Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More Profits in Your Pockets: Business Building Super Issue!

Stop Leaving Money On The Table!

All too often I hear from business owners that they want to launch their business, but need more time: time for cash flow, time to flush things out, time to lay a strong foundation ... time. If you have the right people, or person, on your team you don't have to sacrifice time for profits. It's not one or the other. Having the right players makes all the difference. You can collaborate and strategically plan your businesses launch from concept to execution. You can look at market research, product viability, barriers to entry, marketing strategy, product development, branding, and more. Every day you hesitate in launching your business is money left on the table - opportunities missed.

If you are a subscriber of the popular success newsletter, Early to Rise (ETR), you'll be familiar with their guru's mantra: ready, fire, aim. Michael Masterson wrote an entire book about this strategy and it's engrained in most every ETR issue. I know, and believe in this, wholeheartedly especially since I was the VP of Marketing and Business Development at ETR for over 2 years. Ready, fire, aim in a nutshell is about not spending months after month on things.

Does this mean you should launch a business and throw it out there in a week? No. But it means that after you lay a good foundation for your business - a few key elements in place - instead of going back and forth for months trying to iron irrelevant issues trying to make things 'perfect' ... you can go live and start building your list and revenues, then tweak things post launch.

Any smart online marketer and business owner knows websites are dynamic - always changing - so it's ok to launch with one website than refine your site based on business objectives or consumer behavior 3, 6, 9, months down the road. Businesses must be fluid and adaptable to change for ultimate success. If you put off things 'waiting' to be ready or looking for 'perfect'; that 'readiness' might not ever occur and that 'perfect' will not ever be achieved. However, if you're creative, strategic, and smart you can get your business ready ... get it out there (fire) ... and then adjust it (aim) as necessary - all the time brining in leads and sales.

Profit Makers and Breakers: Business Building 'Must Knows'

In my career, I've seen many businesses make good and bad decisions. Looking at various scenarios - whether it's for companies I worked for, or clients I consulted, or when launching my own firm - my decades of real-world experienced combined with an MBA, helps me look at business decisions in a different light and analyze them from different vantage points.

Here are some profit makers and profit breakers for most ALL businesses.

Profit Maker: Leverage Content: Develop A Free Report, EZine, eAlert or eBulletin. No matter what business you're in, you need a strong, sure fire way to bring in leads (prospects). Creating free content is a great way to give something and get something in return. You're writing about something you are passionate about ... you're area of expertise. You're offering free, powerful editorial content. And in return, you're asking for an email address from the reader. Creating this type of content isn't just good for acquisition efforts, it's also good for branding and establishing you as an expert within your niche. You can then leverage your free content to build your list (prospect database). Your list is your key to future sales. Growing and cultivating your list through editorial is a proven business model from top online publishers. It's a great way to bond with ... and cross-sell to ... your readers. And this helps create a loyal following, a community if you will, of like-minded followers. From there, the sky is the limit!

Profit Breaker: Limited Products or Services. No matter what you're selling, whether it's products or a service (i.e. copywriting, freelancing, consulting) you should always have a variety of price points for customers at every level. Offering front-end products and back-end products gives you room to bring in a customer at a low level and up-sell them. Having only one pricing model or product/service excludes people by interest level and price threshold.

Solution: Think about your target audience and different ways you can serve them. Pick a high, middle and low pricing structure to capture sales at all levels. Then, create products/services that fall into each of the pricing categories. Try not to turn away any reasonable business. Of course, you'll always get the person who wants it all for practically pennies. But losing them is no real loss, as they were probably not a serious prospect anyway.

Profit Maker: Market Smarter, Not Harder with SONAR. There are many 'creatively strategic' ways to increase visibility, traffic, sales, leads and buzz. Leverage internet marketing for its speed, reach and cost efficiency as well as look at 'old school' marketing for your local efforts like classified ads, flyers and bulletin boards. Don't be afraid to seek guidance from a professional. Check out my SONAR Content Distribution Model TM for some great, proven, and easy ways to market your company for practically nothing! This proven, powerful and systematic method is actually the subject of an upcoming book, Content Is Cash, by publishing leader, Pearson Education/Que Publishing, targeted to be in bookstores and online etailers everywhere Aug. 2011. This will be the only online marketing book you'll ever need. Here's a preview: http://www.quepublishing.com/store/product.aspx?isbn=013269607X

Profit Breaker: Being Penny Wise and Pound Foolish. It's wise to be cognizant of your finances, but don't make decisions that may save a few bucks now, but will cost you growth and returns down the road. I know one business owner that let the marketing department go - the team that would help bring in new business and create ways to retain current clients - but kept non-revenue generating positions such as several web programmers. When what they should have done was downsize marketing keeping at least one or two people, but also downsize the web team and other areas of the company that weren't profit centers, such as accounting or human resources.

Solution: Have vision and foresight. Realize that it's ok to take calculated risks. When reviewing your numbers, evaluate if the reward is greater than the risk ... and the odds of reaching the reward are stacked in your favor. Look at the big picture and allocate funds and resources accordingly. Also, have a realistic timeline for growth, prospect acquisition and customer conversion. It's not a seller's market anymore. The economy is tough and consumers are watching every nickel they earn and spend, therefore conversion time may be longer than a few years ago. Bonding with your prospects and customers right now is crucial for sustainable profits.

Profit Maker: Build Your 'Power' Network. Networking and relationship cultivation are extremely important whether you're an entrepreneur or work for a corporation. Creating a contact list of people that can be influential or beneficial to your business is always a good thing. Take time to go to industry events when possible and attend the social functions. This is where people loosen up and deals are made. Don't be the guy or gal in your room checking emails. Get out there and build relationships. Today's cocktail buddy may be tomorrow's business partner.

Profit Breaker: Not Doing Competitive Research Or Market Surveillance. Whether you're a start-up business or seasoned company, it's always advantageous to keep abreast of your competitors. This will help you devise creative and strategic ways to either break into new markets or expand in your existing market. It will also help you with product development, marketing, pricing strategies, and customer service.

Solution: If you're a start-up company, I highly recommend that you research the market you're considering and the audience you want to target BEFORE you launch your business. If you're an existing business, I recommend doing market research at least once per year to make sure you're a leader and not a laggard within your niche. Clearly define what will make your product stand out ... your "USP" (unique selling proposition) ... in the marketplace. Understand your target audience and how to create messages and products that will resonate with them. Don't try and guess what your prospects are thinking. Infiltrate relevant forums. Do keyword research. Find out exactly what your target audience wants. This will ultimately save you time and money down the road with marketing and product development efforts.

Profit Maker: Actively Pursue Joint Ventures and Affiliate Marketing Opportunities. Many clients I work with always push affiliate marketing aside as an afterthought effort. Big mistake. Having a carefully thought out affiliate marketing plan in place as soon as possible is a great way to bring in revenues fast. Don't have any products yet? Not a problem. You're mission is to find out other affiliate marketers that have products that you actually believe in and sell them to your list (subscribers, customers, clients). By selling someone else's relevant products to your list you (A) have an instant product line with no overhead and (B) can start creating cash flow without necessarily having your own products developed yet. One caveat is that if you're selling someone else's products, make sure that they don't conflict with a product that you 'may' be thinking about creating for your own list. Because if you do, it will be harder for your own list to make the transition to your product, if they already have product loyalty to your affiliate. So be strategic when thinking about affiliate products to sell to your list. Pick out products that compliment, but are not potentially competitive.

Profit Breaker: Not Following Expert Recommendations. As a consultant, I can't help a clients' business if a client doesn't listen to me and implement my recommendations. If your employee or consultant gives you their expert opinion, and you don't listen, then don't wonder why you're not getting optimum results. Keep in mind, every decision has a consequence.

Solution: Bosses, business owners, managers -- be open minded and let go. Sometimes you need to believe in, trust, put your ego aside, and listen to the experts. You know, the people YOU hired with the proven experience, performance, and track record coming out of their wazoo. I know it's hard for you to hand over the controls, but it is critical for ultimate success. You have to believe in the person you hired and their years of experience. If you've done your 'due diligence' before you hired them, then you should take comfort in knowing you've hired the right, capable person to lead your business to greatness. If you don't listen to the expert, then you must be accountable - for better or worse - for 'going rogue'.

Profit Maker: Savvy Up and Embrace Online Marketing. Online marketing is a quick, cost-effective way to expand your reach and market share. Its immediacy, broach reach, and ability to target specific customers is second to none as far as marketing channels. And there's so many tactics to choose from: online PR, email marketing, banner ads, text ads, search engine marketing, social media marketing, viral marketing ... and the list goes on. If you have a business where you have been sticking to offline tactics such as direct mail, print ads, or even grass roots marketing, then I urge you to test some low-to-no cost online marketing tactics. Put your toe in the water. You may not think Internet marketing is applicable for your particular business or target audience, but you just have to think outside the box. I always say, if you're a creative and strategic thinker, you can whip up some really interesting ways to leverage this channel for profits.

Getting More Profits In Your Pockets: 7 Secrets to Revenue Acceleration

Many people often ask me, "How did you do it?"

That is, how did I leave the comfort of a nice, corporate job (and salary, I might add) -- as Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for the Internet's top online publisher and launch a new business during a tough economy. And ... on top of that ... launch a new business on the heels of becoming a mom and taking care of my newborn son and busy household.

Well, in all honesty, starting my own business wasn't the initial plan. Shortly after my maternity leave was over, my husband and I soon realized that daycare was not a viable solution for us.

You see, I loved my job and didn't want to leave, making my decision all the harder. But there was no other option. However, as luck would have it, on my last day in the office when I was emailing many industry friends to tell them I was leaving, several people started emailing me back asking me now that I was "available" would I be interested in freelancing for them? "Heck yea!" I thought. These folks all worked with me over the years in one capacity or another and were all aware of my reputation for honesty, integrity, timeliness, results, and most importantly: nearly 20 years of direct response marketing experience.

Hence, the second birth in my life ... the "birth" of my new consulting firm.

Now, launching new business always lends itself to some apprehension. But launching a business during a volatile economy makes it a tad bit more intimidating. However, my business didn't only survive, it thrived. And going on almost two years later, it is still flourishing with several long-term clients (in excess of 6 - 12 months, which in consulting time is almost unheard of), many new clients, and lots of client referrals. In a nutshell, I had taken a company with $0 cash flow and catapulted it to more than a six figure revenue generator in only 10 short months after start up. And you know what ... the revenues are still coming in strong more than 3 years later!

So, back to the original question, "How did I do it?" Well, timing sure wasn't on my side. However, I owe the success of my business to a few critical drivers that I'm going to share with you. You can take these principals and apply or adapt them to your own business efforts as you see fit.

1. Market Smarter, Not Harder. This is a no-brainer. Any start up entrepreneur will tell you they have little to no marketing budget. So how do you build your brand and create awareness? It's being a strategic AND creative thinker. And it's also taking something most companies have (that's content) and leveraging it. Using a systematic approach I developed called the SONAR Content Distribution Model TM. SONAR is simply taking your content and disseminating the release of it on the Web in a strategic and synchronized manner. The platforms you're releasing it to is targeted, highly visible, and free. This helps create a momentum in traffic, buzz, and then you help monetize that traffic though lead generation (or sales) via your website. I've mentored many clients and former employers of this strategy; written several articles about this; as well as held a 2-day teleseminar; and a book is on the horizon. The main reasons: it's easy, it's cheap, it works! This strategy is the focus of my upcoming book, Content IS Cash. See below for details!

2. Relationship Cultivation. Tapping into your network, is key when launching a new business OR gaining market share with an existing business. I happen to have a very strong Rolodex of friends, colleagues, and professional acquaintances that helped create a good foundation for my launch efforts. Always keep relationships open. Touch base with your network. Build relationships with synergistic 'friends' or 'fans' on social media sites. Offer assistance (gratis) if people in your network have questions - not just to those that can be advantageous to you, but anyone in your network that seeks guidance. There are many people that only help out those they feel can do something for them in return, something they see immediate "value" in. Keep an open mind and see the bigger picture. Share your knowledge. People will reciprocate the gesture and it could lead to a multitude of benefits.

3. Strong Work Ethic/Reputation. People that know me ... that I worked for ... or worked with me know my experience - they know what I bring to the table. They also know that I am easy to work with and am committed to virtually any project on my plate. It's a strong work ethic that helps people remember you and helps build your reputation in whatever niche you're in. Your reputation should speak for itself. And that doesn't just help with new business or referrals, but also helps with getting testimonials from those you've worked with. Those testimonials are invaluable as a marketing tool on your website, in social marketing, and in collateral material. Prospects can get a good idea of what to expect from those few "sound bites" about your work. What does your reputation say about you? Make sure you leave a positive impression with those you come in contact with.

4. Leveraging Social Media. I have fully utilized social media. It's cost effective and casts a wide net. Where else can you get your message out to community of like-minded individuals for zero advertising cost? I've had the most success with LinkedIn.com and other social networking sites, as well as social bookmarks, user generated content sites and doing free press releases (that get picked up by bloggers and online news aggregators). For LinkedIn, which is a professional networking community, I joined several "groups" where my target client would be and started writing relevant and useful articles. Soon, people started contacting me (on average 5 per week) with requests for proposals. I actually had so much success with LinkedIn I spoke on the subject matter at last year's SIPA Mid-Year Marketing Event in Miami. If you're interested in a copy of that presentation, please contact me.

5. Contribute Content. I happen to enjoy writing and enjoy sharing my knowledge on my blog and newsletter. In addition to syndicating my blog's content on the Web, I also reached out to relevant marketing newsletters and magazines and asked about being an editorial contributor or guest author -- providing strong, valuable editorial. I also speak at industry conferences. From these efforts I've gained exposure for my business, built credibility, and got leads. When you look for guest editorial opportunities, look for synergistic websites, blogs or enewsletters that would value your content and whose readers would find it useful. See which websites your editorial can fill a void. This is great to increase market visibility and branding. It's also great for branding and potential joint ventures with these same sites (i.e. revenue sharing). Don't forget to get a byline or editorial note in your article with a brief description about you with a back-link to your website.

6. Business Basics. Create a strategic plan. Determine where you want to be in 1 or 2 years and what tactics you're going to do to achieve your goal. Go over your break-even point per month and how many clients/customers it will take to maintain or exceed that point. Keep little overhead. Establish a "true" home office. Share office space. Rent space or time at a business office center. Or get a "virtual office". When you're just starting out, cash flow is vital. If you need to outsource work, look into college interns related to the field you're in or bid out jobs in places like elance.com or ifreelance.com. When it comes to hiring team players, look for 'superstars' that are multi-talented and can multi-task.

7. Balancing Act. Any start-up business can be a drain on your life and family. A lot of time and effort goes into launch, maintenance, and client relationship management. Then of course there's the administrative functions like daily accounting, record keeping, and invoicing. Many entrepreneurs try to take on the full weight of the business and burn the candle at both ends. But it doesn't have to be that way. Make sure you set specific time for your work and time for your family. When work is done, leave it in the office (even if your office is another room of your house). Make sure you find balance in mind, body, and soul. The business will be taken care of during business hours. Enjoy time with your loved ones and soon you all can reap the rewards of a successful company. After all, you work to live, not live to work!

Follow and 'Like' Me... http://twitter.com/PrecisionMktg http://www.precisionmarketingmedia.com/ http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Florida/Precision-Marketing-Media-LLC/139310392787888

Like what you've read? Feel free to retweet it on Twitter!

Hot Off The Presses! My New Book... My upcoming book, Content Is Cash (available mid August by Que Publishing), is already available online via 'Rough Cuts'. Note: the table of contents and cover artwork is still being edited (TOC has additions and they will be adding the "MBA" title next to my name on the cover). But this gives you a good idea of what's to come! The book is part of Que's popular 'Biz-Tech' series. It will be available in bookstores and online: Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and more! Check it out! This is so exciting :) http://www.quepublishing.com/store/product.aspx?isbn=013269607X

Add to Technorati Favorites AddMe - Search Engine Optimization