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Monthly Archives: June 2019

Creating a Useful Business Plan

If you hear the words “business plan” and immediately think, “Ho-Hum, boring” then your business plan is being done wrong. A business plan is a vital part of your company and it should live in the daily operations of your business as well as guide you when there are setbacks or hurdles to overcome.

This living document can be an integral part of your company and keep you on track for years to come. That means regular reviews of the document and how your company needs to adjust, or it needs to be changed.

The Small Business Association (SBA) recommends that a business plan include the following areas:

  • Executive summary – a snapshot of your business
  • Company description – describes what you do
  • Market analysis – research on your industry, market, and competitors
  • Organization and management – your business and management structure
  • Service or product – the products or services you’re offering
  • Marketing and sales – how you’ll market your business and your sales strategy
  • Funding request – how much money you’ll need for the next 3 to 5 years
  • Financial projections – supply information like balance sheets
  • Appendix – an optional section that includes resumes and permits

Now that you know the categories, how do you go about drafting a business plan? Our first suggestion is to NOT do it in a vacuum. Talk to other people who are in your field, including accountants, financial advisors, potential clients, trusted advisors, and anyone who will listen. The more you learn and research, the better off you will be with understanding how your business will come together. Here are three simple things to keep you focused as you write your business plan.

Keep it Simple and Straightforward

First of all, no one has the time or energy to read hundreds of pages of your business plan. A lengthy plan also makes it pretty unlikely that you will review it annually. Keep it short and simple, and get to the point. Bullets and charts can get your content across easily and make it reader-friendly.

Know Your Audience

As with presentations and sales, it is a good idea to know who your investors and business partners will be. Keep the language simple if your investors do not follow the lingo of your industry. This is especially true if you have a scientific or complex business plan.

Pick the Right Format

Not all businesses have the same needs or information. Choose a format that can bring out the unique aspect of your business. Check out the SBA’s types of plans such as a traditional or lean format that can convert what you need to in an easy to understand manner.

Working on a Business Plan? Check out our 2019 Business Plan Program and Competition Pitch Panel on June 12, 2019, from 8:30 am –  Click here for additional information including eligibility requirements and application.

Making Annual Reviews Productive

Oh no, it’s that time of year again! Performance reviews are not the most happily anticipated work events. In fact, most employees and business leaders report that they often dread, or at least get anxious at, the mere thought of reviewing the past year.

For some businesses, this meeting is not just a review of how an employee is doing but it is also tied to raises and bonuses. That adds a layer of pressure and stress in the days and weeks leading up to the review.

Performance reviews, although somewhat stressful, are one of the most effective ways to assess, motivate, and engage your employees. If you find that your employees are dreading these or that you want them to be more productive, follow some of these tips and suggestions to make the most of the time.

Be Prepared

As with any other aspect of running a business, be ready. Employees should be given a self-evaluation form so they can examine what they thought of their accomplishments and/or setbacks throughout the year. Management should fill out something similar. The worst thing you can do is forget and just go through the motions by having a review without any direction or purpose. A form that each person fills out can help keep you on track during the review.

Start on a Positive Note

Ask your employee to start off the meeting by talking about their most positive learning experience this year or something they are proud of. Always start on a positive note. This will hopefully put everyone at ease and set the tone for a productive meeting.

Be Open and Honest

As an employer, there are probably some areas where you would like to see some improvement or possibly some training over the next year. Talk to your employees about what training you think they could benefit from. You may find that they want to broaden their learning as well. Be honest as well about areas that you would like to see improvement. Ask your employees how you can help them achieve that improvement. Look at it as more of a group effort rather than an adversarial relationship.

Set Goals

As a part of your review process, you may want to set some SMART goals that can be evaluated next year. Make sure the goals are achievable, realistic, measurable, and specific. This can keep both of you on track.

Ask For Feedback

Not only should you be talking about how an employee can improve or in what areas you want to see growth, but you should be asking for feedback from that person as well about your contributions and how you can help him/her attain those goals. Remember, this is a two-way street.

Do you need help fine-tuning your annual reviews? Check out our workshop on “How to Conduct Performance Evaluations.”  Join Nancy Saperstone, Senior HR Business Partner and Communications Specialist, Insight Performance, on June 11, 2019, from 8:30 am – 10:30 am.

 

 

Print Marketing To Increase Sales

We live in a digital world, with emails, newsletters, pop up ads, and a constant influx of marketing materials on a daily basis. It stands to figure that businesses would cash in on this method of marketing since it seems like everyone is constantly on their devices checking their inboxes and social media. Shouldn’t print marketing be a thing of the past? Not at all.

Check out some of these startling statistics regarding print media and how it is very much still alive in the world of marketing and sales.

  • 79% of households say they read or scan direct mail ads
  • Direct mail marketing yields a 13-to-1 return on investment ratio
  • 39% of customers report trying a business because of direct mail ads
  • 56% of customers find print marketing to be the most trustworthy

Wondering about the benefits of print marketing vs. digital? Here are several reasons why print marketing is still thriving.

Print is Tangible

Print ads are tangible. They can be held, put on a fridge, and carried until used. A digital ad is only seen and then, many times, completely forgotten. Americans are far too quick to scroll past a digital ad or coupon as compared to a print ad. Many customers say they like the fact that an ad, a postcard, business card, or coupon can be held onto as a reminder until it is used. It is also a great way to keep contact information as well.

Print Marketing and A High Response Rate

According to PrintIsBig.com, advertisers spent $167 per person on direct mail in 2015, and earned $2,095 — that’s a 1,255 percent return! The numbers are actually increasing each year. Deluxe Online reports that studies prove that combining print marketing with digital promotions drives higher response rates and conversions than using digital-only communications. Honestly, who has the time or inclination to remember all of the online ads they see?

Print Conveys a Message of Trust

Print ads are the most trustworthy ads there are. Too many of us are afraid to click on a digital ad for fear that it will lead us down the rabbit hole to inadvertently downloading a virus. A print ad induces no such fear.

Is your company using print advertising? Find out more about how this marketing tool can help boost your sales and create brand awareness for your business. Check out our seminar on, “Creating print Marketing Materials to Attract Customers” with local CEO Mike Sperling of Sperling Interactive. The seminar is on June 6 from 8:30 am – 10:30 am.

 

Succeeding in Business: Who is Your Audience?

Google search “marketing strategies” and you will find hundreds if not thousands of marketing tips, strategies, and ideas that could keep you reading for a lifetime. One thing you will find that all the sites have in common is a section on “getting to know your target audience.” Why? Because, fundamentally, every business owner should know their audience inside and out if they have any hope of succeeding in their field.

Knowing this, how exactly do you get to know your audience? What are some ways you can gather information about who is buying your product or using your services? Take a look at these methods that may help you connect with and retain loyal customers for years to come.

Do Market Research

Start getting to know the different demographics you want to target in your ads and marketing strategy by doing market research. A number of tools are available to help you here, some of which are free — like American FactFinder, which uses United States census information to help you find out key pieces of information about specific demographics.

Examine Your Competitors

Doing your research on the audience you hope to reach is important, but so is examining your competitors. Check out the social media, blogs, digital marketing, and print media of your closest competitors. Who are they targeting in their email lists? Who are they aiming to appeal to in their print and digital ads? Are they missing a group or do they have a group that you have forgotten? This extra layer of research can help you stay on track and know your audience compared to your competition.

Get to Know Your Consumers

If you have a storefront or visit clients often, get to know them personally. Find out what they like, and dislike about your products or services. Go the extra mile by trying to address their concerns. These personal insights may help you adjust your marketing to appeal to their needs or wants.

Monitor Reviews and Customer Feedback

The way to really get to know your audience is to listen to what they are saying on surveys, in reviews, and even to your face during interactions. Check out your company on Yelp, Google Reviews, and other online sites to know what clients think about your company. Adjust your marketing, products, and services accordingly.

Do you need help getting to know your audience? Check out our seminar called, “What is Your Business, and What Will It take to Succeed?” It is being offered on June 5 from 8:30 to 10:30 am. Check out our website for more details.

 

Franchising 101: Things To Consider

The franchise industry is a $2.3 trillion industry, with one out of every six jobs relating to franchising. Statistically speaking, therefore, a franchise has a better chance of succeeding than most small business start-ups, due to the support and name recognition. If you are considering getting involved in a franchise, now is an excellent opportunity, but there are also things to consider before you take the leap.

What is a Franchise?

Before we take a look at whether a franchise might be right for you, let’s examine what one is and how common they are. Drive down any main street in America and you will see a Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, McDonald’s, a UPS Store, and a CVS. See, you didn’t have to go far to find a franchise, did you? Franchises are an extremely common way of doing business.

A franchise is a type of license granted by an initial business owner (the franchiser) to other business hopefuls (the franchisee). The license is sold to others who will continue to use the name, logo, and business model.

Things to Consider:

Is a franchise the right fit for me?

Franchising is not for everyone. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, “Some see it as a way to venture out and become their own boss, but at the same time have the safety net a franchisor provides. While as a franchisee you will be the boss, you’ll still have the franchisor to deal with – so, you won’t be totally independent of oversight.” Most people who join a franchise do not want to change the system of work but rather believe in the business model that is already there and want to become a part of that system.

How hard do you want to work?

If you are choosing to work within a franchise, don’t go into it with the mental idea that the work will be easier because the company is already formed and a blueprint for success is already there. That would be a big mistake. Any new franchise still requires long hours and dedication. Don’t confuse a system that is already set with coasting into your own franchising success.

What is the risk?

Before you sign on the dotted line, do some research. What is the failure rate for this particular franchise? What do you know about the community you will be working in? What is that community’s turnover rate for this type of business? Do your homework before you jump at the opportunity to franchise.

Do you have questions about franchising? Check out our event, “Is Franchising Right for You?” on June 4 from 8:30-10:30 am. See our website for more details.