Monthly Archives: February 2009

Prospects and Problems

“If someone does not have a problem you can solve, you do not have a prospect.”

This is a point that comes up time and again, on websites, in sales training videos and in many of the business information events I’ve been too. So, what does it mean to address a prospects problem and how do you do it effectively?

Statistics show that the majority of people are motivated by moving ‘away from pain’, so for example, if they are in a situation that makes them unhappy, instead of going for where the ‘grass is greener and nicer to eat’, they would be more likely to only make the move out of the situation when the lawnmower runs them over! Of course some people are motivated by moving towards pleasure, and it’s up to you and your sales team to determine what your prospects motivator is.
In the Wealth Creation industry you will see many ads that speak to people about being in debt, losing their house and family, being miserable etc, this is a good example of ‘pain to prospect’ marketing. ‘If you dont sign up for my course now you’ll be miserable forever’ type of thing.
Many marketers will tell you that this is effective marketing, finding out what it is that your prospects worry about, where their pain is, and then telling them about how your course or product will solve or prevent this pain.
This is because, like I said earlier, the majority of people are motivated by having had enough of a situation causing them pain.

Not “Features and Benefits” – It’s about PAINS!

So many sales technique training programs emphasize product or service feature and benefit “selling”. As a potential buyer it is nice to know all this, but prospects want the sales person to first listen to and understand their problems; how long they’ve had them, what its cost them and what they’ve done already to try to fix them. A potential buyer needs to do this first before they can fully appreciate any form of potential pain relief.

So, think about your market place. What are their needs? What do they desire? What problems do they have that would be solved by your service, product or course? What issues do they face if they dont buy your product? They may use words like “challenges”, “problems”, or “obstacles”, but all of the words amount to the same thing; they are experiencing discomfort; they are experiencing pain. Their “pain” is whatever they are asking your assistance with.
And then, once you’ve identified this, be genuine in wanting to help them solve the problem they have!

No-one likes to feel like they’ve been made a fool of or have fallen for a sales pitch!

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, once said, “We will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure”. This is particularly true if we are fully involved in pain at the time. With this prospect pain definition selling approach increases in your sales results are certain, resulting in significant pain relief for both the buyer AND the seller.

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Richard Branson talks business in tough times

Taken from a series of Richard Branson interviews. In this video he talks about how it’s up to entrepreneurs to bring back the financial situation.

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SEO in 6 ways for your own site…

I found a really good blog written by Andy Phillips, where he talks and explains about using the internet and your website effectively for business. I found his posting on SEO for your own site so useful that I wanted to share it with you. There are many companies out there that claim they can get you to the first page of google, however, think about this:

– of the millions of websites out there, not everyone can be on page 1
– when you search google and your friend in their house searches for the exact same thing, you will both get different results on your first pages of google (try it! it has something to do with the server you’re connected to)
– if an ‘internet guru’ shows you that if he enters his name it will be in the top 10 results, and he tells you that he can do the same for you, well… this is rubbish really. Most people have quite a unique name and if you are in enough places on the internet (like facebook, forums, websites) using your own name, then you too will be in the top 5 – 10. I did this with my own name, and I had the first 7 results. So, if they are using this to get you to buy something, dont be fooled.
– there are millions (probably even billions) of websites out there and not everyone can be at the top, so, follow the steps below, implement as many of them as you can and remember that your website shouldn’t be your only means of sourcing clients! (there are exceptions, like someone who works solely as an internet marketer)
– SEO with google is simple if you follow a few techniques as listed below from Andy’s blog:

Business for Life : 6 Steps to SEO Your Site

Here are some basic rules to optimise your site. SEO or Search Engine Optimisation sounds like a bit of a dark art, but think of it as a logical step to help search engine spiders find the site, after all they are only pieces of code which have a program looking for certain things.

Lets be clear about what the spiders job is, in fact lets look at what the search engines job is. The search engines are there to provide you with the most relevant pages for your search term/s. That’s is, nothing more. The spiders job is to find all the pages it can, find out what the page is about, and then index it in a database and put some sort of score on how relevant it is to a search term. All we are doing with SEO is making sure we have a better than average chance of being indexed correctly and showing that we are the most relevant site for specific key search terms.

So how do we do that?

1. Keywords – Understanding the keywords and phrases which you need to use so the spiders know what your site is about is an essential part of the SEO process. Remember the spiders do not think, they just collate and index. You can use software to get your keywords (Wordtracker, Good Keywords)or you sit down with a piece of paper and brainstorm them. The psychology behind keywords is pretty simple, and goes back to basic marketing principles.
a. Who is your customer?
b. when they go on the internet to search for your product, service or activity what do they type in?

c. write down all the words and phrases you think they use.

You now have a keyword and Key Phrase list.

Ill give you and example of a site I recently built for a Property Networking Club in Leeds. Straight off you can see keywords jumping out at you. PROPERTY, NETWORKING, LEEDS

If I was in Leeds and I wanted to find a Networking meeting in my area about property, I would probably put into my yahoo or google search, “property networking in leeds” or something similar.

Keywords could also be names of people involved, or guest speakers etc. So once this list is put together. you can carry out the rest of the 10 steps. It is worth doing some further research into keywords and their usage.

2. Page Name (Page Title) – One of the most important placements for keywords is in the page title, if you think about it, it’s probably the first place a spider will look to see what the page is about in order to index. Tell the spiders what this site, or page is about in the shortest most relevant way.
Do not put your company name in the page title unless you are a huge company and people will be searching specifically for you. This is one of the biggest mistakes small companies make. It is a total waste of SEO real estate. If you sell German Shepherd dog puppies then put in your index page title “German Shepherd dog puppies” because that’s what people will be searching for.
Also, on every page of your site state in the title what that specific page is about. Do not use the same title on every page.

3.(h1) and (h2) tags

The headline or (h1 and (h2) tags are also a very important tool in your SEO toolbox.

(h1) Is your primary headline on each page of your site, there are many theories around their usage and some tricks which some SEO guys use to enhance the optimisation of their sites. Some of these techniques they use can be seen as spamming, and google etc will not tolerate some of these techniques.

So, for most sites, just use them with a chosen keyword or phrase, as long as it genuinely relates to the page content. Search engines expect your (h1) tag to contain some prime keywords.

As we move down the page you will be using sub headings. For this you would use the (h2) tag. This again is a great place to place keyword and key phrases which relate to the paragraph.

As you can see, all we are doing here is realising that with a bit of thought on our headlines and paragraph headers, we are assisting the spiders who crawl the page to be able to index us more accurately and therefore decide that the relevance of the .html file should be categorised where we want it to be. Every little bit helps!

4. Keyword density
Another subject which gets the SEO community into a huddle in the corner of darkened rooms to ponder and cogitate.

Using keywords and phrases within the content (the text) of the page is important, but you do not want to “keyword stuff” the page. The spiders will consider this spamming and it could count against you.

The idea of understanding SEO is to be able to write your headlines, sub headlines and content text with the concepts of SEO in your mind. In other words, write the text as you would normally write it, but have your list of keywords and phrases in front of you and use them when appropriate. Don’t try to be too clever and NEVER write for SEO purposes. Just have SEO in mind when you write the content.

5. Separate your products and services
Have a separate page for every different thing you do. If you do Blue coats and Red jackets then have a page for each. and have a keyword list for each. Using those keywords as detailed above.
Title of the page may be “Blue ladies coats for wet weather”
The (h1) tag for the main headline could be “Waterproof coats for ladies in Blue”

You get the picture

Having separate pages is not only good the the client, as you can send the link to existing customers in an email promotion as opposed to sending them to the front page of your site. It is also giving the search engine some keywords and a page to index.

Now if someone was to search for ” Ladies waterproof coats blue” your chances of being found is far greater because you have targeted the clients needs and optimised a page on your site which is highly relevant.

6. Inbound Links
The more links you have from other site, especially high ranking sites the more you will be crawled and the more relevant your page will be to the spiders.
You have to work to get links from other site, call them discuss what you can do for them, ask for a reciprocal link etc..
Once you have agreement from the other site for reciprocal links. Give them the .html code which you have written if you can. Using the SEO Guidelines above construct the link with a clickable title and a short explanation.

I hope this gives you some useful tips that you ga use straight away. Have a look on your site now and see if there are things you can change NOW!

Andy Phillips

You can read Andy’s full blog here and sign up to his newsletter. You can also download his ebook
Internet Marketing The Beginners Guide for Small Businesses here

Do you need a website? As part of what I do as the SmallBusiness Angel, I also create websites for clients, see my portfolio here

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Company Legal Structure

When setting up in business it’s important to know what structure you’ll have for your company, as this determines:
– the tax and National Insurance that you pay
– the records and accounts that you have to keep
– your financial liability if the business runs into trouble
– the ways your business can raise money
– the way management decisions are made about the business.

I’ll go through the 3 most common structures you get and how each is defined. As I’m blogging from the UK, it will mostly be about UK company structures, however, I will try and include other countries too.
Please note>> this is information based on research I have done, and every best effort has been made to keep it accurate, however, you should always check with a legal professional before finalising plans. This information has been taken from the BusinessLink website<<

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Sole trader
Being a sole trader is the simplest way to run a business: it does not involve paying any registration fees, keeping records and accounts is straightforward, and you get to keep all the profits. However, you are personally liable for any debts that your business runs up, which makes this a risky option for businesses that need a lot of investment.

Set-up
You need to register as self-employed.
Management and raising finance
You make all the decisions on how to manage your business.
You raise money for the business out of your own assets and/or with loans from banks or other lenders.
Records and accounts
You have to make an annual self assessment tax return to HM Revenue & Customs.
You must also keep records showing your business income and expenses.
Profits
Any profits go to you.
Tax and National Insurance
As you are self-employed, your profits are taxed as income.
You also need to pay fixed-rate Class 2 and 4 National Insurance contributions on your profits.
Liability
As a sole trader, you are personally responsible for any debts run up by your business. This means your home or other assets may be at risk if your business runs into trouble.

Partnership
In a partnership, two or more people share the risks, costs and responsibilities of being in business. Each partner is self-employed and takes a share of the profits. Usually, each partner shares in the decision-making and is personally responsible for any debts that the business runs up.

Set-up
Each partner needs to register as self-employed employed.
It’s a good idea to draw up a written agreement between the partners. For further advice, consult an accountant or solicitor.
Management and raising finance
Partners themselves usually manage the business, though they can delegate responsibilities to employees.
Partners raise money for the business out of their own assets, and/or with loans.
It’s possible to have ‘sleeping’ partners who contribute money to the business but are not involved in running it.
Records and accounts
The partnership itself and each individual partner must make annual self-assessment returns to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
The partnership must keep records showing business income and expenses.
Profits
Each partner takes a share of the profits.
Tax and National Insurance
As partners are self-employed, they are taxed on their share of the profits.
Each partner also needs to pay Class 2 and 4 National Insurance contributions.
Liability
Creditors can claim a partner’s personal assets to pay off any debts – even those debts caused by other partners.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, partners are jointly liable for debts owed by the partnership and so are equally responsible for paying off the whole debt. They are not severally liable, which would mean each partner is responsible for paying off the entire debt. Partners in Scotland are both jointly and severally liable.
However, if a partner leaves the partnership, the remaining partners may be liable for the entire debt of the partnership. Also, a creditor may choose to pursue any of the partners for the full debt owed in the case of insolvency.

Limited liability companies
Limited companies exist in their own right. This means the company’s finances are separate from the personal finances of their owners. Shareholders may be individuals or other companies. They are not responsible for the company’s debts unless they have given guarantees (of a bank loan, for example). However, they may lose the money they have invested in the company if it fails.

Main types

  • Private limited companies can have one or more members, eg shareholders. They cannot offer shares to the public.
  • Public limited companies (plcs) must have at least two shareholders and must have issued shares to the public to a value of at least £50,000 before it can trade. View the guide to company formation at the Companies House website – Opens in a new window.
  • Private unlimited companies – these are rare and usually created for specific reasons. It is recommended you take legal advice before creating one.

Set-up

  • Must be registered (incorporated) at Companies House.
  • Must have at least one director (two if it’s a plc) who may also be shareholders. Directors must be at least 16 years of age.
  • Private companies are not obliged to appoint a company secretary but if one is appointed this must be notified to Companies House. Public limited companies must have a qualified company secretary.

Management and raising finance

  • A director or board of directors make the management decisions.
  • Finance comes from shareholders, loans and retained profits.
  • Public limited companies can raise money by selling shares on the stock market, but private limited companies cannot.

Records and accounts

  • Accounts must be filed with Companies House before the time allowed for filing those accounts to avoid a late filing penalty.
  • Accounts must be audited each year unless the company is exempt.
  • When you file your Annual Return for the first time a letter will be issued to the Registered Office containing the company’s authentication code and instructions for use of Companies House web filing services. Please follow the instructions in the letter.

You can find out about company accounts on the Companies House website – Opens in a new window.

Directors are responsible for notifying Companies House of changes in the structure and management of the business.

Profits

  • Profits are usually distributed to shareholders in the form of dividends, apart from profits retained in the business as working capital.

Tax and National Insurance

  • If a company has any taxable income or profits, it must tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) that it exists and is liable to corporation tax.
  • Companies liable to corporation tax must make an annual return to HMRC.
  • Company directors are employees of the company and must pay both income tax and Class 1 National Insurance contributions on their salaries.

Liability

  • Shareholders are not personally responsible for the company’s debts, but directors may be asked to give personal guarantees of loans to the company.

For more information and a guide to franchises and social enterprises, click here.

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The following factors should be considered in choosing which entity is appropriate for any business. Generally, the first two — limitation of personal liability and tax planning — will control the decision, but in particular circumstances other criteria may be most relevant. There is rarely a single “right” or “wrong” answer but rather a weighing and balancing of the benefits and disadvantages of different entities to achieve the desired goals listed below.

Generally, a business owner will choose an entity that offers limited liability protection. Nonetheless, liability protection may not always be the deciding factor. Some businesses have no real liability exposure or exposures which can be limited by reasonably priced liability insurance. The business or its owners may not have meaningful assets at risk, either because all is invested in the business or through “asset protection techniques” (e.g., joint ownership with a spouse, special types of trusts, offshore ownership, etc.). Consider the following factors:

– How likely are large, uninsurable liabilities in your line of business?
– Do you have liability exposure to personal injury plaintiffs, commercial creditors, or financial or contract risks?.
– Is sufficient liability insurance available at reasonable rates for your likely liabilities?
– Is the amount of assets to be owned by business entity and available for creditors worth the cost of protection?
– Do you have personal assets that would be worth protecting if they became available for creditors?

Sole Proprietorship

A proprietorship is perhaps the simplest form of entity, but in many cases the riskiest — nothing more than you, individually, doing business (whether under a trade name or not) without additional filings. Some examples include a paper route, lemonade stand or self-employed consultant. This simplicity provides the proprietorship’s greatest advantage: little paperwork or legal planning is required, taxes are reported on your personal return (but on a separate form), profits and losses come out of your own pocket and you, alone, make all the decisions.
Taxation of business revenue is consolidated with the personal return of the proprietor at individual tax rates. There is no separate taxation of business income or other business-related tax attributes. Additional excise or business-related taxes may be imposed in some local political jurisdictions.

Partnerships

Despite the formal, legal name, a partnership operates like a proprietorship conducted by two or more people. For example, if a sibling or friend ever helped you with your lemonade stand or paper route, and you split the profits, you had a partnership. Partnerships come in two types: general partnerships, in which creditors can collect from all partners’ personal assets (as well as the business assets), or limited partnerships, in which partners who agree not to participate in management limit their loss exposure to their investment in the business. Every limited partnership must have at least one personally liable general partner, although often the general partner can be a corporation or another limited partnership to control the risk.

As with proprietorships, the greatest benefit of a partnership is pass-through taxation. The entity does not pay tax itself, other than certain excise or franchise taxes. Instead, all tax attributes (income, losses, deductions, credits) can “pass through” to individual partners for use in their personal tax returns at individual tax rates.

General partnerships

You can have a formal, written partnership agreement or choose to be an “at will” partnership, with only an oral understanding. An “at will” partnership is simply two or more persons conducting business together under terms of an unwritten agreement (although the Uniform Partnership Act provides many “default terms” for the relationship) that any partner can terminate at any time, for any reason. A written partnership agreement specifies terms more precisely, including termination conditions, division of profit and loss, division of responsibilities for the conduct of business, etc.

Corporations

Corporations, the most common form of organization for large businesses in the United States, require complex legal paperwork, in exchange for a major benefit for large and small firms and their owners. Creditors of a corporation cannot collect from the personal assets of the owners, the “shareholders.” Instead, creditors are generally left with only the corporate assets, if any remain.

Liability is limited to assets that are owned by the corporation, with no personal liability of shareholders, officers, directors or employees, except in certain regulatory areas or as a result of the failure to maintain corporate form (also known as “piercing the corporate veil”).

Corporate profits are taxed twice — once in the hands of the corporation and again upon distribution to shareholders as dividends. Tax planning concerning corporate expenses can mitigate double taxation.

Unlike the lemonade stand and paper route examples, corporations do not come into existence haphazardly. A formal document, the “Articles” or “Certificate” of incorporation, must be filed in the state capital. After filing, the investors elect a board of directors to govern the business and adopt bylaws to establish rules. The board then picks officers — a president, secretary and treasurer — to run the day-to-day aspects of the business. Corporations doing business in more than one state must comply with registration requirements in each location.

For more information and advice, go here please remember to check with a legal professional before taking action

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Upcoming Business Shows in the UK

Growing Your Own Business

Description: Providing the latest news, small business advice and useful business resources, this is the one stop shop for all your business needs. If you are looking to develop, grow or even start a business, attending one of these events will provide you with the perfect opportunity to learn from the experts, develop your skills and gain information you need to grow your business.
Dates: 20 & 21 March 2009 Grand Hall, Olympia, London
Other dates in Birmingham, Glasgow and Dublin > see site for details
Website: http://www.sme-events.com/

Skills and Business Expo

Description: The Skills & Business Expo 09 has for the first time brought together the best skills training and business solutions providers the UK has to offer to provide practical advice, support and guidance in all these areas – including ‘what your accountant won’t tell you’.
Dates: 23 & 24 June ExCeL London
Website: http://www.skillsbusinessexpo.co.uk/

See you there!

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Step 4 Business Plan – Completed

Management and personnel – detail the proposed or existing management team structure and list management members’ expertise. Outline any areas of weakness that could be improved, plus how they might be improved.

Operations – describe assets and premises that you have or intend to purchase.
What machinery, equipment or premises will you need to buy or do you own?
Will computers/IT be used within the business and how?
What communication, customer services and operations procedures and processes will you put in place?

Financial performance – include your financial forecasts and estimates of what you will be likely to pay out and receive for the first year.
List direct costs and outgoings as you see them.
Figure out cashflow by reviewing dates your payments will come out and ensuring that enough money will be coming in to the business to cover them.
If using the business plan to raise finance, use these figures to predict what cash you are likely to need (adding up to 20 per cent contingency to any funding requirement outlined in your forecasting).
Explain why the money is needed. Are you funding start-up? Are you funding growth? Acquiring new customers? How so?
 
SWOT analysis – create a one-page analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your business. Your market research will help. Outline briefly what you intend to do to make the most of your strengths and opportunities, and how you intend to smooth out creases and deal with threats.
> Strengths: you may have a great name, idea or niche product.
> Weaknesses: however, you might foresee low profit margins initially, problems recruiting decent staff or may rely on a few customers for the bulk of your sales.
> Opportunities: your biggest competitor may have gone out of business or you may have seen the chance to target a new and growing market.
> Threats: your biggest competitor may have grown or is now offering a unique service or product that you are unable to offer. A new competitor or economic pressure could also threaten your business start-up.

Future Goals for your business and what you want to achieve. Then create objectives, tasks and actions. Refer back to your written goals.
How do you intend to grow your business and achieve your targeted market share?
Where do you want the business to be in one year, three years and five years?
List what you want to achieve and by when. Note who will carry out the action or task to make this happen. Explain how you intend to reach these targets and exactly what needs to be done in order to do so.

Further Information – Include an appendix to add more detailed information, such as market research, company or product literature. You might also include more detailed financial forecasts in the appendix, along with CVs of key team members, target customer details or anything else that will add credibility to the business plan.

Have you revealed the answers to these questions in your business plan:
How will I get from where I am now to where I want to be?
How will my business operate?
What do I need to do and what finance am I likely to require?
Where do I go from here?

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Step 3 Business Plan – A Breakdown

Last time we looked at the Executive Summary and how it is a summary of the key points of your business plan. However, even though the Executive Summary will be at the start of your business plan, it will only be written at the end, so you will need to research and explain the other sections well. They can be as follows:

Business and Products
What will make the business unique or different?
How will it be differentiated from other similar products or services?
What are the benefits you will offer to customers?
Will you save them time or money, make their life easier or safer?
Are there any disadvantages or problems?
How are you planning to develop and grow the business?

The Market and Competition – explaining which markets you will sell in and segment the market into groups that you will compete in.
What is the size of each market segment and your intended share of it?
Are there any noticeable market trends, changes in tastes or growing market areas?
How might these affect your business?
What drives the market?
Are there any growth forecasts for the market segments in which you operate?
What contribution to profit do you think each part of your business will make to the overall business?
Give details about the primary competition. What do and don’t they offer?
Are there any windows of opportunity?
Who supplies, distributes or partners them?
Who are their biggest customers?
How does their product or service compare to yours?
What are the key differences and how do they market their business? (Use your competitive intelligence report notes about your competition from your fact-finding mission).

Marketing and Sales – outline how you intend to reach your target markets and give details of price, product and positioning.
Where will your product or service be positioned in the marketplace – as a high quality item with a high price, or as a budget item or service?
Is there high demand?
How will you price your service/products?
What are the unique selling points of your product or service and which of these are of primary importance to your customer?
Who will be the end user?
How will you reach the end user and promote your business?
What selling methods will you be using: face to face, telesales, website sales.?
Do you think your idea has a great angle that might get you some good PR – some local or national TV, press or radio coverage?
Would the idea translate well to the internet for online selling, or would it sell best at exhibitions and events, or over the counter?

Next time: Managment and Personnel, Operations, Financial Performance, SWOT analysis and Other

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