Archive for the 'Small business' Category

Is your startup too old to fail?

I review several hundred startup business plans a year.  Many ventures have been fighting and struggling for years.

I especially see that here in Dallas where the pressure and the cost of living is much lower than the West Coast.  It’s easier to drift in a zone where your business is making progress but slowly.  You’re trying to survive and so may have other work.  Your venture gets just a slice of your mindshare.  You learn to survive without funding and bootstrap.

Compare that to Silicon Valley where entrepreneurs are more apt to deem their effort a failure.  They move on if they haven’t had huge traction and funding in 1-2 years.

What is your goal?  Is it a true hypergrowth startup,  a linear growth venture, a small business that will provide employment for you, or a lifestyle (hobby) activity?  If your choice is the first, are you truly focused on that?  Are you committing 100% of your time and effort to your startup?  Managing your startup is not about velocity.  It should be about acceleration.

Startups stand for change.  That includes your own business.  As the saying goes, you have to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.   While it’s critical to engage your passion and invest yourself, don’t drown to the point that you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and will never leave.  Listen to the universe and the cards you’re dealt. Sometimes you have to exchange a few cards and pivot.  Other times you need to deal yourself a whole new hand.

Most successful entrepreneurs have had to brave a few failures before they find the right combination of concept, timing, team, and, yes, luck. If you never let yourself fail, you will never get that shot at the big win.

While the entrepreneur’s determination and persistence are to be admired, they also can be your enemy, as Jason Calacanis writes in Moderate Success Is the Enemy of Breakout Success.

Take credit cards?

Credit card terminals have been around for decades and are even wireless to serve retail sales.  But unless you have a physical store or lots of transactions, a terminal and those merchant agreements can be expensive and bulky.  It’s overkill  when you already have a powerful computer in your handy smartphone.

One alternative is to use a laptop or phone browser and manually enter sales on PayPal or your bank site.  But that’s a lot of info to type and your rate is higher.

Startup Square successfully shook up the market with iPhone and Android apps, plugin card reader, and terms that any small business could love.  The reader is free and there are no transaction and monthly fees.  Now you CAN take credit cards even if it’s just for a few charges a month.

Gopayment is now competitive.  They’ve removed fees and work with a Blackberry, which Square doesn’t.

Get more links at our BlueEntrepreneurs.com eCommerce directory.

Exponential marketing

( Short link http://wp.me/pAEbu-83 )

In earlier posts I discussed Demand Generation and Is marketing for companies with sucky products? It generated a variety of questions on which marketing is right for you.

So I herewith present the Grand Unification Theory of Marketing.

Marketing^1 (that’s Marketing to the first power, HTML is a bit limited here).  Linear marketing include most marketing programs and provides proportional results. Direct marketing and sales are examples.  It’s not going to catapult your business.  But it’s well understood, measurable, and comparatively safe.  This is the type of marketing that can be manufactured and optimized through Demand Generation for steady revenues.

Linear marketing is not a fit for funded ventures where investors require hypergrowth.  This is what Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson bashed in the sucky product article.

Linear marketing can be enjoyed by all companies.  It’s particularly suited to any organization that can’t, or doesn’t want to, attempt higher order and higher risk marketing.

Marketing^2. OPR (Other People’s Resources) generates outsize returns beyond standard programs.  By leveraging the customers, contacts, and other assets of other companies you bring your costs down and increase sales beyond your own capabilities.   Marketing and sales partnerships, co-marketing, distribution, and PR can have this effect.  It’s an effective way for  companies that are small or have limited resources to quickly grow.

Marketing ^n. Exponential marketing encompasses product, viral,  social, and crowdsourcing programs.  Typically you’re investing in your product and leveraging your users to generate accelerating returns.  Exponential marketing is highly risky.  Sucky products need not apply.  It’s where new ventures must be focused to meet investor expectations and fulfill stratospheric financial projections.

Demand generation for the rest of us

The Revenue Typhoon is a way to reliably and consistently generate revenues through demand generation. But is it for for everyone?

An entrepreneur wrote “Marc, that sounds great … if you’re IBM or have funding. I’m a small company. I don’t have the money or people to engineer a pipeline or hire you to create it. Now what? Where’s MY Typhoon? Or am I destined for a few measly sprinkles.”

IBM, wow. That’s dating yourself, my friend.

If you’re a self-employed professional or small company, you don’t have to wander aimlessly in the desert, hoping you’ll run into an oasis. You’re not Moses.

Demand Generation is a philosophy, one that can be practiced even if you don’t have the resources to create a mean, lean, revenue machine.

Technology, knowledge, and process are key ingredients of the Revenue Typhoon and demand generation.

Technology is the core of demand generation. A personal CRM system like WeMeUs stores your contacts and provides a platform for generating and following up leads so you can track the entire demand generation cycle.

Next, build a database that is a complete accounting of your marketing and sales efforts. What programs did you run, what markets did they reach, what metrics were used, how many leads were generated, how many were qualified, how many resulted in sales, and so on.

If you have staff, advisors or consultants, share and update this data so everyone can contribute and see your objectives and progress.

Process starts with a commitment to be knowledge-driven where possible and not dependent on the experience, whims, or dartboard tosses of your top marketing executive, CEO, or his uncle Sal. Marketing and sales activities are judged by relevant business metrics. Each program starts with a plan that includes metrics and then is regularly monitored, compared with other programs, and increased, modified, continued, or canceled.

Plan, execute, measure, learn, and repeat. That’s it!  That process turns your raw data into knowledge as you see what works, what doesn’t, and what has the best ROI.

While you may not have your own full-time demand generation guru, you absolutely can do it yourself. Through this practice, you will constantly improve your ability to generate leads and convert them into sales.

You CAN Win: Lead generation and sales for Small Businesses

Marketing Sherpa published the chart below on sales conversion.  What’s stunning is that 50% of companies have NO processes or system in place.  That’s an opportunity for smaller organizations.

How Organizations Manage Their Marketing-to-Sales Process

While a customized Salesforce application and IT staff may be out of your reach, you can still effectively manage your sales pipeline and compete against the bigger boys with the right product. I recommend WeMeUS Relationship Management and Lead Generation for Consultants and Small Businesses.  WeMeUs is a personal CRM with full Lead Management for lead nurturing and tracking. Read more on WeMeUs for Sales

Is advertising on Groupon, LivingSocial or another group buying site “Fee Splitting?”

I last wrote about Daily Deals or Group Buying in I Can Get It For You Wholesale.

WikiPedia defines fee splitting as either a kickback or a non-licensed professional getting paid for a referral.

Groupon and LivingSocial sell licensed professional services. They take the customer’s money, keep part of it, and give the remainder to the professional.  Therefore the platforms encourage and facilitate “Fee Splitting.”  They should not be used by any licensed professional to offer his services as it’s prohibited by the licensing body as a fee splitting activity.  Right?  Am I missing something?

I’ve seen dentists and chiropractors in Groupon, as well as cosmetic surgeons and MDs (but no lawyers or psychologists yet).  So how can they advertise on these sites if they’re prevented by fee splitting?

Join the discussion on LinkedIn.

Email: Quality is more important than ever before

The average businessperson receives 200 emails per day. He spends  30-40% of his working time just managing that email torrent.  Do you think he needs yet another one of your impersonal emails? It’s little wonder harried people today click ‘Spam’ on perfectly legitimate messages.

Business is increasingly about trust and building relationships. The top email marketing tactic is sending custom content to a targeted group, according to a MarketingSherpa survey (below). Impersonal email blasts rank at the bottom of the list.

What about the email that you send to your business customers and prospects? Email marketing services like iContact and Constant Contact can be useful.  But sending out blasts of hundreds or thousands of emails is increasingly ineffective.

Large businesses have the manpower and budget to customize CRM systems like salesforce.com. Small businesses and consultants don’t.  Check out tools like WeMeUs Contact Management and Lead Generation.  They enable highly personalized emails for messages that have impact … and actually get read.


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