Moving Up the Information Value Chain to Address Future Needs

The study of intangible data, information, knowledge, and ideas have helped us craft careers and livelihoods around them in this information age.  But

Most small business either sell data, information, knowledge, or ideas. The following tips might help you find the niche your business is in.

  • If your business comprises of collating numbers for customer surveys, managing someone’s itineraries, or transcribing voice into print, then your business falls under the selling data category.
  • If your main source of revenue depends on compiling data into easily understandable charts, tables, and summaries, then your firm falls under the category of selling information. Moreover, this category also includes, but are not limited to doing research and mining data to reveal useful industry trends.
  • If your business’ main mission is combine information to produce special reports, publish books, create videos, or design training seminars, then it definitely falls under the category of selling knowledge.
  • If combining knowledge from different sources allows your business to create new approaches, craft strategies, formulate tangible action plans, and propose solutions, then it falls under the selling ideas category.

Based on my observations, most small businesses seem to fall under the ‘Selling Information’ category.

Selling information is very useful to any industry; which in turn means that selling information can be very profitable. On the other hand, being the profitable industry that it is, selling information means that there is also more competition. Businesses in the industry selling data, information, and knowledge are quickly getting more demands from their customer base. In turn, more and more businesses are setting up shop every day to cater to these needs.

From my experience, I see that the industries are moving from quantity to timely relevant quality. If you observe people around you, you would see that there are lots of people who still contract the services of a travel agent, just for very simple trips. Likewise, you would observe that people still love watching medical shows on the television even if there are lots of available medical information that can be found on the internet.

In this information age, almost anyone of us has access to any data or information that we need; yet, we still want experts to do most of the hard labor for us. Due to us being  time-poor and results-driven at the same time, we’d like to have an expert take care of these things. One example that I can think of is that if you need to fix a certain issue on your website, do you download in a crash course in HTML, or do you just have a web developer do it?  My thoughts, exactly.

Based on the current trends, I reckon that there will be needs on the following:

  • We need people to make sense of the available data and information to create relevant knowledge that we can apply to our business.
  • We need people who will make sense of data and information so that we can use these in our businesses.
  •  We only need knowledge and ideas – on demand; just when we need them. We therefore need people who can make a relevant contribution to our business.

Have you considered how your business are going to meet these future needs?

One of the best tips that I can share with you is to move up the information value chain. Moving up not only adds more value to your products and services, but it also allows you to create a diverse portfolio of offerings.

The higher you move up the information value chain, the safer you will be from commodisation. Not only that, but you will also potentially increase your market differentiation.


Increase Your Sales with these Strategies

Every year’s business planning session or goal setting workshop would always include the words “increase sales” or any derivative of it. Increasing sales, as a goal, entails having strategic plans to enhance the chances of getting the business you need. This enhancement, in turn, will be a stepping stone to attain your year’s goals.

Throughout the next twelve months, the business you will gather will be based on the number of potential customers you can successfully identify and qualify. This increase in business will also depend on the number of your approaches these prospects and the number of initial meets that you can schedule.

What’s more is that basing your strategic sales plans on attracting potential customers, instead of approaching them, will be determined by how many marketing activities you can partake in. These activities can involve, but are not limited to, showcasing your business and getting more ‘face-time’ that will attract more potential customers to your product or service.

Here are five effective ways on how to craft strategies to increase your sales.

Craft a Solid Action Plan

One of the key factors in increasing sales is that you have a solid action plan in place. Once implemented, this robust plan will deliver your needed volume of prospective customers that you can include in your sales pipeline. Always remember that action plans are always ‘SMART;’ specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

Identify What you Can Implement NOW

Another key to hitting the required sales increase, as specified in your yearly goal, is to find out what action plans or activities that you can implement today. Doing so will take you a few steps nearer your goal within a very short amount of time.

Increase Your ‘Face-Time’ with Customers

To start off, you can create a list of all the activities and organizations (whether they’re events, organizations, seminars, and such) that your target prospects will most likely be attending within the year. Attending these will be great opportunities to expand your network, make your business more known in the industry, and get to meet prospective clients all in one go. Don’t wait until the last minute, reserve yourself a seat today.

Increase Your Visibility in Media Channels

You can also start this action plan off by creating a list of all media resources that you can review on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to further identify prospective customers. Once again, don’t wait until the last minute, get your subscription to these media channels today.

Implement action Plans that Attract Prospects

You can do this by identifying all the opportunities and taking part in activities that allow you to market your business. You can approach event organizers today and ask for the opportunity to address your target audience. You can also approach editors and journalists today and ask for the opportunity to write articles or get featured in a spot to better attract your target prospects.


Your Business’s Salability

After spending a good part of your life establishing and eventually growing your business into a profitable entity, could you honestly say that everything was worth your while? Do all your efforts even make a sense? Is your business even sellable?

I had a pep talk with someone who ran his own agency for two decades and our conversation steered to retirement; he said he was already planning to call it off. So I asked him what his options on his business are, whether he has some plans made. His response really caught me off guard. He said he probably will just literally call it off, close his business for good and refer his loyal clients to other professionals of his field. I know that selling a business is not as easy as selling pancakes, but if you have ran the business for a score of years then you must at least have a fighting chance of being able to sell it somehow. I can’t quite figure out the waste of the amount of effort and time making up your business only to close it for good after some time.

The scenario prompted me to muse about my own business. I run a successful copywriting business for 7 fruitful years, and this really got me thinking about its future. I haven’t had contemplated of ever selling my business if ever it comes to that, not before, not now. I think it does not stand a chance of a sale as of today, it does not have the form and I have not the slightest inclination.  Had I only thought of selling my business, I would have done things differently in preparation for a future sale. For those contemplating of selling your business, you should groom it from the start.

If you wish to make some money on your business you could rent it out to someone and secure for yourself regular revenue while you are out there enjoying your freedom days. Or you could make your business formidable, make its finances sound and healthy, making huge profits along the way, and then sell it for a hefty price by the time you want to call it off already.

Most of the business owners are more short business term oriented because most are also into servicing in nature. But in any way, anyone could still sell a business when it is called for.

You ever think of selling your business? Does it have what it takes to entice potential buyers?

business grow

Ten Tips on How To Make Your Business Flourish

The everyday struggle of the market competition can make or break you if you did not make the cut. Here are some business boosting points from business owners that use them to on top their games.

1. Do not be afraid to invest and expand your workforce and workload.

The addition of work force in the office can benefit your business enterprise. The addition of effective professional workforce will not only lighten up your daily workload, but it will also enhance the performance and quality of your workforce.

2. Make your Business visible.

Advertising an ad placement on newspapers and mainstream media can open up great market opportunities for you. If you are on a tight budget, blogs and internet content can also boost your visibility effectively without the cost of mainstream advertisement.

3. Train your personnel to work according to your management style.

Effectively training and making you personnel up to date with the latest trends and technology in the industry will make them more effective in the workplace. Training your personnel according to what suits your management style will configure your workplace the way you would want it.

4. Make your business the talk of the town.

Once in a while, you should offer promotion deals that could put your business’ name in the mouth of the public for its great deal. You will get more recognition thru the use of this strategy.

5. Make a good name for you and your business.

Sponsoring worthwhile community activities like that of a charity type of event can give an image of  you giving back to the community for their support of your business. In these events, you could also meet potential business deals with your co-philanthropists.

6. Invest in better record keeping and always keep tract with your contacts and transactions.

Managing your contacts and transactions will give you the edge of knowing who among your contacts have what you need, at what time, and at what price. This will save a lot of time in canvassing for the materials that you may need based on your previous interactions with past suppliers.

7. Be a Hands-on business owner; learn through practice.

Spending time in managing and running your business  real-time is priceless for an entrepreneur. The more you immerse yourself in your business enterprise, the more you can gather useful insights on how you can make your business work for you.

8. Maximize, utilize and minimize.

Maximize all available resources that are available to you. You can also use the offers and promos of other companies to turn the tables. Furthermore, always utilize your workforce effectively so that the amount of workload can be increased. Minimize costs and losses by proper handling of and management of your workforce and resources.

9. Hire specialists if you must.

As business owners,  we can do multitasking at times and effectively save money and resources. However, once your company starts expanding, hire additional personnel to accommodate the added workload.

10. Employ effective technological advances to your advantage.

Do not hesitate to try labor-saving and resource-maximizing technologies to your advantage. These technologies can save you the money that are usually spent on expensive manual work.


Spend More Time in Marketing to Close More Sales

If you find selling to a potential customer very taxing, then you would be in for a big surprise. You hate selling because your marketing strategies are weak.

For most business owners, the idea of selling to potential clients brings about a shiver on the spine. I think I’ve heard hundreds among hundreds of entrepreneurs say that selling isn’t really the best tool in their drawer. If I had a dollar every time I’ve heard that, then I would’ve just established a business

The reason most of us loathe selling is because we always put a negative connotation to it. When it comes to sales, we always imagine someone trying to sell us something that we don’t really need or want. We also relate sales to an image of an annoying and pushy salesperson that we usually see on television or on used car lots.  These images, however, are the opposite of what we want our potential customers to perceive us.

Our goal, as business owners, is to have our customers genuinely want our products or services. As part of our business objectives, we want to convince them that we are the best at what we do. Ideally, we want them to already have that notion about our business even before our first contact; and we always yearn for a steady flow of prospects who are already advocates of what we do.

This is where your marketing strategies come in.

I started a business a few years ago in the UK. It was kind of a rocky start as I spent too much time knocking on customers’ doors only to have most of them shut. It was getting discouraging being in the shoes of a failed salesperson. It was then that I decided to change my approach.

During those most challenging times, I realized that I had been completely ignoring a very important area of my business that I was supposed to be good at – marketing. I had all the qualifications with the matching experience; but it had still taken me months to realize my mistake.

My new approach required me to create a demand for my product. Since this was the case, I reckoned to spend ninety percent of my time and energy on marketing my product. I also decided to put all sales on hold. The change in approach paid off as I started getting questions and queries for my product, globally. The only selling I had to do then was following up with the customer and closing the deal.

If you find selling a tedious task, then the best way to make it easier (or sometimes entirely taken care of) is to be really tacky on your marketing. Spend a little more time crafting a marketing strategy that best supports your goals and makes sure that you’re sending out the correct message to your dream clients. Doing so will make selling a little bit more fun for you.


I Heart My Own Business

When interviewing a candidate for a position, one trait a potential boss is in the lookout for is attitude.  Once that is found, the position is formally offered and the applicant becomes a probationary employee.  Why give a test period of employment?  Because in that short span of time, a superior will be able to truly find out if the applicant they offered the job to really is of the perfect fit.  Since attitude has already been stricken off the list, what other traits then will he be searching for? Oh, there are a lot.  But one thing is for sure, one check box will be under the term passion.  Like a probationary employee proving himself fit for a job, an entrepreneur must also find out for himself if he has the heart fit for the new business he has agreed to take care of.   If you have passion for your new business, chances are, you will persevere to succeed.

Louise, an acquaintance, is an example that best drives home this point.  She has always been connected with the hospitality and retail world.  Ever since college, she has worked in that industry and made a decent living out of it.  But early this year, she made a bold leap. Louise took and finished a stage management course at a local theater school and everyone could tell she has changed.

Before, Louise quietly made her living in the hospitality and retail business. If asked about her job, she’d come up with monosyllabic replies that no further conversations ensue.  Now, she is thriving in theater productions and creating waves of praises every step of the way.   She’d jump at every opportunity to share her career choice and what new productions she’s contributing to.

Indeed, Louise is a new person.   There is sheer excitement and infectious passion in her voice, her enthusiasm is highly contagious.   By leaving behind an industry she had no passion for and taking the chance to heed her heart, Louise stepped away from her once dreary survival attitude to one vibrant, excited and full of life.

According to a study conducted by Professor Charles Birch and Management Consultant David Paul titled Life and Work, 88% of people are dissatisfied with their job.  It is a pity, really.  To think that a regular human being spends nearly half of his life making a living before retiring to enjoy the fruits of his labor, to be stuck in a career that only brings you unhappiness may rob you of the chance to enjoy retirement.

So how do you know if you have the passion for the new business you are about to embark on?  Here’s a simple test: list down the three things that brightens your day when you engage yourself in it.  Is it people, sports, history, music, art, gardening, clothes, animals, languages, children, buildings, antiques or travel?  What genres of books are you usually hooked to? Conversation topics that get you excited?

Find your stage management course passion just like how Louise found hers.  Today, Louise shares that her work no longer feels like a job but simply, sheer enjoyment. It doesn’t matter if she has to work on weekends because to her, “everyday is a weekend!”  If you enjoy your own business, you will work and work without counting the hours. Your passion will be like the wind that pushes your ship forward without the need for fuel.  If there would be bumps on the road, you’ll look at them as exciting new learning opportunities and eventually, the earnings you will reap you will enjoy immensely.

art of selling

How Do We Go About Mastering This Age-Old Art Called Selling?

In an interview with Steve Herzberg, Managing Director of NRG Solutions based in Australia, he shares with us some insights on what successful sales people are made of.

According to Steve, there’s no one solution to becoming a master sales person. He did mention though that doing a few things well can make you successful in selling; whether you’re working for a large organization or your own business.

Steve identifies three things that always occur in successful sales people during the interview.

Successful Sales People Have High Energy Levels

Successful sales people do a lot. They speak to a lot of people, they make more calls and stay in touch with more people than anyone.  Successful sales people also make their presence felt, and they do this through blogging or attending events. Successful sales people do a lot of things every day and they always find new and creative ways in communicating with a lot of people.

Successful Sales People Exude Confidence

According to Steve, one of the keys to being a successful sales person is to be confident in the products and services you’re selling. Likewise, he also stresses the point that in order to be successful in selling, you also have to be confident in who you are.

Think of it this way. If you’re planning to buy a flat screen television at the mall, you’ll be more inclined to buy from someone who’s confident in the product they’re selling. Moreover, technical skills, product knowledge, and knowledge of the Industry are very important competencies that effective sales people possess;  and these can be distinguished in the way they communicate

Successful Sales People are Good at Getting Their Customers to Articulate their Needs

Another characteristic of an effective sales person is that  he or she is good at asking questions. Furthermore, a successful sales person actively listens and asks follow up questions.

When asked what are the most effective questions that any sales person should ask, Steve replies that any question that shows interest in your customers business and the problems and challenges that they have are effective.

Most of the time people purchase something for pleasure, but occasionally, they also purchase things to cure the pain. As a sales person, you should always utilize your skills in finding out where these problems exists. Moreover, he also adds that asking questions on the impact of problems on customers are also helpful in getting a better understanding of what the customer is going through.

Finally, Steve also put in a lot of emphasis on following-up. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to find the right balance between being a stalker and staying in touch. Steve’s general rule of thumb is to maintain contact with customers at least once a month or every quarter.

There is always a time when the customer is ready to buy, and the key to is that you are always on top of mind compared to your competitors. Steve’s advice is to continually find creative ways on how to stay in touch. These can be in the form of a blog, a newsletter, setting up events or seminars for your customers.


The Three Types of Deductible Start-up Costs

Businesses, such as consultancies, can get started with very minimal cost; but most of the time, it costs quite a sum to get a business running. As an example, the average cost of setting up a diner costs almost half a million dollars. These start-up costs mean that you’re already shelling out money even before any profit comes in.

Business expenses are generally deductible to your company. On the other hand, start-up costs are different because there is no operational business yet to deduct the costs from. This therefore means that start-up costs are only deductible if your business has already been operational when you incurred them. However, there are certain costs during business startups that can be deductible. These can be deducted either in your first year of operations or over time. In taxation law, these are called start-up costs; and the same rules apply whether you’re running a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation.

Start-up costs are costs that are usually incurred even before your business starts operations. However, other costs such as purchasing a business or a franchise, and other capital costs are not included as startup costs. Moreover, acquiring properties and developing them are also not classified as part of a business’ startup cost.

So that you’d know, deductible start-up costs fall under three different categories. You might want to check your receipts or expenditure records to see if they fall under any of the three.

The first type of category are investigatory expenses. These expenses are incurred when you are usually gathering data or information on what business to buy or start. Examples of such costs are employing surveys, market analysis, and the corresponding products and labor costs. Moreover, you can also include travel costs when doing an ocular inspection of a business or site under this category.

The second category are costs that fall under business start-up costs that were incurred before the business began to operate. Such costs include advertising and employee training. Moreover, costs that are incurred when travelling to vendors, distributors, and customers can also be included. Likewise, these costs can also include consultation fees and fees to set-up your bookkeeping process.

The third category are costs that are incurred during the pre-opening phase of your business. These are costs either paid or incurred before the first operating day of the business.

You must always take note that not all costs that has to do with business start-ups fall under these three categories. Some examples are the cost of buying a business or acquiring properties that are related to the business.  Moreover, costs that are incurred due to building or developing a brick and mortar shop are not deductible as start-up costs.

If you’re planning to open a business, it is always best to keep records on what you’re spending money on. Save your receipts and take good notes on what the costs were for; and doing this will allow you to take full advantage of writing-off your business startup costs.


Cost Effective Public Relations For SMBs

You might have to invest a few extra cash in marketing your business, and this is particularly difficult when cash is hard to come by. However, there are various means for which you could secure free business PR that are proven to work.  Here are a few of the ways of gaining free PR for your small business.

1. Establish your expertise

You can greatly utilise your expertise in marketing your business. You could really be great in doing something else. All you need to do is establish the fact that you are extremely good at what you do. Write articles and submit them online, write an e-book, attend speaking engagement, anything that will back up your claims of expertise.

2. Utilise the power of the media

Make connections with the local media. Establish good relationship with them. Extend enough effort to feature your small business in all local media outlet. Introduce them to your business’ background, nature and advantages. Make them a part of your business’ important activities, such as pilot opening, anniversary and any other important details. Make a catalogue of the entire media outlet in your locality, and every time your business engages in something important, let them know through sending a press release. You may also post your media releases to any free PR websites for an additional exposure and coverage.

3. Offer something relevant in return for significant details

Collect as much information as possible. Ask for important details like name, address and contact number, among other things so you could include them in your network for future reference and business opportunities. In return, you may offer something relevant to your customers for their cooperation, such as your authored e-book or newsletter. You may also find it helpful to gain the collaboration of other businesses with the same target bracket as you do. You may exchange relevant information, thus increasing your market universe.

4. Make good use of the web

You need not be a tech savvy for you to greatly utilise the benefits of the internet. Make good use of its usage. Take advantage of it. It will greatly impact your business if only you employ the many uses of the internet. Social Media sites are really good breeding ground for fledgling businesses; you can use this medium to reach out to hundreds of customers, either current or potential.

5. Stay grounded

You have to keep improving your new-age techniques of marketing without neglecting the proven old methods. Do not be limited in your approaches. Diversify! Associate with people from your industry and make solid connection with them. Hand out your business cards. Stay in contact with your clients and customers. These may be the ways of the old, but these are also proven to work.


Pushed, Shoved or Jumped Into Your Own Business – Does It Really Matter?

Not all trailblazing scientific discoveries of our time came from well-calculated, well-thought of laboratory procedures and analysis.  Some, if not a good chunk of it, came from that unexpected yet exciting “Eureka!” moment.  Like these important scientific discoveries, ask successful entrepreneurs today and realize that not all of them jumpstarted their business after making careful plans and programs prior to their launch – some were actually forced into it at first.

Below is an anecdote an online blogger once shared as to how he was pushed into striking it on his own and finding out that he would be immensely grateful about it today.

The year was 1999, this blogger of ours was just 25 then and was fresh out of college.  With the sheen of a freshly polished hardwood floor, he sailed from UK to Sydney to experience life on his own.  Offered a post at the Tourism New South Wales where he quickly made friends, he got the rare opportunity to actually mix business with pleasure and get paid doing it. It was indeed a gig that gave a pay check but nevertheless, simply a gig.  To this young lad of education, it was a temporary thing so when the offer to take on a full time job came, he quickly grabbed it.

The full time position offered was that of a Sales Director’s secretary.  It was a sweet deal.  After all, a degree from one of England’s top universities will have surely equipped the young man with all the skills necessary to type, print and answer telephones, right?

Imagine then his surprise when come performance evaluation time, his superior marked his card a simple and glaring ‘Average.’ Average! Horror of horrors for a secretary who has always been receiving straight As in college!

Dazed and unwilling to accept such a crude appraisal, the young man confronted his boss on the evaluation.  The boss, kind and wise, decided to patronize the young man by explaining his rationale for the grade.  His boss’ reply?  “It’s not that you’re unable to do this job, Sam, but it’s obvious you don’t want to. So you shouldn’t do it. You’re just not cut out for it. I need more engagement, more commitment from my secretary.”

Both men knew then that these essential “secretary qualities” would never manifest in the young man. In the end, our blogger resigned from his post.

It was a bitter pill to take for our young man. It was, to him, failure. But instead of admitting defeat and indulging in bitter thoughts for his boss, our lad decided to do some honest self-assessment.

Today, Sam is one of the most sought after copywriters in Australia.  His target market, although very much exposed to his competition, remain loyal to him because of his impressive outputs. And his very first client was? It was his boss.

To gain a closer step to success, one must remember what our peers from the East believe in – that the Chinese character for success looks a lot like the character for opportunity. In other words, don’t look at disaster and stay fearful of it.  Look it in the eye, understand it, then find that single “Eureka!” key behind its exterior that you may use to turn it into an opportunity for your development.  Pushed, shoved or jumped into your own business – really, does it matter that much?