How To Take Risks When Starting A Business

Risks are part and parcel of daily life.

From the moment those prominent rays of sunlight usher themselves into your home and dictate a new morning, to the moment you lay your head on the pillow after a long industrious day; you’re always taking a risk.

In fact, nature has engineered us to be risk takers. Heck, even your marriage proposal was a risk. Because the flip side of the coin is…

They could have always said no

As adept as humans are at risk taking, we’ve become coy about it, especially if one is aspires to be an entrepreneur.

But why is this the case?

Laxity; modernity has instilled in us a fear of the unknown. No longer are we the valiant conquerors that once traversed foreign lands and explored the wilderness.

Not that we’re complaining or anything; because who’d rather be hunting a wild-boar instead of digging their teeth into a juicy burger delivered right at the door?

Exactly.

That being said, what kind of risks should you consider taking before starting your own business and how do you handle them? Here are a couple that you might need to face along the way.


Saying goodbye to that steady paycheck

Before you stamp the word ‘entrepreneur’ on your LinkedIn bio, you might have to say goodbye to your current employment position.

And this sucks.

Because most entrepreneurs rarely have a solid financial backup in case things go south. So once you venture into the realm of business, it’s safe to say that you’re on your own.

Plus there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a steady personal income once you kick start the business.

Bracing for tough times ahead?

Then it’s probably a good idea to be a bit more stringent with your spendingespecially for the first couple of months (or even years) of building your business.

Which then brings us to…


Saving an extra penny for the growth of the startup

Become a successful small business owner

Every Saturday evening, you always had a candlelit dinner at the Chateau le-something with the mister or missus.

And the tab always came to a whopping $400 per meal, right?

But ever since you aspired to leave the confines of your 9 to 5 to become a small business owner, the money has gotten tighter.

In fact, you’ve even had to dip into your savings just to finance some of the projects that run your business.

Especially if your crowd funding didn’t go so well. Or the recent grants/loans you took to start the business are currently overwhelming your financial structure.

All in all, prepare to cut out some of the luxury in your life to uplift the enterprise.


Sacrificing personal time to meet the company’s objectives

It takes time to build an empire. But if you’re passionate about it, you might find yourself working100 hours a week just to perfect your company’s business model and meet the stipulated deadlines you set.

This might mean missing out on some family time and sleepfor the benefit of improving your business acumen.


Acknowledging that you can’t do it alone

Even the savviest of entrepreneurs know that they can’t build a successful enterprise without the collective effort of their business partners, friends, and investors.

Everything from financial to emotional support is vital in keeping an entrepreneur focused.

So if you’re riding solo, perhaps it’s time to consider bringing in a sidekick to help you realize your vision and brand!

All in all, every successful entrepreneur understands that business and risk taking go hand in hand. And in the famous words of Roman Philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca:

“It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult”

14 Ways Your Blog Can Bring Local Customers to Your Business

Many small businesses are still stuck with the impression that the best way to advertise locally is in the paper, on a billboard or with a radio ad. While these media platforms definitely have some value, typically they are not the best use of time or money when it comes to marketing your business.

Now, I know what you are thinking; and yes, while we are certainly a little biased, we also have seen the power of online marketing at driving customers to make purchases.

Blogs and social media networks are low cost marketing platforms that have a potentially wide spread reach. Blogging to the local audience can have a profound impact on driving customers to your website, and eventually your front door.

Check out these 14 ways that your blog can bring local customers to your business:

Content Sharing on Social Media

This is a no-brainer, but pumping out valuable information through your blog gives you content to share on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Reddit and all the other platforms out there. Just think, if you get one customer from any of these networks, it was worth it! So get posting!

Increased Exposure with Facebook Advertising

Facebook’s relatively new feature to boost a post to more viewers has allowed any business to get their message out to a larger audience. However, it is limited in what options you can target. An even better feature is in the Facebook ad creation area. This area allows a business to specifically target viewers based on geographical area, interests, and a host of other options. Blog posts can be promoted on Facebook with a high level of targeting to your potential customer right in your hometown. Jackpot!

More Links and Headlines With Your Local Business Name

Updating your blog with company news using your business name will pump the search engines with more content tagged with your name. You can post titles like Jack’s Plumbing in Brooklyn Is Fully Insured or The Cookie House Awarded “Best Place to Work in Syracuse”. Just like it used to be with traditional media like newspapers, TV and radio, the more your name is out on the Internet, the more visibility you will have. The power of “search” is huge on the local level – upwards of 80% of people go research a product or service online before actually making a purchase – and if your business name is there, your chances of getting picked go “ding-ding-ding!”

Increase In Search Engine Rank

As we know search is king. When people click on your blog post links, whether through social media or from search engines, it tells Google people care what you have to say. This increase in traffic will boost your search rankings and again, make your business more visible to the people that matter.

Ability to Ask Customers to Comment

Many businesses are scared sh*tless of having people posting opinions about their products or services on their blog, Facebook or Twitter. Our team at Good Monster thinks it’s one of the most valuable aspects of social marketing. It gives the people that buy from you a voice, a sense that their opinion matters. Where you might see a bad review, we see an opportunity to show them you care. Where you see bad visibility, we see an opportunity to show the public that you want to give them the best possible product/service. Encourage your readers to comment and start a conversation with them. Give them more than they expect and your business will reap the benefits.

Hashtags Will Bring Searchers and Potentially Readers

“Hail the hashtag!” Hashtags grew in popularity on Twitter, but have now been adopted by virtually every social media network out there. They are a way to search keywords that people tag their posts with. For example if someone wants to find what’s going on in Rochester they can use Facebook’s search bar to search #Rochester. Or if they want to find a lawyer in Sacramento they can type #SacramentoLawyer. This is nice and all, but the real value is to use already popular hash tags to boost visibility. If you share your blog post about Apple computer repair on Twitter with #Apple, you best bet that you are going to get some hits.

Include YouTube Videos To Build A Larger Audience

YouTube is a huge resource for business of all sizes. The big ones can put high-budget videos online promoting their services and make people laugh or cry their way to sharing their content. The small ones can use them to show people why they are the best at what they do and improve search ranks in Google. YouTube videos are search engine gold, especially when the right keywords are included in the title.

Promote Blog-Only Product Specials

Social media makes it easy to drive people to read your blog. Another great way to draw people in is to run contests and/or specials on your blog. For example maybe a restaurant could run a “Freebie-Friday” giveaway in which they give away free meal coupons to the first person that comments on your most recent blog post. Another example is a dry cleaning company could give away a “free dry clean to the fifth person that sends us an email using our email form on our website” – this has two benefits. Number one you are getting people’s email addresses for future targeted marketing, and two you are engaging your customers with kickbacks for being loyal.

Get Affiliated Businesses to Share Your Posts

Most businesses have professional relationships with vendors or neighboring businesses. Make good use of these relationships by offering to help them get their word out on your social media channels, while they do the same for you. Encourage them to share your blog posts, especially if they are relevant for their business. This is a great way to attract customers that might not have been exposed to your business before.

Educate Your Customers

This is one of the easiest ways to keep a local crowd coming back to your blog. If a law firm educates people in Boise, Idaho about changes in city laws and ways to avoid legal trouble, it will set the firm apart from other law firms. The local public will see that they are very knowledgeable in the legal field and will be more likely to think of them when they have a legal issue. Give your customers repeated valuable information and they won’t forget you.

Make Your Posts Sharable on Google+

As you know Google is king when it comes to search engines. About 65-70% of this world uses Google to plan their purchases, map their routes, read their news and find entertainment. Even though when it comes to social media networks, Google’s Google+ is not at the top of the food chain; there is one major benefit to sharing posts (or making your posts sharable) on Google+. Google seems to play favorites in this instance, and websites that are getting a lot of “+1’s” or shares on Google+, are getting ranked higher. Moral of the story, post good blog content and add a “+1” button at the top of your blog.

Use an Email Signup Form to Increase Readers

Making your blog easy to read for your potential customers should be your number 2 goal, behind posting great content. The easier it is for them to see your great content, the more they will read it. This is why having an enticing pitch on your website, as to why they should signup for email updates of your blog, is important. If they receive your blog posts in their email every day or so, and don’t have to actually go to your website on their own, you have a much greater chance of getting them to read your content.

Post and Link to Reviews and Testimonials

About 90% of people trust positive online reviews to guide them on business decisions, as outlined in a study by Dimensional Research. Why not make these reviews more easily visible to your customers to by highlighting them on your blog. To ensure that people don’t think you are making them up, link to the actual review on Google or Yelp. If you cannot link to a testimonial, because it’s written on paper or in an email, take a picture or screenshot and post that on your blog.  Whether it’s a testimonial or a review, it proves that you know your stuff and that people trust you.

TV, Print and Radio Ads Cost Way More

Let’s be honest, what would you rather pay for advertising space, 1,000’s of dollars or zero dollars? Blog’s offer a low- to no-cost advertising platform that is more personal and engaging to your potential customers. With a little bit of time and effort, blogging can reach your local audience with a relatively small dent in your ad budget.

Top 3 Ways to Grow Your Business

With all the sales, marketing and advertising options out there, how do you know what will really help your business grow and prosper? Our friends at Qualified Merchant used their 20+ years experience in business finance, and came up with 3 of the most effective ways that their clients have grown their business.

[Original published email series from Qualified Merchant]

1. Unbelievable Customer Service

Train your staff to love your customers as much as you do. This can be done effectively by letting your employees know what is at stake. Not only does their employment rely on satisfied customers continuing to do business with you, but also they should be rewarded for going above and beyond to help out a customer in distress. Gone are the days when employees that do a satisfactory job will keep your business running. Customer expect more, therefore businesses need to give more – so employees that show exceptional customer services should be shown that they are valuable.

Ask for customer feedback. Many companies are reluctant to ask for customer feedback for fear of receiving a bad review. Asking for feedback is powerful in two ways: (1) It shows people that you care what they think and that you are willing to make the necessary changes to improve your services to them (2) if there is negative feedback, it gives you the chance to show them (and others) that you care by making things right – and in turn extending that customers “purchasing life” with your business.

Host parties for your customers. Show your customers that you love them and want them to be happy. Go beyond the typical holiday party and host a holiday party inviting them and their friends. This will get more people in the door and keep them thinking about you.

2. Solid Marketing Plan

Plan weekly. Planning ahead is necessary, but things change so quickly these days that planning in too much detail too far ahead may be a waste of time. Have you long term marketing goals set, but sit down and plan your week while making necessary changes. If one marketing effort is failing, change it, or get rid of it completely.

Make a calendar. In our fast paced digital world, it is easy to be over whelmed with marketing platforms. Create a calendar to ensure that you and your employees stay on track with Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Likewise, make sure your staff knows when TV, radio and print advertisements are running so they are not caught off-guard when a customer stops in with a coupon or asking about a particular deal.

Create a budget. Even if it’s a small one, plan what you can afford to spend on marketing and go full throttle with it until you see what works. Mistakes hold value and will only educate you.

3. Proactive Business Development

Build strategic relationships. Develop business relationships with companies whose customers might buy from both of you. You are providing these customers with more solutions than one of you alone typically could – they won’t forget.

Use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a powerful tool to reach out to potential business professionals and can lead to profitable relationships. Shoot a message to someone on LinkedIn and offer to take him or her out for coffee.

Attend networking events. There is no better place to meet people to do business with than an event where everyone is looking to make relationships. Ask your local chamber or an industry organization where they are hosting upcoming event. Make sure you bring lots of business cards and practice your elevator speech.

Using these strategies can effectively grow your business into a trusted, customer-focused, industry leader. Now get going and open the flood gates to tons of new customers!

1 Simple Trick You’re Not Doing to Get Business from LinkedIn

linkedin_slide2_copy1-300x300I’ve been working with LinkedIn quite a bit lately for myself and for some of our clients – and its glaringly obvious to me that it beats out the other major social media networks as the best digital space to make real tangible business “friendships”.

The most valuable offering is that 100% of the members are there for one main reason – to develop business. On some level or another everybody on LinkedIn is trying to make business connections, whether it may be getting their first job out of college, or finding new customers. LinkedIn provides every business professional a virtually unlimited access to thousands, sometimes millions, of people related to their industry.

I want you to do a little mental experiment, to get you up to speed on the value of LinkedIn:

Think of all the networking events you attend on a yearly basis – how much time, effort and money do you spend on them? Now think of how often you post your professional thoughts and interact with other professionals on LinkedIn – how much time, effort and money do you spend there? (Oh wait, it’s free!)

Now you might be thinking, “Well that’s all well and good, but making a virtual connection with someone on LinkedIn doesn’t hold the same value as making a face-to-face connection with someone.” If this is the case, then you haven’t yet realized the true potential of LinkedIn. Let me show you a few examples.

Our most recent client was someone who reached out to me via LinkedIn and asked me to call her regarding her small businesses digital visibility (or lack there of). We set up a meeting in person and “BOOM” sparks flew. Well it wasn’t that romantic, but we made the connection none-the-less – and it resulted in a business deal.

Several months ago I received a message from an organization that was holding a seminar on creative marketing, they wanted me to speak on their panel of industry experts. At the seminar I met the gentleman with whom I am currently doing a small tour of branding and sales communication workshops. During this seminar I also met a [current] client who hired my company to increase her digital brand through a weekly YouTube show and several TV and online commercials.

So you see what I am getting at. LinkedIn won’t do the work for you; in fact it won’t even work if you just post random tidbits related to your industry. You must harness the power of the ‘connection’ and actively develop relationships on- and off-line.

Your task for the today is to log onto your LinkedIn account and identify 3 people that you think you could develop a mutually valuable relationship with. Message them and say something like:

“I admire your expertise in [blank industry], I have a few ideas on how we can help each other grow professionally. Can I take you out to lunch to further discuss?”

The ever-growing tree of business starts with a seed – and you just planted one with a simple, two-sentence message. You have just peaked their interest that you might be able to help them, and you opened up the door for a giant world of opportunity.

So what are you waiting for! Getting ‘connecting’!

Cheers,

John Timmerman

How Twitter Can Open Up A Can of Customers On Your Business

Twitter is arguably the most influential modern news and social sharing tool in the world. It may not have quite as many registered users as Facebook, but it sure has more rapidly shared content – and it’s in real time. Businesses large and small better quickly get aquatinted with how to get “friendly” on Twitter.

Twitter_per_min

 So why aren’t more local or regional businesses putting focus into Twitter?

Well most small- to medium-sized businesses would say, “Twitter is only for big brands – It won’t help me increase my bottom line, so I don’t see why I should waste time using it”.

And I would say “Imagine that you held an event that attracted people from all over your area or region to come hangout at your office/store. It would give you a chance to meet those people, get their business cards, and invite them back to hangout with you and try your products or services.  You would probably look at this as a great networking opportunity that might result in some sales leads. It would be well worth the investment of time and money, right?”

“Well Twitter allows you to do the same thing about a million times faster, more often and reach way more people for free – stick that in your pipe and smoke it”.

Ok I would probably leave that last part out, but you catch my drift. Twitter is powerful for all businesses because of two main things:

  1. Social media platforms are successful because they allow people to share content – and Twitter is allowing people to share content like pictures of products, promotional videos, contests, news and user comments faster than any other platform out there.
  2. Twitter is the fastest growing social networking platform in the world with a user increase of 40% between Q2 and Q4 in 2012, bringing it to 288 million active users (485 million total)– many of which are Millennials who happen to be falling into the house-purchasing, job-promotion, money-spending, “I need help with planning my future” section of their life (great news for businesses looking for new customers).

That being said there is only one way that a business will succeed with Twitter. “Go out and get attention – engage people in an positive, unexpected and personal way”. Unfortunately you probably don’t have the brand power of Nike or Coke, so you (or your marketing team) will have to do some leg work to show “followers” that you are a valuable addition to their twitter feed.