Your Computer and Your Small Business Should Like Each Other

Every year more and more entrepreneurs go into business for themselves by using a computer or computers to run most if not all facets of their business. Even if your company is more of a traditional brick and mortar type, you probably have come to rely on computers for a lot of the day to day business strategy planning and running of your business.

If you fall into one of these categories, some of these facts about how to use social media and how information ripples through the internet may help you and your computer be better friends.

If you don’t have a newsletter for your online business, you should. If you do, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Make sure to package your newsletter so that it doesn’t look like a generic message that has been mailed to a bulk mailing list.

Pay attention to what you put in the subject line. Never actually use the word “newsletter” as part of the subject. Instead, create a headline with interesting information that will later be expanded in the body of your newsletter. Make sure that your “sender” is a real person.

Never buy aggregate lists of email addresses so you have more people to send your newsletter to. Don’t even email people on lists that you get for free. Make it your rule: If someone didn’t actually opt in, don’t send them your newsletter.

How about your online marketing? Some forms of traditional marketing are on the decline, according to experts. Chasing customers via the usual route of print, television, banner ads as well as cold calling and mass emailing has proven to lag when compared to what marketers now call Inbound marketing. Inbound is defined as the ability to bring in potential clients with the incentive of providing tangible value for free. Social media, podcasts, and blogs build up a company’s brand, can be shared online instantly and are all examples of Inbound marketing. It turns out that Inbound marketing strategies cost a whole lot less for the same results, too. Think of what you can provide potential customers that will make them interested in giving your company their time, attention and eventually business.

After you have taken in all these pointers, add these online business secrets to your toolbox.

55% of visitors say they “Like” a business’s Facebook page to get promotions and discounts. According to statistics, a majority of business’ Facebook fans were originally attracted to pressing the “Like” button because they thought doing so would get them special deals or promotions. So make sure to fill your Facebook page with interesting articles to engage your customers, but if you really want to get new people to “Like” you and want to keep your current customer’s attention peaked, post a link or a code to a freebie, coupon or promotion every now and then.

And the last secret is: Launch your social media campaigns on Tuesdays, never on Fridays

Recently, an email marketing services provider ran a six-month study to research the success of social media campaigns for twenty top retail brands. Their findings were that even though most campaigns were started on Fridays, the amount of actual social media activity peaked the most on Tuesdays, and was much less on Fridays. Although the study wasn’t conclusive as to why, common sense tells us that most people are gearing up for weekend on Fridays and they’re probably spending more time making plans for their days off, than on a business website.

Make smart marketing part of your small business planning template for success, and watch how your company grows!

Starting Your Own Business Is Tough ... When You're A Kid!

The number of child and teen entrepreneurs is rising, and many successful business people started when they were ultra young. If your child shows a passion for business, and you think he or she has what it takes, there are a few things experts agree on that can help you jump start them on their way to entrepreneurial success and strategic planning for a small business in the future.

If there’s one thing kids have in abundance, it’s passion, and that’s how most kid-run businesses get started. Encourage their passion, but direct it in such a way that it’s productive. Nothing shuts a kid down faster than being told what to do, so let your child come up with their own idea.

Share your knowledge and experience with them. If you’re a business owner too, tell your child what you learned and what you would do differently if you could do it over again. Then, let them use that information the way they see fit. Just try not to be the one who looks on while they make mistakes that you could have stopped, just so they “learn a lesson”. Nothing knocks the wind out of a young person’s sails like failure in front of people.

Be supportive, but don’t be a golden parachute or a helicopter parent. If your child is going to start their own business, he/she needs to do the work. Don’t skip over the difficult parts, like managing the money and dealing with rude or dissatisfied customers. If you only let your child do the fun parts, they’ll be in for a nasty surprise when they move toward managing the business on their own.

With some guidance and help from you, your child could be the one who decides to change the world. They don’t have to wait until they are 18 or 21 years old.

Don't Forget These New Essentials When Building Your Website

We’re now well into 2018, and many small businesses still don’t have a website. Even though the first thing a lot of us do when we get to work is turn on a computer, entrepreneurs around the country seem to put off building or paying someone to build that website.

Another surprise is that out of 1,000 small business owners that were asked, 37 percent said they get only one to five percent of their business from their websites.

Most small businesses aren’t going to get the bulk of business from their websites. But if a third of them are getting five percent or less from their websites, something’s not right. With over 97 percent of consumers searching online for products and services, even boomers, millennials and Generation Z’s are more likely to check an app to purchase goods or services.

Most small business owners can use some help developing an effective website, whether you’re getting together a plan for expanding your business, or creating buzz as part of your business strategy planning. Even a simple website can generate business. You just need to know what’s important. To be sure you’ve got the basics covered for your website, here are a few essentials for any small business creating a business website:

The most basic advice is, don’t forget the basics. Items such as address, phone number, hours of operation, and a map to your location are the bones of any good website. An integral part of your website should also be testimonials. Folks just don’t seem to believe what we say about ourselves, sometimes. But they do believe what other people say about us. Even if you’ve got just one testimonial, put it up on your site.

Some of the not so obvious things to check are getting an easy to remember, easy to spell name. Avoid getting a .net or .biz website URL, even if you have to explore different names or spellings before you find a winner. Don’t let your web builder talk you into something you don’t feel perfect with.

Another important consideration is to make sure to have a “mobile friendly” design. According to a recent study, more than 70 percent of small business websites aren’t mobile friendly. With the bulk of traffic being acquired from mobile devices now, that’s especially disappointing news.

Making sure these e-commerce website essentials are included on your site should have you seeing more online sales. At the very least, now all the effort to get someone to your website won’t be wasted. You’ll have enough information available to change some visitors into customers.

Small Steps Will Keep You Focused on Business Strategy Planning

Everyone has ideas, and many times they’re good ones. Then we let them grow until they get too big and things seem impossible to get done. If you’re serious about building a great business, you’ll need to be incredibly focused, otherwise, your idea will never have a chance of leaving the great idea stage. The only way to actually get going is by taking many small steps that allow you to stay focused. Here are a few of the most important small steps you need to take.

Don’t try to grow your company with the same investor business plan you used to raise your startup money. It’s irresponsible to execute on a plan that is outdated. Constantly use your knowledge of customer feedback to adjust your plan for smaller increments of time. If you can, plan to account for the ever-changing nature of a new business by changing your business plan at least once a year. Put the original business plan on the shelf and bring it out three years later. You’ll get quite an eye-opening when you see the difference.

Communicate spending priorities and make sure everyone on your team spends the company’s money as if it is theirs. Regardless of how much money is in the company’s bank account, intelligent and thoughtful spending leads to a healthier and more productive company. Don’t let just anyone in on the spending, either. Keep the list of authorized money spenders to a minimum.

Find your niche. Focus on a segment of customers and build a product that is exceptionally valuable to them. Don’t get distracted by trying to be too big too fast. After you succeed in your initial market, you will be much better positioned to grow beyond that market.

Don’t try to grow your company with the same business plan you used to raise your startup money. It’s irresponsible to execute a plan that is outdated. Work with small business plan writers who understand your needs.

Don't Let a Little Stress Turn Into a Big Stress

Stress is just a fact of life for every small business owner. There’s no way to permanently eliminate it from your life, but there are ways to manage it instead of letting it manage you. Here are four tactics that successful business owners use to get a grip on stress.

Delegate. Small business owners often create their own stress by refusing to let go of any aspect of running their business. If you’ve got employees, delegating not only frees up your time but helps them grow. And don’t assume you can’t afford to hire. Add up the time you spend on tasks someone else could be doing, run the numbers on the new business you could be bringing in if you had more time, and you may find that hiring a part-timer will pay for itself.

Take care of yourself. You wouldn’t abuse and destroy your business equipment, would you? You keep your equipment running smoothly so you can get maximum performance out of it. Do the same with your body by getting adequate rest, exercising regularly and eating right. Drink plenty of water and take quick breaks to get up from your desk and walk around the office. Just 10 minutes on your feet will rejuvenate you. Your body is your most important piece of equipment, so keep it tuned up and ready to work.

Figure out what stresses you out. Often the sources of stress occur over and over again. Maybe it’s a weekly deadline that always seems to sneak up on you, or a tool you use every day that doesn’t work quite right. Perhaps you always feel stressed at the end of the business day or first thing in the morning. Once you’ve identified your daily torments, take steps toward eliminating as many as you can. If your office printer constantly malfunctions at key moments, eliminate the stress by springing for a new model. Take note of the worst stressors for a week, then go back and laugh at the one-timers, but make sure to find a way to correct or avoid the repeat offenders.

Write it down. Juggling a never-ending to-do list in your mind is a terrible burden and a major cause of stress. You’re bound to forget something critical, and even if you don’t, you’ll worry that you will. Free up your brain by putting everything you’re thinking about on paper, laptop, tablet or PC. Just be sure you choose one method and stick with it, or you’re creating even more stress for yourself. You will be surprised at how well you can sleep at night when you know you have all your tasks written down and you can refer to your master list if you forget anything.

Are You Time Affluent?

The definition of time affluent is the feeling that one has sufficient time to pursue activities that are personally meaningful, to reflect, to engage in leisure.

Increasing your time affluence is hard work, especially in a modern world loaded with cell-phones, email, family, career, school, and social responsibilities. But if we try to use as much energy to create happiness as we devote to the measurable factors in our lives such as income and possessions, many of us would feel a whole lot better. With that in mind, invest in your happiness by implementing some of these tips into your life.

One of the hardest chores is to learn to say no. If people take you for granted with numerous requests for favors, or other activities, such as idle chat, that exceed your time limitations, explain that you don’t have time. People have no choice but to honor firm boundaries. If don’t with the proper care and timing this may even work on your boss,( if you have one), to a certain degree.

Manage your schedule and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Of course, adding responsibilities to your schedule isn’t a good idea if you’re already overloaded, unless there’s some way to prune lower priority activities first. We all go through busy periods, but if your calendar is constantly overflowing, you may have pressed yourself into the corner of, “nothing gets done well, they just get done.” Take a hard line and cut the fluff, keeping only those tasks that afford meaning or have utility.

Make a list of your most valued activities, family time, hobbies, personal growth, then review your life on a regular basis to assure that you are living to your highest standards. There is often a look in the mirror moment when folks ask themselves, ” Why am I working so hard and not seeing my loved ones?”

Don’t let what little spare time you have drip away. We all need leisure time to watch television, read a book, or just plain relax. Unfortunately, it’s way too easy to continue these passive activities even after their pleasure point, at which time the activity becomes a mindless energy drain and a very effective time waster. The next time you find yourself vegetating in front of the television ask yourself how high up on your list this is.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is time poverty. Time poverty is the feeling that one is constantly stressed, rushed, overworked, and behind. It’s easy to see, time poverty destroys happiness. And no matter what great things or wonderful relationships you’re blessed with, life is always better if you have time to enjoy them.

Life Lessons That You Can Use For Running & Planning Your Business

Sometimes it’s the simplest things we’ve learned that stay with us our entire lives. These life lessons are so ingrained in our behavior that we don’t even notice we are using them. It’s these same habits that we should step back far enough to notice. When we do, we can then stop the counterproductive ones and enhance the good ones. Heres a look at the good ones.

Make sure you always do your best. Maybe that should be changed to, “Always try your hardest”. Customers can tell when you’re not giving them your best effort and are only going through the motions. If they don’t get your full efforts, they won’t stick around. As a business planning company, we’re always careful to share the idea that business owners who put forth their best get a strong positive response in return. That’s true of any industry.

Always, always, always, tell the truth. Whether you threw a baseball through the neighbor’s window or just plain forgot to order that product for a longtime client, honesty is the best policy. In business, customers value honesty more than anything, and they’ll likely spread the word about your honest approach.

Keep it clean and keep cleaning up. It’s important for your business to have a bright personality. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so whether it’s your store, your office or your website’s homepage, make sure your business looks inviting, up-to-date and appealing. This applies to the process of business planning, too — keep things clean, clear and professional to make the best impression.

Be friendly and be generous. Let’s cover the last part first. Whether you’re at work in the shop or in the online world, an attitude of sharing towards business partners, customers and prospects will help you earn their trust and let them know you aren’t holding back. Make it a point to be generous, and you’ll get back more than you give.

Everybody like folks who smile, look people in the eye and are polite. The same rules apply in business. People want to do business with people they like, so be considerate, polite and friendly, whether it’s you or your employees. This is true regardless of company size or industry, whether you’re just now developing a major hotel business plan or welcoming new customers to your established bakery.

A smile and a handshake, those kind of things are what businesses are built on!

How Can I Incorporate Search Engine Optimization Into My Content or as Part of My Business Planning Process?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a lot like Bigfoot. Everyone wants to find it, but nobody can tell you exactly where it is. And just as there’s a lot of myths about the Sasquatch, there are also many common myths on how to optimize one’s SEO ranking.

It seems that just like everything else in life, building up your SEO takes smart planning, a daily commitment to sticking to it and patience.

Many people seem to be looking for that magic process as if there’s a straightforward and uniform answer that everyone can apply to any site which would allow them to get on Google’s first search page. As a company that writes business plans, we’ve done our fair share of research. The truth is there is no one method that will work for all websites. What there is are general SEO basics and guidelines that you should study, then design a unique SEO strategy that can work for you.

One of the best things you can do is stick to your topic and fill your site with keywords. You can make big progress if you can consistently have highly valuable content, do the legwork to build relationships, and join the type of online networks that can guarantee linkbacks. Most of the time, doing these things right will mean you need to hire a technical SEO consultant. There’s a crucial component to SEO that’s all about javascript, algorithms, site architecture, scripts, page caching, etc., so you will need to enlist a SEO web developer to work with you on your site.

You’ll hear a lot of folks telling you that it’s all about linkbacks. Linkbacks are important, but choose quality over quantity. Before you agree to link to others, check out their audience and site traffic first. Make sure to spend your time building the right kind of relationships with sites that serve the same type of customer as you do. It’s always good to reach out to online communities that offer free, unbiased guidance or review products that are in your industry. Many of these types of businesses and publications are just waiting for your input.

Remember, getting eyes on your content and drawing people to your web site is just one of the steps in the business planning process, so brushing up the SEO process is a smart idea for business owners of all experience levels. And if you need professional business writing help, we’re always here to lend a hand.

The First Word On Your New Business

For most new entrepreneurs and small business owners who are starting out on a shoestring, the main form of advertising they will depend on will be “word of mouth.” Whether we like it or not, most of our customers will recommend or criticize our products and services in face-to-face conversations. After email, the telephone is the next best form of talking about new companies and new products.

Most business savvy entrepreneurs know that live, personal conversations with customers and prospects are the way our business grows, but how can we make sure positive word-of-mouth conversations are the end product of their experience? Here are a few proven methods to get folks talking about your new business, in a good way.

Dig into the nuts and bolts of how word of mouth works. Ask your customers what value they get from your company/brand. On top of asking them in person, don’t be afraid to use tools such as email surveys and online comment sections to gain more insight. Monitor web conversations to see how people talk about your company. Specifically what words, facts, credentials do they mention? Look for patterns and reoccurring themes.

Develop your company’s personality and be consistent with your message across all communications channels. Repeat your slogan or mission statement everywhere you go, if your statement is on target, others will start using the same language in their conversations. This is where training your employees can really begin to yield dividends. If everyone working for you is on the same page, and believes in the company, your customers will too.

Make sure your company tells its story. As humans, we have learned to pay attention to and pass along good stories. Let your company’s personality shine through. Don’t just state that people need shoes. Tell the story, and show the proof of how your company provides a solution to a problem.

Develop a list of your top referral sources and then develop these relationships. Word of mouth marketing can be one of your most powerful tools if you do a little homework and let your company’s personality shine through.

The Three Secret Steps to Getting the Answer

Many entrepreneurs find it hard to get a potential client to commit fully and make the decision to purchase a product or service. After hours of salesmanship and product details, maybe even a dinner or two, you find that your potential sale is still left in limbo. If this is happening to you or your sales team too often, maybe you should try a few of these rules that have proven fruitful and most effective when the conditions are right. Well, maybe they’re more like guidelines than actual rules.

Find the clients who have the pain you can take away. Make sure you are talking to someone whose need you can fulfill and that will be satisfied with your product or service. The last thing you want is for you or one of your sales team to force someone into buying something they didn’t want or need, just for a sale. This is a sure setup for bad reviews in the future.

Make sure the person or company you’re trying to sell to can afford the product you are trying to sell them. They may want to buy your pain relief, but having a nightmare collecting payments over the coming years, or watching them go under isn’t going to help anything. This may not apply if independent financing is made available, though.

Do the research and know that you are talking to the right person. Much time has been wasted by folks who have put in the hours needed to make a sale and then been told by the prospect that they will have to get approval from someone else. Find the decision-maker who can spend the money and you will most likely be talking to that “someone else”.