---Alan Salls, owner, Tvalley - Rio Rancho, NM - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.tvalley.com
Enhancing Our Customers Experience with Our Company
We are a brand new business with what we think is a very informative, easy to use and beautiful web site for our unique, fun and wonderful kitty product. During the design and content development stage we were confident we had covered everything about our product features and other important information for our customers. To our surprise we hadn`t. We follow up as quickly as possible on every customer suggestion and question to answer their questions and thank them for the suggestion. We also offer to send a sample of our product to the customer who has really enlightened our thinking. No one has turned us down, and they write back with appreciation. Even though they may not place an order now, we believe we have left a very positive impression of the company and product with them, and, that they will be back to visit again.
1. Open another location. This might not be your best choice for business expansion, but it's listed first here because that's what often comes to mind first for so many entrepreneurs considering expansion. "Physical expansion isn't always the best growth answer without careful research, planning and number-planning," says small-business speaker, writer and consultant Frances McGuckin , who offers the following tips for anyone considering another location:
2. Offer your business as a franchise or business opportunity. Bette Fetter, founder and owner of Young Rembrandts , an Elgin, Illinois-based drawing program for children, waited 10 years to begin franchising her concept in 2001-but for Fetter and her husband, Bill, the timing was perfect. Raising four young children and keeping the business local was enough for the couple until their children grew older and they decided it was time to expand nationally.
"We chose franchising as the vehicle for expansion because we wanted an operating system that would allow ownership on the part of the staff operating Young Rembrandts locations in markets outside our home territory," says Bette. "When people have a vested interest in their work, they enjoy it more, bring more to the table and are more successful overall. Franchising is a perfect system to accomplish those goals."
Streamlining their internal systems and marketing in nearby states helped the couple bring in their first few franchisees. With seven units and some time under their belt, they then signed on with two national franchise broker firms. Now with 30 franchisees nationwide, they're staying true to their vision of steady growth. "Before we began franchising, we were teaching 2,500 children in the Chicago market," says Bette. "Today we teach more than 9,000 children nationwide, and that number will continue to grow dramatically as we grow our franchise system."
Bette advises networking within the franchise community-become a member of the International Franchise Association and find a good franchise attorney as well as a mentor who's been through the franchise process. "You need to be open to growing and expanding your vision," Bette says, "but at the same time, be a strong leader who knows how to keep the key vision in focus at all times."
3. License your product. This can be an effective, low-cost growth medium, particularly if you have a service product or branded product, notes Larry Bennett, director of the Larry Friedman International Center for Entrepreneurship at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. "You can receive upfront monies and royalties from the continued sales or use of your software, name brand, etc.-if it's successful," he says. Licensing also minimizes your risk and is low cost in comparison to the price of starting your own company to produce and sell your brand or product.
To find a licensing partner, start by researching companies that provide products or services similar to yours. "[But] before you set up a meeting or contact any company, find a competent attorney who specializes in intellectual property rights," advises Bennett. "This is the best way to minimize the risk of losing control of your service or product."
4. Form an alliance. Aligning yourself with a similar type of business can be a powerful way to expand quickly. Last spring, Jim Labadie purchased a CD seminar set from a fellow fitness professional, Ryan Lee, on how to make and sell fitness information products. It was a move that proved lucrative for Labadie, who at the time was running an upscale personal training firm he'd founded in 2001. "What I learned on [Lee's] CDs allowed me to develop my products and form alliances within the industry," says Labadie, who now teaches business skills to fitness professionals via a series of products he created and sells on his Web site, HowToGetMoreClients.com .
Seeing that Labadie had created some well-received products of his own, Lee agreed to promote Labadie's product to his long contact list of personal trainers. "That resulted in a decent amount of sales," says Labadie-in fact, he's increased sales 500 percent since he created and started selling the products in 2001. "Plus, there have been other similar alliances I've formed with other trainers and Web sites that sell my products for a commission."
If the thought of shelling out commissions or any of your own money for the sake of an alliance makes you uncomfortable, Labadie advises looking at the big picture: "If you want to keep all the money to yourself, you're really shooting yourself in the foot," says the Tampa, Florida, entrepreneur. "You need to align with other businesses that already have lists of prospective customers. It's the fastest way to success."
5. Diversify. Small-business consultant McGuckin offers several ideas for diversifying your product or service line:
"Diversifying is an excellent growth strategy, as it allows you to have multiple streams of income that can often fill seasonal voids and, of course, increase sales and profit margins," says McGuckin, who diversified from an accounting, tax and consulting business to speaking, writing and publishing.
Diversifying was always in the works for Darien, Connecticut, entrepreneurs Rebecca Cutler and Jennifer Krane, creators of the "raising a racquet" line of maternity tenniswear , launched in 2002. "We had always planned to expand into other 'thematic' kits, consistent with our philosophies of versatility, style, health and fun," says Cutler. "Once we'd begun to establish a loyal wholesale customer base and achieve some retail brand recognition, we then broadened our product base with two line extensions, 'raising a racquet golf' and 'raising a racquet yoga.'"
Rolling out the new lines last year allowed the partners' current retail outlets to carry more of their inventory. "It also broadened our target audience and increased our presence in the marketplace, giving us the credibility to approach much larger retailers," notes Cutler, who expects to double their 2003 sales this year and further diversify the company's product lines. "As proof, we've recently been selected by Bloomingdale's, A Pea in the Pod and Mimi Maternity."
6. Target other markets. Your current market is serving you well. Are there others? You bet. "My other markets are what make money for me," says McGuckin. Electronic and foreign rights, entrepreneurship programs, speaking events and software offerings produce multiple revenue streams for McGuckin, from multiple markets.
"If your consumer market ranges from teenagers to college students, think about where these people spend most of their time," says McGuckin. "Could you introduce your business to schools, clubs or colleges? You could offer discounts to special-interest clubs or donate part of [your profits] to schools and associations."
Baby boomers, elderly folks, teens, tweens...let your imagination take you where you need to be. Then take your product to the markets that need it.
7. Win a government contract. "The best way for a small business to grow is to have the federal government as a customer," wrote Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, ranking Democratic member of the House Small Business Committee, in August 2003. (Click here to read that article.) "The U.S. government is the largest buyer of goods and services in the world, with total procurement dollars reaching approximately $235 billion in 2002 alone."
Working with your local SBA and SBDC offices as well as the Service Corps of Retired Executives and your local, regional or state Economic Development Agency will help you determine the types of contracts available to you. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the SBA also have a Business Matchmaking Program designed to match entrepreneurs with buyers. "A fair amount of patience is required in working to secure most government contracts," says Johnson & Wales University's Bennett. "Requests for proposals usually require a significant amount of groundwork and research. If you're not prepared to take the time to fully comply with RFP terms and conditions, you'll only be wasting your time."
This might sound like a lot of work, but it could be worth it: "The good part about winning government contracts," says Bennett, "is that once you've jumped through the hoops and win a bid, you're generally not subject to the level of external competition of the outside marketplaces."
8. Merge with or acquire another business. In 1996, when Mark Fasciano founded FatWire , a Mineola, New York, content management software company, he certainly couldn't have predicted what would happen a few years later. Just as FatWire was gaining market momentum, the tech downturn hit hard. "We were unable to generate the growth needed to maximize the strategic partnerships we'd established with key industry players," Fasciano says. "During this tech 'winter,' we concentrated on survival and servicing our clients, while searching for an opportunity to jump-start the company's growth. That growth opportunity came last year at the expense of one of our competitors."
Scooping up the bankrupt company, divine Inc., from the auction block was the easy part; then came the integration of the two companies. "The process was intense and exhausting," says Fasciano, who notes four keys to their success:
FatWire's acquisition of divine in 2003 grew its customer base from 50 to 400, and the company grew 150 percent, from $6 million to $15 million. Fasciano expects no less than $25 million in sales this year.
9. Expand globally. Not only did FatWire grow in terms of customers and sales, it also experienced global growth simply as a result of integrating the best of the divine and FatWire technologies. "FatWire finally has international reach-we've established new offices in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Germany, China, Japan and Singapore," says Fasciano. This increased market share is what will allow FatWire to realize sustained growth.
But you don't need to acquire another business to expand globally. You just need to prime your offering for an international market the way FatWire was primed following the integration of its technologies with divine's.
You'll also need a foreign distributor who'll carry an inventory of your product and resell it in their domestic markets. You can locate foreign distributors by scouring your city or state for a foreign company with a U.S. representative. Trade groups, foreign chambers of commerce in the United States, and branches of American chambers of commerce in foreign countries are also good places to find distributors you can work with.
10. Expand to the Internet. "Bill Gates said that by the end of 2002, there will be only two kinds of businesses: those with an Internet presence, and those with no business at all," notes Sally Falkow a Pasadena, California, Web content strategist. "Perhaps this is overstating the case, but an effective Web site is becoming an integral part of business today."
Landing your Web site in search engine results is key-more than 80 percent of traffic comes via search engines, according to Falkow. "As there are now more than 4 billion Web pages and traffic on the Internet doubles every 100 days, making your Web site visible is vital," she says. "You need every weapon you can get."
Design and programming are also important, but it's your content that will draw a visitor into your site and get them to stay. Says Falkow, "Putting together a content strategy based on user behavior, measuring and tracking visitor click streams, and writing the content based on researched keywords will get you excellent search results and meet the needs of your visitors.
Let your clients and prospects know what you are up to! Send out regular e-mail news blasts with links to your website. I use Constant Contact for myself and my clients. We all get rave reviews from recipients! CC reporting lets you know who opened the e-mail, when and how many times. Very enlightening! Communicate!
It is so important to have a website for your business. Even if you are in the service industry.
No one hardly ever looks in the yellow pages anymore. Those books are used for toddlers who can't reach to eat at the table, so they sit on them.
No really, it is vital to have a website. It is also very vital to make sure you have correct keywords on your website so you can be found easily on Google.
Also put your website and business in Google Maps. This is another way I would get a lot of interest into my cleaning business. People close to you in your area will find you this way when they search Google.
Also make sure that your website is professional looking. It drives me crazy when I see an un-professional looking website! First impressions are everything!
I have had so many clients tell me they hired me because my website was professional and I looked like I had my act together.
So my advice is:
1. Website presence
2. Correct keywords
3. Google maps
4. Be as professional looking as you can on your website.
5. Have a contact form on your website so they can email you.
(many people are too lazy to call anymore and they only want to email....so this is important! You could lose potential customers!)
In my opinion, to make sure of your business growth, you should consider targeting your business globally. These days with the help of internet it has become more easier to attract foreign customers.
When outsourcing products in China or the Far East be aware of the recent increase in the VAT tax which is added to the cost of your goods prior to delivery. VAT tax varies by product classification , Range is 5% to 14%.
If outsoucing in the far east is a consideration for lower cost be aware of the following phrases,
"No Problem, "
"Delivery is not a issue"
"Payment is only by letter of credit or wire transfer."
"We are compliant with current USA compliant issues for foreign manufactuers.
It will save you time and money to work direct with USA based freight forwarding/custom clearance company as opposed to a agent. Make sure all samples/product are label with made in the country of orgin,( ex, China) other wise custom will siez them.
For information on outsourcing to China, Vietnam, India, and the far east you may contact Frank Frystak At Frystak Associates. Tel 248-788-2170, email@example.com
---Frank F. Frystak President Frystak Associates 35361 Stratton Hill CT. Farmington Hills, MI 48331 firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 248-788-2170 Fax: 248-661-6641
---Brian Fried, Think Up Designs email@example.com www.thinkupdesigns.com
Very good advice
---Bobson St. Pierre
Bobson Consulting Corp: Web Design New Jersey Company
Learn all about Affiliate Marketing
Great tips Rich,
So often we get so caught up in looking out for number one (ourselves) that we forget about the business and spiritual benefits of giving back to someone else. I love how you add the benefits of why we, as business people should do each one! I have experienced great benefits, personally, from learning from others in my field. I guess they are competitors, but they are also potential friends, and for sharing with those who I can mentor as well. http://tinyurl.com/76xmpkw
Step 10: Improve Sales Techniques
When you market yourself at every opportunity, burnout can happen fast, especially if you aren`t seeing the results you had in mind. Instead of working even harder, my advice is to "come up for air!"
What? Stop promoting my business, you say? I`m an entrepreneur! Isn`t that what I`m supposed to do? Well, yes...but take it from an impatient overachiever: you need a break!
I don`t know if it`s your state of mind, the law of attraction, or some other inexplicable phenomenon, but great stuff happens when you let go. The best illustration is the following true story:
A fellow life coach decided to take a break from constantly trying to market herself at every opportunity (many coaches, including myself, are guilty of this). One night, she went to a restaurant to celebrate a friend`s new baby. She ended up sitting next to an executive of a recruiting agency, and the two started talking about what they do. To make a long story short, this executive hooked her up with the HR director at his company, and now they`re in the process of working out some kind of business partnership!
At first I was jealous because I thought that business partnerships take lots of hard work. Well...this example indicates otherwise. Best of luck to you, and enjoy your break!
---Kristen Hallows, BBA, CPC
Job You Deserve Career Coaching
Join me on Coach of the Airwaves!
I have one for "Create Your Life Plan":
Be Calculatedly Courageous
After reviewing your life plan, be bold in making the right work-related decision for you and your family. If the right decision is that currently it is not the most opportune time for you to pursue an entrepreneurial venture, then take a brief timeout. Your research and planning can always continue, but if financially, physically, emotionally, or spiritually you are not 100% ready, it may be helpful to focus on your readiness gap before diving head first into a new venture.
However, if your readiness gap is minimal, be calculatedly courageous by taking your first baby steps to launching your new business. Only fear and unsound decisions can hold you back. Whether the right decision is to maintain your “day job” during the launch phase or to dedicate yourself full time, ensure that all aspects of your life are primed and ready to support your life’s passion.
---GOT ISSUES @ WORK? On-demand workplace advice and employment transition consulting for both individuals and businesses.Termination Nation 1-866-9-DISCREET.
Be careful what you are deducting. You CANNOT deduct the time for your services to a charity. You can only deduct expenses incurred while offering your services. For instance if you sent out flyers for them you could deduct the cost of the paper, envelopes, postage, etc., but not the time it took you to do it.
---Rebecka Melson | Virtual Business Services | www.vbsofok.com
How to get business? JUST TAKE IT! This is almost too easy.
Unfortunately the quality and integrity of the American workforce is significantly lacking. There is not much of a work ethic anymore. Some people will tell you aything to make a sale, or they will tell you what they think you want to hear. The best way I have found to get new business is to passively take it away from my competitors by simply doing what I say I will do for my customer. I don`t even have to do any thing extra because a lot of my competitors are so pathetic.
I am in the home healthcare business and a lot of my competitors think that, because their company has the "contract" the customer HAS to do business with them. I hope they never find out that it doesn`t work that way because it`s great for my business. It is so simple... treat EVERYONE with respect at all times. Don`t lie, and if you don`t know the answer to something, don`t make the answer up - admit that you don`t know. If you do these three simple things you will probably be head and shoulders above your competition in your prospective customer`s eyes. The TRUTH will set you free (and bring you a lot of business).
---Rich Sloan , Co-Founder, Chief Startupologist, StartupNation
---Rich Sloan , Co-Founder, Chief Startupologist, StartupNation
---Rich Sloan , Co-Founder, Chief Startupologist, StartupNation
This is really a nice information that how we can promote our business and increase their brands in the market thank you for sharing such a useful information.................
There are quality websites that will provide you with steps to take in starting a small business without cost. Beware of websites that offer information, but in fact will only take your money.
Small Business Administration - Business plan tutorial and outline provided by the UK Small Business Administration.
Internal Revenue Service - basic federal tax information for people who are starting a business.
Entrepreneur.com - How to Start a Small Business, Small Business Startup.
AllBusiness.com - Starting a Business Tips and Advice
California Business Portal - When starting a new business, there are many important decisions to make and many rules and procedures that must be addressed. While there is no single source for all filing requirements, the following steps have been developed to assist you in starting your business
The first step in putting up a business HAS to be to figure out exactly what it is that your business will do.
You've got to get a handle on who your business will serve and what your business will do.
Once you've got a handle on the purpose behind your business, you've got to figure out all of the who's, what's, when's, where's, how's and whys.
What are the local registration and regulatory requirements that your business will need to comply with?
* What type of business structure will your business be?
* How will your business operate?
* How will your business make money?
* What will your business's claim to fame be?
* How will you attract customer's to your business?
* How will your business be designed to gain an edge on the competition?
* Why should customer's even care enough to want to patronize your business?
* How will you get the word out about your business?
After you get a handle on many of these preliminary business development questions, then begin to sketch out a Business Blueprint that will highlight exactly how your business will survive.
During this business development phase, it's extremely important to be as detailed as possible, for it's the detailed planning of a business that will enable you to determine whether or not your business will be strong enough to survive.
This is where you start your business planning activity.
But this is no means where you stop.
In fact, I recommend that you put together a preliminary set of answers to the above questions and then you go and take one of your preliminary customers out to lunch.
* And just ask him about what's going on with his business? What are his concerns?
* What are his gripes?
* What is it that he wishes people in your line of work would figure out already?
* What are some of his greatest frustrations?
And whatever you do during this lunch date, don't sell yourself or your potential new business...just listen. Listen and observe and ask as many questions about what it is that makes your potential customer tick.
And after this lunch date, repeat it again...and again...and again until you fully understand the needs, concerns, gripes and inner wishes of your potential customer base.
And I promise you, after you done many of these preliminary steps, you will be well on your way to building an extremely successful business.
For your business will have a competitive advantage that others may not be able to copy. And that competitive advantage is good-ole-fashioned customer focus!
Be encouraged to build them a business that is built to make your targeted customer base go Absolutely Wild!