Vesta Digital Blog

Archive for February 2011

How To Raise Startup FundsBudding entrepreneurs are often faced with the ultimate barrier – having money to make money. While most mentors encourage entrepreneurs to use family, friends, savings accounts, and credit cards for startup capital, there are other alternatives to raising funds.

Here are a few options you have as alternatives to maxing out your credit cards or bumming funds from family and friends:

Do not pull out from your employer

If you are one of those budding entrepreneurs who finds opportunity inspired by a lack in your day job, you may have heard that it’s important to pull out from your employer in order to focus on your business plan. However, if you’re struggling to find capital to start up your business, your most prudent option is probably to keep your day job. You may have to work long nights as it usually takes just as much focus and work to finalize your business plan as it would to work 9-5 day job.

Just make sure your new venture isn’t getting in the way of your day job because scattering your efforts can lead you to mediocre performance in all areas rather than excellent performance in one main focus.

Pay your employees first

If you have already pulled out from your employer and have a fledgling company already up and going, it might be your best option to use the income from your acquired clients to finance your business expansion, rather than to seek external financing. Bootstrapping is an effective way to use your cash flow, at least temporarily. In order to put your company profits back into the business rather than your bank account, you’ll need to cut your expenses and really focus on acquiring leads.

There are many ways to cut expenses, like working from home rather than an office or even exercising deferred compensation with your suppliers.

As you are starting your own business, raising capital can be your number one priority as a business owner. Make sure you’re doing everything possible to cut expenses. You can easily cut your marketing budget by using social media marketing as your main channel for lead generation and brand awareness.

Distributed by IntelBuilder Social Media Platform

Why Do People Unsubscribe or Unlike?If you own a small business, have a business website, and practice an effective amount of social media marketing, you should be well on your way to building a strong and loyal customer base.

Some small business owners however, start to experience a mass unsubscribing or unliking movement by their leads. As if all of their leads got together and decided to stick it to them by either completely ignoring the lead nurturing efforts, or unsubscribing all together.

Why does this happen?

There are a few reasons why people may ignore your updates, emails, and offers. However, the first and most important step you need to take in solving this problem is to be honest with yourself and see if you are doing anything to drive your leads away.

Email marketing mistakes

According to Entrepreneur.com, “the trigger that prompts 54% of consumers to unsubscribe is when the offending company bombards a subscriber’s email with too many marketing messages.”

So, are you bombarding your subscribers? If you are constantly sending emails without any valuable content in them, there is no doubt that they will eventually unsubscribe or ignore you completely.

You can fix this problem by asking for feedback about what kind of information they would like to receive on a regular basis, and by offering some deals and some incentive for your leads to actually open and read the emails you send them. Again, it’s about quality not quantity.

Social media marketing mistakes

The majority of Facebook users have “liked” a business page or two during their membership. Unfortunately, almost half of those who have liked a business page rarely if ever visit it.

“Not surprisingly, excessive posting accounts for 44% of the decision to ‘unlike,’ while 43% of Facebook users indicate their account is too crowded with brands” according to Entrepreneur.com.

The basic remedy for this problem is caring about your customers. People want a brand that cares about what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to know, and what they don’t want t o know. As long as you interact with people who “like” your business page on Facebook, they will interact with you and trust your brand.

You just need to make sure you are limiting your posts and providing engaging conversations and offers.

Distributed by IntelBuilder Social Media Platform

What to do in a Cash Flow CrisisIn the event your small business starts experiencing a lull in cash flow, you need to act fast. Even if you’re still profitable on paper, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have enough in the bank to pay the bills. Problems can arise especially if your company is successful, but your customers start slowing down their payments.

David Worrell of Allbusiness.com has a specialty in finance and managing small businesses. He wrote a great article on a few tips that can help you survive a cash flow crisis. Below are a few pieces of advice from David that may help to save your company from going under.

Know the numbers.

“In good times and bad, keep an eye on key cash flow numbers. I’m not talking just about a cash flow statement each month, but also about key ratios or metrics in your business. If you start this habit in good times, you’ll have forewarning when cash turns against you,” David says.

His advice is extremely useful in this circumstance because new business owners have their focus spread out. It’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of your cash flow because you will be able to better sense an incoming crisis and have more opportunities to prevent it from happening.

Cut your own pay. Now.

“Besides taking pressure off of cash, this will motivate you to fix the problem. If you hide behind a salary – and keep building debt, or laying off staff to pay yourself – the problem will grow worse until it is out of control. Cutting your own pay also demonstrates leadership to your team,” David says.

This fact is extremely important to running and entrepreneurial business. As a leader, you need to demonstrate how important it is to work together with your team members. If that means your employees are paid and you’re not in times of crisis, so be it. They will be more motivated to stick with you and have a deeper connection with the business. Employees that feel as though they are a part of the company – rather than just employed by it, can help take a company to a much higher level.

Distributed by IntelBuilder Social Media Platform

3 Important Lessons to Learn Before Writing Your Business PlanYou can’t start anything and expect it to succeed if you don’t have a plan. After developing, nurturing and convincing yourself and all of your confidantes that your new venture proposal is an absolutely fantastic idea, you need to write a business plan.

There are many different views on how long this process can take, some say a few weeks and some say six months. It truly all depends on the kinds of resources you have available like time, money to conduct an effective amount of research, and the people you need to work with in order to create the best business plan ever.

Here are a few tips based on some advice from Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software, about a few factors that make an effective business plan.

It must match the business purpose

Your small business should have an ultimate end goal in mind, whether the plan is to exit to get investment, create a self-sustaining charity, or whatever your goal for your business may be. Your business plan should be framed by your business purpose – where your business is going and what you want to leave behind.

Lesson 1: Your business plan must outline your company objective.

It must be realistic

Your business plan really won’t get you anywhere if your projections are off the charts. You may have a fantastic business plan with pretty charts and flawless formatting, but if you are presenting an idea for a product that simply cannot be produced, it’s not going to catch on.

Lesson 2: Step back and assess the feasibility of your plan.

It must be specific

According to Tim Berry, “every business plan ought to include tasks, deadlines, dates, forecasts, budgets, and metrics. It’s measurable.” This idea is so true and it’s amazing how many business plans leave out the crucial information. You can make your company sound great but if you don’t have the numbers backing up your projections, you might as well start over.

Lesson 3: Outline your business’s every detail

You have to give yourself the ability to track your results and see if you are in line with your projections and goals. You will most likely encounter set backs and a few failures here and there but if you have a solid business plan and structure in place, it won’t be difficult to reassess your business situation and get back in line.

Distributed by IntelBuilder Social Media Platform

How to Execute a Successful Social Media Marketing CampaignHaving a small business can be very rewarding but it can also be stressful. If you are having trouble getting the amount of traffic your small business needs, it is time to invest in a small business website. Having a website is becoming a mandatory facet of success for any business. Once your business website is set up, you should begin a social media marketing campaign.

We’ve all heard the buzz about how important it is to invest time into social media. With these tips, you can learn exactly how to execute a campaign that will create enough word-of-mouth marketing that people will notice your business website and make the commitment to buy from you, not your competitors.

Learn to listen

Social media really is all about the social experience. If you want to gain more customers, you need to establish relationships online. It’s no different than establishing a relationship in person. You wouldn’t just walk up to someone and say “here’s my business card, buy my product.” You would take the time to get to know that person’s interests before offering to help with a particular problem. This is why it is important to listen to your target audience rather than bombard your audience with links and offers.

Provide value

If you spend all of your time on Facebook posting links and advertisements, people will ignore you. There is enough advertising clutter throughout every day of our lives, we don’t need it when we log into a social network as well. People will only be interested in what you have to offer if it is valuable to them. As a small business owner it’s a given that you know a lot about your product and your industry. Share some of that information. If you give people a reason to listen to what you have to say, you’ve made it half way. After you get an audience’s attention, the selling is easy.

Distributed by IntelBuilder Social Media Platform

What Social Media is Really ForIf you own a small business and have a business website, you’re probably doing pretty well for yourself. After all the economy should be mending soon and you should have already done your homework and found a product that solves a specific problem within the market.

Now, the only difficult part after setting up your small business website is marketing it so that you gain some traffic flow and hopefully increase your revenue stream. This is where social media kicks in. Social media can help you cut marketing costs, build relationships, and network with other people both in your industry and in completely unrelated fields.

Social Media Marketing

Entrepreneur.com wrote a recent article about how to treat social media marketing like a cocktail party. I love this idea because it promotes the concept of social media as a fun, relaxing environment where people come to converse, network, get to know each other, etc. It’s no tradeshow where people are bombarded with free trinkets and obnoxious displays.

Entrepreneur.com goes on to say that in order for your social media presence to have any value, you need to focus on other people’s interests and needs. This should be a given because as an entrepreneur you should always be paying attention to people’s complaints searching for an opportunity to fix them and expand.

Your role in social media is not to advertise your existence; it’s supposed to be a tool to measure the preferences and behaviors of your target market. What better survey than the one your consumers completed on their own time and on their own volition?

According to Entrepreneur.com:

“Online marketing specialists say small businesses like yours are well-positioned to make their customers and fans feel they are the center of the conversation, via social media.”

Distributed by IntelBuilder Social Media Platform

Tips To Appear Higher Up On GoogleOne of the biggest mistakes you can make with a small business website is just waiting for traffic to come to you. Why not, if you have a great product? Wrong. If you have a small business website you need to get your market’s attention. That’s not going to happen by simply offering a good product.

Your small business website has two different types of Google rankings. You have your search engine ranking and your page ranking. While they essentially work together to determine your website’s worth, they have a different set of criteria that defines the rank.

Search Engine Ranking

Your search engine ranking is where you end up on a results page after a person conducts a keyword search through Google. Naturally, people are going to click higher up on Google to get what they want. So, it’s important for you to put some effort into your website so you show up higher on Google.

Page Ranking

Every web page out there has a score between 0 and 10 (10 being the better score). This score represents how influential your web page is. According to Entrepreneur.com, Google updates page rankings four times every year. There are several things you can do to improve your individual page ranking as well.

If you don’t know your ranking, simply search for your product on Google and see where you end up. You also have the option of finding a web page that shows page ranks – for you and your competitors. If you install Google’s Toolbar, you will have the ability to see each site’s page rank as you visit them.

Here are a few ways to improve your page ranking and your overall search engine rankings:

Build links

The more pages out there that link back to your site, the higher you will appear on a search engine, it’s as simple as that. This means you should participate in conversation with others (or even your competitors), and provide a link back to your website. Social Media is another great place to leave links.

Keywords

Use keywords throughout every webpage, but don’t practice keyword stuffing. If you stuff your content with keywords, Google can actually punish your ranking. Try to use keywords as naturally as possible throughout your web content.

Distributed by IntelBuilder Social Media Platform

Why You Should Own Your Own Business TodayBesides the fact that many people are reporting an improvement in the economy, there are so many reasons why you should set up your own business. There are plenty of problems in the market, if you could set up a business focusing on solving that problem, you’re good to go.

Allbusiness.com wrote a great article on the top 10 things small businesses can be thankful for, so I’m going to give you 5 of these blessings as reasons you should go into business right away.

You are your own boss.

The best part of running a small company has always been that you’re in business for yourself, not someone else. So go ahead, take Friday off — the boss won’t mind. You are a part of a team that shares a vision. You focus on innovation, motivation, achieving the same goal as your peers – rather than an administrative environment where everyone is focused on meeting deadlines and climbing their way up the ladder.

Small is the new large.

Revolutionary changes in technology — including the increasing consumerization of business tech, the rise of cloud computing, and Software as a Service (SaaS) are dramatically cutting the cost of equipping a business and building a computing infrastructure. Best of all, these trends seem tailor-made for the needs of small businesses — especially startups — not saddled with the legacy systems that can hinder many older, larger companies.

The economy really is getting better.

No doubt about it, things are still tough for many people, but there are more and more positive signs out there, boding well for companies large and small. The major stock market indexes have shown surprising strength, credit card issuers report that delinquencies have slowed, and U.S. retail sales currently stand at their highest level in more than two years. That’s all good news for small businesses, especially consumer-facing firms. Even as most prices small businesses pay remain low, some small businesses are reporting that they’ve been able to increase profits by raising prices.

The Internet and social media.

From Facebook to Twitter to eBay to email marketing, the Internet‘s impact on small business is impossible to overstate. The Internet has made it possible for even the smallest companies to sell their products and services around the world, to work with suppliers and employees in remote locations, and to inexpensively market to millions (or billions) of people at once. On the Web nobody knows you’re a small business — in many ways you’re competing on a level playing field with the Fortune 500. And that’s not all. The Web also makes it easy to get the information you need to make your business successful — not to mention network with your peers for advice and support.

Great employees.

Small business owners have the privilege of leading some of the most dedicated, resourceful, productive workers in the world. And unlike large multinational corporations, small businesses often get the opportunity to work directly in cooperative teams with their employees, free of much of the bureaucracy and red tape that hobble bigger organizations.

Distributed by IntelBuilder Social Media Platform

How To Balance Your Business and Your MarriageIn lieu of Valentine’s Day next week i decided to cover a topic a little closer to our hearts. How do we business-oriented people balance our relationships and our professions? This sort of advice can apply to any career-oriented person, not just the newly budding entrepreneur or over-achieving small business owner.

Entrepreneur.com
recently posted an article that discusses the ultimate business question: how do you balance your business and your personal life? Any mentor will tell you that owning your own business can often strain even the best marriages. The article shows how three couples manage to balance romance and business.

Couple #1

Travel often comes with the territory when you own your own business. Entrepreneurs Peter and Susan Fuller (married for 18 years) have firsthand experience. They each own a separate business in Indianapolis and Peter is forced to travel frequently – one of the number one strains of any relationship, especially if there are children involved.

Peter felt he was doing his best to stay connected but once he slowed his business travel to once every six weeks, and supplemented the time apart with Skype video calls, the couple was able to regain their passion.

Their advice:

in any relationship it’s important to have similar goals, like having the freedom to create their own paths in life.

Couple #2

Another struggle couples often go through when business is involved is the failure of a venture. Dediako Rogers watched helplessly as his real-estate business plummeted in 2008 after the housing-market collapse. He and his wife, Rachel were newlyweds and were constantly cutting expenses in every way they could, including downsizing their home and sharing one vehicle.

The couple was able to get back on their feet after Rachel received her law degree and started a law firm serving Gen-Y entrepreneurs and business owners.

Their advice:

Being married to another entrepreneur is helpful because you understand each other’s drive to run their own business. Be supportive of each others’ pursuits and encourage each other to start new businesses and try new things.

Couple #3

One of the most unlikely strains comes from being married to your business partner. It can make it difficult to keep business from becoming involved in every part of your life. Jessica Rovello and Kenny Rosenblatt met while working at a tech company and launched an online gaming business in 2001 together. They married in 2004.

The two experienced difficulties when they caught themselves bringing their work home.

Their advice:

Respect each other’s passion for your professions. It’s important to balance work topics with fun topics as well.

Distributed by IntelBuilder Social Media Platform

Top 3 Small Business Ideas for 2011If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, 2011 is the best time to start a business. If you’re tired of working in a managerial environment and you’re ready to take on a market, you should start exploring some ideas. Before taking off into a new venture, you need to be aware of what kind of opportunities are excelling in the market this year.

The Noobpreneur Business Blog posted 10 great ideas for budding entrepreneurs everywhere to consider. Read on to see the ones I thought were the most opportunistic for 2011.

1. Online business and make money online

Online businesses will always thrive so long as our society continues to depend on technology the way it does today. People search for products, brands, prices, reviews, and just about everything they need online. Your online business can be very lucrative because it is more cost-effective (if executed properly) than a brick-and-mortar location. If you set up your small business website, make sure you maintain control over the content so you can adapt to the changing environment and evolving consumer preferences.

2. Personalized products and/or services

There is a growing need for expressing individuality in today’s market. Customization is always a great way to please your consumer base. Offering a product your consumers can design themselves is almost a guarantee of customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth marketing. The opportunities are limitless here. You can offer t-shirts, greeting cards, school supplies, really anything that someone can personalize – you can take advantage of.

3. Small business with a cause

I recently learned of a non-profit organization that offers a free online game similar to Facebook’s Farmville. This game allows the user to build villages and actually purchase provisions for the village. By making donations and purchasing provisions through the game, the game hosts purchase real life provisions and provide them to a needy village in Uganda. Once the village is self-sustaining, they can move on to another village. They then take pictures of the provisions being provided to the village in Uganda, and post them so the gamers can see them and be involved in the whole process.

Offering an abstract incentive to buying your product can go a very long way towards your business success. If you embed a social cause into your products and services, you will have happy customers.

There are so many opportunities for you to take advantage of. Setting up your business is the easy part – it’s finding an idea that’s difficult. All you have to do is pay attention to a problem in the market and figure out a way to solve it.

Distributed by IntelBuilder Social Media Platform


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