Growthink Blog

How to Manage Time Like You'd Manage a Budget


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The amount of time you have each week to accomplish tasks and get results is limited. Which means you have a finite budget of hours -- just like you have a finite budget of dollars. After reading this article, my hope is that you give your time budget the same discipline and respect (or more) that you give (or should give) to your financial budget.

Staying Within Your Time Budget

As an example, let's say you and your spouse have a personal budget of $400 per month for groceries. It's the last week of the month and you're at the grocery store with a cart full of items. The items will cost you the amount that will make your total money spent on groceries this month $400.

Then, right as you're approaching checkout, you see something in the store that catches your eye. Maybe it's on sale. Maybe it tastes really good. Or maybe it's something you've been meaning to get for a while.

What do you do?

The correct answer is don't buy it; and rather stay within your set budget. Unless of course you can put an item in your cart of equal value back on the shelf.

Your time budget is the same way. When it's 4:55 and you've committed to stop working and go home at 5:00 but there's some nagging task you really want to knock out but would take 30 minutes -- DON'T BUY IT. Don't do it today. Do it tomorrow or some other day.

Go home and enjoy your life. Do something fun or relaxing and stay within your time budget. It can probably wait until later, just like that last-minute item at the store.

Is it Ever Done?  Yes and No!

Now I know that if you practice this, there will be painful days where you fail to do something important because you ran out of time and would not work later. But so what? Even on days I've worked 12 hours there are things I failed to get done. Is it ever all done? Not in general.
 
But, each day has a beginning and an end, so it's really a matter of "Did I achieve today's priorities?" versus "Is there anything left to do?"

Your tasks will never all be done, just like you will never not need to buy groceries anymore. What's important is how you manage however many hours you DO have in your time budget.

Try this today -- track your time, then look back afterward and note what you did. I bet there were some things you did that took 30 minutes that weren't as important as other things. The key (whether time, money, or any other valuable resource) is to budget, budget, budget...and then watch it like a HAWK.

My Favorite Solution

My favorite time management solution is to budget my time with my calendar. For example, I have a set amount of time to finish this article. Because in a few more minutes, I have to get to my next appointment (which is to complete another important task). If I hadn't scheduled that next task on my calendar, I most likely would spend more and more time on this article. Yes, possibly, this article would end up a little better, but I wouldn't have also been able to complete the other task.

I urge you to try scheduling your time on your calendar. And sticking to it; meaning that when it's time for your next appointment, you go to it and complete that task.

 

Suggested Resource:  Follow the tips above and you'll start maximizing the productivity of your team. And check out "Productivity Secrets for Entrepreneurs: How to Get More Done, Make More Money and Take More Time Off" if you'd like to access my complete program for maximizing your productivity and results.


Finding the Motivation to Finish Your Business Projects


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Finish what you start...finish your projects...finish your dinner! :) Everyone has experienced some tension in their lives from having unfinished business waiting around for them on the back burner.


How to Automate Your Emails for Effortless Follow-up


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If you're like me and want to grow your business quickly, then you're all about finding leverage. One way to get a lot more results for the effort you put in is by duplicating yourself.

Consider this -- if you find it's effective to follow-up on every inquiry by phone, then you can only call back so many people yourself. If you want to grow, you'd need a salesperson or phone rep contacting everyone for you and reporting the results.

An autoresponder service is kind of like that salesperson, but it automatically follows up with prospects by email after they enter their address somewhere on your website (via a contact form, a form to download one of your reports, purchasing one of your products or services, etc.). I'll walk you through the 5 W's of Autoresponders below to show you how they can help you make more sales without lifting a finger.

What is an autoresponder service?

An autoresponder is a an automatic series of emails that get sent out to people that give you their email address, usually as the result of requesting information of some kind, like a free report, or subscribing to your newsletter.

You would write a sequence of emails and choose what order they go in-and how many days later they will be sent to each new subscriber who opts in. So when someone subscribes to your newsletter, you could send them a Thank You For Subscribing email that same day (Day 0), then a follow-up email on Day 1, Day 2, Day 5, Day 7, etc.

Why should I use one?

It's been tested time and time again in pretty much every business niche that prospects are more likely to respond or make a purchase if they receive 4-10 follow-up emails, than if they only visit your website once. Getting in front of prospects more often gives you more opportunities to make a sale, and a percentage of people will usually buy with each email you send.

This is a massively important part of marketing online, because an autoresponder allows you to create a trusting connection with your list (particularly if your autoresponder emails include good information). Building this trust means they are more likely to respect your suggestions, and therefore means if you suggest a product they will be more likely to buy it.

You earn their trust and respect by sending them good information and not bothering them with excessive promotions or other stuff they don't find relevant.

When should I use one?

Whenever you're ready to write a few emails and make more sales from new subscribers, then you should set up your autoresponder. Block out 2-3 hours to choose an autoresponder service, set it up, and write a simple series of emails. Put links to the appropriate pages of your website in the body of the email messages.

You'll find that you recoup a higher percentage of every marketing dollar you spend. And believe me-it's much easier to double your profits through higher conversions on your existing website traffic (via the increased sales from the autoresponder) than it is by paying for more traffic.

Where do I put it on my site?

So where should you include an "opt in" box for people to subscribe to your newsletter or otherwise give you their email address? The most common place to put an opt-in box is on the sidebar of your website or blog. You can create one of these with the help of your autoresponder service, and there are also web programmers who can make them for you on Fiverr.com for $5.

You should include language in the box telling people why they should opt-in or subscribe. Offer them an exclusive report or video they can't get anywhere else that addresses their most compelling need. This is where knowing your customers' needs and psychology is crucial to your success.

Clearly you should also have a Contact Us page with a form to collect email address that can go into your autoresponder.

Whose service should I use?

A good autoresponder service for those starting out is Get Response. The reason for that is because you can send an unlimited number of emails, the emails get sent on time and you have many different options including broadcast, timed broadcast, follow-ups, you can easily manage your subscribers and it is free for lists under 100 people.

I've also used aWeber and 1ShoppingCart. They are both very straightforward. Also I like that their pricing is a little more fixed-not based on the # of subscribers you have (they do it by tiers of number of subscribers). Constant Contact is also a good service for beginners. Sometimes they have special promotions and plan changes, so I would scan through each of their websites and compare how they do at the following:

Can they send unlimited number of emails?

There are some email services such as iContact that have very good deliverability and a very good interface but you are limited to only sending out six email messages to your subscribers every month.

That means if you have a busy week and happen to launch a product that week and send six emails that week then you can't send anymore messages to your subscribers for the rest of the entire month. That's why even though there are some autoresponder companies with better deliverability than Get Response, I don't like them because you are limited in how many emails you send every month.

Do the emails get sent out on time?

Read the user reviews around the Internet of the autoresponder service you're looking at and find out if when it comes time to blast or broadcast a message to your subscribers, it will get sent right away.

Do they provide you with everything you need?

You need to be able to delete people from your list and create sub-lists if needs be (e.g., a special list of subscribers who perhaps are interested in a specific product or service). You need to be able to set up an autoresponder (automated follow up messages) and also do broadcasts (messages that send to everyone at the same time).

You'll also want to find out if they have an opt-in form creator you can use to make the opt-in box on your website. Or, you may find it's not worth your time to learn how and pay someone else to do it.

So there you have the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of autoresponder services and how they can make your follow-up efforts effortless. If you have a website but aren't using an autoresponder, I'd strongly suggest looking into setting one up now.

 

Suggested Resource: Want to learn my complete strategy for methodically maximizing your online traffic, leads, sales and profits? Including a section on how to best use autoresponders? Then check out my Ultimate Internet Marketing System.


How to Be Featured on Popular Blogs


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Open any book on do-it-yourself publicity written after 2004 and you'll see blogs mentioned as a key source of publicity right alongside more traditional sources such as TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. The good news is that getting in touch with popular bloggers is a lot easier than contacting a reporter at a popular newspaper like The New York Times.

So how can an entrepreneur or small business like yourself get mentioned by some of the bloggers with tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of readers?

I've tried waiting for them to discover me on their own...not so effective. Rather, you have to take action.

Here are two steps to follow in order to successfully contact the right bloggers with a compelling reason to mention you. The first step is making such a list and the second is reaching out to them.

Step #1: Choose Bloggers to Contact

Make a quick list of the blogs you visit or comment on and start there. Then add the blogs that cover topics in your industry (this might take a little research, like googling "concrete blogs" to find related sites or maybe an existing list of them). And yes, there are even blogs about concrete. And once you find one good blog, look at their "blog roll" (if they have one) to find other relevant blogs.

Then, think of any blogs that your customers would be following -- where it would make sense for your company or product to be mentioned. Now you have your contact list. You only need 20-30 to start.

If you're also going for search engine optimization benefits, you might take the Page Rank of the different blogs into account. But the main benefit of being mentioned is direct traffic -- people reading about you and then clicking a link to your website.

The next step is to get the contact information of the person with whom you want to get in touch on each blog. Usually, this will be the one blogger who does most of the writing as well as managing everything else. But the larger blogs often have several writers and a team, and you might have to figure out and contact one specific person.

Look on their website's "Contact Us" page and the writers' bio (or "About Me") page to gather their email address and phone numbers. Add this information to your list, which I suggest keeping in a simple spreadsheet.

Step #2: Reach Out With Your Story

Ideally, you can get in touch with the right person prior to pitching them a story idea. The easiest way to do this is to send them a simple email introducing yourself. In your email, you should tell/show them you follow their blog and are a fan. Also, you can and should comment from time to time on their blog. They may see and read your comments or even respond. Any rapport you can build with bloggers in advance of pitching them your idea is helpful.

But when the time comes to pitch your idea, email them something relevant to what their readers want and need.

You can't go wrong with stories or news that would "wow" readers. See what their more popular posts are and find an idea for a similar post that you could be mentioned in. Then email them your idea.

Bloggers often want fresh news to report-when a new startup has kicked off, received funding, launched a new product, or reached some growth milestone.

You can also try calling them on the phone and telling them your idea. Calling will also help you figure out the right person to contact, how to reach them, and also what types of stories they would be most interested in.

Another way to get noticed is when someone they like and trust contacts them about you. Who do you know that knows this blogger? Search the blogger on LinkedIn to see if you have any connections that could introduce or recommend you.

It doesn't take much time to make a list of 20 bloggers and send them all emails. Once you've reached out to all of them, you'll have relationships with them or at least understand how they work more clearly for your next approach.

Try this for yourself and note how many blogs mentioned you, who they were, and how many visitors or links you got to your website as a result. You might find it a much easier strategy than targeting reporters and traditional media journalists.

 

Suggested Resource: Getting bloggers to mention you is one way to get publicity for your company. There are many other ways too. Learn how to easily get tons of publicity for your business with Growthink's Publicity Playbook.


Why Public Speaking is Easy & Gets You More Customers


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Speaking at events is a great way to generate quality leads and expand your business.

The truth is, you don't have to be a great orator or the next Tony Robbins, so long as you know what you're talking about (which you will), come across as credible, and most of all, interest the audience.

Below are some tips to help you find and speak at events to generate new business. But first, I'd like to reiterate why you should be speaking at events.

Why should I speak at events?

Event marketing is another marketing channel, or way to let people know what you do and how to contact you. And it's face-to-face; this can help get your message across more powerfully and position your business more credibly. With these barriers overcome in the listeners' minds, you'll find that the new inquiries you get are more qualified leads-which usually means more sales and the sales process comes together a lot more easily.

Make a short list of the local service organizations in your area-the local Chamber of Commerce, or organizations like Kiwanis and Rotary Club. Likewise, consider national organizations. Most importantly, choose organizations and groups whose members are target customers of yours.

Contact the organizations and ask how to get considered as a speaker for one of their regular events. Also, be sure to find out how much time you will be given to speak. After the event, count how many appointments you get and see for yourself if it was worth the time invested.

Ideally you can get a video made of you speaking at the event. If so, post that on your website and on social media sites. The video will give you more credibility and position you as an industry expert.

Who is my audience?

Once you know where you'll be speaking, you can find out more about the audience. What do they want to learn about? What do they believe they want and what are their needs?

Think of how these relate to what you do. What could you show them how to do that would help them get what they want? These could be tangible or psychological benefits.

Figure this out and you're on your way to preparing a simple speech.

What should I talk about?

Address what it is that your audience is looking for, and explain it in a way that they'll understand.

For example, let's say your company provides outsourced customer service. If so, you'd want an audience primarily comprised of business owners. A simple talk would be for you to give them 5-10 tips related to customer service. For each tip, you would include good and bad examples.

Importantly, in doing this you will naturally promote your company's service (as the "good" examples will be ones that your organization has done) without directly pitching the audience.

So, yes, you can get tons of leads from your speech without being "salesy."

Where do I get material?

This part is easier than you think. Once you choose the topic, try brainstorming everything you can think of that it entails. With our customer service example, you can discuss delivery & fulfillment, billing, refunds, returns & exchanges, technical support, customer phone support, etc.

The key is that you are an expert on your business, so the information is probably already in your head.

Overcoming fear of speaking at the event

If you have some time before the event, don't worry or rush too much to finish your speech. Rather, try keeping a journal for collecting ideas and tips to share along the way. Then, assemble them into an outline for your talk. You don't have to write it out word for word if you don't want to.

If someone called you on the phone and asked you a question, would you need a script? No, you'd just explain it to them as you naturally would. Half of public speaking is reframing the way you see the situation, so you can relax and communicate as you would with an old friend.

Practice giving your speech by yourself a few times so you can pause and think about how it sounded along the way. Maybe have someone else listen to you in order to give feedback.

But when the day comes, relax and remember to talk as if you're on the phone with a friend. You don't have to hold eye contact with anyone in the audience, and they'll forgive you for any blunders as long as you're sincere and interesting!

Public speaking and "event marketing" is a great channel to meet and secure new customers. So, take a minute now to find a relevant event at which you can speak. You'll be glad you did.

 

Suggested Resource: Doing public speaking is one of many ways you can increase your company's credibility and get new clients. There are many more other "publicity" methods that can help you get even more new customers. Learn how to easily get tons of publicity for your business with Growthink's Publicity Playbook.


Why the SBA Funds Businesses Like Yours


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In the United States, many entrepreneurs get SBA loans to start or grow their businesses. While these loans are issued by private banks, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees a percentage of each loan. What this means is that if you, the entrepreneur, default on the loan, the bank only loses a small percentage of the money it lent you (the U.S. government pays the rest).

Because of this guarantee program, it's much easier for entrepreneurs like you to get SBA loans -- as the bank doesn't need to bear all the risk themselves. Without the program, banks wouldn't make as many loans, and fewer businesses would get funding.

When small businesses grow, everybody wins! According to Karen Mills, current head of the SBA, its job is to make sure that small businesses have all the tools they need to grow, stimulate the economy, and create new jobs.

Small business funding challenges during the recession

But as you may have noticed, business owners are still having trouble getting access to capital, namely 1) Small dollar loans, and 2) Loans in the niche industries affected by recession, such as real estate, finance, etc.

If you think about it, most small businesses don't need $1 million or even $500,000, and wouldn't even know what to do with it all. In many cases, even $50,000 can go a long, long way towards boosting revenues (or even doubling them) if invested in more lead generation campaigns, building a sales team, etc.

The odds are you can suffice with a smaller loan amount. In the past this has been more difficult because banks are geared towards extending larger loans since they can earn more interest for the same amount of due diligence per loan.

What the SBA is doing for small businesses

The SBA recently launched two loan-guarantee revisions that simplify and streamline paperwork even more for banks and borrowers.

One of them, the Small Loan Advantage program, is off to a strong start. It allows banks to make loans at more affordable rates, and brings more opportunities to borrow smaller loan amounts, like $50,000 to $100,000 or even less....which is great if that's all you need!

Applying for a small SBA loan from banks

To take advantage of this for yourself, find out which local bank makes the most SBA loans. You can often find this information on the bank's website. Or you can visit the branch or call them. Ask them how many SBA loans they make and how often they fund loans in the dollar range of what you need.

Find the local bank that is most active in the SBA loan program and apply for a loan. If the bank says you're not ready for the loan, ask them why. Then figure out how to address the issue so you can go back later after resolving the concern.

The United States Small Business Administration wants you to succeed as an entrepreneur and business owner. Because when you do, you will create jobs and stimulate the economy. So consider SBA loans as a funding source; they might be just right for your business.

 

Suggested Resource: Want funding for your business? Then check out our Truth About Funding program to learn how you can access the 41 sources of funding available to entrepreneurs like you. Click here to learn more.


The Top Crowdfunding Sites for Business Owners


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Crowdfunding, or raising money from the Internet "crowd" has really taken off. Just a couple years ago there were only hundreds of companies who had raised Crowdfunding. Today we are in the tens of thousands.

Below is a brief overview of the many Crowdfunding platforms to consider.

The Largest Crowdfunding Sites:

Kickstarter.com is the largest site for funding projects, mostly creative projects. Having the largest network is nice, because the more people visiting the site, the more they have the chance to find you (as opposed to driving all of the traffic through your own efforts). 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. Also, if you raise fewer funds than you need, you don't receive any of it (but if you raise more than projected, you get the surplus).

Rockethub.com is primarily for funding creative projects. Their network is not as large as Kickstarter's, but still substantial. They accept more projects, and also have a success fee of 8%. I suggest scanning this site for similar projects to yours. Were they funded? How many days long was the funding period? Finding "comps" like yours can help you determine if you want to post your project here, on Kickstarter, or somewhere else.

GoFundMe.com has heavy traffic and is unique in that it doesn't charge a success fee if you get funded. They do charge a $9 fixed monthly fee, which is really minimal but still screens out less serious competitors and donors will take you more seriously. You can also raise money for anything here without an end date to the fundraising time frame you're given. While I have not used it myself, GoFundMe has gotten positive reviews on many blogs.

IndieGoGo caters to business owners-particularly artists and creative projects. You can make donations tax deductible here, which is fantastic because that's a deal breaker for some donors (and you don't want to have to form a non-profit yourself just to receive donations...or pay taxes on them!). Scroll through the different projects on this site to get an idea of how easy to use it is for visitors and entrepreneurs.

Rock The Post is similar to Kickstarter in a lot of ways. If you don't reach or surpass your funding goal you won't receive any of the funding. This is good for donors but can be frustrating for you. More uniquely, there are many other entrepreneurial members of their online community who can help you to brainstorm or even implement ideas. So think of it as a way to get connected to potential partners and support as well as funding.

Niche Crowdfunding Sites:

Localstake is a new site that is focused on helping local businesses get funding. This is a great idea, because most investors would rather help out someone local. One reason is that they benefit from helping their community become stronger, but also because they are more familiar with local concerns and feel like they can keep an eye on things (eating at your restaurant, etc.). My experience is the more tangible you can make your pitch and plans for those you approach, the more "for real" they perceive it to be.

FundaGeek is a site geared towards funding technology, invention, and education projects. Many college students and professors use it to advance their research and submit ideas for funding as an alternative to grants and give people more freedom and control over the project's purpose and implementation. I would definitely check this site out if you have a relevant project, as more donors here will be inclined to support your cause.

Appsfunder is the "kickstarter for mobile app design." On Appsfunder, you'll start by telling the story behind your idea, get funded by milestones as it's developed, and then launching it in the iTunes and Google Android markets.

Appsplit focuses on mobile, web, and desktop apps, and lets you hold "open" or "all-or-nothing" funding campaigns. The latter type are the same as with Kickstarter, but making your project "open" means that you receive the funds as they are donated, regardless of whether you reach your full projected funding goal or not. This is helpful because even some funds are better than none in some cases. If I were making an application, I'd definitely check out Appsplit and Appdfunder first.

Equity Based Crowdfunding Sites:

Once the SEC provides its rulings on how equity-based crowdfunding will work, we will see a crop of new equity-based crowdfunding sites. To date, several of these sites have already launched, but aren't fully functional. My favorite (because I know and like the people behind it among other reasons) is Crowdfunder.

Hopefully with this selection of sites available, you'll catch the vision of crowdfunding as well. It's no longer a question of "Should I?" -- now it's a matter of which site, for what, and when. Happy fundraising!


Crowdfunding vs. Peer-to-Peer Lending


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With the internet making several new forms of funding available to entrepreneurs who want to sidestep the hassles and qualification of getting bank financing, there's a little confusion about peer-to-peer lending sites and how they're different from crowdfunding.

I'm going to explain the difference, and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Peer-to-Peer Lending

Peer-to-Peer (or P2P) Lending transactions occur between individuals without going through a bank or traditional intermediary. Without the middleman, borrowers can get better terms and access to more capital than before, and lenders can earn higher returns.
 
And as can be expected, there are several popular websites that connect borrowers and lenders directly, such as:

  • Prosper.com
  • LendingClub.com
  • Zopa.com
  • IOUCentral.com

 

The downside of P2P lending is that supposedly less than 10% of loans applied for on these sites get funded. And you have to pay back the loans.
 
Crowdfunding

With crowdfunding, you' can tap a lot more investors and raise unlimited amounts of money. And, you provide rewards for those who give you money rather than needing to repay a loan. And, your chances of raising crowdfunding are much higher than with P2P lending; statistics show that 50% of entrepreneurs who try to raise crowdfunding successfully do so.

With regards to rewards, with Crowdfunding you want to offer something to the people who help fund your project, such as future redemption of the product or service you are creating, discounts, prizes, gifts and bonuses.

A percentage of the money raised will in all likelihood come from friends, family, and people in your existing contacts. However, crowdfunding sites give you an organized and safe way to advertise the opportunity, and people can see the social proof of others getting on board and funding your project.

Examples of crowdfunding sites are:

  • Kickstarter.com
  • Rockethub.com
  • IndieGogo.com

 

{Note: There is also a type of funding called "Micro-funding," which is a means of offering funds to impoverished people who don't have access to traditional forms of loans. These funding amounts are generally very small and are used by the recipients to launch personal businesses, such as sewing, trading, making crafts, and other manageable ventures where a little funding can go a long way for the person and their family.}

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 (nor interest). However, I like diversifying my funding, so you should also check out the peer-to-peer lending sites to decide if they're worth pursuing for your business.

 

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.


JOBS Act Opens Up Crowd Funding From Equity Investors


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Here's a recent development that is a great sign of things to come for entrepreneurs like you and me, who want to raise capital for growth and would consider crowdfunding as a source.

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (called the JOBS Act) was passed with support from Republicans and Democrats alike and signed by President Obama in April, 2012.

The JOBS Act makes equity-based crowdfunding much easier

What the JOBS Act does is make it possible to raise funds from investors and donors through certain crowdfunding sites in exchange for equity in your company, starting January 1st, 2013. This opens up more possibilities in equity funding without the tedious requirements to register your funding as a public offering with the SEC.

If you have tried to raise funds in the past by going the public offering route, you'll know that it's expensive. Being able to bypass all that is huge, especially if you are raising smaller amounts of funding that don't justify such expenses.

The passing of the JOBS Act also means you won't have to seek out accredited investors specifically (people with incomes of $200,000 or more, or a net worth of $1,000,000 or more-not including their residence). You can receive funds from people of all income ranges, which makes the pool of potential investors MUCH bigger.

Imagine how many regular folks are out there, who might want to reallocate some of the funds they already have invested in savings, stocks, mutual funds, or other investments that aren't paying so well at present. In the future, funding other businesses might be a much more common way to diversify your capital-that anyone can do and not just accredited investors. Even you!

But there are going to be conditions set by the SEC which they will also make clear by January 1st. As of now, we know that there will be some kind of yearly maximum dollar amount that one person can invest in this kind of opportunity. It will depend on their income and net worth. Stay tuned to see the other conditions as they are announced.

How can you prepare for this?

If you want to raise equity capital in 2013 and would consider announcing it through crowdfunding sites, here's a quick list of things you can do in the meantime to be ready when the time comes:

Broaden your network

One advantage crowdfunding sites offer you is having access to more investors and donors than there already are in your personal network. The sites generate their own traffic, and a percentage will come across your project online by searching or stumbling across it.

As it turns out, enough projects have been successfully funded (using the donation-based Crowdfunding model, not the equity-based Crowdfunding model that will go live on January 1st 2013) for experts to be able to look back and say that your project is much more likely to be successful if the first quarter to third of the funding comes from your existing network first. Reason being, they are the ones most likely to believe in and trust you already, and strangers want to see some social proof and credibility in advance before they jump on board.

Deepen your relationships

Do this for the same reason I mentioned above-to get the ball rolling on your funding from your existing contacts. So in the months between now and 2013, you should be out seeking new relationships and strengthening the ones you have-specifically with those who are more likely candidates for funding you, or those who are in a position to spread the word for you.

You don't even have to mention funding during this time. Just spend the time necessary to confirm that they have the means and would be interested in your project, while at the same time showing your willingness to serve them and build trust and experience together.

If you're already in business, keep growing it

As with any kind of funding, you will be in a much stronger position to ask for funds if you can demonstrate success in the past. You will have more data available to work into your plan and forecast. And, people want prefer to invest in something that looks like a sure thing-with the least uncertainty. So keep doing what you're doing and you'll be able to show prospective investors 2012's financial statement and smile.

Work on your business plan

Also, as always, have a solid plan for how much funding you need, how you will spend it, and what effects it will have on your operations and revenues. People want to lend to someone who has thought things through and looks less likely to run into unforeseen problems-especially strangers online! Remember that.

It will also take some time to craft your presentation and pitch. If you plan on using a slideshow or video of some kind (or even just writing it out on your project's page), it will take some time to put that together in advance. But, it's something you can be doing now.

So there it is...equity-based crowdfunding is one more way to get the funds you need to launch or grow your business. Stay tuned to the developments (you'll hear them from me) and prepare for funding like you normally would. This  might just be the key to your company's growth!

 

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.


3 Simple Tricks for Getting New Customers


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Smart marketers know that as much as 80% of their revenues come from repeat customers. Once you transform someone from prospect to customer and then give them a great experience, your next sale to that customer will be much easier. In fact, oftentimes the next sale will be initiated by the customer without any effort on your part.

So the best way to get more sales from repeat customers is...make more sales to first-time customers!

For instance, if your initial sale to a customer is $40, but the average customer will purchase four more times within the first year, then a new customer is actually worth $200 in the first year. Much more than the initial $40! So, clearly, you want to attract as many new customers as possible (and take care of them so they keep purchasing from you).

To help you do this, below are three tips for attracting first-time customers. Since it's the most important sale you'll make, it pays to make your offer truly attention-getting and irresistible.

First-Time Customer Strategy #1: Give Them a Deal

Some companies go as far as to lose money on their first sale (known as a loss-leader), knowing they'll make it back with an immediate upsell, monthly service, or future sales. Your goal is NOT to make as much money as you can on the first sale. It's to make a first sale!

But of course, it's better if the first sale naturally leads to selling your next item or service. For example, I know a pressure washing company who will clean your house's exterior at cost the first time. But then it upsells 80% of these customers to their "twice yearly" plan -- this is where it derives tons of profits.

Restaurants offer specials, phone companies offer you deals if you switch providers, etc. -- you know the drill. Give customers a powerful offer to which it's hard to say no, either in the form of a low price or incredible value for their money.

You see coupon offers and deal-of-the-day sites like Groupon offering $20 massages and other great deals all the time. This works in getting tons of new customers, but be careful. A lot of businesses have reported "The Groupon Effect," in which they will post a special, get a herd of penny-pinchers in the door that take advantage of the offer and then disappear to find the next deal at whoever's cheapest tomorrow. In other words, it can attract the wrong crowd and may not produce repeat business-which is the whole point of making a first sale.

So use these special offers carefully. One idea is to use direct mail. Doing so allows you to target the specific customers you want with your special offer.

First-Time Customer Strategy #2: Give Them an Experience

Think about how much money people spend on vacations, sports, dining, and entertainment. What do these all have in common? They're experiences that people want and are willing to pay for.

You can try positioning your service as a personal experience. It's one thing to offer a massage, it's another to offer a "spa experience" with music, lights, nails, and a free facial.

You can also plan and conduct group experiences like luncheons, parties, open houses, or tours. Or find a way to piggyback on existing events going on in your community, like parades, festivals, expos, etc.

These will take a little creativity, but remember that people are naturally drawn to fun times. Make it memorable and do it a few times per year.

Look to Zappos.com as inspiration. Even though it sells a commodity (shoes), it provides a great experience through exceptional customer service. For many other businesses, providing a great experience is much easier than this.

First-Time Customer Strategy #3: Give Them Information

Every business needs to educate its customers, whether you charge for that education or not. I love it when my mechanic, Vinny, explains to me my car's problem, what caused it, how to fix it, and what it will cost. Sometimes we even go through options together, and I couldn't make a decision on the right one without getting the facts first.

Providing education demonstrates that you're an expert, increases your trust, and gives you higher credibility in the customers' mind. It also gives you an easy segue into showing the benefits of what you're offering and how it will help.

Some lead generation methods tie in very well with education. For example, if you're trying to get blog posts ranked in the search engines, you'll need to write articles on topics of interest to your readers-like how to do something, the pros and cons of different products, etc. These posts will show your expertise and educate the reader.

You can do the same with videos. Simple, informative videos can get the attention of prospects and warm them up before contacting you. End each video with a special offer or a "call to action" that encourages the prospect to contact you.

To reiterate, consider how you can give first-time customers a deal, an experience, or the information they want/need. Use this to gain your first sales. Once you do, make sure you deliver quality, and then you'll be on track towards generating more repeat business than you can handle!


Suggested Resource: Growthink's Ultimate Marketing Plan Template allows you to expertly create your marketing plan. This marketing plan will give you multiple proven strategies for attracting new customers, show you how to overcome customer objections, and dramatically boost your sales and profits. Click here to learn more.


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