September 28, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
While there is a place for online Pay for Click (PPC) advertising (I use it), I find that visitors who come to me organically through the general search engine results are much sticker, more qualified in many respects and have a much higher closing ratio. While I use both PPC and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), I find that my SEO efforts have a much better return. Of course this can be a little industry and web visitor specific, but I know this can be applied to many types of businesses, whether 100% online company or a brick and mortar with an online presence. Here is why I like SEO derived web visitors so much.
The General (organic) search engine results tend to be a lot more relevant than the results for the Sponsored Ad area. This way targeted visitors can really find what they need.
I see a lot more non-customer type visits on a percentage basis via the Organic Search results than I do coming via PPC. With PPC, you are paying to qualify them, while with SEO derived visitors, they qualify themselves typically. Therefore the customer acquisition cost and conversion rate for SEO customers is much better than PPC.
PPC and Organics Work Best Together
PPC is definitely worth doing but should be part of the overall SEO Strategy and not the other way around (nor treated separately). PPC actually makes your SEO better and can pick up customers where SEO would cost too much to implement or where you don’t have good SEO results. Also PPC is a great research and testing ground for your SEO Strategy. Very quickly you can determine if a keyword phrase has strong potential.
SEO has a lot more Marketing Flexibility
PPC limits how well you can market to your targeted web audience while SEO offers unlimited possibilities on how to market in the general search engine results. You have much more choices as to titles, keywords and descriptions in the organic search results. Your Online Marketing Strategy ought to include SEO for sure!
General Search Results = Credibility
When a web visitor sees a return in the general results, they tend to put a lot more trust and credibility on it, verses seeing a short, paid for advertisement off to the side. This may be a big reason why SEO visitors convert more profitably.
Resources: Here are some previous blog posts on Web SEO to help you.
SEO Basics to Get Good Rankings on the Search Engines
SEO can be More Effective and Profitable than Pay Per Click
Posted in Business Internet Strategies.
September 24, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Micro Loans have been around for a while but they are now getting some attention, particularly with small businesses needing seed finance or early stage growth finance. In fact micro lending maybe what will help us get out of this recession. Micro loans create new businesses, which will need employees. Additionally these newly seeded businesses will hopefully encourage the larger banking institutions to lend more freely again. More reason for job growth. Small business growth + newly created jobs = a fix we need to exit this recession for good.
What is a Micro Loan?
A Micro loan is generally a loan to a start up or early growth small business for less than $35,000. Mostly controlled by non-profits, and they typically lend to businesses in a particular geographical area- generally a “local” or community based loan. Terms are for 5-6 years with collateral to securitize the loan typically. Micro lenders require a solid Business Plan and Loan Package. You can use micro loans for working capital, equipment, machines, inventory, supplies, furniture, etc.
The Impact of Micro Loans
$56 Million in micro loans will be distributed through the SBA this year. An average US micro loan is around $13,000. The payback rate is an astonishing 98%. A lot of these business loans are going to low income entrepreneurs, giving them an opportunity to succeed and strengthen their local community.
Two Businesses that have Benefited from a Micro Loan
Love Joy Sweet Treats makes cupcakes, cookies, and many other sweet treats. The owner received $1,500 to start up her company, and she is off and running and selling those great treats. The owner of Smart Start Sitters received $10,000 to get her child sitting service off the ground and running full steam. These aren’t high tech companies but they are putting food on the table for the family owners and employing people. Something we should all think about. As a Business Consultant, I truly recommend you try a micro loan if you have the burning desire to be your own boss and create your own destiny.
For more Resources on Micro Loans, please see my blog posts on:
Have You Considered Micro Lending, Community Banks and Credit Unions for Your Business Finance Needs?
Business Finance in a Recession- Part 3: Business Funding Alternatives
Posted in Business Finance.
September 21, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Developing Financial Projections for your Business Plan can be a trying and complicated experience if you do it from scratch. It doesn’t have to be that hard, nor does it have to cost a bunch of money to do. There is a lot of business planning and financial projection software out there for purchase. However, if you are looking to develop some solid financials with out the cost of software, then there are some good free financial projection programs out there. One of them is offered for free by SCORE®.
6 Step Worksheet
Very simple to use. It highlights mandatory and optional areas for your input, and it contains a six step worksheet process. Just fill out:
§ Required Start-Up Funds
§ Salaries and Wages
§ Fixed Operating Expenses
§ Projected Sales Forecast (2 sheets)
§ Cash Receipts and Disbursements
Produces The Financials for You
After filling out the necessary information in the six worksheets, the program produces the following financials for you:
§ Monthly Income Statement for three years
§ Monthly Cash Flow Statement for three years
§ Yearly Balance Sheet for three years
§ Year End Income and Expense Summary for three years
§ 3 Year Financial Ratio Analysis
§ Breakeven Analysis
§ 12 Month Amortization Schedule for three years
§ Financial Diagnostics Sheet
Be Sure to Read the Notes Explanation
There is a sheet containing explanatory notes for the financial projection program. Be sure to review it before you start.
Provides an Example Financial Projection Template
In case you have questions on how the program works and the types of financials it produces, the program provides a fully competed financial projection template to assist you. It also gives you an idea of the finished product.
You can use a local SCORE® mentor to answer any questions you may have developing your business plan and financial projections.
While Free financial programs don’t have all the bells and whistles, this program will get it done well for many small businesses. Check it out and see if it will work for your needs. Be sure to do some searching on the internet and find the other free financial projection programs out there. There are a bunch of them.
Disclaimer: ABC Business Consulting and the Blog Author are not endorsing the product mentioned in this blog. This is for informational purposes only.
Posted in Business Financials, Business Planning.
September 17, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Google has gone to real time search, and all the search engines are putting a lot of ranking value on Social Media. Now the two have converged. I did a Google search the other day for some of our trending keywords for that particular day and saw a plethora of our social media and blog posts. That really raised an eyebrow for me and my excitement grew. Anytime we post something on our 30+ social sites and blogs, we are seeing our posts immediately in the real time results (and even the “regular” results as well). These results included images as well so our results popped out to searchers. This is huge!
Some tips to get your Social Media and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics up to snuff to take advantage of Google’s real time search (and I am sure the other search engines are to follow)…
Searches are Universal
Google will show lots of web content, including blogs, social media posts, images, video, books, articles, press releases and more, all in the same search results. So consider using all these available platforms and mediums to get your message out there and increase your search engine ranking exposure.
Ping Your Blog Posts
I am picked up with in seconds and minutes of a blog post because I ping over 40 sites and let them know I have just posted valuable content. I find my topics trending for the day high in the search rankings, often in the number one or two place.
Use a Network of Social Media to Get the Word Out
I use the Ping.fm™ service to instantly update our 30+ social sites. I find these posts are very quickly picked up by Google and ranked well for its keywords.
Tie In your Social Media Strategy with your Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
At the end of the day, getting noticed on the internet is all about SEO. Use Social Media as a powerful tool to implement your SEO content strategies in the various mediums and platforms available. Your SEO efforts will pack a power punch, and you’ll find your SEO efforts pay off instantly, instead of having to wait a day, week or month for the SEO to work. Social Media needs to be a major part of your Online Marketing Strategy.
Need SEO and Social Media Strategy help? Feel free to Contact Us or check out our Web SEO and Marketing Package.
Posted in Business Internet Strategies.
September 15, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Should you hire someone to write your business plan?
The answer is Yes and No. You do not want a Business Plan Writer or technical writer to build the business plan. You can use these writers after the business plan is built to make it more professional (i.e. adapted for a Funding Business Plan). However, hiring an experienced Business Plan Consultant can be quite advantageous when building a business plan.
A Good Business Plan Consultant Understands Your Business
A good Business Consultant will take the time to get to know you and your business. The business plan consultant will issue you important business plan questions and requirements for you to answer, which when analyzed by the consultant, will build an effective Business Plan. Nobody can solely write a business plan for you. The business owner and management team must be integrally involved in the business planning process as you know your business better than anyone else. A good Business Plan Consultant harnesses the necessary information by asking the right questions in order to build a solid Business Plan, while applying and providing valuable expertise and experience during the planning process.
Benefit from the Experience of a Business Consultant
A Business Consultant can also offer years of experience in working with many different types businesses, business stages, and business sectors, utilizing that know-how and experience in building your Business Plan. If you hire a Business Consultant early on in the business development stage, the consultant will not just help to build an effective Business Plan, but also be available for advice as you implement your Business Plan and grow your company. A Business Consultant can show you effective ways to maximize profits and margins, while minimizing expenses. Moreover, a Business Consultant can introduce you to important business networks and connections to bolster your company operations.
ABC Business Consulting offers the best of both worlds: Business Plan Writing and Consulting Services for companies in any stage and industry, for most purposes, including Business Success Plans, Start Up Business Plans, Growth Business Plans, Acquisition Business Plans, Joint Venture Business Plans, Project Business Plans, Marketing Business Plans, Strategic Business Plans, Funding Business Plans, Venture Capital Business Plans, Investor Business Plans, SBA Business Plans, Bank Business Plans, Lender Business Plans and more.
ABC also offers Free Business Plan Reviews.
Posted in Business Consultants, Business Planning.
September 10, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Business Mentor Review
Have a business mentor who has a lot of experience in your area of business read your business plan and critique it. Use the feedback to tweak your Business Plan.
Don’t Go Crazy with Excessive Graphics
Business Plans do not need a lot of fancy graphics and art work to be effective. Simplicity and straight forwardness are more important than a bunch of pretty graphs. Many modern business plans lack substance and have lots of flash. Add some flash and graphics to the plan after the substance of the plan is completed and only if it aides the understanding and comprehension of the written content.
Develop a Good Business Plan Process
What is the most effective way to build a business plan? For each section of the plan, write out questions prior to writing the section. Pull the questions from your experience, your team’s experience, your mentor’s experience and published business planning books and software. Answers to the questions will build out that particular section. Order the sub-sections in a logical, building block order. Please see my Business Plan Book for more details on this business planning process.
First Develop the Comprehensive Business Plan
After you have developed your Comprehensive Business Plan, you should develop specific business plans of shorter length and format (usually no more than 20-30 pages in length) for various purposes: Funding Business Plan, Investor Plan, Joint Venture Business Plan, Marketing Business Plan, Strategic Plan, Customer Plan, Supplier Plan and so forth.
A Business Plan is a Business Document
A Business Plan is a technical document – a business document. It should be written as such. It should not be written like a novel or a book. It should be concise and utilize outline organization versus long, wordy paragraphs.
Realistic and Believable
A business plan should be realistic to be believable. It should contain facts and figures to support the “believability factor.” For instance, just stating in your Marketing Plan that you will achieve 5% market share is not enough. Your Strategic Plan in combination with your Marketing Plan should carefully illustrate how you will achieve 5% market share.
Business Plan Purposes
A comprehensive Business Plan serves two purposes typically: a dynamic document to run your company successfully, and a document to start, acquire or expand a company, all backed by the shorter version business plan formats (i.e. a Funding Business Plan).
A Successful Business Plan is Dynamic
An effective Business Plan is never static. It should be dynamic and easily adaptable to changes in the market and opportunities which arise. It is a “living” document used to run your business on a daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.
Posted in Business Planning.
September 9, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
An Often Overlooked but Important Section
The Appendix of a Business Plan can be an overlooked section, but it has a lot of importance and utility. The appendix shows the amount of research, time and detail behind the business plan. It comes last in a business plan, following the Financials Section.
Organize and Reference Your Appendix Materials
As you write a business plan and accumulate resumes, research, contracts, etc, be sure to place them in a pile to be included in the Appendix. Also be sure to reference the materials in the business plan so the reader can refer to them when and as applicable.
Table of Contents
Since an Appendix is often large in volume, it is important to have a table of contents in the beginning of the section, detailing what is contained and where it appears in the Appendix section.
What the Appendix Can Contain
The Appendix Section of a Business Plan contains all the bulky items: marketing research, construction plans, appraisals, valuations, company art work and graphics, company charters and share details, and so forth.
Item List for a Business Plan Appendix
The Appendix contains important documents, agreements and voluminous materials that add clarity and detail to your Business Plan. This list is not all inclusive and should be expanded and customized per your business and business plan requirements.
1) Detailed Resumes
2) Customer Testimonial and Recommendation Letters
3) Future Customer Letters of Intention, Letter of Interest and Memorandums of Understanding.
4) Reference Letters: Customers, Suppliers, Bankers, Technical, Former Employers, Partners, etc.
5) Joint Venture and Strategic Alliance Agreements
6) Land Purchase Agreements
7) Product and Service Agreements
8 ) Other Important Agreements
9) Contracts, Leases and Pre-Sale Commitments
10) Patent, Trademark, Service Mark, Copyrights, License Agreements
11) Brochures and Advertising Materials
12) Industry and Marketing Analysis and Studies
13) Supporting Articles
14) Product Line Pictures, Renderings and Illustrations
15) Facilities and Equipment Pictures and Layouts
16) Maps and Photos of Business Locations
17) Construction Plans, TimeLine and Disbursement Schedule
18) Engineering Studies
19) Company Registration and Charter
20) Company Credit Report
21) Tax Returns: previous three years
22) Annual Reports / Quarterly Reposts
23) Appraisals and Valuations
24) Feasibility Studies
25) Prospectus Offering
Posted in Business Planning.
September 8, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Lay the Foundation with a Good Strategic Plan
If you develop your Strategic Plan effectively, completing the Financials should not be difficult. The principal reason why business owners have such a hard time with the Financials Section of a Business Plan is often due to a cursory job on their Strategic Planning (as well as other important business plan sections). Financial Projections are not believable chiefly because a suitable, well developed Strategic Plan wasn’t accomplished. Guess what lays the foundation for a successful Strategic Plan? The proceeding section, the Marketing Plan. As stated previously, the sections and the order of the sections in a business plan are very important because each section builds on the previous section, the culmination of which makes for certain data from which solid Financial Projections can be made.
Types of Financials
You should have two sets of Financials, simple and detailed, as well as, conservative and best case. The following types of financials are typical for a Business Plan:
Ø Cash Flow: Monthly basis for 12-36 months. Yearly and Quarterly basis for 3-5 years.
Ø Income Statement: Monthly basis for 12 months. Yearly and Quarterly basis for 3-5 years.
Ø Balance Sheet: Yearly and Quarterly basis for 3-5 years.
Budgets for Planning and Control
Another very important Financial in addition to the three prescribed Financials, is the Budget. Budgets are used principally for two purposes: Planning and Control. A Budget matches short term targets with long term Strategic Planning, while providing an indication of problems ahead. A good Budget system will indicate when Expenses are heading over Budget and there is sufficient time to correct the problem. Budgets are often developed during the Strategic Planning Process.
We like Rolling Budgets which look ahead 12 months on a monthly basis, and it budgets an additional Quarter at the end of each Quarter. This way, you always have a 12 month continuous Budget Outlook. A Budget should also be flexible so that you can separate the effects of variations between Actual and Estimated results. Lastly, a Budget is a tool to Evaluate your Business Units and Management’s Performance. Needless to say, assembling and actively managing a good Budget requires the input of your entire organization.
It is important to understand that your Financials relate to each other when building them (a reason why Financial Software Programs are so beneficial). There’s a lot of back and forth between the Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Statement. The Cash Flow Statement is the most important Financial for many reasons but principally because it shows in detail how much cash is necessary to finance and grow your company.
The projection period differs and depends for a particular company, venture or project. For instance, a large scale Real Estate development project’s Cash Flow could be 5+ years and 60+ months depending on the length of the project build out. Also, Real Estate development projects require more Financials than detailed above. Typically, a Construction Cost Analysis and Cash Flow, Schedule of Real Estate, Construction Cost Schedule and so forth are required and useful. Real Estate Development Financials are developed through a Loan Package and transferred to the Business Plan Financial section, so consult how to properly package a loan in order to learn more about these project specific Financials.
A very important element of the Financial Section is the Assumptions area. This details the assumptions you have utilized in constructing the financials. You should also list the various calculations and formulas used in your financials since those formulas can be company, deal or project specific. Financials should also include Return of Investment / Return on Equity calculations and the assumptions used in those calculations.
Your Financials need to be believable and realistic. If anything, they need to be conservative. Too often we see extremes of too few numbers or too many numbers. If you build out your Financials as a direct result of your Strategic Plan, this process results in numbers that are realistic and achievable. An option is to build two sets of Financials, conservative and a little more aggressive. We find if you have truly conservative numbers, you will often exceed your Plan, which is a great Psychological boost for any company in any stage of development.
Example Template for the Financials Section of a Business Plan
1) Sources and Uses of Funds
2) Financial Strategy
3) Capital Equipment Valuation
4) Company Collateral
8 ) Financial Analysis
10) Exit Strategy
11) Harvesting Value Strategy
12) Venture Risk
13) Effects of Investment and Finance on Cash Flow
14) Tax Strategies
Please see my articles on Business Financials for more details in this area…
Posted in Business Planning.
September 7, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
The Strategic Plan is a Business Plan’s Implementation Tool
The Strategic Plan puts the Marketing Plan into action. The Strategic Plan will show how to implement the Marketing Plan and a company’s Business Plan. The Strategic Plan is about action and implementation. It also details your Sales Forecast for each particular product or service. The Strategic Plan translates what will be the result of the Marketing Plan, and how it will be implemented and achieved.
The Sales Plan
The Strategic Plan takes the vast amount of marketing information and research and puts it into a clearly defined Sales Plan. It is very important that a Strategic Plan is believable and achievable. It works out the “kinks” and road blocks in your Marketing Plan and illustrates how to overcome Competitive Gaps.
The Strategic Plan also provides a process for Strategic Management, Strategic Auditing and Strategic Reassessment. The end product not only implements The Company’s Strategy, but also it provides measurable performance, control functions, corrective actions and reassessment when necessary. It is a top down and bottom up approach, completely integral with your Company’s Operations, from the Vision and Leadership of the CEO, to Management’s implementation of the Strategy, to the Sales and Operations units of the company. It provides a Company-Wide Strategic Vision, Focus, Structure and Discipline, while providing an atmosphere of learning and awareness, with a process for identifying deficiencies, and in turn, fixing those problems.
Outline of the Strategic Plan Section of a Business Plan
1) Company Objectives
2) Potential Problems and Risks
3) Risk Analysis
4) Company Strategies, Strategic Tactics and Strategic Programs
5) Sales Strategy
6) Sales Programs
7) Strategic Alliances and Joint Ventures
8 ) Operating Budget
9) Sales Forecast
11) Control Mechanisms
For more information on developing a Strategic Plan and Sales Plan, please see my article: Developing A Successful Strategic Plan.
Posted in Business Planning.