Today marketing is not the same as it was in the ‘60s or ‘70s, because there are enough products to satisfy customer’s needs. In fact customers are “hyper-satisfied”! Companies have segmented the market until it has become almost too small to service profitably.
Distribution is now largely in the hands of giant corporations such as Wal-Mart and Costco. There are more brands and fewer producers, products “life” have been shortened, and it’s cheaper to replace than to repair – all complicating the process further.
Marketing has always started with identifying the needs of your customer, but many companies are now focusing on the product. They focus on what category it falls into, and then what sub-category (for instance pudding and then what flavors). By focusing on the product, companies then focus on who’ll use the product, and those considered “not using” are excluded from the picture. In doing this, you’ve just given your competitor a target market.
You may have captured 75% of your “user market” because you have a USP (unique selling position) i.e.; more flavors, more convenient packaging, longer shelf life, etc. But why can’t YOU also take care of the other 25% instead of your competitor?
To do that, requires a new way of thinking known as “Lateral Marketing”. Stop thinking about how you can keep the 75% in love with your product (Vertical Marketing), think about drawing in the 25% of the market that wasn’t your customer. This is done by innovative thinking. This may be seen as further “segmenting” the market-place, but at the same time it’s making it bigger.
Let’s say you sell soap. You’ve captured 75% of your market because of some formulary development that makes more suds with less product. The 25% that your competition is trying to capture would rather spend less for soap, then use less. Your method of also capturing that 25% is to start thinking “innovation” and not different product.
Lateral Marketing works within the original category of product and complements it, not competes with it. You could come up with a soap with more bleach, with less foam, fragrance free, with more foam. You can innovate by size – selling in large economy packs, selling in individual packs, and do this without ever changing the formula of the product. This type of marketing works best for mature markets with no growth (after all, what new uses can you come up with for soap). It also can create markets from scratch, requires greater resources, and may redefine your company’s mission and business focus.
This innovative method of marketing doesn’t create “new” categories or markets, it always occurs “within” the category where the idea originated. If you’ve done everything right, you’ve garnered the 25% of customers that might have got away and it didn’t require a lot of overhead – you’re still producing soap!
Every business demands growth, and double-digit growth is the dream of every dedicated business owner, even when lackluster results show up at quarter’s end.
Most entrepreneurial business owners need a guide to navigate their way toward substantial, sustainable growth. It can be done even in a slow economy as demonstrated by such companies as Harley Davidson, Starbucks, and WalMart. Even smaller companies such as Paychex and Oshkosh Truck have been able to make gains in revenue, gross profits and net profits.
Here are 5 disciplines of sustained growth:
1. Retain Your Customer Base: Keep the growth that you have already earned by coaxing customers into complex relationships that make it a hassle for them to switch to your competitor. Tailor your products/services using data gleaned from your customers giving you an advantage. Proactively managing customer defections will help you anticipate and pre-empt them. Bonding with customers wherever emotion is tied to an interaction is another great way to retain them.
2. Gain Market Share at the Expense of Your Rivals: Give customers a reason to abandon a competitor’s product/service for yours. Do what it takes to lower the switching costs. Pulling customers away from a competitor can be difficult, so you must devote many resources to raiding their customer base. Offering higher value and quality are crucial to this end. Buying a competitor is another way to do this.
3. Exploit Market Position: Show up where growth is going to happen by spotting it early. This can be done by watching the industry for shifts in buying criteria, product or service innovations, and population trends. You must be able to spot positioning opportunities to make the most of them by continually using a systematic approach to the process.
4. Invade Adjacent Markets: Before moving into a nearby market, decide whether it offers significant long-term growth and profitability. Determine whether you have an advantage over a competitor, and ensure you can match its standards of quality and value.
5. Invest In New Lines of Business: If you take this approach, never overpay for a new line. You must find simple strategies instead of complex ones, and partner with the new business by assessing its leadership team and balance sheet.
Although a successful growth portfolio might not include all five of these disciplines, it must contain more than one. Only a balanced growth portfolio can keep an organization growing when the market shifts dramatically.
Budgets and personal finances are not most people’s favorite topics, and certainly not one of mine. Even bank executives have problems in this area, but if you’re an entrepreneur so do you. You’re concentrating so much time on your business, your personal checkbook takes a back seat. Then one day you are met with the startling fact that you’re not saving enough for lean times and you panic.
Well, just apply your professional talents to the situation and become your own personal CFO. By using your CFO eyes on the situation, it somehow tempers the pain of dealing with your own money. To get started, here are 5 rules for treating your personal finances like a business:
1. Be Your Own Board of Directors. To make good decisions, you must know what you’re trying to achieve. In business, Board of Directors write mission statements to keep the company on track with goals. At home, it’s up to you to define your mission and make sure you’re fulfilling it by writing down your goals. Not just your financial goals either, but your “life” goals.
2. Know Your Operating Costs. Do you know what you spend every month on average? Businesses do because they base their budgets on historic spending patterns. Most people, however, don’t know what it costs to keep their lives running. You can make out detailed budgets, but find out at the end of the month that you haven’t stuck to it. So instead of doing a budget that dictates how much to spend, do a “cash flow statement” that records how much you actually spend each month broken into several categories.
3. Know your Net Worth. Companies measure progress toward goals through balance sheets which list their assets and liabilities. Your net worth is your balance sheet where you list everything that you own. That means you’re checking and savings accounts, investments, car, house, etc. minus everything you owe. Track your net worth quarterly to make sure you’re moving toward your personal goals. Without this step, you might not see the impact of your money decisions until it’s too late.
4. Forecast Money Decisions Results. When a business makes important decisions, they use a process called “scenario planning”. They look at the possible outcomes of one choice compare to another. You can use the same process to make smart money decisions. For any choice, pick two options, and then look at what each answer would do to your cash flow and net worth. Remember, there are no “good” or “bad” choices – only choices that put you closer or farther from your goals.
5. Track Progress by Annual Reports. Just as companies assess their progress in their annual reports, you need to review your list of priorities every year. Have you accomplished any goals? Have your spending patterns changed? Did you spend less than you earned? Did you save as much as you planned?
You need to treat your money like you treat your business. Give it the time it deserves, because in the end the time you spend is really an investment in yourself and your dreams
For a business to be in the favor of different lenders and to obtain the necessary funding for its future capital needs, having a favorable credit score is very vital. But a good credit rating does not come in an instant, and for any business owner, there are certain steps to follow. These steps will help improve a business’ credit rating as well as maintain a favorable reputation to lenders and investors.
1. Make sure that your business has a legal entity
Your business will not be able to build business credit if it does not have an entity unto itself. And thus, it is necessary for you to be incorporated or to form an LLC (Limited Liability Company). No lender will be willing to give a business loan to a sole proprietor because this might end up as a personal loan in disguise.
2. Find a Good Address, a Telephone Line, E-mail and Internet Service
Having a good physical location for your company adds credibility for lenders to believe that your company is legitimate when your office address is not your own home address. And having the right means for people to contact you such as owning a telephone line as well as an e-mail address and even a web site, is essential especially for faster communication.
3. Check Your Business Listings
Have your company enlisted under all the necessary agencies and make sure that all your listings are under the same exact legal name as well as with the same exact phone number and address. It is very important for all your personal creditors to have you listed under a uniform identity.
4. Obtain All Necessary Business Licenses, Permits, etc.
Obtain a business license for your company and, if applicable, a license for tax resale in the state, city or county location of your business. Follow all the necessary regulatory guidelines for running your business.
5. Organize Financial Statements and Tax Returns
Be ready to present at least two years of financial statements, with which the help of a CPA is highly recommended. And it is also very important, that your business at this time should already have its own tax ID number. Both federal and state business tax ID numbers should be enlisted under the same exact legal business name.
6. Secure Bank References
A minimum of one bank reference is necessary for your business to establish its score. And it would be advisable if your bank account were at least active for two years, with a good stable balance of at least $10,000 for the past three months for it to be in a favorable position for lending. How you manage cash flow in your business will be reflected from your banking.
7. Obtain At Least Five Trade References
Your business will need five trade references that have given you a credit account. This may include your suppliers or any firm in which your company has purchased goods, preferably at a regular basis. Make sure to choose references that will give a favorable credit history to agencies investigating on your financial history.
8. File for Credit Report Agencies
Get three business credit cards that do not have personal links to you and that will give business credit reporting agencies their feedback on your company.
After doing all these, just remember to play your business in a clean and fair game and of course, pay all your bills on time, and you will surely be able to attain an excellent business credit score.
Strange as it may seem, our life is made up of a series of “sales presentations”. Sales may not be your gig, but if you’re the boss you’re making presentations everyday. Be it a pitch to your Board, announcing a policy change to employees, selling an idea to your spouse, or just trying to win others over to your point of view – you need to punch up your people skills for winning pitches.
Like it or not we are all salesmen. Our lives are made up of a series of “sales presentations”, otherwise known as presenting one’s self in the best light possible. Whether we’re out for a job interview, trying for a raise, or just convincing our employees that a job must be accomplished – you are making a presentation.
To become masterful at it can be summed up in the acronym IPRESENT!
▪ I – involve your audience
Human nature is such that people support solutions that they help create, so involve them by allowing your audience to participate with questions or ideas. It goes without saying that to not involve key people is risky, because messages can be misunderstood. Your plans may be derailed before they begin if sufficient “buy-in” is lacking. Use lots of open-ended questions in your presentation to draw out the silent type.
▪ P – prepare your audience
Preparation is a key to success. Prepare your listeners to what’s coming during or before your presentation. Try these pre-meeting tactics:
• Assign task-related pre-work. This could be pre-reading or study of a problem, and the preparations of possible solutions. An example could be, “go and visit three kinds of accounts before the meeting.”
• Make pre-meeting contacts with those invited by email, phone, or in person. You might want to try an informal survey to get people’s position on the issues at hand.
Remember support on key or controversial matters can be established ahead of time by lobbying, if you know where to lobby.
▪ R – research your arsenal
Do your research! People who make it look easy and are effective presenters have a hidden arsenal. This is an arsenal of up-to-date, organized material that can be accessed quickly in ready-to-use form when needed. They have the stats to back up their ideas, and they have a mental arsenal of stories, examples, jokes, and ice-breakers to use when needed.
Your physical presentation could include tangible items relating to the issue such as recent articles clipped from newspapers or magazines, photographs, reports, and demonstration property. To become masterful in this art learn to maintain resources you can access for just the right thing at the right time.
▪ E – explain “Why?”
The next thing you must do is to explain “why?” The single most powerful thing you can do to convince your audience of something is to provide a convincing reason why they should do what you suggest or believe what you say. People want and need a clear “WIIFM” – “what’s in it for me?” – to be able to react positively to what you want them to do. It’s extremely important that you deliver a vision of benefits. Hearing the “why” won’t automatically generate a “yes” to your proposition, but it’ll open the door for receptivity to your idea.
Knowing and accepting the “why” satisfies a basic need that we all have – to understand the purpose of our actions. Use the words “because” or “so that” in your presentation and then finish the phrase. When your subject matter is controversial or likely to generate emotions, it is essential that your “why’s” be tested in advance. Ask some people you trust or that are on your “team” to play devil’s advocate to help you with your logic and arguments.
These are just the first four points for making successful presentations. There are eight of them in total, and we’ll look at the other four in my column next week. For now, let me leave you with this thought.
Life is a sales job from beginning to end. From the moment that we discern how to get approval as children, winning friends at school, getting our first beau, getting our first (and subsequent) job, getting engaged and married, achieving our goals, and anything else you can think of in between – we’re selling ourselves or our ideas all along the way. Who said you weren’t a salesperson?
“S” stands for State (mental) Management. The mental state of the successful presenter must be congruent with the message. If you don’t believe that, try giving a pep talk to your sales force when you’re depressed – it won’t work! You must be aware of and manage your own mental state and that of your listeners or communication channels will not be open. I don’t have space to elaborate on methods of doing this, but here are a few key hints. First, “AAI” – act as if. Act the way you want to feel, it’s amazing how this works. Use music to set the mood if necessary, dress the part, and reduce your anxiety by whatever method works for you. Remember that you’re the one in charge, and presentation mastery isn’t about being perfect – it’s about achieving your objective.
“E” is for eliminating the unknowns. Fear of public speaking ranks high on most people’s list of worst fears. You may find you’re unusually nervous, develop poor voice tone or negative body language, and be unable to respond to audience feedback. Managing your anxiety permits you to focus on your audience and their needs. The basic approach to do this is the asking ourselves a list of “what if?” questions. Another way to overcome our fear is to take ownership of the situation. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Double check your notes, and prepare yourself.
“N” is fudging a little by using the second letter of the word “know” – as in kNow Your Audience. Whether it is one person or many that you are presenting to you must do three basic things: Meet their needs, reduce tension, and avoid mistakes. A good knowledge of the listeners will give you a chance to tailor your objectives to meet their needs. This also allows you to reduce the “audience-presenter” tension so they will focus on what you’re saying. With a clear knowledge of your audience’s views you’ll be sensitive to potential “hot buttons”.
“T” stands for “Tailor
Presentation Throughout”. Boring listeners leads to missed objectives or total failure. You must be flexible and responsive to your audience. To do this you need to use techniques that will give you audience feedback; you must diagnose the cause of the problem you’re addressing, and finally you must choose the solution to act upon.
When you’re presenting watch for non-verbal behavior such as clock-watching, foot-tapping, and cat-napping. When any of these are present get some feedback with, “Is it too warm in here?” or “Should I pick up the pace?” That breaks the attention or lack of, of the audience and brings them back to your talk. One important thing to remember is that the mind can absorb no more than the seat can endure. Sometimes a simple thing like taking a short stretch break will solve the problem.
The techniques for achieving your most desired outcomes are at your fingertips, when you remember that life is a series of presentations.
Most people who want to start up their own businesses today usually make use of personal resources to finance their ventures. They either utilize their savings, loan money from significant others or even use up their retirement funds.
Due to mixing their personal accounts with that of their business’ transactions, these people often risk utilizing their major assets for collateral, give personally guaranteed business mortgages, and so on. They often end up pushing their personal credits to the limit. And whenever this happens, they are left to compromise their personal financial security.
It is sad to say, however, that a significant percentage of small firms operate through personal credit cards. What these people should actually know and should be doing in running their ventures is how to separate their personal credit and their business credit and how life saving this can be, not only for the company, but for their personal assets as well.
The use of credit cards in small businesses is currently on the rise. What this does is that it protects both of the entrepreneur’s personal as well as business assets and allows opportunities for better growth and organization to the company.
Personal Advantages in Using Business Credit
Through separating the personal account with the firm’s business account, one is able to protect private assets in case something goes wrong with the financial status of the company. In that way, one’s personal security (especially for those with families) would not have to be compromised.
In instances wherein a firm that goes bankrupt does not have corporate credit, one can be held responsible for any of the company’s expenditures both legally and personally. Separating accounts would entail one to give added protection on savings and properties that one worked hard for in a long time.
Corporate Advantages in Using Business Credit
Owning a business credit could also improve the financial flow of one’s company as well as help the company grow. One very good advantage is being able to save a lot of money. By having a good credit profile for the company, business owners have the option of lowering interests for leases and loans. It also becomes easier for the company to add more employees, raise inventory and attain discounts for goods.
Aside from this, it keeps the company’s financial transactions organized as one can more conveniently keep track of the firm’s expenditures, which also gives an easier means to monitor accounting and tax transactions. Most importantly, a company with a stable and reliable account would be able to attract more investors and would have a more organized cash flow system.
For any person who wants to start a business, it is important to be smart and practical in handling finances. By using a separate credit account for that small company, one does not only protect assets, but one also increases the chance of the small business to grow and actually earn more.
The use of such credit accounts will help one’s company to improve by saving much time, money and effort. This will even open opportunities for the business to gain the finances that it needs and develop the company’s credibility.
In conclusion, any smart entrepreneur wanting to succeed in business ventures at the same time protect private resources will surely learn to separate his personal credit from his business credit.
If you’ve tried to get a loan from the bank for your business lately, you know it’s no slam-dunk. The promos for SBA loans and loans for minority or women owned businesses sounds great, but when you get nose-to-nose with a banker it’s another story.
Some of the reasons that make it seem so difficult are that many lending officers feel that they’re lending you their money instead of the bank’s. They take almost personal responsibility for maximizing repayment.
Another is that they are particularly suspect of new ventures. Since 4 out of 5 or 80% fail within the first three years, many lenders require a three-year history of doing business.
Lastly, with all the bank merging and acquisitions that have taken place the decision-making process has been moved far off-site from the local branch. Add all of these reasons up, and you had better be prepared to razzle-dazzle the banker.
Here are some tips to make lending you more attractive to the bank. First, start with a two-part presentation. Initially submit a brief overview of your loan request. In this overview include:
• Excerpts from your business plan about your business concept, management team, and financial projections.
• Credit history overviews of the principals of your business.
• Brief answers to key lender questions of how much you’ll need, how you’ll use it, and how will you pay it back?
This should be a two to three page document and can be considered a mutual qualifier. It determines if the bank has any interest in lending you funds before you spin your wheels for hours in front of the loan officer. You may want to end the document with your phone number so that the banker can call you back for an appointment or discussion.
If you’ve dazzled the loan officer sufficiently and have obtained an appointment to meet with him, then it’s time to prepare the “big guns”. The ammo you’ll come prepared with will be three years of personal tax returns for all the principals of your company and the existing business. Include credit reports on all principals, a complete and impressive business plan, and collateral and capitalization information.
This sounds like a lot of information and will require immense effort, but that’s why business ownership isn’t for everyone.
In addition to being prepared with all that paperwork be prepared for any off-the-wall questions the lender might throw at you. Take time to think about and originate a 30-second commercial about what you plan on doing and how it will benefit them and the business.
Be prepared to explain away any credit blemishes that show up on the credit reports before the banker has an opportunity to worry about them. Be sure you’re able to show “cash-flow” understanding and awareness, without which any business is doomed. Plot your most realistic estimated cash flow and bank account balance. Make sure the bank balance never goes negative, and for a good touch show the loan repayment as a separate line item. This shows the banker that you understand priorities.
Collateral may be needed to satisfy the lender’s angst about repayment of the loan, and unfortunately most small businesses have too few assets to satisfy this need. Many entrepreneurs are forced to pledge personal assets such as their home to allay the bank. This may seem scary, and it is, unless you’re really sure of your success.
It sounds like a daunting task, but with some preparation and determination it can be done. It’s not as easy as all the ads you’ve heard, and just the fact that you are starting a “woman-owned” business won’t cut any ice with a banker, but all of life is a gamble isn’t it?
After all, that’s why you’re an entrepreneur instead of a corporate lackey isn’t it? GO FOR THE GOLD!
Do you have long-term projects with short-term expectations? If you do, that is a sure path to frustration and failure.
Lifestyle goals such as exercise and healthy diet have to become habits in order to be effective. Career change also takes time and planning, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
Your world has shifted. There’s voice mail, e-mail, pagers, and faxes that have made a “waiting” period unacceptable and almost obsolete. With information immediately available, we expect relationships and goal achievement to be done the same. As you read this you know that it is unreasonable to expect that, don’t you? We’ve been led by advertisers to believe that we deserve immediate gratification, and that it is readily and effortlessly available!
When you want to train a puppy, you know that it’s going to take time and consistent reinforcement. You’re ready for that, because you want your puppy to behave in an acceptable way. Why then, are you so patient with the puppy and so hard on yourself?
When you plant seeds in the garden, you tend them, water them, hope for sunlight and nurture them. Are you nurturing yourself?
The best way to move gently and effectively towards your goals is to take a reasonable approach. Break your long-term project goal into sub-goals. Break it into doable, short-term chunks. Today prepare the soil; tomorrow plant the seeds.
Each action you take and each step is satisfying because you know that it is contributing to the completion of your goal. You cannot rush Mother Nature with your garden, and the same is true for your goals.
This process is much more than “bloom where you’re planted”, because when you’re the gardener you choose what to plant and how to nurture it. Do the same for yourself, and grow yourself beautifully. Your goals will be accomplished in due time, and you won’t end up up-tight and frazzled. #GOALS#PLANNING#BUSINESS