Your brand is the unique design, sign, symbol, and/or words that create an image or impression of your product(s), service(s) and/or company.
A strong brand differentiates your product or service from your competitors, and is easily recognized by customers in your market.
Think about Starbucks...Their coffee is not the most affordable in the market, but their brand recognition and loyalty is off the charts. They have a wide-spread reputation for delicious, strong coffee that many people refuse to do without.
Disney is global mega brand. Show a child a black round circle with two round black ears and the screams of "Mickey, Mickey!" will leave you temporarily deaf. Not only is the image recognizable, but it's is associated with fun and happiness.
Developing a strong brand is important and can dramatically impact your success. Below are three surefire strategies you can use.
1. Create a New Product and Constantly Innovate it
Apple's introduction of the iPhone is a classic example of this strategy. While cell phones had been in the market for years, Apple introduced a new sleek design and took the cell phone into the realm of smart phones. Instead of just phone and camera, Apple popularized having music on your phone and later led in the development and release of mobile applications This strategy caused Nokia's market share to drop precipitously.
Not only did Apple innovate with the initial introduction of the iPhone, but the company keeps the product fresh by releasing updated models every 2 years or so.
Puma is also adapting this method by constantly introducing new sports products to the market. The company does this to continue building its reputation as the most desirable sport lifestyle brand.
By creating a new, unique product and constantly updating it, you will build a strong brand. And you will stay top-of-mind for customers since they will always be curious as to what they can expect from you next.
2. Using a New Campaign To Change a Brand's Image
As second branding strategy is to use a new marketing campaign to change your brand image. One example of this is the Dove soap campaign introducing "Real Beauty" in 2011. The concept is that women have real beauty and Dove can help them realize it.
This type of campaign can also be called "rebranding." You use an old product, repackage it, and possibly change its logo too. Your purpose is to change the product's identity and reputation in the view of consumers.
You can also use rebranding to overcome a period of poor publicity. For instance, if your company has been involved in public malpractice litigation, rebranding can help you get rid of negative connotations that may be hurting your sales.
Rebranding can be a powerful tool in helping you differentiate your product from competitors. Think of special stitching and serial numbers high-end purse manufacturers use to differentiate their products from cheaper knock-offs. When you make your product distinguishable, you can gain more customers.
Lastly, when your product has been in the market for a long time, curiosity and interest from customers may lessen. Rebranding can help you regain excitement in the market place and recapture market share. Intrigued customers want to try whatever is new in your product.
3. Advertise While Keeping Up with the Brand Value and Promise
Being seen on television and other advertising channels can do wonders for most products and services. Sometimes, despite being more expensive than other brands, consumers still buy products with which they are more familiar. This is true of the brand Tide. There are laundry detergents that are less expensive, but many customers still buy Tide. Because they hear about Tide frequently, it is top of mind when consumers are shopping.
Still, Tide has to keep up with its promise of being a great laundry detergent. If consumers experienced poor results, they wouldn't buy Tide again despite millions of dollars of advertising. The product must do what your advertising said it would.
It is also important to make sure your advertising, whether local or national, is reaching your target audience. Remember the Chrysler Pacifica? Its okay if you don't; they don't even make the Pacifica minivan anymore.
In 2004, despite warnings from their advertising consultants, Chrysler contracted Celine Dion for $10 million to promote the new Pacifica. The campaign was a disaster. The Pacifica appealed to young professionals, yet Celine Dion resonated with an older age group. The result? Nothing. Flat sales with millions of dollars out the driver's window. Know your target market!
Applying the Strategies
While many of the examples I used are from well known large companies, any business owner, even a one person operation can use the strategies listed above.
And importantly, you don't have to spend a fortune on this. With social media tools like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, you can create videos and photos that can spread your brand message quickly, inexpensively and with amazing effectiveness.
So focus on building your brand, because the right brand will bring in tons of new customers and dramatically increase the value of your company.
It's a given these days that your business needs a website. And, if your website ranks at the top of the search engines for the right keywords, it could mean a ton of new customers and revenue for your business.
SEO or Search Engine Optimizing is the process of getting your website to rank as high as possible on your most important keywords. And when focusing on SEO, you should pay most attention to Google (rather than Yahoo or Bing, etc.) as Google currently has a 68% market share of all searches done in the United States.
And when optimizing, keep the following ten SEO tips in mind.
1. Social Media Optimization Helps SEO
Social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) can provide you with website traffic. It also impacts your rank in Google. Specifically, Google's ranking algorithm decides on your brand's social media value through the number of likes in Facebook, the comments and shares it gets, the number of Twitter followers, the number of tweets that states your brand or has your web link, and the number of people you have in your Google circles. So don't ignore social media.
2. Content Is Still King
The key here is for you to establish yourself as an expert in your niche by providing relevant and fresh information to your readers. You can also invite guest bloggers or hire content writers that can give your site vital information about your industry. The search engines are keen on whether your site provides quality information.
3. Do Guest Posting Properly
While guest posting (i.e., getting other experts to post their articles on your website) can be a great source information, be careful with backlinks. Backlinks are links from one site to another. Make sure you only link to high-integrity websites and blogs. So, if your guest poster wants to link to a "sketchy" website in their article, don't let them.
4. Diversifying Can Protect You
With Google Panda and Penguin penalizing websites for shady SEO techniques, one of the best things you can do is to diversify your SEO techniques. Consistently update your site with fresh and winning content while using diversified anchor texts and links. "Real" is the word here, real content and real links are rewarded by search engines.
5. Location-Based Searched Results Can Take You Higher
Search activities based on location boost your ranking as well. Location-based meta tags and descriptions can do wonders to your page rankings. How you are positioned in Google places can also help drive traffic to your website. This can be critical to your business if your sales depend on local customers.
6. On-Page Optimization Never Gets Out Of Style
Proper keyword selection, research, and testing are crucial in doing your on-page SEO. Tags and internal links should be done appropriately. As mentioned earlier, your content is the most determining factors in improving your rank. They key is to produce high quality content that appeals to your customer.
7. Videos And Infographics Are Cool Ways To Do SEO
Videos and infographics engage customers. So they stay longer and consume your content. As mentioned before, this is what the search engines want.
Also, videos, when posted on other sites (like YouTube) can drive traffic to your website (e.g., in the description under your video).
Finally, if your videos and infographics are good enough, other sites will link to them on your site, which will drive traffic and boost your rankings.
8. Press Releases Make The Town Talks About You
Well written press releases can build your brand and generate a lot of new links to your website and thus boost your rankings. There are many online sites that allow you to publish your press releases (the better ones do charge fees).
9. Usability And Significance Add Power
Ask yourself whether your site is providing your audience answers to their needs. Is your site offering quality information to web searchers and clients? Like any brand, establishing your brand's quality is recognized by search engines. Solving customers' problems makes your website more relevant.
10. Build And Maintain Strong Relationships
Your clients are your most important concern. Be creative and sincere in dealing with your clients and you will start building your brand empire. Have them experience your product and services in a personal way and you will find that making sales is easier and simpler with a strong following.
While search engine optimization is very important to driving traffic, always prioritize your brand. And create high-quality content. Old-school SEO experts may want to convince you to have hundreds of low quality articles proliferated around the web to boost your rankings. The new Google algorithms and market attitudes will punish this behavior.
In short, keep the quality of your content high and always pay attention to the needs of your customers, and your search engine rankings should continue to rise.
Suggested Resource: Want to learn my complete strategy for methodically maximizing your online traffic, leads, sales and profits? Then check out my Ultimate Internet Marketing System.
If you're not familiar with Zig Ziglar, he was a well-known author, master salesman, and motivational speaker. Unfortunately Zig passed away last November. I apologize for taking so long to honor him with this essay, in which I tell my favorite Zig Ziglar story.
In Zig's early years as a salesman, he visited peoples' homes, making presentations to sell them high-quality cookware.
He had a competent assistant at the time who helped him keep track of appointments and handled administrative duties. One week, however, Zig realized he had two appointments scheduled for the same time. Not waiting to cancel any appointments he asked his assistant to cover one of the appointments for him.
She was terrified. She did not want to do it and he wasn't going to make her!
Being the consummate salesman that he was, Zig eventually got her to calm down. Then he assured her that she knew the presentation as well as he did, and that she would do great. After he solemnly promised to never ask her to do a presentation again, she agreed to cover the appointment just that one time.
Zig recounts that at the end of the evening, she was convinced she had fumbled half the presentation. But, to her surprise and delight, the clients ordered quite a bit of cookware. Most surprising, is that when she got over her nerves, she found she rather enjoyed the experience.
His timid and sales-panicked assistant evolved into a top notch salesperson, was his right hand partner for many years, and years later (with his delighted consent) became a highly-sought out and respected sales trainer for a leading cosmetic company.
Zig shared this story to show human potential. He puts all the praise on her and generously applauds her for her accomplishments. While I am inspired by her transformation, I want to focus on his role in her transformation because I believe that was Zig's greatest gift to the business world. Yes, his sales training is worth bars of gold, but ultimately what really made him a success was his ability to develop others.
He could have made millions as a star salesperson. He could have kept his philosophy, his techniques, and his secrets to success all to himself. Instead, he made hundreds of millions by sincerely applying himself to improving everyone around him who was willing to listen.
Zig Ziglar was a true leader.
Yes, he sold books, and videos, made speeches, and made money, but he invested in people. He believed that the success of a company was largely dependent on the quality of their sales force, and the quality of their sales force was solely dependent on how much that force really cared about helping people.
And, a sales force isn't going to care about helping anyone if they don't feel that their company cares about them.
Zig could have benched his assistant, sent her right back to her phone and typewriter after she covered that one appointment. Instead, he nurtured her potential and encouraged her to continue developing her sales skills. Now think about this, how much more money did Zig make by having her on his team at her full potential instead of at her lowest potential?
How much more money will your company generate if you make the time to develop your team to their full potential? Beyond just money, how much loyalty will you cultivate? Will you feel more confident about your future success when you have a top-notch team you can trust? How many talented people will want to work for you when the word gets out about your leadership?
Yes, it takes time and energy, yet Zig demonstrated over and over that when you invest in helping someone be the best version of themselves possible, the rewards, material and otherwise, greatly outweigh the sacrifice.
Zig Ziglar died in November of 2012. He left behind dozens of books, thousands of hours of video and audio, and most of all, he left behind millions of grateful professionals whose lives were touched and even changed by the empowering lessons he left behind. His message that you could accomplish more in life and in business through caring and investing in the success of others is a timeless gem that lives on.
As he once said, "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want."
Rest in peace Zig. We'll miss you. And for all of you listening, develop your employees and customers, and everyone around you, to their full potential, and you will achieve incredible success!
On many levels, competition is good.
For example, when you start a business, you want there to be competition. Since if there was no competition, there may not be a market or customers who want to buy what you are selling.
And once in business, competition is generally good since it forces your company to get better. It forces you to better satisfy customers (or they will choose your competitors) and it forces you to become more efficient (so you reap more profits even if you have offer more competitive pricing).
Now, while competition does provide these advantages, you clearly want to have less competition, and you'd like for fewer new competitors to enter the market. In doing so, you'll enjoy more of a monopoly in your market, which means more customers and more profits.
The best way to knock competitors out of your market and discourage new entrants is to build "business assets" that your competitors don't have. (I define "business assets" as resources you build now that will give you and your company future economic value.)
Here are five examples of business assets you can build:
1. Customers: Most mobile phone companies offer 2 year service contracts that all new customers must sign (and face penalties if they leave before the two years are up). This essentially "locks up" customers making it harder for new entrants (or existing entrants) to come in the market and take their customers. Customer agreements and contracts are one of the most powerful business assets you can build.
2. Systems: Most franchise organizations (e.g., Subway, McDonalds, etc.) have made significant investments in systems in areas such as taking orders, producing products, handling customer complaints, etc. These systems make it easier and less expensive to hire and train employees and better service customers. This makes it harder for others to compete against them. Likewise, I know many companies who have built customized software systems that allow them to perform faster, cheaper, and more consistently than their competitors.
3. PPE (Plant, Property and Equipment): When I was a teenager, I made a lot of money shoveling snow. I used that money to buy a snow blowing machine. Equipped with the snow blowing machine, I was able to remove snow ten times faster than my competitors. This allowed me to dominate my local market.
4. Product or Service Variations: A local pizza shop promotes itself as having 36 varieties of pizza. Offering this large variety makes it harder for new pizza companies to enter the market. Because a new company would have a very hard time creating 36 varieties from the start, it would be harder for them to satisfy customers.
5. Exclusive Partnerships: Creating exclusive partnerships could be a key business asset that gives you competitive advantage. For example, if you create exclusive partnerships with top organizations in your industry, they would only work with you and not your competitors. For example, let's say you and a competitor both serve the senior market. But you have an exclusive relationship with the AARP whereby they only promote you, and not your competitors. With 37 million senior members, your AARP relationship would give you considerable advantage.
What I want you to consider now is how you can build business assets that "unlevel the playing field." How can you make it so that nobody wants to compete against you?
Importantly, whatever answers you come up with, realize that building these business assets will take time. Often times they may take as much as a year (or even longer). And also realize that short-term profits may go down when you are building them. For example, in the AARP example above, forging such a relationship could take 6-months, during which you invest lots of time and generate no incremental revenue.
But, once the asset is built, you may profit (and profit big) for years.
So make sure to properly plan and prioritize the development of your business assets, even though they often have less short-term benefits than other activities (such as setting up a new advertising campaign).
Set a long-term goal for when you want the assets built. And make sure that you build time into your daily, weekly and monthly schedules to move the development forward. Doing so will dramatically improve your revenues and profits, and at the dismay of your competitors who will be forced to go elsewhere.
"Knowledge is power." This is a well known saying commonly attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, who was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist and author.
In business, knowledge certainly is power. For example, if you knew where your market was heading, you would have a massive leg up on your competition.
So, how can you gain more knowledge to outsmart your competition? Here are 7 ways.
1. Learn from your customers. Marketing consultant Jay Abraham once said, "your customers are geniuses; they know exactly what they want."
Because your customers know what they want, speak to them. And don't just speak to your current customers, but speak to your competitors' customers too. Learn to listen deeply to your customers and to ask probing questions. And when you hear consistent feedback (and not just one customer saying something), take action.
2. Learn from your competitors. Watch your competitors closely and learn from them. What do they seem to be doing well, and how can you better emulate them in this respect? What are they doing poorly that you can capitalize on?
Importantly, don't just copy your competitors until you know that what they are doing works. For example, if a competitor starts offering a 25% off discount for new customers, don't copy them right away. Rather, wait and see what happens. If the competitor stops offering the discount quickly, then the promotion probably didn't work. Conversely, if the competitor is still offering the discount 6 months later, it probably did work. Only copy the competitor's "winners."
Also try to figure out what competitors are saying about you. And, if criticism from a competitor gets back to you, don't become defense or dismiss it casually. Rather, engage critically with it. The criticism may prove to be quite helpful. A competitor may be aware of your weaknesses in a way a friend or customer cannot be. So don't disregard negative feedback, but rather consider it carefully, and take corrective action as appropriate.
3. Learn from your employees. Oftentimes your employees have a lot more information than you do. They are the ones who are interacting with customers, and they are the ones that are building your products and providing your services.
Speak to your employees and get their feedback, ideas and suggestions. As an example, nearly all new innovation at Toyota comes from front-line employees. Encourage your employees to come up with ideas and give you feedback. They may also alert you to changes in the marketplace and customer behavior that you need to understand in order to adapt.
4. Learn from your community. This is particularly true for local businesses. Find out what is going on in your community. For example, if your community is heavily involved in recycling, or if the local high school football team just won a championship, then you need to know about it since these are things your community cares about. Importantly, leverage this information. In these two examples, you could offer a sale related to the football team's victory. Or post signs explaining how your business recycles. These actions would position you as part of the community and cause customers to flock to your business.
5. Learn from coaches and consultants. The right coach and/or consultant will have lots of knowledge that you don't. They will have worked with other business owners and "been there, done that" - that is, they will have seen challenges and overcome them already. Because you won't have to "reinvent the wheel," these paid experts can allow you to make the right decisions, avoid mistakes, and grow more quickly. Plus, paid experts can give your business a reality check and keep you focused and accountable.
6. Learn from mentors. The right mentor serves a similar function as a paid coach and/or consultant in that they have experience, expertise and connections that allow you to avoid mistakes and grow your business more quickly. The challenge is finding the right mentor, and setting up the appropriate structure to get ongoing feedback (this naturally happens when you pay a coach or consultant).
7. Learn from other business owners. In previous articles, I have mentioned the massive power of mastermind groups. Mastermind groups are groups of business owners who work together to grow everyone's business. Mastermind groups are incredibly powerful since other members of the group will have already overcome the challenges you face, and thus can give you the answers you need.
Likewise, in many cases, skills and knowledge that have taken other business owners months or years to learn can be transferred to you in minutes. So, you gain massive knowledge quickly, and gain a support group that all shares the common goal of building a great company.
Knowledge certainly is power. Leverage these seven ways to gain knowledge, and you will be able to outsmart and dominate your competition.
If you're looking for funding and/or to successfully grow your business, a little known secret is to find and leverage Advisors.
So, who or what are Advisors? Advisors are successful people that you respect and that agree to help your company. Advisors are generally successful and/or retired executives, business owners, service providers, professors, or others that could help your business.
Advisors generally will not cost you any money (you don't pay them), although I do recommend giving them stock options to incentivize them to contribute as much as possible.
Getting Advisors is not a requirement for raising money, but they have multiple benefits as follows:
1. Practice: if you can't successfully pitch an advisor to invest time in your business, then you're not going to successfully pitch anyone to invest money in your business. So, practice your pitch on prospective advisors first, and use that practice to perfect it.
2. Connections to capital: as successful individuals, advisors often have the ability to invest directly in your company; and/or they tend to have large, high quality networks of individuals they can introduce you to.
3. Credibility: having quality advisors gives your company instant credibility in the eyes of lenders and investors. For example, if you started a new hockey stick company, having Wayne Gretzky as an advisor would certainly give you great credibility (and connections). But even having much smaller names than Wayne Gretzky as advisors can build enormous credibility.
4. Operational success: In an interview I did with Dr. Basil Peters (a wonderfully successful entrepreneur, angel investor and VC), Dr. Peters said that mentors and advisors are an entrepreneur's "single most controllable success factor." Having Advisors with whom you can discuss key business matters as you grow your venture will help ensure you make the right decisions, particularly if they have encountered and dealt with the same challenges already in their careers.
I have seen these four benefits first-hand for my own companies and for companies that we've helped build their own boards. Click here if you'd like to see the list and bios of Growthink's Board of Advisors.
So, how do you build your Board of Advisors?
The steps are fairly simple:
1. Create a list of people you would like to be on your Board
2. Contact and meet with them
3. Secure the best Advisors you meet with
The final step is to hold formal and informal meetings with your Board members to leverage them -- to get them to fund your company or introduce you to other funding sources; to answer key challenges that you are facing, etc.
I must admit that years ago I wasn't thrilled about investing the time to go through the steps of creating a Board of Advisors. But I can assure you; those hours spent have yielded an enormous return on investment. In fact, I should have developed my Board much sooner than I did.
So, go out there and start building your Board of Advisors today. And start reaping the enormous benefits.
Suggested Resource: Want advisors? Want funding for your business? Then check out our Truth About Funding program to learn how you can gain advisors and access the 41 sources of funding available to entrepreneurs like you. Click here to learn more.
When most entrepreneurs start out and realized they need funding, they are typically presented with three options.
The first is debt financing, which is typically in the form of a loan from a bank.
The other two funding options are typically in the form of equity, and they are 1) equity from individual or "angel" investors and 2) equity from venture capitalists.
Importantly, when considering these two sources of funding it is important to understand that most venture capitalists will not invest in companies that have not achieved "proof of concept" (which generally means a working prototype and/or revenues). Also, venture capitalists generally only invest in companies that have the potential to be valued at over $100 million within five years.
These criteria make venture capital inaccessible to most entrepreneurs. Furthermore, angel funding is often a better option since it is much easier to attain.
Consider these statistics:
So while venture capitalists write much larger checks, 15 times more entrepreneurs raise funding from angels.
So why do angel investors fund entrepreneurs? The common answer is that they hope to get a solid return on their investment. Obviously, investing at the earliest stages for a company that eventually goes big can earn the investor 100X their money back or more.
However, there are three lesser known, but equally important reasons, why angel investors fund entrepreneurs:
1. They know, like and trust the entrepreneur. Like with friends and family investments, sometimes angels know and trust the entrepreneurs and want to help them succeed.
2. They feel they can add real value. Many angels have lots of relevant experience that can help the companies they fund, from experience hiring staff to connections with key potential customers or suppliers. If angels can see their involvement adding a lot of value to the company, they might be very interested in investing.
3. Sometimes the angel wants or likes the action. Simply put, angel investing is exciting. It is generally a higher risk/higher reward version of the public stock markets requiring a more entrepreneurial analysis which is highly intriguing. This is particularly the case when the angel investor is a retired entrepreneur or executive.
So, if you are an entrepreneur seeking funding, keep these motivations in mind when you identify, approach and speak with angels.
Because understanding them is often the difference between whether you will raise money or not. Finding angel investors is also easy if you know where to look.
There are three main benefits I typically derive from outsourcing:
1. Cost savings. I'm often able to pay less for jobs I outsource, particularly if I outsource them to people in lower cost-of-living states or countries.
2. Reduce overhead. Usually I outsource projects that are not full-time or that I am able to easily stop if they aren't working out as planned. This reduces my overhead (and allows me to scale down as needed) since unlike a full-time employee, the outsourced people are not a fixed expense.
3. Supplemental work at night-time hours. When you outsource overseas, it often provides great timing of workflow. For instance, in one company I ran, I would create tasks during the day, give them to my outsourced team in India, and they would be done by the time I arrived in the office the next morning.
However, for outsourcing to work, you need to find the most qualified people to which you outsource.
The key to this is to start by getting the largest pool of qualified outsourced providers to apply for the project you need accomplished. Because you want to have as many people as possible to choose from.
Even if you only hire one, you can go back and contact the same pool of talent for future projects. Consider applicants as being in your "rolodex" of people to call.
To help you do this well, here are some tips to consider when finding and judging outsourced people to complete your projects.
Choose Your Outsourcing Platform
There are many sites in which you can find outsourced providers for the tasks you need done. Among many others, these include Craigslist, ODesk.com, Guru.com, Elance.com and 99designs. Some of these sites focus on certain types of outsourced projects like technology and design, while others allow you to find people for all types of tasks.
The process of posting a project is very similar on each of these sites, but there are also minor differences to get acquainted with as you go -- worry about those later and follow these basic steps.
Create a Clear Project Title
Include the work to be done, on what, and in what industry. For example, "Help Making Ebook" could mean anything from research to writing to editing to cover design. Compare that to "Writing 10,000 Word Real Estate Ebook." The latter will be more likely to catch the eye of writers and providers with real estate knowledge.
Create a Clear Project Description
This sounds simple enough, but you should try to answer as many possible questions as you can, which means addressing certain areas, like:
Upload samples of what you need
You can write 5 paragraphs trying to explain the final product, or you can show them something similar you have done before (or someone else's to model yours after).
Most sites will allow you to upload files to show them what they'll be working with or making. You can also insert links in the project description to files, audios, or videos showing or explaining things more vividly.
Choose the time period for bidding
You might be given options like 3 days, 5 days, 7 days, 15 days, or 30 days to accept bids. I would lean towards giving a longer time period, unless the urgency of your project means that you don't have as much time to wait.
But basically, the more time that providers have to find and respond to your project, the more qualified applicants you'll have to choose from.
Also, some of the best providers are also the busiest, so by giving a longer time frame to respond you are more likely to catch them when they're available.
This is not an exhaustive list, but covers the most important elements of a good project posting-one that will put you in a position of strength and cut down your odds of a bad experience. Cover these bases and you'll have more people applying than you can sort through.
Which then leads to the final phase: judging your applicants. In judging which applicant(s) to choose for your project, consider:
1) How they responded to your project request: were they articulate? Did their comments and/or questions make sense?
2) Their portfolio: do they have a website which shows their portfolio of work that you can judge? If so, take a close look.
3) Their ratings. On most of the outsourcing sites listed above, past clients will rate the outsourced person's work. I never use someone who hasn't completed at least 20 projects and has a rating of 4 stars or above.
Follow this advice and you can find the right outsourcers to help you grow your business and profits.
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.
If you were raising funding 25 years ago, you probably called prospective investors on the phone and sent them your business plan via fax or overnight delivery.
As you can imagine, things are very different today. And email is the number one way to communicate with prospective investors, particularly professional investors like venture capitalist.
The challenge, as you can imagine, is getting their attention. As most venture capitalists receive tons and tons of unsolicited email each day. So, the key is having a great subject line on your email to get them to open it.
Before giving you some subject lines that do work, let me tell you ones that don't. Subject lines such as "Unique Investment Opportunity," "Please Invest in our company," and "Great Investment Opportunity" don't catch investors' attention and turn them off.
So, don't use these. Here are some you can use:
1. Your Involvement in XYZ Company
Where XYZ company is a company that the investor has funded and which is in your general space. You would start the email with something such as "based on your investment in XYZ company, I think you will be interested in what we are doing..."
2. New in the "XYZ Space"
Where XYZ is the "space" in which you are operating in (e.g., the financial software space). The first line would tie the subject line to what you are doing.
3. Referred by XYZ
Where XYZ is a referral source that knows both you and the investor. This works extremely well, but clearly you must first get the referral.
Because referrals are so powerful, go on LinkedIn and/or other networks to see if you already have someone in your network that can refer you to the investor.
4. Comment on Your Post About XYZ
Where XYZ is a blog post that the investor recently wrote about a subject. In your opening line you explain what you agree with in their post and then tie it to your company.
Importantly, after your subject line and introductory line that ties your company with the subject line, you should NOT tell the investor everything about your company.
Rather, this first email should be a "teaser" email. A "teaser" email is an email that "teases" the investor by giving them a bite-sized amount of compelling information about your company.
The goal of the email is to see if they are interested. If they are, you will follow up with more information (maybe your Executive Summary and/or full business plan) with the goal of getting a face-to-face meeting with the investor.
There are two reasons you shouldn't send your business plan in your initial email. First, you don't want to "over-shop" your deal. Over-shopping is letting too many investors know about your company. If too many investors know about you, the law of numbers states that many investors will pass on investing in you (remember, most investors passed on the opportunity to invest in Google years ago).
So, if an investor isn't even interested in your market space or teaser email, they certainly won't invest in your company. And here's what can happen -- an interested investor asks this investor (the one who isn't interested in your space) if they've heard of your company. That investor says "yes" (since you unwittingly sent them your plan) and that they weren't interested. And then their disinterest dissuades the once interest investor from investing in you.
The second reason you don't want to send out your business plan in your initial email is for confidentiality reasons. You just don't want your business plan out there for everyone to see. Rather, wait until the investor shows that they are at least somewhat interested in your venture before sending it.
So, now that you know that you should start by sending investors a "teaser" email, the question is what to include in the teaser.
Here's the answer: the teaser email should include 5 to 6 bullets about your company and should be very short (200 words or less). The goal, once again is simply to create a general interest in your venture so the investor commits time and energy to learning more about it (by requesting additional documents or setting up a meeting).
Your bullets should describe what space your company is in and credentials that make you uniquely qualified to succeed (e.g., credentials of management team, customers serving already or showing interest, etc.).
To summarize, send investors a teaser email instead of your business plan to start. And realizing that they receive hundreds of emails every day asking for funding, make sure your subject line stands out and seems like you're offering them value.
If you want to be successful in business, it is crucial to determine when, where, and how to obtain the funds you need. Whether you need $1,000 or $1 million to start or expand your business, if you can't raise this money, you can't build the business you want.
Before You Look For Funding
Before you look for funding, you need to create your business plan. In addition to explaining your business and your strategy for success, your plan must determine how much money you need and for what it will be used.
Also, it's very important for you to understand the timing of the funding. For example, do you need all the funding now (e.g., to build out a location), or can you receive your funding in stages or "tranches."
The amount of funding you seek will effect the source of funding you approach. For example, if you require $250,000 in funding, angel investors are more applicable then venture capitalists. If you need $5 million, the opposite is true.
While I have identified 41 sources of funding for your business, below are the 5 most common.
The 5 Most Common Types of Funding
1. Funding from Personal Savings
Funding from personal savings is the most common type of funding for businesses. The two issues with this type of funding are 1) how much personal savings you have and 2) how much personal savings are you willing to risk.
In many cases, entrepreneurs and business owners prefer OPM, or "other people's money." The four funding sources below are all OPM sources.
2. Debt Financing
Debt financing is a fancy way of saying "loan." In debt financing, the lender (often a bank) gives you funding that you must repay over time with interest.
You must prove to the lender that the likelihood of you paying back the loan is high, and meet any requirements they have (e.g., having collateral in some cases). With debt financing, you do not need to give up equity. However, once again, you will have to pay back the principal and interest.
3. Friends & Family
A big source of funding for entrepreneurs is friends and family. Friends and family members can provide funding in the form of debt (you must pay it back), equity (they get shares in your company), or even a hybrid (e.g., a royalty whereby they get paid back via a percentage of your sales).
Friends and family are a great source of funding since they generally trust you and are easier to convince than strangers. However, there is the risk of losing their money. And you must consider how your relationship with them might suffer if this happens.
4. Angel Investors
Angel Investors are individuals like friends and family members; you just don't know them (yet). At present, there are about 250,000 private angel investors in the United States that fund more than 30,000 small businesses each year.
Most of these angel investors are not members of angel groups. Rather they are business owners, executives and/or other successful individuals that have the means and ability to fund deals that are presented to them and which they find interesting.
Networking is a great way to find these angel investors.
5. Venture Capitalists (VCs)
VC funding is a suitable option for businesses that are beyond the startup period, as well as those who need a larger amount of capital for expansion and increasing market share. Venture capitalists are usually more involved with business management, and they play a significant role in setting milestones, targets, and giving advice on how to ensure greater success.
Venture capitalists invest in companies and businesses they believe are likely to go public or be sold for a massive profit in the future. Specifically, they want to fund companies that have the ability to be valued at $100 million or more within five years. They also go through an expensive and lengthy process of deciding on the best business to invest their money. Hence, the approval process usually takes several months.
As you search for the best funding source for your business, you will discover that some financing options are complicated while others may offer a very small amount.
Choosing an inappropriate type of funding can lead to unfavorable outcomes such as feuds between the lender and business owner, shift of control, waste of resources and other negative consequences.
With this in mind, you should study the benefits and drawbacks of each financing option and select the ideal one that will help you meet your business goals. Because with the right source(s) of money, the sky is the limit for your business.