Monthly Archives: August 2016
# Begin with a profile book. Libraries and bookstores are loaded with book series that profile a particular type of business. The Globe Pequot Press offers more than 15 titles in its How to Open & Operate a … series. Titles include How to Open & Operate a Communications Business, How to Open & Operate a Bed & Breakfast, How to Start a Home-Based Mail-Order Business, How to Start a Home-Based Carpentry Business and more. Also refer to books that profile multiple types of ventures. Small Business Profiles (Gale Group) provides step-by-step guidelines for more than 100 business ventures. From these types of books, you’ll glean essential information on startup costs and requirements, self-evaluation, financial projections and management, marketing and contact listings to people in the trade.
# Visit your city’s “first-stop” business information center. A first-stop office can provide you with information packages about licensing, permits, your particular business type and running a business in your state in general-the packages are usually free. They also provide you with links to local Small Business Development Centers, Federal Information Centers and special entrepreneurial training and financing programs. Check the government section in your phone book for a center near you.
# Take advantage of industry freebies. Before you dip into your piggybank, make sure you’re not about to pay for something you can get free. Take advantage of free computer access to databases and software at your local Business Information Center. Pick the brain of business veterans through free e-mail counseling offered by the Service Corps of Retired Executives and through the SBA Answer Desk.
# Put your creative energy to work. Your biggest challenge as a shoestring entrepreneur will be to graduate from a cash-dependent to a wit-dependent businessperson. It’s the only way shoestringers make it on a thin budget. Be prepared to create your own funding strategies. Earn extra cash by participating in focus groups, working odd jobs or selling unused items in your home. Solicit the sponsorship support from companies that could loan you items from their product line. Your best creative financing tips will come from seasoned entrepreneurs. Look for opportunities to schmooze with others in your industry, such as through a subscription to an online discussion group. You’ll be able to listen in on their success strategies and ask questions in a nonthreatening setting.
Follow these pointers and you’ll find yourself on the pathway to the business of your dreams.
# First, create the business plan. A plan structures your idea. It lets you think through your market assumptions, product, distribution, management and financial needs. Even if you never need to raise outside money, now may be your only chance to think through everything from top to bottom and know where and how you’re going. You can also work with a lawyer to choose a corporate structure that’s most suited to your operational and financial needs.
# Next, incorporate. That way, start-up expenses clearly belong to your business and not to you as an individual. Incorporating early will also start your company’s legal history, which can make it easier to get credit and raise bank financing later on. Furthermore, lawyer, a specialist in early-stage deals, points out that incorporating limits your liability once you start dealing with customers. In addition, he says you want as much time as possible between incorporation and outside investment to justify a low share price at incorporation. Your founder’s shares are considered income by the IRS, and it’s hard to value them at a penny per share two weeks before outside investors pay $1 per share. But always check with your own lawyer who knows your situation and your state’s tax laws before deciding when to incorporate. Doing this properly at the start can save thousands (if not millions) of dollars down the road.
# Finally, build your site and market it. Your business plan is your chance to identify your customers, value proposition, financials and the response rates you need to be successful. If you begin building and marketing without the up-front thought, you won’t know if your time and money are going toward the right things. A 3 percent direct-mail response rate is incredibly good, but if your business plan requires a 10 percent response to be profitable, it’s best to know that before you pay for a direct-mail campaign.
You’re considering investing valuable time and money into your project, so you won’t want another company copying your products and competing against you.
Patents and trademarks can be used to carve out a competitive market position. Meet with a patent attorney to determine whether your idea is already patented or if your trademark is already in use by someone else. If it is, think hard about how important a patent or trademark is to your business’ success.
Prove marketability by researching every company that makes similar products (competitors), analyzing the profile of customers who might buy the product (demographics), and charting margins, shipping methods and practices of the stores that would sell the product (distribution channels).
Not only will this exercise identify the state of the market, it will lay the groundwork for how you’ll need to introduce and sell your product.
You’ll either have to manufacture or assemble the product yourself, or subcontract all or part of the manufacturing of the product to your specifications. Short-run manufacturers will be able to help you answer production questions.
Once you prove the marketability and have a product to sell, you need to roll out promotional and sales programs. During the “prove” phase, you outlined the competitors and distribution channels for similar products in your industry. Now it’s time to put your findings and marketing/sales strategies to work.
By following your new marketing plan, you’ll have a good chance of getting your product through the right distribution channels you chose, and onto store shelves.
If you follow a solid plan and get your product into stores, you’ve passed the first stage of business success. If the stores reorder, you’re on your way to long-term success. Only good customer service, competitive pricing, high product quality and functional design can assure customer acceptance and profits.
So remember the Five Ps, follow a plan, and you and your partner could very well go down in the history books as one of the 5 percent of inventors who become successes. Good luck.
When it comes to getting major influencers to help with your marketing efforts, you can be embarking down a treacherous path. While it’s crucial to on-board folks who have a lot of sway with your market, you have to be careful not to rub them the wrong way.
In some cases, it can be just as easy to either get ignored by the influencers altogether, or goad them into giving you the wrong kind of marketing. With that in mind, here are four do’s and four don’t’s to pay attention to when you are trying to get influencers to help market your product.
# Don’t spam influencers with follow ups
Yes, you should follow up with your influencer, but don’t be obnoxious about it. This means having a bit of patience, since most influencers are very busy people and may not have an opportunity to reply to your email in just a day or two. If you don’t hear back from the influencer within a week, then it’s probably safe to send a follow up email.
Adarsh Thampy, CEO of LeadFerry, points out that you have to walk a fine line between persistence and pushiness. Thampy suggests you should send no more than two follow ups, with at least a week’s gap in between, to maximize your chances of success. Remember, though, not to be pushy:
It goes without saying. But influencers are humans too. Do you feel like doing something if someone you barely know acts pushy? No. When you face resistance, let it go.
# Don’t forget to build influencer relationships
Remember our suggestion in the do’s section about courting your influencer? This is crucial, because it builds a relationship with them before you even think about asking them for help. Failing to build that relationship first will mean you come across as being spammy and pushy.
Chris Boulas, the founder and president of digital marketing firm Formulytic, has built businesses from $5 million to more than $30 million in revenue, largely on the back of influencer marketing. Boulas points out how you can go about developing a relationship first:
Business is about give and take, so don’t approach influencers with a take-only mindset. Be ready to provide value in return. Do you have a skill, idea or feedback on an influencer’s business? Apply your skill or share your ideas for free and provide value upfront first.
# Don’t forget to set influencer guidelines
How does your influencer reach out to his or her following? Through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or some other medium? Make sure you have specific guidelines in place for how you should be promoted and especially tagged, to generate the maximum exposure possible.
For example, Lindsay White of Lot801 Marketing points out that Instagram has recently made it possible to tag images. As a result of that, many influencers are only tagging people in the images when they are working with brands. This is a major problem, White points out:
“No one taps on the photo anymore to see who they tagged. But, they will read the captions. If your influencers aren’t tagging you in the caption, you’re missing out on some serious sales and social media followers. Since we’ve made this a requirement when working with any influencers, our sales are about 30 percent higher than if they didn’t tag us in both the caption and photo… along with an increase of about 50 percent in sales.”
# Don’t rely solely on the influencer for buzz
Marketing almost has to take a multi pronged approach, so make sure you don’t get tunnel vision. You cannot rely just on the influencer to generate the buzz that will make your campaign successful. Consider the influencer just a piece of the puzzle, albeit a possibly big piece.
Marc Nashaat, of Powered by Search, stresses the importance of this multifaceted approach. He points out that at the same time you are building your influencer network, you should also be identifying the people or publications that cover your campaign topic or the engagements of your influencer. Do outreach to them to help “seed” your influencer-based marketing campaign.
# Do choose your influencers wisely
First, and probably most importantly, is to choose the right influencers to reach out to. You want to make sure their following is actually part of your market. That way, your message gets conveyed to people who will actually have an interest in what you’re promoting.
For example, in 2010 when author Shel Horowitz published his 10th book, “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green,” he quickly identified that the appropriate influencers for his market would be newsletter publishers, bloggers, best-selling authors and the like. He reached out to these influencers, and saw tremendous results from the campaign.
Based on a Google search showing 1,070,000 responses for an exact-match search for the book title, I estimate that at least 5,000,000 people were exposed to the campaign (that would be a very low average of five people seeing each page).
Also, remember that bigger isn’t always better. Victor Ricci of Trend Pie says that “targeting the big name social celebrities is nice but doesn’t always have the best results. When looking to get the lowest CPI, engagement is much more important than follower count.”
# Do amplify influencer messages
Influencers are often under tremendous pressure to drive traffic to their message, so anything you can do to help them do that will be noticed and greatly appreciated. You should find an influencer you greatly admire, and start amplifying their content by sharing it on your own social media networks. Be sure to tag the influencer so he or she knows what you’re doing.
Digital marketing entrepreneur Spencer X. Smith found out just how powerful this courtship could be when he began sharing articles by Cheryl Conner of Forbes. He would share her stories on LinkedIn and Twitter, always providing his own thoughts about the piece and how his audience might use it. As a result of his efforts, Conner actually contacted Smith to be the subject of a feature article at Forbes.
# Do offer influencers something to entice them
Sometimes, just building the relationship might not be enough. Many influencers need something a bit more tangible than just you sharing their message, so you need to entice them. This could take the form of a charitable donation in the influencer’s name or something more along the lines of helping the influencer get even more exposure.
For example, Cloudways struggled at first to get influencers to promote its new cloud hosting management platform. They pitched a list of influencers one at a time, and were either ignored or told they were being too pushy. While part of this might be a lack of relationship-building first, what finally worked for Cloudways tells “the rest of the story.”
Cloudways reached out to influencers again, this time inviting them to be interviewed for the company’s blog. This got the attention of several influencers, especially mid-level ones and the response was strong enough that Cloudways has published more than 120 interviews and has created a community that loves the company’s product and talks about it often.
# Do use an evangelical approach
Remember who you’re approaching. Top influencers respond to a different kind of value propositions than regular users. While regular users respond to quantitative value propositions like “cheaper,” “smaller,” or “faster,” top influencers are more interested in qualitative value propositions. This is where you’ll use words like “revolutionary,” “breakthrough,” and “game-changing.” Influencers want to be involved in exciting ventures, so you need to attract their attention with engaging text.
Rick Carlile, the founder of Aegora.com, the Professional Marketplace, used a very evangelical approach in trying to attract influencers to come on board. As a result of his influencer marketing campaign, Aegora.com was able to attract around 500 high-quality signups to the site, a tremendous number in a highly competitive niche.