This week, Axial came out with a great report on the challenges and opportunities facing small and middle market businesses in 2015.
Compiled from interviews with over 100 CEOs, it is chalk full of great nuggets like:
The #1 Thing keeping CEOs up at night is "finding capital to grow their businesses." This challenge has many dimensions - from receivables and cash flow, to commercial banks (in spite of the strong economy) still mostly on the sidelines, to the availability of private equity and other forms of risk capital to fund growth initiatives.
Also ranked high on the list was properly "training, educating, and rewarding" employees.
A great white paper by AGC Partners sheds modern light on this challenge, specifically how technology innovations are “incentivizing and enabling individuals to monetize their skills, time, and possessions like never before.”
Companies like Odesk, 99Designs, and Guru are empowering skilled designers, coders, consultants, and marketers to offer their services to buyers directly, on an as needed, per project basis.
How does this relate to the talent challenges of small businesses?
First, by the simple fact that a lot of talented people - who 10 to 15 years ago would have been available for / interested in traditional W-2 employment - are now effectively out of the traditional work force.
Second, the ease with which buyers (business & consumer) can contract for services with providers and cut out “middlemen” companies that "hire and mark up" creates a whole other level of pricing and other competitive pressures.
Luckily, far outweighing these two challenges is the massive opportunity created by this “collaborative economy” for smaller businesses to access types and qualities of talent like never before.
As I have talked about previously, entrepreneurs and executives that master the art of finding and utilizing outsourced, "shared talent" from around the world - and that let go of fixed ideas of what a company is / should be - will have business model and market opportunities open to them like never before.
Finally, the Axial report shares the startling fact, even though the overall economic prognosis for 2015 is about as good as it can get, that 66% of the CEO’s surveyed rank "market forces” and the overall buoyancies of the US and abroad economies as a top worry.
To this, I would suggest a reading of Nobel Laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s seminal work on negativity bias, where he found “that people regret mistakes twice as keenly as they relish successes.”
When it comes to growth planning, Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, summed it up best when he noted that "When you point out what can go wrong, you sound smart and sophisticated, and when you emphasize what might go right, you sound naive."
It all kind of fits together: exude and embody optimism (and fight the natural propensity we all have to the opposite), conceptualize and take chances on new business models, and the money will follow.
And this is what CEOs really want, isn't it?
The technology age has brought with it a long list of business related success stories. There are plenty of cases where a small startup has managed to grow into a billion-dollar company.
While most people will think of companies such as Facebook and Amazon, GoDaddy.com is actually one of the greatest successes in recent history. What started as a small company has since grown into an easily recognizable brand which owns a significant portion of its own market.
GoDaddy was created in 1997 as Jomax Technologies by Bob Parsons who had recently sold his other company, Parsons Technology Inc., to Intuit.
At the time, a company called Network Solutions was essentially the only place from which people could register domain names. That changed in 2001, however, and GoDaddy.com quickly grew.
In 2005, GoDaddy.com became the world’s largest ICANN-accredited registrar on the internet. In addition to being one of the most popular domain registrars in the world, it also offers website hosting and a whole range of business related technology solutions.
In 2011, 65% of the company was sold to a group of private equity firms for approximately $2.25 billion. GoDaddy’s rapid rise to prominence and continued success are due to a few key factors. Studying what they did right can help business owners of any type discover new ways to grow their own companies.
Lesson #1: User Friendly Innovation
Innovation has been at the heart of everything GoDaddy has done since its creation. What it has managed to do is take something which is ordinarily very technical, in this case domain registrations, and make it appeal to a wide range of customers.
It was not very long ago that most people were unfamiliar with the Internet. The idea of marketing domain registration and web hosting to everyday people was unheard of at the time. This is part of what has made them so successful. Their effort to bring these services to the average person effectively opened up a vast new market.
Lesson #2: Cutting Edge Branding
Part of what has made GoDaddy so successful is its ability to create a readily identifiable brand. Nearly every person on the Internet has heard of GoDaddy and a majority of sites are registered with the company.
The power of this brand has come from its extensive advertising. Buying up expensive advertising space during events like The Super Bowl, GoDaddy made a name for itself with racy and often controversial marketing efforts. Its commercials, utilizing seductive women and star athletes, brought a sexy and exciting feeling to what could otherwise be a dry and technical company.
Lesson #3: Soups-to-Nuts Offering
GoDaddy is far from just a domain registrar. It offers a number of services including website hosting and ecommerce solutions. This has helped make it successful because it essentially offers everything someone might need when starting a website.
The domain can be registered, the site hosted, the platform installed, and upgrades can be added as needed. When a customer comes to GoDaddy for domain registration they immediately have access to everything else. This allows the company to offer upsells and products with recurring payment options that are relevant to what customers have already purchased.
Lesson #4: Customer Service in Layman’s Terms
GoDaddy’s customers may not always be experts at information technology. There are a number of different problems that a customer might run into. GoDaddy has made a point of offering outstanding customer service that explains complex technology solutions in layman’s terms.
Due to its high level of customer service, in a way customers understand, GoDaddy.com has become one of the most trusted hosts and registrars around.
Lesson #5: Upfront, Competitive Pricing
Unlike make technology service providers who bury prices in obscure parts of their website or require a call for a quote, GoDaddy publishes its prices very visibly.
Furthermore, its pricing is competitive, and it has prepared numerous product bundles to make it easy for customers to find what they need.
Rather than demanding money for a number of different services, almost everything is optional and customers can spend as little or as much as they want. This competitive pricing, coupled with constant discounts and coupons, has made it difficult for other companies to compete.
What to Take from This
Owners of businesses of any type can learn a lot from the GoDaddy. Its rapid rise to the top is something which is enviable in any industry and implementing a few of its key strategies can help any business. While not every company will have a budget as large as GoDaddy, there are still several concepts, discussed below, which can be useful.
A. Challenge Accepted Notions
At a time when many people were still unfamiliar with the Internet, GoDaddy targeted their advertising towards regular, every day people. This was a risky move, at the time, but actually showed incredible foresight.
Look at your business model – where have you been playing safe? Are there bolder strategies you can test?
B. Invest in Marketing
Many of GoDaddy’s biggest critics claim they bought their market dominance through expensive advertising. While this is not entirely true, marketing has been a major source of success for it. GoDaddy advertised mainly through inexpensive online banners for years before it was big enough to implement sexy and eye-catching ads during The Super Bowl.
Dust off your branding and marketing plan and review it. Is it relevant in today’s market? Are you getting the results you want? If not, it may time to go back to the drawing board and perhaps invest in expert guidance.
C. Offer Everything You Can Do Well
Specialization can often be a good thing in business, but the possibility of branching out into related products and services should never be ignored. GoDaddy started as a domain registrar but soon included a variety of other services as well.
Offering related services can boost profits and avoid losing customers to competitors with a full-service solution. For example, a car repair shop that doesn’t replace tires can lose their regular oil change customers when those customers need new tires and find a full-service provider.
The caution is to only branch out if you can provide excellent service in all categories. Adding more services, but doing it poorly, will hurt rather than help you grow.
Father Knows Best
GoDaddy is a familiar name on the Internet and with good reason. Growing from a small start up to a multi-billion dollar company, it has proven it is expert at predicting future trends, understanding its intended audience, and delivering on what it promises.
Your job is to learn from GoDaddy. Take the time to review your business model using the concepts in this article. Outline steps you can take to promote your own growth, then take actions. Carefully track your results to learn what works best in your market.
Over time, you will have a proven recipe for strategies that generate growth for your business. How long before I write an article about you and your stellar success?
“Social proof” is a critical psychological principle that savvy business owners can use to dramatically increase sales and grow their businesses. The principle simply states that people are more likely to do something when they see others doing it. For example, after entering a new restaurant, customers are more prone to sit down and eat if they see others in the restaurant versus if it was completely empty.
Interestingly, there’s one famous example when the power of social proof caused unintended and negative results. The example was Nancy Reagan’s ‘Say No to Drugs’ campaign in the 1980s. While the campaign hoped to decrease drug use, the opposite actually happened. Yes, teen drug use actually increased in the 1980s as the campaign implied that many teens were using drugs. This social proof made other teens think it was ok if they tried drugs too.
On the other hand, there are countless examples of using social proof for benefit, such as the following:
1. Social Proof from Other Users/Customers
Showing other users and customers is the most common form of social proof. Here are some examples:
Even more powerful is when you get your customers to invite their friends to become customers. Hotmail did this extremely effectively by putting “join Hotmail” advertisements in the footer of all email messages. This prompted Hotmail to grow from 500,000 users at the start of 2007 to over 12 million users by year’s end. Likewise, allowing friends to invite friends to play through Facebook helped Zynga grow over 10 times, from 3 million to 41 million average daily users, in just one year.
2. Social Proof from Experts
This form of social proof is when you show approval of your product or service from credible experts.
I used this form of social proof when marketing my book, Start at the End. Specifically, I received, and subsequently promoted, reviews from several experts such as: Marshall Goldsmith, Kevin Harrington, John Jantsch and Brad Feld among others.
A similar example is Sensodyne toothpaste promoting that “9 out of 10 Dentists Recommend Sensodyne” for sensitive teeth.
3. Social Proof from Celebrities
An estimated 25% of television commercials in the US now use celebrities. For example, you’ve probably seen Catherine Zeta-Jones promote T-Mobile over the years. You may have also seen Beyonce promoting milk and William Shatner promoting PriceLine.com.
Even if you don’t have the funds to afford to big celebrity, you can use this form of social proof to your advantage. For example, when luxury pillow manufacturer Pillo1 received positive publicity from Oprah on Oprah.com, Pillo1 effectively showed this on their website.
4. Social Proof from Research and Past Results
Showing research and past results gives positive social proof to spur new customers to buy your offerings. Here are some examples:
5. Social Proof from “Borrowed Trust”
A final form of social proof is when you “borrow” trust from other brands. Examples of this include:
As you can see, there are numerous ways to use social proof to influence others to take the actions you want. Use these examples as a starting point in brainstorming ideas to leverage social proof in your business. And then use the other proven marketing tactics to take your business to the next level.
With a little luck, 2015 could go down as one of the best years ever for American business.
Here are seven reasons why:
7. Low Oil Prices. For both businesses and consumers, $50 per barrel oil and $3 per gallon gas have both strong real and psychological benefits.
Real, as in lower input costs for businesses and more disposable income for consumers, and psychological in removing that sense of scarcity and dread that high prices at the pump bring.
6. And It’s U.S. Oil. And, oh yes, as opposed to that oil coming mostly from a collection of unsavory, overseas actors (see Putin, Vladimir), now for the first time in decades the U.S. is poised to be a net oil exporter. These dollars staying home naturally multiply themselves - perking up manufacturing, construction, real estate, travel, tourism, etc.
5. Low Interest Rates. Predicting the direction of interest rates is one of the great fool’s errands, but it does certainly feel like we have made a long-term transition to permanently low rates.
A key factor driving this is Federal Reserve's Chair Janet Yellen’s political philosophy - well-documented over decades - that employment is the most important matter of monetary policy and any “tightening” that might lead to rising unemployment is to be avoided at all costs.
And then there is simple supply and demand -- all the “safe” world currencies (Euro, Yen, Pound) sport extraordinarily low rates too so there is no “currency flight” pressure to drive tightening.
4. U.S. Technology Leads the World. In so many of the growth industries of the 21st century - Mobile, BioTech, HealthcareIT, Robotics, Social Media, Internet of Things - U.S. companies continue to lead the way.
In addition to the massive flows of capital and wealth created and distributed by the top tech. companies (to employees, vendors, shareholders et al.), this leadership also attracts the best and the brightest scientists, engineers, and developers from around to the world to our shores.
And from this human capital new technologies and new companies are born. And new wealth created.
3. Record Exports. U.S. Exports reached $2.3 trillion in 2013, both a new record and up more than $700 billion since 2009. And the soon to be in 2014 numbers will show another record year.
Why? Well for one, U.S. companies, aided greatly by an English language and America-dominated Internet, every year become more and more effective in marketing and selling to global customers (while global customers in turn become far more comfortable in purchasing across the wires).
This powerful trend will only continue to accelerate in the years to come – opening new markets and profit opportunities for U.S companies big and small.
2. Cash Piles on Sidelines. With $1 trillion in cash sitting in the coffers of U.S. private equity firms and $515 billion on the balance sheets of leading tech. companies (try Microsoft with $88 billion, Google with $60 billion, and Cisco with $52 billion), and with this cash in our low interest rate environment earning only fractions of pennies of return, there is a high probability we will see a lot of it pour into growth opportunities this year.
And there are no better growth investments than U.S. entrepreneurial companies, especially the smaller, private ones, that over decades have consistently yielded double digit returns for those brave and foresighted enough to invest in them.
1. Momentum. Good times beget more good times. The solid, economic, political, and social news and results we have had for a few years running now are building themselves into a powerful crescendo for the new year.
Yes, more than a little luck is always needed - mostly in the form of no large, negative political or environmental shocks.
Barring that, on balance for entrepreneurs and executives out there seeking to make their mark, 2015 is looking nice and juicy.
Here's hoping we all make the most of it!
It was not very long ago that the United States Postal Service was the only means by which to ship physical packages in the US. While this service had been invaluable, its quality had progressively declined over the years. Letters were lost, packages were damaged and customer service was nearly non-existent. This opened the door for private corporations to pick up the slack.
FedEx was hardly the first private parcel delivery service but it quickly became the market leader. With regional, national and international services, FedEx has been filling the need for a reliable way to send packages. Over the years it has expanded its reach through acquisition of similar companies as well as adding retail locations.
FedEx’s success has been due to the satisfaction of both its customers and employees. When a customer hires FedEx, they know their package will be delivered on time. And the company’s competitive employee benefits and professional work environment have created an army of loyal employees that are fully dedicated to the company’s mission.
Combined with an intense focus on the quality of their work and a close relationship with customers, FedEx has become synonymous with quality and dependability.
The Big Screen
FedEx’s commitment to quality and excellence is typified by the movie Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks. This movie, released in 2000, tells the story of Chuck Nolan, a systems analyst for FedEx. His job of resolving problems and improving service sends him on a trip to Malaysia. During the flight, a storm hits and the plane goes down. Chuck finds himself washed up on the shore of a deserted island with nothing but a few damaged packages.
After four years on the island, Chuck resolves to make an escape. Building a raft from material he scavenged from the area, he is rescued by a passing cargo vessel. The only possession he manages to save is an unopened and, as yet, undelivered FedEx package. The final scene of the movie shows Chuck delivering that package, late but still intact.
The most surprising aspect of this movie is that FedEx paid absolutely nothing for the product placement. In fact, upon hearing of the plot of the movie, FedEx was reluctant to give its approval. After reading the script, however, the company realized what a great marketing opportunity this movie really was. FedEx had become so well known for its dedication to service and reliability that an entire movie was built around it.
Lesson #1: A Culture of Excellence
FedEx gained its reputation through a culture of excellence, from top to bottom. While there are multiple aspects to this company, they are all overseen by a main office that focuses on keeping the machine running smoothly.
Even the character portrayed by Tom Hanks had the responsibility of analyzing the entire system and improving its functionality. This dedication to excellence is part of why FedEx is as powerful as it is today.
FedEx strives to offer the best possible experience to all its constituents. From corporate employees to delivery personnel and even retail location customers, FedEx has become known as a corporation which never settles for mediocrity. This commitment to quality is so pervasive that it has become a part of the entire brand itself.
When a customer sees the FedEx logo, they know they are dealing with a company that will do what it promises, no matter what challenges it faces.
Lesson #2: Driven to Improvement
Here is another little known fact about FedEx: when the fax machine became a standard, FedEx’s business declined by 50%. FedEx had a choice: fold or evolve. It studied the market and made a simple realization – not everything can be faxed.
FedEx redesigned its model to focus on documents that required a live signature and packages. Then it catapulted itself to the top of the food chain by making deliveries fast and reliable.
FedEx has never stopped trying to improve what it does. Every step of the process is constantly analyzed and there are employees who exist only to refine and improve the way in which people send and receive packages.
One reason why FedEx has been so effective in accomplishing this is because it really listens to it customers. The company understands how important customer satisfaction is and strives to give customers exactly what they want. From its inception, FedEx saw a need and filled it, and then it kept working hard to fill that need in a better way.
Lesson 3: Checks and Balances
All of FedEx’s improvements, however, would do little good if they were not constantly monitored. Before it was rebranded as FedEx, the logistics of the company was overseen by FDX. Over time, it acquired a few more logistics companies and formed FedEx Global Logistics.
This portion of the company was created to oversee the vast operations of all the subsidiary organizations. Creating this allowed the company to consolidate the entire command infrastructure to better ensure that constant improvements were implemented correctly.
There are redundant processes in place to track even the smallest package. If a package is at risk of being misdirected, alarms go off. Think of your own business. If you were about to miss an appointment, what systems are in place to let you know and allow you to correct the problem?
The FedEx Test
Every business can learn a lot from FedEx. Nearly every business can be improved in many ways and there are a few simple questions that can help get a smart business owner on the path to FedEx’s level of success.
1. Is work delivered on time? Delivering packages on time is one of the most important elements in the success FedEx has enjoyed. When work is promised on a given deadline, customers and clients are relying on that promise.
No matter what it may be, all deadlines need to be followed as strictly as possible. This will help build a reputation for dependability and will create a group of loyal customers.
2. Is the quality consistent? Customers need to know that a company will always produce the same quality of work. It is imperative that quality be a main focus of any business.
Fluctuations in quality are the surest way to lose any loyal customers. If clients and customers cannot rely on consistent quality they will turn to a competitor who is more reliable.
3. Is improvement ongoing? Every business can be improved. Redundancies can be consolidated, procedures can be simplified and processes can be refined.
Constantly improving a business is an important aspect of long-term success. Markets will always change and customers will always want more. Improvement is something that should be a part of your daily operations and every employee needs to be engaged.
4. What do the customers think? The best barometer of success and satisfaction is your customers. If a business is not listening to its customers then all improvements are simply theoretical.
Offering incentives to encourage customers and clients to fill out surveys and questionnaires is one of the easiest ways to find out how they feel about your business and what they would like to see in the future.
Not up to writing a survey? Then pick up the phone and call your last 5 customers. Be friendly and ask them what they thought of your service. Avoid interrupting them. Listen, take notes, and do not argue. If you get a poor review, apologize and make it right.
Putting your business to the FedEx test is a great way to find out how to turn a good business into a great one. These simple questions will often reveal weaknesses in your company while offering suggestions for improvement.
By following the lessons of FedEx, smart business owners can set themselves up for long-term success based on a reputation for excellence and a solid base of loyal customers.
The ending of one year and the beginning of another is a natural time to take stock of all that was accomplished in the past 12 months, and more excitedly, to dream and plan on the great promise of the New Year.
In this spirit, below are a few of my favorite quotes regarding dreaming, planning, goal-setting, and "Going for It!”
"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'"
- George Bernard Shaw
(My comment: reflects the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit)
"What is not started today is never finished tomorrow."
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(My comment: the "fierce urgency of now" must always inform and drive us. We live in too fast-moving a world, too merciless a marketplace, to in any way dawdle or delay.)
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
- Winston Churchill
(My comment: The most accomplished executives and entrepreneurs that I have worked with have impressed me as much with their fortitude and resiliency as they have with their “glamorous” attributes - brilliance, connections, salesmanship, etc.
"Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great."
- Mark Twain
(My comment: This is the essence of leadership in modern, collaboration-driven organizations. The best managers build alignment and focused energy around shared goals and objectives.
"Goals are dreams with deadlines."
- Diana Scharf Hunt
(Our comment: The great ones dream it and do it NOW!)
Happy New Year, and may 2015 be the best year of all of our lives!
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.
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!
December is a natural time to reflect upon the accomplishments of the past 12 months, and to set goals and objectives for the New Year.
In doing so however, most of us think too much about next year, and too little about our longer term and multi-year business horizons.
There are some benefits to this, I mean who can really forecast market and competitive conditions and customer wants and needs beyond just a few months these days?
And, given high rates of personnel turnover endemic to our ever-increasing “low switching cost” workplace, it can feel even more difficult to do so from a “bottoms-up” resource and organizational chart basis.
But forecast we must.
Because it is only through thinking and planning long-term that we access the reflective cores of our minds and spirits to “come up with” breakthrough business ideas simply inaccessible from the “reactive” present.
• How to better leverage our company’s intellectual and brand assets to develop new products and services
• How to lay the ground work for new marketing campaigns, targeting new customers in new markets (with more favorable competitive conditions)
• How to expand globally
• Rethinking our companies’ organizational charts (and rewriting job descriptions)
• How to access outsourced and virtual pools of human talent to scale quicker and more cost-effectively
• Re-languaging our organizations’ value propositions (More pithily describing the features and benefits of our product and service offerings)
• Redrafting our mission and vision statements (and by so doing re-motivating and re-focusing ourselves and our organizations)
• And perhaps most importantly, defining with a laser like precision The Exit Plan for our organizations and for everyone in it (and getting out of No Man’s Land!)
Figuring out how to pursue opportunities and how to overcome challenges like these is almost always best done with a Start at the End approach: visioning out to the future and working backward from there.
How far to look out? I think Three Years is best.
It is long enough to get to that space of the “unbounded future” (reflect on being three years older than you are right now), while being short enough that the projects and action items arrived at very much need to be “gotten after” right away.
So, let’s all use this special time of year to reflect longer term on our more idealistic and on our bigger opportunities…
…the pursuit of which will transform our sometimes humble and prosaic day-to-day work into something far more profound.
Happy Holidays to You and Yours!
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.
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.
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.