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8 Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Answer Before Writing An Online Business Plan

Whether you are writing your ideas and goals on a napkin at the corner cafe or hiring a professional writer to put your thoughts to paper, your online business plan is the lifeline to any entrepreneur’s success when leveraging the internet to promote and market your products and services. While business plans come in all shapes, sizes and formats the core elements should be the same. So make sure your online business plan is up to par by asking yourself these key questions. It can mean the difference between a successful home business and a failing one.

Key Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask When Writing An Online Business Plan

#1 Do you have what people want? What value do you have that people will be willing to pay for… is it a product, service, skill? You can have what YOU think is the brightest idea, but if no one if buying or no one needs what you’re selling, then you are out of luck. One of the main goals of your online business plan is to define what problems and challenges your target market needs and solve their problems with the knowledge and expertise your posses. This will help you outline the unique features and benefits of your product or service. Make sure you have them written out and use them as a reference when developing your sales and marketing materials.

Always remember this: If you are not solving problems you are not making money.

#2 What, who, and where is your target market? I know I know, this is more like three questions in one, but before you get to marketing your product to any and everyone, know your niche… health and wellness, internet marketing, social media, wine, motivational speaking, custom invitations, video marketing, etc. Next know who you are targeting… athletes, small business owners, corporations, the rich, the poor, college students, stay at home moms… I think you get my point here. Lastly, know where your target market hangs out both online and offline. For example does your ideal customer frequent the gym, the internet, Facebook, day cares, or church functions, small business seminars.

By answering these 3 questions you will define what your ideal customer looks like… what we like to call your AVATAR. Only when you have a crystal clear idea on who you are selling to and where you can find them can you focus the right time and energy into the most effective and profitable marketing and lead generation strategies.

#3 Who’s your competition? Unless you have invented a product that has never been seen before you will always have competition… and even if your novel invention is a first to market… if it’s a goldmine, the competition is not too far behind. You will always be competing with someone else. Other business owners, other marketers, other distributors, other entrepreneurs within your niche.

Once you know the other players in the game you can adjust your marketing plan and brand to be a cut-above the rest. If there is nothing unique about your offerings, mo perceived added value a customer gets from joining or buying from you, or if you are priced too high over your competition who is providing comparable products and services, then you’ll lose every time.

#4 What’s your intention statement? What the heck is an intention statement. Your intention statement is the core of your success map will communicate what you are trying to do and how you plan to do it. It can be one sentence or as long as a couple of paragraphs but keep it concise and to the point. The shorter, the better.

#5 What is your personal promise to your customers and business partners? Start with “I promise to… ” Offer a gourmet coffee experience at a decent price? Provide step by step tutorials on building a brand from home? This is something you have to know. I promise to provide online marketers cutting-edge access to the most effective Facebook marketing strategies.

#6 What are my greatest challenges or obstacles? Identify what might keep you from being successful. Inferior resources, limited knowledge, lack of strategic partnerships, fear, the wrong attitude (yes your mindset if the greatest obstacle of them all). It’s important to identify these things, so that you can come up with solutions. The better PROBLEM SOLVER you become the better plan of action you will have for dealing with these road blocks.

#7 What are your marketing and sales plans? Develop a plan that will maximize your business exposure, help you generate targeted leads and then convert those leads into buying customers. Will you market online, using social media, Facebook, billboards, trade shows, at local meet ups. Do you have an elevator pitch (can you quickly tell someone what you do in 15 seconds or less) and create value while doing so? What are the price points for your products and services? Also, what are your sales goals?

#8 Do you need a staff or external support? While most of us are solo-entrepreneurs or small business owners, ask yourself can you achieve your marketing and sales goals by doing everything on your own? There may be some tasks you do not know how to do or even want to do yourself. If this is the case, you must account for future employees, the possibility of outsourcing or investing in learning the skills you need to run your ship if paying others is not an option.

The better prepared you are as an entrepreneur, whether you run a home based business or small retail shop, you must have a success map that will guide you along the way. The worst feeling you can have as an entrepreneur is to have your visions and dreams collapse because you failed to plan!

Best Business Rescue Tips That Will Jumpstart Your Company Right On Track!

Due to unstable economic changes, you can see dozens of businesses closing down their doors as they succumb to financial pressure and distress. So if you’re experiencing the same dilemma too, how can you rectify and innovate your marketing plan and strategy and achieve a successful business rescue? Well, look no further as here are easy tips to help your company hunker down and weather the storm in these tough times!

Business Rescue Tip No. 1: Conduct a comprehensive inventory of all your assets

Equipment, supplies, land and buildings are considered your assets and it is important to do a complete and comprehensive inventory so that you can easily identify if you’re putting them to good use. This is mainly why most businesses fail is that they don’t fully maximize the resources available. For example, you have unused space in your building so why not try sub-leasing it to another company to generate more income? Also, if you have surplus supplies on hand, why not sell them off so that you can obtain more stocks that have better sales conversions? Some assets may just be in plain sight and all you need to do is determine what they are and reinvent them so that they can be more marketable.

Business Rescue Tip No.2: Improve Company Visibility To Attract More Customers

Formulating a good advertising strategy can help improve company visibility. And with better visibility, you can attract more customers to come to you. You can do this by talking to local media, doing product launches, advertising via social online channels or creating websites where you can provide news and other updates of the services and products offered by your company.

Business Rescue Tip No.3: Increase Sales

First of all, you need to identify what products and services that have high sales conversions and try recreating a strategy that would increase it even more. So try packaging two or more products that would highly complement each other and offer a marked down price as compared to buying each of them singularly. Often, people are pretty keen in getting a good bargain so it would be highly effective if you offer bulk discounts to make it even more appealing for your customers.

Business Rescue Tip No.4: Know What Your Market Wants

If you’re selling the wrong type of products and services then it’s very difficult to gain any type of profit. Plus, it can be very costly in maintaining or storing them. So why not concentrate the mindshare and the resources used on other types of products and services that sell easily. Hence, it is important that you should have a particular market in mind of whom you wish to target. Once you’ve decided on that, the next step is to find out what they want. So send out emails, post polls via social media or do surveys to get consumer feedback on what they like or don’t like. In that way, you can easily determine what are the things that you should focus and invest on.

Business Rescue Tip No.5: Strategize Pricing Scheme Appropriately

This is a particularly important business rescue tip since how you price your products and services can make or break the overall success of your company. Make sure that the amount of money that your customers spend for the commodities offered is in par with degree of quality that should come in return. Often, many businesses go downhill because they do not give their customers their value for their money. Hence, if you’re going to do price increases be sure that you’re able to justify it. If not, your customers would be dissuaded and would have a tendency to look for other options with your competitors.

How Accounting Software Can Ensure Small Business Owners Have a Happy Christmas!

For many people the Christmas period is fun filled and relaxing with good food, drink and most of all great company. But unfortunately for some it can be one of the toughest times of the year. The festive season is a period of celebration and for many it acts as the perfect time of year to reflect on the year gone by. Over the backdrop of endless annual top 100 countdowns on TV we reflect on personal and professional achievements and regrets whilst planning our infamous New Year resolutions. This period of reflection is a source of happy memories for most but it can also be a real source of sadness for some people. Suicide rates are believed to increase throughout the holiday season and with the harshness of the current economic climate there are genuine concerns about the mental welfare of small business owners as we head into this years this festive season.

The combination of pressures derived from the accountability of owning business in today’s tough trading condition and people’s natural inclination to reflect over the Christmas period makes the festive season prime for an increase in anxiety across the SME community. Research has suggested that the SME community has experienced a 47% increase in suicide rates since the economic downturn of 2008. There are 2 intrinsically linked contributing factors to mental anxiety within the small business community over Christmas. Investing in good accounting software and practising disciplined financial management can help keep both factors at bay.

1) Money and the financial health of the business

The main cause of distress and anxiety for a small business owner over the festive season is money. Unfortunately there are still too many small business owners that are not into the detail of their company financials. For many Christmas time represents the time of year for the annual review of the company financials. The combination of compulsory requirements to prepare yearend accounts and the natural desire to reflect over the Christmas period makes it completely understandable why many owners get their head in the books over the festive season.

Practicing financial discipline once a year rarely results in a sound set of company financials. It is all too common for owners to find financial problems in their business just at the time when everyone else is relaxing and celebrating. The lack of detailed financial understanding often results in longstanding disparities between expenditure and income left unchecked throughout the year. It is also common for business owners that haven’t maintained a detailed view of the financials to find missing payments from customers. These findings ultimately leave business owners learning about nasty cash flow problems in their business that have accumulated over time which can be devastating for the short term future of the business. The emotional extreme between the relaxed PAYE employees enjoying their pre-booked off time and the anxious self-employed small business owner that can’t leave their business is already vast over this period. Finding out about a stark cash flow problem in addition to the existing frustrations of running a small business over the Christmas period can be enough to tip existing anxiety into full blown depression.

The key to a happy and relaxing Christmas period is sound financial discipline throughout the year and a good accounting software package can be central to achieving this. Accounting software allows small business owners to stay close to their business financials in a quick and easy to understand way. A simple, cost effective accounting software package means that company financials are done and managed consistently throughout the year. This ensures that if any problems occur with expenditure management or if a client hasn’t paid an invoice on time it can be rectified quickly and easily. Small business owners that are close to their financials do not have the emotional drain of a big annual review of their company accounts. Most importantly of all they don’t have the shock and subsequent unhappiness of finding nasty surprises in the books over the festive season!

2) Relationships

One of the main reasons that make Christmas so special is having the chance to spend time with your loved ones. The problem for the small business owner is that they don’t feel like they can simply leave the business for a couple of weeks. “The business doesn’t run itself!” This is in stark contrast to PAYE friends who have no responsibilities in their booked off time other than enjoying time with their loved ones. This contrast in fortunes puts an almighty strain on the relationships of small business owners as their loved ones have to cope without them for long periods over Christmas. This can be especially difficult for the loved ones of small business owners when it seems that everyone else is surrounded by their family and friends.

It can be incredibly challenging to take time off when you’re running a small business but time off is essential to keep and enjoy important relationships healthy. Time off during this year’s festive season will be even more strained for many small business owners as they not only need to complete the usual year end admin but they are also operating in some of the toughest economic conditions known for many years. BBC news have recently stated that the total number of divorces have increased 4.9% in England and Wales in the past year as a result of the tough economic conditions.

Whilst these pressures are very real they do not exist for every small business. There are SME’s that do not worry about year end accounting because it happens to be a 5 min exercise due to their on-going management of the company financials throughout the year. Small businesses that have sound financial discipline are also more likely to have enough working capital to see out the current economic pressures. These businesses have impressive working capital due to their complete detailed focus on expenditure and income and well managed time allocation reducing non-value adding administration tasks in favour of business optimisation planning. Small business owners of these types of companies are more likely to be able to relax over the Christmas period and spend time with loved ones as their businesses are sustainably healthy.

The secret to these healthy businesses is their sound financial discipline and well-structured time management. Accounting software is a critical tool that makes sure that small business owners reallocate time away from doing lengthy manual quarterly and annual accounts to free up more time to be spent on value adding business planning. This additional planning gives the business a greater chance of directing themselves successfully through hard times. In addition but equally as important accounting software makes sure that a small business has a tight grip on their cash flow position. By having a clear vision on the direction of the business and a healthy cash flow position a business owner can ultimately be more relaxed over the Christmas period focussing on what’s important – their relationships.

Small business owners that face the prospect of finding out about money problems and living through the happy festive season working all hours to keep the business afloat are in real danger of unsustainable anxiety and depression this Christmas time. The answer is to work on embedding financial discipline and well-structured time management throughout the business. The only way a small business owner will be able to relax with their loved ones this Christmas is if their business is financially sound. Having a well embedded accounting software solution is a key step towards achieving this.