Growthink Blog

Landing Page Optimization, Business Planning and Google's Success


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Over the past few weeks, I've spent a lot of time studying a field called Landing Page Optimization. It's a fascinating field that deals with improving landing pages, which are the pages of your website that visitors come to either organically or through paid marketing initiatives. The goal of Landing Page Optimization is to maximize conversions (e.g., sales, newsletter signups, etc.) of these visitors.

One of the guiding principles of landing page optimization is that landing pages need to be simple. If there is too much information on the page, the reader gets confused and either clicks the back button or closes the browser.

This principle is the same as a guiding principle of business plan development; mainly that the plan, and particularly the executive summary, needs to present the business concept concisely so that the audience quickly understands it. If not, they will simply discard the business plan.

Interestingly a concise message might not only improve your business plan and your landing page, but your entire business’ success. Consider the case of Google. The Google homepage has always had very little text on it. In fact, if you go to it, it doesn’t even say that it is a search engine. But, by having a big empty box in the middle and having a button underneath it that says “Google Search”, it is pretty intuitive that Google is a search engine.

Now, when someone was referred for the first time to Google over the past few years and came to Google.com, what do you think they did? Well, due to its simplicity, I think we can assume that nearly all people who came to Google.com typed in a search term and hit the search button. Then, they instantly saw high quality search results and were sold on the fact that Google is a great search engine.

So, by keeping their landing page and business concept/proposition extremely simple, Google was able to get people to try its product. Because the product is high quality, those trials resulted in loyal users.

While there are many examples out there, one interesting company that I think could really improve its business plan, landing page, and thus chance of success is SpinVox. I first read about SpinVox in this Guy Kawasaki post in which he says, “This service translates voicemail to text and then sends a text message to your phone and/or an email to your computer.”

While Guy Kawasaki does a great job clearly explaining SpinVox in this 22 word sentence, I don’t think SpinVox does. On its homepage, SpinVox has the following text:

"SpinVox captures spoken messages and cleverly converts them into text. It then delivers your message to a destination of your choice – inbox, blog, wall or space. Right in the moment. Giving you the power to Speak Freely... Simply put, we do one thing – turn voice into text. But it's one thing that can be applied to the many ways you communicate, from your Voicemail to your Blog. Use the finder below to find the right one for you."

If I were to come to this page without Guy Kawasaki’s clear explanation, I would most likely leave without trying the service. It neither clearly explains the most common use nor the value proposition of the service.

To sum up, KEEP IT SIMPLE. Use simplicity to hook the investor, the customer, the partner, or whoever else you are trying to influence. Once hooked, over time (which could be as little as 2 minutes later), you can tell the full story.


Growthink Client in the News: DCIP


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Last week, several theater chains and studios announced they were nearing an estimated $1.1 billion financing deal to upgrade cinemas to digital technology. This investment is expected to boost attendance and save Hollywood billions of dollars in various annual print and delivery costs.

"We're hopeful that in the second quarter we will get it all arranged," said Travis Reid, chief executive of Digital Cinema Implementation Partners (DCIP).

DCIP is a joint venture between Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark Holdings Inc and AMC Entertainment Inc.

Growthink assisted in the development of the strategic business plan for the joint venture.

Read more about DCIP and digital cinema technology here and here.


7 Ways To Be More Attractive To Lenders


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It's always said that access to funds is the life blood of any company. Going out and securing outside financing to help grow a business is an important step in the life of an emerging organization. Keep in mind, the process of commercial borrowing is best done in preparation for needing the capital, rather than when the request is made in a dire situation. Here are some necessary tips to keep in mind when preparing to seek a loan.

1. Bookkeeping – Install accounting software so you can produce up to the moment financial reports including Balance Statement and Profit Loss Statement. These reports will give the Lender a snapshot of the current financial condition of the company. It also assures that you know enough about accounting to understand the internal cash flows.

2. Customer Credit – Show you have a process in place to check the credit of all your customers. Learn how to avoid issuing credit for more than they are qualified. Sales to customers are what business is all about. Knowing the difference between a solid customer and a bad credit is crucial to long term stability.

3. Borrowing Amount – Know how much capital the business requires to operate. Whatever the business does, whether provide a service or sell a product, you must be aware of the profit margin on these activities. You should have a solid business plan in place with budgets where you can determine the potential short fall and take precautions through financing.

4. Purpose –
Your business plan needs to be able to show a purpose for using the capital. This must be very specific. The more details you can provide on where the loaned money will be employed, the better the Lender can determine the viability of your plan. By admitting potential problems and offering contingency suggestions, your business plan will have added dimension.

5. Repayment – In the business plan, give a reasonable timeline for the repayment of the loan. Preparing cash flow Performa will show the road map to ultimate success and profitability. Again, incorporating contingency budgets will help to mitigate potential risk.

6. Team – Make sure the owners, managers have strong bio’s and thorough knowledge of the industry. The Lender must have confidence that the operators of the business plan can perform based on their experience.

7. Loan package – Do your homework, and put all this together with your business plan into a binder so a lender can easily see who, what, where, how this company will deal with a loan. By being pro-active through the entire process you will become a more attractive prospective client to a Lender, and therefore will have some bargaining leverage with regards to the terms of the loan. It’s always a good idea to get involved with a professional to help you through the process.

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Guest post by Creative Capital Associates, a leader in account receivables financing.

Learn more about commercial financing here.


The Secrets to Their Success? 25 Quotes From Famous Entrepreneurs


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There is no simple formula for creating a successful business. Luckily, there is an easy way to improve your chances.

And that’s by listening to the wisdom of those who have done it already.

With that in mind, here are 25 quotes from famous entrepreneurs…



INSPIRATION

1) "If you can dream it, you can do it."

-Walt Disney, founder of The Walt Disney Company


2) "Business opportunities are like buses, there's always another one coming."

-Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Enterprises


3)
“Capital isn't that important in business. Experience isn't that important. You can get both of these things. What is important is ideas.”

-Harvey Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.


4) “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

-Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and Pixar


5) “Find your passion… then it is no longer work!”

-L.A. Reid, co-founder of LaFace Records



TAKING INITIATIVE

6) “I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! But I made it! Don't sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!"

-Madam C.J. Walker, creator of beauty products and the first female self-made millionaire


7) “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”

-Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari & Chuck E. Cheese’s


8) “The key is to just get on the bike, and the key to getting on the bike… is to stop thinking about ‘there are a bunch of reasons I might fall off’ and just hop on and peddle the damned thing. You can pick up a map, a tire pump, and better footwear along the way.”

-Dick Costolo, founder of Feedburner.com


9) “The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try.”

-Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies



HARD WORK vs. LUCK

10) “Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.”

-Thomas Edison, founder of General Electric (GE)


11) “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”

-Colonel Sanders, founder of KFC


12) “Nobody talks of entrepreneurship as survival, but that's exactly what it is.”

-Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop


13) “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that something is too competitive. Once you subtract the people who don’t work very hard, or the people who aren’t as good as you, your competition shrinks dramatically.”

-Maggie Mason, founder of Mighty Goods


14)
“Life is really simple as far as I’m concerned. There is no luck, you work hard and study things intently. If you do that for long and hard enough you’re successful.”

-Jason Calacanis, founder of Weblogs, Inc.



PERSEVERANCE

15) "When you reach an obstacle, turn it into an opportunity. You have the choice. You can overcome and be a winner, or you can allow it to overcome you and be a loser. The choice is yours and yours alone. Refuse to throw in the towel. Go that extra mile that failures refuse to travel. It is far better to be exhausted from success than to be rested from failure."

-Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics


16)
“It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. It doesn’t matter how many times you almost get it right. No one is going to know or care about your failures, and neither should you. All you have to do is learn from them and those around you because all that matters in business is that you get it right once. Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are.”

-Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, co-founder of Broadcast.com, founder of HDNet



GUIDING PRINICIPLES

17) “Entrepreneurs are risk takers, willing to roll the dice with their money or reputation on the line in support of an idea or enterprise. They willingly assume responsibility for the success or failure of a venture and are answerable for all its facets.”

-Victor Kiam, owner of Remington Products


18)
“The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning; to create a product or service to make the world a better place.”

-Guy Kawasaki, venture capitalist, CEO of Garage Technology Ventures


19)
“A friendship founded on business is a good deal better than a business founded on friendship.”

-John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil


20)
“An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.”

-Roy Ash, co-founder of Litton Industries


21)
“I've been blessed to find people who are smarter than I am, and they help me to execute the vision I have.”

-Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam


22)
“One of the unique things we small companies have over the big guys is the ability to establish personal relationships. Big companies really can't do that. You read about effective organizations, learning organizations, lean and mean organizations, but small companies can be virtuous. We as small companies can have virtue because we as small companies are basically the embodiment of one or two people, and people can have virtue, while organizations really can't."

-Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company


23)
“Experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you're generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make.”

-Donald Trump, real estate developer


24) “High expectations are the key to everything.”

-Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart



SATISFACTION

25) “I find that when you have a real interest in life and a curious life, that sleep is not the most important thing.”

-Martha Stewart, founder of Omnimedia

 

Ready to Create Your Empire?

The first step is to create your business plan.

Click here to download Growthink's free business plan template

 

Feasibility Study Lessons from Bette Midler


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We speak every week to many entrepreneurs and managers of emerging and middle market businesses seeking our assistance in strategizing, drafting, and packaging business plans.

Sometimes, the client has a very clear idea of their business vision, their key value propositions to their core target customers, an understanding of the competitive landscape in which they exist, and their mission critical milestones.

More often, however, folks come to us with a great idea, a contagious enthusiasm, and a gut, intuitive "feel" that there is a real opportunity in the marketplace for their business vision.

At Growthink we naturally share this enthusiasm, passion and excitement, and are fundamentally eager to dive right into the business plan drafting and the business-building process. We pride ourselves on being entrepreneurially allied with our clients and embodying a proactive, solutions-focused approach to the challenges and heartaches inherent to the entrepreneurial process.

But almost invariably, in short order what is revealed is what Bette Midler sang about in “From a Distance” – that “the world looks blue and green, and the snow-capped mountains white…and the eagle takes to flight” – with the unsaid being that upon closer inspection there is very little that is without blemish nor complexity.

Nowhere is this truer than in a business plan. There are no perfect ideas – no “slam dunk” business models driven by such creative insight and breakthrough that the business plan development process is simply a matter of documenting it on paper for posterity's sake.

Instead, the sometimes convoluted, sometimes messy, and always challenging process of fleshing out the various multi-faceted aspects of a business – its marketplace, its competitive realities, its profit model, and its “Monday morning” action plans – is where the new business idea will face its first real viability test. It is not an undertaking for the faint of heart nor for the lazy as it is hard, time and energy-intensive work. Those, however, that get through it can take solace in that they have dramatically increased their business’ likelihood of eventual success - and correspondingly - its value.

For Bette Midler, click here


Entrepreneur Quote of the Week: AOL’s Steve Case


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“I’m not sure I knew what an entrepreneur was when I was ten, but I knew that starting little businesses and trying to sell greeting cards or newspapers door-to-door or just vending machine kind of thing is… there’s just something very intriguing to me about that.”

-Steve Case, co-founder and former CEO of AOL

 

According to a 2006 study, approximately 2/3 of entrepreneurs claim it was their “innate drive” that inspired them to start their own business. In other words, they were born an entrepreneur.

Of the remaining entrepreneurs surveyed, 21% credited work experience as their motivation for taking the leap, and 16% said they were inspired by the success of others around them.

Forty-two percent of these entrepreneurs also said they started a childhood business venture, meaning that kid selling lemonade down the street might just be a future business owner.

Is a person born an entrepreneur, or is the entrepreneurial attitude created out of experience? Can it be either? Or maybe some combination of both?

Were you born an entrepreneur?

 


How to Find Angel Investors and VCs Online: Follow Their Blogs


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Entrepreneur.com has published an interestingarticle reporting that entrepreneurs are connecting with venturecapitalists on VCs’ blogs – and some start-ups are attracting funding throughthese new online relationships. For example, Paul Edmondson contacted Will Price of Hummer Winblad via his blog, and this communicationresulted in a $2 million investment in his online publishing company, HubPages.

Here’s another sign of theimportance of blogging in the venture capital world. When looking for a newanalyst, early stage VC and prolific blogger Fred Wilson specifically requested“no phone calls, no resumes, no emails” – candidates should only provide a linkto their web presence.

Social media is having – and willcontinue to have – a significant impact on the shape of venture capitaland angel investment in the months and years to come.

 

Update:  

Are you an entrepreneur looking to find angel investors to fund your company? Learn proven strategies and tactics when you download Growthink's Step-By-Step Angel Investor Guide.

 


The 6 Untold Reasons Why Businesses Fail


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There have been many articles written on the subject of why businesses fail, and most of them point to the same reasons, such as:

-Inadequate funding
-Bad location
-Lack of a well thought-out business plan
-Poor execution
-Bad management
-Expanding too quickly
-Insufficient marketing or promotion
-Inability to adapt to a changing marketplace
-Failure to keep overhead costs low
-Underestimating competitors

These reasons are widespread and no doubt cause many businesses to fail. However, the reason for a company’s failure is not always something so obvious. Here are 6 lesser-known reasons why a business might fail.

Why do these reasons remain untold? Simple. Most of the time, the business owner doesn’t realize that these reasons are what caused their failure, and consultants generally don’t ask the kinds of questions that would identify them.

 

1) Focusing on Short-Term Profits Rather than Building Long-Term Value

It’s important to be profitable, but NOT when short-term profits come at the expense of the long-term value of the business and the lifetime value of the customer.

Here’s a real-life example: In the late 1990s, there was a franchise of a national smoothie shop located in West Los Angeles, CA. At this store, smoothies sold for about $4. They cost only around $1 to make, resulting in a solid profit. However, certain ingredients, like mangoes and berries, cost more than the other ingredients, such as juice and frozen yogurt. Since juice and frozen yogurt were cheap, the franchisee put more of these ingredients in their smoothies and less of the expensive ingredients. By doing this, their profit margin per smoothie grew by approximately 20 cents, which seemed great… on paper. Unfortunately for the store, customers weren’t satisfied with the taste of the lower cost smoothies, people stopped going there, and the store eventually went out of business.

As you can see here, it’s important to consider the lifetime value of a customer. Repeat business is way more valuable than short-term profits. Saving 20 cents on a smoothie today will cost you big in the long run.

(Another great example of this concept is Google giving preference to relevant ads in order to improve the user experience, even though there are less relevant advertisers willing to pay a higher price per click.)

 

2) Ego Business vs. Business Opportunity

The foundation of a good business is a good business opportunity. As an entrepreneur, you want to fill a need in the marketplace. Unfortunately, many businesses are started solely to fulfill an entrepreneur’s ego (or, to put it less harshly, to satisfy one of the entrepreneur’s interests).

This can often be seen in the restaurant & bar industry, where too many entrepreneurs open shop because it’s a “cool” thing to do. Such businesses rarely succeed.

 

3) Life distractions

The best ideas don’t always come between 9 and 5. A person might have a great idea while driving, or in the shower, or while working out. It’s moments like these when an entrepreneur leaves behind the day-to-day tasks of running a business and gains a better perspective of the big picture.

Sadly, there are a lot of things that can disrupt a person’s home life. Illness, death of a family member, divorce, relationship trouble, and problems with a child are just a few of the many issues that can affect a person’s mindset. When things like this occur, moments of clarity are replaced by stress and anxiety.

Many entrepreneurial ventures depend heavily on new ideas and creative thinking, and when an entrepreneur’s head isn’t clear, business can suffer.

 

4) Bad feedback & white lies

People like spending time with friends and family.

Unfortunately, when it comes to business, friends and family members don’t always give the best advice. This is especially true at the birth of a business. Nobody wants to be a buzz-kill. No one wants to tell an entrepreneur their idea is bad, or their location stinks, or anything else negative. Most people are conditioned to be supportive of their friends and family regardless of the situation.

Plus, nobody wants to be wrong. Imagine your friend has an idea that you think is terrible. You share your objections, but the friend goes ahead with the idea anyways, and it succeeds. Now you’ll always be the naysayer that never believed in them. Nobody wants to be that person.

That’s why you’ll rarely get honest, objective business advice from friends or family members. And yet, oftentimes friends and family are the first people entrepreneurs turn to for advice.

 

5) Maybe the owner is just a jerk

There are a lot of great people in the business world, but there are also some jerks. And these jerks sometimes start their own companies.

A jerk, in this case, is someone who a lot of people can’t get along with. Maybe it’s because they’re a super-perfectionist, or they yell a lot, or they demand that everything be done in a certain way, or they constantly complain. Or maybe they’re annoying in some other way.

The key is that nobody -- not employees, customers, partners, suppliers, clients, etc. -- wants to give 100% for a jerk. Clients and customers will be turned off, and employees will start cutting corners. Most people believe that life is too short, and don’t want to spend their time working with someone they can’t get along with.

 

6) The entrepreneur never took the full leap

In most new business attempts, the entrepreneur never leaves their day job, or they create a back-up plan, or they have a job lined up in case the new business fails. In these cases, failure IS an option, as the entrepreneur has a safety net to fall back on. In cases where failure is NOT an option, and the entrepreneur depends on the new business to provide food, shelter and clothing, the business has a greater chance of succeeding.

There’s a great example of this concept in this NY Times article. Xiang Yu was a third century (B.C.) General in the Chinese army. He led his troops into enemy territory by crossing the Yangtze River. Then, in order to inspire his troops, Xiang Yu took some unorthodox measures. He burned all of his troop’s ships and destroyed all of their cooking materials. This left the troops with only two options: Move forward and conquer the enemy, or perish. The maneuver did not make Xiang Yu very popular with his soldiers; nevertheless, the troops advanced and ultimately emerged victorious.

Xiang Yu’s methods might be a little drastic in this day and age, but the moral of the story is what’s important. Author Anita Roddick has said that entrepreneurship is a matter of survival, and the truth is, if you’re not totally committed to your business, your chances for success will be greatly diminished.

 

Related articles:

 

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About Growthink

Since 1999, Growthink's professional business plan writers have assisted more than 1,500 clients in launching and growing their businesses, and raising more than $1 billion in growth financing.

  • Want to ensure that your business succeeds?
  • Need help with your business plan? 
  • Looking to raise venture capital?

 

Speak with a business plan consultant today!

 


3/4/08 Recap: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Eight Year Olds


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Interesting news and perspectives from around the web:

  • Justin Nowak of YoungGoGetter.com explains the business lessons he’s learned from his eight year old son:
    • An Ability To Forget Bad Things
    • Determination
    • Creativity
    • Loyalty

  • Seth Godin warns us not to trust our own instincts too much. Everybody is different when it comes to persuasion.

  • PureVC discusses the role of trust and promises in causing the recent turmoil in the economy: When Things Have No Worth.

  • Pequot Ventures, a leading NYC venture capital firm, today announced that it is spinning off from Pequot Capital, to form FirstMark Capital in June 2008.

Who's the Tiger Woods of Your Industry?


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Tiger Woods is arguably the most skilled golfer to ever live. However, his physical abilities alone are not what make him great.

Nike -- one of the companies that sponsor Woods -- once sent Tiger five brand new drivers. The company asked Tiger to test out the drivers and give his feedback.

After practicing with each of the clubs, Woods told Nike that he liked “the heaviest one.” The news came as a shock to Nike. Why? Because all of the clubs weighed exactly the same.

Or so Nike thought. After re-examining each of the clubs, Nike employees were surprised to learn that one of the clubs outweighed the others by just a couple grams -- or approximately the weight of two dollar bills. (Source: Esquire)

Nike had a team of engineers and the best equipment in the world. What they needed was Tiger Woods’ intuition. Tiger Woods understands golf as well as anyone on the planet, so his intuition is an invaluable resource to Nike.

The lesson here is that every field has its own Tiger Woods, and when that person shares their insight, well, you might want to listen.

 


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