Make the Most of Holiday Shopping With These 3 Tips

3 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It’s the busiest time of the year for retailers, and from influencer marketing to social ads, the holiday campaigns are in full-force. Entrepreneur Network partner Emily Richett shares three tips for making the most of the holiday shopping season.

First, work smarter, not harder. It’s not enough to just leverage ads or only focus on an influencer strategy. Make sure to get all of your departments working together for a cohesive plan to drive marketing results that will compound.

If you really want to level up your holiday ecommerce game, take a page from the marketing playbook of Digital Trends, the largest independent technology review site with 30 million unique monthly visitors, and leverage live video.

During Prime Day, Digital Trends utilized live video but not just to promote big sales and offers. Instead, it offered genuine reviews from guest hosts, which resonates better with consumers and goes a long way in building trust.

This goes for all your content — think value over promotion. Use humor, offer insights or takeaways and be collaborative. Of course, have a call-to-action but remember, consumers are smart and crave connection, not just ads.

Influencer marketing is where its at this year for holiday promotions, but if you want to leverage these relationships to the fullest, have influencers do more than just the standard posts and shout-outs. This is another strategy I took from Digital Trends’ Prime Day success. The outlet had influencers create their own curated shopping lists/guides, which allowed them to be more authentic to their audiences. They drove traffic with Instagram takeovers that linked right to each influencers’ personal shopping page.

Once you get your teams and departments working from the same playbook, incorporate live video and impactful influencer campaigns that go beyond the standard sponsored posts — and see your brand loyalty and holiday sales increase.

Related: The One Question Super Bowl Star and Serial Entrepreneur Rod Smith Uses to Create His Success

Entrepreneur Network is a premium video network providing entertainment, education and inspiration from successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders. We provide expertise and opportunities to accelerate brand growth and effectively monetize video and audio content distributed across all digital platforms for the business genre.

EN is partnered with hundreds of top YouTube channels in the business vertical. Watch video from our network partners on demand on Amazon FireRokuApple TV and the Entrepreneur App available on iOS and Android devices.

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Why You Should Update Your Business Plan Regularly to Drive Growth

business planning for growth

I started an insurance agency two years ago. I had some friends who were all very successful in the industry, which led me to think that I would be blessed with the same fortune.

My business was in a highly competitive industry, rated as one of the best industries to start a new business in. Around 58 percent of businesses in the insurance sector survive longer than four years.

Things went well in the beginning, but just as I approached my first year, business started to slow down dramatically. It was like my business came to a halt.

The problem: Insufficient planning

My business came to a standstill.

I didn’t know what was wrong.

It was obvious that the market was saturated, but the insurance industry is evergreen and wasn’t going anywhere—I knew a significant number of people who were very successful with their own insurance firms.

I started to take a close look at my business.

After getting out an old document that was my business plan, I realized that I had reached the full potential of the plan I drafted when I first started the business. I also noted that I didn’t really leave room for further expansion, which explained a lot.

This was when I realized that I had to continuously plan for the future if I wanted my business to continue growing.

Even though life is unpredictable, many business-related aspects can be forecasted—often successfully.

The Lean Business Plan Template

Tips to help your business grow with a solid business plan

Because as my business became more established I basically ignored the business plan that I relied on when I started my business, I felt lost when everything started to slow down.

I was confused about what I could do to gain new customers. Thankfully, I wasn’t losing customers.

After a lot of research and dusting off my business plan, I was able to reverse the downtrend.

Below, I’ll share a couple of the lessons I have learned along the way.

1. Keep your business plan alive

Your business plan is not something that should be written once and then buried away.

Instead, it is a document that you should refer to frequently. Something that should be updated regularly and then compared to the actual results you’re achieving.

Keep your business in line with what is currently going on, as well as what you plan to come.

When you reach a goal, then mark it on your business plan and set out to reach the next goal. Sometimes these goals are called milestones and they can help you keep your business on track.

At least twice a year, schedule a day or two to plan ahead of time.

Ask yourself:

  • What worked in the last quarter? (Note: Do more of that!)
  • What didn’t work and why?
  • What can you do differently?
  • What goals would you like your business to reach in the next six months?
  • Where do you see your business in three years?

Focus on the short-term goals, but also plan for the long game. If you’re using a business dashboard, that can make it easier to see how your actual performance compared to your projections, and to model possible future scenarios.

2. Let your business plan be the light

As business owners, we are sometimes faced with an endless road of darkness.

I remember how much more effort it took to stay motivated and keep hustling. At times, it felt like things were over—there was little I could do.

When times are tough, you can quickly lose your motivation to rise to the top – or even to get back up and fight to keep your business alive.

Some businesses choose to give up at these times and I wouldn’t blame them. 

In these dreadful times, your business plan should be the light at the end of that dark tunnel. When you look at your business plan, there is a good chance that you will find some useful information that could reveal to you why you are going through your current situation. At the same time, you might just discover solutions you have been looking for by analyzing the data in your business plan.

3. Keep things organized for better decision making

A study that was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin explained how a clinical trial found being organized leads to improvements in cortisol levels, stress, anxiety, and even depression.

Especially in the business world, being organized will make a huge difference in your effectiveness.

When things are organized, it is easier to spot problems, as well as to make more accurate forecasts based on your company’s current situation.

4. Track your progress

How would you know how well your business is doing (or how poorly) if you don’t track your results and progress?

I was also a victim to this problem: When things were going great, I didn’t make time to look back and track how well I was heading toward my short or long-term goals.

Write S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable. action-oriented, relevant, and timely) goals in your business plan—dedicate an entire section to short-term goals and a separate section to long-term goals.

Add documents, scribbles, and anything else that has to do with your progress with your business plan.

Make some time every quarter to sit down and see how well you are really tracking so you can plan your next moves accordingly.

5. Keep it simple

A lot of people tend to overcomplicate a business plan.

While the document is important and will be extremely valuable for the future of your business, there is no need to compile an entire book.

Many businesses are turning toward a one-page business plan or Lean Plan to simplify things.

The single-page document would contain all of the most important elements of your business—a summary. I personally like to keep a one-page summary pinned at my desk, and keep the detailed information in the main document on my laptop.

As your business grows, so will your business plan and all the documents that go with the plan. Here’s a link to a downloadable template you can use to get started.

6. Consider your competitors

An often overlooked element of a good business plan is a thorough analysis of competitors.

You can learn a lot from watching your competitors. Competitor data allows you to see what they are doing, so you can decide if you should do the same or take a different approach.  If your competitors are doing something that works, consider copying them.

I used a variety of tools to help me gain valuable insight into how my competitors are marketing their products, who their target audience is, and what makes them unique.

Google is always a good starting point. Getting ahold of your competitor’s marketing material is another. If you come across a competitor’s customers, take a moment to ask them why they chose to do business with your competition.

By studying your competition, you may be able to pick up a few ideas to help grow your business.

Final words

Even though my business came to a standstill at one point and even caused me to lose some money, I did not regret starting my own company.

What I do regret, however, is that for a long time I didn’t pay enough attention to my business plan.

Only when my business seemed to be standing still did I revert back to my business plan, only to discover that the plan I had for my business mapped out all the success I had been riding all along.

Never underestimate the power of a business plan.

Frequently updating your business plan and comparing your real results to your forecasts will give you valuable insight to help your business grow into the future!

If you’re looking for sample business plans to give you a better sense of what you should include, check out Bplans’ examples specifically for insurance companies.

You can also download a free business plan template or even a Lean Plan template (it’s an alternative to a business model canvas) if you’re looking for a shorter version of a plan that can be updated quickly and easily on a regular basis.

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John Catibog
John Catibog

John Catibog is a business insurance broker and founder of Indagard Insurance Services. Based in Melbourne, Australia, John has an education in computer science, business and marketing and logistics. Combined with his insurance broking experience, he works closely with local business owners to cover the many risks they face in business today. John’s is a regular presenter on cyber insurance to protect against cyber risks. Over the years, John has worked in the healthcare, retail, and transport industries.

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The Simple Reason Content Is Still Integral to Your Business’s Marketing

With so much published every day, here’s why you should keep digital content in your marketing toolbox.

2 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In this latest video with Entrepreneur Network partner Business Rockstars and Hawke Media’s Erik Huberman, the marketing guru discusses the purpose of publishing content.

Huberman describes content as a means for your customers to get more familiar with your brand and to visit your website in order for them to purchase your product. Moreover, with your customers coming to your website more often, you will be able to increase your conversion rate. From there, a higher conversion rate can lead to more purchases along with a higher likelihood a one-time customer will become a life-long customer. 

To hear more about the benefits of creating content for the marketing side of your business, click the video.

Related: Don’t Wait to Launch Until Your Product Is Perfect

Entrepreneur Network is a premium video network providing entertainment, education and inspiration from successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders. We provide expertise and opportunities to accelerate brand growth and effectively monetize video and audio content distributed across all digital platforms for the business genre.

EN is partnered with hundreds of top YouTube channels in the business vertical. Watch video from our network partners on demand on RokuApple TV and the Entrepreneur App available on iOS and Android devices.

Click here to become a part of this growing video network.

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How to Start a Business in 30 Days

how to start a business in 30 days

There are a lot of steps that go into starting a business. It can seem overwhelming to try to tackle them all at once, but it with a few simple tools and this 30-day roadmap, you’ll have everything you need to lay the groundwork for a thriving, profitable business.

We’ll cover everything: validating your business idea, writing a business plan, seeking funding, and setting up accounting tools, and setting goals and milestones.

Remember: you don’t need any “special” training to run a business. You just need an idea, a good plan, the desire to learn and adapt, and the ability to take action!

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

Days 1 to 3: Lay the personal groundwork for starting a business

First, get a notebook or open a file on your computer, and answer these foundational questions. We’re getting an overall idea of what skills and resources you have now, and where you might want to seek out some education. There are no right or wrong answers here, only the answer that works best for you.

Will you keep your day job?

If so, how many hours does that realistically leave you each week to work on your business? And if not, how many months of living expenses can you cover?

Do you understand all the risks of starting this business?

Will you be taking on debt? Investing savings or retirement funds? Write down all the risk factors you can think of. If you get stuck, try an online search for “risks of starting a [type of business].”

Is your family ready?

Sit down with your family for an honest conversation. Do they understand the financial risks you’re about to take on? Are they ready to support you through the effort of getting this business off the ground? Are there ways they’d be willing to help in running the business day to day?

Have you thought about funding sources?

Do you have a ballpark idea of how much financing your business idea might need? If not, that’s okay—that will become clearer in future steps. But for the moment, let’s assume you’ll need a fairly substantial amount of starting funds. Where might you go for these—a bank or SBA loan? Investment from friends and family? Outside investors? Or, can you bootstrap? Make a list of potential sources now, and we’ll come back to it later.

What are your personal strengths that might be essential to starting your business?

What are your personal weaknesses or skill gaps that might make it difficult to start a business?

One great way to consider these questions is to perform a SWOT analysis on yourself, focusing on your role as an entrepreneur in your industry.  “SWOT” stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You can do a SWOT for your business, but at this stage, try a personal one and see what you learn. We have a free PDF template to help you.

How committed are you to starting your own business and being self-employed? How committed are you to this specific business idea?

These last questions are important. It probably goes without saying that starting a company requires a strong commitment. You’ll find the hard work and sacrifices much easier if you’re passionate about your business idea, or about being a business owner.

How will you build your business skills and your network?

It can be helpful to contact your local SCORE or SBDC office and look into business mentorship programs and startup incubators in your area. Chatting through your questions and ideas with someone who’s been there before and wants to support you can be invaluable, especially if you’ve never started a business before.

Day 4 to 7: Validate your business idea and get to know your market

It’s time for a fresh notebook page/computer file—or download our free Idea Validation Checklist. There are several questions that set the stage for all the planning and execution you’ll be doing going forward, so take the time you need to write down your answers. If you’re feeling stuck, you might try talking with some potential customers, or visiting your local library or SBDC office to do some initial market research.

What is your business idea?

Imagine that you have only 60 seconds (or 140 characters) to explain your idea to an investor. Keep it short and sweet. Some people call this an elevator pitch.

What’s the problem, and what’s your solution?

Every business needs to solve a problem. Don’t overthink this—the “problem” is simply the reason a customer buys your product or service. What need do they have that your company fulfills? That need is the problem, and your product or service is the solution.

As an example, think about a hair salon. Customers go there with a variety of needs: maybe their hair has grown out and requires a trim. Maybe they need a special hairstyle for a big event. Maybe they need an affordable color treatment. All of these are problems that the right hair salon can solve.

Who is your target market?

If you understand the problem your business solves, then you’re well on your way to being able to answer this question. When you think about the customers who will buy your product or service, what do they have in common? Their income level? Their geographic location? Their particular type of need? That’s your target market. Once you’ve identified your target market, think about how the current state of the economy is affecting them.

Can you estimate how many customers your business might be able to reach, either locally or online? And, do you have an idea of how much they typically spend on your product or service each year? A little market research will help you understand whether there’s enough of a market—or people who will pay—for what you want to offer.

Who is your main competition?

Find the companies you’ll soon be competing with, and become a customer. Make purchases, spend time in their stores or on their websites, look for their marketing, and communicate with them as a customer. Learn what they do well, and what you can do better. Every business has competition—putting together a simple comparison table (competitive matrix) can help you see how your business stacks up against the others.

Why and how much do you think people will pay for your solution?

What is your competition charging? Are there reasons you’d charge more or less? Here’s a quick guide to how to think strategically about pricing.

What do potential customers think about your solution?

Here’s where talking with some potential customers can really be helpful. You may have a friend or family member who matches your target market. If not, put the word out that you’re looking for people to interview. Use your social media networks, if you have them.

You don’t have to get deeply personal here; just ask them about how often they buy something like what you plan to sell, and whether their spending has changed in the past few years. Talk to several people, and take their thoughts into account as you consider your target market and how much potential income they represent.

When you’ve pulled all this information together, be sure to congratulate yourself. You’ve set a strong foundation for planning your new business!

Day 8 to 11: Take a first look at the numbers

Now, let’s do a financial feasibility forecast for your business. Don’t let the sound of that intimidate you–this is a simple, straightforward process. You’ll learn what the general financial picture of this business will be, and we’ll take it one step at a time.

Do a sales forecast

Refer back to the target market research you did in the previous section, and use this data to build a simple sales forecast. A spreadsheet program or business planning software can make this process faster.

Estimate your startup costs

Now, make a list of all the one-time expenses you’ll have in order to start this business. Will you need to buy or lease a physical location? Hire a website developer? Buy any special tools or equipment? Start with a big brainstorming list, and then narrow that to what will be essential for your company’s first day of business. Don’t forget additional costs like legal fees to set up your company’s business structure, professional licensing, or franchise fees.

Sketch out a monthly expense budget

Next, make a list of the ongoing expenses your business will have. Will you make monthly lease payments? Utilities? Business insurance? Supplies? Staff? Again, start with brainstorming and then narrow the list down to essentials. Make rough estimates, based on your experience and online research, of how much each item will cost each month.

Do a break-even analysis

How much revenue will it take to break even—to cover your expenses? How many sales will you need to make in order to cover your monthly costs? The results of your analysis might inspire you to adjust your sales forecast a bit.

Once again, congratulations! You’ve taken the first steps to build your financial forecast, and you’re that much closer to having a concrete business plan.

Download the Business Plan Template today!

Day 12 to 14: What about funding?

Now that you have a better picture of how much cash you’ll need to get this business started, it’s time to start considering your funding options. Start with your own available funds—do you have savings to invest or cash you can liquidate?

From there, look at outside sources. Our Business Funding Guide is an excellent starting point. Learn about business lending requirements from local banks. Look for business and investment networking events to attend in your area. Approach your local SBDC or business incubators to ask about funding options.

We’ve budgeted some time later in our 30-day process for completing funding applications. For now, go ahead and collect any forms and instructions you’ll need.

Day 15: Identify your unique value proposition

Also known as the UVP, your unique value proposition will be key to your marketing efforts. You’ve already done the groundwork by identifying the problem, solution, and target market for your business. You’ve likely learned a few new things in your market research, so now it’s time to put all that information together into a statement that describes how your business is different from its competition, and why it’s the obvious choice for your target customers.

Don’t worry, you’re already more than halfway there. We have a helpful guide and some examples to help you craft your UVP.

Day 16: Make some 30,000-foot decisions and start your business plan

At this point, you have all the raw materials to write a business plan. So today, you’ll make the last few decisions you’ll need in order to get started.

Why do you need a business plan? Businesses that have one grow faster, for one thing. Plus, any lender or investor will expect to see one before they consider your funding ask. If you’ve never written a business plan before, Bplans has a library of over 500 sample business plans in a wide variety of industries that you can view and download for free.

Decide how you’ll write your business plan

Depending on your needs, there are a lot of options:

  • Microsoft Word and Excel (or Google Docs and Sheets) are great if you know what you want your plan to say and you want maximum flexibility to express it. Our downloadable business plan template can help too.
  • Business planning software like LivePlan goes a step further and guides you through writing each section—including the financials.

Will you start solo or bring on a partner or employees?

Will you be building this business alone, or with one or more co-founders? Is there any staff you’ll need to hire immediately, to help you with getting started? (If so, then one nice thing about LivePlan is that it’s web-based, so you can invite your colleagues to work on your business plan with you in real time.)

A second question goes hand-in-hand with this one: if you do need to bring on any colleagues at this point, what arrangements will you make for their compensation, whether that’s salary, shares, trade, or something else?

Make your business name official

You may have decided on this a long time ago, but take another look at your company name in light of your UVP. Does the name communicate something of your unique value?

While you’re at it, do a business name search to make sure this name isn’t already registered by another company. It’s also wise to do a web domain search to make sure the web address you need is available. This page from the SBA will walk you through those steps. Then register your name to make it official.

Create a logo

You might need a little time to complete this task, but for now, do some research into what makes a good logo, and common logo mistakes to avoid. You might hire a professional designer, or try using a crowdsourced option. Your logo is a piece of your company’s branding—start thinking about what impression you want people to have of your company at first glance.

Day 17 to 19: Getting concrete—your website and location

These next few days are about building a “home” for your business to live. As with the logo design, it might more than a couple days to complete, but now’s the time to get the ball rolling.

Build a website, and/or look for a physical location

Depending on the business you’re building, you might need only one of these things or both.

Start with your website, because it’s wise to start growing your online presence as soon as possible. We have a complete guide to creating a business website, and some recommendations on how to make it well-branded.

If your business also needs a brick-and-mortar location, check out our guide to choosing one, and these out-of-the-box ideas as well. Make a list of what you need. With that list in hand, start contacting commercial real estate firms in your area.

Make your business official

Every business involves some necessary legal filings:

  • You’ll need a business license, and the required paperwork to establish your legal business entity. Will your company be a partnership, an LLC, or something else?
  • Do you need any licenses or permits to conduct business?
  • You’ll also need a business tax ID number, or EIN.

This is also a good moment to look for a local business attorney, which every business also needs. Find one you feel comfortable with, who can advise you on legal business matters going forward.

Set up your accounting software

It may seem a little early for this, but soon you’ll be in the throes of your first days doing business, and then you’ll have a lot to think about. Give your business a great head start by taking a little time now to find an accounting solution and get its initial configurations done. Why keep your books using accounting software rather than in Excel spreadsheets? For one, you’ll reduce the amount of time you’ll spend doing data entry—and the likelihood of making errors.

If you use LivePlan to write your business plan, you’ll be able to connect it with QuickBooks Online or Xero down the road and compare your business plan forecast against your actual performance in real time—a powerful way to track the health of your business. It also makes it much easier to model financial scenarios, so you can see how different tactics might affect your bottom line.

Day 20 to 23: Come up with an MVP

We’re big believers in the “minimum viable product,” or MVP. All this means is, instead of making a large investment in designing the most perfect version of your product or service before you go live, you start leaner. Instead, create a simpler, easier-to-launch version that will still demonstrate the value you bring to your target market. So if you’re building a food delivery app, maybe build a simple version of the app and do some of the back end work manually, rather than coding the best version first. If you’re hoping to start a restaurant, before you build or outfit your space, first set up at your local farmer’s market and see what the response is to your food and prices.

You can launch your MVP quietly and let your target customers interact with it. You’ll gain valuable feedback which will refine your idea, and make your product or service better before you invest in the final version.

Think about the business idea you’re working on. What’s the minimum viable version, and what are some simple ways you might get it in front of your target customers? Eric Reis’s book The Lean Startup (we feature it in this reading list for entrepreneurs) is a great place to learn more about the MVP concept.

Day 24 to 25: Finish up that business plan

The work you’ve done to this point has given you the foundations of a great business plan–all that’s left to do is get it on paper. So get out the planning tools you chose back on Day 16, and get writing. We’ll tackle your sales and marketing plan soon, but for now, focus on the business plan itself. Remember, if you need some guidance on this step, we have a free downloadable template and a full guide on how to write a business plan.

If you aren’t planning to seek a loan or investment, then consider doing a lean business plan, which comes together quickly. We have a Lean Plan template and a guide.

You’ll also want to take the initial sales forecast numbers you pulled together on Day 7, and refine them based on the additional research you’ve done in the meantime. Your financial plan should include the following key elements—and this article will guide you through them and offer some free downloadable Excel templates. 

The elements of the financial plan:

Plug all of these into your business plan. Remember, if you’re feeling at all intimidated about your financial plan, a tool like LivePlan can walk you through it step by step. Sometimes it makes sense to hire a professional business plan writer—here’s an article that shares a little more about what that process is like. Your accountant can also help you with your ongoing business planning and strategy.

Day 26 to 27: Set up your sales and marketing plan

Now it’s time to formulate your sales and marketing plan.

Build your sales and marketing plan

This plan doesn’t have to be as detailed as your business plan, but it should definitely cover:

  • How you’ll spread the word about your product or service in your first year of business
  • What sales channels you’ll use to deliver that product or service to your customers

The research you did on your target market will help you decide which kinds of marketing will reach them best.

Our company founder Tim Berry offers a quick overview of the components of a successful marketing plan. As you’re formulating your list of sales channels and marketing activities, consider these questions:

  • Did you estimate enough monthly expense in your business plan forecast to cover the activities in your sales and marketing plan?
  • Will you need any additional start-up funding to cover your sales and marketing efforts?

Identify how you’ll measure success

This is also a good time to think about the ROI, or Return On Investment, of your marketing activities. How will you know which ones create the most sales? Here’s where the idea of milestones comes in. A successful marketing plan contains specific targets for marketing activities, and for measuring the sales that happen afterward.

As a starting point, decide on some specific marketing activities you’ll do in the early days of doing business, such as an ad placement or a local event. Schedule these in your calendar now. Then schedule a second milestone a few days or weeks later to check in on your sales and see if they increased.

Day 28 to 29: Apply for funding

Earlier in this project, you made a list of potential funding sources and pulled together some application forms. Pull those materials back out now, because now you have all the data you need for completing those applications. Look back at our funding guide if you want to revisit the different types of funding options.

If you’re in need of a small business loan, we have a guide to preparing a loan application that gets results. You might approach local banks, or your local SBA office, or look into online lenders. Keep in mind that the process of obtaining a loan can take weeks or even months, though online lenders tend to move more quickly. You’ll find some tips on securing loans here.

If you want to seek investors, we have a guide to help with that as well. Keep in mind that most investors won’t fund an idea—they’ll be looking for some initial proof that people buy your product or service, as well as some evidence that your business model can be scaled quickly. They’ll also be interested in your exit strategy—investors make their money when you sell.

Day 30: Get ready to track your progress

As the last step, you’ll set up a framework to grow your business. Did you know that companies that pay regular attention to their numbers are 30 percent more likely to grow? You’ve done the work of building your projected forecast, and now it’s time to put it to work in helping you build a successful business.

Set goals and milestones for your business as a whole

What milestones do you need to schedule for your business? Milestones are key to making your business plan useful and keeping your momentum going. Do you need to order business cards? Put together some job listings for hiring staff? Decide on a payroll service? Give these tasks due dates, so you stay organized and make sure everything gets done.

Set up a business dashboard

As your business starts operating, you’ll want to compare your actual results against that forecast regularly. You can set up your own financial reporting spreadsheets, or use a business dashboard tool like LivePlan that does this work for you.

Schedule monthly strategic and financial reviews

This is also a good time to schedule your first business plan review meeting. Remember, your business plan shouldn’t just be a document you put together once and then file away. Use it as a tool to help you assess your progress and make good strategic decisions.

Right now, set up a monthly appointment in your calendar to look at your business as a whole:

  • Review your actual numbers against your forecast. Did performance line up with your goals?
  • If your actuals are significantly over or under your projections, look for causes.
  • Use this data to decide whether you need to make any adjustments to your strategic forecast. Or, do other changes need to be made, like cutting costs or increasing marketing?
  • Review any milestones you’d set for the month, and make sure they’ve been achieved.
  • Set some milestones with deadlines for the coming month.

You can do this review by yourself or with your co-founders. If this review feels intimidating or you find yourself avoiding it, consider working with a strategic advisor. They have the financial expertise to help you understand what the numbers are saying, and make plans accordingly.

At this point, you’re either ready to open for business or very close. Be sure to celebrate all the progress you’ve made! And hopefully, that progress has also created plenty of momentum. No matter where you are in the process now, you’ve gained some confidence that you can tackle any new learning you need to do. You’ll get better and better at your new skill set with practice. And if you make a few mistakes along the way, hey—they’re really the best teachers.

You’ve got this. Now keep going!

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3 Lessons From Recent Big Brand Fails

Through watching the stumbles of national brands, smaller businesses can learn what to do — and not do — to move up to the next level.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It’s never been easier to build a brand. Right now with a little effort you can build a following on Instagram or Shopify, start selling stuff and create a nice small business for yourself. But, if you want to move things to the next level and become a real enterprise, you need to learn to market like the big guys.

Related: 3 Marketing Mistakes That Kill Tech Startups

Ironically, one of the best ways to do that is to watch what happens when they screw up. Branding failures aren’t just entertaining. By illustrating just how terrible the fallout can be if you get things wrong, they illustrate the importance of having the right principles and systems in place. Through watching the stumbles of national brands, smaller businesses can learn what to do — and not do — to move up to the next level.

Helpfully, some of America’s biggest companies have obliged with some pretty spectacular brand fails lately.

1. Amazon selling sugary cereals at Whole Foods

Like lots of other people, I was excited when Amazon bought Whole Foods. The whole premise of the deal was that the scale of Amazon would enable more people to access the quality, healthy food on offer at pricey Whole Foods. But, then recently I spoke to a few friends who reported seeing things like Honey Nut Cheerios on the shelves of their local Whole Foods.

Let me be clear: You’re not supposed to be able to buy Honey Nut Cheerios at Whole Foods. The brand experience is all about health and quality, not processed, sugar-laden junk. Opening up a premium brand to more consumers can be a great move, but that’s not what Jeff Bezos and Amazon appear to actually be doing with Whole Foods so far. Instead, they’re violating the basic promise of the Whole Foods brand, and risking diluting it beyond all recognition.

This isn’t just a temptation for behemoths like Amazon. Smaller brands face similar questions all the time as they start to grow and add new revenue streams. Is that new sponsorship or partnership actually in line with your values? Are you broadening the appeal of your brand or are you selling out? Adding new customers is great. Losing your own core identity isn’t.

Lesson: Never forget your core mission. Filter all new revenue streams and partnerships through the lens of your values.

Related: The 5 Biggest Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

2. IHOP’s half-baked IHOB stunt

I’m all for clever, disruptive marketing. Stunts can get people talking about your brand. But, not if you do them in the half-baked way IHOP recently did when it briefly changed its name to IHOB (for International House of Burgers) to highlight its new menu options.

I understand what IHOP was going for — these days lots of carb-conscious customers aren’t excited about sitting down to a giant stack of starchy pancakes and IHOP wanted to get the word out that they offer alternatives. But, its execution of the idea was just really weak. If you’re going to go and disrupt the market in a radical way, you need to go all in.

Wendy’s is a good example of a brand that succeeds. Its logo might be a sweet looking little girl, but on Twitter that little girl deals out some serious shade. It’s outrageous, hilarious and consistent.

You get that level of execution the same way you do in any other area of business — you know what you’re aiming for and then hire the right people to execute it. If you’re going for humor, bring in a stand-up comedian, for instance. Don’t rely on the same old advertising agency.

Lesson: Wishy-washy won’t get you anywhere. Go all in on your concept and make sure you hire the right people to get you there.

Related: 11 Disturbingly Offensive Ads That Landed Big Brands in Trouble

3. Starbucks’ one-day diversity training

When a national scandal erupted over a racist Starbucks barista who called the cops on two black customers who were just sitting in a store waiting for a meeting, the company actually did a lot of things right. Chairman Howard Schultz immediately came out with a strong and unequivocal statement that the company doesn’t tolerate racism. He didn’t hedge his words and he didn’t delay. Second, the company demonstrated a real commitment to change by closing its stores and missing out on a day of revenue to train its employees to avoid bias. Again, bravo.

But, the problem is that brand building isn’t about one-off gestures. It’s about creating structures to make sure you brand is executed consistently over time. A crisis is an opportunity not just to make an authentic apology but also to change the way you do things long-term. Update your website underscoring your values. Develop a crisis response plan for the future. Create new training that happens not just once but on an ongoing basis. Set up policies that nudge your customer-facing employees to always behave in ways aligned with your brand.

To the best of my knowledge, Starbucks hasn’t done any of that. Which creates a huge risk of a similar incident happening again in the future, and if it does there will be no way to rebuild a brand that’s all about community and safe spaces for people to gather.

Lesson: Responding to a crisis isn’t just about on-off gestures. The more important work is setting up an architecture that ensures problems don’t happen again in the future.

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How to Start a Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) Business

start a non emergency medical transport NEMT business

Image via TechCrunch.

What’s a non-emergency medical transportation business? NEMT services help people get to pre-scheduled healthcare appointments, including doctor visits, rehab, clinical testing, follow-up exams, and more.

The demand for safe and reliable public transportation for people with medical issues and disabilities, particularly in rural communities, continues to grow at remarkable rates. If you’re thinking about starting a NEMT business, read on.

The state of the NEMT industry

“Transportation issues shouldn’t prevent anyone from getting to or from a doctor’s appointment,” explains Imran Cronk, staff writer for the popular life sciences and medicine journalism website STAT.

“But they do just that for an estimated 3.6 million Americans. Some of these individuals don’t have cars or access to public transportation. Others can’t afford taxis or Ubers,” says Cronk.

There is a growing market opportunity in the NEMT services industry. The overall population of elderly and disabled patients is increasing. Plus, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, more preventative and follow-up treatments are covered by health insurance plans. In most areas, there simply aren’t many wheelchair-accessible vehicles in public transportation fleets.

Josh Komenda, CEO of VEYO, suggests that there’s a large population of those who need non-emergency medical transportation, especially for medically frail or elderly people in rural areas. Many don’t have a driver’s license or access to a vehicle. They’re geographically isolated, or they can’t access traditional public transportation for physical, mental, or developmental reasons.

A look at some telling statistics show a litany of challenges—along with business opportunities for solutions:

Medical transportation company legal structures

The legal structure of your non-emergency medical transportation business has far-reaching implications—both in respect to partnering with payment providers and resulting tax responsibilities.

NEMT businesses may be sole proprietorships, partnerships, or LLCs. If you want more help choosing a legal structure, an attorney can explain the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

While it’s possible to change your legal structure, it’s not ideal. When you’re putting together your business plan for your NEMT company, think through the possibilities around the evolution of the organization, and your expectations for growth. Your attention to detail will encourage confidence in potential investors and help to secure financing for the best start possible. Beyond legal structure considerations, use a business plan template to help you make sure that you’ve thought through every aspect of your business.  

NEMT certification, licensing, and insurance requirements

The non-emergency medical transportation industry is still in its comparative infancy as a formal niche—both in respect to technological innovation and federal regulation.

While there are no formal guidelines for the NEMT industry as a whole, each state has its own set of operational rules and regulations that all companies are required to follow.

NEMT certification elements

NEMT operators aren’t currently held to the same education and training requirements as their counterparts in ambulance transportation. You’ll still want your staff to be trained in basic medical emergency medical care—CPR, defibrillator operation, vitals assessment, and other life-saving techniques.

As the industry develops, and the need for NEMT professionals continues to grow, certification courses will almost certainly become standard.

NEMT licensing elements

Vehicle licensing is another primary element of the non-emergency medical transportation industry.

Double check your requirements with your local bureau of motor vehicles, and make sure you understand any standards set for Medicaid transportation if you offer it, like:

  1. Number of penalty points on a driving record
  2. A certification of the driver’s health
  3. A vehicle liability insurance policy
  4. A criminal background check
  5. Proof of negative random drug screenings

Auto and liability insurance elements

Because driving patients has inherent risks—traffic accidents or health-related events while en route to medical facilities—adequate insurance is another critical aspect of starting a NEMT business. While there are no national guidelines for insurance policy elements and dollar amounts, you’ll want to work with your provider to make sure you’re adequately covered.

In most cases, coverage is based on a two-part formula: coverage for the individual driver, and coverage for the company in general. Make sure you understand the risks and liabilities so that being underinsured doesn’t bankrupt your company.

ADA-compliant wheelchair-accessible vans and equipment

If you’re going to start a transport business, you’re going to need the right vehicle. You’re probably looking for a minivan, full-size van, or bus that meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

ADA compliance elements

Your vehicles will need to be ADA compliant if your business meets any of the following:

  1. Private employers with 15 or more employees;
  2. businesses operating for the benefit of the public; and,
  3. all state and local government agencies.

Some ADA requirements include:

  • Lift door height: 56”-door opening height
  • Handicap lift: 30” x 40” wide clear platform
  • Wheelchair attachments: Able to withstand 2,500 of pressure per leg
  • Seat belt mechanism: 4-pt. tie downs with lap and shoulder belt
  • Interior lighting: one-foot candle of illumination

Be sure to think through the associated medical supplies you’ll need for your passengers—wheelchairs, gurneys, oxygen tanks, dialysis machines, for example. These extras will influence the size and floor plan of the vehicle you’ll need, and will no doubt affect your overall startup costs.

ADA-compliant vans

There are a few affordable makes and models of wheelchair accessible vans that are ADA-compliant—either right from the manufacturing line or after an accessibility conversion.

Download your free business startup checklist today!

Service, staffing, payment, and marketing processes

On the front end, you need to be able to meet the needs of your customers—that means providing exceptional service with flexibility and consistency. That will require smart staffing decisions, and a commitment to ongoing training, especially as the industry grows.

On the back end, you’ll need to look at ways to control costs to increase your profitability.

From the start, think about:

  1. The services you offer and the most efficient ways to deliver them
  2. Hiring the right people to work with and for you
  3. Appropriate payment options for your demographic
  4. Your dynamic marketing strategy—or how you’ll find your clients

Selecting service offerings and billing

Whatever specific services you decide to offer, make sure to itemize them and communicate them clearly. You want your customers to know what they’re getting, and you want to make it as easy as possible to be transparent about billing.

Pricing your services

How you price your services will depend on a few different factors:

  1. Geographic location
  2. Economic conditions
  3. Age and health condition of customers
  4. The business’s ability to deliver services economically

Pricing techniques such as multi-service package rates, referral discount programs, and frequent customer rewards can drive additional business.

Hiring office staffing positions

Staffing an NEMT startup—outside of competent drivers—will require a mix of talented professionals with experience in customer service, accounting and finance, scheduling organization, and leadership.

As with most startups, your staff will probably need to perform multiple roles at first. You may not be able to hire your full, ideal staff right out of the gate. But even in the early days, it’s going to be important to have a solid training program for onboarding new hires.

Determining payment options

Medicaid will probably be a primary payer for services. Make sure your staff has a working knowledge of Medicaid’s detailed processes and billing guidelines. This will include ongoing training for yearly program changes.

Developing relationships with insurance providers will probably also be key. Each insurer most likely will follow their own set of operating guidelines—it’s an initial challenge that should become increasingly smoother from year to year.

Creating a marketing strategy

Once all elements of the NEMT startup are in place, it’s time to get the word out to potential customers, their family members, and their caregivers.

Money spent on a focused, multichannel marketing strategy is money well-spent. There should be a mix of traditional and digital advertising techniques within the strategic marketing plan—a method to ensure that the message reaches those online and off. Establishing a marketing ROI tracking strategy can help determine which channels deserve the larger investment of capital.

In addition to paid marketing practices, the NEMT startup can increase ROI by finding various unpaid—and sometimes earned—marketing opportunities.

These may include:

  1. Partnering with non-competing businesses that serve the same customer base
  2. Creating educational resources and hosting them on your website
  3. Requesting write-ups in local newspapers and magazines
  4. Establishing a referral program to drive word-of-mouth advertising

Start with a solid business plan. Make sure you’re properly licensed and insured, and that your vehicle is reliable and ADA compliant.

Now more than ever, it’s possible to develop a profitable NEMT business while helping individuals access the proper medical care they need to be healthy.

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Kelly Richardson
Kelly Richardson

Kelly C. Richardson, EdS is the director of content and social media for Atlanta-based AMS Vans—the Southeast’s largest wheelchair accessible vehicle manufacturer and mobility dealer, and leading advocate of mobility freedom for persons with disabilities. He has over 18 years of direct response copywriting and marketing experience—as both a freelance consultant and full-time agency partner—across a broad spectrum of industries, markets, and niches. As a freelance marketing consultant, Kelly has designed and executed strategic marketing campaigns for over 250 thriving B2C, B2B, non-profit, and government clients—including Fortune 500s, mid-sized corporations, and burgeoning startups.

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5 Sneaky Psychology Tricks Advertisers Use to Get Our Business

Pay attention to the tricks that ‘get’ you. Then replicate them in your own business.

8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Today’s consumers have become more observant than ever in the face of clever, and sometimes deceptive, marketing tactics. That’s why advertisers have had to morph into masters of applied psychology, always on the hunt for new ways to capture our interest and get those all-important clicks from us as consumers.

Related: A Better Understanding of Consumer Psychology Will Earn You More Online Conversions

As new research emerges from psychology and the social sciences, advertisers are learning new ways to gain our interest and persuade us to click and buy. But I try to stay a step ahead! That’s how I can describe the following five sneaky tricks I’ve found advertisers using to get consumers’ attention.

These are steps that you, as an entrepreneuur, can use, too.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon

Say that you need a new car and someone mentions a certain kind of car — one you’ve never heard of before — but you’re interested. Suddenly, the car is everywhere.

It’s parked in front of your house. Your boss has one. You see two of them next to you in traffic on your way home from work. What you’re experiencing is the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, also known as the Frequency Illusion.

Using this technique has become handy in terms of marketing. We see it every day, out of our car windows, plastered on giant billboards. The consistent and repetitive marketing typical with the phenomenon becomes seared into our brains and we find ourselves seeing this product everywhere we go.

Related: #7 Psychological Theories Every Marketer Should Consider

How can brands get the most consistent exposure to ensure this phenomenon takes full effect? Start by putting your product in front of everyone with a hyper-localized strategy. Surround your relative community with your brand over a long period of time; this will encourage word of mouth and make the brand the only one being talked about.

An impressive example is Absolut Vodka’s famous print advertising campaign, which ran for many years. It took off from the United States and quickly spread to other parts of the world. Rather than creating standard ads, the brand found a way to make its ads alive and relatable. The vodka brand chose to create experiences with its ads.

Takeaway: This effect ignites the idea that the customer cares about the brand’s local businesses, and customers begin to unconsciously see and hear your brand everywhere.

The power of anecdote

An anecdote is a short story that can be used to support a debate. Anecdotes can be useful in illustrating the effects of a discussion; however, they are not conclusive evidence, because they are limited in scope and not necessarily representative of the norm.

Quite a number of marketing departments use anecdotes aggressively to their advantage. Testimonials, videos of happy customers and glowing case studies are examples of marketing materials that tap the brain’s love for stories and reliance on anecdotes as “evidence.”

Nike has always excelled at brand storytelling. One of its best campaigns is Equality. This made a strong statement about the brand as a force for positive social change, offering athletes something more than just a pair of sneakers and branded workout gear.

The Equality campaign was, and is, an example of using brand anecdotes to connect with audience members, inviting them to become a part of a collective movement by wearing Nike products, or at the very least, by engaging on social media, sharing one of the brand’s always inspiring videos.

Takeaway: Anecdotes give meaning to a product that is otherwise impersonal.  Even if brands present evidence that their product is superior to competitors’, buyers might still choose the competitor’s simply because someone they know recommended it.


“Anthropomorphism” happens when someone assigns real or imagined human characteristics, intentions, motivations or emotions to nonhuman animals or objects. Over time, people have inculcated fictional creatures and animals with human traits and motivations.

Marketers have capitalized on this tendency by creating a variety of anthropomorphic animal mascots for commercial products and services.  The “Michelin Man” and “Mr. Peanut,” by Planters, are some examples of anthropomorphic animal mascots.

When a brand has a persona, it becomes “human”; it triggers the perception of intentional action as well as the desired action itself. In other words, customers might connect with the brand, as they feel it represents them in a way. However, be forewarned: Any problems with the products or services or with the brand itself will be treated as a human problem with equivalent consequences.

Takeaway: Brand anthropomorphism can be a double-edged sword; while making brands more human, anthropomorphism creates connections and engagement with the customers. So, it can leave more room for judgment, as the brand will be viewed as human. The best approach is for brands to emphasize the best of the human part.

Decoy pricing

The decoy effect is a result of cognitive biases. A cognitive bias is the tendency of the human mind to make inaccurate judgments or believe distortions or other fallacies. Every cognitive bias has a cause.

In marketing, the decoy effect occurs when consumers tend to have a specific change in preference between two options when presented with a third option that is inferior to one of those two original options.

Decoy pricing is a tactic that boosts sales of high-profit items by creating another version of the product solely to make the pricier version seem economical by comparison. Decoy pricing encourages people to compare the pricing options. As a result, sales of the more attractive, higher-priced item increase.

Have you ever noticed how often products come in three options? This may be the business trying to offer different options to customers. But smart marketing also takes advantage of the decoy effect to lead customers to the most expensive purchase rather than to the one they might have ordinarily made.

Think about your last visit to the cinema and the temptation to buy popcorn. If there was a small and a large size of popcorn, and the small one was $3.50 and the large one $7.50, most people probably bought the small size.

However, if the theater added in a medium size at, say $6.50, most people would buy the large because it’s only $1 more than the medium. The $6.50 option is the decoy.

Takeaway: The decoy effect is subtle, yet powerful. The process is simple: Pick the plan you want to sell. Provide two more choices. Jack up the decoy, and watch the sales pour in.

Loss aversion

Loss aversion is based on the idea that shoppers feel good when they gain something, but also bad when they lose something. Our feelings toward loss and gain are not equal; we feel a stronger negative feeling toward losing something then the positive feeling we have when we gain something

Loss aversion, simply put, calls for averting the loss of something we own. Ever wonder why companies offer free trials? A 1990 study conducted by Nobel-winning psychologist and behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues found that people are more likely to act when they have something to lose, as opposed to when they gain the same thing.

That’s why companies offer free trials, so customers will want to keep their connection to the product even after the trial period is over.

Loss aversion can be a powerful conversion-driver for your brand. The key is to avoid inciting fear: instead, offer users constructive information. Guide them through their decision process and provide a compelling reason for them to take action.

Advertisers use every human sense we have, including our subconscious senses, to convince us to buy things, and they’re very successful at what they do.

Related: The Unconscious Power of Brands

But of course we’re consumers as well as entrepreneurs, so even with this knowledge of the tricks advertisers use, we’ll likely still find it hard to resist being influenced by our own subconscious.

The point, though, is to be aware: The next time you stroll through a grocery store or shop online, pay attention to the tricks that “get” you. Then try to replicate some of them in your own business.

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Head, Heart, and Hands: 3 Essentials for Startup Success

startup success

This article is part of our Business Startup Guide—a curated list of our articles that will get you up and running in no time!

Starting up a business requires a lot of different steps.

First-time entrepreneurs and small business founders often feel anxious when they think about all the factors that play into getting their idea off the ground.

Plus, it can seem like success or failure hinges on finding deep-pockets funders, expert mentors, ample press coverage, and other “champions.”

But the truth is, you already possess some of the most important assets you’ll need to achieve success. These are nothing less than your personal faculties—the awesome power of your own head, your own heart, and your own hands.

In other words, much of your potential for success will be determined by:

  1. The quality of your idea
  2. The strength and sincerity of your belief in it
  3. Your effort to make it a reality

Succeed with your head: The impact of innovative ideas

Big or small, every successful business starts with an innovative idea.

Nike was born when Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman recognized the hidden potential of a waffle iron to improve soles for running shoes. Howard Schultz brought the espresso bar concept from Italy to the United States and grew Starbucks into a global phenomenon. And when Jeff Bezos started Amazon in 1994, many people had never even heard of something called the internet.

True, your business aspirations may be on a more modest scale than these world-famous brands. Nevertheless, your first step is to come up with an innovative idea.

But where to begin? Tim Berry, the founder of Palo Alto Software and Bplans, says there is no better starting point than looking in the mirror. Each of us is a unique individual. Within ourselves, we each carry the seeds of entrepreneurial success—concepts that interest us, questions that intrigue us, skills that set us apart, and an internal sense that some things could be done differently and better.

It’s good to have role models in business, but you should not try to mimic someone else’s success. Successful businesses are always built from the special aptitudes and unique insights of the people who founded them. Your truly innovative idea will be as one-of-a-kind as you are.

The Lean Business Plan Template

Succeed with your heart: The power of positive belief

To bring your idea to fruition, you must genuinely believe in it.

Good luck persuading others to invest if you can’t convey your own enthusiasm and confidence in your idea. An idea for a business might seem “great,” but if it fails to ignite your sense of passion, it probably isn’t the right one for you. Go back to the drawing board and come up with an idea you can truly commit to.

A secure and persevering spirit will be an essential factor in your success. Trust that you will adapt to changes; learn to conquer fear and approach uncertainty with confidence. Become fiercely committed to seeing your goals through.

For example, if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who feels “mathematically challenged” (and many of us do), then you may feel intimidated by financial forecasting and fall into a pattern of prioritizing other tasks. You may tell yourself you’re “too busy” tending to outside obligations or allow yourself to get bogged down in other details of ongoing business planning.

Sometimes we engage in such behaviors just to procrastinate. At other times we are actually creating preemptive excuses for the failure we fear is inevitable. If left unchecked, negative belief can grow into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Freeing yourself of negativity will require a conscious effort. Take note of the goals you tend to put off and the productive tasks you habitually avoid. Ask yourself why. As you learn to identify the negative beliefs that are impeding your progress, you will feel empowered to begin changing them.

Use tools that can help you manage the challenging aspects of your business. For example, if finances are challenging and you notice that you avoid reviewing them, use a business planning and ongoing financial management tool with a dashboard so you can see where you are without getting bogged down in spreadsheets.

If you need to learn more about digital marketing, take an online class—just take small steps toward the things that seem overwhelming. You don’t have to solve everything all in one day. Small accomplishments can mean a lot when you’re trying to get out of a procrastination rut.

Succeed with your hands: The effectiveness of effort

The best ideas and most heartfelt belief are of little value without the resolve to take action and work hard.

You will sometimes hear people explain a business leader’s success by giving credit to “good luck.” People who talk like this have little knowledge or practical experience starting a  business.

If you believe in succeeding through perseverance, you have the right frame of mind to do what it takes to make your business grow. Those who believe in success through luck might be better served to buy lottery tickets. In business, there is no such thing as luck; you achieve success because you are willing to work hard for it.

People who are accustomed to working hard are less inclined to feel overwhelmed by challenges. They are eager to acquire new skills because they can quickly put them to good use. And contrary to the image of the “head in the clouds” visionary, you will probably find that your most inspired thinking actually occurs when you are engaged in productive work. Research even indicates that hard-working people tend to live longer than take-it-easy types.

Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Much has changed since Edison’s day, but sweat equity is still the most effective kind of startup capital.

Practical ways to get started

If you’ve been thinking about starting a business but you haven’t yet taken the leap, there are a few ways you can position yourself for success.

1. If you have a business idea, write a quick business plan—a Lean Plan

If you’ve heard of the business model canvas idea, Lean Planning is similar but ultimately more useful. You can download the Bplans Lean Plan Template to help you get started.

2. Validate your idea and make sure that it’s one worth pursuing

Passion is important, but so are the details.

Use your Lean Plan to help you think through your ideal target market, the specifics on your product or service, and whether you’ll need to seek a loan or private investment. This idea validation checklist can help you think through every aspect.

3. Make sure you take care of the details

When you’re ready to start a business, you’ll need to think about registering your business’s legal structure, doing market research, finding office space if you need it, developing a website for an online business—and more!

Use this startup checklist—it will guide you through every aspect you’ll need to consider. And if you have trouble staying on track, read and then follow along with this guide to starting a business in 30 days.

As you get your startup or small business up and running, don’t be afraid to reach out to your network for support. It can also be helpful to find a mentor. SCORE provides free business mentorship from experts who have been where you are and want to see you succeed. Good luck!

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Should You Push Your Kush?

Push notification are yet another tool to capture the attention of your customers, but they may not be worth it.

3 min read

Opinions expressed by Green Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You want to share information with your customers. They want to hear about it in a way that is natural and convenient for them. So which marketing method is less invasive and more effective: SMS or push notifications?

The truth may surprise you, as consumers are increasingly feeling “pushed” by a constant barrage of notifications, and seeking out more personal experiences with their favorite brands.

Related: The Most Effective Cannabis Advertising Tool You’re Probably Not Using

A Bit Too Pushy

Before you are even able to push notifications to your customer, there is usually a prerequisite of having a mobile app. All companies should think carefully about how an app would be a useful and necessary part of their customers’ daily lives. Otherwise, it won’t be.

While they can be useful in carrying out a specific business objective, apps are costly to build and may take months before completion — disabling you from using notifications until it’s fully built out.

Additionally, consumers may not be motivated to download yet another app on their mobile devices. With so many apps already a part of people’s daily lives, your app may appear as just another drain on your customers’ valuable mobile data and battery life.Who is to say that a critical number of customers will download your app — and keep it on their phones for longer than a few days?

Bottom line: With a push notification marketing plan, there are simply too many unknowns and not enough control. Text messages are instant, direct, cheap for you, and free for your customer. All around, it’s less legwork and more ROI for your campaigns.

Related: 12 Cutting-Edge Marijuana Marketing Tactics That Work

The Reward of the Personal Touch

While they are becoming more acceptable as part of the mobile culture, push notifications can still elicit a negative response from consumers.

A 2017 survey revealed that around 89 percent of consumers would disable an app after receiving any more than two weekly push notifications. That’s a tolerance threshold of just two notifications per week does not bode well for a marketing plan that focuses primarily on pushing information to the user. We are so used to swiping these notifications away when we have more important tasks at hand; it’s no wonder they are proving ineffective at holding customers’ attention when it comes to marketing.

Even when compared to mobile ads, which are typically highly targeted to each unique user, SMS campaigns reign supreme. Text messages drove nearly double the responses and actions that mobile advertisements did in 2017.

The real reward of SMS marketing? The vast majority of text messages, estimated to be around 90 percent, are read within three minutes of receipt. For such an inexpensive form of marketing, the impression rate is outstanding.

As long as the information in your texts is valuable, and your customers have opted into receiving them, you really can’t go wrong by communicating with them in this way.

Texting is a friendly way to advertise and offers opportunities to share time-sensitive information with the ability to add images and links if necessary. Above all, SMS marketing keeps it brief and on topic. Utilize this direct channel to keep customers loyal, rather than “pushing” them away.


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This Year’s Best Email Newsletters

the best email newsletters

Most of us don’t have a ton of time to sift through everything to find the best ideas on the internet, on top of all our other obligations. And I don’t know about you, but my inbox is more crowded every day.

So, I’m always on the lookout for the best email newsletters—the ones I can rely on to be the right combination of informative and truly insightful, especially for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

So here are the best reads I’ve found this year:

Swipe File

Jimmy Daly, the author of Swipe File, is the marketing director at Animalz. Animalz is a content marketing company for software-as-a-service, tech, and crypto companies. He previously worked with GetVero and Quickbooks in the marketing department.

An experienced marketer, Daly identifies the four best articles he read that week and gives a brief description of each. This one stood out to me.

“In every issue of Swipe File, there is at least one thing that changes the way that I work or the way I think about work,” says Val Geisler, a professional email marketer. “The internet is full of crappy newsletters that deliver zero value. Swipe File is not one of those.”

Anyone with a company involved in content marketing should keep up with Swipe File. Daly gives you several pertinent articles about marketing, saving you time and verifying what tactics will help your business the most. Go here to sign up.


“There’s a lot of great content out there, but there’s also a lot of mediocre content,” says Noah Parsons, COO of Palo Alto Software and creator of Emergent. “We’re taking the tact of going a little further and pulling in things that are off the beaten track and hopefully a little bit more surprising and interesting than getting the same genre of content every single month.”

Parsons also wants the Emergent newsletter to share Palo Alto Software’s personality. He wants to make the company more transparent by sharing things employees find intriguing that don’t pertain directly to business planning.

“Our site talks about our products and what we offer, but doesn’t give a lot of insight into the behind-the-scenes of what we find interesting as a company,” he says. “We have a wider interest-set than the more narrow focus of what our products offer.” Sign up here.

Moz Top 10

93 percent of business-to-business (B2B) businesses do content marketing, but only 5 percent feel like their efforts are effective. Moz publishes a semi-monthly newsletter called The Moz Top 10.

When I began my content marketing internship, I immediately subscribed to The Moz Top 10. Twice a month, I get 10 articles sent straight to my inbox, many of which have changed how I write and construct content—useful information for any small business or startup that’s figuring out how to be found in Google search. Sign up here.

Dan Pink

Dan Pink has written many books about business and behavior, several of which are NY Times bestsellers. He continues to write books while publishing a newsletter every other Tuesday—it boasts more than 150,000 subscribers.

Like Emergent, his newsletter has three sections—a changing assortment of tips, suggestions, and recommendations relating to business in different ways. Topics involve articles, podcasts, TV shows, gadgets, and more.

John Procopio, Palo Alto Software’s director of marketing, says: “I don’t always have the time to read all the newsletters in my inbox, but I still want to keep up with business news and trends. Dan Pink’s newsletter gives me the most bang for my buck because the video leaves you thinking—articles can’t always do that.” Sign up here.

The Hustle

The Hustle is a daily newsletter that has a pulse on growing startups and corporate dramas.

“The Hustle really cuts through because they somehow just know how to get to the root of what I’m looking for and they give it to you straight,” says Alyssa Powell, Palo Alto Software’s digital media marketing specialist. “I don’t know how they do it, but the way that they write is just phenomenal. Their branding shows through on all different platforms and communities.”

But it’s not the Wall Street Journal. They’re trying a new model for news-sharing, and it seems to be working, based on their incredible subscriber numbers. Sign up here.

CB Insights

The CB Insights newsletter gives me key reports and takeaways in a graphically pleasing way,” says Edward Silva, a marketing intern turned Stanford MBA student. “Other newsletters don’t necessarily do that. They just provide me knowledge, but CB Insights turns that knowledge and data into interesting and often funny insights.” Sign up here.

But wait, there’s more!

You’ve all probably heard of these three newsletters—there’s a reason why they are three of the most popular for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Tim Ferriss, author of five NY Times bestsellers about self-help and personal development, is the author of 5-Bullet Friday. Each week is a surprise, but the topics are always helpful for improving your work-life balance.

Entrepreneur Daily is the ultimate newsletter to keep up with trends and breaking news in the world of business. It’s released every day and talks about a few of the biggest events that took place in the last 24 hours.

Lastly, Kevin Rose has created the extremely popular business newsletter: The Journal. His writing is very conversational, a break from the automated newsletters that usually fill your inbox. He, like Ferriss, includes a few random topics that can benefit your productivity and work-life balance.

What’s the newsletter you can’t live without? Tell us about it on Twitter @Bplans.

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Nate Mann
Nate Mann

Nate Mann recently finished his second year at the University of Oregon. He is pursuing a major in journalism, along with minors in business administration and computer science. He is currently a content marketing intern for Palo Alto Software. Outside of school and work, Nate is an avid basketball fan and writes about the Portland Trail Blazers for Rip City Project. He is also a data reporting intern for the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication.

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