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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10 Plug-Ins to Help Any Blog Increase Traffic

Hey Everyone,

Sorry I haven’t been posting more lately.  I’ve been traveling through Australia and Fiji (and will be heading off to Malaysia this week), while at the same time running an Online Workshop to help Business People with their Blogs.  The Workshop is taking up more time than I thought it would (as is the sightseeing), but by the end of September, I should be back to regularly posting 2 to 3 times a week.

For now, here are some Plug-Ins that can help any blog get more traffic.  While these are WordPress Plug-Ins, you may be able to find an equivalent Plug-In at your blog’s site.

One thing to remember:  Some of these might require you to change the “Settings”; some may require you to put Widgets in your sidebar; some may require nothing more than simple installation. Play around with them.  Anything you don’t like, delete.

Plug-Ins that Encourage Readers to Become “Regulars”

1. What Would Seth Godin Do (WWSGD)

I love this Plug-In.  It adds a cute little welcome message to the top of your blog when someone visits which encourages them to sign up for your newsletter.  It even recognizes return visitors and allows you to customize your “Welcome Back” message.

2. Subscribe to Comments

Readers often leave comments but forget to check back for any replies. This Plug-In allows readers to subscribe and sends them an email automatically when someone else replies to their question. This Plug-In will help you create Visitor Loyalt

3. Related Posts (Helps Readers Find Your Other Related Articles)

When a reader comes to the end of your post, they will probably want to read something else, but not know where to start.  This Plug-In will suggest up to 10 of your articles that are similar based on keywords and meta tags.  All you need to do is install it, and it will do the rest.

4. WP Related Posts

Sometimes if one Plug-In doesn’t work, another one will.  This one is a good one to replace Related Posts, in case you have any trouble.

5. Find Me On (I discussed this one in the Lesson about RSS)

This is a great Plug-In for anyone who wants to make subscribing to your blog quick and easy.  You can add tons of social networking sites so that people can follow you in their readers, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon, etc.

6. FollowMe (no space)

Adds a “floating” Twitter Follow button to every page on your blog.  It encourages people to follow you on Twitter.

Plug-Ins That Automatically Share Your Blog

7. AutoTweet (Mentioned in the Twitter Lesson)

Will automatically Tweet your Blog Post for you to whatever sites you want it to Tweet too.

8. Publish to Facebook

Does the same thing as AutoTweet, but for Facebook.

9. Yahoo! News Feed

Submits your site to Yahoo! for you.

10. Search and Share – Text Selection

If you’re worried about people taking your hard earned articles and claiming them as their own, then you want this Plug-In.  It makes sure that whenever someone uses your content, you get credit and a link for it.  This way, you get free advertising, and an increase in traffic whenever someone quotes your blog.

I will post some more next week, as well as some “Money-Making” Website Tips for people interested in this series.

For now…if you have  a Plug-In you love, please share it.

 

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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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.