Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Increase Your Business Profits With A Strategic Business Plan

A Strategic Business Plan involves putting your vision for your business into words, deciding where you want to go with your business, and developing strategies to get you there. Generally, when deciding on writing a business plan, entrepreneurs often focus on listing the goals of their businesses, with little emphasis on how those goals are to be achieved.
  • Writing a Strategic Business Plan will nudge you to ask questions such as: How do I turn my vision into the desired result? How do I get my employees to perform optimally? How do I attract new employees with the skills that my company needs? How do I attract new customers or clients? How do I obtain the finance to run my business? All these questions point to implementation.
  • However, implementation rings hollow if it is not backed by a well thought out strategy. In simple terms, a strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. While it is clear that the primary goal of a business is to make a profit, the drivers for achieving that goal are the kind of strategies chosen, and whether or not they are implemented.
  • A Strategic Business Plan will require that you evaluate the market you are planning to enter. What is the level of competition in the market? Are existing companies in the market doing well? What is the future prospect of the market? Do you have the right product and prices for the market? Is your organizational structure adequate to succeed in the market? Are your financial resources sufficient to maintain your business operation?
  • When satisfied that you have chosen the right market, develop your organizational structure, taking into account the vision, values and mission of your business. Key departments in your organizational structure will include the office/home, raw materials procurement, manufacturing, Warehouse, Purchasing and Sales, Transportation, Accounting, etc.
  • You will set goals for each of these departments. You will call them ‘secondary goals’ to differentiate them from the ‘primary’ goal of your business, which is to make a profit. The secondary goals define what each department should achieve, within a given period, with its available financial, material and manpower resources. These goals are broken down into ‘objectives’ with each objective assigned to an individual or a team for implementation.
  • As mentioned earlier, implementation is driven by well thought out strategies or a plan of action. What strategy is chosen will depend primarily on the objective, then on the internal and external resources of the business, as well as any known limiting factors that may interfere with implementing the objective. In the end, the strategy chosen should ensure full implementation of the objective; otherwise the objective will have to be modified to fit the strategy, or the strategy modified to fit the objective.
  • Implementation of the objectives must bend toward achieving the secondary goal to which they are linked. To ensure that this happens, the relationship between strategies and objectives should be actively evaluated to produce evidence that implementation is achieving the secondary goals as planned, and where such is not happening corrective action promptly taken to bring implementation in line with objectives.  
  • Once the secondary goals are being achieved, and all the departments in the business are operating optimally, the conditions are created for achieving the primary goal of the business, which is to make a profit. Under a Strategic Business Plan, strategy and planning are brought together where planning produces attainable objectives, and strategy provides the action to implement them toward achieving the primary and secondary goals of the business.
  • A Strategic Business Plan can be drawn up for any type of business regardless of size. For instance, a Home-Based business with only one employee could represent the various departments in the business with individual files: digital or physical files. The secondary goal and the objectives of each department are put in one file. The entrepreneur will develop strategies depending on the nature of the objectives to be implemented, and his or her resources to achieve them. Achieving the objectives and secondary goals of each department will move implementation toward achieving the primary goal of the business, which is to make a profit.
A Strategic Business Plan does not only press for the formulation of attainable business objectives and strategies to achieve the primary and secondary goals of the business, but it is an ‘action document’ designed to assist in the application for government grants or loans from the bank, as well as an indicator of an effectively managed business. 

Because of limited space, only an overview of a Strategic Business Plan can be provided here. Contact a financial consultant for detail information on how to write one for your business.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Customer Service - Your Ticket To Increase Profits In A Competitive Market

“The customer is always right”, is a cliché repeated so often that its significance tends to elude us while busy organizing and managing our businesses. Yet it is one of the most important drivers to success in a competitive market.

  • On the other hand, there is the temptation for management to become so obsessed with the cliché that employees are made to feel like non-persons. Where this has occurred, employees resentment has been abated by appropriate customer service training to empower employees with the knowledge that they are not servants whose sole purpose is to be at the beck and call of customers, but professionals trained to provide specific services, as a physician or a college professor is called upon to do.
  • The success of a customer service training program depends on hiring customer-oriented employees with the right temperament to serve all customers, and able to ask relevant questions and listen carefully to the answers in order to provide customers with what they want.
  • Customer service will include training employees to answer the telephone on the third ring with a cheerful voice and willingness to be helpful; treating customers respectfully and courteously at all times; greeting customers by name, if known; promptly answering their questions, and, if you cannot, getting back to them with an answer as quickly as possible; and knowing the benefits and features of the product you are selling.
  • While company policies and procedures are necessary to maintain quality standard, they should be flexible to allow employees to improvise in situations where customer service guidelines offer no help. For example, a customer in a clothing store may want information on a restaurant in the area. The employee should be able to provide that information without fear that she would be reprimanded for doing something outside her normal job.
  • According to Customer Service Institute, 65% of business comes from existing customers, and it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep existing ones satisfied. Additionally, losing an existing customer is very expensive. Studies from the Technical Assistance Research Program Institute show that 91% of unhappy customers will never again buy from the company that displeased them, they will also tell at least 7 to 11 other people about their dissatisfaction.
  •  These statistics show customer service is an important part of doing business, so important that customer service is now included as part of the product: meaning without it the chain of production, from the procurement of raw materials, through the production processes and into the retail store, will not provide the end user with the best product at the lowest possible price. Not to mention low sales and profits for a company lacking in effective customer service.
  • Critical to customer satisfaction is understanding customers and the way they think. To keep your existing customers happy you must give them what they want, not what you think they want. Customers do business on the basis that they want what they want when they want it. They expect you to be true to your word, and to deliver on time. Customers tend to go to businesses they like and trust. Most customers stick with businesses they are familiar with, and slow to change buying habits unless dissatisfied with the service.
  • In the present competitive environment, providing average customer service is not enough. You need to do something extra that your competitors are not doing. Find ways to speed up your service by eliminating redundant processes, give out discount coupons, stay open longer hours, provide home delivery, take calls at night when your customers are home from work, and offer a free subscription to your newsletter with updated information on your products.
  • Survey your customers regularly. Ask them to fill in customer questionnaire forms. Display the questionnaire forms where they are easily reached, and thank the customer for taking the time to fill it. Follow up on the comments, analyze them, draw a chart, correct and improve where needed to meet or exceed your customers expectation.
During our busy working day, we sometimes forget that our businesses continue to exist because of customers. We tend to see them as faceless and nameless entities that buy our products: numbers that bring us income. Times have changed. Today’s customers are more sophisticated, and they want a say in the way a business is run, because they see business as being there to service their needs, and they want those needs met with quality service and promptly.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How To Use Pay Per Click (PPC) To Make Money On The Internet

Pay Per Click or PPC is paid advertisement, offered by Google Adwords, Yahoo Search Marketing, MSN AdCenter, MIVA and others. It can be expensive, but if done right it should make you lots of money. Since your account will be charged within 48 hours of signing up, when you begin receiving clicks on your ads, it is important to have everything right before you sign up.
  • Avoid keywords and keyword phrases that are too general or highly competitive. These will bring only curiosity seekers to your website, or be so expensive as to empty your bank account in just a few weeks. Select keywords and keyword phrases that will bring to your website people who want to buy the specific product you are selling. For instance, don’t choose a general keyword phrase like ‘weight loss’ when you are selling weight loss equipment. Choose ‘weight loss equipment’ to bring to your website visitors interested in weight lose equipment, not weight loss drink or weight loss magazine.
  • Your keyword or keyword phrase is the foundation of your ad. To be effective it needs to appear in your ad title, the message of the ad and in your URL. The function of PPC ad is to get the attention of the reader, draw him into reading it, and hopefully click on the ad. It is not enough for the ad to merely introduce your product, it has to motivate and inspire readers to slow down and look at what you have to offer. All this has to be done in few words. This can be a challenge, so learn the words that sell, attract or grab attention like “Quick results”, “Must see”, “Groundbreaking”, “Instant ..”
  • Another function of the PPC ad is to bring visitors who are interested in your product to your website or blog. When they click on your ad, they expect to go to a landing page with information about the product mentioned in your PPC ad. If you take them to a landing page with scanty or no relevant information about the item advertised, you will lose them, and that means losing money. If your aim is to make money on the Internet, link you PPC ad to a landing page choke full of relevant information that will motivate visitors to buy your product.
  • A properly organized landing page will do two things: provide relevant information about your product, and lay the groundwork for a lasting business relationship with your visitors. The PPC ad has completed its task when it brings a visitor to your website or blog. It is now left to you to give your visitor ample reason not only to buy your product, but to come back again. In other words, encourage your customers to become repeat customers by giving them something of value. Offer them a discount on their next purchase, a free subscription to your newsletter, or free membership to your priority after-sale service club.
  • While PPC ads will bring targeted visitors to your website or blog, if that’s all you do, the gradual increase in your cost per click will overtime make it unaffordable, especially if you are on a tight budget. How to get around this is to keep unchanged the amount you want to spend each day, and live with a reduction in the daily clicks. This means your PPC ad will be taken off the Internet when the amount for the day is used up, which is why it is important to attract visitors to your website by other means including ‘linking’ of which are two: reciprocal and one-way linking.
  • When someone links to your website, it is an expression of his vote of confidence in the quality of your content. If the website linking to yours has a high ranking, it gives a boost to your website ranking on the Internet. Although generally, it is thought that reciprocal linking is not as valuable as one-way linking for search engine optimization (SEO). Still, swapping links with sites in a related, but non-competing business to your business can be a significant traffic generator. You can also swap links with web directories that require a reciprocal link, but be careful not to link to a major competitor. If you do there is a good chance you will lose visitors to your competitor.
  • One-way linking is considered the best form of link for generating traffic to a website. There are a number of ways of getting one-way links. One way is submitting your website to free web directories. Another is writing articles relevant to your site or industry, putting a resource box with your name and contact information at the bottom, then submitting the article to ezine publishers. Webmasters and ezine publishers are always in need of fresh content, and will publish your article for free. Yet another way is when other webmasters voluntarily link to you. This doesn’t happen often, unless you are providing a valuable tool, service or resource that other webmasters believe their visitors will benefit from.
Again, while PPC can be very expensive, if used strategically, you can leverage the exposure from it to generate a ‘multiplier effect’ to increase traffic to your website and still remain within your budget. For instance, if you attracted 20 targeted visitors to your website who were impressed by your content, they will tell their friends, and their friends will tell their friends, and soon 100s, perhaps 1000s of visitors will come directly to your website using your URL instead of clicking on the PPC ad. This additional traffic will cost you nothing, yet the reward will be increased sales and profit. What more could you ask for?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What You Need To Know To Avoid Failing In A Home-Based Business

When you decide on starting a home-based business you need to have a working knowledge of the difference between a business and a hobby. You will pursue a hobby for pleasure or relaxation with no intent to make a living from it. You start a business to make a profit.

  • To make a profit requires that you have a business attitude and run your business as a business. Decide whether you want to engage yourself as a full-time worker or a part-time worker. As full-time worker, you will need to put in at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Being your own boss doesn’t mean you should work any less than when working for someone.
  • If this is your first time starting a home-based business, you will notice how quickly and easily your business and home activities can interfere with each other. To prevent this from happening, create a comfortable working space where you can go to focus on work, free from distractions. Provide your working space with all the stationary and equipment you need, so that you don’t have to frequently leave your work to search for stationary or equipment you might need.
  • Develop a time schedule that works for you, your family or partner and your business. Let those who have a claim on your time, such as your children and husband be aware of the hours when you are working and cannot leave what you are doing, except in an emergency. Your schedule should not be overly ambitious or rigid in order to allow you time to engage in family and social activities. 
  • Create a concise one or two sentence description of your business that someone can easily say to describe your business to family and friends. A unique tag line will also help immensely to promote your business. Something like this is a good example: Ezy Net Articles: get only the facts, no fluff.
  • After you select the product or service you wish to sell, spent some quality time on gathering information about it. Find out how the product will benefit the buyer, how it is made, where it is made, what is the price of the product, can your target buyers afford the price, are there lower priced substitutes to the product in your target market, is there an existing demand for the product? Know your product ‘inside out’, and if you provide quality information to your customers, you will become their preferred supplier.
  • When satisfied that your selection is the best product for your target market, the next step is to introduce the product to your customers. Since you may not want customers to come to your home to do business, an Internet presence will provide a space where you can introduce your product: its benefits and features, prices and discounts, how to order and pay for it, the method of shipment, your returns policy, and after sales services.
  • You may already know that to create a website you need to register the domain name of your business with a reputable registrar like GoDaddy, or any domain registrar of your choice. You will be provided with a URL, which is your business’ website address. With the URL, your customers can access the website for information about your product.
  • Because there are millions of websites on the Internet, nobody will know that your website exists unless you tell people about it. You can do so either by word of mouth, or by free and paid advertisement. After a few weeks on the Internet, you will find that the quickest way to bring visitors to your website is through paid advertisement like Google Adword or pay-per-click (PPC). You will need to know about keywords, keyword phrases and search engine optimization (SEO) in order to benefit from pay-per-click ad.
  • Once your business is on the Internet, your computer becomes the lifeline of your business. You need to protect it at all times to maintain communication with your customers. You will need a virus scanner, personal firewall, anti-spyware and anti-adware and preferably an email scanner with the ability to delete spam email from the server before it is downloaded to your computer. Reputable companies like Norton and McAfee are two of the best in the anti-virus and computer protection field.
  • When you begin to sell your product, and the money starts rolling into your bank account, find a reputable accountant to advice you on good record keeping practices and on your tax obligations. Relying on your own knowledge, or on your cousin Joe to perform these professional services is the surest way to financial ruin and problems with the IRS.
Of course, before you decide on starting a home-based business you would have thought about where to obtain the initial capital to finance your business. For some useful information on business loan application, read my articles: 9 Tips To Maximize Your Chances Of Obtaining A Small Business Loan.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Weight Loss. Is Low Carbohydrates The Answer

The hype about low carb diet has been blown out of proportion. It fails to reduce body fat as fast and as permanently as promised, at worse it could be harmful to your health if started without supervision by your doctor.
  • The human body holds 2.4 gram of water per 1 gram of carbohydrate consumed. Cutting back on the consumption of carbohydrates will cause your body to hold less water and lose weight, but very little loss in body fat, which is the actual cause of overweight.
  • The weight loss from a low carb diet is as deceptive as it is dangerous. The body stores carbohydrates as glycogen to fuel muscles activities. Under a low carb regimen, the body loses water, as well as the loss of glycogen in the muscles making you feel sluggish when trying to be active or do exercise.
  • Again, since the brain uses carbohydrates for energy, with a sharp cut in carbohydrates intake the brain will not function optimally. You will suffer from repeated lightheadedness, unable to fully concentrate on, and retain information. You will always feel something is missing, and to be sure, it is glycogen.
  • You may have read or heard, ad nauseum, that carbohydrate is stored as fat in the body, but so do all other foods. Foods and beverages have calories, and calories that are not used up through normal activity are stored as fat. Hence, a low carb diet will not end the storing of fat in your body if you continue eating high calorie food.
  • Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar or glucose, which is the body’s source of energy. Research has shown that carbohydrates are rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients not found in other foods. Carbohydrates are of two kinds, generally referred to as good and bad carbohydrates, and each affects the body differently.
  • Good carbohydrates are foods in their natural state, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grain bread, cereals, pastas and the like. They are high in fiber, give the body energy over long periods of time, lower cholesterol levels and help in the removal of toxin from the body. High fiber carbs also have low glycemic index that prevents a spike in blood sugar.
  • Bad carbohydrates are foods that have been refined and processed by man or machines such as candy, baked foods with refined white flour, white pastas and sodas. They are loaded with coloring, flavoring, preservatives, and have high glycemic index. High consumption of bad carbohydrates lead to weight gain and increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.
  • What this information means to you is that carbohydrates are good when eaten in small to moderate amounts, along with regular exercise, because your body needs carbohydrates to function optimally. Focus on eating carbohydrates high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains products.
  • Vary the amount and type of carbohydrates you eat depending on your daily activities. For instance, after a vigorous workout, you may eat that bowl of spaghetti and meatball or pizza you’ve been wanting, or even some ice cream. On days that you don’t workout, eating carbohydrates with low glycemic index will be fine.
A low carbohydrate diet will mainly reduce the water content of your body, leaving largely untouched your body fat, which is the main culprit of overweight. Additionally, if overdone, a low carb diet can be harmful to your health. To be sure that you are on the right path, consult with your doctor before getting on a low carb diet.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Infidelity, Its Causes And Solution

Infidelity is a betrayal of the core shared values that define an intimate relationship. It comes in two forms: physical and emotional infidelity, but in common usage infidelity usually refers to physical infidelity.

  • Two people once madly in love with each other,who eventually get married suddenly wake up one day and discover they have changed from the loving, caring, forgiving, and non-combative persons they were before to hiding an affair from their spouse and then lying about it.
  • When confronted by their conscience or spouse, they rationalize their behavior in these words: "My marriage is dead. I have lost interest in sex. There is no excitement in my marriage. We have grown apart. We do not share the same interest. My days were dead ends, I needed a way out and the affair just happened."
  • Traditionally, we put the blame for a divorce on the husband for having done something wrong, but statistics show that 70 - 75% of divorces are initiated by women. Four years into a marriage things begin to change. At least two children may have arrived. The household chores increase. The husband stays at work too late; either to avoid the household chores or simply is working too hard.
  • The wife feels left to do all the chores alone. She begins to build resentment for her husband's perceived care-free life. At first to a lesser degree, almost unnoticeable, then it begins to show and escalates if her husband continues with his care-free lifestyle.
  • If she has a full time job, her condition is worse; as she alone has to get the kids ready for school, prepare their breakfast, lunch, take them to school or to the school bus, pick them up from school, drop them off at after school programs, pick them up again, prepare dinner and get them ready for bed; only to start all over again the next day.
  • If her husband does not notice the stress under which she is running the home and help with at least 50% of the household chores, she will let him know her displeasure in short order. At the end of a long day, she is exhausted and doesn't want to be touched. Her husband takes that as a rejection and recoils. A wall begins to rise between them. She is occupied with the household chores and the children, and loses interest in sex.
  • Conversation between the two is reduced to perfunctory remarks, monosyllabic responses and sudden outbursts of anger or tears. Both feel trapped in a condition of unhappiness. Knowing it is unhealthy and wanting a way out, they begin to look to friends for the happiness they cannot find at home. The spouse under the most pressure is the first to be attracted to someone else.
  • When the opportunity presents itself she will start an affair. Happy days are here again, fireworks light up her life, and once again she is riding on the crest of those giddy emotional highs. Still doing the household chores, though, she is happiest when with her lover. Soon she is telling her husband they need time apart to recharge their love for each other.
  • A husband who doesn't see this as the beginning of the end has himself to blame when his wife asks for a divorce. Infidelity can be caused by things other than household chores. A wife may lose interest in sex with her husband, because he did not take care of himself, became overweight and sexually unattractive, he spends most of his free time away from her, or he stops supporting the family financially.
Whatever the cause, her boredom, frustration and unhappiness will push her into the arms of another man, just as - short of being a pathological philanderer - a husband who is not happy with his wife will be attracted to another woman. To hold onto your husband read How To Bring Passion Back Into Your Relationship.
 

Similarly, a husband who shows genuine interest in what is happening in his wife's life, supports her emotionally and financially, willing to help at all times with the household chores, and maintains a healthy weight is most likely to steer his wife away from infidelity. If the infidelity persists, be sure to see a marriage counsellor.