertisers-you'll see them in business magazines or various online ads from time to time.
Use one of them or kickstart your campaign for $50-100. Send the traffic to your Page and see how many likes you get. Make sure to note your Cost per Visit and Cost per Like. Sometimes it's only a few cents each!
- Incentivize sharing. Your goal is to get people to participate in the Facebook discussions you start with your posts. This will happen naturally as you engage your fans, covered next.
But it also helps to give people something in exchange for Liking your Page or sharing it with friends. You can do this by offering a free report, checklist, video, discount, coupon, giveaway raffle, or anything else to motivate them to spread the word.
Step #3: Engage Your Fans
Okay, so now what do you post and when? And how can you take care of this quickly with all your other business projects and tasks going on?
My advice is to start small and keep it simple. Commit to making one simple post per day, which can be as short as 1-2 sentences. It helps to sit down and write them in one sitting, over 15 minutes or so, rather than logging on every day and starting from scratch.
Once you have written the next week or two of Wall posts in advance, you can use a free service like Postcron.com to schedule the day and time they appear, so you don't have to remember to log in and do it manually each time.
The best times to post are just before people most typically visit Facebook; a recent study on social media revealed that these peak times are at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm (Eastern Time), with Wednesdays being the most popular day of the week.
Publishing your content a few minutes before these times keeps it in the public's eye when the most people can see it and participate.
And here are some ideas to get you started writing posts:
- Post photos...people love them! Take photos of your customers, your location, yourself, your employees, and your events. Each of them gets attention, describes you better than 1,000 words, and gives you something interesting to post without having to be super-creative.
- Ask Questions. This invites a response, especially with questions like "What do you think?" or adding "Tell us why" following a Yes-or-No question.
- Show behind the scenes. People are always intrigued by mystery and want to know what really goes on in a business behind closed doors. So show them! You can give your fans updates on your business' plans and what you're working on now, show photos from behind the scenes, and more.
So there's the punch list! Create your page, grow your fans, engage them continually, and you will have opened up a new avenue for increasing customers, relationships, and sales.
Suggested Resource: Facebook marketing is one piece of an effective online marketing strategy. Want to learn my entire online marketing system? So you can methodically maximize traffic, leads, sales and profits? Then check out my Ultimate Internet Marketing System. In it, you'll learn how you can build the ultimate online lead generation machine. Click here to learn more.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, March 21, 2012
The date was July 6, 2010. That's 623 days ago.
That's the day I first started publicly promoting Crowdfunding as a viable funding source for entrepreneurs.
At the time, entrepreneurs were raising approximately $1 million each month from Crowdfunding.
Since then, the market has absolutely exploded. I now estimate that $1 million is being raised from Crowdfunding each day!
When I first wrote about Crowdfunding two years ago, I predicted it would be huge. That prediction has clearly been proven true.
But what I also predicted was that some entrepreneur would shatter the million-dollar Crowdfunding barrier.
You see, at the time, tons of entrepreneurs were raising smaller amounts with Crowdfunding. But no one had raised over $1 million dollars.
And since then, many entrepreneurs have come close.
On December 6, 2010 Scott Wilson from Chicago raised $942,578 for his crowdfunded watch-kit product.
And on January 18, 2012, John Van Den Nieuwenhuizen from San Francisco, raised $938,771 for his Bluetooth speaker project.
But still no one could break the million-dollar barrier.
And then, just last month, it happened.
Casey Hopkins from Portland, OR broke the record with his iphone dock product. Casey breezed past the million-dollar mark, raising $1,464,706 for his product via Crowdfunding.
But here's the crazy thing....Casey Hopkins only had a few days to bask in the glory of raising the most money every from Crowdfunding.
Since, just last week, on March 13 to be exact, San Francisco's Tim Schafer completed a Crowdfunding raise for his new video game project.
And Tim raised a whopping $3,336,371.
That's right. 87,142 individuals from throughout the globe each chipped in an average of $38 each to give Tim $3.4 MILLION to launch his product.
I'd say at this point Crowdfunding has proven itself to be a huge success.
Over the past two years, I've not only helped tons of entrepreneurs launch their Crowdfunding projects, but I've scrutinized the ones which have successfully raised all the money they need.
And, from doing so, I've identified the common characteristics of those entrepreneurs who successfully raise Crowdfunding:
1. They start by having their close friends and family members Crowdfund them. You see, if I as a stranger go to a Crowdfunding project and see that no one else has funded it, I become skeptical. Conversely, if I see that 35 people have already funded it, I am more confident. This is called "social proof." Entrepreneurs who successfully raise Crowdfunding leverage social proof by getting their close friends and family members to fund them before they promote their raise to strangers.
2. They offer "tangible" rewards. Most strangers won't fund you out of the goodness of their hearts. Rather, they fund you to earn the rewards you have promised them. Such as you shipping them your $100 product later when they give you $65 in funding today. The more tangible your reward, and the more you can position it as something the customer wants, the more successful you will be.
3. They create a cool, personal video. Even if your product or service idea is great, most strangers won't want to fund you. But, if you create a video in which you are speaking about why you want to create the product/service, your success will skyrocket. In the video, you need to connect with people. You want to inspire strangers who watch it, so that they want to fund you and see you succeed, and they want to tell their friends about you.
4. They manage their Crowdfunding raises from start to finish (which usually lasts 60 or 90 days). Once you set up your Crowdfunding project, you're not quite done. You need to market it via social media and other channels (like PR which has worked really well for entrepreneurs raising Crowdfunding). You need to respond to questions that potential funders pose. And if the amount of funding you initially sought gets exceeded (which fortunately happens a lot), you need to post new videos and updates telling strangers that you will accept more money and what you will use it for.
I hope you found the 4 common characteristics of successfully crowdfunded entrepreneurs helpful.
Importantly, I've identified even more strategies and tips to ensure you succeed with your Crowdfunding raise. I put them all together in a simple-to-follow program called "Crowdfunding Formula."
Check it out now at http://www.crowdfundingformula.com/
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, March 19, 2012
Funding is the lifeblood of any small business. And it's getting tougher to find these days. Banks have become more vigilant about lending, and the vast majority of venture and angel funds are reserved for tech companies with big growth potential. The result is that far too many entrepreneurs can't start or grow their ventures—and can't provide jobs and new products and services to spur our economy.
Letting small companies sell equity stakes online would be a huge boost to those firms—like angel investing on steroids. The businesses would get access to tens of millions more potential investors, and could reach out to them at little or no cost through online outlets like Facebook. Then, if the companies won funding, they'd get a built-in base of customers who were strongly motivated to help the brand succeed.
Broadening the Base
Currently, equity-based crowd funding falls under strict Securities and Exchange Commission rules governing angel investing. That hinders broad-based online fund raising in a couple of ways.
First, the SEC largely limits private-equity investments to accredited investors—those with $1 million or more in net worth, among other tight standards. Only 35 nonaccredited investors are allowed to buy private equity in a company's offering. Second, the SEC prohibits general solicitation or advertising of the equity being sold. Unless the entrepreneurs or small-business owners have a pre-existing relationship with the angel investors, they can't try to sell them equity.
If equity-based crowd funding were legalized under the current proposal, those two limits would go away. So, entrepreneurs and small-business owners could target a much wider range of investors—say, for the sake of argument, the 51.7 million U.S. households with household income of $50,000 or above. And they could reach out to potential investors through venues like social networks that cost basically nothing and provide a global reach.
Raising money from a crowd provides other powerful advantages to companies. If a company raises crowd-funding money, it implies that there's real demand for its offerings. If not, most likely there's no demand, and an entrepreneur is spared the opportunity cost of starting the business (and then seeing it fail).
Likewise, equity-based crowd-funders are more likely to become loyal customers, as they have a vested interest in seeing the company succeed.
Crowd funding holds a big advantage for the funders, as well: It lets them participate in angel investing, whose returns have outpaced every other significant asset class over the past decade.
A Guiding Hand
Critics raise lots of objections to the idea. For one, they say companies need the help that seasoned investors can bring. But if companies need guidance, they can take on experienced managers or a board of directors. And raising money from a crowd initially doesn't preclude getting angel investments down the road. Lots of companies launch with credit cards, for instance, then make a name for themselves and catch the attention of angels and venture investors.
Further, critics argue that if companies must raise funds from a crowd, there are better ways to go about it, such as soliciting donations or raising debt capital instead of equity. But there isn't a strong enough inducement for people to donate; even if you offer them some reward, it won't be as enticing as equity. As for debt capital, there's a potential problem: It doesn't allow businesses the grace period they need to start building the company. Instead, they'd have to start paying it back right away.
Critics also see red flags for the investors. Among other things, they argue that crowdfunded companies won't be as carefully vetted or transparently documented as traditional ones. So, they say, lots of companies looking for money will be particularly risky bets for investors—if not unscrupulous operators that solicit funds and then vanish.
What's more, critics say, equity in privately held companies is nearly impossible to sell, except when the company itself is acquired. This may take many years, or never happen at all.
These concerns have merit. The answer, as with any investment, is common sense: People need to be aware that they may very well lose their money. They should do as much research as possible and protect themselves by holding a portfolio of investments, not staking everything on one company.
That approach will become more viable as more crowd-funding platforms are built and it gets simpler to track down investment targets. Those platforms will, hopefully, also introduce safeguards against fly-by-night fraudsters, such as background checks for entrepreneurs and business owners who solicit funds.
None of those concerns are a reason to block equity-based crowd funding. Whatever the risks of the approach, the economic effect it can have on America is much more profound.
This article was written by David Lavinsky, President of Growthink, and appears in today’s Wall Street Journal.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, March 18, 2012
I've been following the success of Crowdfunding since the very beginning. Since I knew it would become a very important source of funding for entrepreneurs.
And today I want to tell you just how big it has become.
To begin, "Crowdfunding" is getting a group of regular individuals (versus banks, venture capitalists or angel investors) to collectively fund your venture.
There are several "Crowdfunding platforms" or sites that facilitate the funding transactions between you and those who "back" or fund your company.
These platforms include Kickstarter, IndieGogo, RocketHub and PeerBackers among many others (the number of platforms seems to be growing monthly).
But Kickstarter remains the biggest. And Kickstarter recently released statistics of what happened on its site in 2011. These included the following:
- Launched Projects: 27,086
- Successful Projects: 11,836
- Dollars Pledged: $99,344,382
- Total Visitors: 30,590,342
- Project Success Rate: 46%
Now, let's compare that to Kickstarter's 2010 stats:
- Launched Projects: Up 143.4%
- Successful Projects: Up 202.7%
- Dollars Pledged: Up 259.4%
- Total Visitors: Up 268.8%
- Project Success Rate: Up 7.0%
To me, the most exciting thing was the 259% increase in dollars pledged, which is the amount given to entrepreneurs by others to fund their ventures. This amount grew from $27.6 million in 2010 to $99.3 million in 2011.
My best assumption is that 40% of all Crowdfunding raises are done on Kickstarter. So, my estimate of total 2011 Crowdfunding raises is $248 million. Not bad.
Here are some lessons and key thoughts I'd like to share with you:
1) Kickstarter is one of the pioneers in the Crowdfunding market. As a first mover, it won't necessarily win, but if it continues to innovate it probably will.
2) There are now many different Crowdfunding platforms. The newer "me too" ones must innovate in order to compete.
3) The trend is clear. Crowdfunding is growing like crazy and is now a significant source of funding.
4) Crowdfunding has an incredibly high success right making it a no-brainer to use. As shown above, the "Project Success Rate" or percent of entrepreneurs who post projects and get funding is 46%. Compare that to angel funding, which has a success rate of just 15%. And compare it to venture capital which has a success rate of less than 1%.
5) It will get harder to raise Crowdfunding. Right now Crowdfunding is a bit like the California Gold Rush which started in 1848. Those that went to California first were MUCH more likely to find gold than those that came later. The same will be true of Crowdfunding. As more and more entrepreneurs seek this form of funding, the project success rate will go down. Right now, it's still a novelty and people will fund ideas that seem interesting. Those same funders will be a lot more stringent when they start receiving tons of Crowdfunding requests a year or two from now.
The bottom line is that the Crowdfunding business is doing great right now, which is great news for entrepreneurs like you.
Want Crowdfunding for your business? I recently developed a simple-to-follow program called "Crowdfunding Formula."
The program is a series of videos I recorded that walk you through each of the 14 steps to raising Crowdfunding. Many of you have already joined the program and raised money.
If you haven't, click here to get Crowdfunding for your business now!
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