Growthink Blog

Outsourcing Your Sales vs In-House Teams


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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.


The 7 Best Places to Find Angel Investors


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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.


Business Plans versus Strategic Plans & The Keys to Each


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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.


Press Releases are NOT Dead [But Different]


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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:
PR.com
I-Newswire.com
PRlog.org

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.


Small Business Publicity: How to Get Media Attention & Control What's Said About You


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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.

Why articles?

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.


Event Marketing Is Making A Comeback


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There's an old marketing strategy that lately has been helping more and more entrepreneurs and business owners grow their companies. And I used it myself a few months ago and am starting to do more of it.

This strategy is event marketing. Which simply means holding events. Events, particularly when they are physical (versus online workshops or webinars) are very powerful. Particularly in today's internet/virtual age, being able to meet your customers, prospective customers, partners, investors and others face-to-face is very powerful. And much more so than simply email and telephone conversations.

Below I discuss several types of events you can hold, and how to get maximum publicity for them.

Importantly, companies of ALL sizes can hold events. And, they can use them to get lots of free publicity.

What kind of events could you organize (or even just attend) and mention in your PR efforts?

Here are a few that just about any business owner or entrepreneur can do:

  • Set up a workshop teaching something about the problem your product or service solves
  • Business dinners
  • Golf tournaments
  • Networking events
  • Product launch parties
  • Holiday parties
  • Customer appreciation parties
  • Happy hours
  • Seminars for your team or the public
  • Charity functions
  • Exhibiting in, sponsoring or speaking at a trade show
  • Exclusive VIP events for your top customers


Note that even if you don't have office or retail space, you can hold an event. Simply find some other firm that does have space, particularly if that other firm would benefit from it. For example, if you are a consultant, find a law firm that will allow you to use their office space. The law firm would benefit from exposure to the same customers/prospective customers you serve.

Once you've chosen your event and scheduled it, the next step is to get the word out. Here are several free methods you can use:

1. Event Websites

There are several popular websites such as Meetup, Eventful and EventBrite that show visitors a list of local events in their area. Announce your event there, which includes giving the description and details, and some visitors will find it and contact you (or just show up).

Make sure to include everything someone would want to know before making a decision to attend, because it's harder to get people to leave the house these days or attend an online event. Have a compelling call to action and a way to register or RSVP (online or by phone) in order to build a contact list as well as firm up attendance.

Also, the pages you create by announcing events on these sites are search engine-friendly, which means that web searchers may find them searching the internet before the event. They may find it years later, too, and if your contact information is there, consider it a free advertisement for your brand.

2. Local Event Calendars

In addition to these nationwide websites, there are often community calendars and directories that will allow you to submit your activity or event.

Try googling "your city" + "event calendar" to see what comes up. You may find a few websites dedicated to events in your city. Check out the sites' rules to see if it's free to add your listing, and how to do it.

Also, make a list of local newspapers and magazines and check to see if they post upcoming events in the community. Most daily newspapers have one that they publish on the same day every week. Magazines have them in every issue, but you may need to announce it to them 2-3 months ahead of time.

See if the magazines also have event calendars online. The publication itself or its online version should tell you how to submit an event to announce. If not, call them and ask to speak to the person in charge of the events calendar.

3. Social Media Event Marketing

Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to set up events and announce them to your contacts there. This is an additional avenue of reaching your customers (and the press, if you have connected with them already).

The simplest way is to click the "Create an Event" feature on these sites, and copy and paste the description of your event used in the methods above. As you can see, the core strategy here is announcing your event in as many places as possible.

4. Local Broadcast Media

Call your local newspaper reporters and TV/radio stations and let them know about each event. Make a handy list of 10-20 reporters/journalists in your area and you can complete the calls in an hour or two. Or use email or fax; or a combination of these formats.

Nowadays it's fairly easy to visit the websites of these stations and publications to get the contact information of the reporters/journalists you want to target.

Finally, make sure to take plenty of photos at each of your events. This will help you get more coverage now (reporters will write about the outcome of your event) and it will help you with promoting future events.

These 4 methods are simple and easy while maximizing your return for the effort that goes into putting on a great event. This return includes, among others, improving your relationships with existing customers, securing new customers and partners, and getting lots of free publicity.


A Growing Business is a Healthy Business


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Fact: Most businesses never reach $1 Million in annual sales. They start small and end small. While you can certainly create a great income with lower revenues, depending on your net profit, it's also true that staying small does not necessarily ensure that your business will survive.

There are no guarantees in business or in life! Every entrepreneur is faced with the risk that all their hard work and sacrifice will go belly-up. You have two choices for dealing with this uncertainty-shrink and survive, or survive through evolution and growth.

If you increase your annual revenues, you'll find you have more options. You'll be in a more likely position to ramp up your advertising or fund your own growth. There's also the old saying, "Revenue covers a multitude of sins," meaning that you don't have to have a perfect business to do well, as long as revenues are high and cash flow is healthy.

If times get tough and people aren't buying as much, you'll have your savings to weather the storm, your revenues will have room to decrease without putting you completely out of business, or you may have the cash on hand to get aggressive and attack your way out of the slump. Plus, you'll make more from the sale of your business, after all your hard work.

Whereas, if you stay small in order to keep things more manageable, it is often just a case study in shrinking back within the confines of your comfort zone. Yes, I know, you're a fearless entrepreneur and nothing daunts you, but let's get real here. Everyone has a comfort zone, and the fulfillment of dreams rarely happens within their limited boundaries. You will have to grow ahead of your business.

So with the mindset of achieving and maintaining fast growth, here are some tips for forming a growth strategy of your own.

Start with the most common ways for a smaller company to grow. Each of these involves some risk, effort, and uncertainty, though less than with other growth strategies. I suggest choosing and working on one of these at a time to stay focused and minimize the risks.

These strategies are as follows:

1. Sell more to your existing customers

The growth strategy with the least risk is continuing to sell more of your existing products to your current customers. You can do this by offering upgrades, maintenance and service packages, or finding new ways that your customers can use your product or service.

If you can't figure out what else to sell to your customers, try this - ASK THEM. Yes, it's really that simple.

2. Attract new customers

The next straightforward way to grow is to sell more of your product to adjacent markets-customers in different cities of states, or business buyers in related industries.

3. Additional sales and marketing channels

This could mean making sales through new channels-such as online transactions if you're a brick and mortar store or selling clothing at fairs and shows instead of strictly online. Or, you can advertise the same products through different lead generation channels, like pay-per-click, direct mail, etc.

4. Offer new products

Creating new products to offer existing customers is one sure-fire way to make more sales without having too much risk-compared to making new products for new customers.

Think of new, related ways to meet their needs, or meet them better, or more easily. Try personalizing. Different colors. And, once again ask them what they want so you can give it to them!

5. Growth through acquisition

Another way to grow is to acquire other companies, though this is usually more capital-intensive. In addition, often-times mergers and acquisitions fail to deliver the full value predicted for them.

Nevertheless, keep your eyes open for opportunities to buy competing businesses (especially if they're in a tough spot), or buying out one of your suppliers and even distributors to pass the savings through to your bottom line.

I hope you choose to grow your business versus staying small, and that you grow through one of these proven strategies. The horizon is constantly changing, and changing with it is a reliable way to stay ahead of the game and in a strong cash position.

 

Suggested Resource: Would you like to know more ways to maximize the value of your business. And specifically to turn it into one that exceeds $10 million in revenues? Then check out Growthink's 8 Figure Formula. This video explains more.


How Virtual Assistants Allow You to Stop Wasting Your Time With Grunt Work


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Outsourcing tasks and projects allows you to get more work done, more quickly and for less money. And it frees up your time to complete higher value-add tasks and otherwise grow your business. When outsourcing, a natural question arises as to when you should use several outsourced individuals or one virtual assistant, or both. This article will help you better answer this question, and allow you to outsource more profitably.

Of the many types of providers to which you can outsource work, there's a certain amount of leverage you can achieve by hiring a virtual assistant trained to do many things.

Would you rather hire and manage different people for each of these tasks?

  • Administrative tasks
  • Research
  • Editing and posting blog content
  • Keyword research
  • Contacting customers
  • Scheduling appointments
  • SEO / Getting backlinks
  • Customer service
  • Bookkeeping

...or just hire one person to do them all?

Something I have found very helpful is to write up a big, long list of every task that currently must be performed for your business to operate. Make it a list of ongoing, necessary tasks (not project-related tasks-more on that later).

Now go through the list and note which tasks are already handled by someone, which tasks could be done more inexpensively, which tasks you're currently doing yourself, and which tasks should be done but currently are not.

Doing this will leave you with a list of ongoing tasks that should probably be completed by a virtual assistant. So, what is a virtual assistant? A virtual assistant is a freelance service provider like any other, but who is more of a catch-all to handle numerous things for you (as opposed to an outsourced provider specializing in one thing, like design or computer programming).

Ideally, you can find one virtual assistant with previous experience doing everything you need done. If not, hire whoever can do the most and train them to do the rest. And/or for specialized projects, continue to hire individual outsourcers.

Virtual Assistants vs. Outsourcing Projects to Service Providers

There are pros and cons to both virtual assistants and individual outsourced providers.

One benefit of virtual assistants is that it's a lot easier to screen, hire, train and manage one virtual assistant for eight tasks than eight individual outsourcers for one task each.

Conversely, the benefit of an individual outsourcer is generally that they are well-trained in their area(s) of expertise. If you need a writer for example, you will probably get better quality work from a professional writer than hiring (or training) a virtual assistant who does a variety of things including writing.

Another difference is the length of time they work with you. Virtual assistants tend to be a longer, more ongoing commitment. Versus individual outsourcers who are often hired to complete just one task. Each of these scenarios has their benefits. Ongoing relationships cost more, but the virtual assistant often gets better with time as they learn more about you and your company. Individual outsourcers are only paid for the specific project they do, but there is more work to constantly find and educate them.

But with regards to cost, you can hire full-time virtual assistants in the Philippines for only $5 per hour, or $400/month full-time! So the cost might be very reasonable.

What should I have my virtual assistant do first?

The list of tasks you wrote up above can also be used when posting a project to hire a virtual assistant. These core tasks become their job description. As you think of new tasks your assistant can perform for you, add them to the list and train them to do it when the time is right.

You can't teach them everything all at once, so you've got to have a planned and orderly
system for training your assistant. Number each of the tasks in the order in which
you want to train them.

I recommend numbering only the top five at first so that you will stay focused. To number more is a waste of time, and your priorities might change in the meantime, anyway.

When you're almost done with the first five, choose a new top 5 tasks to teach, with the current #5 becoming the new #1.

There are three methods you can use to prioritize what to teach your virtual assistant and when:

1. Based on Frequency

Using this approach, the first things you would train your assistant to do are the ones they will be responsible to perform every day.

This makes sense, because these tasks are needed most often. And, they will begin to establish a daily routine. These tasks will become a habit, which will ensure they are done on time, every time.

Once these are taught, you can then move on to items that are to be done weekly, and then monthly. Think of training your virtual assistant in things that happen regularly as the foundation. Once it is laid, you can build upon it by adding other tasks that arise from time to time.

2. Based on Time Consumed

The first things you would teach your assistant to do using this approach are the ones that currently take YOU the most time to do. By doing this, you free up your time a lot faster.

Some of these tasks take a long time to train; others will only require an hour or so. You may prefer getting these monkeys off your back sooner, and like this method better.

3. Based on Importance

There are some things that each of us really needs to do, but we just can't seem to find the time to accomplish. You may wish to teach these to your assistant first in order to make sure they get done.


You may also decide on some combination of the above. Use your judgment, and don't put
off things that should be trained just because they take a few hours to teach properly.

While outsourcing can certainly save you a ton of time, there is still some unavoidable work on your part to get it set up for success and to manage and coach your virtual assistant over time. So the point is...you have to put in the hours and pay the price in order to get top-notch results consistently.

But would you spend one hour to save ten? Ten hours to save one hundred? I hope so. Taking the time to properly train and manage your virtual assistant and individual outsourcers is one of the best ROI's you'll ever see in business-but there is still an investment to make.

I'm hammering this home because I see a lot of entrepreneurs hiring someone, throwing them into the work, and then getting busy again with other things-wishfully hoping that everything will just run on auto-pilot from the beginning. It won't.

 

Suggested Resource: If you don't outsource, you can't compete. The math is simple...if your competitors are outsourcing and only pay $X to complete a task, and you pay $3X, $5X or $10X, your competitors will eat your lunch. You simply must outsource to stay competitive. Outsource the right way using Growthink's Outsourcing Formula. Learn more by clicking here.


The Top 10 Outsourcing Problems and How to Avoid Them


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In today's business environment, you absolutely must outsource to stay competitive. No, I'm not talking about outsourcing your core competencies. But I am talking about outsourcing those business functions and activities that someone else can do faster, cheaper and/or more easily than you.

Unfortunately, when they start outsourcing, most entrepreneurs and small business owners make several mistakes. In this essay, I'm going to outline the 10 most common mistakes made when outsourcing work or projects to freelancers or other service providers not on your internal team [note that I use the term "freelancers" below to describe folks to whom you outsource].

Feel free to print this out as a quick checklist to run through when setting up your next outsourcing project. For each of these, think of how you will address or avoid these mistakes in advance to ensure smooth sailing.

Mistake #1: Define the task/project clearly

This is something I would do before even posting the project [i.e., to find the outsourced candidate]. Because you need to really understand the project in order to write an accurate job description. The process of defining the task/project clearly will also help you to estimate the costs, time frame, and skills needed from the person you hire.

One way to do this is to write down a very clear and descriptive explanation of the task. Another way is to record yourself speaking the description. Finally, another great way is to take a screen recording of yourself doing the work you wish to outsource (or taking a video of you doing the work if it's not computer based). Try using a free screen recording program like Jing to make a quick video.

Mistake #2: Not having a well-planned estimate of costs

The more clearly you can define exactly what you need done by breaking it into parts, the better you can estimate how much time it will take - and therefore how much it will cost at the person's typical hourly rate. You don't want to just hand a bunch of work to someone and then get surprised when you get their bill and/or incorrectly assume they took too long to complete a project.

If the project you need completed is something that requires specialized knowledge, describe the project to potential freelancers and get their opinion on what is really involved and how long it should take. If there's no typical hourly rate for the work they're doing, then just get a solid estimate of the total project cost and consider it to see if it makes sense compared to the revenue it should generate (or costs it should save).

Mistake #3: Know your timeframe for starting and finishing the work

If you've ever provided services for a client in a rush, you know how stressful it can be to drop everything at the last minute and make their emergency yours. The people you outsource to are no different, and it will benefit you to plan and begin things in advance and not at the last minute.

So for whatever work it is you want to do, figure out how long it will take and when it absolutely has to be completed. You'll come out with a rough idea of when the work needs to commence. Then, give yourself a week or two before that to post projects, screen candidates, and choose the right person...maybe more.

Mistake #4: Hiring someone without enough experience

Nothing is worse than the blind leading the blind. When I hire someone to do something that I do not know how to do personally, they need to know how to do it - period. They need to educate you on their chosen skill set, not the other way around.

Your role is to describe the end result you want, ask for and listen to their suggestions, and rely on their expertise and talent to achieve it according to your description.

Mistake #5: Not screening or testing enough freelancers

In choosing the right candidate, I would rather have more options to choose from than fewer. If you run a project only on Elance, for example, you are only going to get a few providers from Elance bidding on your project. This might be enough, but suppose you posted this same project (copy and paste) on Guru and ODesk as well? [Elance, Guru and ODesk are 3 of my recommended websites for finding freelancers and outsourced help]

I would rather have 30 applicants and choose from among the top three than to have 10 applicants and choose from among the top one.

Also, your goal is to build a list of qualified people to contact whenever you need them for projects or ongoing work. So even if you post a project and only hire one person, keep tabs of the runner-ups so to contact or test later on for future projects.

Mistake #6: Choosing someone with no room to grow

If you are outsourcing a project (e.g., graphic design) that you know you'll need again in the future, you want to have one eye on the present project and your future needs. Think about what similar services you'll need in the future and to what extent?

Or, if you have a freelancer build something that, once done, needs maintenance, then be sure to ask them about their work hours and schedule. Find out if they have enough time left for your needs in addition to their other clients. It's terrible to go back to a great freelancer later on who is apologetic but too busy to help you.

Mistake #7: Outsourcing your weakness

If your business is weak in a certain area, it may also be weak at managing someone performing the work outside of your company, too. Think about it... every worthwhile endeavor requires some basic knowledge and strategy, as well as some understanding of how to perform the work and measure the results.

At least get this working knowledge upfront so that you can be effective at managing your freelancers. It doesn't matter if someone else is doing the work or not, if you don't start the project with a clear outcome and strategy, and continue to stay on top of it (not washing your hands and hiding somewhere) it will fail regardless of the skills and intelligence of your outsourcers.

Mistake #8: Lack of communication

You heard of management by walking around... well, this here is called seagull management. A seagull manager will be gone for days on end and suddenly come sailing in with the wind, squawking and dropping tons of work on everybody, and then flying away never to be seen again for days or weeks on end.

What seagull managers don't realize is that you have to constantly be there for your team. This doesn't mean it needs to take a lot of time, but they would appreciate fast responses just as you like them from others.

Again, just because someone else is performing the work does not mean you can abdicate your responsibility to support and manage them to achieve the result.

Mistake #9: Insufficient feedback

If you plan on using your freelancer for more than just a few quick tasks, then you will want to invest in your relationship with them from the beginning. Your job as a manager is to coach them and help them to do things exactly as you want over time.

You should expect them to make mistakes and encourage them to fail quickly so you can give feedback and show how to do it the right way. Don't be a perfectionist, and don't make them afraid or hesitant to admit challenges or mistakes and then blame them later.

Many managers just assume that the people who are working for them can read their minds and know all the little details without being told. This is not true, even when the person is highly intelligent. It's your job to communicate clearly and often.

Mistake #10: Underutilizing hired talent

This probably keeps most entrepreneurs and small business owners from outsourcing in the first place. As entrepreneurs, I have to admit that we can have some pretty big egos. While this helps in the vision and confidence departments, it can also lead to the "no one can do it as well as I can" syndrome.

Maybe not, but I would still rather have 10 people who are 80% as good as me doing 90% of the work. Think about it! Besides, with proper coaching and support, you can make a good person great-as long as they are coachable and motivated to grow.

And even when you are outsourcing work to someone, don't miss opportunities to give them even more work once they have proven themselves with some smaller task. I like to list all the work required on a consistent basis and check the sub-items off as I outsource them, one at a time.

Implement these suggestions and your outsourcing experience will be a lot more effective and hassle-free!

 

Suggested Resource: If you don't outsource, you can't compete. The math is simple...if your competitors are outsourcing and only pay $X to complete a task, and you pay $3X, $5X or $10X, your competitors will eat your lunch. You simply must outsource to stay competitive. Outsource the right way using Growthink's Outsourcing Formula. Learn more by clicking here.


Pricing Strategies to Boost Your Business' Bottom Line


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Normally, if I were to ask an entrepreneur or business owner how they could double their sales, they'd propose increasing their sales force, trying to get customers to buy twice as much, or doubling their advertising budget.

But often, a superior strategy can get the same results with less effort. In this case, your pricing strategy might be this superior strategy.

There are several pricing strategies to choose from when offering a new product/service or trying something new with one you're already selling.

Price Testing

Making even minor price changes to find the "sweet spot" where the most people will buy can massively increase your results. Think back to economics class, when they covered the Price Elasticity of Demand. Now, if you're still awake, remember how you might raise your product's price down or up and lead to an increase in sales.

Price it too high, and your margins will be great, but you'll generate less revenue because fewer people buy it. Don't price your product too low, for obvious reasons, but don't be afraid to try going lower (even temporarily, like during a promotion) and observe the results.

Test this enough and you'll find the sweet spot that works the best for customers and your bottom line.

Other Considerations

Changing your price (and therefore the number of units you sell) can affect your other expenses, so take these into consideration and work it to your advantage.

For example, say you lower the price of your widgets and sell many more of them. You have more sales, but the cost to create and deliver your widget stays the same (meaning lower margins on each widget sold).

This would be a great time to negotiate a volume discount with your vendors and suppliers, since you are bringing them more business. Then your customers get a lower price, you make and keep more revenue, and the vendor does more volume-everybody wins.

Another key consideration is your customers' perception of your product-or, more importantly, how you want it to be perceived. If you price a premium item too low, customers may not believe the quality is good enough. They are accustomed to paying more to get more-and trust me, this is not necessarily a belief you need to go about changing.

On the other hand, if you price something too high, customers will go elsewhere to buy it for less, unless it has something very unique and beneficial.

Some additional pricing strategies to consider are ...

Based on Competition

With this strategy, you'll need to gather the top competitors' prices to use as a starting point.

Determine if they are positioning their products to be on the low end, high end, or right in the middle, and compare that with your own positioning strategy. Also assess whether their product or service is of higher or lower quality than yours?

Consider market trends and your product or service's value, and either price it a little under or a little over that of your competition. Having one or two advantages over the competition can lead to more sales, especially when the price is near the same as those with fewer benefits.

Based on Cost, Plus Markup

In this strategy,  you determine your product or service's costs to create and fulfill, and then choose a price above this amount based on the gross profit you want to make when selling each item.

Loss Leaders

Loss leaders are products or services that you offer at or below your cost, in order to attract more first-time customers who you hope will buy higher-ticket items or a variety of items over time.

The hardest sale to make is the first one, so sometimes it's wise to make the offer so irresistible (by undercutting the competition) that you get to start a relationship with more new people-knowing that you'll recoup your money in the future.

My advice is to also have a plan for what you will upsell them, when, and how. Ideally, it will be as soon after the time of the first purchase (or perhaps as an upsell or cross-sell at the same time as the first transaction), so your cash flow is not affected as much.

Higher Perceived Value

Some products come out of the gate with higher prices, to take advantage of the premium image and psychological positioning. Make sure the quality really is high when you do this, though it doesn't have to be the absolute best product on the market.

Make sure you don't arbitrarily raise the price of your existing products, because people will note the change and not see the justification for it.

Closeout prices

Also called "liquidation sales," you can try this strategy when you have excess inventory. Your goal here isn't to generate the most profit-it's to minimize your costs of continuing to store the items, or throw them away. Though it isn't a long-term strategy, it can get you out of a cash flow crunch when needed and/or clear out old inventory.

Quantity discounts

This is a way to reward people for making larger purchases from you. Offer discounts on bulk purchases, such as "Buy two, get one free." Or, make special deals with the repeat customers who bring you the most volume.

Bundling discounts

Like the above, but applicable when a customer buys several different products from you-not several of the same ones. You can offer these bundles and their pricing at the time of the sale to sweeten the deal, or you can make it the focus of a marketing campaign.

Some speakers and trainers package together a group of related books, courses, and seminars so that the total price if you buy now is much less than getting them all separately, or at different times. It's a great way to build urgency into your offer, if customers know they'll have to act now to get the savings.

Versioning

You see this pricing technique used often with services, or technical products like software and apps. With this, you sell the same product in two or three different versions. The trial version (often called Basic) is usually priced very low or is even free. Think of it as the loss leader that gets people in the door and wanting to expand to the full functionality that it offers (often called the Premium, or Gold/Platinum version).

You would then offer upgrades or additional features and services at a higher price. A good example of this would be Tom's Planner-a simple online software for making charts to schedule project-related tasks. You can create one chart with the free version (I used it to make a few charts, one at a time) or upgrade to the paid version where you can make unlimited charts. Think about how you might apply this to your products and services-especially the ones with monthly, recurring income. 

So there you have it -- eight proven pricing strategies at your disposal. Make smart use of these pricing strategies and your bottom line will soar!

 

Suggested Resource:  Want more ways to increase your profits? Check out our "Double Your Profits" training. You'll learn tons of quick, proven tactics that will grow your revenues and profits right away. Check out the "Double Your Profits" training here.


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