How Can Busy Entrepreneurs Recognize and Solve Business Problems?

What Are You Missing? Start-up executives can become too close to the project, to busy managing the minutia, and stretched too thin due to lack of staff, time and financial resources to notice the flaws in their plans. In most cases, the work is extremely hard and requires numerous, long hours that turn into days and then turn into months. It becomes difficult for the Founders, and executives to stay focused on the critical tactics and strategies necessary to lift their company to the next phase in growth.

Meetings with trouble-shooting Consultants or venture Coaches can help Founders navigate through the challenging times and rough waters of launching a startup. Experienced Consultants know how to walk the fine line between enthusiastically recognizing the business model and market potential while offering critical consulting advice and strategic planning. Founders need to recognize that the Consultant’s analysis and criticism is a strategic necessity for the realization of the company’s short term and long term potential. Moreover, a good Consultant will be able to quickly assess the strengths and weaknesses of the plan and zone in to recognize the problems or blockages – good Consultants are natural trouble shooters and problem solvers. Founders need to recognize when their plans are not being realized and take the risk by hiring and paying for an outsider who can become a part-time addition to the company’s strategic capital.

In a recent meeting with confident and enthusiastic Founders of a promising startup business, let’s call it The Glick Company, and myself (a business venture consultant), it became evident that the Glick’s Founders were overlooking and not performing on several critical issues in their plan.

In this case, the Glick executives had an incomplete product launch and capital strategy. They were busy working on the product refinements and hoping for one large customer that they were not paying attention other critical problems. Collectively, the Founders could not “see” some of the problems that were blocking the progress of their company. One of the two Founders determined outside advice was critical for the company to reach its potential. Many of the strategic pieces were in place, but the firm lacked the cohesive tactical and execution plan in several areas.

After a meeting and several telephone calls, the consultant identified that the Glick Founders had not tested the product in the marketplace, put together any other pricing or marketing strategies (besides the one large deal), did not have a strong capitalization plan in place and were not aware of how to take advantage and re-position their strengths for an upcoming investors meeting. There were workable solutions to their challenges, but it took an outsider to recognize the challenges and provide a vision and a plan for the executive management team to follow.

During the two hour meeting between the Glick Founders and the Consultant, the payoff was recognizing what was not working and how to avoid additional, future problems.

The meeting ended with several new ideas, plans and strategies for the Glick team to implement. The product was to be tested in the market place; the Founders would have very useful and accurate feedback from a qualified focus group. Marketing materials outlining the features and benefits of their product were going to be developed. The Glick sales team was to begin marketing the product to the top 1000 qualified buyers to try to obtain Letters of Intent and fill the manufacturing pipeline. Back up manufacturers in place were to be found and pricing guidelines and models were to be implemented. We determined ways to best present the company, the team strengths and the progress at an upcoming investors meeting to ask for additional capital investments. Each of the solutions became milestones towards the progress of launching the product in the marketplace.

Would this outcome have been the same without hiring a Consultant or a Coach? It is hard to say, but the Glick team was extremely pleased with the time and money spent working through some of their strategic challenges and determining new solutions to existing problems. Within a week after the meeting, I received a email from the Founder stating that the investor meeting went well and additional capital was raised. This was the best news I could hope for….

Small Business Spending on Digital and Social Still Growing

2011 Outlook for Small Business Digital Marketing

Just received some updated statistics on Small Business advertising spend from the 2011 Outlook report from Borrell Associates. Borrell surveyed over 2,800 Small Business owners to find that, of the 84 percent who will spend on digital, 53 percent plan on increasing their budgets in 2011. Money invested in website development, social media and e-mail marketing will grow more than 30 percent in 2011. On the flip-side, local print media, newspapers, directories and radio will continue to get squeezed out of the budget with double-digit cuts across the board from most SMB’s.

According to the report, Small Business represents a huge growth market, and accounted for over 70 percent of all online advertising expenditures last year. Social media is especially interesting for SMB’s and most are interested in Facebook, Twitter, location-based services, and daily deals platforms. I think YouTube also makes sense for the right kind of small business so I’d expect to see some interest and spending there as well. It was interesting that Borrell did not include any data related to YouTube or Mobile marketing strategies. Despite all of the buzz around mobile and video, it seems that small business owners just have not caught-on the way larger brands and retailers have.

Potential Pitfalls

Despite all the data suggesting growth and willingness to spend, the reality is that there is still a lot of confusion as to who to work with to make all of this happen. There is so much noise in the market right now, with average small business owners getting 22 new media advertising pitches a month. These pitches range from local boutique agencies to national solutions like Yodle, ReachLocal and Web.com. It is this noise and shear amount of options that paralyzes decisions makers. With so many so called experts and best-of-breed technology platforms to review and analyze, making a decision alone can take several weeks.

Furthermore, many Small Business owners still lack a real understanding of digital. Website analytics, social media insights and search engine marketing tactics are still fuzzy. Due to this minimal amount of knowledge, SMB’s must trust the provider they partner with to do the right thing. Unfortunately, most of the “big-boys” of SMB marketing are focusing on market share and not the quality of the products or services they provide. This mentality leads to less than stellar results for business owners and a burned relationship for the provider – which ultimately hurts the perception of every SMB marketing company.

Product Creation – Successful Entrepreneurs Develop Their Own Products

There is nothing like having your own product to sell. You can keep all the profits for yourself. If you are selling affiliate product, you have to worry whether the company will remain in business, or whether the rates of commission will reduce or that there is not enough market for those products. In fact, when you have your own product, you can affiliate it and offer commissions for its sale. But in this case also, you get to keep a good portion of the profits.

You can develop products to distribute freely or you can sell them to earn profits. When you distribute freely, you get to build a list which can then be useful in marketing your products. There are 2 requirements of products.

1. They must be wanted by your target audience. You cannot sell something which does not serve any purpose or does not solve any problem. If you find that your customers need information on how to lose weight, you must write an e-book on ways of losing weight. If your target audience wants to know what the great places to visit in Singapore are, you write about that. So where do you find what they want. For this, you must regularly visit internet forums related to your field of interest and watch what people are talking about.

2. The products must be in downloadable format. For instance, if you are writing an e-book, make it available in PDF format which is easy to share and print. If you are making an audio product, create it in MP3 format which is the most widely used format for audio files. On the internet, people want instant gratification. As soon as they sign up to your list, they would expect to get the freebie or the product.

There are many types of products you can create digitally. I will explain about 3 such products.

1. E-book: You can create an e-book which is nothing but your content, organized in chapters and presented with an attractive title. E-books are very popular information products and can be used in a variety of ways.

2. Audio Product: You can record a training session or an interview and develop and audio product. If the interview is long, break it up into small parts and run an email audio course. All you need to do is to give out the link in the email and students will access it from your servers.

3. Screen Capture Product: You can develop products to teach people how to use the internet or any other software product. Use tools like Camtasia to capture screens of the products and add a voice over to explain the navigation.

Developing your own product is the first step to take your entrepreneurship to the next level of success.

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