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.

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.

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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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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:

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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.)

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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:

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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

 

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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.