Tag: SWOT

Business Plans Every Entrepreneuer Must Have

Business Plans Every Entrepreneuer Must HaveI am mentoring small businesses and I am amazed at the ideas I read from the entrepreneurs I have the pleasure of meeting.

Unfortunately, not many have well laid out business plans and most use the Internet for planning.

A big percentage of the documents they use from the Internet are impressive, but what they do not understand is that one cannot use a business plan tailored for another region of the world to fully execute his specific business.

Business concepts are similar universally, but execution and sustainability differ depending on one’s environment and market.

The business plans I have read display glorified projections and their market analysis clearly depicts great profit.

In short, one look at a business plan will tell you that some issues have yet to be thought out clearly. For example, competition, risk, challenges and so forth.

Before embarking on your venture, draft at least three business plans.

Individual

This plan is the truest of them all. I refer to it as the naked business plan. It covers almost everything including risk and possibility of failure. No business life lesson can be complete without a discussion on risks and risk management and no business can be started without embracing risk.

Risks are inherent in everything we do – business risk management is the key to ensuring risks are identified and a plan-B or C thought out. Some risks we can control while others we cannot.

This plan should cover who you are as an individual, what your honest strengths and weaknesses are and how you will handle stumbling blocks or closure.

It should address questions like; Can you persevere through tough times? Do you have a strong desire to be your own boss? Do the judgments you make in life regularly turn out well? Do you have an ability to conceptualise the whole of a business? Do you possess the high level of energy, sustainable over long hours, to make a business successful? Do you have specialised business experience?

Financial projections in the plan should cover, at the very least, five different modules. You should work on the plan yourself and get prepared for any outcome.

Investors

I like to call this the headlines business plan. You only have one shot at getting investors – make the best out of it.

This is a plan that shows what team you will be working with and how you plan to invest to make money for investors. Show a well laid out plan that includes short and long term financial gains.

The confidence, coupled with experience, shown in this document will determine whether you get the initial investment you seek.

Financial projections in this case can be three to five years. They are there to show sustained profit. You should not glorify the plan nor try to get a lot of money for the start-up.

You must mention what your competition is and how you plan to create your own niche market – having a business plan that does not have a thorough SWOT analysis could raise the red flag. You might end up not getting financial support.

Pick the right team, get professional advice, try to separate your product from the rest in order to achieve your own niche.

Do not spend too much money. Most people think that having a lot of money is fundamental in starting a business. That is a fallacy – you can make a lot out of very little.

Universal

This is the plan that you started out with – the ”sitting research” through which you came out with pros and cons of the venture. The plan that has been developed from different Internet searches to better understand what you will be dealing with.

This is the longest business plan. This plan has a lot of data, but you should sieve out information that is irrelevant for your business. Without this plan, it is difficulty to cover everything that needs to be covered in your proposed venture.

Small Business Marketing From Finish to Start

“Maybe the start line was supposed to be your finish line. Don’t be afraid to walk backwards.” Author:Tablo

Normally whenever we think of taking on a project, we lay out the plan and define the tasks necessary to accomplish the goal. Consider something as basic as building a house. The builder and the buyer agree on the basics – number and size of bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen layout – the eventual “footprint” of the house. It then becomes the responsibility of the architect to develop blueprints which will be submitted to the town or local authority for approval. Once approved, the builder will assign a project manager to move through the steps to completion.

Here’s where small business marketing works best, when the parties work in reverse order. The client (the internal marketing manager or the external business decision maker) needs to embrace the idea of where they want to end up. And unlike the house building example, there are many different choices to define success.

For example, success could simply be defined as a growth in revenue from an existing run-rate to a run-rate with a higher number. For example, lets say the business has been growing 10% a year for the last 5 years, and the goal and purpose of marketing is to improve that growth rate to 20% a year over a reasonable period of time.

Success can be the launch of a new product, a new service, a new solution with a return on investment higher than other launches of the past.

Now to achieve those goals, marketing begins to work, for lack of a better word – backwards. The marketing professional starts at the finish line, incorporating one or more goals that need to be achieved. Marketing looks holistically at the various components that can be engaged in order to handle those project steps similar to the building project manager. However, since marketing activities (also known as the marketing mix) can have varying costs, and different choices require more or less time to check it off as complete.

Here’s an example of a small business marketing process and plan.

Let’s begin with a goal: Grow the revenue by 20 percent over the next 18-24 months.

Why not a firm date? It’s foolish in an ever shifting set of marketing tools and popular formats to set a hard date. Imagine building a plan before Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn took off. Odds are good that the completion date would be considerably impacted by these “new” mediums of communicating with buyers and influencers.

In this author’s opinion, the center of the marketing universe is a good website. A great website is better, but should be a living tool that adapts to changes in the way people choose to search for information. So a good website will suffice as long as it provides slightly more than basics about the company, the product, the brand, the solution, and a place for visitors to go for information.

Landing Pages must be Clean and Simple (and Device Agnostic)

Inside the website is our landing page(s). A landing page is where, when someone does a search, and finds your ad (more about that later), clicking the ad link brings them to a specific page directly. Thus, they should not have to plow through the history of the principals, the location of offices, awards, past downloadable PDFs, webinar replays, etc., etc., etc. by bringing them to the home page.

Instead, they should go directly to the page on the website that speaks to the topic via keyword(s) that they searched for, and the “bait” used in an ad to get them to click the ad. Most people are smart enough to roam around the website on their own, to learn more about the company if they are interested. But the goal of that landing page is to respond to the SPECIFIC need, and the SPECIFIC solution, which brought them there to begin with.

OK. Let’s assume we’ve got that solid landing page (quite likely several for each of the solutions, products or campaign being run). How did people get there? In a world of literally MILLIONS of pages, how did they find yours?

The magic word is CONTENT.

Content should not be confused with advertising. In fact, advertising posing as content is quickly discovered as such, and harms the brand deeply. Content is education. It is sharing opinions, experiences, thoughts, ideas, successes, and without an obvious goal of getting something in return beyond an acknowledgement that the author is a subject matter expert, and is willing to provide information without a hidden agenda. The altruistic motivation is what buyers crave far more than clever jingles, surveys, puzzles, or quizzes.

Think about your Competitors

Now we move back some more. Who are your competitors and what do they know, do, offer, profess or otherwise claim that whether real or not, is intent in casting their goods in a more favorable light then your own. Often these claims (real or otherwise) are unchallenged, simply because they are crafted by expensive marketing research companies, whose lipstick is more attractive that the pig that’s wearing it.

Look back at who your competitors were not so long ago. Have they truly created something far better than yours, or have they simply done a better job of convincing buyers that you are yesterday’s news. Having been in the IT sales and marketing business for more than 25 years, there are some companies that come to mind that seemed to never be knocked from their throne – WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Wang, Digital Equipment, and many other – gone or just consumed by other companies. So while others were innovating these companies rested on their laurels eventually being a footnote in the early days of PCs. And one need not go back 20 years to think about MySpace, the Zune, even Napster.

Take the time to evaluate your competitors and create a simple but honest SWOT analysis (S=Strengths, W=Weaknesses, O=Opportunities, T-Threats) so you the marketing efforts can identify the weak spots and attack them.

Putting it all together

The singular most important foundation a business has for marketing is its database. The database (whether in a sophisticated CRM tool, or an excel spreadsheet). In addition to current and/or former clients, it needs to be constantly fed, updated, parsed, and managed or every other dollar or hour spent will be sub-optimized. The database provides not only the contacts, but a history of business/client experiences – both good and bad. And it is the starting point to uncover any real or perceived “warts” potential clients might find, and an opportunity to address them before going live with campaigns.

Now we have all the parts, we need to converge all the actions to drive buyers and influencers to the landing page(s), where we can generate the dialogue and begin to turn clicks into customers. Addressing all of the nuances of email marketing, snail mail marketing, content marketing through blogs, and distribution through social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and (especially) Google+. Tie in a moderate budget to generate visits by using Google AdWords and follow up with participation in industry events where subject matter experts are sought out for their knowledge and ideas.

Summary: There are specific steps for small businesses that don’t require an excessive budget or an onboard staff. Instead, a marketing professional whose personality matches your business, with expertise in driving measurement results, can add value, improve business results, and help act as a virtual partner in achieving both short and long term goals.