When my kids were younger, I recall one night when we were eating dinner. My kids were saying "I want this" and "I want that."
And then I said something that I immediately realized I should never tell my kids, or any entrepreneur for that matter.
What I said was this: "you know, money doesn't grow on trees."
Now, you may not think saying this is so bad. So, let me explain.
The reason why I said this was to show my kids the value of money. And that we have to work to make money to spend on the things we want.
But here's the negative: saying this paints the wrong picture. It paints the picture that we can't always get what we want. Which is the exact opposite of the attitude I want my kids, and all entrepreneurs, to have.
What my kids and all entrepreneurs MUST be thinking is YES, I CAN get whatever I want. Yes, it won't just come to me, but with hard work and ingenuity, I can and I will get what I want.
Fortunately, right after I said that to my kids, I caught myself.
One of the reasons I caught myself was from the interview I did a while back with Ken Lodi, the author of "The Bamboo Principle."
In the interview, Ken explained that timber bamboo shoots grow very little for four years while their extensive root system is growing and taking hold. But once the roots are firmly in place, the bamboo can grow a shocking 80 feet in just six weeks.
This story made me realize that money does in fact grow on trees. The key is to work on the tree's roots. To build such a strong foundation that generating money becomes easy.
Every great company has a strong foundation. They create a brand name, sales systems, delivery systems, etc. And then, they can generate cash and profits each and every day.
So, focus on building an extremely strong foundation. Think through your business model. Learn the best practices for each of the key business disciplines - marketing, HR, finance, sales, etc. And then, put your thinking into a strategic plan.
Your strategic plan is your roadmap to success. It is the tool that turns your ideas into reality. For example, the great marketing idea in your head isn't going to become reality unless it's documented in your plan and a team member(s) knows to execute on it. Likewise, your new products and services won't be built or fulfilled unless they are documented and your team knows what to do. Get your ideas in your strategic plan and then you build the tree from which money does grow.
So, never let anyone tell you that "money doesn't grow on trees" or that you can't have everything you want. Because money does grow on firmly-rooted trees and you CAN achieve and get everything you want out of life if you resolve to do so. They key is to build your plan -- your foundation -- and then grow systematically from there.
"The point of marketing is to make selling superfluous."
This is a great quote from management guru Peter Drucker. What it means is that if you do a great job in marketing, sales will be easy. Likewise, there are other things you can do to improve your sales without having to resort to aggressive sales tactics.
This article details such strategies.
1. Create a Stronger USP
Your USP or unique selling proposition is what distinguishes your company from others.
Here are some famous USPs:
Each of these USPs does a great job in distinguishing these companies and getting customers to choose them over competitors.
2. Provide Clear Benefits
In addition to a strong USP, make sure you detail the benefits of your products and/or services to your customers.
For example, do your products:
You generally want to provide a list of features associated with your products/services, but lead with the benefits.
3. Use Many Different Marketing Channels
After you create the best USP you can, and identify your key benefits, you want to convey your message to as many of your prospective customers as possible.
But realize this: not all of your customers are in one place or read/view/listen to one media source. So, use multiple means of reaching them.
For example, you can reach customers through each of the following marketing channels among others:
4. Understand and Improve Your KPIs
Key Performance Indicators or "KPIs" are the metrics that judge your business' performance.
And, as you might know, you can't improve what you can't measure.
So the key is to 1) identify the most important KPIs in your business, and 2) measure/track them over time so you can judge your progress in improving them.
While there are hundreds of potential KPIs to track, here's a small sample of KPIs that most companies must measure:
Importantly, as you understand and improve your KPIs, your revenues and profits will grow. In fact, identifying and managing your KPIs is one of the pillars of an 8-figure business.
5. Make It Simple to Purchase from Your Company
When you make it easy to buy from your company, you'll get more sales.
For example, not accepting credit cards will dramatically hurt the sales of many businesses.
Similarly, making customers complete tedious paperwork (that may not really be necessary) may frighten off some customers.
Conversely, having your product for sale not only on your website, but on Amazon, eBay and others, could make it easier for some customers to purchase from you and prompt more sales.
So, think about ways to make it easier for current and prospective customers to buy from you.
Start using these five strategies today, and watch your sales and profits grow.
Publicity is an extremely powerful form of marketing. Not only is it free, but it gives you and your business great credibility. Specifically, when potential customers hear about you in the media sources they read/watch/listen to, it gives you incredible legitimacy in their eyes.
And perhaps most importantly, it gets customers to find you and purchase your products and/or services.
There are many ways of getting publicity. And when you do get it, there are several varieties. For example, a journalist may give you a simple quote in their article. Or, they may quote you several times or attribute the entire theme of their article to you. Or, in the best case, they write an article solely about you, your company and/or your products or services.
The key point to note, even though it may be obvious, is that the more the article talks about you, the more likely the reader will seek you out after reading it.
One concern many entrepreneurs and business owners have when first considering publicity is what the journalist will write about you. However, you really shouldn't worry about this. The journalist will nearly always position your company in a positive light. But even if they don't, the saying "there's no such thing as bad publicity" is generally true.
Importantly, there's one way to accomplish both the goals mentioned above: getting publicity (particularly articles) that fully discusses you and your company AND gaining 100% control of what the article says about you.
This way is to write the article yourself.
Articles are a great way to spread the word about your company. And there's no advertising cost; just the cost of writing the article which is minimal.
What should you write about in your article?
The best articles are often short "how-to" articles teaching customers something they want or should know about.
Where should you send your article?
Send your articles to relevant newspapers, magazines, trade journals and bloggers.
Importantly, add a "bio box" at the end of your article. Your "bio box" includes your name and contact information (e.g., website address and possibly email address, phone number, etc.) so readers can easily contact you.
How to get started
The fastest way to get an article published is to submit it to an online article directory like www.goarticles.com and www.ezinearticles.com. On these websites, online searchers will find your article, and many will click on the links in your bio box that link back to your website.
Here are two important notes for using article directory websites like GoArticles and EzineArticles.
First, search through the sites to see the types of articles already written. Doing so will give you new ideas and show you topics that have already been covered too much.
Second, bigger media sources (e.g., magazines, newspapers) want original content. So, if you have a great idea for an article, pitch it to the more prominent media sources first. Since, once you publish it elsewhere, they won't be interested (although you could then pitch them on another article).
Getting your articles printed in media sources is a simple and great way to get your company in front of lots of potential customers. And, you control the message, and build lots of credibility.
And here's a tip to make this technique even more efficient - don't start by writing the article. Instead, start by simply creating an interesting article title. Then pitch the title to the editors of relevant newspapers and magazines to see if they're interested. You can call them and/or email them to find out. They may say your article title is right on, or they might suggest something a bit different. By following this advice, you'll save time since you'll only write articles you know they'll publish.
One final tip: if you don't like to write or aren't a good writer, don't worry. As long as you're an expert on the subject matter, simple dictate the article. There are tons of apps which allow you to record voice memos directly on your mobile phone. Then, upload and send your audio file to a professional writer on a site like odesk.com or guru.com who can turn your dictation into a well written article for less than $20.
Click here for more tips on publishing articles and getting tons of free publicity for your business.
It’s been 17 years now since I started working with entrepreneurs. Over this time, I’ve seen lots of successes, and unfortunately lots of failures.
So, I started thinking, “what is it about those entrepreneurs who have achieved the most success? What are their common attributes and skills?”
While the initial list was pretty large, when I boiled it down, there were 5 common attributes or skills that the successful entrepreneurs all had. I’ve listed them below.
1. Vision & Leadership: Entrepreneurs must have a vision of where the company will be in the future. In addition, you must be able to communicate your vision so you can motivate employees, investors, and partners to help you achieve that vision.
You must be able to identify staffing needs, expertly fill them, and lead your team to success. Rarely (actually never) do entrepreneurs build successful companies all by themselves.
2. Focus & Execution: Entrepreneurs must focus to make sure that goals are achieved, customers are satisfied, and employees are motivated.
For most entrepreneurs, staying focused is harder than it sounds. Be careful not to be seduced by the next exciting opportunity without executing on the priorities at hand. And don't let perfectionism prevent you from taking action, either; at the end of the day, a product on the market is better than a product shelved due to lack of focus, execution, or perfectionism. Get to market and get feedback from your customers as soon as possible.
3. Persistence & Passion: As an entrepreneur, you must be passionate about what you are trying to accomplish. In addition, you must be willing to commit whatever is needed of them, whether it's time, energy, money, or other resources.
You must persist through trying times (which will be frequent), and fight as much as needed to achieve the goals you have set for yourself and your team. I’ve never met an entrepreneur who didn’t struggle through hard times on their path to success. So, don’t give up when hard times hit you.
4. Technical skills: As the owner of your firm, you may not need to be the most skilled technician on your team. But you need to have necessary foundational knowledge to be able to lead your technical team and make informed decisions.
For instance, in my dashboard business, I can’t technically build most dashboard charts myself. But I know the metrics that must be plotted. And I understand the basic framework with which charts are built. As a result, I know whether a certain chart is feasible and approximately how long it should take to create. This is the information I need to effectively lead the organization.
5. Flexibility: Successful entrepreneurs understand that the world and the environment in which they operate are constantly changing. While you must focus on the end game, you also must adapt your strategies and offerings to meet changing market conditions.
Remember that many successful companies resulted from flexibility, particularly when their first idea didn’t pan out. Such as PayPal, which radically changed its business concept when its core technology of allowing one PalmPilot to pay another wasn’t gaining enough traction.
So, be persistent to a point when something’s not working. But realize that change and flexibility might be required.
The good news is that each of the above traits and skills can be acquired. You can teach or force yourself to be more flexible. You can set goals and give them laser focus. And so on. Make each of these attributes a habit, and you will have no choice but to achieve the success you desire.
The other day, my wife came home from a meditation class with a sheet of paper. On it was a verse written by Mother Teresa. Supposedly, these same words were written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India. They were as follows:
While I believe these words to be true for all people, I find them especially relevant for entrepreneurs.
As entrepreneurs, we have elected to take on a challenging life, and a business life that is clearly harder than that of the average worker. We must constantly take risks, and success is never guaranteed.
As a result, to succeed as an entrepreneur takes a special mindset and commitment. Thinking and acting like an ordinary individual will get you ordinary results. And ordinary results just don’t cut it as an entrepreneur. Unless you act extraordinary, you can’t possibly achieve the success you desire.
This being said, below are my entrepreneurial comments and thoughts to Mother Teresa’s writings.
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
These people may be your customers, your employees, your investors and/or your family (who I will hereafter call your “constituents”). Forgive such actions when you come across them. And try to surround yourself with people who don’t do them.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
Be kind to your constituents. If not, they will not follow you.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
Some of your current constituents will not want to see you succeed. Succeed anyway. And create a new group of constituents as needed (perhaps a peer group or Board of Advisors) of successful people you want to emulate and who DO want you to succeed.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
Be honest in all your dealings with your constituents. Entrepreneurs who cheat never win; it always catches up with them. If someone does cheat you, learn from it and don’t let it happen again (yet still be frank and honest).
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
As an entrepreneur, your job is to build, build, build. Build a great company. But while building, think about ways that others will NOT be able to “destroy” you. For example, a business model in which you have customers on a subscription plan (think mobile phone service providers) is very hard to destroy. Always think about ways in which you can “lock up” customers, employees and other constituents. How can you make it so that they’ll never want to leave you?
If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
Yes, when you achieve success as an entrepreneur, many others will be jealous. And many will call you “lucky.” Yes, you’re “lucky” because you have the right attitude and mindset that allowed you to work hard and persevere. And you’re “lucky” because you invested your time reading articles (like this one) and learning the skills you needed to become a successful entrepreneur.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Keep doing good to your constituents. Doing good once is not enough. Continue to astound your customers, employees and others so they follow you to the finish line.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to give 100%, and keep giving it. Never surrender. Never back down. Rather, persevere and make it happen. And if the best you have isn’t enough, then get others (advisors, peers, employees) who can give alongside you so collectively you ARE able to give enough.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
Succeeding as an entrepreneur is more about you succeeding within yourself and less about you beating out a competitor. If you are thinking and acting the right way, you will naturally surpass your competition and achieve great success.
Right now is the time for you to “do it anyway” and become the successful entrepreneur you’re capable of becoming!
In writing his book, "Rich Habits - The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals," author Thomas C. Corley studied the daily habits of hundreds of wealthy and poor people.
He defined wealthy people as those earning at least $160,000 annually and owning assets of at least $3.2 million. Conversely, he defined poor people as having an annual income below $30,000 and less than $5,000 in assets.
Read below to see the stark differences between the two groups.
1) Maintain a to-do list
Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Maintain a To Do List
2) Wake up 3+ hours before work
Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Most entrepreneurs pretty much work all the time, and clearly work more than the general 9-5 work day. I prefer highly organized work to a ton of work. But either way, you need to put in the hours to succeed as an entrepreneur.
3) Listen to audio books during commute
Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Educate yourself during your commute. EVERY single one of the video training products I offer has an audio download component so you can listen to them during your commute. Yes, I did this on purpose.
4) Network 5+ hours or more each month
Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Network more. Networking is a great way to meet great people who can become: investors, mentors, advisors, customers, employees, partners, etc. If you need more of any of these things, then network more.
5) Read 30+ minutes or more each day
Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Read at least 30 minutes each day. Here I’m probably preaching to the choir, since you’re reading this essay of mine - good job!
6) Live a healthy lifestyle
Eat less than 300 junk food calories per day
Exercise aerobically four days a week
Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Treat your body well. You need the physical and mental energy to succeed.
7) Use television smartly
Watch one hour or less of TV every day
Watch reality TV
Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Don’t watch too much television and when you do, don’t watch garbage.
The final, and most important habit for the world’s wealthiest entrepreneurs is that they have built and sold their companies. Of Americans with a net worth of $5 million or more, an overwhelming 80% of them are entrepreneurs who have sold their businesses.
So, in summary (and feel free to print this out):
1. Maintain a To Do list
2. Wake up early/work hard
3. Listen to audio books during your commute
4. Network more
5. Read 30+ minutes each day
6. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
7. Don’t watch too much (or garbage) television
8. Build a sellable business
When you think about it, none of this is really that hard. Yes, YOU can do it!
Great leaders delegate. They get other people to do the work for them. They focus on vision and strategy, and getting their people to perform at their highest possible level. And when their people perform, the company executes on the strategy and achieves its vision.
While much about leadership has been written over the years, much of it has changed. Because many of the old rules and strategies, such as the “it’s my way or the highway,” strategy no longer apply. People are different today than they were even a decade ago. We have different needs and thinking, and nurturing your team to get them to perform is more complex.
In fact, when it comes to outsourced employees, leadership is even more complex. Because when you can’t look your employee in the eye, it’s hard to tell if they’re bought into your strategies and goals, and if they will perform to your standards.
What makes this so more important is that any good HR strategy nowadays includes outsourcing. Because outsourcing certain roles allows your company to achieve great progress at a significantly lower expense, and without increasing your fixed costs which decreases flexibility.
This being said, the following are five things a great leader would never do when managing their outsourced employees.
1. Rely exclusively on email. Email is generally the easiest way to communicate with outsourced employees, particularly if they live in different time zones. However, email is rarely the most effective communications method, particularly when you want to motivate people. Rather, make sure that occasionally you also use telephone calls and video calls using services such as Skype. By seeing your employee, and having them see you, you can gauge and influence their levels of engagement and excitement.
2. Give vague directions. If someone’s seen you do something several times, and then you ask them to do it, they might do a good job. But if someone’s never seen you do something, particularly when they don’t work in your office, they’ll generally fail wildly. Unless, that is, you give them precise directions. When you outsource a task, be sure to document precisely what you want done and why. This will guide the employee and set expectations for them to meet.
3. Wait to see finished work. When you outsource a project to someone, don’t wait until the end to judge their work. Rather, check in periodically. Ideally, break the work into pieces. For example, if an outsourced employee is responsible for creating a video, natural pieces or project stages might include: 1) writing the video script, 2) sketching or finding the images to be included in the video, 3) creating a video draft, 4) finalizing the video. If you wait to see the final video, you inevitably will be disappointed. Rather, check in after each stage and provide feedback. The end result will be infinitely better.
4. Fail to set deadlines. Employees, particularly outsourced employees who don’t see you, need deadlines. If not, they’ll generally take way too long to complete a task. When employees work in your office, they should have deadlines too; but, because you see these employees, if there is a deadline, you’ll simply remember to tell them. You don’t have this luxury with virtual employees, so make sure they know the deadline for each of their projects.
5. Fail to give time expectations. Even when you set a deadline, you still must set time expectations, particularly if you are paying your outsourced employee on an hourly basis. While two people can both complete a project in a week, for example, you’re clearly paying a ton more if one worked ten hours per day and the other two. So, at the beginning of each project, have the employee give you an estimate of the work hours, and have them check in periodically to let you know if their estimate is on track or not.
When you outsource properly, you can dramatically grow your company at a fraction of the cost as your competitors. But, make sure you avoid these leadership mistakes; when you do, you can effectively manage your outsourced workforce to get the most benefit from this key HR strategy.
Your website is a critical component of your marketing strategy. If set up properly, your website can be the source of tons of new customer leads. And even if they hear of you elsewhere, in many cases, customers will still visit your website to learn more about you.
So here are 5 quick and easy ways to make your website more effective.
#1: Establish a blog
Setting up a blog is the easiest way for you to continually add new content to your website.
And each piece of content you add is another opportunity for someone to do a search (on Google.com, etc.) and find your company.
Also, your blog posts can be used to show your subject matter credibility, and further prove to prospective customers that you are the best provider in the market.
#2: Promote your blog posts
In addition to adding new blog posts (ideally once per week, and at a minimum twice per month), make sure to promote your posts.
You can promote your posts by posting them on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
Your goal is to drive more traffic to your blog posts. Also, try to get visitors to comment and/or ask questions about your posts. And then, respond to their questions and comments.
Finally, remember that each question posed by your visitors may be a great topic for a future blog post.
#3: Create videos
Particularly if you don't like to write, create videos.
Videos that teach prospective customers how to do something are extremely valuable. And they can be used to "soft-sell" your product and/or services.
For example, let's say you offer carpet cleaning services. A short video teaching people how to tell if their carpet is in need of cleaning would be extremely valuable. And, people who watched it would be prone to purchase your service.
#4: Add sharing buttons
Particularly if the content on your blog is good, make sure it's easy for visitors to share it.
You can quickly and easily accomplish this by adding buttons that allow people to share your posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, and other social media networks.
This is how blog posts go viral; by making it easy for others to share them.
#5: Make your website mobile and tablet friendly
More and more people are visiting websites from their mobile devices and tablets. But not all website look good on these sources.
Make sure your website does. If it doesn't, there are some inexpensive services that manage this for you. Such services can tell when a visitor is not coming from a desktop, and will automatically push them to a version of your website (which they create and host) that is more mobile/tablet friendly.
Each of these five tips can be implemented very quickly and easily. And they will result in more customers and sales. So make completing this a priority.
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.
Both Crowdfunding and Peer-to-Peer Lending are great new ways to raise money for your business. Below I explain the differences, and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. I end by determining which is better.
Peer-to-Peer (or P2P) Lending is one person lending money to another person at a pre-defined interest rate. It's basically debt capital without the bank or traditional "middle man."
The benefit of P2P Lending is that 1) the interest rates are typically lower, and 2) the likelihood of getting the loan is greater than the likelihood of getting a traditional bank loan.
There are several popular websites that connect borrowers and lenders directly. The biggest two are:
The downside of P2P lending is that you need to repay the loan and that there are limits to how much you can raise (generally only $25K at a time).
Crowdfunding is raising money from the "crowd" or general population. In Crowdfunding, you don't need to repay the amount raised. Rather, you give rewards (usually the product you want to develop) or equity to those who fund you.
The most established rewards-based Crowdfunding websites are:
On the equity side, Crowdfunding if still extremely new and still only limited to accredited investors (expect this to change shortly). Crowdfunder is one of the leaders in the equity based Crowdfunding market now. We will see how it grows and other sites pop-up as non-accredited investors enter the market in 2014.
So, Which is Better?
I prefer Crowdfunding over Peer to Peer Lending because of the potential to raise more money through a larger group of people, and not having to pay the money back. I also like that all the people who crowdfund you 1) are potential future customers, and 2) can spread the word about your business.
However, the two funding sources are NOT mutually exclusive, so definitely consider using BOTH Crowdfunding and Peer to Peer Lending, since both are great forms of funding.
Suggested Resource: Do you want Crowdfunding? If so, don't try to raise it from scratch -- the 14-step blueprint already exists. Get the Crowdfunding blueprint here.
Years ago I served on a funding panel with Tom Clancy. At the time, Tom was a partner at Enterprise Partners Venture Capital in San Diego.
At the time (around 2003), many venture capital firms were licking their wounds. They had funded a ton of companies during the tech bubble phase, and most of them had failed.
This led Clancy to make an important decision. He said that going forward, Enterprise Partners would wait at least six months before funding any new company they met.
The rationale was solid. During the six months, he would see what the entrepreneur was able to accomplish. If the entrepreneur accomplished the milestones set forth in their business plan, than they were deemed worthy and would receive funding. If not, they would not.
So what is the entrepreneur to do during the six months in order to get the investor to write them a check?
Obviously they need to achieve milestones... But what else?
Before I give you an answer, I want you to know how crucially important this is, not only in raising capital, but in securing key partnership and gaining key customers.
Let me give you an example of an entrepreneur who successfully used this technique in order to get a key partner. This entrepreneur’s name was Chet Holmes. And one of the key reasons that Mr. Holmes achieved success was through his partnership with marketing guru Jay Abraham.
How did Holmes get the partnership with Abraham? Like many people, he tried to reach him by phone, fax and mail. But Holmes did it every other week...
...FOR TWO YEARS!!!
Then, he finally got a call from Abraham's business manager for a lunch appointment, flew to Los Angeles for lunch, and established a very profitable partnership.
So, what's the answer to the question of how to woo investors, customers, partners, advisors, key hires, and more over six months?
Effective and persistent communications. In other words...
You must consistently, over a period of time, hammer home your message to investors, key customers and others.
What exactly does this mean? For investors, once you meet them, you should follow-up with them at least twice per month to update them on your progress. For prospective customers, you should contact them on an ongoing basis to continually give them value and convince them of the benefits of working with you. And of course, don't forget to follow-up with your existing customers.
And a key here is that this follow-up should NEVER END unless or until the costs of the follow-up clearly outweigh the benefits.
Remember that people invest in, buy from, and partner with other people. So, who would you rather work with? Someone who has been contacting you for two years with quality messages regarding why you should partner with them, buy their product or invest in them? Or someone who you just met yesterday and tells you how great they are?
The answer is clear.
Don't stop at the first contact. Choose the appropriate frequency (i.e., you don't want to be perceived as too obnoxious or pushy to potential investors), craft quality messages, achieve your milestones, and convince investors and others to work with you over time.