bookmark_borderReasons Why Business Plans Will Never Disappear

Is the Business Opportunity Valid?

Too many times I’ve had the unfortunate privilege of talking about entrepreneurial opportunities with aspiring business owners with the only goal being the desire to make money. Don’t get me wrong, making money is great provided the motivation is right. Making money for the sake of having it only is a dead-end plan.

The business plan motivates one to give critical thought and time to a viable market opportunity that truly provides a solution to either a pain or need in the market. What judges whether a market opportunity is valid or not depends on the ability of the business owner to prove market demand. The best method of proving market demand is to disclose actual sales. The only way to prove a business’s ability to maintain for the long-term is to disclose a sustainable sales track record.

Where is the Business Going?

In addition to being able to prove the business idea viability by having sustainable actual sales, the business owner needs to have an objective for operating the business. No one just starts and operates a business for the kicks and giggles of it. Either as a way to build and extract personal wealth or as a manifestation of a life long calling, the business represents a vehicle for one to achieve an ideal goal.

The business plan provides a framework for one to disclose to investors, employees, and other important components of the business why it exists and where it’s going. I’ve learned that the business plan is a moving document in that it’s always in a state of revision. As the business continues to operate, it will achieve and overcome its initial goals. As time progresses and the market changes, the business will revise and updates its reason for existence.

bookmark_borderCut Expenses And Manage Business

Change Your Plastic Options

If you own a small web site that doesn’t do tons of online business, then chances are you don’t need a merchant account. These can be costly, and probably won’t pay for itself unless you do a robust business. But instead of losing business by not accepting credit cards, you can use one of the other options such as Paypal or Clickbank. 2checkout.com is another good option for the few countries not accepted by clickbank.

With these types of payment systems, clients can use their credit cards, and once the transaction is complete, the money is instantly deposited in your online account. Then you will simply need to transfer it to your bank account. You can even run your own affiliate programme with these services.

They are good and not expensive. You pay per sale rather than annoying monthly charges.

You will need to do some comparisons before switching services. Make sure that the transaction fees won’t cost more than the fees you are currently paying.

Change Your Calling Options

What are you paying for long distance phone calls? Depending on the company, it’s possible that you could save hundreds per year if you switched to another. Because of stiff competition, you should be able to go online and find the perfect rate for your needs.

And if you hold a lot of business meetings on the phone, don’t forget to check into teleconferencing or web conferencing as a less expensive solution!

Change Your Internet Options

The days are gone when you have to pay a fortune for an ISP server. In addition to the big boys, there are a great many smaller ISPs that will just as good of a job–if not better–for your business.

The key is negotiation and research.

Start by looking online by typing in search terms as “affordable ISP,” and “cheap Internet Service.” Once you’ve found a few, begin to compare rates and services.

Now, if you already pay twice as much with one of the larger companies, call them up and tell them that unless they can lower your rate, you’ll have no option than to switch to another company.

Many times, they will compensate you in the form of free months, or downright lower your fee. If they won’t budge, then you’ve already researched your other options, so make the move!

Can you see by just taking some time and looking at these areas how you can feasibly save hundreds of dollars per year in your small business? Get creative and figure out other ways to save.

bookmark_borderMistakes People Make Using Roller Banner Stands

Design Them Ineffectively

If you are not highly skilled in design, its best to leave it to a professional, an ineffectively designed roller banner will not have your desired effect. Here are some design points worth check listing:

Don’t clutter your banner with information, too much text will stop people being able to grasp your message in time, so you should aim to make them as simple as possible. It’s also important to ensure the text you do include is big enough to be easily read. Also make sure you don’t include any spelling mistakes, so double check all text and ask someone else to proofread in case you missed anything.

It is very important you include your logo on your roller banner! Your logo and core message should both be at the top of the banner as it is where most people first look.

Using colour is important to ensure your banner stand attracts attention, but using too many colours will create confusion and won’t represent your brand, instead keep to your brand colours and be mindful of background colours to make sure text is easily readable.

Include a tag line or slogan as this will help you to build brand identity and gives your roller banner a core message.

Contact details also need to be included at the bottom in big and bold text to ensure your customers can easily read and write down your details if you are unable to talk at the exhibition. Brand colours and fonts should remain consistent and your social media channels should be included as a way customers can instantly connect with you and offers them an alternative way of them contacting you.

Position them incorrectly

For your roller banner to be successful, you must position it correctly, not only to ensure its visibility is not reduced, but also to give maximum effectiveness. Banner stands are effective at entrances, to attract visitors and display useful information such as signalling the entrance and giving directions at exhibitions and events. Roller banners are also useful to display information beside promoted products. Another important aspect to think about is where do visitors tend to spend time and wait? For example, you could position your banner where queues are frequent such as along checkouts, or where people sit.

Using poor quality images

Another mistake some make is using poor quality images on their roller banners. Perhaps because they don’t have any suitable pictures of their own or don’t want to spend money on using stock images.

It is well worth it to have a photographer take pictures of your business and products/services so that you have a professional representation of your business and a source of images you can use for all types of media. Paying for stock images are also a great option if you don’t want to pay for a photographer or hire a studio, many websites offer royalty free images and provide you with thousands of professional photographs.

Also when using images off the internet they may not be the right resolution, resulting in a pixelated blurry print. This will give an unprofessional appearance of your business and the message on the roller banner will lose credibility.

Another issue here is using irrelevant images, often that relate to the business but not the core message of the roller banner perhaps in order to fill empty space. It’s best to check you need every image that you have used and that they support your core message, dealing with any extras it is most effective for them to be taken off.

bookmark_borderCustomer Journey Planning

Tools that can help you optimise your customer journey

In today’s world your customers have never lived with such a short attention span. It is a noisy eCommerce world and time has never been a more precious commodity to the savvy shopper.

It is commonly stated that you have 5 seconds in which to first grab your potential customers’ attention when they first get to your site.

Then if you succeed at that and you sell what they want they need to be able to navigate to the checkout in just 3 clicks.

Any more on either of these and your chances of losing them to your competitors increase dramatically.

They key to being able to stop those high bounce rates is data, or more specifically knowledge.

You need to know what your customers are doing and more importantly what they struggle with.

The good news is that there are so many tools available to you as a business owner now that have made collecting relevant data easier than ever.

Google Analytics for example is a fantastic free tool which will show you a fantastic breakdown of traffic on your site, including pages which have the highest drop out rate for your visitors.

Optimizely is another fantastic tool which enables you to run A/B tests on your site to take away guesswork on a number of areas on your website, leaving you with the true numbers of actual customer behaviour.

The most neglected aspect of your customer journey

There are obviously multiple elements to consider in the customer journey from when they first discover your brand to when they are repeat customers of yours.

The eCommerce average for customers dropping out on the cart page however is 68.81% as reported by the Baymard Institute.

For this reason I strongly believe that the shopping cart is often the most neglected element of the customer journey and if optimised would result in the largest increase in revenue for your business.

The 3 questions you need to ask when it comes to your checkout are:

  1. Have you been clear with you customers up to this point? (Do not surprise them at the checkout with any hidden fees, taxes or charges. The price they see should be the price they pay)
  2. Is your checkout simple? (One page if possible)
  3. Can a customer trust your checkout? (Do you have an SSL certificate in place along with payment card logos and the appropriate payment security badges)

Interestingly all three of these points above can be fixed or addressed very quickly and simply with some design changes or by purchasing an SSL certificate.

So these are my top 3 tips to ensure that your checkout is starting with the best chance of converting your potential customers.

Of course there are other areas you can optimise but these are the best places to get started.

How to get the advantage on your competition

As mentioned throughout the article, you are not alone if you are guilty of neglecting the customer journey.

The good news is I guarantee the majority of your competitors are doing it too.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with BarclayCard about this very subject and as they are the market leaders when it comes to innovation and they genuinely see the potential in eCommerce businesses.

We worked together on an article to help you better plan your customers’ journey.

Utilising the information we have provided you should be able to safely say that you now have a plan for your customer journey, and you have put tools and best practices in place to retain a larger number of your customers right up to the point of completing the sale.

 

bookmark_borderGrow Business With Intelligent Automation

Reducing Human Error

One of the most important benefits that intelligent automation brings to any business is the reduction of human error in the work place. People are naturally affected by their daily lives and outside influences. If a worker, for example, came into work tired or unwell, his or her job performance will likely suffer, the risk of human error becoming greater. Automation software cannot be affected by time of day, mood, lack of sleep, etc., allowing it to be completely consistent in performing the task it was programmed to do.

Additionally, humans need to be taught new tasks and require practice in order to master them, robotic process automation can be updated and perform the tasks instantly.

In terms of business benefits, utilizing intelligent automation tools ensures performance consistency that will ultimately improve the overall quality of work, also allowing human workers to focus on higher priority and more important issues that require critical thinking.

Keeping Jobs Local

Employers have often ventured overseas to hire workers in other countries who can then perform basic tasks at a reduced wage, when compared to local employees. The bottom line can be better for these employers in the short-term, though working with outsourced employees means sending money overseas and trying to manage workers on another continent. Typically, over the long-term businesses that outsource overseas can experience unforeseen issues and costs due to the complications with depending on a foreign workforce.

With outsourced jobs being performed by intelligent automation tools businesses can focus on hiring skilled workers from the local market for the upper levels of the workforce.

Return on Investment

Perhaps the most intimidating factor in implementing intelligent automation within your business is the upfront cost. Putting money into something new is not a leap everyone wants to make. Intelligent automation, however, is not a gamble. Research shows that companies who use are able to automate around half of their tasks, increasing process time by fifty percent. Completing tasks more quickly means companies can take on more tasks without spending additional time on them. Depending on the industry, having jobs done quickly can mean increased revenue.

If performing redundant tasks quickly and accurately will not improve your company’s revenue, just simply utilizing automation tools certainly will. Such tools do not need pay, employee benefits, and can work overtime, the return of investment becomes apparent when considering all the expenses intelligent automation does not require.

bookmark_borderBuying First Franchise

Budget Everything

First and foremost, you need to have a budget. Having a set budget will enable you to think of how much money you can actually spend on your franchise. It is best to be in touch with reality here since buying a franchise, as compared to just starting a small business from scratch, is not only risky but comparatively costly as well. So you need to be fully aware of what you are putting your money into and if it is truly worth all that trouble.

Choose Wisely

This brings us to the next highly important thing that you need to consider when buying a franchise: the countless franchise opportunities out there. Keep in mind that the success rate of buying a franchise is lot higher than just a starting small business. Look for franchise opportunities that are considered hot.

Still you have to think twice (or maybe a million times) before buying a franchise. Not only the ones that are deemed as hot but for any franchise. One day their products might be selling like hotcakes and are considered as a hot commodity but what about after the season or at the end of the year? Are they still hot? Are they still selling? Some franchise opportunities unfortunately fall flat on their faces after they have over saturated the market with their products.

Understand The Business

When it comes to finally committing to buying a franchise, the franchisee must fully know and understand the policies of the franchise opportunity that he or she is actually buying. The contract for example, should always be understood well by the franchisee before signing it. Mere coaxing from the company and just mere verbal word play are something that companies use on new entrepreneurs just to make them see it their way which is why when it comes to buying a franchise, entrepreneurs must always proceed with caution.

A good franchise opportunity should be able to provide the franchisee with various benefits and services that the franchisee is entitled to from the moment that he or she signs on to buying a franchise. Such benefits include the franchisor providing the training, marketing, and support needs of the franchisee. Franchisors that do not comply with such benefits should be seen as dubious since they are just merely trying to make some extra profits from the franchisee and are not exactly interested in helping him or herself out in this small business venture.

Before signing the bottom line, consider the following:

  • Proper Training. Most franchisors will actually offer to help your small business to get some added leverage by helping you first establish, run and as well as expand you small business. Buying a franchise clearly has its perks since newly started entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to learn the ropes from established businesses.
  • Financing. Contrary to popular belief that you must have a lot of money for you to be able o acquire the franchise of your dreams, a lot of franchisors actually provide their franchisees with some highly flexible financing options.
  • Proven Products and Methods. When it comes to buying a franchise, it is highly important that you take not of the ones that are really in-demand and are not seasonal. When it comes to having a franchise as compared to starting your own business out of nothing, you will actually have the confidence at heart that your products and services will sell because it already has a proven market.

bookmark_borderSuperior Business Skills

The first four skill sets should represent 80-90% of where an entrepreneur needs to invest his time in building his business, especially in the startup phase. Many new entrepreneurs make the nasty habit of focusing on things such as getting office space, office equipment, stationary and even develop the ultimate business plan. Instead, the entrepreneur needs to focus on one thing: creating and keeping a customer. Customers represent sales. Nothing happens until a sale is made. Before that, nothing happens until marketing starts. My business mentor always stressed to me that the entrepreneur must create a customer before creating a product or service.

Product development comes after a market demand is created or met. As a former partner in a publishing company, I worked with authors who wrote the book before starting a marketing campaign. I began to search for what made authors successful with moving units. All successful authors create a campaign as they write the book. In other words, they create a demand by developing a platform. It can be through blogging, social media, interviews or other marketing tools to create a buzz.

Networking is essential to an entrepreneur’s success. The successful ones create alliances to build and maintain power. No successful entrepreneur can operate with an emperor’s mentality. Even the most powerful needs friends. Negotiation is important to resolve conflicts and discuss possible deals, acquisitions, mergers and takeovers. Part of negotiations is building credibility and trust with the other parties involved at the Round Table.

The final skill set, cashflow management, is the life force of every successful business. If cash is king, then cash flow is God! Effective cash flow management means you are generating enough revenue to meet your fiduciary obligations and responsibilities while having surplus for working capital to invest in the company for growth. Many times, entrepreneurs focus on profit, not realizing that there could be “leakage” in the revenue model. If you’re bringing in $1.50 in revenue and $2.00 is leaving in expenses, cash flow is compromised. Cash flow management needs to create a “positive imbalance” in your financial statements.

bookmark_borderSome Mistakes In Choosing Strategy Consulting Firms

Unable to help teams to be focused

One of the main goals of hiring consulting firms is to help employees to be focused. Unfortunately, some consulting firms forget this since they tend to other aspects that are visible on the team. As a result, hiring consulting firms can only be a pain in the pocket.

Cannot provide good and relevant options

It is also essential not to hire consultants who cannot provide good and relevant options. In any type of industry, there are numerous options business owners can choose from. Therefore, it is the job of consultants to present all good options for the team to help them make better decisions.

Providing solutions that are not suitable for your team

As mentioned above, consultants need to provide different options. So, it is also a must that consultants can provide the right solutions. In this way, employees have better insights about the best solutions that can cater to their needs.

Working with consultants who offer low cost services

Lastly, business owners must not hire a consulting firm solely for their low cost services. Of course, there are reliable companies that can provide competitive rates for their services, but there are also companies that provide services that match their rates. As a result, low cost services cannot support your needs.

bookmark_borderMake Business More Profitable

Keep Adding More New Markets

Every new market you open captures a new layer of sales …and makes your business more secure. The more markets you serve the less dependent you are on the sales from any one market.

Tip: You can quickly add several profitable new markets to your business by sub-dividing your present market into several narrowly defined niche markets. Then create customized versions of your current advertising that offers specific solutions to the unique needs of each niche market.

Continually Add Something New

Every time you add something new to your business you create additional opportunities to close sales. For example, by just adding one new product or service to the list of those you already offer you create 3 new selling opportunities:

  • It attracts new prospects who are not interested your current products and services.
  • It generates activity from existing customers who want to find out about your new product.
  • It enables you to create attractive combination packages of two or more items …which also produces some bigger sales for you.

Tip: Even something as simple as adding something new to your web site creates more selling opportunities for you …by attracting both new visitors and repeat visitors.

Find Some Ways to Generate Publicity

Publicity is what you get when somebody else promotes (or you get them to promote) your business. It creates more credibility than advertising – and generates sales without an advertising expense.

Look for some ways you can generate some publicity for your business. For example, contact non-competing businesses that serve customers in your market. Offer to publicize their products and services to your customers in exchange for their publicizing your services to their customers.

Tip: Don’t expect non-paid publicity to replace your paid advertising. Instead, use publicity to supplement your advertising. You control where and when your advertising appears – and what it says. But you cannot control where or when you get publicity …or how effective it is.

bookmark_borderAbout Fear of Failure

The thousands of missed baskets made by Magic Johnson were not failures. They were successful attempts to train his mind and muscles to get those magic game-winning 3 pointers. If he allowed the fear of failure to get in his way, he’d never even have attempted those throws from center court. Many other players, even great pros, may never make those spectacular winning shots. The spectators who watched Magic play will, of course, never make them.

According to the study by former Treasury official, Bruce Bartlett, some 80 percent of millionaires acquire their wealth in a single generation without the benefit of inheritance. They are self-made millionaires. Two thirds of these self-made millionaires got wealthy because they started their own businesses.

It is obvious that your best shot at becoming a millionaire is by starting your own business. The biggest reason that the majority of people do not go into business for themselves is the fear that they will fail, despite the fact that it is almost guaranteed that they will fail if they do not start their own business. Guaranteed? Yes. The historical statistics prove it.

85% of people who do NOT own their own businesses are not financially independent at retirement age. Only 15% of people who choose the security of employment, rather than the risk of self-employment, are able to retire with any degree of financial independence and less than 5% end up wealthy.

So, as odd as it is, most people are afraid of starting their own business for fear of losing their security. The fear of failure actually produces the loss of security. In other words, that which you fear shall be your reward, unless you find the courage to face your fear and do the thing anyway.

And like Magic Johnson, don’t let the fear of missing the shot prevent you from scoring the game winning basket. Or as Wayne Gretzky, who missed more than 90% of his shots on goal, once commented, “I miss 100% of the shots I don’t take.” In any game, if you do not take the shot, you cannot score the goal. Life is a game. Take a shot at winning.