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.
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.
In the process of business consulting and coaching, I've learned quite a few things that growing companies seem to have in common no matter what industry they're in or what they sell.
We all have cash flow to deal with, projects and teams to manage, and marketing campaigns to plan and carry out. Every business.
But here's another common characteristic...pretty much all business owners face the four universal objections that their prospective customers have. What should you do about them? I suggest that you assume they have all four objections. Then, have a way to prevent each of them in advance through solid marketing and positioning and as they arise at the time of the sale.
Do this for every product or service, but start with the one that needs the most help (or would create the most revenues if improved). Come up with answers to these four objections-don't worry, I'll help-then have your whole sales process incorporate it.
Check each of the ads you're running to make sure they don't agitate one of these concerns. Or show people in advance that it's not a concern. Check the language on your website and sales pages. And make sure your salespeople have been trained in answering the objections.
Okay, enough explanations! Here are the four universal objections for which you should be prepared:
Objection #1: I'm too busy
This makes it hard to even get your foot in the door in the first place. At the advertisement level, people will skim over your ad and never commit to focusing on and reading it. You've got to show prospects fast that what you're offering is worth their time.
The solution is to get their attention. Tease them with something, promise something, use memorable messages, and/or give prospects value up front.
Objection #2: Why do I need you?
Particularly if prospects are not actively seeking the product or service you offer, you must show them why they need it. Show them what life can be like with your solution - how it solves a key need or pain.
Objection #3: I don't have the money
This objection comes up earlier than you'd think. It's partly because people and companies are both more cost-conscious these days, and partly from people's aversion to spending more money on something at all. So "I don't have the money" is their excuse to bail before getting too invested in the decision-making process.
The solution here is to show prospects the value of what they are getting. Will your product or service enhance their lives, save them money in the future, position them to be more successful, etc.? Let them know the answer to this question!
Another solution (which is not mutually exclusive) is to offer payment plans if possible to alleviate legitimate cost concerns.
Objection #4: I'm not sure I believe you
People are skeptical, and don't believe everything you advertise-and rightfully so. They want to know you're for real and they want to see proof that your product or service does what you say.
Show them you're legitimate by letting them know your credentials, seeing your work, knowing your clientele or how long you've been in business, and also that you're honest, have integrity, and really care.
One of the best ways to prove you can get results is showing testimonials from other customers. This is why "before and after" pictures are used in most weight loss commercials. This can be done with many products.
Other things you can do to overcome skepticism include offering money back guarantees and simple return policies.
Getting new customers is one of the hardest things a business must do. By considering the objections prospective customer have, and preparing for them (via adjusting your marketing materials and training your sales team), you will more successfully attract new customers. This can and will give you a competitive advantage, and allow you to grow a successful company.
Suggested Resource: Growthink's Ultimate Marketing Plan Template allows you to expertly create your marketing plan. This marketing plan will allow you to overcome customer objections, attract tons of new customers, and dramatically boost your sales and profits. Click here to learn more.
When you're starting or growing your company, you'll face lots of challenges and unfortunately realize failures more often than you'd like. One of the hallmarks of successful entrepreneurs is that they routinely overcome these obstacles.
To do the same, follow these six steps to respond to failures:
1) Admit the mistake. Knowing the true cause of a failure is the first step to overcoming it, after acknowledging that there's a problem or failure in the first place. Leaders who practice denial might feel better about themselves temporarily, but nothing gets done to make things better. Face it-no one wants to admit they messed up and it's hard to accept when something's just not working anymore.
2) Be kind to yourself - Even if you directly caused the failure, remember that it's a matter of your actions and their results-not from some personal defect. It's not always about you! Try to separate yourself from the problem and look at it objectively.
3) Talk it through with someone who can offer insight or support. Don't be afraid to ask for help! Again, asking for help does not mean you're not good enough. It means you're committed to achieving outcomes without letting ego get in your way.
4) Find out what you can learn from the failure. The odds are you did things that worked and things that didn't. Examine them and the reasons why they worked or didn't. What you learn here will form the assumptions you'll rely on when making a plan of action in the following steps.
5) Attack, not shrink - When people run into financial problems or serious crises, they usually go in one of two directions. They can shrink back, become more risk-averse, and try to cut expenses and do less to avoid the problem. It's basically cowering and hiding. Or they can attack the problem like a foreign army invading enemy territory. Which strategy do you think has won more wars?
6) Make a new plan and move forward. Thinking about the past is helpful-for the purpose of learning from it. But ruminating and dwelling in the past, reliving your mistakes and thinking about how things could and should have turned out differently just isn't productive.
It's time to think about the future! Take what you learned from the failure and apply it to a new or revised plan towards the same goal. Look at the bright side-you now have more information and knowledge than you did making your last plan! This should give you a little more confidence, knowing your odds are better this time. This is the same mindset that Thomas Edison had when he said, after years of trying to create a light bulb, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
So rather than reacting negatively to failures and problems when they occur, or getting stressed out about what happened (as if you're somehow exempt, unlike all the other entrepreneurs throughout history), learn how to react productively instead.
Guard your thoughts and mind with the same diligence as you would protect your assets and follow your plan. Allowing negative thinking and fear to creep in will cloud your vision, lead to less effective plans, and will short-circuit your ability to remain consistent and motivated.
On the other hand, if you form the habit of failing forward (productively), then nothing will be able to permanently stand in your way of success. The choice is yours.
How do you define success?
I have seen it defined as consistently achieving your pre-determined goals. Others have said it's your level of "grit" or ability to fail consistently without losing your motivation or giving up from self-doubt.
Your business goals and dreams are unique to you. While the object of success is different for every person, we have been able to determine the characteristics that are shared by those who have found success and fulfillment, as they define it.
The industries and pursuits of successful people are very diverse, so mimicking their actual day-to-day behavior is not always a true model of how to get what you want (unless you're trying to succeed at the same thing they are).
Watching the actions of successful business people reveals their mindset that motivates them and, more importantly, gives them the perseverance and consistency to take the actions needed every day to achieve what they dream.
This is a humbling reminder that growing your business is more than just knowing what to do, or finding out the secret technique or method that will make you more money.
While that helps in choosing your strategy and making the execution easier, the reality is that anyone with a strong enough success mindset will have the attributes needed to find out what to do, commit to it, and then get to work through thick and thin, changing their course as needed until they've realize their goal.
What are the elements of this "success mindset?"
Confidence in your dream and your abilities
How strongly do you believe in your company's potential? How strongly do you believe that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to pull it off? This is self-confidence. Entrepreneurs who don't fully believe in themselves are more likely to quit, or make excuses that keep them from trying in the first place.
Part of confidence comes from experience. After all, if you've made money in business in the past, it's not too hard to see yourself doing it again, or more of it. When you see your hunches pay off, you'll learn to trust your gut even more.
Part of confidence is knowing that you are probably going to run into challenges and fail at a few things along the way. It means you can handle setbacks without questioning your own ability. There will always, I repeat, always be setbacks. The difference is that a confident entrepreneur knows he can figure out what to do when the time comes and overcome them.
My point here is that when things don't work out the way you planned, it does not mean that you are personally lacking in some way. The point is to achieve your goal, not to have a flawless plan.
Flexible and willing to learn
The sharpest entrepreneurs are continually learning from whatever source presents itself. This means getting expert knowledge in their field and learning how to run a business in general. But it also means listening along the way for ideas that you can implement directly in new or current projects.
It doesn't matter who the ideas come from. Constantly look outside yourself for new ideas and be flexible. After all, there is no one right way to run your business, and copying your competitors exactly is more of an exercise in flattery than a strategy for success.
Your results are also a source of learning if you'll listen to them. This applies to both successes and failures. If you succeed at something, it's not because you're invincible-it's because you took certain actions that produced a certain result. Same goes for failures.
Focus more on actions and results and what they can teach you through trial and error, rather than making things personal.
Persistence and determination
The most persistent entrepreneur will usually win. There are plenty of talented, highly-intelligent, and educated people out there. Why aren't they all successful?
My guess would be their mindset. Perhaps they don't believe they can achieve what they want, or set their sights low to avoid the risk of failure and pain.
We can learn a lot from entrepreneurs like Henry Ford-a man of average intelligence who surrounded himself with the very best people. His job was to consider their input and make decisions accordingly. People look to the leader to press forward-that's you!
So even if you don't currently have the know-how or the funds (or whatever you think is holding you back) to achieve your dream right now, know that you will eventually if you continue to make proactive efforts towards your goal. It's just a matter of time!
Ask any fighter and he'll tell you that focus and concentration are crucial. Would you want to get distracted by shiny objects in the crowd if you were in the middle of a heavyweight battle? You'd probably get your clock cleaned, or at least fail to be effective at attacking.
Why would your business be any less important? Every day, you will have a ton of information, thoughts, and cries for your attention coming at you. The average person comes in contact with as many as 2,000 advertising messages per day, for example.
How well do you focus on your goals? Do you review them often? Do you make plans for their achievement, and revise them when they don't work as well as you thought?
At any given hour of your workday, ask yourself, "What am I doing right now, and is it helping me achieve my goal or is it busy work, a distraction, or something I could delegate?"
The topics of confidence and self-esteem as well as mindfulness and concentration are not only fascinating studies in self-knowledge. They can help you make money. They can help you grow your business, and find success.
To apply this, take a look at your own mindset lately. Has it been conducive to success, or do you find yourself getting in your own way? The process of developing the right mindset is not as simple as a one-time task list. It's based on setting the habit of consistently paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, which reveal your higher thought patterns and beliefs.
Every good plan for massive growth will address how you intend to generate leads and turn them into sales. Unless 100% of your sales take place online, you'll need real, live people to take phone calls, process orders, and follow-up after the sale for retention and support.
Who is going to do this? Not you personally, if you plan to grow.
Not an in-house sales team of employees, either, for many business owners who prefer to outsource these positions to freelance sales reps or call centers.
Outsourcing your sales staff is becoming more popular because:
#1: It's less expensive than hiring and paying employees. It's easier to pay independent contractors by commission without a base salary, which you'll probably need to do with employees to comply with your state's laws.
#2: You're not that great at sales yourself. There's nothing wrong with this, but if your company is going to have salespeople, someone who knows how to get the job done effectively is going to need to train and manage the team. If no one else in your company is qualified, it's just easier to go with outside specialists.
#3: No managing a team. Like I said above, someone will need to manage the sales team. This takes time to do and I don't blame entrepreneurs for wanting to pass it on to another company. If not you, who in your company could take charge of that responsibility? Can you bring in a sales manager or new partner to handle it?
For these reasons, it seems like outsourcing your sales is the way to go. And maybe it is. But it depends and has its downsides like anything else.
The biggest downside to outsourcing your sales
But assuming we're talking about filling an ongoing need, my experience is that most of the time, the companies and individuals you outsource selling to just don't get the same results as an in-house team.
They can do well, but the companies who have tested sales from in-house teams versus outsourcing the sales usually show that you can make more doing it yourself. If you had 25% more revenue for each precious dollar you spend on advertising, you might do the math and see how much more you can make.
Some of the possible explanations are that outside salespeople often make sales for multiple clients, so they aren't focused on selling your product. They may push other offers with higher commissions or make more time one week for someone else, neglecting your customers.
And although they usually take some time up front to get acquainted with your product's details and how it's marketed, the salesperson is the last chance to make the sale as your customer goes down the marketing funnel. They have got to know the product inside and out to be able to answer any question a prospect could ask without giving them a reason to say "No."
So which is better? It depends...
How quickly do you need to set up and for how long? If you're in a rush, there are places that can get set up to take incoming calls or start setting appointments for you within a few days-not weeks, as it would to run ads, process applications, interview, and train a team on how to sell your product.
If you're just testing a campaign that involves a salesperson, you may not want to invest in a whole team of people you may not need anymore in a few weeks or months. You could also outsource it at first to get the ball rolling and then take your time building a terrific sales team to replace them.
It's up to you. You're the leader...you make the tough calls. But hopefully now you've seen the pros and cons of both ways and can choose how you do it with confidence.
According to the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire, last year 66,230 ventures received angel funding.
Compare that to the only 3,673 ventures that raised venture capital, and you quickly see that nearly TWENTY TIMES more companies raise angel funding than venture capital.
Importantly, the Center for Venture Research found that the number of angel investors providing the funding last year was 318,480 individuals. That's a lot of angel investors.
So, the question that entrepreneurs always ask me is "how do I find these angel investors." The good and bad news is that there's no directory of angel investors. This is bad because if there was, it would be easy to find them. On the other hand it's good, since if these angel investors were easy to find, they would be bombarded with deals; and thus raising capital from them would be harder.
The best way to find these angel investors is through networking. The first part of networking is asking everyone you know (e.g., friends, colleagues, family, advisors like consultants, lawyers and accountants, etc. ) who they might know. And you should definitely do that.
The other part of networking is meeting new people. In many cases you should target individual angel investors directly. For instance, you may realize that a certain executive in your industry would be perfect, in which case you should call them and/or seek an introduction from a mutual acquaintance. (Note that business owners, executives and others with high paying jobs comprise the majority of angel investors).
In other cases, you should "get out there" and meet them at different venues. Here are the 7 best venues I've found for meeting angel investors.
1. Local Business & Networking Events
Every city has local events that attract business owners and entrepreneurs (note that other business owners and entrepreneurs are often angel investors and/or can introduce you to angels).
You can find out about these events on sites like Meetup, Eventful and EventBrite.
For example, if you go to Meetup and type in "entrepreneur," you'll find lots of local events.
2. Industry Conferences & Trade Shows
Industry Conferences & Trade Shows are great places to meet angel investors. These events are crawling with successful people who have the means and often interest in funding a company like yours. And, based on the fact that they are attending such a conference, they know your industry. This makes educating them on your venture easier, and also often gives them the ability to give you valuable strategic advice.
3. Alumni Events
Particularly at college alumni events you'll find lots of successful people. Many of whom would be very interested in funding your company as an angel investor. You already have a connection with these individuals since you share the same alma mater. So go to these events and meet them.
4. Chamber of Commerce Meetings
There's probably no better place to meet a large concentration of business owners (and potential angel investors) than local Chamber of Commerce meetings. So attend these meetings.
5. Continuing Education Classes
In most communities there local colleges that teach continuing education classes. Some of these classes will attract successful business owners and others who might consider investing in your venture. A class teaching "bread baking" may not be the best fit. But a class teaching "online marketing for your business" might be a perfect way to meet angel investors.
6. Volunteer at Local Organizations & Charities and/or Attend Charity Events
As a general rule, you should volunteer to give back to people less fortunate than you. But as a bonus, when volunteering you'll often meet very successful people, including large donors to the cause. These individuals might also be interested in funding your company.
7. Online Forums
While there are lots of offline places to meet angel investors as specified above, don't forget about online venues. There are plenty of online communities that you can join. Ones filled with business owners. And ones filled with people who are experts in or are passionate about your industry. Likewise there are LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Go online and join the right groups, and use them to connect with prospective angels.
Armed with this knowledge, go out there and network. There are hundreds of thousands of angel investors out there. It's up to you to find them and tell them about your venture.
Suggested Resource: In our Angel Funding Formula program, you'll learn exactly how to find and contact angel investors, exactly what information to convey to them and how, and how to secure your financing check. This presentation explains more.
According to research from Bradley University, 70% to 80% of new businesses fail within their first year. To make matters worse, half of those who survive the first year will fail within the next four years.
And the number one cause of this failure? According to Dun & Bradstreet, the primary cause is lack of business planning.
Yes, entrepreneurs and business owners don't plan to fail. Rather, they fail to plan (which causes them to fail).
In my view, there are two types of business plans. The first is the business plan you must create when you start your company. The purpose of this plan is to ensure you have fully thought through your venture.
Among other things, this plan includes significant market research. It assesses your market size to ensure the opportunity is big enough. It analyzes customer segments to confirm that customer needs match your company's proposed product and/or service offerings. And it analyzes the competition to determine how your company will position itself and how you will most effectively compete.
From a strategic standpoint, the business plan must document your marketing plan (how you will secure customers), your human resources plan (who you will hire) and your operations plan (what key milestones you will accomplish and when).
When you're done, your business plan will confirm your market opportunity and give you a roadmap to follow. It will also be required should you wish to gain funding from investors and lenders.
Now, once your business is up-and-running, you still need a business plan in order to succeed. I refer to this type of business plan as a "strategic plan." I term it as such because this type of plan requires much less research (since you already know who your customers are, the market fundamentals, and lots of information about your competitors). Rather, the focus of this plan is strategy.
Specifically, this plan needs to identify precisely:
1. Where you want your company to be in five years
2. What you need to accomplish within the next year to progress you to that point, and
3. What your strategy is to complete your key milestones in the next 12 months
In determining the optimal strategies, you need to consider your company's strengths, and opportunities that can best leverage them. If you don't take time to do this, you become too tactical. That is, you continue to use the same tactics that have gotten you to the point you are at. And oftentimes, the strategy and tactics that got you where you are today are NOT the strategy and tactics that will get you to the next level.
So, spend time figuring out the best strategies to follow. The good news is that you've already proven you can execute on strategies (which is what got you to where you are now).
After you figure out the big picture opportunities to go after (which often fall into the categories of further penetrating your existing market, going after a new market, or creating new products/services for existing and/or new markets), you need to revisit the three core strategies you developed in your initial business plan.
To start, you need to modify your marketing plan. Importantly, your marketing plan should always be adding new marketing channels (e.g., direct mail, print, radio, search engine optimization, etc.) as the more channels you have, the more customers you will get and the less risk you have of one channel losing effectiveness (think about businesses who used to get all their customers from the yellow pages).
Next, consider your human resources strategy. What new people will you need to hire to accomplish your key goals in the coming years? And finally, you need to develop your operations strategy. Figure out what key tasks and milestones you need to accomplish over the next year and break them down into smaller projects that you and your team must accomplish. And then create a master schedule showing who, how and when these projects will be completed (I like using a Gantt chart to do this).
Creating a business plan when you start your company, and annually creating strategic plans to grow your company is absolutely essential to your success. Research proves it. So, if you want to avoid failure, and achieve maximum success, make sure you are continuously creating, updating and following your business and strategic plans.
Suggested Resource: You just learned the importance of choosing the right strategies to build your company. Including this information in your strategic plan is critical to growing an ultra-successful business. What else should you include in your current growth or strategic plan? Click here to find out.
A press release is simply an announcement about your company. For example, your release may announce the launch of your company. Or it may announce the launch of a new product or service. Or, it could announce a new hire, partnership or investor. Or the press release could mention new information you have discovered, for example, that customer preferences have changed.
Whatever, the case, if there's news to share about your company, you should document it in a press release. In creating your press release, the rule of thumb is to answer the key questions reporters will have, mainly: Who, What, When, Where, and Why (or How).
Now, creating a press release by itself has little value. Rather, it's the distribution of your press release that generates big value. For example, if you can get your press release in front of the editor of a major newspaper, the editor may assign a journalist to write a story based on your release. And then your release and story could be seen by thousands if not millions of people.
Importantly, press release distribution has changed dramatically over the past 10-20 years due to, you guessed it -- the internet, which has changed how news and other information is dispersed.
Today, there are press release sites and services that will distribute your release to thousands of reporters. Below are answers to some key questions about press releases and press release distribution services.
Are press releases dead?
Press releases are certainly not dead. However, because it has become so easy to create a press release and distribute it, if your release is boring, it may not be worth issuing. That is, your press release is competing for the attention of journalists against lots of other releases. So make sure yours (and particularly your press release title) stands out so editors and journalists feel compelled to read it.
If my release doesn't get picked up by a journalist, was it a waste?
The goal of your press release is to get it picked up by a journalist. So they do a story about or mentioning you or your company.
But, there is a secondary goal. Virtually all of the press release distribution services also post your releases on their website. And because several of these websites are looked upon favorably by Google and other search engines, oftentimes prospective customers will find your press releases on their sites when they search relevant terms.
So, even if your press release doesn't get you picked up by journalists, it still might be read directly by prospective customers who can then find you (based on the contact information you include as part of the release).
What are the main press release distribution services?
There are three core types of press release distribution services, that vary mostly based on their cost as follows:
Free services:There are several free press release distribution services including:
The benefit of these sites is that they are free, and that they post your release on their sites. The negative is that they don't get read nearly as much by actual journalists than the paid services.
Value-Based Paid Services:The press release distribution service I use most is PRWeb.com.
PRWeb is relatively inexpensive ($89 per release), posts your press release on their site (where real people do come and read it) and gets good exposure from actual journalists.
Also, many times the press releases you submit on PRWeb get automatically syndicated (meaning posted along with links to your website) on other sites like Yahoo News and the websites of major newspapers. This syndication gets your release read by many more reporters and/or prospective customers.
And, if you want to submit multiple press releases, PRWeb offers big discounts when you purchase multi-release plans.
Premium Paid Services:The two premium paid press release distribution services are PRNewswire and BusinessWire.
The benefit of these services is that you get the best possible exposure to news editors and journalists, exposure on their websites, and syndication on other websites.
The negative is the cost, which is often several hundred dollars per release. I use these sites sparingly, and only when I have a press release that I'm confident warrants great media attention.
Press releases are a great, no or low-cost way to get news about your company out to both the media and customers. And they take very little time to create. So, add this strategy to your marketing mix today.
Suggested Resource: Countless entrepreneurs and small business owners have realized both immediate and long-term increases in revenues and profits from getting publicity. And oftentimes these increases are massive. Learn how to easily get tons of publicity for your business with Growthink's Publicity Playbook.
There are many forms of marketing which help entrepreneurs and small business owners get new customers.
Referrals are perhaps the most powerful. I mean, what's more powerful than your customers urging their friends, family and/or colleagues to also buy your product or service.
The second most powerful is publicity. Because if a prospective customer learns about you in most media sources, you gain massive credibility. And this prompts them to seek you out and buy from you.
There are many ways of getting publicity for yourself and your business. And when you do get it, there are several varieties. For example, a journalist may give you a simple quote in their article. Or, they may quote you several times or attribute the entire theme of their article to you. Or, in the best case, they write an article solely about you, your company and/or your product or service.
The point is this - the more the article talks about you, the more likely the reader will seek you out after reading it.
Now one concern entrepreneurs and small business owners may have when getting publicity is what the journalist will say about you. Virtually all the time, the journalist will position your company in a positive light. But even if they don't, the saying "there's no such thing as bad publicity" is generally true.
Importantly, there is one way to accomplish both the goals mentioned above: getting publicity (particularly articles) that fully discusses you and your company AND gaining 100% control of what the article says about you.
And that way is to write the article yourself.
Articles are a professional way to get the word out about your company without advertising, because they have educational value. They are an "under-the-radar" way to get positioned in front of people.
What should you write about in your article?
Think of something you've learned in your line of work that your customers or prospective customers would want to know more about. Simply write out a one-page "how-to" article teaching the reader, or presenting facts (and even debunking myths).
Where should you send your article?
Send your articles to relevant newspapers, magazines, trade journals and bloggers to reprint with your permission.
Make sure to add a "bio box" at the end of your article. Your "bio box" includes your name and contact information (e.g., website address) so that readers of the article can easily contact you.
How to get started quickly
The fastest way to get any article published is to submit it to an online article directory like www.ezinearticles.com. On this site, web searches will find your article, and many will click on the links in your bio box that link back to your website.
Also, many website owners and bloggers syndicate articles from EzineArticles; in doing so, they re-publish the article on their website but must keep the bio box and links to your website.
Here are two important notes for using EzineArticles. First, search through the site to see the types of articles others have written about your topic. This will give you new ideas and also alert you to topics that have already been covered too much. Second, more prominent media sources (e.g., magazines, newspapers) want original content. So, if you have a great idea for an article, pitch it to the more prominent media sources first. Since, once you publish it elsewhere (e.g., on EzineArticles), they won't be interested (although you could then pitch them on another article).
Getting your articles printed in media sources is a simple way to get the word out about your company, control the message, and build lots of credibility. And it doesn't take much time.
And one final tip to make this technique even more efficient - don't start by writing the article. Rather, just start by creating an interesting article title. Then pitch the title to newspaper and magazine editors to see if they are interested (simply call them and/or email them). They may say it's perfect as is, or they may suggest something slightly different. Doing it this way saves time and ensures you write an article they'll publish, which will get you great media exposure and new customers.
Suggested Resource: Countless entrepreneurs and small business owners have realized both immediate and long-term increases in revenues and profits from getting publicity. And oftentimes these increases are massive. Learn how to easily get tons of publicity for your business with Growthink's Publicity Playbook.