Creating a Money-Making Business Plan

In my experience (at least with the small businesses I’ve worked with), a business plan is often considered an “unimportant” waste of time, and many small business owners forego creating one.  The truth, however, is that a Business Plan can be incredibly beneficial for a business.  Not only can a business plan create a “Guide” for a company and its employees, but a good plan can also be taken to the bank in order to try and raise funding for a small business.  It can attract investors as well, and it can help focus a business owner’s vision in order to make the business as profitable as possible.

While there are tons of business plan models on the internet today, I can’t help but want to throw my own cap into the ring as well.  There are the business plans that a lot of general businesses use to satisfy mentors (or spouses), and then there are the types of business plans I’ve worked on, the type that big businesses pay tens of thousands of dollars (and hundreds of thousands) of dollars before they ever so much as sign a rental-lease agreement.

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The difference between a “General” Business Plan and a Business Plan that Makes Money comes down to one very important thing…Research.

When a small business owner includes research into a business plan, they are showing banks and investors that they are not going into a business venture blind.  A well-researched business plan shows forethought, logic, and realistic thinking.

Therefore, to create a business plan that will help raise money, a business should include the following elements in their business plan:

  1. The Mission Statement: In Bookkeeping Money-Saving Tip # 15: The Mission Statement, I discussed the importance of having a Mission Statement.  It is just as important to put that Mission Statement into the Business Plan.  Consider it the “Sales Pitch” of the Business that basically tells an investor the Business’s main goal.
  2. An Introduction:  The introduction is a fairly simple concept.  You create a page or two (or three) about the basic business concept.  What is the business selling?  If there is a location, where will that location be?  Will the business have an inventory  and if yes, where will that inventory be kept?
  3. Demographics:  Demographics are an excellent option to add to a business plan because it exhibits that you know who your ideal, targeted customers are and who they can be.  The demographics can help a business see where they should be focusing their marketing dollars, and how to theme their business to attract those ideal clients instead of creating a business that tries to “attract everyone.”  (Read Paint a Target on Your Customers for more information on how to do your own demographic analysis.)                                                             teamwork 2
  4. Competition Analysis:  You know the expression, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”?  This expression is just as true in business as it is in life.  You should know what your enemies (ie, your competition) are doing in their businesses, because every choice they make could potentially harm or help your own business.  Therefore, creating a section that lists ALL of your local competition, as well as what products they are selling (that you may or may not sell as well) and what prices those products are marked at.  The more you know your competition, the more you will be able to create a business model that grinds theirs into the dust (should that be your wish).  Either way, it shows investors that you have a strategy to stay afloat despite what your competition is doing.
  5. CompassLocation Analysis:  A large majority of businesses draw their customers from within 10 miles of their location…TEN MILES. However, the more unique that business and its products are, the farther distance a customer is willing to travel in order to buy what that business is selling.  On the flip side, the less unique a business and its products are, the smaller the distance a customer is willing to travel to make a purchase.  For example – Disneyland has a very unique product; people are willing to fly from all over the world to experience the unique product that Disneyland offers (and that no one has been able to yet duplicate).  Another example – Souvenir shops.  Souvenir shops all sell the same products, and they all try to rent space where the tourists are.  The end result, tourists have so much choice on what souvenirs to buy and where to buy them, they don’t need to go far from their hotels to get what they want.  (In fact, they often buy from within the hotel).  So, in order to create a competent location analysis, you need to include the demographics and competition within YOUR 10-mile radius.  (You can read more about Location Analysis in my article entitled:  BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP #4: Analyze Your Business Location.)
  6. Marketing Plan: At this point, you should know your competition AND your customers, so you should have a pretty good idea how you can target your marketing campaign directly to your ideal customers.  Let your investors know as well.  Include a section just about marketing.
  7. The Dollars and Cents:  No investor is ever going to invest in a business that looks as if it is going to fold its doors as soon as it opens (unless that business is a non-profit).  Investors want to know that a business is going to make money and that they will recoup their initial deposit.  Therefore, the dollars and cents is one of the most important things to include in the Business Plan.  If the business is already open, then bankers would ask for a “Profit and Loss” Statement, as well as a “Balance Sheet.”  But whether the business is in operation or not, another excellent idea to include is the “Pro Formas” or basic monetary projections.  You can create a Budget and include it Graph line: up and down 1in the dollars and cents section, and you can project from that budget how you plan to make more money (or save money).  Calculate Budgets with Low Income-Expense Projections, Mid Range Income-Expense Projections, and High Income-Expense Projections.  That way, the investors will know that the business will still say afloat even in “Hard Economic Times.”
  8. An Executive Summary: The Executive Summary is basically the bare minimum summary of what the business has created plans to accomplish.  It takes the main points from each section, and presents them in a direct manner.  The Executive Summary is basically your “In Conclusion” statement, however, this summary is going to go at the BEGINNING of your Business Plan.  Most investors never really read past the Executive Summary (unless there is something in the Executive Summary that doesn’t make sense), so in essence, the Executive Summary can be the main section that makes or breaks your business plan’s goal:  to raise capital.   Therefore, make sure your Executive Summary has ALL the main items you want an investor to know, and put it right after your Business Plan’s Introduction.  Consider the rest a guide for the business and backup for the more thorough investors.

While I cannot guarantee that this business plan format will raise capital (after all, there are many other factors that investors take into account besides the business plan), I will say that a well written business plan can tip funding in a business owner’s favor.  You really have nothing to lose by creating a thorough, well-researched business plan – but you do have everything to gain.

The Email Subscription List

EmailOne of the best things that any business can do is to generate an Email List, especially, an Email SUBSCRIPTION List.  With an email list, bookkeepers can email invoices and sales receipts to customers.  Even better, the advertising department (or person) can use an Email Subscription List to send out advertisements to customers and thus generate additional sales.  If nothing else, having an email subscription list gives a business an opportunity to remind customers that they exist – that they have products that might interest the customer at any time of year, and to offer extra incentives for getting them to “come in” to the store.  Having an email list, you can save hundreds and thousands of dollars on advertising while still making sales.

To further drive this point home, I am going to use a quick example from the blogging world.  in the blogging world, there is a saying that is repeated over and over again.

That saying is:  “There’s money in the list.”

Some bloggers will even go so far as to say, “Your list is like an ATM machine.  When you want money, you go to your email list and send out a sales email, then Boom!  Instant Cash.” 

You see, in the blogging world, bloggers believe that you don’t need a thousand customers to have a profitable blogging business.  All you need is a few loyal customers that you can sell to again and again.

The same holds true for the business world.  When you need to up your sales, send out a “Special Sale Email” to your list and watch your bottom line take a jump.

So how do you go about building an email subscription list for your business?

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Here are five strategies to get you started: 

  1. Email Subscription Company:  If you have a website and you sell products online to customers all over the country, then the first thing you will want to build a successful subscription list is to subscribe to a company like Aweber or GetResponse.  These companies can help you subscribe and have your customers “Confirm” their subscriptions so that you aren’t marked as “Spam”.  As an added bonus, when subscribers “Confirm” their subscriptions, then you know that those people WANT to be contacted about your specials and other news.  Aweber and GetResponse handle all of those steps, and all you have to do is set it up, and then send out the occasional “Broadcast.”
  2. imageA Widget On Your BlogIf you have a blog or website, then you should have what is called a “Widget” on your blog that encourages people to join your email list.  It is a very simple way to capture email addresses, and you can make custom widgets from your Email Subscription Company.  If you don’t opt for the Email Subscription Company, then you can use a “Plug-In” from your blog site to create a list.  Our Custom Aweber widget looks like this (just to give you an idea):
  3. The Fishbowl:  This is a trick that is commonly used in the Mary Kay world to get leads and contacts.  The consultant basically puts out a fishbowl whenever they do a special event, then they encourage potential leads to fill out a mini-questionnaire with phone numbers and email addresses.  The same can be done for any business.  A simple $2 fishbowl right by the register, along with a mini-questionnaire about customer service or a request for email addresses is often all that is needed to get the email address.  Just make sure to put “Would you like to be notified by email about our specials?” on that min-survey so that you only email the people who are receptive to it.  (Another way to do this is to just have a “Guest Book” or sign up sheet near the register, and ask every customer if they would like to join your list as you make a sale.)  [ad#Leaderboard]
  4. The Free Lunch: Something that goes very well with the fishbowl is the “Free Lunch” prize.  Of course, if you aren’t a restaurant, then you don’t want to offer a free lunch, but you can offer anything from an “Instant Discount” to a monthly promotional product (that maybe you got for free from a vendor).  Basically, you’re offering a bribe for their contact information.  The nice part about this, however, is that they don’t have to fill out a form.  They simply small salad with limedrop in their business card.  It saves you a bit on printing out surveys, and still gets you the contacts.  Only downside is that you spend a little bit of money in order to give those monthly prizes, but the upside is a list you can sell to again and again.
  5. The “Freebie” Bribe:  For online sites, the “free lunch” is known as a “Freebie” and it is also a bribe that goes with “getting the contact info.”  This bribe usually comes in the form of a digital product, like an informative ebook (ie PDF file), an audio interview, an informative video, etc.  This kind of giveaway is fantastic for anyone who has a Subscription List with Aweber or GetResponse, especially because these companies will send out the freebies for you.  It is a huge timesaver, and is often worth the $20 fee to maintain.  (Again, remember that this is a chance for you to make a ton of money by emailing your customers over and over.)

Once you have your email list – whether its 20 people or 2,000 – you then begin making additional sales right away.  BUT, if you don’t go with a Company like Aweber or GetResponse, then you NEED to make sure you don’t become a Spammer.  Sending out mass emails can make the email companies mark you as Spammers, as can ignoring your readers requests to be removed from your email lists. To avoid these things without a list, read my old article entitled:  How to Send an Email Blast Without Getting Spam’d.

There are plenty of other ways to get email subscribers, but these are just a simple view that can be implemented immediately.

What are your favorite ways to get email subscribers?

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How to Twitter on Auto-Pilot

Hey Everyone,

To kick off a new direction for the OneHourBookkeeper Website (which will be happening this month), I am releasing my first of many mini books to come about all aspects of Business Blogging.  “How to Twitter on Auto-Pilot” is the first of this mini-series.  The regular price of each book in the series will be $5 each, and $3 for newsletter subscribers.

Check out an excerpt below:

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Followers Are Potential Customers

I will admit, when I wrote “How to Make Money with Your Writer’s Blog 101,” I said I did not understand much about Twitter.  I knew I could get a lot of traffic to my blog from Twitter (in fact, I got a healthy percentage of traffic from my – then – 2,000 Twitter followers with every post).  But other than posting each blog to Twitter, I didn’t do much else with it.

Then I read John Locke’s book (How I Sold 1 Million EBooks on Amazon in 5 Months) and I decided to really look at Twitter again.  I looked at Locke’s Twitter page and saw that he had 20,000 Twitter followers at that time (July 2011).  Then in October, Locke has close to 25,000 Twitter followers.  So with less than 20,000 Twitter followers and a pretty basic blog, Locke was able to sell 200,000 eBooks a month.  (That’s the power of Viral Marketing.)

Now I know what you’re probably thinking:  25,000 Followers?  How did he do that?  I have less than 1,000. (And if you have more than 1,000, that’s fantastic…keep going.)

I will go into that in further detail.  In fact, later in this book, I have included an old blog post called “How to Get 1,000 Twitter Followers in a Week”, so keep an eye out for that.  But to make sure we are on the same page, the basics of getting Followers is to first follow the RIGHT Tweeps (Twitter People), and then they will follow you back.

Thus, for Locke to get 25,000 Followers, he had to follow 25,000 Tweeps first.

Well, I can tell you this:  With the kind of growth Locke is getting, and with his skimpy blog site, there’s no way this guy is using Twitter how “Your Average Joe” does.  In fact, if I had to bet on it, I would guess that the man is using specialized software.  I say this because to grow 5,000 followers in a few months would take a huge time investment for a single person.  Twitter allows users to follow a maximum of 1,000 people a day before they block that person, and they allow users to “Unfollow” 400 people a day max before they mark them as “Aggressive Followers.”  (Although to be perfectly honest, sometimes pushing those limits will make Twitter shut your account down.)  If they mark you as Aggressive, they shut your account down and it will take a while for you to get your Followers back.  Following and Unfollowing that many people a day takes hours.

However, there is software that can do that in a fraction of the time.

But I’ll get back to the software in a minute…

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Interested in reading more?  Well, this Twitter Guide is only $5 ($3 for Newsletter Subscribers).  Just click on the Buy Now Button below to get it, or sign up with the newsletter to get it for even less.

The next mini-guide I will be working on is Selling from Facebook Fan Pages.

How to Twitter on Auto-Pilot:  An Internet Marketing Guide for Business Owners and Entreprenuers (Only $5 – $3 for newsletter subscribers)

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The Best Printers for Small Businesses

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The following is an excerpt from our newest ebook “How To Start A Lucrative Virtual Bookkeeping Business” which we are launching on June 30th, 2010 and are currently pre-selling for 50% off. While the advice is intended for small bookkeeping business owners, in my opinion, it works for anyone who runs a small business.  I would love to get your feedback and hear any comments on printers you love.  So, if you have any feedback, please leave a comment below.

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  1. Get a Multi-Function Printer.  You want to look for a Multi-Function Printer versus a regular printer because like I said before, you will have limited space.  You want it to have a “Flatbed” because you will be scanning paperwork.  You also want it to be able to “Feed” a lot of papers through the scanner at once because you will be faxing a lot of paperwork. In fact, the feed is one of the most important features to look at… don’t skimp here.  A wimpy feed will mean lots of paper jams, lots of frustration, a few choice curse words, a whole lot of equipment violence, and eventually, a whole lot of time wasted manually feeding your pages one at a time.  (Which sucks, believe me!)  Save yourself the headache and pony up the extra $10-$50 for a better feeding option.
    1. a. Features to Look for in a Multifunction Printer:
      1. i.      Laser Printers versus Inkjet Printers:
  • Laser printers mean toner cartridges.  That is a lot more expensive then Inkjet cartridges, and usually larger in size, but they print faster, and they print more copies before they have to be replaced.  In addition, the printer costs more money, especially if you go for the Color Laser printer, but the print quality is excellent, and if you don’t mind pony-ing up $100 every time you have to buy replacement cartridges, then a laser printer is a great option.
  • Inkjet Printers:  Both the printer and the cartridges cost less….period.  The quality can be really good, but you will buy cartridges more often (although the prices can be as low as $5 each).  You will probably also have to do a “head cleaning” more often on an Inkjet Printer, but this is the more affordable choice when starting any new business.

  1. ii.      Replacement Cartridges:  Before you buy any printer, always pop over to the cartridge aisle and see how much the replacement cartridges are.  You may also want to check a website like www.123Inkjets.com where you can save as much as 80% on the generic versions.  Just the cost of the cartridges alone could be a reason NOT to buy whatever printer you’re looking at, no matter how cheap the printer is.  For example, Lexmarks are generally the cheapest printers you can find, but they’re cartridges cost just a little less than the printer itself.  On top of that, the cartridges don’t print a whole lot of documents before the cartridge has to be replaced – so these are only good deals for people who don’t print a lot.  You…as a VIRTUAL bookkeeper… ARE going to print – a lot.  So take the price of the cartridges seriously.
  2. iii.      A Good Feeder:  This is a must-have for a bookkeeper.  You are going to be faxing, scanning and copying a lot of documents at once.  If you have a wimpy feeder, then you can expect paper jams or an early death to your MFC printer.  Therefore, make sure you look at how many papers you can feed at once.  This information will be listed in the printer’s details or on the box itself.

  1. iv.      A Flatbed Scanner:  A lot of Business Owners think that having a machine with only a feeder (like a fax machine) is a great low-cost option, but the truth is, it’s a bad option for bookkeeping.  Bookkeepers need to make copies of checks, bills, tax forms, books, and all sorts of odd-shaped papers.  It’s a whole heck of a lot easier to have a flatbed that can handle odd shapes and sizes so you can scan portions, if necessary, and put the scans back together on a computer.  Therefore, get both the feeder and the scanner model.

  1. v.      A Fax Machine:  You’d be amazed how many multi-function printers are still made without a fax machine.  But the truth is, a fax machine is a Virtual Bookkeeper’s best friend.  You will be sending a lot of paperwork to your clients via email or fax, and having a fax machine lets you do both.  Be smart and check for this feature right from the beginning.

  1. vi.      All in all, we prefer the Brother printers.  The cartridges are cheap (at least in comparison to other toner and inkjet cartridges), it feeds paper fairly quickly, and it prints an excellent quality at a good speed.  However, keep in mind that not all Brother Printers are created equally.  The cheap ones don’t feed a lot of paper at once.  So, look for something that looks like these (notice the feeds are angled upward to hold more pages):

But avoid ones that look these because these feeds aren’t that great (notice the feeds are flat, and thus usually fit and/or feed fewer pages).

A Good Rule-of-Thumb is:  The more pages they feed at once, the better.

Laptop Features to Consider For Small Businesses

The following is an excerpt from our eBook, “How to Start a Lucrative Virtual Bookkeeping Business.”

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One of the things I see a lot of when it comes to bookkeeping is laptops…lots of laptops.  Some work incredibly well (whether for bookkeeping or anything else) while others work horribly.  Thus, I have compiled a list of features to consider when shopping for any laptop, whether for bookkeeping alone, or for business in general.

(If you have any further recommendations, please leave them in the comments so that other readers will know what to consider.)

  1. Must-Have Features For Your Bookkeeping Laptop:
    • A DVD Burner:  Don’t be cheap and skip the DVD burner in lieu of a CD Burner; they are not the same thing.  CD’s can only burn a fraction of the information a DVD can burn, and you will want to give your clients DVDs when you back up their work.
    • An SD Card Slot:  This will come in handy whenever you need to transfer digital files from a camera to your computer.  Although it may not make much sense now, you’ll be glad you have it later.
    • Bluetooth Access:  It just comes in handy.
    • Wireless Access: You will want to be able to get on the Internet anywhere, especially coffee shops.  In fact, you may even consider signing up for a monthly service from AT&T or Sprint so that you can get Internet access from the middle of a field, if you so chose.
  2. Optional Features For Your Laptop To Consider:
    • A 10-Key Keyboard:  The reason I have NOT made this a “Must-Have” feature is because this is actually a “Preference” choice more than anything.  Yes, it can be incredibly handy to have your 10-Key right on your keyboard when you open your laptop, but the problem is, a Laptop with a 10-Key Keyboard is a very heavy laptop.  It can add an extra 5 to 10 pounds of weight, and it can add a couple hundred dollars to the price tag.  If you buy this kind of laptop, you will also probably end up investing in a bag with wheels just to tote the thing around.  So now, you have a heavy laptop with a heavy AND bulky bag that you have to schlep from house to car to office and back.  On the other hand, you can buy a 10-Key Keypad that plugs directly into your laptop for a cost of $10 to $20, or a Bluetooth 10-Key Keypad for $30 to $40.  These are compact, lightweight, and can fit right in the pocket of any computer bag.  On top of that, you can buy a computer that weighs as little as five pounds, and now taking your computer with you is no longer a hassle.  So, make the decision for yourself on how important that 10-Key is before you buy a laptop.  (Notice, the Kensington keypad-with-calculator to the left has a calculator screen on it as well, which allows you to quickly tally numbers without having to access your computer.)
    • LightScribe Burner:  If you’ve never seen a Burnt LightScribe CD or DVD, you are missing out.  This feature allows you to burn any picture or text on the top of a certain type of CD and DVD, and can really give you (and your business) a very professional image.  Imagine giving your clients a Backup Disc with their Company Name, Logo and date on it.  You will convince your Clients you spend a lot of time and money to produce high-quality products, even when you don’t.  This feature does not come standard on all laptops, but is usually only $25 more if you’re buying a “custom computer.”  So, if you want to give an appearance of being Professional and “Tech-Savvy,” add this feature…you won’t regret it.  (Because quite frankly, if you’re not doing it now, your competitors will be doing it soon.)
  3. My Laptop Recommendations:

 

  1. AVOID AT ALL COSTS:  One of the benefits about being an Independent Bookkeeper is that you see a LOT of computers.  As such, I would NEVER recommend a Compaq (even though it’s made by HP) or a Gateway.  I’ve seen major issues with Compaqs, and I’ve heard Gateway has the worst customer service when a problem arises (this from a very computer savvy person).  Acers are super-cheap options, but there’s a reason for that…they won’t work well with a whole lot of business programs.  The IBMs I’ve seen have been heavy, awkward and incredibly expensive, but aren’t really any fancier than a Toshiba.  Dells are great because they’re inexpensive, you can customize them, and they have decent customer service, but I’ve seen more Dells freeze up than not and then you have to do a “hard reboot.”  But again, your laptop choice is always a preference thing.
  2. ALSO AVOID: Mini Netbooks.  While Netbooks are a fabulous deal price-wise, they are not good choices for a business.  For one thing, the keyboards are small, which makes it hard to type (and EXTREMELY curse-worthy if you type a lot).  For another, there are usually NO DVD/CD Burners, only USB ports.  And for a third, without a DVD drive, it is nearly impossible to get many computer programs on the laptop – including QuickBooks.  I have tried to download QuickBooks onto computers from the internet before, but even with the QuickBooks key code, you really need the disks to install the program.  So skip the Netbooks for your business and go with something larger.
  3. To find the best price on a laptop: If I don’t buy my laptop from the manufacturer’s website, then I like to go Best Buy or Office Depot.  They often have incredible sales and decent financing.  On top of that, you can usually take your computer to Best Buy if you need to get something fixed, and Office Depot now offers free computer check-ups whether you buy from them or not.  Check their catalogs regularly and you will be amazed at the deals.

BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP # 13: Make Money With Your Website (Part 1)

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Believe it or not, when I first decided to start my own business seven years ago, I did not want to do bookkeeping.  I may be good at it, but I’ve never LOVED it (not like my Mom does).  Instead, I wanted to make “just enough money” so that I could stay home with my newborn daughter, and maybe do a bit of romance-writing on the side.  If that meant busting my behind and selling Mary Kay products to support my family, I was going to do it (even if I am a bit of a Tom Boy).

But then I thought, why sell only one product line?  Why not sign up at as many consultant companies as I can so that I could sell more products at “in-home shows” then just one line?  Logically, I could make more money because I would have more products to offer.  So I looked into Weekenders, Party Lite, Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, Avon, and a few others who I can’t recall at the moment.  I was bound and determined to join them all, and then start my own website to sell all those products and make even more money.  Who cared if selling the products from a personal website was strictly forbidden by all of these companies.  There were legal ways around that (like not actually naming the products on the website, but having the catalogs available to download).  And with Yahoo!’s SiteBuilder program, building my own website turned out to be no challenge at all.

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Instead, life took me down another road.  Someone referred a new client to me, and I ended up running my own company doing bookkeeping, research, and office administration.  But even though life took me down another road…I still had my website…and I was supplementing my income with that website.  It didn’t take much to realize that anyone can make money with their website – the key is just knowing how to do it.
Since there are a lot of ways to do this, and since I have way too much information in my head, I’m going to turn this into a mini-series.  I will post at least two methods per week you can use with your site to make even more income.

Here are the First Two Things I did to Supplement My Business Income:

  1. Affiliate Income: I first started with Affiliate Income.  Affiliate Income is basically putting other company’s ads on your website and then making a commission every time one of your customers or readers buys a product through that ad.  That other company basically writes it off as marketing dollars or sales commissions, and then sends you a 1099 at the end of the year so you can report it as income.  They don’t pay unless someone buys, BUT…you can make a fairly decent-sized commission on whatever is purchased – anywhere from 1% to 30% or even a flat fee.  The best part is, you also make money on every order YOU MAKE through your website.  While this may not be income, to get an extra 30% discount on products you buy through your website can obviously increase your profits quite a bit. 
    1. a. My Recommendation: I like Commission Junction.  The account is free, and there are thousands of companies you can choose from, as well as individual products you can display.  It’s a nice way to expand whatever your inventory without actually carrying an inventory…and you can choose products that complement instead of compete with your company’s products (like products you might not want to carry because they are too expensive).  Just think about the things your customers ask you for that you don’t carry, and then join those programs.  That way, you can direct them to your website, and then make money just for recommending where they find what they’re looking for.
  2. Blogging – The New Door-to-Door Salesman: A few years and a few thousand dollars later, I was really wanting to see what else I could do to make money online.  After all, my website was up 24 hours a day and could make money for me even when I was asleep.  I began reading about “blogging,” and I thought, “How Stupid…who would want to read someone else’s online diary? BORING!!!”  (I know…the irony…because on THIS blog, I write “Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper.”)  But as time ticked on, I began to see that everyone has a blog – including businesses.  Not only does everyone have a blog, but there are tons of professional bloggers out there making six figures a year from just having conversations with their readers.  To top it off, it’s a great way for your readers and customers to get to know you on a personal level, which will make them more likely to purchase from you later.  In other words, it’s the newest way to do door-to-door sales without actually leaving your office.  So, I added a blog to my website, and began looking for advice on how-to write and what-to write.  Soon, I was making an additional income that has a bit of a “Snowball Effect.”  The income starts out small, but over time, those blogs keep working for you, and eventually, you end up making quite a bit of money from each blog.  So, if you would like to know more about blogging, start here: 
    1. a. What to Blog About: No matter what you do, you have a special knowledge base.  Maybe it’s bookkeeping; maybe it’s scrapbooking.  Maybe it’s even operating a forklift on a steep hill or how to screw your ex in court.  Whatever it is, you have knowledge to share.  The key is to figure out what excites you, and then write about that.  Because the more excited you can get, the more excited your readers will be.  (If you’re still stumped, write about the things you tell your customers – the “Must-Know Information” you impart when they come to you…) 
      1. i.      To get blog-post ideas, start surfing the forums on LinkedIn, Facebook and even Yahoo! Answers.  The questions you find there should be enough to inspire you.
    2. b. How to Blog: If you want to be a blogger, I recommend you start reading Darren Rowse’s blog, ProBlogger.net.  He is my guru, and his book “31 Days to a Better Blog” is extremely helpful. 
    3. c. Where to Blog: If you want to start making money on your blogs right away, and getting people to actually come to your blog, there are a few places you can go.  I recommend the following sites.  (You may only make a few cents per month when you first start, but the more controversial or instructional your articles, the more money you will begin to make.) 
      1. GoFreelance.com
      2. Elance.com
      3. Triond.com
      4. Helium.com

Not only is blogging great for supplementing your income, but it also helps bring traffic and customers to your site.  So, if you don’t like to blog or want to blog, you can always get other people to blog for your site at places like EzineArticles.com.

So, there are my first two ways.  Come back next week for the next two.

BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP # 13: Turn Your Website into a Money Maker (Part 1)

Believe it or not, when I first decided to start my own business seven years ago, I did not want to do bookkeeping. I may be good at it, but I’ve never LOVED it (not like my Mom does). Instead, I wanted to make “just enough money” so that I could stay home with my newborn daughter, and maybe do a bit of romance-writing on the side. If that meant busting my behind and selling Mary Kay products to support my family, I was going to do it (even if I am a bit of a Tom Boy).

But then I thought, why sell only one product line? Why not sign up at as many consultant companies as I can so that I could sell more products at “in-home shows” then just one line? Logically, I could make more money because I would have more products to offer. So I looked into Weekenders, Party Lite, Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, Avon, and a few others who I can’t recall at the moment. I was bound and determined to join them all, and then start my own website to sell all those products and make even more money. Who cared if selling the products from a personal website was strictly forbidden by all of these companies. There were legal ways around that (like not actually naming the products on the website, but having the catalogs available to download). And with Yahoo!’s SiteBuilder program, building my own website turned out to be no challenge at all.

Instead, life took me down another road. Someone referred a new client to me, and I ended up running my own company doing bookkeeping, research, and office administration. But even though life took me down another road…I still had my website…and I was supplementing my income with that website. It didn’t take much to realize that anyone can make money with their website – the key is just knowing how to do it.

Since there are a lot of ways to do this, and since I have way too much information in my head, I’m going to turn this into a mini-series. I will post at least two methods per week you can use with your site to make even more income.

Here are the First Two Things I did to Supplement My Business Income:

1. Affiliate Income: I first started with Affiliate Income. Affiliate Income is basically putting other company’s ads on your website and then making a commission every time one of your customers or readers buys a product through that ad. That other company basically writes it off as marketing dollars or sales commissions, and then sends you a 1099 at the end of the year so you can report it as income. They don’t pay unless someone buys, BUT…you can make a fairly decent-sized commission on whatever is purchased – anywhere from 1% to 30% or even a flat fee. The best part is, you also make money on every order YOU MAKE through your website. While this may not be income, to get an extra 30% discount on products you buy through your website can obviously increase your profits quite a bit.

a. My Recommendation: I like Commission Junction. The account is free, and there are thousands of companies you can choose from, as well as individual products you can display. It’s a nice way to expand whatever your inventory without actually carrying an inventory…and you can choose products that complement instead of compete with your company’s products (like products you might not want to carry because they are too expensive). Just think about the things your customers ask you for that you don’t carry, and then join those programs. That way, you can direct them to your website, and then make money just for recommending where they find what they’re looking for.

2. Blogging – The New Door-to-Door Salesman: A few years and a few thousand dollars later, I was really wanting to see what else I could do to make money online. After all, my website was up 24 hours a day and could make money for me even when I was asleep. I began reading about “blogging,” and I thought, “How Stupid…who would want to read someone else’s online diary? BORING!!!” (I know…the irony…because on THIS blog, I write “Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper.”) But as time ticked on, I began to see that everyone has a blog – including businesses. Not only does everyone have a blog, but there are tons of professional bloggers out there making six figures a year from just having conversations with their readers. To top it off, it’s a great way for your readers and customers to get to know you on a personal level, which will make them more likely to purchase from you later. In other words, it’s the newest way to do door-to-door sales without actually leaving your office. So, I added a blog to my website, and began looking for advice on how-to write and what-to write. Soon, I was making an additional income that has a bit of a “Snowball Effect.” The income starts out small, but over time, those blogs keep working for you, and eventually, you end up making quite a bit of money from each blog. So, if you would like to know more about blogging, start here:

a. What to Blog About: No matter what you do, you have a special knowledge base. Maybe it’s bookkeeping; maybe it’s scrapbooking. Maybe it’s even operating a forklift on a steep hill or how to screw your ex in court. Whatever it is, you have knowledge to share. The key is to figure out what excites you, and then write about that. Because the more excited you can get, the more excited your readers will be. (If you’re still stumped, write about the things you tell your customers – the “Must-Know Information” you impart when they come to you…)

i. To get blog-post ideas, start surfing the forums on LinkedIn, Facebook and even Yahoo! Answers. The questions you find there should be enough to inspire you.

b. How to Blog: If you want to be a blogger, I recommend you start reading Darren Rowse’s blog, ProBlogger.net. He is my guru, and his book “31 Days to a Better Blog” is extremely helpful.

c. Where to Blog: If you want to start making money on your blogs right away, and getting people to actually come to your blog, there are a few places you can go. I recommend the following sites. (You may only make a few cents per month when you first start, but the more controversial or instructional your articles, the more money you will begin to make.)

i. GoFreelance.com

ii. Elance.com

iii. Triond.com

iv. Helium.com

Not only is blogging great for supplementing your income, but it also helps bring traffic and customers to your site. So, if you don’t like to blog or want to blog, you can always get other people to blog for your site at places like EzineArticles.com.

So, there are my first two ways. Come back next week for the next two.

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Bookkeeping Money-Saving Tip # 14: Making Money with Your Website (Part 2)

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In the last BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP # 13: Make Money With Your Website (Part 1), I discussed two ways that you can supplement your income with your business blog.  As promised, here is another tip that anyone can do to make money with their business website.  However, today I am only going to focus on one main money-making idea because it is such an important and valuable way to make money.  It is your business blog.  With a business blog, you are basically getting free advertising (for really only the cost of your time to write an article), you are creating a relationship with your customers (whether you know it or not), and you can build a community that will only help your business in the business world.  Here’s why the Business Website Blog is so important:

Blogging: If you haven’t noticed lately, one of the biggest trends going on in businesses today is blogging.  It seems like anyone and everyone has a blog, and even an eBook.  There’s a reason for that.  (In fact, there are multiple reasons for that.)  It’s one of the cheapest ways to advertise and to build lasting relationships with your customers – and since you’ll want to save money on advertising…

Having said that, here are some of the most profitable reasons to add a blog to your website:

  1. Blogging is the Sharing of Free Information AND a Person/Company’s Personality: I don’t care what anyone says – Companies have personalities.Maybe that personality is to be “a Big Bad Corporation” or maybe “an Environmentally-Friendly Non-Profit.”  Either way, there is a mission involved and a way that company has of sharing information.  Blogging is the best way for any person or company to share their personality and information, while also educating a customer about the products they sell.  It doesn’t necessarily matter what information you share or how you share it (i.e. words, podcasts, videos, etc.), so long as you share who YOU and your Company are in the process.
  2. Constant Blog Updates Lead to Lots of Traffic: New blog information should be added on average of once a week or more, which means the website is constantly changing.  Since the website and blog are constantly changing, people have a reason to return to the website again and again, which reminds people that there are products to buy.  Constant visits increase the likelihood of “Impulse Purchases, which obviously helps the company’s bottom line.  (On the other hand, websites without blogs are only visited when people are looking for something in particular to buy, which can end up being “rarely.”)
  3. Lots of Traffic Leads to Popularity and New Customers: The more often people visit your blog, the more popular your site will become.  The more popular your site, the higher your website will rank in a Search Engine’s Ranking List.  That means when a customer searches for your product, you have a better chance of being the website that Google or Yahoo! recommends.  The end result is that new customers will begin to visit your website as well, recommended both by your current customers, and the Search Engines.  And thus…
  4. New Customers Leads to New Additional Sales.
  5. Finally, Customers Will Keep Coming Back: As crazy as this might sound, people want to buy from people they know and feel comfortable with.  Even if they don’t buy from your website every time they visit, every blog you post cements you as an “Expert” in their mind, and someone they “just like.”  Thus, they will come to you first when they need advice regarding your industry or when they need your products.  Every blog – whether you make money right away or later – will lead to building customer relations and eventual sales.

Thus, if you haven’t started a business blog, you really need to consider it.  Especially because a blog is the best way to bring traffic to your site again and again, and it will help you make even more money later on.

Come back next week as I talk a bit more about adding Google Adsense to your blog, and how to use it correctly.

********************************************************************

Quick Note: In the month of September, I will be doing a very intense 30-day online workshop on How to Turn Anyone’s Business Blog into a Money-Making Blog. The intent is to teach people how to supplement their income no matter their industry. The cost is $20 for the online workshop, and everyone who joins will receive a $20 gift certificate to Elance.com so that they can hire help for any aspect of their business or website development.

If you would like to know more, you can click the “Workshop” tab above, or Click Here.

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The SpongeBob SquarePants School of Business

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Okay, I have a confession to make:  I am a Mom.  Even worse, I am a Mom with a Toddler.  What that means is that as a “Mom with a Toddler,” I know all the words to “Elmo’s World.”  I also know how to “Do the Pigeon” and that “C is for Cookie” (which is good enough for me).  I know how to read Dora’s map, and I know Hannah Montana’s true identity.

What’s more… I know “who lives in a Pineapple under the sea.”

Why do I know these things, you may wonder?

Well, as any Moms with Toddlers will tell you, having a toddler means having some cartoon playing over and over and over again on the TV.  For a mom, that means no matter how much you try ignore your children or their shows, bits of information tend to sneak into your subconscious until suddenly you’ve realized that you’ve been singing “Absorbent and Yellow and Porous is he…” for the past hour without realizing it.

Which brings me to today’s blog lesson direct from The SpongeBob SquarePants School of Business…

What the Heck Am I Talking About…(Right?)

(Okay, there’s really no such thing as The SpongeBob SquarePants School of Business, but there may as well be.  After all, children all over the world are watching this show and learning from this energetically peppy cartoon.)

Recently, my toddler was watching all 99 episodes of SpongeBob for about the 50th time (give or take a dozen), and I mind-numbingly found myself watching one of the many, many episodes.  Actually, to be precise, I found myself watching Episode 88 (Episode 9 from Season 5) entitled “The Krusty Sponge.”  And as I watched this particular episode, I realized that it was quite brilliant in the very simple business advice it was offering.

The Premise

imageTo give a quick background on “The Krusty Sponge” episode, the mini-story starts when “The Krusty Krab” receives a visit from a food critic.  (The Krusty Krab is the restaurant SpongeBob works at as a “Fry Cook”).  The food critic in the story proceeded to trash everything about “The Krusty Krab” saying it was absolutely terrible…except for the food and the fry cook (SpongeBob).  The food critic then went on to say that if the owner of “The Krusty Krab” was smart, he would “sponge up” as much of what his cook had to offer as possible.

Thus, as cartoon’s tend to do, the business owner (ie, Mr. Krabs) took the advice to heart and went “way too far.”   Mr. Krabs pulled down “The Krusty Krab” sign and replaced it with a sign saying “The Krusty Krab.”  He then added in two new flavors of SpongeBob-themed condiments, a SpongeBob Mascot, a SpongeBob Train, SpongeBob napkins and even SpongeBob hamburger patties.

Eventually, all of these items backfired in a big way, and Mr. Krabs ended up getting arrested and brought before a judge for “poisoning his customers with the bad hamburger patties.”

The Lesson

Now, while I am a big advocate of using a theme in any business, of seeing the bigger picture and adding appropriate merchandise in order to increase profits, I could see right away where this business was about to get into trouble (even if it is only a cartoon business).  The big mistake that the business owner made in this situation was “taking his eyes off the prize.”  It is a common business mistake a lot of business owner’s make without realizing they are doing it.

Here’s what I mean:

imageIn the story, Mr. Krabs got so excited about his new SpongeBob theme, he made one really huge mistake.  He took SpongeBob off the grill and put him on the train.  (In other words, SpongeBob – the prized Fry Cook – was taken out of the kitchen in order to give “the kiddies” a ride on the new SpongeBob train…Mistake # 1.)  Then, Mr. Krabs gave SpongeBob’s kitchen duties to an employee who was unable to run the grill in the same way that SpongeBob could (Mistake # 2).  Finally Mistake # 3, Mr. Krabs sacrificed the quality of the one product that was praiseworthy – the product that brought the customers in.

imageObviously, I am bringing this up for a reason.  This is a common mistake a lot of business owners make in any business industry.  They see some exciting new trend coming along, and they re-vamp their business model to include the cool new product.  They forget about the one (or two or three) products that brought in the customers in the first place, and they end up weakening the overall business structure.  They take the advertising for their prized product and replace it with advertising for the new product.  This can have a negative effect in driving customers away instead of bringing them in – especially if the people looking for the Prized Product are not aware that the business still offers that Prized Product.

Examples

Just to really drive my point home, I will throw out some examples.

  • Imagine if McDonalds changed their fries to a new fry with the skin on.  Or, imagine if they used a different oil that changed the flavor of the fries.  Since McDonalds gives fries with every “Meal Deal,” and the fries are a part of their brand, it could go a long way in hurting their business.  People may start to go over to Burger King instead in order to get fries they are more used to.
  • Jim Carey switching from his classic comic bend to do a movie like “The Majestic.”  (In Hollywood, a move like that can kill an A-list actor’s career… luckily, Carey returned to his usual brand of comedy.)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio stepping back from the Romantic Hero role to pursue the Golden Globe and Oscar awards (meaning he went for the more dramatic and difficult to play roles).  While Leo remains an A-list actor, he no longer has the International Heart Throb status that he had after “Titanic.”
  • Eddie Murphy going from making R-rated movies to G-Rated movies.  It has completely changed the demographic of his customer base (ie, his fans).
  • Roller Derby in the 60’s went from racing and blocking to more violent hits.  Is it really a surprise that the sport died out by the 70’s?  I can honestly say, Roller Derby today is nothing like the original Roller Derby invented back in the 30’s.

Unfortunately, these are the only examples I can think of at the moment, but hopefully, it helps make my point clear.  Taking your eyes off the Prize of your business can really harm your business, or even drive away your clientele.  Learn from Mr. Krabs:  If you’re going to make a change in your business, keep your eyes on the prize.

Creating Discrete Adsense Ads

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In the first part of this blog series, Bookkeeping Money-Saving Tip # 14 – Make Money With Your Business Blog, I wrote that to make money with Google Adsense on your business blog, you needed to do the following things: 

  1. Use “Adlinks” whenever possible.

  2. Make any Google Adsense links in your blog match your “Other” links.
  3. Place Your Google Adsense Adlinks in Discrete Locations.
  4. Use Your Prime Real Estate for Banner Ads.
  5. Utilize as many types of Google Adsense Ads as you can.

Today, I’m going to go into detail on how to do that.  So in order, how to create Discrete Google Adsense Ads:

1. Use Adlinks Whenever Possible

An Adlink is – quite simply – a “Text” ad. That means there are no pictures, no gif animation, and no video. It’s just straight up text. The reason you want these “Adlinks” is because they are not annoying…they are very discrete. They look they belong on your blog, even though they have a little bar that says “Ads by Google.”

There are two types of Adlink ads you want to consider. The first is a “Horizontal” Adlink that looks something like this:

 

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The second is a “Vertical” Adlink that looks like this:

clip_image004

You can use both on your site, but what works best will depend on your site and your readers.  For this site, I find that that Horizontal Adlinks work best .

2. Make any Google Adsense links in your blog match your “Other” links.

Once you’ve logged into your Google Adsense Account, you should go to the Google Adsense Wizard where you will choose the customized links for your blog. Here, you have the options to choose the size, how many links you want in your ad, and the color backgrounds. (See the picture below.)

clip_image010

The Key Things to remember are to make the ads blend with your blog.

That means:

  • · NO BORDER. Make the border the same color as the background.
  • · MAKE YOUR LINKS THE SAME COLOR AS YOUR “OTHER” LINKS. By doing this, you make it easier to blend your ads right into your blog posts. (Believe me, this will mean the difference between pennies per post and dollars per post.)

Once you’ve created an ad (or multiple ads) that blend into your blog, the next thing you want to do is post these ads to your blog.  A great Plug-In to make this process very simple is the “Advertising Manager” Plug-In.  You simply copy and paste the HTML from Google Adsense to your blog, and then the next time you go to post a blog, you should see a Drop-Down box under your HTML tag. Simply place your blinker where you want an ad, and select the ad you want from the Drop-Down box. It will put in an HTML tag like the one below:

clip_image014

3. Place Your Google Adsense Adlinks in Discrete Locations

The best place to put Adlinks ads are:

  • · Immediately BEFORE your post. That means, when you write your post, drop down the “Insert Ad” box from above, click your ad, and then start typing in your blog post. This will give the Adlinks ad a “Table of Contents” type of feel (or a Navigation Bar feel), and people are more likely to click on it.
  • · Throughout your blog. The nice thing about these types of horizontal Adlinks is that they make for nice dividers in your blog. They allow you to break up your points and ideas, and they blend in smoothly. The vertical Adlinks are like pictures, and if done right, your text can wrap around them. Your reader will keep reading and hardly ever notice them. (This also increases the odds that they will “accidentally” click on a link, which means you’ll get paid for their Booboos.)
  • · At the End of your blog. By placing an Adlink at the end of your blog, the reader sees that they can click on other links to find similar products or topics, and you get paid. It’s like a continuation of what you’ve just written about.

4. Use Your Prime Real Estate for Banner Ads.

Banners and Leaderboards

You probably already know what banners are (the rectangular picture ads that so many sites have), but do you know what Leaderboards are? Leaderboards are as common as banners, but are mainly text with a brief ad description to tantalize people into clicking. Additionally, they are in a banner format, meaning they are rectangular in shape and often have multiple ads. Here are examples of both:

 

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Banners

 

[ad#Long Banner Small Business Adsense]

 

Leaderboards

Google calls these Text Ads (Banners) and Link Ads (Leaderboards). Just like with Adlinks, you can make your Leaderboards blend by hiding the borders and making the link colors the same color as your other links.

The reason you should know about both is that these are a bit more eye-catching than Adlinks are, and therefore not nearly as sneaky. Their main purpose is to give the reader more information while making it clear that it’s an ad. You may think you don’t want to use these (if you are going the discrete route), but it never hurts to test them and see how they play out with your readers.

Another thing to keep in mind with these, you can get them both horizontally and vertically, and you can create them in any size. Most bloggers suggest you skip the 468 x 60 size for the banners since everyone uses those as banners. They suggest you go for the longest size so that it looks like a navigation bar. For the Leaderboards, horizontal is also a good idea since it makes it easy to break up your blog-thoughts and stick these in between your points. The horizontal ones take a lot more “know-how” and “tom-foolery” to get them to look right.

Ideal Locations

When placing Banners and Leaderboards, there are usually two ideal locations to do it:

  • · For banners, you want to place them near the top and bottom of your blog. The FrontPage Plug-In I had you install earlier is perfect for this. It allows you to create banner ads (whether from Google or anyone else) and all you have to do is copy the HTML and paste it into the boxes under settings. It’s that simple, and the boxes will be filled on every page you go to.
  • · Leaderboards are good interspersed throughout your blog. You will want to use your “Advertising Manager” Plug-In for this and just drop it periodically wherever you have a break in thought or are changing the topic.
  • · The ideal number of Google Adsense ads is 1 Adlinks ad in the blog post (preferably under the title and before the body of the blog), three Leaderboards throughout the post, and the Banners at the top and bottom of each page.
  • · While you can use Google Adsense in your sidebar as well, I prefer to use Affiliate links there. You have a better chance of making more money with the prime locations taken by the people who pay to be there.

5. Utilize as many types of Google Adsense Ads as you can.

Google Adsense allows you to have a maximum of 10 Adsense ads on your blog. That means, should you happen to place more than 10 Adsense ads on any page of your blog (including those in the Sidebars, Headers and Footers), Google will simply make anything over 10 “disappear.” In other words, they just won’t show those ads. It won’t be obvious that an ad belongs there, but it can change your margins a bit if you happen to go overboard. The ads they choose to leave behind…will usually be the ones closest to the top of the articles and pages.

The only place this really makes a difference is on your homepage. Say you have five Google Adsense ads per post IN your post and your homepage shows your five most recent posts. That’s a total of 25 ads, but Google will only show 10 – which will probably be all of the ads in your first post, any ads in your header and sidebar, and then the remaining ads in the second post. However, when your readers click on your posts to go directly to that post, then they will see all five of the ads you originally place, plus whatever ads are in your header, footer and sidebars.

Having said that, it is never a bad idea to use your full quote of ads. (See my recommendations above.)

And there you go…ways to use Google Adsense that should help you start making money with your business blog. 

Paint a Target on Your Customers

In BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP #4: Analyze Your Business Location, I discussed the fact that many businesses make the mistake of choosing a bad retail location because they don’t analyze the location in relationship to their competitors.  In actuality, proximity to competitors is merely one reason why a business location can fail.  Another common reason is failure to identify the customers in that location’s area.  If you don’t know who your customers are and where they are located, your business can go down in flames at any point of a business’s life.

In other words – if you know WHO your customers are and WHERE they live or work, you have a better chance of marketing directly to them, and thus attracting them to your business.  Further, since a large majority of businesses attract customers from a 10-mile radius around their business, it helps to know who is in YOUR 10-mile radius. So, to figure out who your customers are, paint a target on them.

To Paint a Target on Your Customers:

Whenever I analyze a business’s location in relation to its customer base, I use MapPoint.  It’s the perfect program for painting a target on your customers because its a Mapping Program merged with a demographic program.  The demographics are so detailed, you can choose a single census tract and find out how many people and households are in that area, how old those people are, how much they spend on various products…even how many use the internet.  It’s that defined.

Now before you look it up and see how expensive it is, I am NOT recommending that you buy the program, unless you find that it really helps your business.  I’m involved in the Research Industry, so I buy every version each year that it comes out.  In actuality, you can download the “Free Trial” and use it for free for 60 days, and then uninstall the program when you’re done with it.  My recommendation is that you check it out and play with it – see what it can do for you – get the information you need to make your business more successful, and then stop using it.  You can download the free trial here.

(By the way, I make NO MONEY on this link whatsoever.  I just believe in the product, and I know what it can do, which is why I recommend it.)

Thus, while you’re checking it out, here is a list of things that MapPoint can do to help any business paint a target on their clients:

  1. MapPoint has an incredibly easy demographic feature.  You can choose up to 16 different demographic points at once – like population, income, household size, and age – and  then instantly have MapPoint map out those demographics by state, county, city, MSA, zip code, or even Census tract.
  2. You can create a shaded map that will show you the various areas by any single demographic you choose – like number of businesses per zip code, how many teenagers in a particular census tract, or household shopping patterns for any city in the United States.
  3. Once you have your demographics selected and mapped, you can create a radius of any number of miles around any address and then instantly export those demographic numbers to an Excel Sheet.  With the numbers in Excel, you can manipulate your data to get a clearer snapshot of the type of customers you may have in or around your preselected location.
  4. You can readjust your chosen radii to another location, to encompass a larger area, or even create a second radius, and then re-export numbers for the new area into another Excel Sheet.  By simply copying and pasting those new numbers into the first Excel sheet, and repeating for any other locations or radii, you can have an instant comparison of multiple locations and see which areas might have your ideal clientele.
  5. You can have MapPoint map out a wide variety of your competitors.  That map will not only list out a fairly accurate number of competitors within a preselected distance from your business, but it will also give you the exact distance of that business from yours, as well as their address and phone number.
  6. You can IMPORT data from an Excel Sheet, and thus map out multiple addresses at once.  This is an ideal tool for anyone who would like to see where the customers they have on their mailing lists are actually located.
  7. There is a feature in MapPoint that shows how much money households spend on various products like electronics, books, food, and so on.   This information can also be narrowed down to a particular radius and census tract, thus allowing you to get a better picture of how much you money people in your area spend in a year on your products.
  8. Plus, on top of all that, MapPoint offers a GPS tool, and can create driving directions based on shortest distances, preselected locations, and fastest routes.  It can also calculate the cost of gas it might take for you to visit those locations.

How to Make These Features Work for You:

While some of this may seem like a lot of technical jargon, the data described above can help you figure out the following for your business:

  1. Where is the largest concentration of your customers?
  2. Where are your more affluent customers located?
  3. This can help you narrow down your advertising campaign to particular areas that have the clients you want.
  4. This can show you what type of customer is actually located closest to your business, thus helping you redirect your marketing campaign to attract those customers instead of the customers you think you should have.
  5. This can help you determine what might be your ideal price points based on the income of the people in your area and how much they spend on particular items.
  6. It’s the perfect tool when shopping for a new business location since it will show you where the highest concentration of your ideal customers are actually located.

So again – check out the free trial, play with it, get the information you need, and then buy it only if you love it.

(If you do decide you like it, Newegg.com offers a $25 discount on the downloadable version of Microsoft MapPoint 2010.)