Category Archives: sales

10 Proven B2B Marketing Communication Strategies to Drive Revenue Growth

Know the decision making process of your targets.

Know the decision making process of your targets.

If you are a business marketing to other businesses (B2B), there are a few steps you’ll need to address. Unfortunately, 9 out of 10 small businesses, when surveyed, don’t do sufficient planning of their marketing strategy. If you are a start up, your failure to plan means that you are planning to fail. To avoid the most common pitfalls, do your homework. The below steps will help you get started. It’s all about your research, your strategy, and your careful execution of marketing campaigns that are first tested and then refined and then launched.

If you need help with developing your B2B marketing strategy and execution, find a business coach / consultant / counselor with experience guiding small business owners through the process. The investment will pay off with a much higher ROI.

Before you start on your B2B marketing communications plan, there are some important things you need to consider:

The purpose of your marketing communications – Any marketing / communications effort has only two purposes: create a positive, larger-than- life image of your company, and create and facilitate sales opportunities. It’s all about creating a funnel of qualified leads for your sales team to close. And, if you are the only sales person (“solopreneur”), you need to leverage your time with effective marketing: you waste less time and end up making more money in less time.

Your budget – Most businesses fail because they run out of seed capital or have a dip in cash flow at some point. All factors must be taken into account. Obviously, a key new product or service introduction will require more money than an established product or service that “sells itself.” When a business owner makes marketing mistakes, the average cost is around $15,000. It’s better to invest in getting help developing your strategy than to waste your budget on failed marketing campaigns.

Your strategic plan – Are there new products to be introduced? Problems to be solved?
Images/perceptions to be altered? Interest/sales opportunities to be created? What do you expect to achieve through your marketing efforts? Develop a SWOT analysis (identifying your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) that helps you see problems before they arise.

Your tactical plan – Never forget that the desirability of the product or service itself is by far the greatest single factor in any marketing/selling effort. How you plan to create demand depends on just how much in demand your product or service is already in the market place. The more demand, the more competition, right? But, competition is good! Why? Because, as you read above, most small business owners don’t take the time to develop effective marketing strategies. When you do just a few simple things to correct the most common mistakes in your industry, you’ll soon see yourself dominating your market.

10 Proven Revenue-Growing Strategies for Small Business Marketing Communications

It’s just as important to execute the various components of your marketing communications campaign in proper sequence as it is to execute them well. For most small business owners the order should be as follows:

1. Corporate Identity – Logo, branding, letterhead, business cards, tagline, signage, etc. Follow through on all communications projects/materials. Look up the ebook called The Branding Bible. I’ve used it and recommend it highly. Branding is more than you’re your logo, or the colors and pictures you choose on your website. When you position yourself in the market correctly, you differentiate yourself from other businesses offering similar products / services. Your brand needs to show your Unique Selling Proposition within each marketing message. Not familiar with a USP? Simply “Google it” and you’ll know enough to improve your current slogan or elevator pitch. In fact, you’ll want to do the “poor man’s background check” and Google your brand or your first and last name to see how others see you. I’ve been working on this one myself. Google “Andrew Barden” and you’ll see that I dominate the first page, usually 9/10 or 10/10. Your online reputation can make or break your business reputation. Protect it.

2. Product photography/illustration – You need good photos or illustrations before you can do anything. This seemingly basic requirement is often overlooked. A picture says 1,000 words. The right picture can grab the readers’ attention enough to get them to read. Pictures of human faces or animals can also create a desired emotional reaction, even before reading a single word of copy in the promotion.

3. Web site – All of your leads / interested parties will go here, so make sure your web site is ready for them! Your site must make it easy to locate products/info and download quickly and easily. You need to be able to answer your prospect’s first question upon arrival “What is the ONE THING they want me to do?” And your answer needs to be “Give us your information in exchange for X.”

You need good copywriting and professional navigation, but you don’t need fancy graphics – web sites in the B2B world are for information, not showing off. No Flash is necessary. Your web site exists to help sell your products or to generate leads to sell your service. Make sure the information is current. Above all, develop a video with testimonials from satisfied clients. Adding a video introduction from you, the business owner, goes a long way in building rapport, too.

4. Web Traffic Generation – How to generate targeted traffic to your site. There are two approaches, short term and long term. An example of a short term approach is designing a landing page with Google Analytics embedded in it, then design a pay-per-click campaign, assign a daily budget, and test to see if within a week or so you have made more money than you spent.

A long term approach is to set up well written professional profiles on all the social networks, grow your network to many thousands, and ask and answer questions within groups of which your ideal client is likely to be a member.

Don’t dismiss the efficacy of growing your business with a well written social network profile. I’ve personally had prospective clients read my answers to questions posed on social networking sites, read my profile, check out my verifiable testimonials, and then pick up the phone and call me to sign up for business coaching. Plus, I’ve been fortunate to have both the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswire writers contact me as a small business expert—all based on my well written professional profile on sites like LinkedIn.com and Biznik.com. Just imagine if you had your industry news organizations calling you or clients calling you, simply because you had a compelling profile!

5. Literature – Provide first-class brochures that your salespeople are proud to present. Your literature is a reflection of the professionalism, or lack thereof, of your company. You need as much to capture the mind share of your salespeople as you do the attention of your potential customers.

6. Follow-up system – Use telemarketing to follow up on leads. Your telemarketing people must be capable of connecting with prospects and getting the information you need to close sales.

7. Ads – Target any ads to a very small niche. You’ll need to do your psychological profile of your Ideal Client first, to know where their “eyeballs” are going to be through the day. For B2B, industry journal advertising gets your company and products in front of a huge audience. It’s very cost effective in that sense. Advertising will not, typically, generate hot leads, but it will get people to your web site.

Establish a campaign or “look” unique to your company. Carry this through on all ads for at least a year. This is key for any branding strategy. And remember this: You only get one shot, so you have to stop them! Make them want to take action, and help them get in touch with you. Frequency is important, and so is impact. Take advantage of editorial calendars in journals and map out your schedule accordingly.

8. Public relations/publicity – Once you have your list of journal editors (which you need to update faithfully), send out press releases on a regular basis. You can use services like PRWeb.com and similar companies, most of whom charge around $400 per press release. If you are not a writer, be sure to have a professional write your press release or it won’t be distributed. Provide photos. Some online PR companies even allow you to embed video.

Establish relationships with the editors. You can use the press release’s cover letter to set up the initial pitch for technical articles. Technical articles are one of the most important yet most under-appreciated activities you can perform. They can generate huge exposure and position your company as the expert in your field.

With your article, you will want to showcase 2 main qualities. First, your humanity and only secondarily your expertise. Your humanity is showcased when you tell a painful story, showing the reader that you understand their pain. Then the reader believes that if you understand their pain so well, you’ll undoubtedly know how to solve their problems and make the pain go away. Only later do they need to confirm your competence. Start with a story and you’ll get them hooked to read all the way to the end where your contact information is located.

Most editors will run them, especially (whether they want to admit it or not) if you’re running ads with them. You can also write what is called an “advertorial.” Advertorials look like articles but you paid for their placement. It is one of the best forms of publicity out there.

Press tours to introduce new products or services are a very wise investment if you can afford them. You’ll need to hire a professional PR firm for this.

9. Direct marketing – It’s expensive to mail a printed piece to a huge audience. That’s what the wide circulation of a trade publication is for. But direct marketing is very easy to manage. You can target your recipients, check the leads yourself, and follow up easily. Success is easy to quantify. You’ll want to hire a professional copy writer for your sales letter, post card, or brochure. Write the first draft, focus on success stories and the benefits (the emotional release of solving the problem) and then turn it over to the copywriter to make it sing.

With any direct marketing effort, always make an offer. Without “something in it for me,” people will not respond. It’s called a “Call to Action.” But don’t just give stuff away. Make them respond to receive the offer.

Creative execution is critical. It must stand out. Newsletters, both print and electronic, offer another excellent way to communicate current information and generate exposure. There are often services within an industry (real estate, for example) that provide a weekly newsletter that they send to your list on your behalf, with your branding and photo and personal letter. Then they add plenty of news and stimulating articles that will be salient to your ideal clients. They can be either printed/mailed or electronic. Just look at your average client acquisition cost to see if postage and printing is a relatively small expense compared to the lifetime value of a new client.

Newsletters should be sent on a regular basis to key customers/prospects, sales channels, even editors. Most people want to receive personalized information. This means that you could have a different newsletter for a different product or service category. Let your browser choose which information will best suit their interests. They are far more likely to both subscribe as well as open and read the newsletter when it comes. You’ll also wan to utilize the service of an auto-responder service, like VerticalResponse.com or others, making the capture of contact information and regular sending of newsletters that don’t go into spam folders a much easier task. These services typically run at a very cost-effective $20 monthly fee.

Opt-in email is a very cost-effective, contemporary method of direct marketing and should not be underestimated. I recommend the work of the late Cory Rudl of MarketingTips.com His group, continuing on after his passing, is among the best trainers for email marketing and web site design that I’ve come across.

10. Trade shows – Pick the key trade shows in your industry and use a modest, well-organized booth. Get a hospitality suite, sponsor a press breakfast, host a seminar. Do something unique – focus on a key new product or product family. Focus on shows that will allow you to personally speak to enough qualified buyers to make it worth the cost. One little secret of how to write business at trade shows: do a major phone campaign to all the registered attendees prior to the show. Find out if they are willing to set up an appointment for a presentation. If you can present before the show, you can even close the deal at the show.

Remember, business is about relationships. Money comes from people making decisions. All of your communications, write, audio, video, or in person, needs to communicate the benefits of doing business with you. Apply the Law of Reciprocity and “show up giving” when first talking to your prospects. You’ll be amazed at how many prospects respond.

———————–

Andrew Barden is a small business marketing strategist, trainer, author, consultant, and one-on-one coach, based in Los Angeles.

He can be reached at Andrew@AndrewBarden.com or 1-866-339-4619. Sign up for his free monthly “Small Business Marketing Strategies” newsletter and receive a 30 minute complimentary small business diagnostic: http://eggurl.com/dV

You can also view his professional profile, read testimonials, and connect with his 5,300+ global professional network on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewbarden

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Business Coaching – Zero Risk Offer to Increase Your Net Profits

Hi. I’m Andrew Barden, Philanthropic Entrepreneur.


I can help you make more money in your small business at no risk to you. I’ve helped literally thousands small business owners from around the world make more money through improving their marketing strategies and execution of their marketing campaigns.


I don’t charged upfront fees. I work on a contingency contract. Simply put you only pay me a small portion of your increase in net profits. There is never any risk for you when working with me. To learn more about my philosophy and why I call myself a philanthropic entrepreneur, visit http://www.AndrewBarden.com.


The greatest resource of the entrepreneur is also his or her most scarce resource.  It is not money. The scarcest resource you have is your time. If you are willing to invest 30 minutes of your time in your business, I will be willing to do the same.  This could simply be my gift to you or this could be the start of a great business relationship.  When you sign-up for a 30-minute complementary no-obligation consultation, I will help you to assess what might be stopping you from making more money in your particular business. Often it takes an objective third party to diagnose what’s really going on in your business.


Now, given tough economic times and the likelihood that your sales have already been slipping for quite some time,  isn’t now the best time to take action? Isn’t now the best time to consult with experts who have helped thousands of small business owners apply proven principles and strategies in their small business?


I also invite you to connect with me on Linkin.com. Go to http://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewbarden and invite me to connect. You will see there my professional profile that includes testimonials from small business owners and colleagues, other experts who have witnessed the results I can get for small business owners.


I also invite you to follow me on this blow, read the posts, and sign up to be alerted to new posts.


Finally, I invite you to invest 30 minutes in your small business marketing strategy development. Again, there is no risk to you, as these 30 minutes will be a true conversation and focus on showing you immediate ways to improve your marketing strategy, both online and off-line.


During these 30 minutes I don’t hold anything back. I give you my best, with the hopes that you and I might eventually develop a relationship in which I work with you regularly on a contingency contract. I would normally charge $150 for such a diagnostic. But, to start out any business relationship I practice applying the Law of Reciprocity, I “show up giving.” There are numerous Universal Laws that I’ll help you apply.


There are typically two areas that most small business owners neglect.


1. The business owner’s own mindset: developing prosperity consciousness is the first and foremost responsibility of the business owner. Visits my website at http://www.andrewbarden.com where, as part of my philanthropic entrepreneurial mission, I have made available hundreds of files–including pdfs, audio, and video–under the page called “free prosperity downloads.”


2. The psychological profile of the business’ IDEAL client. Without knowing how your ideal client makes decisions you will not know how to most effectively market and sell to your ideal clients. Not knowing who your ideal client is will make its much more difficult to grow your net profits as you will service clients who are not ideal. In general and ideal client is one who is easy to find easy to reach with a message, response to that message, takes action, is easy to sell to, buys more than your average clients, does business regularly would you, and refers all of his or her family and friends and associates to you.


Applying the 80/20 principle, we know that 20% of your revenue comes from 80% of your clients and 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of your clients. Wouldn’t you like to replace the 80% of your less than ideal clients with the 20% of ideal clients less quadrupling your income, basically making more money in less time. This is the power of developing an ideal clients psychological profile otherwise known as psychographics.


Demographics are the first step and also the easiest step in developing a marketing campaign. Too often small business owners stop at a demographic profile by a list and send off a postcard or flyer or brochure. They then sit and wait for the phone to ring, and unfortunately, little to nothing happens. Have you ever found yourself in that situation?


There’s a simple solution that unfortunately most small business owners don’t know. In order for even an ideal client to respond to a marketing message they need to hear the message in veriest formats from 10 to 12 times before they will take action and contact you. This means that if you send out 5000 postcards you don’t send them to 5000 people once. Instead, you send to 500 people 10 postcards with a similar branding theme yet different messages. You’ll have a similar cost as postage is by far the greatest expense. And you will have a far greater response rate and a much greater return on your investment in the end I seen 400% ROIs in direct mail campaigns.


The other crucial principle most small business owners neglect to apply correctly is generically termed relationship marketing. Roughly 85% of all small businesses in the United States are service based. Even if you are also selling products they’re typically is a decision-making process that requires a live person to interact with the buyer. The sales process typically looks like this:


awareness –> like –> trust –> buy –> repeat buy –> refer


So, in the beginning of the relationship you are simply making your prospect aware of your offer. Your next step is essentially to get them to like you. People do business with those that they like, just like people choose to associate with friends for which they have some affinity.


Once you begin to like someone, notice that they care about your welfare, and notice that they are competence in their particular industry, you can begin to trust them and consider doing business with them. At that point you as the seller of your services would begin to talk about the benefits of doing business with you versus other people, and the various advantages and features of your product or service.


Unfortunately, most people sell or create promotions that focus on price, discounts, features, and forgot to establish an awareness, affinity, and trust in the relationship. This is why many advertisements and other direct mail or e-mail campaigns simply do not produce a significant return and often even no return… in fact it is often poor marketing strategy and field campaigns that is the direct cause of small businesses going out of business.


You may have heard from the Small Business Administration how well over two thirds of all small businesses failed in the first four years. And even greater numbers fail in subsequent years. Without effective marketing producing strong returns on your investment of money and time and the sales process that is engineered specifically to cater to your ideal clients preferences, wants, and hot buttons, you’re more likely to fail than to succeed in building your small business.


Growing your business is simple, but, it’s simply not that easy. Why is it not that easy? It is not that easy because most small business owners neglect to understand their own mindset and the mindset of their ideal client. If you work with a business coach who can help you develop prosperity consciousness as well as the psychological profile of your ideal clients your likelihood of succeeding in your business venture increases exponentially.


There are well over a dozen small business coaching companies whose fees range from 3000 upwards to 25,000 or more. Their sales pitch essentially reads like give us your money and maybe will be able to help you. Does that sound like an inviting offer? Of course not.


The most irresistible offer for small business owner who is looking for clarity and confidence in their marketing strategy and campaign execution is to find a business coach who will instead of acting like a vendor will act like a partner. A partner in your business would, like you, be willing to invest their time or what we call sweat equity, at their own risk. Your partner, would then sharer in the net profits with you.


When you hire a business coach who works on a contingency contract you are essentially securing a partner who makes a small portion of your net profits that they help you to create. Sometimes he can happen quickly. Sometimes it may take a few months. But in the end there is an equal investment of time. Doesn’t that sound like an irresistible offer? Doesn’t that sound like the kind of relationship you want to have with your business coach?


In uncertain economic times business owners who will survive will take much more calculated risks. They will do their homework in order to make decisions with clarity and confidence. A business coach who can walk you through a proven system that has enabled literally thousands of small business owners to achieve strong ROIs in various industries in numerous cultures and economic conditions around the world is hands down one of the best partners a business owner would want to have.


Invite me to start that relationship by signing up for an initial complementary 30 minute business diagnostic session. At the end of the conversation you and I will both make a decision to move onto the next step or not. I serve over 70 clients every month as of March 2009, most of them in Los Angeles County. However I’m willing to add a few more. So long as you are fluent in English, and are passionate about growing your small business revenues and willing to commit time and resources to achieve your business goals and we might be a good fit.


I look forward to speaking with you soon. If you are eager to start a relationship feel free to contact me via e-mail at Andrew@AndrewBarden.com or call my toll-free cell phone at 1 – 866-339-4619. This number, again, rings directly to my personal cell phone, so please only call during business hours Pacific Standard Time, from 9am to 6pm, Monday through Friday.


To your success,


Andrew Barden
Founder, Philanthropic Entrepreneur
http://www.AndrewBarden.com

1-866-339-4619

Which Comes First, the Product or the Promotion?

I often answer marketing strategy questions on social networking sites, which typically lands me new clients. While I was on LinkedIn’s group called eOffice, I read the following posted question:

Which comes first, the product or the marketing?

I stumbled upon this post by the genius Seth Godin, The Marketing Guru. “Well, if you define marketing as advertising, then it’s clear you need the product first (Captain Crunch being the only exception I can think of… they made the ads first.)

This great clip from Mad Men brings the point home. If the Kodak guys hadn’t invented the Carousel slide projector, Don Draper could never have pitched this ad. But wait. Marketing is not the same as advertising. Advertising is a tiny slice of what marketing is today, and in fact, it’s pretty clear that the marketing has to come before the product, not after. As Jon points out, the Prius was developed after the marketing thinking was done.

Jones Soda, too. In fact, just about every successful product or service is the result of smart marketing thinking first, followed by a great product that makes the marketing story come true. If someone comes to you with a ‘great’ product that just needs some marketing, the game is probably already over.” http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/02/which-comes-first-the-product-or-the-marketing.html

Then, I replied with the following:

As you already know, Seth is among the best in the industry. So, to agree with him is a bit redundant. But, since you asked, it is definitely the promotion/marketing. If you haven’t already read Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Work Week book, you’ll find in there several simple ways to test, at least online, the sales process, including all marketing channels and finally to the point on a web page that someone gives their credit card information.

If you can get traffic to your site, convert enough of them to either register for some free report or actually make a purchase (with the last page saying, “Sorry, we are in the product launch phase, your credit card has not been charged. We will notify you when the product is available.”), then you’ll know you’ve got the right marketing message and the right sales process.

One key for online traffic via Google Adwords is to apply a filter to your ad so that you only get people clicking through who are most likely to make a purchase. Often, you’ll see ads that give the price ranges of the products. So, if viewers are not ready to spend at least the minimum, they will likely not click. Lowering your marketing cost is equivalent to making more sales.

If you can develop a strong ROI by testing one or more marketing / sales process strategies first, for a product that you plan on developing, you will 1) be able to adjust the actual product’s features according to what is going to sell better and 2) know that once the product is made, you can quickly set up your marketing channels and get them sold immediately.

In another OFFLINE approach, you do surveys. Simply 1) determine a psychological profile of your ideal client, 2) locate them locally (once you know someone’s preferences, you’ll know where they shop/eat), and 3) canvas your ideal clients, meaning, ask them in person or over the phone all the market research questions. One trick is to get permission to set up a table in front of where your ideal clients shop (and if you have voter registration forms on half of your table, no one can deny you!).

Even if 20% of respondents don’t reply accurately (some people have a hard time predicting their own future behavior), so long as the majority reply accurately, you’ll have some primary market research that will help you set up a proof of concept / feasibility study and both convince yourself that you have the right product at the right time, and you’ll then know how to send the right message to the right people.

Since you know Seth’s work, I’m guessing this is all review for you. However, perhaps others on this group would find some of what I explained of value.
So, do you have any stories that showcase this principle at work?

Video Testimonials Convert Browsers into Leads

shella-video-testimonial-picture

Shella giving a video testimonial after my juggling show

Hi again. If you are a small business owner, 99% of the time you really must have a website (very very few exceptions to this rule).

And, if you MUST have a website, you’ll want to design it to produce the results you want. The following brief article is a quick introduction for SERVICE based businesses more than PRODUCT based businesses, even though the principles apply to both.

As you can imagine, it is helpful to provide what sales psychologists call “social proof,” which is a fancy way to call testimonials. Written testimonials are about 10% helpful. Add pictures and you double their effectiveness to 20%. Ultimately, they are good to have but not very effective. However, video testimonials are 100% helpful in converting viewers/browsers into leads.

What that means is that browsers are persuaded enough to give you their contact information, moving from a browser to a very warm if not “hot and fresh” lead. Then, it is your job to make sure that either you or your sales team views those emails or new entries into your CRM (Client Relationship Management) software online and immediately call them or email them or both.

Why video testimonials?

Browsers are FAR more likely to watch well edited video testimonial interview clips than they are to read anything. Written ad copy is certain essential for websites… for those 2% who are actually “readers.” Give them a free e-book that is one long fun story about how your clients received benefits from working with you. 98% of web visitors don’t read anymore online, they scan. Don’t you?

Busy professionals who are likely to hire you are not very likely to sit and read. If you are doing online marketing that sends people (strangers) to your page (versus offline marketing that expose people to you either in person or via TV, etc.,) you’ve got 7-10 seconds to convince someone to stay on your page if they don’t know you yet. A video will keep them there, give them eye candy, and convince them based on the BENEFITS received from your coaching clients and speaking engagement participants.

BENEFITS SELL, FEATURES TELL.

Your “welcome to my website intro” is basically a feature of what you are like when speaking either one-on-one or in front of a group. It will need to showcase the benefits of hiring you versus others. It gives watchers a sense of your “energy,” so they’ll know what to expect when they talk to you. It would be helpful to even add some unique content to the video each week, as it will be a good reason to draw prospective clients to the site to get a freebie, but, you’ll need to wrap it up with a benefit driven testimonial clips from your most fanatical clients.

Finally, the people giving the testimonials must speak extemporaniously– i.e. they can’t sound scripted. If they have any hint of a script, it will damage their perceived sincerity. Too many infomercials on TV or radio sound very scripted, and we tend to simply not believe them.

Remember, everyone is tuned into the WIFM station, and you need to answer that question quickly when you first engage someone whether online or offline. What’s In It For Me? Do a video testimonial 60 to 90 second clip, add it to the end of each of your pep talks, and see your conversion rates skyrocket. Now those pep talks are actually effective promotional tools.

Now, I don’t practice what I preach on my own site, http://www.PhilanthropicEntrepreneur.com… I’m in the process of obtaining those video testimonials from my clients… but, I don’t do nearly as much coaching as I used to… I’m working on other projects. So, my own site is not optimized according to the best practices that I am recently learning about! Yes, the cobbler has no shoes!

Visit my site in early 2009 and I will have upgraded with a great intro video and video testimonials for my marketing consulting / entrepreneurial coaching as well as my inspirational speaking / comedy juggling presentations …. and likely a brand new design.   The above photo is from a video testimonial after one of my comedy juggling shows at a church school in West Hollywood, CA.  You’ll see her testimonial and dozens more once I edit them all into a tight video that is fun to watch.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you agree or disagree and why…

Intro to Web 2.0 – Entrepreneurs are Obtaining More Clients Marketing Online for their Offiline Business


The wave of the future is here… and it is Web 2.0. If you haven’t heard already, there is a new two-way communication required online.  As they say, “out with the old, in with the new,” and the internet is constantly evolving.  So, your internet marketing strategies must keep up, too.

If you are not leveraging the new ways clients are researching and finding out about you, you’re leaving money on the table. In “times of old” people relied on the Internet as a one-way tool for communicating with others. Most business entrepreneurs will set up a website, then offer their opinions, advice and more to anyone willing to listen, pay attention or chime in.

That has all changed. Now people are relying on a relatively old concept to change the way they do business on the Web. Instead of using the Internet as a one-way tool for communicating, people are now realizing the Web’s potential for creating an interactive, dynamic environment. In this environment, individuals, consumers and businesses can collaborate and communicate in new and simpler ways.

When we think of the term “next generation”, we automatically think of something new and innovative.

The way se use the Web is new, but the technology supporting what people do with the Web has existed for decades.

While 2.0 isn’t exactly new, the next generation user or modern web users are using the technology supporting it in new ways. Long gone are the days of old where reading information on the Web was much like reading a book. Today people use the web for various purposes, including sharing information with others and to collaborate and communicate with others. To understand this, you must understand 2.0.

What Is It?

First popularized in 2004 and coined by O’Reilly Media, Web 2.0 is the “next generation” Web…

Web 2.0 is a broad term describing many different kinds of websites, websites that provide a platform where end-users have control over the content of sites. Web 2.0 includes social networking sites, wikis, sites like Squidoo.com and MySpace.com, folk-sonomies, Blogs, RSS Feeds and other sites that emphasize collaboration and sharing among users.

Web 2.0 is The NEW Internet. It’s a new way of communicating using the World Wide Web. It focuses on building communities where people come together to share their ideas, passions and interests. Some people used collaborative and community-based sites since the dawn of the Web. Only recently have people other than consumers begun realizing the true potential of collaborative networking.

The “old” way of doing things focused on individual users creating applications from which they presented visitors information. For example, a person sat at their computer, created a website and provided information to visitors. They sold product to visitors. They allowed feedback, usually in the form of a one-way email communication, web form or other application.

The “new” way: Web 2.0 encourages an approach to the Web where people form communities and collaborate to provide information on the Web. Instead of one person sitting at the end of a computer terminal, there are multiple people at many terminals all capable of accessing the same information, like a list of your favorites you bookmark on the Web.

Consider for example, Wikipedia.org. This is an ideal example of how the Web is transforming. This modern-day encyclopedia of information is a collection of insights and information gathered from people across the world. There is no one “editor” or author, rather people share and collaborate to create a resource that includes insights from all walks of life. The technology supporting this site allows users to collaborate and edit information using some formal and informal guidelines. The community works to approve or disprove new information, but overall, just about anyone can place information on the site.

To understand Web 2.0, it will help to explore some of the common sites and terms used in conjunction with this new web platform. In the next section, we will spend some time exploring the different sites that make up Web 2.0, and how you can use them to your benefit.

Web 2.0 Websites

Web 2.0 websites are not built using the traditional computer “platform” even though many people refer to the technology supporting Web 2.0 as a platform in its own right. Web 2.0 sites are noted by their ability to enhance and promote open communication among users. They operate in a much-decentralized manner than traditional sites do.

To get a better idea of how Web 2.0 works, let’s use the analogy of a corporation. Typically, in a traditional hierarchical corporation, information is passed from the top down. You have the CEO of the company, who may pass information to the controller, who may pass information to accounting managers, who may pass information to line workers. If the company were operating like Web 2.0, everyone would disseminate information horizontally, through shared systems. Meaning, the person on the bottom of the chain of command would have instant access to the same information the person at the top of the organization might.

One marked difference distinguishing Web 2.0 from the web of old is the philosophy that supports it. Web 2.0 encourages freedom of use, and sharing among all users. It supports the disintegration of hierarchical models of use, and instead promotes a horizontal or collaborative approach to knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing is after all, a collective effort that includes the information and expertise of multiple members within an organization, community or other forum.

Whether sharing photographs, personal journals or data, Web 2.0 allows users to create communities from scratch, using many promising new technologies. Some examples of Web 2.0 sites include: Craiglist, Skype, del.icio.us. Technorati, Squidoo, Flickr and more. We will talk more about some of these sites later. Now that you have a better idea of “what” Web 2.0 is, let’s look at some of the different platforms used by users. Remember, not all Web 2.0 sites are alike.

Web 2.0 and Business

Web 2.0 is not popular among consumers only. Businesses are now realizing the potential benefits Web 2.0 has to offer. While many consumers think of popular applications like MySpace when they ponder Web 2.0, many fail to connect this technology with its potential for business.

Corporations can reduce much of the expense associated with installing and configuring essential software and applications on individual computers when they take advantage of the blogs available.

Web 2.0 Key Features

Most sites, regardless of their platform, share key features if they are 2.0 sites. Here are some of the key features and benefits associated with this new wave in technology.

1. Web 2.0 encourages greater collaboration among webmasters and visitors, so that interactive communities are created on the Web.

2. Web 2.0 approaches the Web as a platform for building conversation and communities.

3. The “new” Web focuses more on social networking and sharing, through various means including through blogs, wikis and more.

Rather than have an IT manager set up, configure and maintain a company’s applications and software on corporate servers, a company can now access a vendor’s server to acquire the information they need for their company.

Companies can now also share information and collaborate with one another in new and interesting ways. This will require business managers to start thinking more horizontally, moving away from a hierarchical model of communicating to one where knowledge is shared freely among employees, suppliers, vendors and even competitors.

Some company’s are even encouraging their customers to take advantage of social networks to help them advertise. GM for example allowed consumers to create commercials for some of their popular vehicles a while back. While many of these left much room for improvement, such integration allows for greater innovation and shared interest among key agents – consumers.

A company can also help businesses make working more practical and simpler. Rather than have individuals use stand-alone systems only, company’s can now encourage the joint use of software and computers among multiple users. Data can easily be shared from one person to next, meetings can be held online, and problem solving can take place from a much broader perspective.

As with anything, there are drawbacks to using this technology, even in the world of business. Business entrepreneurs have to ensure they fully understand the implications and utility of using Web 2.0 before they adopt the technology. Many must also realize that this technology has existed for some time, but offers an interactive approach to marketing and everyday business operations. A company should examine how they can integrate Web 2.0 into daily operations while still hedging risks.

What We Learned

We 2.0 is a community-based platform or network, one encouraging shared participation and community effort. Web applications common to this new platform include both Web and non-web applications (like instant messaging). Using this new platform, end-users throughout the globe can share data, information, photographs, personal insights and more.

A great example of community-based site that you can literally have set-up and running in 30-minutes is Ning.com. Their base product is free so you can set-up your an online social community in minutes. More and more businesses are also realizing the potential benefits of using a collaborative application and software such as that provided through Web 2.0 technologies. The entire way we do business is changing. Now that your interest is peaking, let us look at some of these applications, and the technology supporting Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 Sites

How do you know if you have landed on a Web 2.0 platform? Chances are, if you are asked to contribute to the content or body of knowledge contained on the site, you’ve hit the lottery. Most sites are those that encourage visitors to add their insights to a page, whether through ongoing commentary, through editing or by any other means available. Web 2.0 sites differ in their mission and purpose from traditional web pages. Some provide users the opportunity to share personal biographies, pictures and journals.

Examples include sites like MySpace.com. This fast and growing site is popular among the young and old. Even celebrities use the site to post pictures, update their fans and promote their latest shows or movies. One of the advantages of Web 2.0 is users can use it to express their opinions or passions, but also passively promote their products or services in the process. Here are some other common sites characteristic of this new trend.

Social Bookmarking Sites

Social bookmarking sites are sites that allow Internet users to classify and share their Internet bookmarks or favorites with others. They are similar to social networking sites, where users share content, personal photographs and other information. Social networking and social bookmarking sites alike both work to promote a community-type look and feel.

While the intent of social networking sites is more to create communities of like-minded people, social bookmarking sites concentrate more on increasing the popularity of common Internet bookmarks or favorites. You can tell the whole world what your passions are, and increase the page rank to your favorite sites, by placing tags on them and listing them in social bookmarking networks.

Social networks are nothing new, they have existed for decades on the Internet. Only recently however, have people taken a keen interest in their potential, especially from a marketing perspective. Think about it; you put bookmarks to all your blogs, sites and lists in a public forum. Others can link to your sites and click through to visit your sites through the social networking site you list with. You increase knowledge and awareness of your sites and also get free advertising and targeted traffic.

If the quality of information you provide is worthwhile, chances are you benefit tremendously from this new technology.

There is little difference between the two technologies, many use them as one in the same. If you do plan to use social networking or bookmarking sites to publicize your content, just be sure you do it in a non-threatening, non-confrontational and legitimate manner. No one likes a spammer, and you can spam social sites.

Remember, people join these sites and post information because they want quality links and information from real people. If you use the sites as a general “bulletin board” or classified ad, you diminish the value and might even get booted off.

In fact, one of the more commonly cited “drawbacks” of these sites is they do not rely on a standard set of tagging or keywords, so people can often set up unclear tags or fill the site with misspelled tags in the name of driving more traffic to their sites. Many sites are more likely to corrode as people use them more as a page rank boosting or search engine tool than to provide valuable information. Don’t book the same site repeatedly or you will get into trouble.

Weblogs

You’ve probably heard the term “blog.” This is short for web log or weblog. This is a site that allows users to create journal or diary-like entries in a chronological way. Users often post blogs or short entries and articles on information they are passionate about or have an interest in. Still others focus on providing content about news, entertainment or political commentary.

Many use these as online journals and diaries to communicate the latest and greatest events with their friends. Most bloggers now include photos and other graphic elements in their web pages, along with basic text. You can even use MP3 or videos to enhance the quality of content provided in blogs.

Most bloggers allow visitors to post feedback or comments about their blog entries, so in some ways web logs serve as a mini community or forum. Popular blogs may receive hundreds of visitors every month. There are search engines whose sole purpose involve tracking blogs and related sites, including Technorati.com for example.

One of the reasons web logs are popular for marketing is they allow users to provide content that is updated frequently. You can post daily, weekly or monthly. The more frequently you post information to blogs, the more likely you are to maintain your page ranking.

Like social bookmarking sites, blogs are not anything new, but are now gaining more attention and popularity among individuals, communities and online entrepreneurs and marketers. People are using them in many ways, even politically, to announce their passions, beliefs, purpose or to pitch their products and services while providing visitors with valuable content and information.

Like social networking sites, blogs are targets for spammers, who frequently post spam and links to junk sites in the comments section of blogs, so most webmasters will have to monitor this to avoid clogging their blog with unnecessary spam.

Everyone these days, from celebrities again to political commentators use blogs to deliver information and news to people throughout the globe. There are private and public blogs, blogs focusing on entertainment, those focusing on politics, the media and people. Even corporations are starting their own blog campaigns to encourage people to investigate their company.

Of course, as with anything there are problems with blogs and potential concerns. For example, many people do not realize the consequences of posting potentially negative or defamatory information on their blogs. Yes, free speech is important. But bloggers beware, there are many instances where bloggers have been cited for liability or defamation. Make sure if you communicate you do so wisely and with good intent.

Folksonomies

An interesting name for an interesting concept. These are sites that allow users to categorize and classify information on the Web, including websites or pages, photographs and other information like links. Users can classify information using tags, or special labels containing brief information about each categorized piece of information. An example of a popular “foksonomy” site is Flickr, where users can classify and organize and share photographs. Yet another isdel.icio.us that allows users to tag and classify information ranging

from web pages to links to blogs and more. As with anything, once information is tagged and categorized, it becomes more easily and readily available to the public. Think of tagging as a unique way of creating navigation bars, bars that reside throughout the Web or that are easily accessed through multiple portals on the Web, rather than through a single web page.

Tagged sites are more likely to be picked up by search engines, though some people will refer to popular folksonomy sites to find information they are looking for rather than rely on popular search engines including Google.

There are some disadvantages of using categorical sites as these. For one, the tagging “system” isn’t really well defined. Because there are no exact rules or regulations defining how tags should be implemented or inserted, many are inserted inconsistently. This can make navigating these sites a bit tricky.

However, if used wisely, folksonomy sites and tagged pages are an excellent way to provide information to the public in an easily navigable format. As with anything, entrepreneurs and other small business owners can use these sites to help promote their products, services or link to their web pages or affiliate marketing sites on the Web.

Wikis

Another example of Web 2.0 in full force is the wiki. These are websites that allow individuals to add, edit and even remove content. Many act like an encyclopedia, like where users can add content creating a global online dictionary or encyclopedia of sorts. The problem with such sites is the information provided in the sites may not always be accurate. Remember, anyone can log into the site and edit, remove or add information, so most “wikis” need some form of monitoring.

This usually comes in the form of community collaboration, where a group or wiki community work together to make sure any and all users are engaging in reasonable and acceptable practices when adding information.

As a benefit, these sites may include more information than traditional strict “book” type or “knowledge based” learning centers. Most of these sites work on the premise that communities will band together to provide honest and positive information, rather than work in a malicious or malevolent way.

Wikis are less of a tool for self-promotion than some other common Web 2.0 interfaces like social bookmarking sites and blogs. There primary foundation is a content based site and community of people gathered together to learn and grow. Many are globally based.

To find information in a wiki, one can often rely on an internal search engine that will look for data using key search terms, much like one might look for information on Google or any other mainstream Web application.

Other Applications

Of course, there are many other types of Web applications that quality as Web 2.0 interfaces or platforms for users. Consider for example,YouTube, which allows users from all walks of life to create streamlined video clips to the world at large. Once again, this site is one that commoners and celebutants alike have attached to. Users can post any type of video clip they like using a simple web cam. Many provide parodies of political figures and celebrities, while others do nothing more than film ordinary events. Not surprisingly however, YouTube and sites like it are among the fastest growing on the Web, because face it… people like to see other people in action.

What We Learned

There are many types of sites one can categorize as part of the growing Web 2.0 base. These sites are user-friendly sites that promote socialization, collaboration and community building. These sites are also frequently used as a platform for small businesses and entrepreneurs to introduce their products and services to the public without blatantly advertising them.

Many Web 2.0 sites, including social bookmarking sites, have existed for centuries. They are only now gaining popularity as people begin to realize the potential for boosting business and page ranks. These sties are also idea for individuals that just want an opportunity to communicate with a global community. Of critical importance in the future will be finding ways to help keep these sites “spam” free and user friendly. As with any technology, Web 2.0 has its criticisms, including the likelihood that the sites will become corrupted by malicious individuals whose sole purpose for posting is “spamming.” Now that you have a better handle on what Web 2.0 is and how people use it, let’s review some frequently asked questions.

Web 2.0 Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know a little more about Web 2.0 and how you can benefit, let’s explore some less commonly understood questions surrounding this incredible technology.

Q. What is the Semantic Web?

A. Semantic technologies often promote Web 2.0 sites. The Semantic Web enables users to create files explaining relationships between data sets. This technology allows for greater data integration and helps users classify and categorize information. Many also use the term “digital library” to identify these types of sites and this technology. It is the platform from which social bookmarking and other taxonomy type or categorical sites are created from.

Q. What is tagging (or tags)?

A. Tagging is a way users can classify or organize and categorize data, and is common on many sites including social bookmarking sites and folksonomies. How it works is users attach tags to data items like web pages, their blog entries or even photographs they want classified and categorized. Tagging is not the same as the Semantic system, which allows users to categorize information using unique identifiers rather than common tags. Relationships in a Semantic environment are more specific than in a tagging environment. For example, when one tags a blog page, they may tag it with terms like,

internet marketing” or “summer picnic” whereas when one classifies information semantically, they will tag the information using a unique identifier. If someone classifies a web blog entry for example, they may identify it using the blog author’s name, the date of creation and the source of content used to create the blog entry.

Q. I still do not fully understand Web 2.0. Can you expand?

A. Web 2.0 is a client-sided application, meaning end-users, people sitting at their computer, can categorize, tag and store data on the Web and share it with others. For example, let’s say you bookmark 3 of your favorite sites. Usually, when you visit another computer, your bookmarks will not show up when you log in. When you use Web 2.0 technologies however, you bookmark your favorite sites to public forums, so you can access them from anywhere. At the same time, anyone else can access your favorites from any computer anywhere in the world. Some call this “intelligent” sharing of data. It is certainly a new way to classify and navigate information provided on the Web.

Q. How can I learn more about this exciting new technology?

Enroll in the SBDCnetwork.com eLearning course to learn how to build your own Web 2.0 business system the right way! We show you with video, podcasts and easy-to-read workbooks the right tools and techniques to start building massive traffic to your web site and turnmore visitors into customers or prospects.

Q. How do I use a weblog? Isn’t it dangerous?

To use a blog or web log, all you have to do is set up an account. Anyone can set up a blog these days. Most people uses blogs as online journals or commentaries. You can share photographs of family members; you can share personal insights about political subjects or subjects you feel passionate about. The danger comes when someone uses blogs in a slanderous or malicious way. You should note that their may be some repercussions to posting your opinions on the Web. In some countries, people have been arrested for information they placed on a private blog. You should also know that when you post information to the Web, you are placing your personal information for the entire world to see. So if you do not want something public, do not post it on a blog, or keep your blog private.

Many people, including media moguls now use blogs to deliver news information on the Web in a consistent and timely fashion. As more and more people turn to the Web for information and advice, it makes sense to put information on the Web for others to access. People can comment on your Blog entries if you set up your blog in a way that allows them to do so, but this isn’t always a necessity. Some people prefer others do not comment on their blog, because this may result in spamming.

Q. What is RSS?

This is another technology rapidly gaining popularity. RSS technology, or “Really Simple Syndication” is a tool anyone can use to tell the world at large about new blog entries or web entries. What you do is set up your site content using RSS tools or content aggregators. What happens is any time you post new information to your page, that information is fed to people that are linked to your feed.

Q. If Web 2.0 isn’t new, who cares?

Web 2.0 isn’t new, but people are finding new and innovative ways to use it. If strategic, you can use Web 2.0 to market your products and services and promote your business or site to millions of people around the world. You do have to do this in a politically correct and decent way. Many applications allow readers to interact with the Web pages they browse. These applications are all part of Web 2.0 technology, and include SOAP, XML, JAVASCRIPT and AJAX. These interesting technologies allow you to interact with a web page that is live in much the same way you would interact with a page from your own computer, a page you created.

Web 2.0 isn’t new, but people are now taking an active interest in becoming members of a global community. Thus, Web 2.0 is becoming a lot more popular than it has been in the past. Sites including Gmail, Flickr and Digg are all the rage among collaborative types interested in link and information sharing on the Web

Conclusions

Web 2.0 is a popular term used to describe an old system but new way of thinking about and using the Internet. If you are an entrepreneur or business owner, you will find 2.0 is a great tool for promoting your business and establishing your credibility on the Web.

If you are someone interested in sharing information and forming collective communities on the Internet, you will also find 2.0 technology something new, exciting and innovative to explore.

No matter your intent or purpose, it’s worth a little time and effort. So take your time and explore 2.0 for all it is worth. Have fun, and share!



10 Factors Creating Wealth for Entrepreneurs

Hi again. I wanted to give you, the new entrepreneur, some tips that will greatly increase their likelihood of succeeding in their new venture. Actually, some of these tips are just as helpful for seasoned business owners whose sales are slowing.

Succeeding in small business is a science.  You can get consistent results when you apply certain laws.

Conditioning the mind to get into the habit of thinking and then doing the right actions in the right order (i.e. behavior modification) in order to grow your business sales is a science. Developing effective marketing strategies is a science. Unfortunately, most small business owners never take the time to study their minds or the mind of their clients … and that’s why over 66% of them fail after the first 4 years (according to an SBA study).

The entrepreneur needs to study psychology to be most effective.

Sure, it is possible to be lucky enough to be offering the right product at the right time to the right people. And you may even have done years of research to understand your market. But, you really need to understand yourself if you are going to consistently take the right actions in the right order to produce the results you want in your business.

Everything begins with thought. Thoughts produce emotions. Emotions motivate actions. Actions get results.

Everything begins in thought—how often have we heard those words? The question remains, are your thoughts supporting your success, or are self-limiting beliefs and behaviors sabotaging your growth? There is an entire logistical approach as well as mindset to success. It isn’t merely what you do, it is how you think! Those thoughts produce the actions that lead to success.

Let’s review the basic preliminaries of the actual product or service itself:

The decision of a particular type of business to get into is critical. Focus on products or services that people want; whether they need them or not, is not an essential element, believe it or not.

Businesses that offer products or services that lend themselves to repeat sales provide a much greater opportunity for profitable sustenance and growth potential. Taking these points into consideration, don’t assume that because your product is in demand, you have yourself a winner. It isn’t the product that is the winner, it is the business that you create–it’s the marketing message that compels people to take action and respond to your offer.

Did you know that there are actually common practices and a winning mindset that are prevalent among individuals that have achieved huge financial success? They view opportunity and money in a very different way.

The key qualities of achieving mindsets

My team and I have actually isolated key differences that separate achieving mindsets from the mass majority. Where do you stand?

1. Take a moment and reflect on your thoughts concerning money.

Are you critical of wealthy people? Do you feel guilty when people give you money? Are you uncomfortable? Those feelings are actually limiting your success. On some level, you will never be able to achieve the level of success that you want if you are critical or uncomfortable with the idea of wealth or making money at the expense of your customers. Reframe your product or service by feeling that you owe your prospects the opportunity to hear about your product.

2. What is your approach to failure?

When Michael Jackson was asked how he viewed failure, he told the interviewer that the word failure did not exist in his vocabulary. Many of us are irrationally, immobilized by a fear of failure.

Whether it is a thought fulfilling prophesy or simply blocking our attempts to achieve, failure is weakened through an active mindset of focus and persistence. A plan of action, strategy, and effort combat this immensely debilitating and self-sabotaging belief.

3. How well do you influence? Do you have the ability to influence affectively and with integrity? Are you hesitant about selling?

Become knowledgeable as to establishing rapport and understanding how and why individuals buy. One key filter is big picture thinking verse the detail-oriented person. Filters can help you to determine how people may react. Realizing that your customers may need finite details or prefer to be inspired through a conceptual experience is a key element to motivating your buyer to purchase.

4. Do you have the ability to take action fast?

High achievers may make a list, but they act simultaneously, not sequentially. This practice includes their approach to strategy; they implement several key factors at once.

5. Give yourself deadlines and launch dates.

If necessary, work backwards form the launch date, to ensure that the actions necessary for implementation are conducted in a timely manner.

6. Do you ascertain the lessons from each of your (opportunities for greater learning) mistakes?

Take the time to assess the growth elements to your challenging experiences. Don’t repeat them. Fool hearty is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result!

7. Embrace marketing, become good at it.

Learn to write well. Always test your marketing on a small scale. Consistently try new methods in a low risk way. Marketing is essentially telling audiences about your product/service and creating demand. You are consistently branding your business with every person you meet. Understand the importance of representation and the opportunities to tell everyone about your product.

8. Know the internet.

The internet needs to be a core element of your communication. You can now find people everywhere and establish an ongoing relationship in a multimedia way. The internet is a critical communication tool. Master it.

9. Always include a high-end offering in your product offerings.

Do you have a product or a line extension that targets a wealthy audience? For some buyers, price is not an issue. Develop a high margin platinum tier. Always consider that people do not buy on price. Perceived value is the key element that induces a purchase. You need both an “upsell” and a “downsell” from your standard offering in order to maximize the number of people who buy something from you.

10. Make the most of your time.

To grow a successful business, the bulk of your time contributes to your business vision, strategy/growth and direction, values, and disciplines. Learn to manage effectively and hire responsible team players that share your passion. Are you thinking big enough? Does your strategy incorporate your values and beliefs for your organization? Investing in these principles will enable you to be proactive to your market.

Consider that your business will come to be as identifiable as you are.

Possessing a greater understanding of your beliefs and values and creating a powerful mindset enables you to create the greatest opportunity for success. Ideally, this conceptual understanding to your business is a powerful strategic tool that enables you to grow your business through a culture of authenticity and individual purpose. Don’t leave your business to guesswork and “fly by the seat of your pants” mentality. Decide to be profitable, learn from the success of others and be pro-active.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who make excuses and those who get results. An ‘excuse person’ will find any excuse for why a job was not done, and a ‘results person’ will find any reason why it can be done. Be a creator, not a reactor. — Alan Cohen, A Deep Breath Of Life

Let me know if you found this post compelling. I’m available to coach you through your first year as an entrepreneur. Register for a risk-free one-on-one telephone session with me at http://www.AndrewBarden.com

Business Plan in a Day – Highlights and reviews of Rhonda Abrams’ book

Rhonda has written a very helpful and readable book for new entrepreneurs called Business Plan in a Day, Get it done right, get it done fast. She has also written Six-Week Start-Up, Wear Clean Underwear, and What Business Should I Start?

An experienced entrepreneur, Rhonda has started three successful companies, including a small business planning consulting firm. Her experience gives her a strong real life understanding of the challenges facing entrepreneurs.

There is a disclaimer about the promise of getting an effective business plan done in 24 hours… they may not be consecutive! So, if you’re super busy but you know you need to get your plan written quickly, this 150 page book will help you through the process, show you what you absolutely have to do, and give you tips and tricks to help you reach your goals.

If you are looking to get financing from a bank or other lender, you want to approach investors, such as angel investors or venture capitalists, you want to create a new business or expand an existing business, or even report to upper management on your department’s plans, this well thought out book will help you achieve that goal in a timely manner.

Your business plan is a powerful document telling the story of your company. It presents your current position, your vision for the future, and your plans for realizing that vision.

Rhonda explains that a business plan answers the following questions:

1) What is your business idea or what is your existing business?

2) Who are your existing and / or potential customers/clients and what motivates them to buy from you?

3) How will you let your customers / clients know about your business?

4) Who are your competitors and how are you different from them?

5) Is your management team capable of guiding your business to success?

6) What is the long-range future of your business?

7) What is your company’s financial picture? How much money will it cost to run your business and how much money will you make?

So, now that you know the general questions that it will answer, it will be helpful for you to know the general format that most any business plan will need to follow:

1) Executive Summary: Highlights the most important aspects of your business, summarizing key point of your business plan. If you are seeking outside capital, you’ll want to focus on how the net profits will be distributed to your investors, their return on their investment (ROI), and the possible exit strategies for investors.

2) Company Description: Features the basic, factual details about your business.

3) Target Market Description: Identifies the types of people or businesses most likely to be your customers, and explains their needs and wants. This is where most business owners fail to realize just how important the psychology of their ideal client is to the success of their marketing strategies. You’ll want to really REALLY spend a lot of time on developing a psychographic profile (demographic is usually just common sense, but, still takes some homework).

The psychographic profile will be the one document on which all of your marketing and sales strategies will be anchored. The profile of your ideal client/customer will, to put it simply, make or break your business. ALWAYS REMEMBER: You business will succeed or fail based on how accurately and how thoroughly you understand, document, and leverage the psychology of your preferred customer / client.

4) Competitive Analysis: Evaluates other companies offering a similar product or service or filling a similar market need. This is where a very thorough SWOT analysis is necessary. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You’ll need to do a SWOT on your company as well as each direct competitor and on the general category of indirect competitors.

5) Marketing and Sales Plan: Outlines how EXACTLY you will reach your customers / clients and secure orders or make sales. This is the detailed procedure and use of vendors and capital to initially test and then create a repeatable system to turn “x” amount of money into “x times 2” or more.

6) Operations Plan: Explains how you run your business and the operational factors that may give you an edge over your competition.

7) Management Team: Describes the key people running your business.

8) Development Plan and Milestones: Shows where your business will be in several year’s time, how you will get there, and the milestones you plan to reach along the way.

9) Financials: A set of financial statements showing the current financial status and future financial goals of your company.

Although the Executive Summary appears first in your plan, prepare it last. You’ll find it much easier to put together when you can draw from the highlights of each previously completed section.

You will need a number of documents that will enable you to complete your plan faster. These include:

Surveys and other research about your target customer

Info about your competition, including research from their web sites

Marketing brochures and other marketing materials

Any past internal company planning papers

Past tax returns for existing companies or for the principals of new businesses

Organizational charts

Charts depicting operational procedures

Product data sheets

Well… that’s enough for now. Subscribe to this blog to read the next section that addresses the key components of each part of the plan… if you’ve found this post much later than the post date, simply keep reading the next article in this series.

To Your Success,

Andrew Barden