Blogger Basics

January 29, 2010

Hollis Gillespie, author and expert writing instructor, has imparted her ‘must-do’s’ to help you blog you way  to financial freedom as well as position yourself as a blogger.  Here’s what she has to say:

1. Focus your content: Decide what is your ONE thing that you are going to write about…it doesn’t have to be BIG, it just has to be big to YOU.  Connect with your voice and your unique narrative-do not obsess about grammatical perfection.

2. Best sites to help you monetize your blog: Problogger.net & Copyblogger.com

3. Killer Blogs=Traffic=Income

4. Six characteristics of killer blogs: Post often, forget perfection, write like you speak, specific subject matter, know your audience, keep it short.

5. Migrate your blog content to your own domain: Reserve your own domain name on GoDaddy.com and then employ the services of http://www.techadvocatesolutions.com to integrate all of your blog/website needs.

6. Explore sites you like, take a ‘news’ post and write an opinion piece on it.

Check out Google.com/trends

-Set up Google Alerts for your subject matter (www.google.com/alerts)

-See what is popular in the blogosphere: Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit

7.Investigate options for affiliate marketing on your blog(Amazon.com has a program)

8. Create a PayPal Merchant account that allows you to accept credit card purchases on your site

9. Research top blogs in your category (www.technorati.com) and guest blog on them

10. Advertise your blogs on your Twitter account and Facebook Fan Page

Advertisements

How To Conduct A Feasibility Analysis On Your Business Concept

January 12, 2010

Here is a robust checklist of considerations when conducting your feasibility analysis:

A. Industry analysis

-Is the industry growing?

-Who are the major competitors?

-Where are the opportunities in the industry?

-What are the trends & patterns of change in your industry?

-Are there successful and young companies in the industry?

-Are there any threats to the industry?

-What are the typical gross profit margins in the industry? (Revenues-cost of goods sold= $ left over to pay overhead)

B. Market Analysis

-Competitive Intelligence: Look at the following of your top competitors:

1. Management style of the company

2. Current market strategies

3. Unique features & benefits of their products

4. Their pricing strategy

5. Their customer mix

6. Their promotional mix

– Check information on public companies with Hoovers Online, Us. Securities & Exchange Commission, OneSource.

C. Customer Analysis

-Questions to answer your potential customers:

  1. What are their demographics?
  2. What are their buying habits?
  3. How do customers hear about your product? Do they buy based on TV ads, magazines, Internet advertising, word-of-mouth, referrals?
  4. How can our new product meet customer’s needs?

Manufacturer       Distributor     Retailer         Consumer

-The easiest way to identify the customer is to find out who pays you-follow the $

-You need to know as much about the end user as you do about the customer because you must convince the distributor that a market for the product exists and that the end user will buy enough products so that the distributor and retailer will profit. Thus, conduct the same research on the end user that you do on the distributor.

  1. Why will you buy this product? If not, why not?
  2. Why do you purchase in these locations?
  3. What would it take for you to purchase this product?

D. Forecasting Demand:

–          Use substitute product to gauge

–          Interview customers & intermediaries

–          Go into limited production with a test market

E. Product Development Analysis

Design Preparation/Prototype Building & Testing/Initial Test Production/ Ramp-Up & Mrkt Intrdctn

-****Make sure your exact product and your business name is not already patented (both can be verified on http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/index.jsp or you can hire an intellectual property attorney to advise you on patents and trademarks in existence that could be problematic)***

– It is best to involve all parties in the process from the beginning:

  • Customer: By providing info on the product design and functionality you ensure they get what they need.
  • Engineering: Uses comprehensive product info. To design the product correctly the first time.
  • Finance: Follow production costs and warns developers if they are choosing a component or cost that will be too costly in the final product.
  • Manufacturing: Makes sure a viable process for producing the product exists.
  • Marketing: Keeps tabs on the marketplace to ensure that the product is well accepted when it is launched.
  • Purchasing:  Establishes reliable relationships with vendors to ensure that they deliver parts on time.

The feedback that you want to solicit from all these parties is:

–          What makes the product better & easier to manufacture?

–          What does the marketplace think of the product?

–          What improves the product, its components & the way it is built?

–          How reliable is the product? Are any parts less reliable than others?

–          Are customers satisfied with the prototype?

–          How will you service the product?

–          How will you handle complaints?

–          How will you get positive publicity for the product?

  • Suggestions For Overcoming Scarce Resources:

–          Begin with the product that will bring you the greatest ROI.

** Focus your energies on what you do well & outsource everything else **

–          Don’t try to manufacture products that others already do very well.

–          Purchase off the shelf parts and components, when possible

–          Research job shops that work with entrepreneurs regularly and use them.

  • Designing Correctly

-Start with a good product definition

-Ask customers what they need, expect & want

– Deploy quality function

– Design for manufacturability:

-Minimize the # of parts (and electrical cables)

– Simplify components & use common or standard parts

– Design parts with symmetry

– Make parts independently replaceable

– Eliminate adjustments of manufacturing equipment, fasteners & jigs

  • Sourcing Your Materials:

–          Materials & costs account for about 50% of total manufacturing costs.

–          Best to purchase 80% of your parts from main vendor & 20% from a backup.

-Questions To Ask When Looking For The Best Vendors:

–          Can this vendor deliver what I need when I need it?

–          How much will freight cost using this vendor?

–          What services does the vendor provide?

–          Is the vendor familiar with the product lines I am using?

–          What are the vendor’s maintenance & return policies?


How To Attract Investors & Find Sponsors

January 6, 2010

Maria Simone, Founder of Dream Scout, LLC has outlined the following steps to attract investors and find sponsors. Here they are:

1)      Determine your overall vision/business milestone that you would like to attain

2)      Create a budget that includes every resource you will need to reach that milestone

3)      Include operating expenses and salaries

4)      Create a funding strategy:

a)      Self-fund without jeopardizing your personal financial well being

b)      For resources or ‘human capital’, barter or offer revenue share or equity

c)       Consider employing pre-selling strategies

d)      Purchase order financing to help defray manufacturing costs

5)      Establish business credit

-Business credit is independent of your personal credit score

-Paydex: Start the process immediately

-Begin building Trade Credit by signing up for D-U-N-S # @ http://dnb.com

-Contact John Brown @ jbrown@thefundinghouse.biz, he can assist you in getting bank lines ($5K-$250K)

6) Consider attracting corporate sponsors if you are offering significant exposure to a market

-$16 Billion has been spent in corporate sponsorships

-Best bets: Heavily trafficked website, events and launches, TV/Radio Show, partnering with a non-profit

-This is a time intensive strategy-no payback to sponsors (you can ask for $5K-100K/yr)

7) Short term ‘seed’ or ‘bridge’ financing from friends and family

-You can offer them attractive returns on 1-2 year notes

8) Private stock offering for equity in the company

-ROI comes at sale of company or at IPO or if/when you pay dividends


Building The Foundation For Your Business Enterprise

January 5, 2010

In honor of the new decade that is upon us, I wanted to share some key suggestions for those of you who have recently decided that 2010 is the year that you are going to bring your business dream to life. (My phone has been ringing off the hook this week with just these people.) Fantastic!  This outline was produced by Kelly O’Neil, a fellow ‘coachsultant’ of UpLevel Strategies based in Silicon Valley.  A few suggestions to help you get started:

1) Decide What Type Of Business Owner You Want To Be?

a) A Service Business: You want to be paid well for what you do well. You don’t envision needing to hire a team.

b) An Entrepreneurial Business: You have a big vision and you want to make a big impact. You do see a need for a team to help you reach your goals.

c) An Empire Business (Company): You will need to align with other leaders to create it. It will require highly leveraged teams and high ticket services.

2) Treat Your Business As An Asset:

a) Get Incorporated: Enlist as a LLC, S-Corp or C-Corp for tax advantages and protection against lawsuits.

b) Get Insured: Check with a qualified agent about errors & omission, personal liability, SDI (disability insurance) and property insurance.

c) Set Up An Accounting System: Hire a bookkeeper, get set up on Quickbooks, run monthly reports on cash flow, income statement and balance sheet. Track your ROI.

d) Set Up Your Technology System: Use Grasshopper.com (a virtual phone system designed for entrepreneurs), take credit cards with Nova Information Systems, do not use AOL, MSN or Hotmail.

e) Build Your Success Team: Coach/Advisory Board; Legal/Accounting/Insurance; Marketing; Technology; Administrative Assistant, (Web Designer, Marketer, Manufacturer, Product Designer, Branding Expert).

3) Create A Cash Flow Infusion: What is easy to offer? Create a package with a low barrier to entry and decide how many you will sell.

4) Creative Funding: Produce more sales, lenders, SBA loans, 401K.(next blog will be on funding strategies)

What else was essential for you getting your venture off the ground? Some other key issues to establish:

5) Creating Your Brand: DIY and test it with your target market, or hire a branding expert

6) Web Design/Presence: Hire a web developer.

7) Sales & Marketing: How will clients find out about you? Hire a marketing/PR professional.

8) Distribution: Product-Service Delivery

9) Manufacturing Sources