Is Your Website Just a Website?

Running an online website can be challenging, but once you know a few guidelines, you’ll be ready to decide on a plan and set up an online store that brings in sales and custom caters to your customers’ needs. Businesses large and small have discovered that e-commerce is the answer to reaching all of their prospective customers. Miss out, and you’re giving up potential profits. Just like any brick and mortar store, your web store needs a solid foundation, here are some essential features that can help your customers smooth shopping experience.

Highlight your company’s contact information Customers need to know how to contact you without looking all over for it. You can build credibility by putting a phone number and email in the footer on every page where they can be easily found.

Always show related products. Your customers are likely to purchase additional items when they see related or recommended products. For example, when a customer orders that new kitchen sink, give them your choices of faucets, also.

Make sure your company instills trust. Many would-be online shoppers feel unsafe submitting credit card information over the web. Make your e-commerce site easy to trust with encryption and state of the art, up to date security measures.

Last but not least, build a mobile-friendly site. As technology evolves so does internet access. Having a mobile adaptive site creates the answer to the variety of mobile devices your consumers use to connect to your website. Statistics show mobile web shopping is growing 8 times faster than 10 years ago.

Don't Start Working From Home Without These Three Things

A lot of successful entrepreneurs start off as home-based businesses. Working from home can be rewarding and exciting, but it is often filled with distractions and new challenges to master. So before you pull a chair up to that desk and shut the door, make sure you have these three items handy.

A family that supports what you’re doing: When you start working from home it is important that you have the support of your family or anyone else who spends time in your home. You have to have a meeting with those you are close to about your working hours, level of daily involvement with family distractions and why these are important to ensure you are successful. You need your family to support you, but it is you who must set the rules and demonstrate how they will work. Creating the right attitude from the beginning will help you to be successful working, and keep a strong happy support structure with those you care about most.

Accountability: Whether you are reporting to yourself, or to a larger company you are employed by, you have to be accountable. This means keeping reports or records of how you are spending your time, communication with your boss, coworkers, or clients that demonstrate you are using your time effectively. Not doing so will not only create issues with those you work for but will result in people underestimating your value and your contributions to the overall success of the organization. Keeping detailed records will also provide you with a scorecard that you can use as a reference to stay on track or make improvements to your schedule.

Discipline: Make sure you have the discipline to stay the course before you take on any home-based business. This might seem obvious, but often people quickly lose discipline when working from home. With no boss watching you, no set schedule and none of the other controls that come from working in an office environment, it is only you who provide the structure. Work set hours, have a designated workplace that is all business and hold yourself accountable for deadlines and schedules. If you don’t, you can quickly find yourself not being effective at all. Don’t get in the habit of putting other household tasks into your workday, the lack of focus will be detrimental to your work. It is ok to have break times, but stay on a tight schedule, and do not allow the bulk of your work day to stray into other things.

Make sure to have set work hours, a dedicated workplace, and plan how you will utilize, manage your time spent working. Simply sitting down and writing this all out is a great way to get off to a good start that will help stop bad habits from getting started in the first place. Obviously, one of the most attractive reasons for working at home is the flexibility, and when appropriate, it is ok to take a little time off for family and personal matters. But make sure you plan ahead for it rather than just taking time off whenever you feel like it.

How Can I Show My Company's 'True Colors' to the World?

Your company and you as a person are linked together in many ways. One of the most important ways is personality. When you have to show how you feel or what you believe in without words, that’s when your “true colors” show through. This means character traits… but in some ways, it also means the actual colors you pick for your branding. Colors are known to make people feel certain ways. So the hues you choose to represent your business are as important as anything else.

You want your message to stand out and grab your audience’s attention, but there’s also the risk that you could be going overboard. So how do you make sure everything is right?

You don’t have to be an expert designer to find the colors that look great and define your products or services. With a few simple design rules in mind, you’ll be able to understand what looks professional and will grab the attention of any customers.

Finding the colors that fit your brand isn’t hard but it should be well researched and implemented with care. Colors are an important part of your company because they can carry meaning, trigger memories, and evoke emotion. In fact, colors have been found to increase brand recognition by up to 80 percent. And studies have shown that 85 percent of shoppers buy a product because of its color.

Colors can trigger different emotions and associations. Think about how color conveys meaning in your daily life, stop signs are painted red to get the attention of drivers, but it’s unlikely you’d want to paint your business’s walls the same shade. Here are some common color associations to consider.

Blue equals trust and security. It is the most often seen color used by banks and businesses.

Green stands for wealth and relaxation. It is one of the easiest colors for our eyes to see and focus on.

Red promotes high energy. It is used for urgency and attention. If you want your sale items to be seen, use a red tag or sign.

Yellow is the color of optimism and youthful enthusiasm. It is used to turn your head and promote something as new or improved.

Find the colors that match your brand and use them sparingly. Two to three main colors will be all you need to make your logo or signage stand out.

Be sure to match the colors with those found in your emails, newsletters and on your website. Additionally, find ways to identify color harmonies to come up with a pleasing palette of colors to draw from.

Here at Wise Business Plans, we have a full staff of writers and designers who can help you find the perfect splash of colors to show off your company’s personality and brand.

When Should I Review My Business Plan?

Almost all entrepreneurs should consider updating the strategies and tactics section of their business plan to meet constantly changing market realities.

Creating your business plan may have been a pain, but updating a plan is easier because you already have a framework. During your business launch, you probably had little experience, and many of your marketing and operational forecasts were just educated guesses. Now that you have some experience and a proven track record, you know what works and what doesn’t.

Recognizing the important events and changes that may require you to update your tactics is an important skill to acquire. Here are some pointers on how to recognize those times.

You are ready to take your business to the next level. Getting funds from a bank or investors requires a more sophisticated plan. Even if you don’t need additional funding, a business plan based on a certain size of business might not be adequate to support a much larger one, which may need additional employees, square footage, etc.

Uncle Sam throws you a curveball, in other words, regulatory changes impact your business. One potential change in many states is the imposition of sales tax on all internet purchases. The result could be a leveling of the playing field that will make online and brick and mortar stores more competitive with each other.

The economy has changed inflation, recession, unemployment rates, all impact your customers’ ability to buy your product or service. This will impact your revenues in a bad way, and depending on your staffing, adjustments may be needed there as well.

Also, consider updating when you gain a major new customer or lose one. And don’t forget about your suppliers. When a main vendor changed their terms and conditions, it can really throw your small business for a loop. Imagine a vendor changing from giving a grace period to requiring cash in advance.

Whether one of these reasons indicates the need for an update or not, always try to make it a practice to review your business plan at least annually to plot your course for the coming year. But consider this, your competition may be reviewing their business plan quarterly…or even monthly.

Looking to the Future: Understanding the Millennial Entrepreneur

By now, most folks are very familiar with the term “Millennial.” Said in casual conversation, it typically applies to those people who are 30 years old or younger. By 2025, this group is set to make up 75% of the global workforce.

As a business owner with an eye on your future goals, you should make sure you are preparing your strategies and business for the rise of the Millennial. The data is just now beginning to come in but here are a few facts about Millenials that you should know.

It might go without saying but, Millennials are the best at using social media for business purposes. They are more than twice as likely to use social media for hiring, recruitment and internal communication than any other age group.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, they worry more than any other age group. This seems natural, since the older you get the more you learn not to worry, hopefully. Millenial business owners worry the most about their reputation being damaged, copyright infringement, and being sued by a client or customer.

Along with their worries, Millennials also had the most insurance coverage for public liability, employers liability, office insurance, and e-risks insurance than any other age group.

Also, less than 20% of Millennial-aged business owners reported being happier, compared to nearly 50% of business owners in the other groups.

What do these trends tell us? They seem to say Millennials care about:

Being well trained and investing in the cultivation of professional development in their business. In other words, their professional development. They, like their predecessors, want to make sure they have dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s.
Protecting their brand and their properties, intellectual and otherwise. They take the time to research and implement policies that can impact their business and make the investments to build a strong foundation for their business more than any other age group.

The bottom line is, if you want to do business with the future, you will probably be doing business with a Millenial, and so it pays to understand not only what they get out of working with you, but the ways they are building the busionesses of the future.

How Can I Beat the Competition? The Four Pillars Of The Unbeatable Deal

It doesn’t matter if you sell goods or services. It doesn’t even matter if the economy is up or down right now. What does matter is if your business can swim when others are sinking.

If you want to make sure your company stays in for the long haul, build your business on these four pillars.

Offer an unbeatable deal. Make sure you have a product that is worthwhile in the current market, then create a sense of urgency. Buyers are more likely to jump on the sale if they are worried it will end soon. Make sure it is a stand-out deal, customers may be impulsive but they’re still very good at comparison shopping. And don’t forget “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” or “Buy 1, Get the Second Half-Price.”

Always group complimentary items together. Placing items that go well together can often seduce a customer into buying the whole grouping. For example: placing jelly next to peanut butter, socks with shoes, or rakes next to shovels. This often triggers a thought in the buyer’s mind to consider purchasing the complimentary item.

If you are trying to sell a certain promoted item, make sure the customers can access it easily. Display it at the front of the store so that the buyers can see it when they come in. Other “grab and go” areas for placement might be at the cash register, displayed between eye and knee level, or at the beginning or end of each aisle. Spread the product out so that it is easy to grab.

Make paying for the items as easy as possible. When customers notice that buying the product is hassle free, they are more likely to do so. A 5-minute wait in line might be enough to turn a customer away. Making sure there are enough checkout counters and staff to avoid long lines, the option of paying via credit card or cash, even self-checkouts may be the way to go. In any case, make sure there is enough staff on the floor to answer any customer questions are a few ideas that can avoid this potential problem.

Remember, paying attention to details can really make a difference. Take a look at your business; identify the areas that you can change so that you can ramp up and sustain sales.

Your Road Map to Business Success Starts With, Well, A Map

Business owners rarely have a problem coming up with ideas. The problem is deciding on the best ideas and then saying no to the others. Many veteran small business owners believe the following business plan road map can help prospective entrepreneurs quickly weed out the bad ideas and get to the best growth initiatives faster.
First, assemble your team. This should include you, other business leaders, at least one customer-facing employee, and possibly a knowledgeable outsider who can bring in fresh ideas.
Now, start brainstorming business ideas. Let nothing be too nit-picky or too outrageous. Try to keep everyone quiet for a while and let your team percolate. When everybody is ready, consolidate your ideas and put them up on something so they can be seen by all. Now take a few minutes to group those that naturally clump together.

These are the nuggets of gold that you can use to map your ideas.

What is the potential impact on the business?
Will it bring in revenue, cut costs, or reduce risks?
What is the cost in terms of time and money?

Now is the time that being the boss gets a little tricky. The task of picking out the best of the bunch falls to you.

Some of the hardest to distinguish are ideas that seem like a good project but really just distract you from building your business. Your priorities should be on finding the ideas that show real impact with not too much cost to the business. Most of your final best initiatives will come from here.

But don’t just throw away good ideas because they seem too big or expensive. While these initiatives may be expensive and difficult, they can also be the great ideas that set your business apart from your competition.

Now that you have the best growth projects for your business narrowed down, without losing all your great ideas, make sure to plan for your business growth with a professionally written business plan from Wise Business Plans.

'How can I make my customers love my business?'

Many customers have developed expectations of their favorite businesses, and if your company isn’t living up to them, you could be hurting your reputation, your brand, and your sales. Expectations aren’t only based on what you deliver, they’re based on what your competition can deliver, too. Learn how to stay ahead of the competition and improve customer retention.

For example, a certain company has a loyal client that has spent plenty of money on products and services that the company supplies. When the clients birthday rolls around, he gets a letter from the company wishing him a happy birthday and ” We here at The Company wish you many more happy birthdays”. The important client now feels like just another Joe off the street! In other words, an email that was supposed to make the client feel better about your business had the exact opposite effect. After all, when folks sign up to get emails from a business, they expect to get something out of the relationship, coupons, discounts or special offers that are available to no one else. If you tell a restaurant your birthday, you usually get a free meal or appetizer, not an email saying “Have a great birthday”.

To make sure you are keeping up with all the newest trends and online nectar that the currently flowing, here are a few tips.

Watch your competitors even closer. What are other businesses in your industry doing? If you sell burgers and everyone else is guaranteeing a half pound of meat, that becomes the customer expectation and you’d better get with it. Are they open on the weekends? And kids eat free? You get the idea.

Think like your customer. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. When you buy products or services, what do you expect? Learn from unpleasant experiences when your own expectations aren’t met, and make sure the same type of thing isn’t happening at your company.

Don’t be afraid to use surveys, both written and online, to find out how your customers feel. Develop systems to regularly gather feedback during and after the sales process, whether that’s comment cards at checkout or when your restaurant check is delivered, or survey forms delivered with invoices.

Keep your eyes and ears open. Observing your customers, in your store or office, and online on social media is one of the best ways to know whether they’re happy or not. And remember, oftentimes folks don’t feel comfortable telling you face to face. Staying ahead of your competition and nipping any problems in the bud is what will keep your company in the game.

How Do You Ensure That Your New Business Plan Stays New?

Business owners make business plans for many reasons, to attract funding, define future growth and build partnerships. Unfortunately, the majority of these plans are outdated by the time your new business is up and running smoothly. Business changes quickly, your products change, new competitors show up, or the economic winds shifts. When these changes occur, many people just throw their business plans out the window. For a plan to be truly valuable it needs to evolve with your company and stay relevant in the face of uncertainty.

One of the first items you’ll find on every entrepreneur’s checklist is,”write a business plan”. The key is to create a living document. The best way to cover all the bases is to include your largest asset first. For many new businesses, people are the most important asset. And that’s often the first thing investors look at when checking out your company. Make sure to feature your key employees work and make sure they know you are doing it.

Starting a business is a lot of trial and error. Banks and investors don’t expect you to have everything figured out, especially at the start of a new business. Just make sure your plan describes how you’ll evaluate the best way to make and/or sell your products or services. Your plan should explain how you will determine the best paths to take with your company. Just be sure to explain what you will do when you have found the right path.

Any experienced business person will tell you that the chances of things going according to plan are zero. One way to keep your plan current is to include a risk assessment. Many large companies do this but it’s important for small businesses to do it as well. This part of the plan should lay out how you plan to manage the various risks you encounter in your venture. Of course, it’s not practical, or even possible, to lay out everything. But make sure you show your ability to deal with changing conditions.

It’s important to reassess your business plan frequently. Regular reviews are also opportunities for you to make sure that how the business is evolving in line with your original vision. Here at Wise Business Plans, we work with our clients from the first day and stay at your service for the changes and updates that will surely come with your continued success.

Is Your Business Ready For the Rise of the Millenials?

How can you get your business ready for the rise of Millenial entrepreneurs? Start by learning how they view the world because their perceptions will probably shape the businesses they lead and the workplaces they create. If you are interested in marketing to Millennial generation entrepreneurs or partnering with their business, some new valuable insights into how to approach these up-and-comers are beginning to come into clearer focus.

To be an effective business owner you have to understand the landscape of your particular marketplace. If you fall into the category of a millennial entrepreneur or a company that does business with one, here are a few of those valuable insights to help you prepare yourself for the millennial business world and working with millenials.

Millennials were the most likely of any age group to start a business because they couldn’t find a job and the least likely of any age group to report “I earn more money by having my own business”.

Only 42% of Millenials said they started a business to gain “More flexible hours”, or have a “greater feeling of being in control of their life’, the smallest percentage of all the age groups.

Millennial generation entrepreneurs care more about protecting their brand and their properties, intellectual and otherwise. They take the time to research information that can impact their business and ensure their companies more than any other age group.

Because of the saturation of social media among Millennials, they will most likely be up to date on the new hot topics. If your business offers training programs or courses, look into how much of your client base is comprised of Millennial run companies then gear your content towards developing new and competitive skills. Tese will be more valued by Millenials than broad informative topics.

What’s the bottom line? Millennials work hard. Although there are benefits of entrepreneurship, they are enjoyed less by Millennials than older entrepreneurs, Millennials worked at least 13% more each week than older entrepreneurs. In addition to seeking out training more often, Millennial entrepreneurs are also more willing to conduct business outside of business hours and use alternative tools like social media.