March 19, 2012 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
A Funding Business Plan has a lot riding on it. Namely the effective funding of a business. Over the years of developing business plans, I have learned a few things along the way that make business plans more conducive to funders. Here is a top 10 checklist to consider when writing your business plan:
1) Good Business Model – This is where I see a lot of funding business plans fall down. A lot of these funding type plans I see are just a sales document with a lot of flash and unbelievable hype. For a business plan to be successful in raising funds it needs to prove that there is a sound business model in place that is well considered, which when implemented, will result in a successful business enterprise.
2) Good Operational Model – Not only do you need a solid business model in place, but you need to show how you can effectively operate and manage the business. Funders do not fund business plans, they fund people- namely the management behind a company. Without sound experience and management, deals don’t get funded.
3) Good Research – This is another biggie. There needs to be real thought and research behind the business plan. You need to prove in the funding business plan that there is data supporting your position and business model. Research not only provides you good market intelligence as a business owner, but it gives you a foundation to your planning.
4) Sound / Realistic Assumptions – This is a big area of oversight that I see most business plan writers making. A business plan to be believable needs to have sound assumptions behind the making of the plan, and most importantly, those assumptions need to be explained and detailed in the business plan for the funder. Detailed assumptions gives the funder real insight into what a business plan actually means. Assumptions give insight into whether the Financials are just plain guesses and hype, or if their development actually had some sound thought, research, and reasoning behind them.
5) Well Organized and Easy to Follow – A funder needs to effortless find the right information quickly and easily. Plans that don’t do this will get sent to the circular file cabinet faster than you can say 1-2-3! Your plan should be organized into multiple sections that are well marked and easily indexed in the Table of Contents. A funder should be able to quickly scan a business plan in a couple minutes and gain interest. If it takes longer, then interest is lost, and it goes to the bottom of the pile. Funders are busy, professional people. Treat them with respect and courtesy- send them a well organized plan.
6) Not too Much Fluff / Plan Has Substance – All too often I see business plans that are all hype, have a bunch of graphs and charts, nice looking photos but…it is all hogwash- there is absolutely no substance. First and foremost a plan must have substance. It must have a solid business model in place. You can build the nice looking stuff around the substance, not the other way around. A bunch of flash alone will not get a deal funded. A hollow plan equates to a hollow management team. Remember, funders invest in people, not plans.
7) Plan is Aesthetically Pleasing – If a business plan is sloppy, unorganized, hard to follow- it is just plain messy with bunches of grammatical mistakes…well, then kiss your chances at funding success away. A messy plan in the mind of a funder is a messy business- something which they run from. Once the substance of a plan is completed, take the time to make it look nice. Doesn’t need to be the Mona Lisa but take a little pride in its appearance and readability.
8. Plan Forms a Picture in the Reader’s Mind – A picture is worth a thousand words, especially for a business plan. If a business plan is all words, then it can be difficult for the funder to really visualize the business, products, services, markets, etc. This is where pictures, graphics, charts, graphs, and the like really come into play. Use media to help the business plan reader form an image in their mind- help the reader see the business vision toward success. If the reader can visualize a successful business, then you will get funded. Video and demonstration presentations can also be great ways to help close a business plan’s introduction.
9) Good Executive Summary – The success of a business plan starts here. Write the summary last and key on the important areas of the plan. If in 30 seconds the executive summary doesn’t convince the reader this is a viable deal, then re-write it. Send drafts to your business mentors and associates- get their feedback. I can often tell if a business plan is poor when looking over the executive summary. A great executive summary only comes from a solid business plan, not the other way around.
10) Believable Financials – A business plan needs to make a case for the financial projections and past performance (if applicable). If a business plan is properly developed with a sound business model, operational model, market analysis, and marketing plan, then you have the basis and data and assumptions in place to form financials that you can sell to a funder. So many plans come across my desk that fail in this area. They are just blind guesses and hopes and dreams- just a bunch of hype behind them. Get the right foundation for the plan, then the financials will be believable. Sell the financials with good, well-documented and supported assumptions.
11) Bonus: Write the Plan for the Audience – Each business plan presented to a funder must be written for that particular funder. Whether the funder is a bank, an investor, venture capital firm, a grant funding institution, or a joint venture partner…the style and content and emphasis of the plan needs to be customized for the reader. Banks are interested in collateral, Cash Flow, and your ability to service debt. Investors want to see a solid ROI that is backed up with a great business model and sophisticated financials. All funders want to see a strong management team. Joint Venture partners want to see transparency, and what you can bring to the table to make the partnership a two way street. Customize each and every plan to the requirements and expectations of the particular funder. It will pay off to take this extra step instead of using a generic plan for all funders.
So, whether you are writing the plan yourself as the business owner, or have hired someone to help you with the business plan development, keep in mind these top 10 funding plan tips and mistakes. They can make the difference between success and failure. In this present lending and funding environment, you need all the help you can get. Do it right.
Business Planning Resource: You can find more business planning tips and a detailed business planning process and workbook in my Business Plan Book.
Business Planning Services
Posted in Business Finance, Business Planning.
March 6, 2012 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
A Business Plan is really nothing more than a piece of paper. Its importance is not the document itself, or even the words on the paper. The real importance is the business planning process behind the physical plan. The payoff and true advantage of a business plan is what you learned through the planning process that helps you run a more successful business.
A Business Plan is NOT a Funding Plan
When you need funding, you need a business plan. Fine…but the distinction is: You need the business plan way before you need the funding. Operating a business without a business plan is like throwing darts blind folded. It is like driving without MapQuest or a GPS. It is a frustrating, time consuming, and money wasting activity.
The real definition of a business plan is NOT a funding document. Instead, it is a roadmap to business success. Yes, a business plan is highly recommended to obtain funding, but the funding plan itself is not a real business plan. It is a sales document trying to convince someone to fund your business. A funding plan is often much more successful if a real, planned business plan is developed first and foremost, with an aim at running a successful business. Then, developing a funding plan is just a packaging and formality thing.
Yes, many clients come to us just wanting the Funding Plan, but they are selling themselves short. Either way, even if we develop just a Funding Plan, our process demands some thinking by our clients about certain critical aspects of the business and what works and doesn’t work among them. The strictly Funding Plans we see out on the market are just glitter, lacking the real substance necessary for someone to make an educated decision on funding a business.
A Business Plan Takes A lot of Work & Needs a Solid Process
For a business planning process to be successful and useful, then it takes a lot of work. It takes real commitment from the business to design and develop a process that will be beneficial. This is why consultants exist- to help businesses design these planning systems so that the business benefits substantially from the business plan.
Planning can be very comprehensive, or be designed to focus on critical areas. Either way, it is important to not get bogged down in the business planning process (need to keep it moving). It is also important that it is a priority within a company. So many times business owners come to me and promise it will be a priority, when in reality it never becomes one, selling the process short.
A Real Business Plan is Not a Document
What you say Frank? Of course a business plan is a document! Let me ask you this: What happens to that document? Answer: it sits on a shelf and gets dusty, only to be dusted off every so often (maybe yearly) to be “updated”.
A Business Plan is the intelligence a company gains during and after a good business planning process is implemented within company operations, and it is used on a continual basis, checking goals and progress, and most importantly, the lack thereof (and the resulting fixes). It is the systems and strategies a business develops and implements to be successful- that is the REAL business plan. Forget the end resulting document. Focus on the process: Is it sound? What did you learn? How can you implement and track what you learned?
You Don’t Need a Highly Formalized Plan
The only reason why I like to see a business have a formal business plan (i.e. a document) is to prove and showcase that a successful planning process was designed, developed, implemented and tracked. Also, a business plan is a very effective communication tool within and outside a company- both from the perspective of the planning process and someone actually reading the plan. Yep, I said it: Someone can actually read a business plan and benefit.
Don’t get so caught up in the planning that it takes months and months and months, taking you too far away from running or starting your business. It doesn’t need to be a 100 page document (although I have developed many this size). To be useful for you internally, it may just need to be 20 pages. To be useful externally, it may only need to be 10 pages. However, it is the work behind those 10 or 20 pages which really defines the utility and success of a business plan. If the planning process was just a short cut to “produce” a plan, then the document will be flimsy and not beneficial. I will be 10 or 20 pages of BS.
Integrate Your Business Plan into Your Company
This is the number one reason why I say a business plan is not a document. It is the processes that you actually install and implement from within your company that make the business plan. It is the structure and systems of the company. It is what makes the company run well and be constantly looking for more successful ways of conducting business. It is literally the life blood of a successful enterprise. A document cannot do this for you.
Make Planning a Priority
When you initially develop your plan and when you implement and track and rework your plan, make it a real priority- a daily and weekly priority. So many times business owners think that business planning is worthless and too time demanding. They see it as taking away time from running their business, thereby reducing profits (and missing opportunities). They really don’t grasp the real substance and potential of a business plan.
The reason a business plan may be too time demanding is really because the business owner never considered certain issues and areas of their business. Or, they may lack knowledge and experience in an area. They think that by working hard, they are doing all they can do to have a successful business. This is a huge fallacy and a even bigger mistake! Just spending an hour or two a day in initially developing a business plan (and then implementing and tracking it on a weekly basis), can mean substantial increase in profits, identification of real problem areas, and seizing upon opportunities way in advance.
Don’t be swayed by those gurus, experts, consultants and entrepreneurs out there saying you don’t need a business plan. They are just trying to find clients and make press. Granted, as I said previously in this post, you don’t need some behemoth of a plan, and you don’t necessarily need a highly formalized plan. But you do need a plan. A plan backed by a sound process, a planning process with end goals and dates for completion, and a most importantly, a system to implement and track the developed business plan strategies. By making the planning a daily to weekly to monthly priority, it not only gets done, but it makes sure the business is running on all cylinders and that you are considering potential problems before they become real, expensive problems.
My business plan highlights consist of:
- Daily Marketing & Market Research: Done first thing every morning so I stay ahead of my competition and always have my pick of clients who are calling me (and not vice versa).
- Weekly Cash Flow Analysis: At all times I am managing my cash flow because I know from experience that this simple (and easy) exercise makes me more and more money, along with preventing severe headaches in the future. I always have a running cash flow budget. I couldn’t run and PLAN a successful business without it. Don’t be intimidated by Cash Flow analysis and management- it is an easy to learn and use system, even though it may appear highly technical and complicated.
- Consistent Communication with Mentors: I love surrounding myself with those who have more experience and knowledge than I. I ask them questions all the time about strategies, opportunities and problems. Mentors also ensure I serve my clients to the best of my ability. One business consultant does not know everything. Reaching out to an established network of business experts is so important for me as a consultant.
- And so on and so forth…It is an Active Plan.
Plan Today for Success Tomorrow
Get actively planning today to succeed tomorrow. It is just that simple. It takes commitment. Do you have what it takes, or are you too “busy” running your company? (I think if you answer “yes” to this question, then your company is running you and not the other way around)
Business Planning & Business Success Resources
Need some business success tools? Check out the Business Success Guide.
Posted in Business Planning.
February 27, 2012 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
In my previous blog post (Great Website Design is Worthless without Great Web Development), I discussed the merits of strong website development and how website design is really nothing without the web development component. This being said, you can have strong website design and development, yet the website still lacks in effectiveness. How can this be? Well, if the website isn’t found on the internet, then how can it monetize for a company?
The Key to Successful Website Design and Development is SEO
The missing third component is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), as SEO is what gets a website targeted visitors who want to spend money. Yes, you can do Pay Per Click (PPC), but that is quite expensive and really an extension of SEO (not a substitute) when done correctly. SEO is the best money spent to bring in targeted traffic to a website, and all the website design and development in the world doesn’t do that. Now, design and development are very important as they relate to the visitor experience and closing sales, but without targeted traffic, it is simply stuck.
SEO Should be an Integral Part of Website Design and Development
SEO should be part and parcel to website design and development. While a website is being designed and developed, it needs to have a well planned, tested and developed SEO strategy. The website needs to be optimized for both the search engines and for the visitor experience. SEO is very technical and transcends a number of areas. In fact, there are hundreds of SEO factors to address when designing and developing a website.
Onsite SEO First
The search engine optimization needs to First be done correctly on the website before any offsite SEO is done. With the onsite SEO done correctly, the website’s design and development can really do their job- they can help convert visitors as they a) find the website on the internet and b) navigate the website. Onsite SEO alone helps to bring targeted traffic to a website so it is a great investment. It also allows for a much better user experience, increasing conversions. Once the onsite SEO is done in congruence with the website’s design and development, then the website needs to indexed by the search engines and fresh content needs to be added consistently to keep the site indexed and getting rank.
Offsite SEO Second
With the onsite SEO fully implemented and the new or redone website live and indexed on the internet, it now time to execute an offsite SEO Strategy. Offsite SEO involves a lot of things, but basically it is getting offsite back links of anchor text keywords from other websites to the target website. Offsite SEO is long, hard, tedious work, and as a result, a lot of companies smartly opt for using the SEO Services of an SEO expert. Make sure the SEO consultant is using purely white hat strategies as poor web links that link back to your website can be more of a detriment than positive influence on your website’s rankings in the search engines.
Consider Search Engine Optimization Every Step of the Way…
So when you approach your next website design and development project, consider search engine optimization every step of the way. From the get-go to the end of the project…all the way through the life of the website. Otherwise, you may have a really pretty website that does absolutely nothing for you on the internet. Remember, a website must be found by targeted visitors using the correct keyword searches for a website to monetize successfully.
Posted in Business Internet Strategies.
December 23, 2011 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Wishing Everyone a Blessed Christmas and Prosperous New Year…
Posted in Uncategorized.
December 19, 2011 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
I tried out a website design and development company several months ago. The design capabilities and work output was great. However, their development team was inexperienced, took short cuts, created shoddy code- simply put, they almost screwed up the web project. I had to assign the development work to an independent developer that I know well. In a few days, he was able to untangle their mess and helped me develop a really solid website that looked, and most importantly, worked great.
Lesson Learned: A web design firm can put out excellent designs but that is really nothing without having excellent web development as its backbone. Poor web development can really ruin a website’s experience and effectiveness.
I have a lot of web design firms approach me to do work for us, but many of them have the same unfortunate ailment…quite capable website design, but shoddy web development. Finding a web firm who can do both design and development equally well is challenging- this is why I keep my design and development functions separate in our website design projects, giving my clients the best of both worlds. My designers can focus on what they do best: design, colors, flow, usability. My developers can focus on what they do best: code, performance, efficiency, workability.
So You May be Asking: What is Web Development?
In a word: Customization.
Why is Web Development Important?
Web development is crucial in a web project because it is the architecture behind the website’s design. A website can be designed for maximum user experience and ease of use, but without great web development, the site won’t work well and the designer’s work will go down the drain. In all actuality, web development is far more important than website design. Web design gets all the attention and lauding in a web project and is important, yet it is the web development which really makes the web project a success, or lack thereof.
Analyze Website Design & Web Development Separately When Assessing a Web Design Firm
If you have a web project for web companies to bid on, be sure to analyze their development skills, as much as, if not more, their design skills. Ask hard questions about how their web developers will approach and address your specific website requirements. Look very carefully at their web design projects. Does the website work well? What is the back end for the client like? Does it perform well? Does it load well? Don’t awed by a design firm’s design capability and overlook the most important component of a web project: development. If a website is not working well, it may not be a design flaw, it may be a poor backbone.
Consider Web Design & Development as a Whole
In the previous paragraph, I said assess design and development separately. But that is just for assessment of skill and capability. It is vitally important that both design and development are considered as a whole in a web project, and how each affects the other. Both design and development must be considered when developing a web project, and as a business consultant and web expert, this is why customers come to me for their web design projects. They come to me because they want a stunning website that works well and will generate business. This is a four pronged challenge: design, development, search engine optimization, internet marketing. Additionally, on a Global basis, clients come to me because they want their website to reflect their strategic plan and be part of their strategic planning process and marketing systems. This is what a good web project encompasses, and unfortunately, many web design firms can simply not provide what a client truly needs.
My Advice: Take the time to develop out what your website project really is, what it needs to accomplish, and its implementation steps…take the time to figure out how your company will support and maintain the project. Start with the big picture and nail it down to its elements, both your website design and development will benefit, and most importantly, your business will benefit with added revenue.
Web Design & Development is Nothing without Great SEO
This could be the title of another blog post (and may well be in the future)…
My point is simple: without great search engine optimization, and how a website is to be found and marketed, then all the design and development are for naught. Before a website project is initiated, its SEO and marketing must be defined, designed and tested. The SEO and marketing of the website must be integral to the website design and development. Otherwise, you have a pretty brochure on the web that may look good but does nothing for your company. A website is not a brochure…so many companies use them as brochures because they don’t really know how to effectively use a website per its intended and best use.
A website is not static like a brochure, it is dynamic. A website does not need fulfillment and follow up like a brochure needs. A website, when properly designed, developed, SEOed and marketed, is a sales and profit machine that will autonomously outwork and outperform the best sales people in the world (it is actually a sales person’s best friend). It never takes a day off and markets your company 24×7, 365 days a year. Maximize its best use!
Posted in Business Internet Strategies.
October 3, 2011 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
There are a ton of web content management systems (CMS), and publishing, development and design platforms to choose from, both open source and paid. I have tried them all, and I find that WordPress is the superior choice. Here is why…
WordPress is a User Friendly CMS
WordPress when it is set up and customized correctly is very easy for any skill level person to handle content on a website once it is in initially developed by a professional. Changing and adding content is a cinch. Even changing and adding pictures and videos is easy. You can even add more navigation structure simply as well.
I find so many of the other content management systems out there to be very user un-friendly, complicated, and in many cases, don’t work well. Why fight with your CMS or screw up your clean website design, or mess up your nice search engine optimization when using a website publishing platform? You don’t have to and WordPress is simple to learn and quick to use.
Customization of WordPress is Key
To get the real benefit from WordPress, the publishing platform must be customized to the website project and the end users. This is why it is good to first start with a professional website design company that has a lot of expertise and proficiency in WordPress. WordPress is an open source platform that offers a “generic” web design, development and publishing platform, but for it to be effective and useful, it must be further customized.
There are a bunch of plugins for WordPress that cover a lot of the customization but there are also tweaks needed in the web development process itself that need to be done so you have a completely customized solution and a stunning website that doesn’t look like the regular WordPress themes that exist. You can achieve sophisticated website design and development customization and produce a stunning looking website (i.e. high design) that is very SEO friendly using WordPress. The trick is finding a web developer and designer that specializes in WordPress website design.
Recommended WordPress Plug Ins
Here is a list of the most common plug ins we use when customizing a WordPress Website and Blog for a client. This is a “standard” for us. We add more as needed to customize the website and blog for the client’s specific needs and issues. You need to understand how to manage and optimize the resources on WordPress very well when using so many plug ins; otherwise, your website and blog will be slow to load, and you will be frustrated as a CMS user in the back end use of WP. Plugins offer great customization, but they add resource load so you must manage and weigh both as you build out the website and blog.
Add to Any: Allows sharing your website content throughout the internet. Automatically adds the Add to Any button to your website pages and blog posts.
Admin Bar Removal: Removes excess code of the new Admin Bar in the WP platform, front and back end, so that the memory load is minimal on the user’s computer.
Akismet: Protect your blog from trackback and comment spam.
All in One SEO Pack: Makes your WordPress website completely SEO maximized. Recommend the Pro Version.
Anti Feed Scraper Message: Prevents your RSS feed from being scraped without attribution. Adds a customizable message with a link back to your website so that if a blog post is copied and pasted on another website/blog, you at least have a back link and some attribution.
Breadcrumb NavXT: Adds breadcrumb navigation links so the website visitor knows their navigation path at any time and can easily navigate a page intensive website. Also adds fantastic SEO value.
Contact Form 7: Great customizable contact form generator and manager. Very flexible.
Did You Pass Math?: Restricts comment spam by throwing the commenter an easy math question to solve.
Google XML Sitemap for Videos: Creates an XML sitemap for all the videos on your website or blog.
Google XML Sitemaps: Creates a sitemap so the search engines index and crawl your site.
Hyper Cache: Cache system that improves a WP website’s performance and saves resources. Pages will load quickly and cleanly for the web visitor. Adds SEO value.
MHR Custom Anti Copy: Prevents blatant copying of your valuable website and blog content. Can be customized so your forms and payment buttons still work correctly.
Newsletter Pro: Forget paying for an email service like Constant Contact. Build your newsletter delivery system seamlessly into your WP platform. Allows for customized design and high customization of email campaigns.
Permalink Editor: You can customize the WordPress link structure to allow the addition of prefixes or file extensions to your page URLs. For instance, your URL can appear as .html, instead of the typical WP link structure. You can customize site wide, or on a particular page or post.
Subscribe 2: Great email notifying system when you post new content on your website or blog.
WordPress Database Backup: On demand back up of your WP database. You can never be too careful.
WordPress Hashcash: Blocks spam robots.
WP Print: Displays a print version of your post or page.
WP reCAPTCHA: reCAPTCHA anti-spam solution.
Posted in Business Internet Strategies.
September 26, 2011 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
There are so many search engine optimization experts, firms, gurus, contractors out there espousing all kinds of tactics to help your website get ranked organically in the search engines. The list of SEO services/tactics could involve: social bookmarks, forum posts and linking, blog comments, high PR back links, social media linking, EDU/GOV back links, link wheels, articles, blogging, directory submissions, and the list goes on and on…Some work, some don’t- most depend on effective implementation, which is lacking in the SEO services world.
The Key is Content
SEO is really only about relevant content- that is really what the search engines care about. Having tons of back links factors in some (as well as link diversity), but what really drives rank is contextual back links. These are back links containing your keywords and are placed in relevant content about the keyword subject. Contextual back links are important on your website and off your website. Other respected websites and blogs posting relevant content with your keywords linking back to the web page you are trying to get ranked is very important too.
Step 1 – Develop SEO Content on Your Website, Blog & Social Properties
Before any back linking from other websites and blogs are going to help you at all in your search engine optimization strategy, you need to have solid relevant content on all your targeted web pages and properties. Create this content first and keep it refreshed. Ensure you cross link key words throughout your sites so the search engines know what content you are offering.
Step 2 – Develop Contextual Back Links
Having your relevant content published by another website or blog containing your important keyword back links is crucial to ranking well in the organic search results. Personally, I do not like Article Directory sites. Why? The back links are of low quality, often found at the bottom of the article in the Article Resource area. What you need in your SEO strategy are contextual back links that are in the Body of relevant content featured on a blog or website, preferably one that is your industry/niche and one that is respected.
Consistency is Important
Consistently having your contextual keywords back linking to your key relevant content pages day in and day out is what gives you rank, and most importantly, helps to preserve your rank. There must be fresh content containing your keyword back links out on the internet on a daily basis. Sound like a tall task? It is- particularly if you are trying to rank for numerous and competitive keywords. This is why search engine optimization companies and SEO services have flourished in recent years as the work is intensive, exacting and time consuming.
The problem is, most SEO firms do not provide the quality contextual back links I have been writing about in this post. Rather, they offer sub-par linking strategies that are typically very poorly implemented, with lots of mistakes, and if they get you some ranking, it doesn’t last. Carefully examine how the SEO company goes about its SEO strategy, and if it is all about relevant content, both on and off your website, or about massive back linking and hoping for the best. SEO can be a game changing strategy for many companies, particularly in a tough recession driven market, but it needs to be done right and always have Content as the key strategy.
Posted in Business Internet Strategies, Business Marketing Strategies.
September 19, 2011 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Well, it is great to get back to blogging after a long absence. I have been waiting on our new website and blog to be done before getting back into regular blogging. And now they are done! Let me know what you think about the new look and content.
This recession has a lot of companies questioning their tactics and pricing. Question your marketing and tactics but not your pricing. All too often I see companies who are experiencing less business reduce their prices. This is often a fatal mistake. The answer is not price reduction!
In particular, I have seen construction industry companies slashing pricing, thinking that is what is needed to get business in this recession. All too often they find this makes it worse with no end in sight. If you have a good price for the value you offer for your product or service, either leave it alone, or even increase it. Yep, I said price increase in a Recession! (and I am not crazy)
Pricing is often just a part of a very complex picture of a company’s success. There are so many other factors to consider in relation to and outside of pricing. Things like efficiency, cash flow, profitability, employees, management, etc all have to be considered, and the business needs to be comprehensively analyzed as a whole (sum of its parts) to come up with a viable recession strategy. Just cutting pricing and thinking that will help you turn things around in a recession will fail 99% of the time.
So what is the Answer in this Recession?
Two part answer:
1) Do a full Business Analysis and get an accurate picture of the health of your business and how the sum of the working parts of the business are working well, or not well together. With the analysis complete, you know where you are as a business- it a point to work from. Make improvements where you can based upon the results of the analysis, and most importantly, track the results of your changes and improvements over time. Tracking and tweaking along the way is critical! Also, fully establish that your pricing is in alignment with the value you provide– if it isn’t, fix that upfront– yes, increase pricing if necessary!
2) Improve Your Marketing: The answer in a recession isn’t price reduction but better marketing to a target of your best customers. You need to define who are your best customers, and how to market to them. The smart and successful companies in a recession expand their marketing budgets, not reduce them.
Think of ways to package and combine products and services (and add ons) that offer substantial value to your customers, yet are highly profitable to you as a company. Then market behind those key product and service bundles/packages. Pricing strategy and marketing are one and them same– take each into careful consideration and devise a strategy that encourages maximum marketing ROI for “x” price component.
Two words: Internet Marketing. Two More Words: Inbound Marketing. You won’t find a lower cost marketing method (if done right) for a higher ROI anywhere. The bottom line with any marketing campaign is to have your phone ring and boost sales. Why have mostly outbound marketing? It is expensive and often not very effective (low ROI). Inbound marketing is superior. Here are the keys to good Internet Marketing:
- Do Your Research: This is a critical first step.
- Develop an Online Marketing Plan
- Website Overhaul: Your website needs to be a sales director, not a brochure! Good Website Design and Marketing are one and the same.
- SEO: onsite Search Engine Optimization and offsite SEO Strategy.
- PPC: Pay per Click is only effective and affordable if combined with a strong SEO strategy. Good SEO significantly reduces PPC costs and makes PPC much more effective.
- Video: Having video on your website and a YouTube Channel set up is critical. Get your videos professionally done– try to resist doing it yourself. Have a good SEO and Social Media strategy behind the videos.
- Offline / Traditional Marketing: Only use in conjunction and in support of your Online Marketing strategy, not the other way around. Online marketing reduces your traditional marketing costs and makes it more successful when done correctly.
- Track, Track, Track and Tweak, Tweak and Tweak: Online marketing is awesome with all the software you can use to track the success of your campaign. The software will guide you in changes to make to increase both conversions and ROI.
The danger with a “lowering the price strategy” is you cheapen your brand and value, only making the hemorrhaging of cash and profits greater in the long run. Even worse, you may start a pricing war which often ends in disaster. Get the health of your overall business right, ensure your pricing matches the value you offer, develop out of the box pricing packages/bundles, and most importantly, spend your money and time on Internet Marketing, not traditional marketing. Does this sound like a tall order? It can be if not done right. Consider hiring an experienced business consultant to help with the business analysis, business recommendations, business changes, pricing strategy, and marketing strategy. If the business consultant is worth his or her salt, it is money well spent and vey easily recouped. Find a consultant that is results based!
Posted in Business Internet Strategies, Business Marketing Strategies, Business Recession Tactics.
February 1, 2011 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves primarily:
1) Optimizing a website / web property for relevant content
2) Optimizing a website / web property for its title, heading, keyword, description, image and video tags, among other on page factors, such as, coding and website navigation / organization.
3) Offsite optimization via back linking
I find that customers who find us through the general search engine results via our SEO strategies are the most qualified for our services and are better customers for us as compared to Pay Per Click. While we use both Pay Per Click (PPC) and SEO in our inbound marketing strategy, we certainly see the advantage of SEO from not just a cost standpoint but a quality customer standpoint too. Combining a good SEO strategy with a PPC Strategy really is a highly effective strategy with one feeding off the other- a great complimentary pair whose synergistic relationship increases the effectiveness of both strategies while minimizing customer acquisition costs. Hence our emphasis on good SEO and the reason for this blog post. In a later blog post, I will get more into PPC.
In today’s blog, I am going to concentrate on item #1, Relevant Content. I will cover items # 2 and 3 in subsequent blogs. Before any SEO strategy can be effective it is absolutely essential to have relevant content on your website. Relevant content is the number one determinant of ranking in the search engines, and your SEO back linking strategies will be minimally effective until you have adequately addressed the relevant content on your website for the keywords you want to rank for.
Relevant Content is the Number One Ranking Factor
Search Engine Optimization revolves around the fact that when someone enters a keyword into a search engine, the most relevant websites appear at the top of the natural, general, organic search results. Search engines are built with the goal of providing relevant content to keyword searches. You can have all the back links in the world, but without good, relevant content on your website, particularly for a competitive keyword, you won’t get the top ranking, nor hold a top position on the search engines.
Home Page Content
The content on the home page should characterize all that is offered on the website and be optimized for the keywords you want to rank for. Just listing keywords and linking them throughout your website isn’t enough. The keywords have to be incorporated in the relevant content of a website, with the home page being the entree to all the great content held on the site. Also remember that search engines look for natural and useful content- having a ton of keywords spammed all over the home page will not be seriously considered for top ranking.
Inner Page Content
Each of your inner pages for ranking purposes should contain relevant content on a particular subject area and contain optimized keywords within that content that relate to the overall content of the page. This content can be in the form of a blog, article, white paper and the like. Typically this content is not reserved for your products and services pages but can certainly link to them and give them sales flow and SEO credence. You can also optimize your products and services web pages as well but watch getting too wordy for it can distract from the sales process.
Example of Inner Page Relevant Content
An example is worth a thousand words…For instance, I am a “business consultant” and want to rank well for the term. I wrote an article titled, “What Does a Good Business Consultant Do?”. This article is on an inner web page, and it is referenced from the home page in a simple paragraph about business consulting. If you type in “business consultant” on Google (as of the date of this blog post), you will find our website holding the number one and two positions. The first page listed is my article written about business consultants and the second listing is our home page. I have concentrated our SEO strategy on the article page, but Google has also given our home page a ranking since it is well optimized for the keyword and has valuable relevant content. The keyword “business consultant” is highly competitive and Google in this instance recognizes my article and home page content as quite relevant for the keyword phrase. By having this good content our ranking stays pretty consistent, allowing us to effectively compete for this keyword phrase.
Get Your Content Developed and Published FIRST
If you are serious about top 5 ranking on the search engines for a competitive keyword term, then it is an absolute must to get your relevant content developed first before rolling out any SEO Strategy. If you get your content right from the beginning, all your other SEO efforts will be well rewarded.
Stay tuned…in my next blog post, I will talk about on page SEO factors that are important.
Posted in Business Internet Strategies.
January 19, 2011 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
It is great to be back blogging again. We were so busy in December and now in January that I just didn’t have much of a chance to blog. This is a good problem to have in business, yet to blog more is on my new year resolution list for 2011. So I hope you will tune back in more often!
The number one success key for businesses in 2011 will definitely be mastering the art and science of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing = internet marketing, specifically Search Engine Optimization marketing and Pay Per Click marketing.
Why is Inbound Marketing so Powerful?
Customers have fundamentally changed as the result of this three year recession we are experiencing. Customers want a good deal for the very best service, and they will take the time to really research and seek out the provider. This is where the internet becomes so powerful. The number one place customers go to research for products and services is no longer the yellow pages, it is the internet. They find a website in the general search engine results or in a sponsored ads, and determine through that web platform whether the service or product is for them. Your website becomes 1) a resource and 2) a qualifier. You know what type of customer you want, and what your products and services do and don’t offer, so be sure to include that in your website’s navigation, content and sales experience.
You Speak with Prospects that are Qualified
When a prospect finds you on the internet, whether as a result of good SEO or PPC, then you know they are actively seeking information and perhaps a service or product. This is the key: they are ACTIVE. Inbound marketing when done properly captures actively searching, wanting and needing prospects. No longer do you have to cold call a prospect, get them to understand your product/service need, answer objections and try to close the sale. Or worse yet, send a direct mail piece that is quickly ignored and needing thousands to bring a measly return.
Your website becomes your champion of qualifying. If written well with a certain sales and qualifying process in mind, your website will determine if the visitor is just an information gatherer (i.e. looking for research) or someone who is actively seeking to purchase. Then once the prospect contacts you via online chat, a website feedback form or the phone, you can quickly help the prospect to make an educated decision about your product or service offerings. Better yet, the prospect may purchase your offering through the website prior to contacting you. This is the basis of Online Marketing, and why it is so highly effective for very little cost per customer acquisition.
How to get Found on the Internet
Getting found on the internet is the lynchpin for inbound marketing to really work well. There are a multitude of ways to be found on the internet, but I find that two main ways are most effective to start (you can build in the others down the line): SEO and PPC. SEO and PPC should be part of any company’s Business Plan. In a series of future blogs I will explain the ins and outs of SEO and PPC, and how to effectively implement these strategies for big success with inbound marketing. We as a company use the internet as a primary tool for our customers to find us. It is a powerful sales platform, and once mastered, can bring sustained success and high profits for little outlay. Stay tuned…
Posted in Business Internet Strategies, Business Marketing Strategies.