Is It Profitable to Blog?

One of the many online marketing options available for businesses is blogging. A blog can act as a company’s daily newspaper, letting customers and followers know the latest news about what’s happening. It can also be a wonderful revenue-generator.

As long as the content of your blog is relevant to your readers, you can post on a wide variety of topics. You might want to let clients know about an upcoming sale, a new employee, or a tip related to a product or service of yours.

Some businesses make a separate revenue stream out of blogging. The most profitable blog today is the Huffington Post. Revenue from blogging can be earned in many ways:

  • By selling ad space to people who want to get their products in front of people who read your blog
  • From sponsors
  • By holding events your readers attend
  • From commissions from the sale of products on your site
  • By creating products and services such as membership sites which allow paid access to your resources

Making money from blogging through one of these revenue streams takes work. Not only do you have to find or create content, you’ll need to attract readers too.

You can also simply use your blog to generate a following for your products and services. The right content can improve customer service, educate customers on your products which leads to better client retention, or inform them of the benefits of your products during your sales cycle.

If you’re not a writer, there are plenty of freelance writers available that you can hire to create your blog posts. You can also curate articles, meaning you can find existing articles and ask the author if you can re-publish theirs.

Creating a blog is easy with software like WordPress or apps like Blogger.com WordPress.com, and Wix.com, and all of these solutions are free.

Think about how a blog can impact your business for the better.

The Power of Influencer Marketing

One of the hottest buzzwords in marketing this year is influencer marketing. Influencer marketing uses key people in thought leadership positions to spread the word about your brand. These people may be paid or unpaid spokespersons for your brands, products, and services.

The profitable thing about influencer marketing is the leverage. Instead of marketing or selling to one person at a time, you are marketing to key leaders with followings who can influence many people at once.

Influencer marketing varies by industry; here are some common examples:

  • Locating photos of your product already on social media and reaching out to those people to do more
  • Hiring a social media expert with a large following to talk about your clothing line
  • Having a prominent lifestyle blogger post a photograph containing your juice product
  • Starting a referral program for a makeup company so “regular” women will spread the word

The common theme to all of the above examples is finding people who have a huge number of followers that just happen to be your ideal customers.

To take advantage of this marketing method, ask yourself who is influential in your industry that has the ear and respect of your customer base. How could you partner with them so it’s a win for you, them, and their following? You may or may not need to compensate them, depending on their revenue model.

There are plenty of apps to help you locate influencers relevant to you. A favorite is Ninja Outreach at ninjaoutreach.com.

Try reaching out to influencers to leverage your existing marketing and make your marketing dollars go farther. 

Start the New Year with a 2017 Profit Plan

planningAre you ready for 2017 to be even better than 2016? If so, take a few minutes to reflect on the questions below and take action to set your 2017 profit plan.

Question 1: What were the three best business things about 2016?

No need to re-invent the wheel. If you knocked it out of the park in 2016, can you wash, rinse and repeat these tasks in 2017?

If you’re having trouble thinking of three things, here are some hints:

  • What apps saved you time and money?
  • Did you make some good hires?
  • Did you let go of a bad hire or two?
  • Was there a marketing campaign that really worked?
  • Were there any events you went to that generated great ideas?
  • Did you add or remove products and/or services?
  • Did you buy new equipment or open a new location?

Summarize the three best things that happened in your business for 2016 and think about how you can repeat them to enhance your 2017.

Question 2: What were the three worst business things about 2016?

While we don’t want to dwell too much on our failures, we do want to learn from them. Think about the three things that are causing you to lose time, money or gain stress, and decide if you can make changes for 2017.

Question 3: What vision do you have for your business in 2017?

At the end of 2017, what has to have happened in order for you to have a successful year?   Think in terms of metrics as well as intangibles, such as peace of mind and happiness.

Once you know your destination, the fun is in creating a roadmap to get you there.

Your 2017 Profit Plan

If your vision includes financial goals, then creating a profit plan is one way to measure your progress throughout 2017. Start by deciding how much profit you want to make in 2017. From there, you can compute your revenue goal and make a plan. Then you can add expenses to complete the budget. Here’s an example:

Let’s say you want to make $50,000 in profit for 2017. You can do that in a number of ways:

  1. Generate $500,000 in revenue and $450,000 in expenses.
  2. Generate $2 million in revenue and $1,950,000 in expenses.
  3. Generate $150,000 in revenue and $100,000 in expenses.
  4. And so forth.

From your profit number, you can create a revenue plan. A revenue should include how many items you need to sell. Like this:

 

No. of units

Price

Revenue

Widget A

3,000

$200

$600,000

Part B

100

$2,000

$200,000

Service C

700

$1,000

$700,000

Total

 

 

$1,500,000

Once you have your revenue plan, you can fill in your estimated expenses.

You might be thinking that this sure sounds a lot like making a budget. And it is. But it’s far more fun to work on something called a profit plan than it is a budget. And if you need us to do the number-crunching part, please feel free to reach out any time.

Here’s to a very happy and prosperous 2017.

Is There Really a 4-Hour Workweek?

4-hr-workweekTim Ferriss made the 4-hour workweek a popular concept in his 2007 book. But is there such a thing, and more importantly, can business owners like you and me cash in on it? As the last of the Baby Boomers approach retirement, the topic of working less while making the same or more income is popular.

Here are five ideas to help you work fewer hours while making the same or more income.

Active vs. Automatic Revenue

Some business models allow you to generate automatic revenue. Automatic revenue is revenue you can earn and leverage over time by doing something only once and not over and over again. Active revenue is earned while doing something over and over again. Showing up for a teaching job with a live audience is active revenue while producing and selling video recordings of the same teaching is automatic revenue.

A goal of a 4-hour workweek concept is to increase automatic revenue while reducing active revenue. You may have to think out of the box to do this in your industry, but the payoff can be huge.

Delegation and Outsourcing

One traditional way to move to a 4-hour workweek is to have others do the work. Hiring staff frees up your time and allows your business to become scalable. When it runs without you, it’s more salable too.

Time Batching

If you have a lot of distractions in your day, you can easily double your productivity by learning time batching, which is grouping like tasks together in a block or batch of time and getting them done. For example, if an employee interrupts you with questions multiple times a day, train them to come to you only once a day to get all their questions handled at one time. Take your calls one after the other in a group, and then stay off the phone the rest of the day. Do the same with email, social media, running errands, and all of your other tasks.

Automation and Procedures

New apps save an amazing amount of time. List all of your time-consuming chores and then find an app that helps you get them done faster. For example, a scheduling app can reduce countless emails back and forth when setting meetings and appointments. To-do list or project management software can cut down on emails among you and your staff. And apps like Zapier can connect two apps that need to share data, reducing data entry.

Leverage

The key to working less is to embrace the concept of leverage. How can you leverage the business resources around you to save time, increase staff productivity, and improve profits? It takes discipline and change, two difficult goals to accomplish. But when you do, you will be rewarded.

 

A Quick Primer on Crowdfunding

fundingAn interesting way to fund your dream project, whether you are a startup or a more established business, is to consider crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is when many people provide the money in small amounts for a project.

Although crowdfunding is not new, it became much more popular when organizations like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, RocketHub, and GoFundMe created web platforms to enable this method of raising funds. The 2015 crowdfunding market is estimated at $34 billion and is growing exponentially.

In crowdfunding, the person who initiates the project receives the money that the people contribute. The web platform that supports the project usually gets a percentage of what’s raised. It varies as to what the people who contribute to the project receive in return. It can be the payback of a loan with interest, shares of stock, rewards, or a possible tax write-off in the case of a donation.  

You probably hear about companies that get funded overnight, making it look easy to create a successful crowdfunding campaign. There is a lot that goes into the launch of a successful campaign. Here are some steps:

  1. Design your project and research how much money you need
  2. Choose your platform (Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc.). This requires careful research about which platform is best for your type of project as well as a complete understanding of the rules and limitations of that platform. For example, on Kickstarter, if you don’t reach your goal, you don’t get any money, including what you have partially raised.
  3. Create a video that tells your story and makes the pitch. You must not only grab attention but appeal to both the rational and emotional sides of your followers. You must also provide an enticing reward for your followers.
  4. Count your followers. Do you have enough to raise the capital you need? If not, create the marketing you need to build your followers and make your numbers.
  5. Gain some big name backers if you possibly can.
  6. Develop a carefully orchestrated launch using multiple marketing channels, including social media and press.

With the explosive growth in crowdfunding, it’s here to stay. Consider how it may help your business grow.

5 Steps to Move Your Marketing into the 21st Century

21st-century-marketingIf it’s been a while since you’ve adopted new marketing methods, it might be time, especially if you want to attract younger customers. Here are five ideas to do just that.

1. Video

With YouTube as the second largest search engine, using video in your marketing is a slam-dunk return on investment. If there is an educational aspect to your sales cycle, a video is perfect to get the message across.

Even better news is that many companies still haven’t caught on to how powerful video can be in marketing, so you will have an advantage. There is no longer a financial barrier to entry as most videos are no longer professionally made.

There are so many ways to create video: using a webcam, capturing your screen with webinar software or TechSmith’s Camtasia®, or even using your cell phone. If you have a gmail address, you already have a YouTube account, and you can easily crate and customize your own YouTube channel.

The hardest part of adding video to your marketing is to simply take the leap. 

2. Social Media

Social media is now one of the best places for a business to expand brand awareness. LinkedIn provides customers with a way to discover your background. It’s also a good source of new employees. Facebook and Google+ enable you to build community and learn more about the interests of your customers.

Twitter is perfect for announcing sales and boosting event excitement. YouTube enhances education and motivation. Pinterest for Business and Instagram are perfect for retail to showcase new products. Tumblr is a must if you market to teens.

If you’re new to social media, choose one or two sites and set up your profile. If you already have some social media profiles, consider expanding or increasing your activity.

3. Content Marketing

Content marketing is another way to educate your customers before and during the sales cycle. With content marketing, you creates a report, white paper, or educational video that describes a topic congruent with your services. The content is typically “gated,” meaning the prospect needs to provide email address or phone number or both, so that you can follow up on the lead. The content should be enticing and educational and should also introduce the prospect to your brands and services without being heavy handed about it.

Content marketing is a great lead generator, especially if you have a sales staff that can deliver scripted follow-up calls.

4. Mobile and Wearables

Over a year ago, Google proclaimed there are now more mobile searches than desktop searches. For the last few years, it’s been increasingly important to make sure your website delivers a great experience via mobile technology.

Wearables are growing as fast as mobile did. Innovative companies are providing a rich customer experience through wearables. It’s now common to see wearables in health, sports, household automation, and virtual reality entertainment. But others are having fun with creative solutions, such as British Airways blankets that turn a color based on a passenger’s mood and Nivea’s children’s sunblock that comes with a GPS bracelet tracker so the kid doesn’t stray too far away.

5. Marketing Automation and Integration

Today, the entire marketing funnel can pretty much be automated, from SEO-enhanced social media posts to landing pages using content marketing to follow up emails, videos, and shopping cart links. Almost every business needs a website, list management system, shopping cart, social media automation app, and a CRM, Customer Relationship Manager. With this automation, you may be able to reduce sales labor as well as customer support expenses.

Integration of multiple marketing channels and methods is essential as the buying decision has become more complex and trust is built slowly over time. Successful marketers are integrating SEO (search engine optimization) with social media, video with content marketing, and email marketing with landing pages, to name a few.

Try any of these five trends to give your marketing a future-focused boost.

Cool Social Media Apps: Instagram

instagram

With over 400 million active users monthly, Instagram could be a great opportunity to showcase your business. It’s a mobile app where you can share photos and videos. Instagram is owned by Facebook and is considered one of the major social media platforms.

Instagram is a natural app to share photos of your products, team, customers, or office in order to promote your business. Since more than half of all Google searches are now mobile, it just makes good business sense to maintain a presence on a major mobile social platform like Instagram.

The average Instagram user is female, urban, under 30, has some college hours, and makes $60K a year. So if that’s your customer demographic, you’re sure to find her on Instagram.

Some of the things you can share on Instagram include:

  • Photos of your customers with their new merchandise
  • Product photos
  • Your logo image
  • Inspirational quotes and sayings
  • Client testimonials made into a text graphic
  • Photos of events
  • Photos of your customers
  • Photos of you and your staff
  • Photos of your store or office
  • Photos of your merchandise being worn, used, eaten, or whatever
  • Images of any awards your company has garnered
  • Photos of your ads, trade show booth, or other marketing materials
  • Sales announcements made into a text graphic
  • And videos of all of the above

Building a following on Instagram will help you build brand awareness so you can generate new traffic and new customers. It can also help with hiring if you are looking to hire millennials, which now outnumber any other generation in the workforce.

Add a VIP Revenue Stream to Your Business

vip

If you’re looking for more ways to bring in additional revenue, then a VIP revenue stream is one option for many businesses. Here are a few examples:

A plastic surgeon has a long waiting line of patients. The surgeon sets up a special membership fee of $3,000 per year for patients who wish to work with her. These patients get first access to her appointment schedule. They get priority surgery dates and personal care. Her other patients that do not pay are able to see her physician assistant. She earns an extra $300K — insurance-hassle-free — for the hundred patients who join her VIP group.

A pizza restaurant always has long lines during rush hours. The owner sets up a VIP membership of $75 per year for customers who want to bypass the long lines. He dedicates one of his cash registers to the VIP line and staffs it accordingly during rush hour. He sends specials by email and a birthday coupon to the VIP members. Five hundred customers sign up, grossing an extra $37,500 with little or no additional expenses.

A consultant has a couple of clients that want to have access to her 24/7. She sets up a special retainer of $1,500 per month for these clients and provides her cell number. Since they are busy CEOs, they only call a few times a year, but when they do, she drops everything to be of service. With four clients on retainer, it’s an extra $72K per year for a few days of work.

No matter who your clientele is, there are always a few who demand extraordinary service and are willing to pay extra for it. Capitalize on this by adding a VIP revenue stream to your offerings.

What you include in your VIP package will vary by industry, but here are a few thoughts:

  • Increased access to you
  • Special service, perhaps via another phone line or checkout lane
  • Invitation to exclusive events or sales or previews
  • Free gift wrapping
  • Free shipping
  • Special gifts
  • Friends are free
  • A richer experience
  • Birthday acknowledgement

A VIP offering is not the same as a points program. A points program encourages volume sales, while a VIP program is all about special perks, exclusivity, and a higher level of service.

Does your business lend itself to a VIP offering? If so, give it a try.

5 Tips to Implement to Give Your Clients 5-Star Service

champagneAre you interested in being known for your extraordinary customer service? Or perhaps you just want your customers to feel like it’s easy to work with you or purchase from you. If so, try these five tips for five-star client service.

1. A good old-fashioned handwritten thank you note.

Almost extinct, this customer pleaser shows you are willing to go the extra mile for a personal touch and connection with your client. You can purchase boxes of thank you notes from any stationery store or order them with your company logo from a local printer.

2. Remember your customer’s preferences.

High-end hotels are good at remembering what you like, and almost any business can add this idea by using a CRM – customer relationship management system – that stores customer preferences, order history, last conversations, and any notes you want to remember about the client. The trick is keeping the system notes updated and using them when it counts.

3. Deliver an unexpected extra.

When your customer least expects it, give them more than what they paid for. This manifests itself in many ways, depending on your business type. Here are some examples:

  • Restaurants: Give an appetizer, dessert, or coffee at no charge or pick up the bill of a regular once in a while.
  • Retail or offices: Offer an unexpected beverage and fruit tray or snacks like you would find at a spa or country club.
  • Real estate: Provide a list of local phone numbers, a fancy map or GPS app, or coupons to restaurants you partner with.
  • Construction: Offer a tool, a warranty, a list of reliable repairmen, or a full set of replacement lightbulbs.
  • Landscaping: Offer a birdfeeder, a fertilizer schedule, or a lawn tool.
  • Any office: Partner with a business that has your same client base and exchange coupons so that you have a book of them to give to all your clients.

4. Give clients your cell number.

Giving clients your personal or business cell number is not as risky as you might think. Very few clients will actually call you. Surprisingly, the goodwill you gain by sharing your personal number far outweighs any disruption. But here’s a warning – don’t share your number with sales reps of vendors; you’ll get relentless calls every day from them.

5. Offer a VIP membership.

Some customers care about and are willing to pay more for excellent service, and others don’t. Separate your customer base by offering a VIP membership. By paying a nominal fee each year, these members get priority access to your appointment time, sales, overnight shipping, or whatever else you can distinguish. The good news is it’s a new revenue stream as well.

Choose one of these ideas and implement it to increase your customer service to five stars.

Have Your Layer Cake and Eat It Too

blackforestcakeThe best cakes have layers and layers of different delicious flavors to enjoy. Stacked on top of one another, each layer is baked separately and becomes part of the whole. Like a layer cake, your business expenses have layers of meaning to them. When you can understand how expenses play a part in profit, you can manage them better.

Here’s how to make a layer cake of your business expenses. Let’s start with the most direct expenses.

Direct Costs

If you have inventory you will have a balance in the Cost of Goods Sold account. It should represent how much you paid for product or inventory that you are selling. It is the most direct expense of all the expenses; if you don’t spend this money, you would not have a product.

If you sell services, you should not have a balance in Cost of Goods Sold, but you will have direct expenses that are tied to performing your services. These might include labor from wages of the employees who carry out the services for clients. Any supplies directly involved with delivering services should be included as well.

You may also have other direct costs related to selling specific products or to servicing specific accounts.

Indirect Costs

The next layer includes indirect expenses. These expenses do not make up your product directly and might contribute to several different lines of products. Indirect costs might be attributable to a group of products or projects and can be apportioned accordingly.

Overhead

Although overhead is technically a form of indirect cost, it’s good to create a separate layer for it. It includes management salaries, rent, utilities, and other fixed costs that cannot be directly allocated to a product or service.

Assembling the Layers

A wonderful exercise is to classify each of your expense accounts in your Chart of Accounts as direct, indirect, or overhead. In that way, you can see how each account contributes to the costs of running your business. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is my gross margin before indirect costs and overhead?
  • What is my gross profit after indirect costs and before overhead costs?
  • How can I cut down on any of these categories of expense?
  • What is my breakeven volume in sales before overhead is factored in?
  • Can my profit margin be changed if I spent less in a certain area?

This layered view is just another way to view the financial aspects of your business and can help you make better decisions down the road.

You can also break the layers down even further by classifying the expenses as critical and non-critical. This will help you determine where best to invest while maintaining the level of profit you desire.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Layering your expenses will help you have your cake and eat it too. And if we can help, just reach out as always.