Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, June 13, 2013
In the United States, there are many laws that protect investors. One of them prohibits entrepreneurs from mass-marketing investments in their businesses. For example, you can't solicit investors on your website nor via social media sites like Facebook.
However, if you set up a crowdfunding campaign, you can (and should) market that campaign and drive traffic to it using social media.
This article will help you do just that.
A Little Knowledge Will Strengthen Your Efforts
You can't use social media websites without understanding how the different ones work. Here are four of the biggest:
- Twitter. This platform offers short broadcasts or tweets, and members actively seek the latest news in real-time. The network has more than 500 million users.
- Facebook. This forum reaches 995 million active users, making it the largest social network. Members have vested interests in making connections with family members, people with similar interests, high school or college classmates, or people committed to certain social or environmental issues.
- Pinterest. This rapidly growing network features pinboards where members can organize recipes, tips, photographs and other materials such as blogs and how-to videos.
- LinkedIn. This network concentrates on business and professional people, and businesses need to maintain active profiles on this network to demonstrate to investors and donors that you're legitimate.
Benefits of Building Network Connections
You should try to build a group of supporters before starting your crowdfunding campaign. Support need not always be financial because favorably disposed members could recommend your project to their friends and associates. Fans love to take part, so you should listen to what they say and adopt suggestions to foster loyalty. Basically, you're looking for your advocates and cheerleaders. Find them and connect with them on the social networks.
Set up Your Crowdfunding Project
There are many crowdfunding platforms (e.g., Kickstarter, IndieGogo, etc.) where you can set up your crowdfunding project.
Importantly, when you do, make your project pitch clear and concise, so people "get" it right away. Also, in the ideal case, you pull on people emotionally, so they really want to see you succeed. The key is to try to bond with people, which you can effectively do via a video you create showing why people should fund you and your venture.
But also keep it real. Show funders how you will spend the money and over what period of time.
Start the Conversation About Your Project
Once your crowdfunding project is set up, use your social media presence to promote it. Post out to your network to tell them to visit your crowdfunding page and to tell others about it.
Also, feel free to go beyond social media. You can use email, creative Youtube videos, a blog, and/or discussion forums to boost your efforts.
Crowdfunding is a great new way to raise funding for your business. However, once you set up your crowdfunding page, don't expect people to just show up and fund you. Rather, you need to market your crowdfunding project. And social media is a great way to do just that!
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, June 9, 2013
I periodically read research reports about business failures. I always find them interesting, although often they are depressing.
Such as what I recently read. Which was research from Bradley University in Peoria, IL. This research found that 70% to 80% of new businesses fail within their first year.
And while this was frustrating enough to read, the research further stated that half of those companies which do survive the first year will fail within the next four years.
Now, let's turn to the cause of this failure. According to Dun & Bradstreet, the number one cause of this failure is lack of business planning.
What this essentially means is this: 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).
To achieve maximum success in your business, create a business plan when you start your company, and annually create a strategic plan to grow your company.
The planning process will force you to focus on accomplishing the right things in your business. Since even if you execute flawlessly, if you are executing on the wrong strategies and opportunities, success will elude you.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Regardless of how good your current website it, I'm confident it can be better. In fact, on my website, I'm constantly testing new ideas to improve it. I test different colors, different headlines, different pictures, and so on. And each time, I learn ways to improve.
Below I summarize the 10 key aspects of your website that you should review and improve over time.
1. Look and Feel
The look and feel of your website is much more important than you might realize. Because when visitors go to your site, it's critical that their first impression is positive.
Think for a minute about who your customers are and what they are seeking. Then cater to them. For example, the look and feel of Porsche's website is extremely cool and elegant. Conversely, the look and feel of the Ben & Jerry's website is much more animated and fun (right now it's showing cows drinking on the beach).
Both websites do a great job of conveying the image in which they want customers to view them. Make sure that the look and feel of your website does the same.
I'm sure following situation happens to you (since it happens to me all the time): I go to a company's website, I read the homepage, and I still don't know what the company does.
So, I end up going to the "About Us" page to read more and to try to decipher what it is that the company does.
Importantly, I'm the exception. Few other visitors will invest the time to figure out what your company does. Rather, if they don't immediately "get it" and you don't immediately show them how you will benefit them, they'll leave and be gone forever.
A quick tip here is to use compelling headlines. For example, if your website sold tires, a great headline would be: "See Our Selection Of Over 500 Brands of Tires at the Guaranteed Lowest Prices." This is pretty much what all customers are looking for (selection and best price), so this headline lets visitors quickly know what the company does and that they are in the right place.
I'm sure your website has many pages, and it's your job to make it as simple as possible for your visitors to find the pages they want.
Navigation should be done on a top and/or left navigation bar, using links at the bottom of your website AND within the body text of all pages of your site.
More and more people are using devices other than computers (particularly mobile phones and tablets) to access websites. Make sure your website is accessible from all of these devices or you will unwittingly be turning away new customers.
5. Quality Content
Website visitors have come to expect that your website will include quality content or information. For example, if your website has articles, they shouldn't be "fluff" - they need to include actionable advice that shows visitors that you know more than they do.
And clearly, having typos and grammatical errors will also turn off site visitors and prospective customers.
Think about the information you need to convey to customers to better solve their needs and differentiate from the competition. While some of this information is compelling verbiage about your company, more of it should be information that's truly helpful to customers and makes them feel they made the right choice by visiting your website.
6. Amount of Content
The amount of content you include on your website is important for two reasons.
The first is that the more content you have on your website, the more preference search engines like Google will give your site when ranking it for desired keywords.
The second is that if customers are considering doing business with your company, they will want to learn more and more about it. Having a 5 or 10 page website clearly won't allow you to do this (you can start with a small website, but you need to add to it over time).
Having a blog on your website helps solve both your website's need for amounts of content (#6) and interactivity (#7).
With regards to amount of content, adding a daily or weekly blog post entry will allow your website to constantly grow in size. This will boost your website's search rankings and give you more keyword opportunities to rank on (since each blog post might rank for certain keyword search terms).
With regards to interactivity, having a blog allows customers and prospective customers to interact with you. It gives you the opportunity to solicit feedback, which provides quick and easy market research.
Your blog also gives you a voice. Here's why this is important. People prefer to buy from people and not faceless companies. While your main website can have a professional, corporate look and feel, your blog gives your customers a look into your personality, and can encourage rapport and sales.
8. Prove that You are Worthy
Your website must prove that you are a worthy company, since many of your visitors may have never heard about you or your company, and there is a natural skepticism consumers have against companies they find online.
Unfortunately, overcoming this skepticism is not as easy as simply stating "we are great." Rather, you need to prove that you are worthy.
You can accomplish this by including any or all of the following on your website:
- Media mentions (in which media your company has been featured)
- Credibility logos (e.g., a logo of the Better Business Bureau with a link to your BBB rating)
- Client logos, names, testimonials and/or case studies showing you have performed quality work
- Industry associations and groups to which you belong
- Certifications you and/or members of your team hold
9. Have Multiple Calls to Action
Even though all of us have grown accustomed to going online to find new products and services to buy, the way each of us likes to buy is different.
Some of us like to buy online. Others like to fill out an online contact form. Others like to call a toll free number. And so on.
It is your job to ensure you have multiple ways in which visitors can contact you to learn more about buying your products or services.
Also, if customers may not be ready to buy now, include calls to action to download free reports or other items to satisfy their initial needs; these items should require them to give you their contact information for further marketing.
10. Effective Page Layout
The final key attribute of your website is the layout of your pages.
The key here is to ensure visitors have to think as little as possible. The idea layout influences visitors to take the desired actions. For example, if the goal of one of your web pages is to get the visitor to give you their email address, having the email box near the top of the page, with a clear headline above it in a big font, will yield much better results than the same email box on the bottom left corner of the page with a small headline.
Consider using a heat map program that can show you exactly how visitors are interacting with your website; what they are looking at, what they are clicking on, etc. As you can imagine, this information enables you to make significant improvements to your site.
From reading these 10 key website elements, ideally you will have identified at least a few improvements you can make right away. Also, please realize that improving your website is an ongoing process. You should always be trying and testing new ideas, so your website keeps getting better and better.
Suggested Resource: Want unlimited online leads? And want a proven step-by-step system to get them. Check out our Ultimate Internet Marketing System to learn how you can build the ultimate online lead generation machine. Click here to learn more.
Written by Katie Perratore on Thursday, May 30, 2013
A great source of funding to start or grow your business is SBA loans.
SBA loans are issued by private banks. However, the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees a percentage of each loan. What this means is the following: if you, the entrepreneur or business owner, default on the loan (i.e., can't pay it back), the issuing bank only loses a small percentage of the money it lent you. The United States government essentially pays for the rest.
Because of this guarantee program, banks don't bear as much risk and are much more prone to issue SBA loans. This makes it easier for entrepreneurs like you to get these loans. Conversely, without the program, banks wouldn't make as many loans, and fewer businesses would get funding.
When small businesses grow, everybody wins. The entrepreneur can start or grow their business. In doing so, they create jobs. And their employees then have money to buy things. And the economy grows.
Small business funding challenges during the recession
But, as you may have noticed, business owners are still having trouble getting access to capital, namely 1) Small dollar loans, and 2) Loans in the niche industries affected by recession, such as real estate, finance, etc.
If you think about it, most small businesses don't need $1 million or even $500,000, and wouldn't even know what to do with it all. In many cases, even $100,000 can go a long, long way towards boosting revenues (or even doubling them) if invested in more lead generation campaigns, building a sales team, etc.
The odds are you can suffice with a smaller loan amount. In the past this has been more difficult because banks are geared towards extending larger loans since they can earn more interest for the same amount of due diligence per loan.
What the SBA is doing for small businesses
The SBA recently launched two loan-guarantee revisions that simplify and streamline paperwork even more for banks and borrowers.
One of them, the Small Loan Advantage program, is off to a strong start. It allows banks to make loans at more affordable rates, and brings more opportunities to borrow smaller loan amounts, like $50,000 to $100,000 or even less....which is great if that's all you need!
Applying for a small SBA loan from banks
To take advantage of this for yourself, find out which local bank makes the most SBA loans. You can often find this information on the bank's website. Or you can visit the branch or call them. Ask them how many SBA loans they make and how often they fund loans in the dollar range of what you need.
Find the local bank that is most active in the SBA loan program and apply for a loan. If the bank says you're not ready for the loan, don't hesitate to ask them why. Ideally, you can then fix the issue, and come back shortly thereafter and get the loan.
The SBA wants you to succeed as an entrepreneur and business owner. As mentioned, when you do, you will create jobs and stimulate the economy. So consider SBA loans as a funding source; they might be perfect for your business.
Suggested Resource: Want funding for your business? Then check out our Truth About Funding program to learn how you can access the 41 sources of funding available to entrepreneurs like you. Click here to learn more.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, May 23, 2013
Last year, according to the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire, 67,030 ventures received angel funding.
This represented an increase of 1.8% over the prior year. In total, these angels invested $22.9 Billion; that's a lot of money.
Importantly, the Center for Venture Research found that the number of angel investors providing the funding last year was 268,160 individuals. So, clearly, there are a lot of angel investors out there.
So, you're probably thinking: how do I find these angel investors? The good and bad news is that there's no directory of angel investors. It's bad because if there was, it would be easy to find them. And it's good, since if angel investors were simple to find, they would be bombarded with deals; and thus raising capital from them would be much more competitive.
The best way to find these angel investors is through networking.
First, ask everyone you know (e.g., friends, colleagues, family, advisors like consultants, lawyers and accountants, etc. ) who they know that might invest in your business.
After that, the key is for you to keep networking and 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.
In other cases, you should "get out there" and meet them at different venues. Here are the six 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 filled 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.
You can generally find out about these events in your industry's trade journals.
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.
You may also have access to an online alumni directly. If so, you can use this to directly target certain individuals.
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. 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.
6. Become a Guest Speaker
There are many groups like YPO (Young President's Organization) and Vistage that have monthly meetings during which they bring in outside speakers.
Find groups like these that could benefit from your knowledge. Present great information to them to help their businesses grow. In doing so, you will make great connections, including some that can fund your business.
As you can see, there are many, many places to find angel investors. It's mostly a matter of scheduling the time into your schedule to go do it.
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.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, May 21, 2013
If I say to you, "Hey, you can grow your business into a 10 million dollar company and be very wealthy" would you believe me?
Would you think it's possible? Likely? Easy? Hard? A pipe dream?
You don't have to tell anyone your answer, so be really honest with yourself. Can you envision becoming a multi-millionaire by growing your business?
If you can't see it, first congratulate yourself for that bit of honesty. Next, get to work on your mindset. You will never be a millionaire if you don't think like a millionaire.
Have you read biographies of multi-millionaires in the Unites States? It is rare to find a millionaire who says "I am so surprised I reached this level of success and wealth."
Except for lottery winners, most wealthy individuals are not surprised by their success. Their wealth is intentional. They set out to create that success, they visualized it, they believed it, and they passionately pursued it.
Hope Floats, Action Flies
You can hope to make the front page of Forbes Magazine by wishing that your business goes well. You can create excellent products then sit by the phone and hope that clients order them. You can launch a gorgeous website and hope that internet searchers just happen to find it.
In the course of your daily operations, do you hope for things to happen, or do you work at making them happen?
During your work day you likely create products, provide services, contact clients, process orders, send invoices, order supplies...and hundreds of other actions that generate income. Now let me ask you: would you be willing to stop doing these things and then to simply hope you can still make a living?
Obviously not. So, if you are not willing to give up your income by relying on hope and wishful thinking, why do so many entrepreneurs consider becoming a multi-millionaire a fantasy?
If your actions make you $200 dollars a day, don't you think that over time different actions can bring you $2000 a day, $20,000 a day?
My point? Stop hoping and wishing for abundant wealth and start planning on it.
1. Get The Mind Aligned
What you believe about money, wealth, and success will form the limitations of what you achieve in those areas. If you are comfortable with a 6 figure income, but feel guilty or overwhelmed when considering an 8 figure income, then you have set limits on your income potential.
If you think money is the root of all evil or that rich people are bad, then you have disqualified yourself from wealth. The relationship you have with money in your mind becomes the relationship you have with money in your life. That's why step one is to get the mind aligned.
You can't achieve dreams with lip service. You have to really believe.
2. Find Your Gurus
Ok, so you believe fiercely that you have what it takes to break into the 8 figure income stream. You believe it, you want it, you are seeking it.
Good! Seeking is powerful. You've heard it before, when the student is ready, the master appears. Even reading this newsletter is positive action in the right direction. Now surround yourself with likeminded people who reinforce your beliefs and support your goals. And spend time meeting with and/or studying those with more knowledge or experience that you.
Do not allow yourself to be frozen by fear or intimidated by those who have achieved great success. Find them, interact with them, learn from them, and model them.
3. Be Really Clear
We've mentioned becoming a millionaire or multi-millionaire a few times in this article. That is a great general idea, but it isn't a powerful enough of a goal to ignite action and feed passion.
You need to set very specific goals. Maybe you start with an annual income goal. Maybe you start with targeting a certain number of clients each month. Maybe you do both.
The more specific your goals, the more they will motivate and sustain you. Also, the ability to measure progress is key. If your goal is vague, how do you know if you are achieving it? Let's say your goal is to become a millionaire in your lifetime. You are now 30 and you have $60,000 in the bank - are you on track? Are you encouraged or discouraged? Will you be happy if you reach one million dollars in your bank account on your 90th birthday?
Now let's look at a specific goal. Let's just say that in 2013 your goal was to add 10 new clients per month and end the year with $570,000 in revenue. And now let's say it's December 31 2013 and you look at your results. You total clients for the year were 108 and you're final revenue totaled $563,000. You achieved 90% of your client goal and 99% of your revenue goal. Now how do you feel? You probably feel pretty good because you came very close to achieving your goals. And your results are probably far superior than if you didn't set the goals in the first place.
4. Tell Everyone
I am not talking about strutting around town bragging on how you are going to have gobs of money. I am talking about freely sharing your objectives in socially appropriate ways. For example, if while visiting family over the holidays old Uncle Jim yells across the room "Hey Chris, what are you doing with your life".
This may be an opportunity to say "Well Uncle Jim, this year I am focused on growing my company to $230,000 in revenues and I am on track to produce $5.5M in revenues by the year 2018".
I bet that will quiet the room.
Maybe you are willing to share that with family, maybe you'd rather not. Definitely be upfront about your goals with your staff, partners, and mentors. Go ahead and create accountability. If you really believe in what you can accomplish, you won't be afraid to "put it out there".
While you want passion, not ego to be your main motivator, a little pride can go a long way sometimes.
5. Live the Life
If you want to be a millionaire, you need to live like a millionaire. No, I am not saying you need to buy a car you can't afford or otherwise live beyond your means. On the contrary, there are hundreds of stories of self-made millionaire that got there by living conservatively.
What I mean is that you need to monitor your way of thinking. Do you look at a Bentley and automatically think "I will never afford that." How serious can you be about becoming a multi-millionaire if that is your knee-jerk reaction?
A person planning their success will instead think "In approximately six years, when my annual revenue reaches X, I will be able to buy that car cash."
What is your life plan? If you are a parent, are you optimistic about sending your kids to any college they want to attend? Are you learning about different places in the world you want to visit?
Are you learning a language to support your international business launch? Are you looking forward to and learning about things that are a normal part of the lifestyle you are working to achieve?
Is there something you can do now that will give you taste of your future? Maybe you can buy a pair of expensive sunglasses to remind you to look at the world through the eyes of a millionaire. Perhaps you can start a basic investment account at a firm that is known for high wealth clients.
Identify one thing you can do now that will make you feel like a millionaire, and go do it.
10 Million or Bust
Jack Canfield, one of the creators of the "Chicken Soup" series of books shares a story about setting bold goals. One year, he decided that he was going to sell a mini version of his book for twenty-five cents and wanted to reach $100,000 in sales that year. At the time, that was a huge amount of money for his family.
Well, he didn't make it. He only made $92,000 that year.
Was he disappointed? Of course not! By setting such a huge goal he created a situation in which an "almost made it" was still a raving success. If today, you make $75,000 a year and decide to make $10 Million in ten years, you will still be living a vastly different life if you only make $8 Million.
Now consider this. If in X years, you have 1, 2, 15, or 30 million dollars, are you still you? You may have different characteristic brought on by time and wealth, but you are still the same person, right?
If you are going to be a millionaire in the future, then what is stopping you from having that millionaire mindset now? Don't wait for things to define you. Rather, be defined by the passion, skill, and determination that will ultimately get you the life you want. Get your 10 million dollar mindset going today.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Business systems, business systems, business systems....why is everyone always going on and on about systems in your business?
Well, it's simple really. If you don't have a business system, and your entire operation relies on you personally performing certain actions, then you really don't have a business. You may be a really busy and even profitable self-employed, independent contractor, but you do not have a business.
A true business may require your leadership, strategy, vision, and even daily performance of work. But importantly, it will also continue to operate and make money even if you take a day off, go on vacation for a month, and be prepared for this, even if you die.
What is a Business System?
In its simplest form, a business system is a process or collection or processes that dictate the way your business operates. You may have a system for client acquisition, product delivery, customer loyalty, invoicing, supply chain, etc.
The more automated and error-proof your system, the more you are able to dedicate your time and energy to growing your business rather than simply running the day-to-day operations.
If more time and greater revenue is not reason enough to have solid systems in place, let's consider these other factors that influence why you can't live, or die, without a business system.
Try walking into a bank or a venture capital firm and telling them what a talented widget maker you are and that they should give you money to build your company.
When they ask for your business plan (a first step in building a business system), tell them you don't need any of that mumbo jumbo, you are Joe Blow, Great Widget Maker EVER! What do you think is most likely? That they will hand you a check or that they will laugh you out of the building? 99.99% will laugh hysterically (the other 0.01% are your parents and they are biased).
They will laugh because they recognize that a person is not a business. Yes, one person can create a business, and one person can be the vision and soul behind a company, but no one person is the company.
Apple is moving on without their visionary Steve Jobs, KFC is still selling chicken just fine without the Colonel, and Microsoft is still a giant while Bill Gates focuses on philanthropy. You may be central to your business, but to have real value, the business needs to be sustainable without you.
You Can't Sell Yourself Into Slavery
Let's say you have worked for your business for a few years, developed a good customer following, revenues are high, but you do everything yourself and nothing is documented.
If so, think about your exit plan. Will you someday just close up shop and let all those clients just melt away? Will you pass the business onto your children or chosen successor? Will you sell the business?
If you have a thriving business, selling may be an excellent idea and may significantly contribute to the funds you have to support your twilight years. But how will you sell a business that doesn't have clearly defined systems? How do you sell the business if you are the business?
Ok, so maybe the sale's agreement stipulates you will stay on as a consultant for a few months or years to show the new owners "the ropes" and transition the client base. Guess what you will be doing in those months? That's right, creating systems!
The fact is that you will sell your business for a lot more money and to a wider base of potential buyers if you have clearly defined systems in place. When you are the business, new owners have to hope they can either replicate your actions or have a plan to do it better. When you can show them proven business systems they can easily adapt, they will clamor to buy you.
What Will You Bestow?
Perhaps your dream is not to sell your business, but instead to pass it on as a legacy to your children or a chosen successor. There are many strong family businesses in the United States that have been passed on through generations. Is it your goal to be one of them?
The argument here is the same as in the previous section. How do you bestow a business if you are the business? How will you enjoy your retirement in Tahiti if Johnny Grandson is calling every two hours because he needs to know how you did this and that?
You Can't Die in Peace
Is the income from your business a necessary part of your household income? If you die, and that income stops, how does your family survive?
If you need a solid reason for building business systems, perhaps this is it. A business that can continue running without you, even if not running 100%, but can survive even without you, has value to your family. It can be operated by relatives, it can be passed on to heirs, and it can even be sold.
But if your business evaporates into thin air then minute you stop breathing said air, you are doing your family a disservice.
A business with a solid foundation of systems will survive you. It may even become your legacy. Your brand, when attached to proven processes and workflows, can endure.
Have you felt the tingle of cold sweat as you read this article? Are you wondering how you will ever sell your business when it primarily exists in your head? In many ways, a business is collection of abstract concepts. It's your reputation, your relationships with clients and suppliers, it's the quality of your product and service, and it's the word of mouth on the street.
To solidify your business, you need to give it form by building systems that can be documented, followed, and replicated by others.
Depending on the nature of your business these systems may require a strong team, wise delegation, trustworthy partners, and reliable vendors. Maybe all you need is clever automation that can be passed on to others.
If this article made you feel at risk, then take the time to carefully analyze your business. What can you automate? What can you document? What can you delegate? What can you reliably outsource?
Find ways to truly evolve from a self-employed worker to a smart owner of successful business systems. Build it right and you can live (and die) in peace.
Suggested Resource: Would you like to know how to build business systems that dramatically improve your business, and turn it into one worth $10 million or more? If so, check out Growthink's 8 Figure Formula. This video explains more.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Are you an Empire Builder?
How do you gauge yourself and your business? Do have the potential to turn your business into an empire? You may not know it yet, but you may just be the person to create the next business empire.
Empire builders are ordinary people who perform extraordinary tasks. There are certain traits and actions that distinguish these outstanding individuals from others. By learning certain skills and adopting successful actions you can set your business growth to super-size.
10 Characteristics of Empire Builders
If you have painstakingly built your business from scratch to where it is now, assuming it is growing steadily, you should not be surprised that you possess some characteristics in common with empire builders. Here are the 10 common characteristics.
1. Sacrifice & Hard Work. Empire builders are willing and ready to make sacrifices to be successful. Running a business is quite different from simply joining your workmates at a desk job; it involves hard work.
2. Passion. Empire builders are passionate about what they do. They put in extra effort to achieve their goals. Being passionate about what you do usually means that you are having fun doing it. The journey should be just as rewarding as the destination.
3. See Opportunities. Do you see opportunities where others see obstacles? Another trait of empire builders is that they see an opportunity where others see barriers. Many people think that to be successful you need to come up with an idea that nobody has thought of before. Many successful empires have been built without innovative ideas, just the will to do the same thing others are doing but in different way. Or they dare to tackle a problem others are afraid to tackle.
4. Highly Motivated. Empire builders are highly motivated people. They don't let their determination cool off due to defeats. If they don't succeed at first, they simply try again and again. They use failure as a motivation rather than an obstacle.
5. Disciplined. Another important characteristic of empire builders is discipline. Empire builders are focused on their goals. They do not let distractions derail them from achieving their objectives. They have clear steps that they take every day to bring them closer to their goals.
6. Open Mindedness. Open mindedness is a vital characteristic of empire builders. These are individuals that are ever open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. They get inspiration from different sources and focus it on achieving their goals.
7. Team Builders. They are skilled networkers who build strong contacts needed for success. Nobody ever succeeds alone; rather, success requires team building. Empire builders have persuasion skills that enable them to convince people to work for them even when their ideas may seem crazy.
8. Decision-Makers. Empire builders have good decision-making abilities. Sometimes people may wait for the right time to do something but empire builders launch their projects and then make the necessary corrections later. Decision-making is vital and in many cases, not making a decision is as bad as making a wrong decision.
9. Can Create Or Expand a Market. Empire builders expand the market. Contrary to what many believe, you don't have to launch something completely new to be successful. You can simply get into a business that many have thought of and get your share of the market and grow it.
10. Understand Their Markets. In business, timing can mean the difference between success and failure. Empire builders are capable of predicting the precise time a product will be successful in the market. When Sony launched the walkman, skeptics said people would not be interested in listening to music as they walked. Know the wants and needs of you market.
What Lessons From Empire Builders Can Help You Grow Your Business?
I want you to take a challenge. Pick three characteristics from above and start applying them this week. Keep practicing until they become second nature; aim for 3 to 4 weeks. Then pick three more. Do that until you cultivate all these characteristics of empire builders.
Here's your checklist:
- Don't hesitate to make sacrifices and work hard
- Follow your passion/enjoy the journey
- Be open to new opportunities
- Stay motivated
- Be disciplined
- Keep an open mind
- Build a team that can deliver results
- Be decisive
- Realize you don't need to create something completely new
- Understand/research your market
Let us know how this challenge changes you and your business!
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, April 30, 2013
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.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, April 25, 2013
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.
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