Growthink Blog

Brooks, Lengyel, Lombardi, and Wooden


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This time of year offers many blessings - one of them being the pageantry of New Year’s Day college football.

I am excited to be rising before the sun on Wednesday and traveling to Pasadena with my six and seven-year old sons to their 1st Rose Bowl parade.

In the spirit of the day and of the year soon to be left in our care, here are a few of my favorite sports quotes that apply so well to the challenges and opportunities of life and business.

"Great moments are born from great opportunity…You were born to be hockey players -- every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is YOUR time.

 - Coach Herb Brooks, 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team Soviet Pre-Game Speech

My comment: this is the time and age of Entrepreneurs! Go for it!

"Funerals End Today”

 - Marshall Coach Jack Lengyel, addressing the remaining members of his football team not long after 75 people, including most of the team and coaching staff - died in a 1970 plane crash.

My comment: Lengyel reminds us that the best to way to honor those that have passed is to live, to strive, to win.

"Leaders aren't born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal."

 - Vince Lombardi

My comment: Hard work is the given, the base. It is a high value in itself and accomplishments of greatness and meaning are impossible without it.

"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

 - John Wooden

My comment: To those to whom much is given, much is rightfully expected. We live in a global, golden age of opportunity. Think, dream, and do BIG!

Happy New Year, and may 2014 be the best year of all of our lives!



My End of December Strategy


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Today I thought it would be helpful if I detailed what I do at the end of December each year. This works very well for me, and I hope it will for you too.

1. Look back at the past year


The first thing I do is look back at the past year. I start with the annual goals that I set at the beginning of last year. Which goals did I accomplish? Which didn't I?

Next I go through each of my monthly goal documents. Fortunately my team and I create monthly goals each month. Seeing what our goals were in March 2013, for example, is very interesting. Perhaps more importantly, when I go through the monthly goal documents, I see just how much we accomplished this past year.

2. Be grateful

In viewing last year's annual and monthly goals, I'm never fully satisfied. That's just my personality, since I set aggressive goals that are hard to attain. So, chances are (and it's true again this year) that I didn't accomplish everything I had hoped for during the year.

But rather than focus on that, I always take a moment to be grateful for that which we DID accomplish. I think about all the hard work and all the great things we did do in 2013. I also like to think about how much better the company is now than it was 12 months ago.

3. Look ahead


Next I like to revisit my long-term goals. That is, where do I want my company to be in 5 years? Importantly, since I do this exercise annually, I simply pull up my answer to this question from last year. I decide whether my long-term goals have changed, and why. I then document my new 5-year goals.

I then work backwards to figure out what I must accomplish next year. I start by asking what I need to accomplish in 2014 to make it a great year and to put me on the path to achieving my long-term goals.

I think about financial metric goals such as the revenue and profits I'd like to generate in 2014. And I look at the business assets I must create in 2014. I think about what new products I must create in the coming year. I assess how many new clients I'd like to bring on. I document how many new employees I should recruit hire, and train in the next twelve months. And so on.

4. Plan out the year


I then start mapping my 2014 goals in a Gantt chart so I know exactly what has to be done and when. I document what I must accomplish in January, in February, and so on. Sure, I'll never get this exactly right, and during each month next year, I'll adjust my precise monthly goals. But this exercise gives me a great handle on what's possible to achieve in 2014.

Conclusion


A lot of what I've described herein is goal planning; setting goals, trying to achieve them, and then assessing your results. Importantly, goal planning takes practice. That is, the more often you set goals, try to achieve them, and then assess results, the better you get at setting goals that you actually can achieve.

As a result, every year I set and assess goals, I get better at planning out the next year, understanding what I can and cannot accomplish in 12 months, and maximizing my productivity so I build a great company. I hope you are able to do the same for your company. So plan out your long-term goals and 2014 goals now, and I wish you the best of success in achieving them!


Is Crowdfunding Better than Peer-to-Peer Lending?


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Both Crowdfunding and Peer-to-Peer Lending are great new ways to raise money for your business. Below I explain the differences, and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. I end by determining which is better.

Peer-to-Peer Lending

Peer-to-Peer (or P2P) Lending is one person lending money to another person at a pre-defined interest rate. It's basically debt capital without the bank or traditional "middle man."

The benefit of P2P Lending is that 1) the interest rates are typically lower, and 2) the likelihood of getting the loan is greater than the likelihood of getting a traditional bank loan.

There are several popular websites that connect borrowers and lenders directly. The biggest two are:

  • Prosper.com
  • LendingClub.com


The downside of P2P lending is that you need to repay the loan and that there are limits to how much you can raise (generally only $25K at a time).
 
Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is raising money from the "crowd" or general population. In Crowdfunding, you don't need to repay the amount raised. Rather, you give rewards (usually the product you want to develop) or equity to those who fund you.

The most established rewards-based Crowdfunding websites are:

  • Kickstarter is the largest Crowdfunding site. The downside of Kickstarter is that not every project is accepted and they charge a success fee of 8% in the event you get funding.

  • Rockethub is primarily for funding creative projects. Their network is not as large as Kickstarter's, but is still pretty big. They accept more projects, and also have a success fee of 8%.

  • GoFundMe is a large and growing Crowdfunding site. It is unique in that it doesn't charge a success fee if you get funded. GoFundMe does charge a $9 fixed monthly fee.

  • IndieGoGo is another very large Crowdfunding platform. It has more creative (e.g., film, music) projects than some of the other sites.


On the equity side, Crowdfunding if still extremely new and still only limited to accredited investors (expect this to change shortly). Crowdfunder is one of the leaders in the equity based Crowdfunding market now. We will see how it grows and other sites pop-up as non-accredited investors enter the market in 2014.

So, Which is Better?

I prefer Crowdfunding over Peer to Peer Lending because of the potential to raise more money through a larger group of people, and not having to pay the money back. I also like that all the people who crowdfund you 1) are potential future customers, and 2) can spread the word about your business.

However, the two funding sources are NOT mutually exclusive, so definitely consider using BOTH Crowdfunding and Peer to Peer Lending, since both are great forms of funding.

 

Suggested Resource: Do you want Crowdfunding? If so, don't try to raise it from scratch -- the 14-step blueprint already exists. Get the Crowdfunding blueprint here.


5 Quick & Easy Ways to Improve Your Website


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Your website is a critical component of your marketing strategy. If set up properly, your website can be the source of tons of new customer leads. And even if they hear of you elsewhere, in many cases, customers will still visit your website to learn more about you.

So here are 5 quick and easy ways to make your website more effective.

#1: Establish a blog


Setting up a blog is the easiest way for you to continually add new content to your website.

And each piece of content you add is another opportunity for someone to do a search (on Google.com, etc.) and find your company.

Also, your blog posts can be used to show your subject matter credibility, and further prove to prospective customers that you are the best provider in the market.

#2: Promote your blog posts


In addition to adding new blog posts (ideally once per week, and at a minimum twice per month), make sure to promote your posts.

You can promote your posts by posting them on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

Your goal is to drive more traffic to your blog posts. Also, try to get visitors to comment and/or ask questions about your posts. And then, respond to their questions and comments.

Finally, remember that each question posed by your visitors may be a great topic for a future blog post.

#3: Create videos

Particularly if you don't like to write, create videos.

Videos that teach prospective customers how to do something are extremely valuable. And they can be used to "soft-sell" your product and/or services.

For example, let's say you offer carpet cleaning services. A short video teaching people how to tell if their carpet is in need of cleaning would be extremely valuable. And, people who watched it would be prone to purchase your service.

#4: Add sharing buttons


Particularly if the content on your blog is good, make sure it's easy for visitors to share it.

You can quickly and easily accomplish this by adding buttons that allow people to share your posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, and other social media networks.

This is how blog posts go viral; by making it easy for others to share them.

#5: Make your website mobile and tablet friendly

More and more people are visiting websites from their mobile devices and tablets. But not all website look good on these sources.

Make sure your website does. If it doesn't, there are some inexpensive services that manage this for you. Such services can tell when a visitor is not coming from a desktop, and will automatically push them to a version of your website (which they create and host) that is more mobile/tablet friendly.

Each of these five tips can be implemented very quickly and easily. And they will result in more customers and sales. So make completing this a priority.

 

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.


How to Gain 100% Control of What the Media Says About You


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Publicity is an extremely powerful form of marketing. Not only is it free, but it gives you and your business great credibility. Specifically, when potential customers hear about you in the media sources they read/watch/listen to, it gives you incredible legitimacy in their eyes.

And perhaps most importantly, it gets customers to find you and purchase your products and/or services.

There are many ways of getting publicity. 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 products or services.

The key point to note, even though it may be obvious, is that the more the article talks about you, the more likely the reader will seek you out after reading it.

One concern many entrepreneurs and business owners have when first considering publicity is what the journalist will write about you. However, you really shouldn't worry about this. The journalist will nearly always 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's 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.

This way is to write the article yourself.

Why articles?


Articles are a great way to spread the word about your company. And there's no advertising cost; just the cost of writing the article which is minimal.

What should you write about in your article?


The best articles are often short "how-to" articles teaching customers something they want or should know about.

Where should you send your article?


Send your articles to relevant newspapers, magazines, trade journals and bloggers.

Importantly, add a "bio box" at the end of your article. Your "bio box" includes your name and contact information (e.g., website address and possibly email address, phone number, etc.) so readers can easily contact you.

How to get started


The fastest way to get an article published is to submit it to an online article directory like www.goarticles.com and www.ezinearticles.com. On these websites, online searchers will find your article, and many will click on the links in your bio box that link back to your website.

Here are two important notes for using article directory websites like GoArticles and EzineArticles.

First, search through the sites to see the types of articles already written. Doing so will give you new ideas and show you topics that have already been covered too much.

Second, bigger 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, they won't be interested (although you could then pitch them on another article).

Getting your articles printed in media sources is a simple and great way to get your company in front of lots of potential customers.  And, you control the message, and build lots of credibility.

And here's a tip to make this technique even more efficient - don't start by writing the article. Instead, start by simply creating an interesting article title. Then pitch the title to the editors of relevant newspapers and magazines to see if they're interested. You can call them and/or email them to find out. They may say your article title is right on, or they might suggest something a bit different. By following this advice, you'll save time since you'll only write articles you know they'll publish.

One final tip: if you don't like to write or aren't a good writer, don't worry. As long as you're an expert on the subject matter, simple dictate the article. There are tons of apps which allow you to record voice memos directly on your mobile phone. Then, upload and send your audio file to a professional writer on a site like odesk.com or guru.com who can turn your dictation into a well written article for less than $20.

Click here for more tips on publishing articles and getting tons of free publicity for your business.


How to Win Over Skeptic Investors


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When you're selling something to anyone, be it a prospective investor or prospective customer, there are two main types of selling techniques to employ: emotional selling and logical selling.

In emotional selling, you appeal to the buyer's emotions. For example, if selling a sports car, emotional selling would have the prospective buyer visualize how they will feel when they press down on the accelerator and surge forward, and how the wind will feel in their hair when they put the sun roof down, etc.

Logical selling would appeal to the buyer's logic. A more logical sales pitch, for example, would include factors such as why this sports car is better than others (perhaps better gas mileage, better warrantee, etc.) and why the prospect should buy from this dealer (perhaps better pricing, better service, etc.).

The most effective form of selling is generally to use both emotional selling and logical selling. This holds true for "selling" to investors, even very sophisticated ones.

For example, even the seasoned venture capitalist has emotions. Painting the picture that your company will be the next Facebook or Google will excite them. Getting them to think about how they will feel (the prestige among friends, colleagues, etc.) from being an early investor in such a huge success can prompt action.

However, while emotional selling is helpful, the primary selling technique to motivate most investors is logical selling. Specifically, you need to prove to them why your venture will succeed and how they will get a solid return on their investment.

To win over such investors, your logical selling argument should be packed with irrefutable market research. When you present investors with third party research (i.e., research published by sources other than yourself), they gain the confidence that your venture is in fact worthy.

So, what market research should you conduct to logically prove your case to investors? Here are the eleven core areas to answer:

1. Industry Sizing


Investors need to understand precisely how big your market is. Because if your market is too small, their opportunity for returns might also be small. So, start by determining your market size.

2. Key Market and Industry Trends

Investors also need to know the key trends in your market. For example, if the market is currently small, but it's growing rapidly, this might excite investors. Or if new government regulations have prompted industry changes that support your success, they need to know.


3. Details on Your Top Competitors

Having competition is generally a good thing; it proves that customers are buying solutions like the ones you offer. Importantly detail the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors so you and your investors know what you're up against.

Importantly, you don't have to be better than your competition in every single area; ideally you're better in the areas customers care about most.

4. Website Performance of Top Competitors


In nearly all industries, the web is a great source of leads. Understanding and detailing your competitors' performance on the web gives great insight into them and online opportunities that exist for you.

5. Link Profiles of Top Competitors

Understanding the other websites that link to your competitors is also helpful. You may want to contact and/or partner with similar companies/websites, or use their link profiles to identify other websites to contact to link to you.

6. Web Traffic to Top Competitors


Among other things, understanding the website traffic of your top competitors will show their traffic trends. For example, is one competitor's traffic rising or decreasing? Do they experience seasonal fluctuations? Etc.

Likewise, understanding which keywords are driving their traffic alerts you to the keywords for which you should focus on ranking.

7. Social Media Profiles of Top Competitors


Social media can tell a lot about a competitor. Do they have a large Facebook following? What about Twitter, or Pinterest, etc.? Understanding their social media profiles alerts you to the types of customers they are serving, and how customers perceive them, among others.

8. Detailed Identification of Key Customer Segments


Customers are the key to any company's success, and investors want to know exactly who your customers are. Importantly, identify the distinct customer segments you are or will target.

9. Demographic Profiles of Customer Segments


Once you detail which customer segment(s) you will target, you must detail their demographic make-up. For example, what gender are they, where do they live, how much money do they make, etc.? If you serve business clients, demographic variables also include the size of their company, what their title is, etc.

10. Ancillary Needs of Key Customer Segments


The final step in assessing your customers is to determine what else they might be buying before, during and/or after purchasing from you. This will help in further understanding their needs, and alert you to potential business partners to contact.

11. Financial Research

Financial Research gives great credibility to your financial model and the potential financial returns to investors. Here you should research and present your industry's average financial metrics, such as average industry costs, profit margins, etc.

In summary, when selling to investors, particularly savvy investors, be sure to appeal to their emotions. But remember that logical selling will generally be more effective. So rigorously conduct your market research so you can present facts and logic that convinces them to invest in your company. Not only will the research prove the viability of your business to investors, but it will give you great market and competitive intelligence that allows you to gain more customers and grow faster.

 

Suggested Resource: Click here to see a super-brief video that explains how Growthink can conduct a comprehensive 11-Point Market Research Assessment for your company.


Odd Song Lyrics That Yield Business Success


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The other day on my drive to work I heard a song on Pandora. The song was called "Just the Girl." And it's by the band 'The Click Five.' I'd never heard of the band nor the song, but one of the lyrics caught my attention:

"She laughs at my dreams. But I dream about her laughter"

This line caught my attention because it reminded me of two extremely important mindset principles for entrepreneurs.

1. You must separate yourself from people who laugh at your dreams


"She laughs at my dreams." Imagine hanging out with someone who laughed at your dreams. Do you think that would help or hurt you? Clearly it would hurt you. And I think it would be near impossible to achieve your dreams when surrounded by such negativity.

In fact, motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, "You are the average of the 5 people with whom you spend the most time." This is absolutely true. When you hang out with successful people, the conversation is generally optimistic. You hear what the others are achieving, how they are overcoming obstacles, etc. And you adapt their positive thinking and can-do attitude which prompts your success.

Alternatively, when surrounded by negative people, you hear how they primarily talk about their struggles, how they blame others for their problems, and so on. You get brought down, and you start thinking negatively too. The result: you never achieve your goals.

So, the first lesson here is to separate yourself from losers and hang out with winners. There are many ways to achieve this. One of the easiest is to find and attend local business and entrepreneurial events. Another is to find a mentor or assemble a Board of Advisors. In each of these cases, you'll soon be spending time with winners, and their success and mindset will rub off on you.

2. The Law of Attraction


The Law of Attraction is basically defined as this: you get what you think about most. So, if you're constantly thinking about what can go wrong in life and/or your business, things will go wrong. But, if you constantly stay positive and think about success, you'll achieve success.

"But I dream about her laughter."  In this line, the singer is thinking positively. He's dreaming about her laughing; so that is what he'll attract/get.

In your business, you do this by setting goals for what you want to achieve. Then, think about achieving your goals and do it often. Visualize yourself achieving the goals too. Doing so is proven to dramatically improve your success.

Pretty Clever


Looking at the line as a whole -- "She laughs at my dreams. But I dream about her laughter" -- you can see how clever it is. Even though she's a negative influence in general, he turns it into a positive.

Even more clever is for you to surround yourself with successful entrepreneurs. Their mentality and success will rub off on you. And set your goals and dream about achieving them. When you do these things, you'll start achieving a lot more success. You'll achieve your goals and start creating even bigger and bolder ones.

 

Suggested Resource: As you just learned, the way you think as an entrepreneur is absolutely critical to your success. In fact, it's arguably the most important factor in your success. Check out our Millionaire Mindset program to learn how to improve the way you think so you achieve more entrepreneurial success.


Placing Bets When Making Risky Business Decisions


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To read Growthink CEO Jay Turo's article from this week’s Entrepreneur Magazine as to how to make the right bets when making risky business decisions, click here.


How to Get More Sales Without Selling


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"The point of marketing is to make selling superfluous."

This is a great quote from management guru Peter Drucker. What it means is that if you do a great job in marketing, sales will be easy. Likewise, there are other things you can do to improve your sales without having to resort to aggressive sales tactics.

This article details such strategies.

1. Create a Stronger USP

Your USP or unique selling proposition is what distinguishes your company from others.

Here are some famous USPs:

  • The nighttime, coughing, achy, sniffling, stuffy head, fever, so you can rest medicine. (Nyquil)

  • Pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it's free. (Dominos Pizza)

  • When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. (Federal Express)

  • 15 minutes or less can save you 15% (GEICO)

Each of these USPs does a great job in distinguishing these companies and getting customers to choose them over competitors.

2. Provide Clear Benefits

In addition to a strong USP, make sure you detail the benefits of your products and/or services to your customers.

For example, do your products:

  • Remove their pain
  • Save them time
  • Improve their success
  • Make them feel better
  • Etc.

You generally want to provide a list of features associated with your products/services, but lead with the benefits.


3. Use Many Different Marketing Channels

After you create the best USP you can, and identify your key benefits, you want to convey your message to as many of your prospective customers as possible.

But realize this: not all of your customers are in one place or read/view/listen to one media source. So, use multiple means of reaching them.

For example, you can reach customers through each of the following marketing channels among others:

  • Direct Mail
  • Email
  • Event Marketing
  • Networking
  • Partnerships
  • Press Releases/PR
  • Print Ads
  • Radio Ads
  • TV Ads
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Pay Per Click Advertising
  • Social Media Marketing (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

 

4. Understand and Improve Your KPIs

Key Performance Indicators or "KPIs" are the metrics that judge your business' performance.

And, as you might know, you can't improve what you can't measure.

So the key is to 1) identify the most important KPIs in your business, and 2) measure/track them over time so you can judge your progress in improving them.

While there are hundreds of potential KPIs to track, here's a small sample of KPIs that most companies must measure:

  • Net Profit
  • Sales
  • Sales by product/service line
  • Cost to acquire new customers
  • Lifetime customer value

Importantly, as you understand and improve your KPIs, your revenues and profits will grow. In fact, identifying and managing your KPIs is one of the pillars of an 8-figure business.
 


5. Make It Simple to Purchase from Your Company


When you make it easy to buy from your company, you'll get more sales.

For example, not accepting credit cards will dramatically hurt the sales of many businesses.

Similarly, making customers complete tedious paperwork (that may not really be necessary) may frighten off some customers.

Conversely, having your product for sale not only on your website, but on Amazon, eBay and others, could make it easier for some customers to purchase from you and prompt more sales.

So, think about ways to make it easier for current and prospective customers to buy from you.

Start using these five strategies today, and watch your sales and profits grow.


Jeff Bezos: Put Down the PowerPoint and Pull Out the Pen!


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Jeff Bezos is a great hero and role model for all entrepreneurs that dream of doing something really, really big, and…pulling it off.

Like all legendary business leaders, he also has a number of management and creative peculiarities well worth studying and emulating.

One of my favorites is how Jeff manages the meetings of Amazon’s senior executive team, as described last year when Fortune named him Businessman of the Year:

“…the Amazon CEO's fondness for the written word drives one of his primary, and peculiar, tools for managing his company: Meetings of his "S-team" of senior executives begin with participants quietly absorbing the written word. Specifically, before any discussion begins, members of the team -- including Bezos -- consume six-page printed memos in total silence for as long as 30 minutes”

Bezos goes on to note that “Writing a memo is an even more important skill to master." Full sentences are harder to write," he says. "They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking." 

Now when I learn of things like this, I understand why the success of a Jeff Bezos is no accident.

Remember, in addition to founding and leading one of the most successful technology companies of all times, Jeff Bezos also made arguably the greatest investment of all time. 

The story is well-known but worth re-telling. In 1998 when Larry Page’s and Sergey Brin’s Google offices were a Menlo Park, California garage, Bezos invested $250,000 of personal funds into the fledgling startup.

When Google went public in 2004 that $250,000 investment translated into 3.3 million shares of Google stock. At Google’s IPO that represented a stock share position worth over $280 million.

While he doesn’t disclose how many of those shares he still holds, at the current price of Google stock they would represent an investment position worth over $2 billion.

So, what is it about what makes Jeff Bezos tick that allows him to have such great success when so, so many others - with similar ambition and arguably even greater talent - fall by the wayside? 

I recently read a great book (bought on Amazon, of course) by Mark Helprin called "A Soldier of the Great War."

It is the amazing story of an Italian PhD student in aesthetics who was drafted into the Italian Army in World War I.  In addition to being an unbelievable barnburner of a read and a tale of love and heroism and adventure, it is also the story of a young man trained as an "effete" intellectual struggling to come to grips / find wisdom from and peace with the horrors of war.

The story ends with its hero - Alesandro Giuliani - as an old man looking back on his life of books, of art, of family, of adventure, and of war and loss.

In the end it is the intersection of these two - of his great intellectual journeys tempered into character and resolve via the various "mortifications of the flesh" of his life - hard work, self-sacrificing, courageous deeds and words, and the willingness to push himself to the limits of one's endurance.

And from this coupling of intellectualism and ideas with a life of action and a love of the fight does flow the genius, power and magic of a Jeff Bezos.

So at your next meeting, do like Jeff and put down the PowerPoint and pull out the pen!


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