Friday, November 9, 2012

7 Ways to Land a Big Customer

Bagging the Elephant

Most successful small business owners know the exact moment when their struggling company turned the corner and headed down the road toward success. Frequently, that moment came when they landed their first really big deal, or as business expert and author Steve Kaplan says, "They bagged an elephant."

Kaplan has racked up deals with some of the most respected brands in the country, and he believes every business can do the same. Of course, big deals don't just land in your lap. In order to bag your own big customer, you must have a focused strategy. We offer seven tips to help your hunting.

1. Make a List of Prospects

Create a list of companies with which you'd like to work and then do your research. Learn as much about them as you possibly can. For example, how much money do they spend annually on products or services you offer?

Kaplan suggests you think creatively when you build your list. Everyone is going to go after the obvious companies. Try to identify other firms that might also be interested in your offerings.

2. Look Big

Large companies need to have confidence in your ability to perform, so you want to appear as professional as possible. In today's world, you don't have to be big to look big, and it doesn't have to cost you a fortune.

Invest in quality business cards and letterhead. Make sure you have a professional website, not one that looks like your cousin built. Look in the mirror. Is your company one in which you'd want to do business?


Position Your Business to Outshine the Competition

Your clients and prospects have access to more information and choices today than ever before. The number of small businesses increases daily, and competition can be tough. In the past, competition may have been similar companies in your part of town; now many small businesses must compete with others around the globe. Positioning your company can provide the competitive edge you need to outshine the competition.

Appropriately positioning your business enables you to communicate a meaningful, relevant message to clients and prospects and establishes you as an "expert" in your field. First, you must know and understand your market as well as the competition, their strengths and their focus. Then you can determine the most profitable place to position your business in relation to others in that market.

Domino's Pizza provides a classic example of this. They've positioned themselves to focus on one thing: fast delivery. They don't claim to cook up gourmet pizza, or a romantic dine-in experience. Just fast delivery -- and it works! They have cornered this position in their market.

If you're a florist and your number-one competitor is known for its bargain bouquets, you may want to target discriminating gift givers and position yourself as the shop that delivers the freshest, longest-lasting arrangements that recipients will enjoy for a week or more.

The Positioning Statement

Writing a Positioning Statement for your company is a precursor to branding the business. It will determine what you emphasize in your marketing materials. To help you create a company Positioning Statement, answer the questions below, or revisit your USP (unique selling proposition).

� What do we do best?

� Who is our target customer?

� What needs do we fulfill for them?

� Who is our competition?

� What makes us different from them?

A USP is a distinct and engaging statement that sets you and your business or practice apart from all the rest, by describing the unique value you offer. It tells your prospects, "This is why you should do business with us."

Think Time: A Strategy for Getting Things Done

If you want your business to grow you need to take time to think.

    Give yourself an hour or more every single week to review and update your plans and goals.

Too often, consultants and business owners get caught up in the daily grind.

They take action…but the big question is…is it the right kind of action?

When I interviewed David Allen, the master of productivity and author of the bestseller Getting Things Done, one of the most powerful ideas he shared was the idea of taking time to think.
Here’s how it works:

    Set aside an hour each week.
    Make it at the same time each and every week.
    During that time, shut off your phone and don’t check your email.
    Go to a quiet space where you won’t be distracted.
    Bring your lists of everything you accomplished this week and what your next plans are.
    Now, go over everything on your list and think about what’s going on in your business.
    Look at the successes you’ve had and the challenges too.
    You want to make sure that you’re still staying on course.
    Your goal is to ensure you’re focusing your efforts where they are most needed and where you’ll get the biggest ROI.
    When you do this take the big picture into account. Don’t spend this time ‘getting stuck’ and worry about every small detail of what’s going on.
    Next, update your lists. Reorganize and clean them.
    Your new priorities will have boiled up to the top.
    The weight of feeling overwhelmed will be gone.
Not only is this exercise healthy for your brain and business….it’s during this time that new ideas will come to you.

8 Habits that sabotage your business and 1 way to exit it

As an entrepreneur, I’ll bet you’re incredibly busy and find that there never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete everything on your to-do list.

Have you noticed some of your most deeply ingrained, daily habits – driving your car, putting on your watch, taking a shower? You wouldn’t dream of not doing them, because they are part of your routine and they just seem to happen automatically. It’s likely that in your business you’ve developed habits such as reading emails, checking your website and grabbing coffee. You do them without conscious “thought” and yet they seem to fill up hours in your day…

But what about all the actions you need to take in order to build a more profitable and efficient business? Like following up with your best customers, asking for referrals, strategic planning and goal setting to grow your business? When do you do these activities? Do they often get relegated to “tomorrow” or “sometime soon”?

How to Move Forward in Business

If you’ve ever spent your day stuck in back-to-back meetings, answering routine questions from your team, responding to emails, helping other people, doing paperwork or tidying your office – you already know that these are “busy” activities, and they will keep you trapped where you already are – just simply maintaining, not growing your business. By filling your days with these tasks, you are in effect avoiding the very activities that you know will really move your business forward and produce tangible results.

Your “busy work” or habits create the magnificent illusion that you are hard at work, simply because your day is full of tasks. Let’s be honest, you would actually rather do anything than face the activities you know would radically accelerate your business success now! In fact, you often get to the end of the day and say to yourself “It’s OK, I was really busy, I’ll just get to that marketing plan tomorrow.” Or “I just couldn’t find the time today to make that seminar on leadership or customer loyalty.”

If you are waiting for the right or best time to do these critical activities in your business, it will simply never come! There will always be other “busy work” to fill all of your available time. You need to find a way to make your business building activities an ingrained habit too, if you want to grow your bottom line and live the lifestyle of your dreams.

Do you relate to or identify with any of these common sabotage habits?

1. Perfectionism

This tactic is insidious. It often immobilizes us from making a decision, starting a project or activity and signing off on a piece of important work. Most tasks don’t have to be 100% perfect, they just need to be good enough. The other way that this can show up is when you deceive yourself into believing that no-one else can do the job (even simple routine tasks) to your exacting standard, so you must do it ALL yourself. Follow the 80/20 rule, delegate what you do not have to do yourself and give yourself permission to be human!

2. Refusing to Let Go of The Past

Have you ever heard yourself say “last time I tried that, it didn’t work”? Or have you ever simply avoided doing something that you know you should or need to do but were afraid to do because “last time it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to”? Even though it’s a good idea to stop doing what clearly doesn’t work, it’s important to remember that the past does not necessarily equal the future. If you catch yourself finding reasons from the past to justify why you are not moving ahead toward your compelling future, stop NOW and take a good hard look at whether these are just cleverly disguised forms of self-sabotage.

3. Lack of Accountability

Who is holding you accountable to the decisions you make and the actions you take in your own company? Isn’t that why you went into business for yourself in the first place – so that you could be the boss and do things your way? Find someone outside your business – a coach, mentor or trusted advisor that can act as a sounding board and hold you accountable to staying on track.

4. Lack of vision, planning and specificity

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How to Create a Winning Business Idea

I often meet business founders whose minds are overflowing with brilliant ideas for new products. They seem to develop terrific new concepts every single day of their lives.  They are watchful, always inquiring, perceptive and continually seeking (and often finding) the next big thing. Their never-ending challenge is to pick a winner—(only one!)–out of scores of possibilities, and run with it.

On the other hand, I listen to intelligent and aspiring entrepreneurs who can’t concoct a single viable idea. These great souls are bright and earnest, but for some reason, imaginative ideas escape.

Within my circle of friends I see both types of individuals.  One is the quintessential entrepreneur who has developed several companies and has recently launched a new firm.

The other struggles to envision the next great product everyone in America would want.   From time to time, he asks me if there is a method to generating a great idea.

Today I am happy to share with you the process for creating a world-class idea, in six easy steps:

1. Infinite Ideas Remarkable new product ideas are everywhere and there is a limitless supply of concepts waiting to be commercialized, launched and marketed. They are there to be seen and pursued by those who seek them.   In fact, ideas are available to everyone, worldwide, and at any moment.   In some cases, an innovator in Israel and a thinker in Palo Alto will be enlightened at the same moment in time.

Ideas can be small and simple, or large and complex.

8 Speaking Tips for Consultants

Not too long ago I got a call from one of the country’s largest banks. They asked if I’d give a marketing presentation to some of their business customers.

A few weeks later I gave a talk to 30 business owners and about 15 of the banks staff.

The presentation was one I hadn’t given before and I think it went quite well.

Speaking is a very powerful business tool

At the end of the presentation we had a great Q&A session. And when that was finished I was swarmed by 5 or 6 business owners that were interested in my consulting services. (This was nice to see though I haven’t taken on new clients for over a year – my current load is heavy enough to say the least).

I was paid to give the presentation and have been asked to give the presentation again, this time at a different branch.

So let me share with you a few tips on speaking and giving presentations…

1. The money will come – Unless you’ve been speaking for a while don’t worry about asking for money for your first few presentations. The business you’ll get out of speaking will more than make up for the time you put into it.

2. You’re in need – There are countless organizations, from rotary clubs and non-profits, to banks and other large companies just to name a few that would love to have you speak. All you need to do is pick up the phone and call them. Tell them about your presentation and that you’d like to share your experiences with others. They’ll be happy to take you up on your offer if they have a need – especially if they don’t have to pay you.

3. Make it visual – Your presentation should be 90% visual and the rest can be text. Watch a presentation by Guy Kawasaki or Seth Godin to see how powerful visual presentation can be. This way you won’t bore your audience. There’s more life in images than there are in words.

4. Know it cold – The more you practice your presentation the more confident you’ll become. And the more confident you are the better presentation you’ll give. Practice several times.

Read More:

Business restructuring through strategic planning

What happens when your company is struggling with the bottom line? If you have bottom line concerns you will need to consider restructuring your business. This can invoke fear in people because it normally means you need to cut your workforce or you need to reduce something with the company. Cutting your workforce is not an easy task and it is one that you really need to try and avoid if you can. Business restructuring may be the only thing you can do in order to keep the business alive. One option you have is to talk to your employees about reducing hours. This way everyone will be able to keep their jobs but they won’t be paid as much. This can mean some people will quit but for the most part it does show your staff that cutting their jobs is really one of the last things on your mind.

Strategic planning is important when you are restructuring a business. In most cases companies really do not plan well and this is what causes the company to lose a lot of money or other things. Usually the companies are so focused on cutting costs that they fail to really look at how they can make a positive outcome for the business and to find a way to point the company in the right direction. To help you make the right decisions when it comes to business restructuring here are some guidelines that you need to follow.

  • Have a clear direction

Before you just go in and fire a bunch of people you need to first lay out some goals and point the company in the right direction. Have the focus necessary to move the company in the right direction instead of thinking about the here and now. If you make smart changes and inform the workforce of these changes it will make it easier for them to prepare for them and to adapt.

  • Reduce waste

It is a wise idea to start organizing the company to see where you are wasting money. Perhaps you have overproduction and this is causing you to have a lot of waste. Maybe you have too many employees working on production lines and not enough focusing on sales and marketing. Look for all the areas in the company that are in need of improvement and find ways to save money.

How To Build A Billion Dollar Business Plan: 10 Top Points

Every year, as an investor, I look at scores of business plans from eager entrepreneurs who seek funding for their emerging enterprises.  Most plans are not well written and I find only a few that are excellent.  I invite the founders with poorly conceived plans to improve their efforts and return when they are ready to present again.

At the end of a presentation, I take time to share with the entrepreneur what they need to do to develop an optimal business blue print.

For those high achievers who have thoughtfully prepared outstanding plans, with reliable assumptions, they often receive the funding they need for company growth.

I contacted my good friend, Thomas Harrison, chairman of Diversified Agency Services, an Omnicom division, to share his views with me on the key elements of a great business plan.  Over the years, he has seen numerous presentations from companies Omnicom has purchased that represent a vast number of firms within the Omnicom firmament of marketing organizations.  He, too, has seen a combination of terrific and terrible plans.

“Mr. Harrison,” I asked, “What counsel would you give an aspiring business builder on the development of a great plan?”

“Alan,” he said, “I think some people get confused between a business plan and a marketing plan.  A business plan is a genetic, molecular definition of my business.  It crystallizes why I’m in business; it shouts what I do for the world, for consumers, for my customers. It dissects my business DNA and how it is unique and it clarifies why my customers should do business with me.”

“The “Plan” is the blueprint; it’s the architect’s renderings that show the skeleton of the business… the DNA of the business. The Plan allows me to be crystal clear about that skeleton and how it supports my vision of my value (the business value) to my customers.  It explains exactly why customers will buy what I make/sell and what it is about my product that will delight my customers.”

Ten Key Points:

The Most Dangerous Words in Business

  •     Sometime
  •     Someday
  •     One day
  •     Soon
  •     Thinking about it
  •     Planning to
  •     This week
  •     This month

You may not see anything wrong with these words at first glance, but they are indeed dangerous.

These words have ruined many businesses and destroyed many a career.
How so?

It’s not the words themselves; it’s how they are so often used. More specifically it is what fails to accompany them.

You see, these are words of indecision.

Words of the talker… and not the doer.
Let’s look at a few examples:

“One day I’m going to join a gym.”
All that’s being said here is that you’re thinking about joining a gym. Just the same way that you’re thinking about a trip you want to take. It may happen, it may not.

“I’m planning to start reading books instead of watching TV soon.”
You might think that because you are “planning” to do something you are being productive. The problem with planning is that people say that for everything. It doesn’t really mean anything unless you’re talking about ‘planning’ as a strategic action you are doing right now. And what about “soon”, doesn’t that show urgency. It should, but it often turns out not to.

“I’m going to work on that this month.”
This month is specific, but there’s a problem here. It’s still too vague. When this month? What day this month and at what time?

If you find yourself using these words take action to stop yourself and change from being indecisive and vague to decisive and specific.

When you turn a plan of working on a specific task from sometime this month into working on it on the 15th day of this month a big change occurs…you actually work on it and get stuff done!

The words we use influence our actions and behavior.

Why not choose the language of success?

Five Tips For Working With A Small Business Consultant

These days, the term and title ‘Consultant’ is used far and wide. Post recession, many professionals found themselves out of a job and have taken up Consulting projects. Based on their previous work experience and professionalism, many nouveau consultants are offering small companies, expertise at a fraction of the cost. Be it Sales, Marketing, Expansion Plans, Business Analysis, or other areas, qualified consultants are quite accessible these days.

Should I Hire a Small Business Consultant?

Running a small business is a full-time, hands-on career. The smaller the business, the higher the chance that as an entrepreneur, you’re taking on multiple roles. A freshly-minted entrepreneur is often both the Marketing Manager and Business Development Executive.

Despite years of entrepreneurial experience, your business may need an external and objective perspective, which a qualified Consultant can offer. For instance, what if you intend to expand your business to other parts of the country but are unsure where your business would thrive and attract both the right talent and customers? In this case, would you like your friends and family to make suggestions? Or would you prefer a qualified professional to use the right analytical tools and shortlist locations, each backed with solid reasoning?

At the s
artutp stages, and as your business grows, you may not be able to hire full-time, qualified help, and Consultants can offer flexibility and expertise across different disciplines. But remember to ask the right questions. What are their qualifications? Have they handled projects similar to the one you’re interested in hiring them for? And so on. Sometimes, you may need to hire more than one Consultant to fulfill separate criteria.

Working with a Small Business Consultant

When you are ready to hire a Consultant, here are a few tips to help you navigate the relationship along the way and gain the best possible value for your investment.

1. Check Credentials.
Remember to check references and credentials. This is also a good time to check their sphere of influence including social networks and digital presence via their site and reviews.

2. Keep It Confidential. Most qualified Consultants will draw-up Confidentiality Agreements before the start of the project. If not, don’t forget to develop an agreement and clearly outline the scope of work to set expectations. In doing so, you can rest assured that what ethics can’t promise the threat of a potential legal action can and will keep most Consultants in check.

3. Start Small. Start with small projects to test the waters. Develop a clear outline, or Scope of Work document that outlines a desired objective that is specific, measureable and realistic. From there, launch a kick-off call to discuss you goal to aid in transparency and clarity for all parties involved.

4. Structure the Deal.