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5 Reasons You Need a Business Plan

5 Reasons You Need a Business Plan

A business plan is important for any business, even one that is a few decades old. It is like a roadmap that tells you where you are going and how to get there. It also helps to keep you on track. Business plans can be reviewed every year to make sure you are staying on the right track. Here are five reasons you need a business plan.

  1. It will get you financial backing. You can use your business plan to get investors interested in funding your business. You can also use it to get a loan for your business. The more solid your business chance is, the better your chance of getting a loan.
  2. You’ll be able to make major decisions. You’ll know whether or not you need to hire on new employees, managers or consultants.
  3. You will be able to delegate your objectives to your employees. You will be able to tell them exactly what your business is about, and how they play a role in accomplishing that objective.
  4. You will be able to manage your finances. You will know when you need to rent a space, rent a machine or make a new purchase.
  5. You’ll be able to sell your business. If you decide to sell your business, the buyer will want to see what you’ve accomplished and how you accomplished it. The business plan will tell them whether what you have is worth buying.

5 Questions That Determine If You Need a Mobile App for Your Business

5 Questions That Determine If You Need a Mobile App for Your Business

Mobile apps are a rapidly growing field. Android, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and other major tech companies are all offering apps to smart phone users. In order to keep up, you may think that your business needs an app as well. Here are five questions that you can ask yourself to determine if your business needs a mobile app or not.

  1. Why do you feel you need a mobile app? Is it because your competition has one and you want to keep up? Or is it because you honestly want to offer something of value to potential, new and existing customers?
  2. What will your app do? Will it provide valuable information? Will it enable people to order things from your business? Will it be something that they can go back to again and again?
  3. Will your app be a standalone product or an extension of your website?
  4. If you can’t answer any of these questions, will you be willing to hire a consultant to help you find the answer? A consultant can help you sort through the confusion of the mobile website/apps world and set a clear path leading to your goal.
  5. Are you willing to spend the money needed to properly develop an app? Mobile apps are not cheap. Even the cheapest developer will charge you thousands of dollars. You must be willing to invest time and money to make your app a success.

4 Things You Need to Know About Your Online Reputation

4 Things You Need to Know About Your Online Reputation

Online reputations are important. Nearly 100% of consumers that have been polled say that they use online reviews to determine if they are going to buy from a company. If you have negative reviews about your company, don’t panic. Here are some things you need to know about your online reputation.

  1. You can’t please everyone. No company has a 100% perfect track record of pleasing its consumers. Someone is always going to walk away unsatisfied. Just do the best that you can satisfying the needs of your consumers. If you’ve gone above and beyond and they still aren’t satisfied, it’s best that you both move on.
  2. Don’t panic. Panicking leads to making decisions that you will later regret. If someone alerts you to a negative review, take a deep breath, remain calm, and thank them.
  3. Be cautious. Sometimes negative reviews are planted by competitors or people who want to extort you for money. They will promise they can “remove” the negative items in question if you pay them a fee. In reality, no one can remove a negative item off of the internet – unless they planted it there themselves.
  4. If the negative reviews are damaging your business, making it difficult to make money, you can seek legal help. Legal counsel will be able to tell you how to proceed, and if there is anything that you can do to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you again.

How to Write an Effective Business Plan

How to Write an Effective Business Plan

Before any business dream becomes a reality, a plan has to be written. A business plan serves as the blueprint for a business. It is the layout of your business and it allows you to visualize your plan and determine exactly what you need to do in order to make your plan a reality.

Every effective business plan should contain the following:

 

Components of a Business Plan

  • A list of goals: Your business plan should clearly identify your goals. What is it that you want to achieve? What do you hope other people will gain from your business?
  • A list of objectives: Your plan should also identify your objectives. What do you want to provide people with? Do you plan on offering products or services? Why are your products and services beneficial?
  • The location: Where will your business be located? Will you operate it online, or will you have a storefront? If it will be located in an actual building, where is a good location that will lead to success?
  • Marketing needs: Of course, every business needs to have a marketing plan. Marketing helps to spread the word about your business, establishes your brand and helps to drive success. What type of marketing tactics do you plan on using?
  • The finances: The old saying goes, “You need to spend money to make money”. Before you can start making money, you are going to have to shell some out. How much do you project your startup budget will be? How do you plan on acquiring those funds?

How to Set a Marketing Budget

How to Set a Marketing Budget

You know that marketing is an invaluable part of your business, but in order to effectively market, you need to invest money. You know what they say: You have to spend money to make money. As a start up, it can be difficult to determine how much you need to set aside for your marketing budget. So, how do you go about determining how much you will need? Read on to find out.

 

 

Setting a Budget

  • Consider your marketing plans. What types of marketing strategies do you plan on utilizing? The types of strategies you use will indicate how much you need to spend. For example, print ads may cost more than social media marketing.
  • Look at the competition. Use your competition to get an idea of how much you should spend. Try researching to find out how much established businesses in your niche have spent on their marketing efforts. This will give you an idea of how much to put toward your efforts.
  • Winging it. There is another option that a lot of startup businesses rely on, and that is just winging it. These businesses find out how much a particular marketing effort will cost and make the investment as the move forward. It may sound a little haphazard and unreliable; however, as a startup, there are a lot of expenses that you simply can’t find out about until you actually spend the money. You can invest more or less as you progress.

Credit Card Perks That Make Your Business Appear Bigger

Credit Card PerksSmall businesses need all the breaks they can get in today’s competitive market. American Express, also known as AmEx, is the largest credit card company in the US, yet it has not forgotten the little guy. AmEx launched American Express OPEN in 2007 to service small businesses and help owners grow them by offering various benefits exclusive to OPEN members.

The OPEN program benefits both small business owners and AmEx. The credit card giant realized the force of the small business owner, and had come to the conclusion that if they gain their loyalty, they would get returns tenfold when the business grows with their help. Although not entirely altruistic, it does provide the assistance and support that many small business owners need. The OPEN program of services is a huge success, even making inroads in social media. In Twitter, OPEN Forum has 10,000 followers and the numbers are still climbing.

There are many perks and benefits of being an OPEN member, butthree of them are unique to AmEx. They provide business services that are concretely effective and deserve to be mentioned.

Discounted Office Solutions

  • Nothing increases credibility more than having office space in an exclusive area. The Business Platinum Card offers the Platinum Office Program in cooperation with Regus. Under the program, a cardholder can improve his business image by:
  • Availing of fully equipped and furnished office space at one month free with a six-month contract or 2 months free with a 12-month or more contract
  • Getting  a 35% discount on a virtual office complete with mail forwarding service, local telephone service with receptionist, administrative services and use of a professional business address
  • Having complimentary access to any of the 1,200 business lounges all over the world

OPEN Forum

  • This is a loyalty service exclusive to AmEx OPEN card members which may help in growing their business. This is by:
  • Connecting business owners and forging new professional relationships
  • Providing a networking opportunity for members to promote their business
  • Giving access to expert advice on a wide variety of industries through a library of videos and articles
  • Providing a platform for discussing current business trends and issues, and asking advice from experts
  • Developing Connectodex, the counterpart of Facebook for AmEx for business entrepreneurs who joined the program in 2009, which allows the exploration and creation of partnerships with other OPEN members

Exclusive By Invitation Only Events

Nothing impresses clients more than being given the VIP treatment. OPEN members are given the opportunity to attend exclusive, not open to the public events which can be used to treat staff or entertain clients all over the world. These include:

  • Sporting events
  • Fashion events
  • Visual and performing arts
  • Dining offers

Cardmembers also enjoy:

  • Preferred Seating and Premium Access at live concerts, entertainment and sports events
  • Advance ticket sales
  • Access to the STAPLES Center Platinum Lounge

4 Reasons to Ditch Your Office for Your Laptop

laptop officeThe rise of the internet economy has changed a lot of things. Something that has changed for a lot of people is the necessity of an office. Many businesses are looking to be leaner, and it’s hard to justify the expense of holding on to a large amount of office space. You may have already begun questioning whether your office space is necessary. We’re going to go over some of the reasons you should consider giving up your office right now.

Reason 1: It May be an Expense You Don’t Need

Offices are expensive. The nicer the city, the more you’ll pay just for the right to park a few computers. Many people are convinced that an office is a necessary part of running a business, but a lot of that “necessity” has been preempted by the internet in the last few years. Buying, selling, communicating, and organizing are all possible now without the traditional office.

In addition to being expensive, holding an office also crowds people with many different work styles and tolerances into a single building. Ditching the office for an online workspace allows everyone more flexibility.

Reason 2: It Offers Everyone More Flexibility

More and more companies are finding reasons for their employees to do part of their jobs from home. There are many good reasons for that. Making employees telecommute allows the business to downsize to smaller operations, and it saves on the massive power bills that large offices generally experience.

Many employees prefer to work from home anyway. It allows them to do their job even when they occasionally need to run errands or deal with illnesses. In the past, this was balanced by the fact that communication was lost, but that is no longer the case.

Reason 3: You Can Communicate Just Fine over the Web

Even when the only option was email, it was still an effective way to communicate. Now there are so many more options that it makes face-to-face communication look quaint. Email is still a good option, but you can also have video conferences and instant messenger communication.

The options are also not limited to straight communication. It is now possible to deftly manage massive teams using management software and websites that inform every person of their obligations and archives all submitted work. New programs are also beginning to make live collaboration easier by computer than it ever was when people were crowded into rooms.

Really, the only reason to keep dedicated office space is so that you can have a place to host clients. Fortunately, that can be easily achieved just by renting office space only when you need it.

Reason 4: You Can Always Rent Space When You Need It

You may be worried about clients having nowhere to go when they can’t come visit you at your brick and mortar business for meetings. However, there are many ways around that. Rented (hourly) meeting space offers you many advantages over having your own.

For one, you’ll have access to much nicer accommodations at an hourly rate. If you could afford a budget office, you can afford a high-class meeting room that will impress anyone who walks into it. Even if you need to entertain clients weekly, you’ll be paying much less than you would for a permanent office.

Now might be the Right Time

Giving up the office is a hard decision to make, but now may be the time for you to consider. You’ll enjoy the advantages of saving money, guaranteeing flexibility for your employees, maintaining communication, and having office space only when you need it.

Punching Above Your Weight: Making Your Small Business Look Mighty

clientYou manage a small online business, and you’re in trouble. You keep missing all the big clients you really need to get the success you’ve always wanted. There could be many reasons you are being ignored, but one of the principal ones is likely the perception those bigger clients have of you. To them, you look too risky and unstable to be trusted with a big contract.

You can’t really blame them for thinking this way. Every day, thousands of new businesses are founded online. Most of them aren’t going to last out the month, and the ones that do still won’t have a great chance at surviving to the end of the year. Investing time and money into one of these small businesses is a gamble, and most of the big guys prefer to do their gambling at a roulette table.

When you are just starting to get your business of the ground, you are fighting for your very survival. In the wild, a popular survival strategy is to make yourself appear larger than you really are. This is something that can be done in business as well. We’ll tell you about some strategies you can use to make your small business look mighty.

Mailing Addresses That Make an Impression

If you are operating a small business online or offline, you may not have an address that makes much of an impression. For many small business owners of the new economy, a business address and a home address are one in the same. If you want to impress a client however, you’ll want something on your business card that inspires confidence—even if you are running your business out of an apartment.

The most effective way to get a great address without paying for premium office space is to take advantage of a mail forwarding service. These helpful services will take mail at one address and forward them to your real address. This means you can put something impressive (5th Avenue, NY for example) on your business card, yet still receive all your mail where you need it.

Renting Hourly Office Space to Improve Your Identity

One of the biggest challenges of getting new contracts is meeting with them. It is not going to inspire much confidence if you try to bring them to your home. It won’t be much more effective to bring them to any budget office space you’ve been able to procure while you are getting started.

Your best bet is finding some rentable meeting rooms in your area. You can choose from some very high-class options without needing to pay for them when you don’t need to use them. When you take your clients to high-class meeting spaces, you give them the impression that your business is financially stable.

Maintaining Professional Phone Service

Something that always signals professionalism is phone banks to take calls and direct them to the appropriate department. This signals to your clients that you have the budget for a reasonably-sized staff, and that you are important enough that screening your calls is necessary to doing business.

This may sound incredibly expensive, but these days it isn’t. For less than you would pay a good secretary, you can now borrow time from call centers. Their operators will be trained to answer questions about your business, and forward you the calls that you need the most. If you are currently the only one answering your phones, you may want to look into this service right away.

Go Out and be Mighty

Once you have all the trappings of a much more professional business, you’ll be able to get attention from clients who have ignored you in the past.

10 Daily Activities That Can Be Outsourced

outsourcingLikely, there are a couple of tasks around the office that you wouldn’t mind handing over to someone else. With outsourcing, you can do this. Giving away certain daily activities to someone outside the company could give you more hours in the day to attend to more important projects. Don’t be afraid to get outside help for your business, especially if it means making your business more productive. Let’s take a look at 10 daily activities that you may want to outsource to someone else:

 

  1. Scheduling: This is a task that can easily be handled by someone outside of the company. There’s no need for inside help because it involves non-specialized information and skills. You can find a virtual assistant to handle this task, since there’s no need to be in the office either.
  2. Answering Calls: Unless calls are urgent, you can outsource your phone lines. This will free up time, so that you won’t have to be at your desk all day answering phones. You can have all emergency or important calls forwarded to your desk or cell phone if you are constantly away from your office.
  3. Data Entry: Again, a virtual assistant can be used to handle this task. You can save office space by doing it this way. Data entry can easily be transferred over via email, using a scanner or Microsoft Office documents, if that’s what your company uses.
  4. Tasks You Don’t Like Doing: When you are stuck with doing daily tasks that you don’t want to do, it takes longer to complete. Whatever activities around the office that you don’t like doing that can be easily outsourced, you should do so.
  5. Payroll: This is something that has to be handled daily, so why not allow someone else with the right skills to do it for you? If you have a business software system that your company uses, you can allow them virtual access, by giving them login info.
  6. Writing and Editing: If you’re in a business that involves a lot of writing and editing of business documents, you can allow someone with great English writing skills to handle this for you.
  7. Email Correspondences: Answering emails all day is another daunting task that you can pass along. Just make sure that you outsource to someone who has great customer service and English writing skills.
  8. Setting Appointments: When you run a business that involves making lots of appointments, you can have someone set them for you.
  9. Handling Sales Calls: Telemarketing is important for businesses that have products and services to sell. You can use your freed time to worry more about the actual product or service that you have to offer.
  10. Social Media Marketing: Being on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites all day can quickly eat up your time. Outsource this task and see your day become more productive.

 

The purpose of outsourcing these daily tasks is to help you as a business owner to have more time to worry about creating new products and services, driving more sales and getting new customers.

Creative Ways To Get Your New Business Noticed

Creative Ways To Get Your New Business NoticedIt’s a no-brainer that you need to get recognition for your business to keep revenue flowing in. Whether you are a startup or been in the game for a couple of years, getting constant attention is the way to keep you in the mind of your current and potential customers. Unfortunately, not all businesses have the capital needed to properly get noticed, which means you need to use creative methods to do things on a shoestring budget. Here are a couple of ideas that you can get more exposure for your business without paying thousands of dollars.

Host an Open House or Special Event

Everyone enjoys gathering together where there’s free food and fun. If you can invite customers and your local community to an open house with food and refreshments, it will give you more visual. Make sure to have banners, brochures and business cards available, so that everyone will know who threw the event and what you have to offer.

Join Business or Civic Organizations

By joining in local organizations in your community, you will be able to make a good name for you and your business. It’s a great way to meet new business contacts and potential advertising contacts that can help you get the word out about your company.

Swap Ads with Another Company

If you have a publication or Web site, you can find a non-competing business to swap advertisements with. This works by advertising their business services or products in your publications and the other company doing the same for you. Of course, you should try to find a business that has clients that would actually be interested in what your company has to offer. Otherwise, it would be pointless.

Give Away Free Samples at Tradeshows

Attending tradeshows is a great way to network with other businesses and potentially find new customers. While there, you can hand out free samples. Make sure that the samples you give away are branded with your logo and contact information (depending on what your samples are). If not, at least include a business card with the free sample. People love getting free things and if your samples are great at showing what your business has to offer, then you’ll make a great first impression.

Create Custom Vinyl Banners

With customized vinyl banners, you can advertise your business, ongoing sales or special events that your company will be hosting. These vinyl banners can be placed on the side of your building to help bring in more foot traffic.

Contact Your Local Newspaper  

Sometimes, there is extra space for a newspaper issue that needs to be filled. By contacting your local newspaper, you can see if they would be interested in doing a story on your business. If you have something newsworthy to talk about, such as an event you will be hosting, a charity you are taking part in or something else the community would be interested in learning about, then this would make it easier for you to get a free spot in the newspaper.