4 Rules For New Entrepreneurs – Practical Tips For Starting Right

It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur—in the last decade, technology has leveled the playing field and propelled an entrepreneurial revolution. As an entrepreneur, you now have more access to information that enables you to make more intelligent choices more quickly.

You have an advantage over big businesses in that you’re lighter, more flexible, and faster on your feet. You can target new markets more quickly, and you can turn on a dime.

But being a successful entrepreneur requires that you look at the big picture and follow a plan through from beginning to end. Rieva Lesonsky, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur Magazine gives some practical guidelines that can help you when beginning your own enterprise:

1.Don’t Quit Your Day Job.

Consider starting your business part-time, especially if it’s online, while you’re working and have a steady income. It usually takes six months to a year to get a business going and you don’t want your ability to make your house payment to hinge upon your company being an overnight success. Start with what you can manage, financially and time-wise, and scale up as your business grows.

2.Find Your Niche.

The days of general stores are over. Particularly online, consumers are looking for stores that specialize. You have to find a need—something a specific group of people want, but can’t get at the big chain stores—and fill it. Advises Lesonsky, “You can’t compete with the big guys, so you have to find where the big guys aren’t and go into your niches.”

3.Have an Online Presence.

Even if you’re not planning to start an online retail business, consider that the internet can still play a valuable role in your company. Having an online presence eliminates the limitations of physical location and broadens your customer base by, literally, millions. It’s also a great tool for promoting yourself and letting people, even in your own area, know that you’re there, and what you’re doing.

4.Refuse to Quit.

Successful entrepreneurship requires creativity, energy, and a drive to keep going when you fail. Few people realize that before Bill Gates created the extremely successful Microsoft 3.0, he created a Microsoft 1.0 and 2.0, both of which flopped—but he kept at it. And that determination and refusal to give up is what will separate successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones. Says Lesonsky, “Arm yourself with optimism to get beyond the ‘No’ or the trouble. There’s nothing wrong in failure—just don’t repeat the same mistake!”

Breaking the Chains!

Everyday, customers and business owners are bombarded with billboards, logos, print and electronic ads from huge corporations. With annual ad budgets that are more than our businesses’ SALES in an entire year, our small independent businesses are getting squeezed out of consumers minds (and wallets) more and more each year. But the good news is, there are ways to fight back and “break the chains”:

Build that website and perfect your online presence.

The Internet is one place where, compared to print and other forms of electronic media, the playing field is relatively level. A website filled with loads of great content will be loved by the search engines like Google and Yahoo!, and because of that, customers that may not even know where you are can find you and buy online. If you own a retail store, start an e-store. If you own a restaurant or a service-related business, offer a gift certificate or printable coupon. Starting a mailing list on your website with the latest news, events and special offers is a great way to get (and keep) loyal, regular customers. The options are endless, and best of all, content is the Internet king, not slick, flashy, repetitive advertising. If you aren’t comfortable with all things Internet, there are many companies that are, and can help you with web design, web hosting, search engine optimization, and web marketing.

Join (or start) a co-op or business association.

“Strength in Numbers” is more than a catchy phrase, it is becoming a necessity in our current business climate. Trade organizations can purchase products together to get better rates and buys, they can advertise together with direct mail coupons and newsletters (another big money saver), and they carry more political clout by appointing representatives to call on state legislatures or even Congress in order to promote legislation favorable to small independent businesses. If your area doesn’t have a trade organization, or does but you feel it doesn’t meet your needs, start one! The National Federation of Independent Business is a great resource with representatives in all fifty states and Washington D.C.

Don’t mimic Corporate America

Advertising is not cheap, because the prices that the large corporations are willing to pay for it have priced it out of the reach of most small businesses. This is not necessarily a bad thing; let them have all of the cold, impersonal, beat you over the head repetitive advertising! People only care about this on Super Bowl Sunday anyway! Always go for the personal touch. If you own a restaurant or retail store, introduce yourself. Let them know you appreciate them coming by, and you can’t wait to see them again. Always offer coupons or incentives, and be as unique, creative and memorable as you possibly can. Remember that “word of mouth” advertising is so great you can’t put a price tag on it. Put yourself in the customers shoes, and stay there! Don’t ever do what you want; do what they want. Don’t just market your business, market yourself. It leaves an impression, and with the sorry state of customer service today in most (chain) businesses, people won’t forget it!

Remember, you are an independent business because you wanted to do something new or different, so promote yourself accordingly. Here’s to you “breaking the chains” and becoming successful with your chosen endeavor.

Buying A Franchise

There are many good reasons to pursue your dream of owning a successful franchise. For starters when you buy a franchise you are buying a proven system.

Buying a franchise can be a life changing experience. There are many good reasons to pursue your dream of owning a successful franchise. For starters when you buy a franchise you are buying a proven system. Buying a franchise comes with the advantage of knowing that the business has been successful in other locations. The idea and process of running this business has already been proven. Therefore the learning curve in operating the business can be virtually eliminated.

When you are buying a franchise your are also buying an established customer base or brand name. Most franchises are already recognizable to consumers. The brand awareness provides security and trust to the customer who expects uniform quality to be provided. Therefore a customer base is already established.

You can also benefit from any advertising or promotion that the franchiser (owner of the franchise) does at the national or local level, without absorbing the cost. The franchiser can also provide input to the franchisee on a local marketing plan.

If you buy a franchise you also receive ongoing support. Training and support is usually always part of the deal. Since the franchise company has a vested interest in how well you do, ongoing training, system upgrades, product enhancements, and question and answer resources are provided. The franchiser offers experience to franchisee in such areas as accounting procedures, personnel and facility management, and business planning.

Also, many times obtaining financing for buying a franchise is easier since the franchise name and reputation are usually recognized by the lenders. Therefore, banks are more likely to fund the franchisee. In addition, relationships with suppliers are already established; affording the opportunity to buy in bulk, enabling a great deal of savings for the business.

The first step when buying a franchise is choosing an industry you are interested in or have prior experience in. There are many great franchises out there to choose from. Auto franchises and coffee franchises are very popular franchises but it is important to research the each opportunity before investing. It is recommended you sit down with a Franchise Consultant and decide if buying a franchise is right for you.

5 Things to Consider Before You Hire a Virtual Assistant:

I hear the term “Virtual Assistant” more and more in business. Did you know that you could possibly hire someone from another continent that works while you sleep and maybe for $8 – $12 Dollars. Most of the VA’s I work with have degrees and one an MBA in Business Admin. I pay her a pautry $15.00 per hour now thats waht I call a bargain!

Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do

I hear the term “Virtual Assistant” more and more in business. Did you know that you could possibly hire someone from another continent that works while you sleep and maybe for $8 – $12 Dollars. Mos t of the VA’s I work with have degrees and one an MBA in Business Admin. I pay her a paltry $15.00 per hour and what a bargain that is.

With the growth of virtual assistants has also been a change in what it means to be a virtual assistant.  The leaders and founders of this particular entrepreneurial job have made distinctions between what it means to be a virtual assistant, and what it doesn’t mean.  When you are explaining your business to others, you want to make sure to keep this standard.  

Being a virtual assistant is becoming a distinct definition of a specific home owned business.  It is expected that the standards will be upheld of a virtual assistant for all others who are working in this profession.  This means that a virtual assistant is someone who provides a variety of services to businesses and individuals following the standard that has become formalized in the past decade. 

The first angle that is taken towards approaching what a virtual assistant is includes the idea of being virtual. If you are not working out of your home, or remotely, then you are not considered a virtual assistant.  Instead, it is considered to be a temporary job or a telecommuting job.  One of the standards for being a virtual assistant is having the freedom to work where you want. 

The second part to being a virtual assistant is the distinction that is made in the job description.  Most virtual assistants will cringe at the idea of being called a secretary or freelance worker.  Technically, a freelance worker is one who only does the job for extra income.  At the same time, a secretary is one who doesn’t do the work continuously with only one client.  A virtual assistant is provided in order to create a substantial and long term relationship with a business. 

Here are 5 things you should consider in a Virtual Assistant?

1. Professionalism. Does the VA answer her or his emails, voice mails and other correspondence in a timely and professional manner? It is important if this person is to work for you has the right skills to not keep you or a deadline waiting. Make sure you give a covert task to her or him to pass that shows commitment to deadlines.

2. Project Management. Juggling tasks nowadays is vital. We now tap out feet in front of the microwave so things need to get done. If a person cannot work with a few projects on the go you might want to move on. I guarantee you will only find out that they have a project management problem when you lose “the big deal”.

3. Availability. Many of these people work for several people at the same time. It is not uncommon for you as an employer to be in a funnel system for the VA. You slowly move down the funnel as they take on better contracts from new virtual employers. Be aware that you and your project will get dropped at the most time you least need it. You also need to be lining up new VA’s. Try to split your work between 2 or more VA’s to combat this problem.

4. Test. Give the VA a mini project before going ahead with a contract.  I also give a minimum of 2 tasks that cost no more than $30 -$40 to complete. I need them done correctly and to my total satisfaction before I even consider this person. It is simple to hire one of the first few people to come along but please shortlist at least 10 and give the tasks to 2 of the 10 you shortlisted. Obviously make sure these tasks are something you actually want done, don’t waste any money.

5. Get References. Can the VA give you a list of people whom you can contact who will tell you about working with her or him? 

The main distinction that most virtual assistants will work towards creating is the idea of being in a relationship with a business, and making this their business.  This goes beyond the Expectations of any temporary work or telecommuting job.  It also means that the services a virtual assistant can provide will go outside of job descriptions that are made in the office.  By understanding the standards for being a virtual assistant, you can best approach this in your own relationships with businesses.

“Why Business Credit Is A MUST For Every Business Owner!”

Entrepreneurs typically make one or more financially devastating mistakes when financing the launch, operation and/or growth of their businesses. In most cases, they don’t realize that they’re making a mistake.

As an entrepreneur, you’re hardwired to enjoy a greater level of risk than the average person. But do you enjoy the thrill of business and investing so much that you’re willing to risk: 

-Being hounded by creditors?
-Declaring bankruptcy?
-Being denied a mortgage?
-Paying more than your fair share of interest on your loans?
-Losing your house?

If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, this may be the most important report you’ve read in a long time. Because, if you’re like most entrepreneurs, investors, and business owners I’ve met over the past 28 years, you’re in danger of facing all of these horrific problems. And it’s all because of your business.

You see, entrepreneurs typically make one or more financially devastating mistakes when financing the launch, operation and/or growth of their businesses. In most cases, they don’t realize that they’re making a mistake.  And to tell the truth, even when they do realize they’re making a mistake … they lull themselves into thinking that the consequences will be a minor annoyance. 

Until, one day, they can’t qualify for a mortgage. Or they can’t get the to-die-for financing offered on the new car they’re buying. Or they’re hounded by creditors and eventually have to declare bankruptcy. And it is all because they use their personal finances to fund the launch or expansion of their business. They then use personal credit cards to pay for business expenses. If you are in business or thinking about starting a business, business credit is a must. 

Let me explain, most business owner have no idea that they can establish business credit and even fewer know how to how to establish business credit. If owners would take the time necessary to educate themselves about establishing credit they would no longer have to use their personal funds for start up capital or working capital. They would also be able to use business credit cards which don’t report to their personal credit reports, therefore, not lowering the personal credit scores.

The most important goal of business credit though is to obtain unsecured business lines of credit, which can be done once the business credit profile is set up properly. Once a business obtains unsecured business lines of credit, they then have the working capital they need to start a business or expand their business. The business owner has check book control to use the business lines of credit as they wish. And best of all, the business lines of credit don’t report to the business owner’s personal credit report.

If you have set up your business profile correctly there are a number of banks that will lend to brand new start up business. That is right, brand new start up business with no track record whatsoever. The banks will extend unsecured business lines of credit so they can have the start up capital they need to finance the business of their dreams. 

Make no mistake about it; business credit is a MUST for every business owner. Don’t put your personal assets at risk finance or fund your business!

Blend Your Strengths with Small Business Needs

If you are looking to start a small business of your own, there is a proven process that is necessary to start off with. Many creative people have great business ideas, but their approach to planning is ineffective and eventually flops. First and foremost, you have to find a market that is a good size. Now what does this mean exactly? Finding a niche market that is a reasonable size entails pinpointing one that is big enough to make a profit but small enough for the resources of a small business and one that does not compete with large corporations.

Two main mistakes that entrepreneurs make in finding small markets are targeting a market that is too broad and targeting a niche that is already heavily exploited. What you decide to sell must connect product to target audience or you will not be successful.

To start off with, choose your own unique area of expertise. What are you good at? What do you have experience in? Use your education, your skills and the people you know who could help you transform your idea into reality. If you have many areas of interest and are not sure which one would be the most profitable, a little more research will be needed. Consider how it will be possible to convert your education and skills into money-making opportunities. Research your surrounding marketplace to see what is needed in your area.

Now if you are trying to find small markets online, be forewarned that this can be tedious and time-consuming. You will first have to think of a list of possible target audiences, then take your first idea and research an exhaustive list of keywords and keyword phrases that people in that target audience are using for information on their desired product. Next, one must research all keywords and phrases for relevancy and then study which keywords on your list might lead to other niches that will need future researching. Then, you need to compare all your keywords to web pages to evaluate the present competition. You will use all your information to narrow down your list to keywords and phrases that have the most online traffic and those that are the least exploited. If your small market does not appear to be profitable, you must start the entire research process over. If you do find one that seems to be a money maker, you then must focus on finding ideas to profit from.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Where Can I Find My Niche? Finding Your Ideal Prospects So You Can Sell To Them

Most marketing experts will tell you that you need select a niche or a target audience. That you can’t just market to

Most marketing experts will tell you that you need select a niche or a target audience. That you can’t just market to “whoever is paying attention” and be successful. Why is that? Think about it this way: if you are having a conversation with a total stranger, how do you know what to talk about? Unless you are able to find some common ground, the conversation will probably be short-lived. Because neither of you have an understanding of the other, you must find a way to make a connection to involve each other into the conversation.

The same holds true for marketing. You must make a connection with your audience if you want them to pay attention and stay around to find out what your product or service is all about. And, in order to make a connection, you have to know something about them. You have to know what problems they have that you can help to solve. You have to understand them.

That is why it is so important to select a niche or clearly defined target audience. Because once you’ve selected a distinct group of people you believe you can best help, you can research them so you begin to understand them. Then and only then can you really communicate effectively with them. And that’s what marketing is; communication.

But once you’ve identified your target or niche, you must also be able to find and market to them. The first step in doing that is to define them more specifically. How?

My suggestion is to ask yourself the following 10 questions to help develop a very clear description of your target. Then it will become much clearer to you where you can find them. You may need to make some educated guesses when answering these questions and that’s okay. It’s a start and you can always refine your answers as your business grows and you begin to understand your target more.

As I go through these 10 questions, I’m going to use an example of a client of mine who is a life coach who wants to help adults who are childhood victims of maltreatment or victimization, improve their health and wellness.

Why am I using this example? Because it is a clearly defined group, BUT these people do not wear a sign around their neck advertising who they are. So, they can be difficult to find and market to. Therefore, it makes a great example.

You can apply these same 10 questions to your business or niche, regardless of what they are. They are universal questions that apply to any type of business or target audience.

1. What is their primary problem you can help solve?
Our life coach needs to clearly identify the current problem her potential clients are dealing with as a result of their childhood maltreatment. That is the problem she can position herself to help them overcome. Is it relationship issues? Is it job issues? Be as specific and focused as possible.

2. Are they primarily male or female?
Our life coach has identified her target as females.

3. How old are they?
Our life coach says they are high functioning professional women. In that case, I’d say we’re primarily talking about women between the ages of 25 and 45 years old.

4. Where do they live? What type of community or neighborhood; urban area; suburban area? Also, do you have any geographic limitations (real or self-imposed) regarding where you can market or deliver your services or products?
If they are high functioning professional women, they likely live in a nicer suburban neighborhood or perhaps an urban area. Our life coach will need to identify where she believes the majority live in her area and whether she only wants to work with women in her immediate geographic area, or if she wants to do distance coaching.

5. What type of work do they do?  And where do they likely work? Their type of business as well as geographic location.
Professional women could be corporate professionals, doctors, attorneys, entrepreneurs or solo-professionals. Our life coach will need to identify the fields she wishes to focus on, taking into consideration the ones she feels include the greatest number of her target clients.

6. What is their socio-economic status or annual household income?
High functioning professional women are probably enjoying financial success, making them of a higher socio-economic class. They probably earn a good income and enjoy the finer things in life. Money is probably not an issue.

7. How do they spend their leisure time?
Do they belong to a gym or health club? Do they go to the movies or out to dinner frequently? Or, do they have young children and spend their time at elementary school functions, family picnics, children’s birthday parties or weekend soccer tournaments? Our life coach may need to make some assumptions here based on what she knows about her target. Again, that’s okay to start with. She can always fine-tune this later as she begins to understand these women better.

8. What is their family structure or home environment?
This niche of professional women probably includes single women as well as those who are married and have children. Therefore their home environments may vary. They may have no support or family network. They may have strong family support. Or, they may be having issues with their family based on their past. Our life coach will need to keep this in mind when she selects marketing avenues and writes her marketing messages. She’ll want to focus on what they have in common and steer away from areas of abiguity.

9. Do they belong to any associations or professional organizations?
If our life coach selects one or several industries to target, she should be able to easily identify associations or professional organizations these women belong to. Once identified, these are excellent venues for networking and speaking opportunities.

10. What are their media habits?
Do they read the newspaper or magazines? If so, which ones? Listen to the radio? If so, which formats do they likely listen to? Do they watch TV? If so, which programs do they likely watch? Do they spend time on the Internet? If so, what kinds of web sites do you think they are visiting? Where do you think they are currently getting their information about health and wellness? These are all potential places to reach your niche with your marketing message.

Yes, again our life coach may need to make some assumptions. However all of these media can provide you with detailed demographic profiles of their audience. So if we’re looking for professional women in a certain geographic area, we’ll be able to find out if they are among the audiences for these different mediums.

Answer each of these 10 questions to the best of your ability.  Talk to current clients to get insights. Or, talk to friends or colleagues who fit your client profile to gain a better understanding of who and where they are. Once you build this target client description, you’ll have a much better sense of where you can find them.

The next step is putting together a marketing message that speaks directly to them and what they are dealing with. The more you understand them, the more you’ll be able to craft a message that will hit home with them. That message will become your magnet, attracting the people who you can best help.

10 Sure-Fire Steps to take the Fear out of Public Speaking

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

This article reveals 10 simple steps to minimize the fear of Public Speaking. Find out how to make it so much easier and do it a whole lot better.

Do you “feel the fear” when asked to do some Public Speaking? 

Public Speaking is still one of our greatest fears and it turns grown men and women into nervous wrecks. The mere thought of it turns our tongue to cotton wool, causes our internal plumbing to act up and turns our knees to jelly.

Well, there’s no need for all of this because help is at hand. All you need to remember are your P’s and Q’s. Let’s start with the P’s

Preparation – When you sit down to write what you’re going to say, bear in mind who you’ll be speaking to. Will they understand what you’re talking about; will they understand the technical stuff and the jargon? If in doubt remember the old saying – “Keep It Simple Stupid”.   

Make sure that what you say has a beginning, middle and an end. Think of some anecdotes that help reinforce your story. People think visually so paint verbal pictures for your audience. And always remember, people want to know what’s in it for them – so make sure you tell them!

Place – Have a look at the venue before the event if you can. It’s not always possible, however, even if you get there half an hour before, you can check out where you’ll be speaking.  Stand at the point where you will deliver from, imagine where the audience will be and check that they can see and hear you. You may even wish to place a glass of water where you’ll be able to find it. 

Personal Preparation – Before any Public Speaking event, think about what you are going to wear; when in doubt dress up rather than down. You can always take things off for a more casual look. Men could remove their jacket and their tie. Women could remove items of jewelry.  Part of your personal preparation should include some mouth and breathing exercises. Practice saying some tongue twisters to give your speaking muscles a good work out. Take a deep breath and expand your diaphragm. Then breathe out,counting at the same time; try and get up to fifty and not pass out.

As part of your personal preparation, write your own introduction. Write out exactly what you want someone to say about you, large font, double-spaced and ask the person introducing you to read it. Believe me they won’t object and will probably be pleased and impressed.

Poise and Posture – Whenever you’re called to speak, stand up or walk to the front quickly and purposefully. Pull yourself up to your full height, stand tall and look like you own the place. Before you start to speak, pause, look round your audience and smile. You may even have to wait until the applause dies down. Remember, you want the audience to like you, so look likable. 

Pretend – I’m suggesting you pretend you’re not nervous because no doubt you will be. Nervousness is vital for speaking in public, it boosts your adrenaline, which makes your mind sharper and gives you energy.  The trick is to keep your nerves to yourself. On no account tell your audience your nervous; you’ll only scare the living daylights out of them if they think you’re going to faint. 

Some tricks for dealing with nerves are:  Before you’re called to speak, get lots of oxygen into your system, run on the spot and wave your arms about like a lunatic. It burns off the stress chemicals.  Speak to members of your audience as they come in or at some time before you stand up. That tricks your brain into thinking you’re talking to some friends.  Have a glass of water handy for that dry mouth. One word of warning – do not drink alcohol. It might give you Dutch courage but your audience will end up thinking you’re speaking Dutch. 

The Presentation – Right from the start your delivery needs to grab their attention.  Don’t start by saying – “Good morning, my name is Fred Smith and I’m from Smith Associates.”  Even if your name is Smith, it’s a real boring way to start a presentation.  Far better to start with some interesting facts or an anecdote that’s relevant to your presentation.  

Look at the audience as individuals; it grabs their attention if they think you’re talking to them personally. Talk louder than you would normally do, it keeps the people in the front row awake and makes sure those at the back get the message. Funnily enough, it’s also good for your nerves.

PowerPoint – And for those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a software program that’s used to design stunning graphics and text for projection onto a screen. As a professional speaker, I’m not that struck on PowerPoint. I feel that too many speakers rely on it and it takes over the presentation.  After all, you’re the important factor here. If an audience is going to accept what you say then they need to see the whites of your eyes.

There needs to be a big focus on you, not on the technology. Use PowerPoint if you want but keep it to a minimum and makesure you’re not just the person pushing the buttons.  Why not get a bit clever at using the faithful old Flip Chart, lots of professionals do.

Passion – This is what stops the audience in their tracks. This is what makes them want to employ you or to accept what you’re proposing. Couple this with some energy, enthusiasm and emotion and you have the makings of a great public speaker.  Give your presentation a bit of oomph and don’t start telling me – “I’m not that kind of person.” There’s no need to go over the top but you’re doing a presentation to move people to action, not having a cozy little chat in your front room. 

That’s the P’s finished, so let’s look at the Q’s.

Questions – Decide when you’re going to take them and tell people at the start.  In a short speech it’s best to take questions at the end. If you take them as you go then you may get waylaid and your timing will get knocked out.  Never – never – never finish with questions; far better to ask for questions five or ten minutes before the end. Deal with the questions and then summarize for a strong finish.

Too many presentations finish on questions and the whole thing goes a bit flat. When you’re asked a question, repeat it to the whole audience and thank the questioner. It keeps everyone involved, it gives you time to think and it makes you look so clever and in control.

Quit –  Quit when you’re ahead. Stick to the agreed time; if you’re asked to speak for twenty minutes, speak for nineteen and the audience will love you for it. Remember, quality is not quantity. One of the most famous speeches ever – “The Gettysburg Address”, by President Lincoln, was just over two minutes long. 

Right, that’s my cue to quit when I’m ahead.  Now that you’re armed with this information you too can minimize your fear of Public Speaking.

Build Your Business With Four Easy Steps

Building a business is no easy task.  This easy to read step by step guide provides an outline to starting a business in just four easy steps.

Creating a successful and profitable business is no easy task. It’s reliant on many outside factors, including competition, timing and demand, which you have very little to no control over at the beginning. Assuming all of these outside factors are in your favor, having a sound business plan can lead to having a successful business. Here are five steps to consider when you’re building your business from the ground up:  

1. Determine your business. What are you selling?

This question isn’t as easy to answer as you may think. For example, Nike is in the sportswear business, but the truth is that when you buy a pair of Nike shoes and a t-shirt at the mall you’re buying a lot more than sportswear — you’re buying an image, a feeling. You’re buying the Nike brand. Richard Thalheimer, the former CEO of The Sharper Image and the founder of RichardSolo.com, has worked in specialty retail for more than 30 years. When asked what business he’s in, he’ll tell you “convenience” or “innovation” before he specifies any particular industry, and he’s built one of the most powerful brands in America. Keep in mind, there’s more to a product than, well, the product. Your brand is what sets your product apart from your competitor’s.  

2. Select your market. Who are you selling to?

This step is a bit less interpretive as the first, though equally important. Who are you selling to? or more importantly, what do you know about this person? Understanding your consumer is a key to success. What do they do? Where do they hang out? What do they watch on television? These are just a few of the questions that you should be able to answer about your consumer. Knowing the answers to these questions can answer a lot of questions of your own when it comes to a devising a marketing strategy. Richard Thalheimer understood his market for The Sharper Image, probably as well as they understood themselves. From an article in the LA Times, Tracy Wan, who was president and chief operating officer under Thalheimer says “Richard has the amazing ability to figure out the things that people want to have.” This ability to perceive your consumer’s desire can only be a result of knowing them like your neighbor.  

3. Create a marketing strategy. How do you speak to these people?

This is a culmination of understanding your brand and your consumer. As mentioned in number two, understanding your consumer can answer a lot of questions concerning your marketing strategy: Where should you advertise? What’s the voice of your brand? What kind of prices are reasonable for this demographic? In order to engage your consumer, a.k.a. sell your product to them, you must know where your advertisements will be noticed, how to speak to them, and how much they will be able to spend, among many of things. Really, this step should have been combined with the last because who your market is dictates your marketing strategy entirely.  

4. Learn by example. Seek advice from those who have done it.

There are many books written by professionals who have already started their own business and have been successful in doing so. One that comes to mind immediately, as we’ve already mentioned him a couple of times, is Richard Thalheimer. “Creating Your Own Sharper Image” shares the story of how he grew his tiny office supply company, The Sharper Image, into the thriving enterprise that it has become today.  

Remember, building a successful business in not all about the dollars and cents. Equally as valuable is you brand equity and your ability to engage your consumer, which is only attainable by understanding them. Assuming there is a demand for your product, and you can compete with the other brands, following these four steps shall guide you in the right direction.

 

3 Worst Mistakes People Make in a Presentation

A bad presentation can ruin a career. Here’s how to avoid the three worst mistakes that people make.

Truly memorable disasters don’t just happen. They require a special blend of misunderstanding and misguided effort. Here are three ways to guarantee a disaster in your next presentation, and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Believe in Magic. 
Show up hoping that a coherent, eloquent, useful presentation will magically appear once you start speaking. Avoid any type of preparation. Just wing it.

What Happens
Everyone is amazed by the presentation because they expected more. They are also bored and disappointed. They may even become upset because an unprepared presentation insults the audience by wasting their time. Unprepared presentations sound like, well, unprepared presentations.

Instead
Prepare. Identify the goal for your talk. Design a presentation that achieves that goal. Talk with key members of the audience about their expectations. Rehearse.

Mistake #2: Memorize your speech
Spend untold hours committing every precious word to memory so that you can recite it even if awakened in the middle of the night.

What Happens
You sound like a machine. And if you stumble on a word, you can become stuck–speechless. I’ve seen this happen, and it’s painful.

Instead
Learn your presentation. Yes, write a script. Memorize the first and last sentences and then practice giving the presentation without looking at the script. Practice many times. Eventually, you will learn how to convey the key ideas in a natural, normal way.

Mistake #3: Talk About Yourself
Focus entirely on yourself. Tell about your background, your credentials, and your history. Tell your story. Just talk about yourself. Make the presentation all about you, yourself, and your life.

What Happens
They listen politely. If you manage to be entertaining enough, they may actually pay attention. Otherwise, the audience reacts by thinking, “So what?”

Instead
Talk about the audience. That is, talk about what they need and how they can achieve it.