Archive for business development

PR for small companies too?

Posted in Business start up, Marketing with tags , , , on September 4, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Size really doesn’t matter when it comes to PR. Any size company can benefit from publicity, but the practice is commonly misunderstood in the business arena. Most entrepreneurs think of it as something that only large corporations have a budget for and don’t realise the power of publicity and what it can do for a business to blow it through the roof.

Marsha Friedman of Event Management Services, says that when a story is written in a newspaper or magazine, it lends credibility to you and your company’s products and services beyond anything you could attain with advertising. And, it provides immediate positioning of you as a recognised expert in your field.

Give away information that people normally would pay you for and submit it to daily and weekly newspapers as well as other newsletters in your area.

You may think that giving away valuable advice will hurt you by tipping off your competition, but it is quite the contrary. It will establish you as someone who is a specialist on the subject and you will find that people will start to seek you out for business. People will be more likely to hire you if the media is writing about you or quoting you as an authority.

“Anything written is perceived to be true,” she advises, “therefore articles you’ve written that get published or articles with quotes from you, give you immediate positioning as the “go-to guy” in your field.”

A few different ways to approach the print medium are:

1) Write a “tips” or “how to” article – this is one of the best ways to get free publicity in newspapers and magazines. Offer lots of valuable advice and make sure it’s written well enough for a publication to run it without having to make any edits. Be sure to include your credentials and other boastful information to support your position as an expert – but be careful not to make the article a promotional piece. Editors are looking for content that will be informative to their readers, not a brag piece about you or your company.

2) Write an “opinion letter” – take a stand on a controversial issue or comment on an issue in the news and sent it to the Editor of your local paper – or to the Opinion Editor at other newspapers around the country. Don’t forget to put your credentials at the bottom of the letter so you get the recognition of being a published expert.

3) Create photo opportunities – local newspapers are always looking for interesting photos and images. Create a local event – a fundraiser, an art show, a local or national contest, etc. Then make sure to invite the local press to attend. But even if they don’t show up, get them a photo and press release right away while it’s still news!

4) Recycle your print coverage – turn one media hit into multiple hits by sending a reprint of a weekly newspaper story about you or your company to an editor at a daily newspaper, along with a pitch letter offering an angle different from the angle the weekly pursued. Send articles in trade publications to editors anywhere. Post articles on your website.

Marsha Friedman is the CEO of Event Management Services, Inc., (www.event-management.com) a leading US publicity firm.

Karla Jo Helms is the Vice President Public Relations for PostcardMania, (http://www.PostcardMania.com) named one of the fastest growing privately-owned companies by Inc Magazine
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Price setting

Posted in Business start up, Finance with tags , , , on August 21, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Finding the right balance of offering a service at a price that is right for you and the customer is not always easy to find when you are just getting started. However, over time, an equilibrium will be reached where you realise your niche where clients are either happy to pay a nominal premium for a quality service or otherwise.

smallbusiness.co.uk has some useful hints to review whilst you are setting your strategy:

1. Analyse the position your product holds in the market.

Are your target customers those who are looking for reliability? Has your product already achieved an established image in the eyes of the market? Do buyers view it as good quality, prompt service, stylish, say?

2. Analyse your product.

Are you planning modifications or alterations which could alter its reputation or relative position in the marketplace?

3. Analyse the competition.

How do their products rate against yours? What is the relative price structure in the market?

4. Decide your pricing strategy.

Where in the price range are you going to pitch your price? Is it going to be average for the market, 5% less than the average, 5% above the average or a premium price, 25% above the average?

5. Choose some specific prices.

Estimate volume of sales, profit margin and costs to forecast the level of profits for each price.

6. Choose your price.

7. Are you be able to test market the price in a small area of your market?

This would allow you to gauge customer reactions.

http://www.smallbusiness.co.uk/channels/sales-and-marketing/finding-customers/guides-and-tips/20707/guide-to-setting-prices.thtml

Franchising – 5 reasons why its worth considering

Posted in Business start up with tags , , , on August 12, 2010 by virtualcitypa

1. Proven Model

When you purchase a franchise, the thing that you are really purchasing is a business model. You are purchasing the rights to use someone else’s idea. This someone (the franchisor) has put their idea into an organised, easy to follow operations manual. In other words, you are replicating the franchisor’s business. The obvious advantage is that you don’t have to “invent” anything of your own to start a business. It’s already been invented.

2.  Formal Training

Once you have written a check for the Franchise Fee, and signed the franchise agreement, you are officially a franchisee. It is now on the franchisor to teach you their system, in a formal fashion. Training can last from three days all the way up to two weeks. It depends on how complex the franchise concept is.

You’ll be trained on the use of their computers and software, their operational procedures, marketing and advertising, human resources, and sales. Some franchisors even have online training modules set up, so that you actually can start training from home, a few weeks before you head to their corporate headquarters.

3.  Marketing systems

Marketing techniques employed by franchisors, are usually top notch. That is because part of the franchise development process includes testing. Some franchise offerings end up using direct mail marketing to get customers, while some may find that radio advertising proves to be the most effective way to find and retain customers.

The point is this: You are not the one who has to try out nine or ten different marketing ideas in order to find the one that works the best.  It has been done for you already. In most cases, the franchisor knows what works. They just have to show you how to implement it.

4.  Technology

The franchisor needs to have great technology. Twice. First of all, the franchisor must make things as efficient as possible for it’s franchisees, so they can concentrate on business growth and development, not payroll, and scheduling. Most franchisors have software programs of their own for their franchisees, who pay for them as part of their initial investment.

The franchisor must also have top notch software for their own internal operations. Things like franchisee sales figures, royalty payments, email marketing metrics and website statistics are all measured, so that management can stay on top of things, and keep the system growing.

5. The Franchisee Network

This may be the best part of the franchise business model. As you learn more and more about the franchise offering that you are interested in, you will find that the franchise director or salesperson can only go so far in dispensing pertinent information about the franchise opportunity. It will be time for you to reach out and talk to the network of franchise owners who are in the business that you may want to get into yourself.

You should call 10-15 franchisees of the franchise concept you are interested in. You will be able to get a lot of your questions answered, but it gets better. Undoubtedly, you will find some commonality with a couple of them. These are the franchisees that have given you permission to call them back if you happen to have more questions before you make your decision. Hold on to these names and numbers. These will be the folks you call after you become a franchisee. You could be calling them to get some much needed advice during those challenging start-up months.

These people will usually go out of their way to help you. They probably had similar help during their own start-up phase, and are more than willing to give it back. Sometimes, close friendships even emerge. After all, they probably went into a business of their own for some of the same reasons that you are thinking of doing so. Talk about a natural bond.

Joel Libava on 2008 franchise trends About the Author: Joel Libava is President and Life Changer of Franchise Selection Specialists. He blogs at The Franchise King Blog.

Effective Market Research tips: 10 Steps Towards Designing a Questionnaire

Posted in Business start up, Marketing with tags , , , on August 10, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Market research is all about reducing your business risks through the smart use of information. It is often cited that ‘knowledge is power’, and through market research you will have the power to discover new business opportunities, closely monitor your competitors, effectively develop products and services, and target your customers in the most cost-efficient way.

However in order to get useful results you need to make sure you are asking the right questions to the right people and in the right way. The following tips are designed to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls when designing a market research questionnaire.

1. What are you trying to find out?
– A good questionnaire is designed so that your results will tell you what you want to find out.
– Start by writing down what you are trying to do in a few clear sentences, and design your questionnaire around this.

2. How are you going to use the information?
– There is no point conducting research if the results aren’t going to be used – make sure you know why you are asking the questions in the first place.
– Make sure you cover everything you will need when it come to analysing the answers. e.g. maybe you want to compare answers given by men and women. You can only do this if you’ve remembered to record the gender of each respondent on each questionnaire.

3. Telephone, Postal, Web, Face-to-Face?
– There are many methods used to ask questions, and each has its good and bad points. For example, postal surveys can be cheap but responses can be low and can take a long time to receive, face-to-face can be expensive but will generate the fullest responses, web surveys can be cost-effective but hit and miss on response rates, and telephone can be costly, but will often generate high response rates, give fast turnaround and will allow for probing.

4. Qualitative or Quantitative?
– Do you want to focus on the number e.g. 87% of respondents thought this, or are you more interested in interpreting feedback from respondents to bring out common themes?
– The method used will generally be determined by the subject matter you are researching and the types of respondents you will be contacting.

5. Keep it short. In fact, quite often the shorter the better.
– We are all busy, and as a general rule people are less likely to answer a long questionnaire than a short one.
– If you are going to be asking your customers to answer your questionnaire in-store, make sure the interview is no longer than 10 minutes maximum (this will be about 10 to 15 questions).
– If your questionnaire is too long, try to remove some questions. Read each question and ask, “How am I going to use this information?” If you don’t know, don’t include it!

6. Use simple and direct language.
– The questions must be clearly understood by the respondent. The wording of a question should be simple and to the point. Do not use uncommon words or long sentences.

7. Start with something general.
– Respondents will be put-off and may even refuse to complete your questionnaire if you ask questions that are too personal at the start (e.g. questions about financial matters, age, even whether or not they are married).

8. Place the most important questions in the first half of the questionnaire.
– Respondents sometimes only complete part of a questionnaire. By putting the most important items near the beginning, the partially completed questionnaires will still contain important information.

9. Leave enough space to record the answers.
– If you are going to include questions which may require a long answer e.g. ask someone why they do a particular thing, then make sure you leave enough room to write in the possible answers. It sounds obvious, but it’s so often overlooked!

10. Test your questionnaire on your colleagues.
– No matter how much time and effort you put into designing your questionnaire, there is no substitute for testing it. Complete some interviews with your colleagues BEFORE you ask the real respondents. This will allow you to time your questionnaire, make any final changes, and get feedback from your colleagues.

Juliet Mumford

http://www.intelligentinsight.co.uk

(00 44) 1536 373182

Negotiation tips for everyday use..

Posted in Business start up, Management / Leadership with tags , , on August 8, 2010 by virtualcitypa

In everyday life we all need to negotiate when dealing with others. How can we make a win:win for both parties..

  • Goals: what do you want to get out of the negotiation? What do you think the other person wants?
  • Trades: What do you and the other person have that you can trade? What do you each have that the other wants? What are you each comfortable giving away?
  • Alternatives: if you don’t reach agreement with the other person, what alternatives do you have? Are these good or bad? How much does it matter if you do not reach agreement? Does failure to reach an agreement cut you out of future opportunities? And what alternatives might the other person have?
  • Relationships: what is the history of the relationship? Could or should this history impact the negotiation? Will there be any hidden issues that may influence the negotiation? How will you handle these?
  • Expected outcomes: what outcome will people be expecting from this negotiation? What has the outcome been in the past, and what precedents have been set?
  • The consequences: what are the consequences for you of winning or losing this negotiation? What are the consequences for the other person?
  • Power: who has what power in the relationship? Who controls resources? Who stands to lose the most if agreement isn’t reached? What power does the other person have to deliver what you hope for?
  • Possible solutions: based on all of the considerations, what possible compromises might there be?

Style is critical…

For a negotiation to be ‘win-win’, both parties should feel positive about the negotiation once it’s over.

http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/NegotiationSkills.htm

Google Adwords – get more traffic

Posted in Business start up, Marketing with tags , , on August 5, 2010 by virtualcitypa

If you’re new to Google Adwords, these are keyword-based, sponsored ads which appear as the top two listings, or down the right-hand side of a Google Results page. Google charges the advertiser a fee (ranging from 5 cents, to tens of $) each time someone clicks on the ad.

In Adwords, you are permitted one line for the headline, not to exceed twenty-five characters, and two lines for copy, not to exceed thirty-five characters. That is all! This takes into account spaces that count as a character. To many, short means simple, correct? Not true! A writer will tell you that it’s much harder to write short content compared to wordier, long content. In short content, every word must make a strong impact. This compact writing will create better search and traffic results.

Google Adwords space has little room for garbage. A well-written Google Adwords is approved faster by Google. Plus, Google ads that are written with purpose have better click-through rates and better responsive visitors. Astonishing how 3 lines of about 70 characters has such power!

A tight Google AdWords ad asks the reader to perform some task. Concentrating on optimizing your keywords and phrases is important. Also, understanding why you selected those words is equally important.

Engineering an effective Google Adwords isn’t going to happen overnight, so below are some useful tips:

1. Start with what you most want your visitors to grasp. Put that into in copy that holds meaning for your target audience in a language that is understood by them. Use the following tips to trim your copy.

2. Copy moves the reader to click-through. Use power words, benefits or attention-grabbers. Start with two columns. In the first column, list a feature. Then, in the next column, list a benefit of the feature.

3. State only true claims. These claims can be showstoppers but leave out “free” if a condition is involved. Google guidelines must be followed (https://adwords.google.com/select/guidelines.html).

4. Don’t skirt around what your customers want. The power of the Internet allows your customers to look for you and they want something specific. Announce loud and clear that you’re there by using a headline that’s precise.

5. Keywords should be split-tested for their power on Results in Google Search. Plus, test several versions of your Adword on Google and change an ad that’s not performing well. Even by changing one word, your click-through ratio can sky rocket. Google will drop ads that perform very poorly.

6. Square brackets around keywords and customizing headlines are some programming tricks for an Adwords. Any keyword matches from a search will be highlighted in the Google ad if you bracket the keyword. A dynamic headline is customized to change according to searches. For instance, by using “Keyword:” in brackets in the headline followed by difference search terms, those terms will be displayed as the headline. An example is [Keyword: Writing Effective Google Adwords].

7. Cut out unnecessary words like a, an, in, on, it, of, etc.

8. Boast what makes you stand out or unique. Can you offer something for a percentage less or better than competitors?

9. Get rid of freebie seekers by putting the deals or discount at the end of the ad.

10. Emotion, energy and response come from power words and call-to-action. Use only words and statements that match your product or service. Sample power words include discover, these, and enhance.

Tight writing comes from identifying exactly what you want your customer to do with the information you provide. Not only will your click-through rate improve but also your self-monitored conversion ratio should improve when you make AdWords work in your favor.

Riki Trafford is the manager of Direct MO Marketing Inc which offers low cost keyword-targetted web traffic. For comments and questions visit his web site: http://www.1dmom.com/

Need a Translation? Top Tips for Buying Language Services

Posted in Translation with tags , , , on August 4, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Using a translation agency is a must when you are planning to do business outside the UK.

Choose your agency wisely and your project will become efficient, cost-effective and your translation will get the attention it deserves. 

Choose unwisely it most likely will be detrimental to your business.

Preparing for translation!

  • The better you plan your project, the more painless the process will be.
  • Be aware how long the original text took to create and this will be a good indicator of the translation time. 
  • Your document should be clear and precise as spelling errors can lead to translation problems. 
  • Send the document to the translation company by email and ask them to give you a quotation.  This means that you will get a price more quickly, and your prices will be more accurate than if you ask over the phone. 
  • Make sure that you check whether the service includes proofreading and a format check.  Some agencies charge extra for these services. 
  • Ask if you can discuss your project with the person who may be managing it, so that you can see if you feel comfortable with them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask if the agency offers any reassurances on the quality of their translations.  This could be in the form of free trial translations, or an insight into their quality assurance processes. 
  • If you are short on time a good agency will manage your project from start to finish, leaving you free to carry on with your own job. 
  • Remember, translators employed by an agency must be native speakers of the target language; as well as also being able to understand the nuances of the original text.

And finally, Beware! Not everyone who speaks a foreign language is a translator. Make sure you hire qualified professionals for the job.

Here are some examples where meaning has been ‘lost in translation’:

  • The name coca-cola was first rendered in China as ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately it was discovered, after thousands of signs had been printed, that the phrase means Bite the wax tadpole!
  • The translation of the Pepsi slogan ‘come alive with the Pepsi generation’ came out in Taiwanese as ‘Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead’.
  • A sign In a laundry in Rome read ‘Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time’.