Wednesday, February 20, 2013

3 Steps to Being an Email Marketing Rockstar

by Patrick Allmond

Have you been to a social media conference recently? One of the things that you will hear over and over is how email marketing is dead. The experts are telling everybody that social media is the perfect marketing platform, and that it will take over all marketing in the world. When you hear this you should be secretly smiling. This is a golden opportunity for you to zig while everybody else is zagging.

While everybody else is running away from email marketing, you can secretly start using it to build your company tribe. Email marketing done right is a marketing goldmine. It allows you to have 100% of the reader's attention, and done right you can get subscribers to do whatever you want them to do. ONe of the constant challenges with social media is that it is constantly refreshing and changing what people are looking at - right while they are looking at it. When someone has an email open that is usually the only thing they are reading. Add in a CTA (call-to-action) and you have a marketer's dream.

Traditional email marketing has consisted of begging people to sign up for your newsletter. If you are doing this then you need to stop immediately. The email marketing professional knows that this approach rarely works. Consumers don’t want to hear about your company picnic, or your latest product, or even about your new headquarters. They want to hear about the things that are going to help THEM. It is human nature for us to be selfish. If you start using email as a way to solve your consumer’s business or personal challenges, then they are more likely to read and act on what you send. The challenge is figuring out what your prospect’s pain points when they are at your website.

Here is how you set up your email marketing the right way:

Step One - Draw Out Your Nurturing Plan

Start thinking of your email funnel like your think of your marketing funnel. It should not just be one email newsletter that goes to your list. It should be a pre-defined email series that you can use over time to peak the interest of your prospect. Since most people don’t buy or show much interest on the initial contact, you have to find a way to slowly nurture them to a decision. Come up with an irresistible title of your email series like “The top 5 ways you can save money doing X” or “The top 10 mistakes everybody makes when doing Y”. Decide how many emails (i.e. touch points) that you want your email marketing funnel to have. We recommend 5-10 emails, spaced about 3-5 days apart. You then need to sit down with your word processor and write the content of each email. Each one should be written around a problem that your prospect might have and what you can do to solve it. Each email will also have a “call-to-action” i.e. a link to one of your products. Never link a visitor to your home page. Always take your prospect to a specific page with a specific solution.

Step Two - Translate Your Plan Into the Online World

Shop online and find an email list management service to grow and manage your list of email subscribers. There are several on the market that work well (MailChimp, Constant Contact, Infusionsoft, etc). Each of these services allow you define your email series (from Step One) , and paste in the emails from your word processor. You’ll also have to set up how many days you want between emails. You’ll then have to get the email form code from the email service to put on your website. It is typically a form you see on the side of a website that says something like “Fill in your email address to get our top 10 tips to [do whatever]” along with a box to enter your email address. You should also gather the first name of the prospect so you can personalize the emails. Once this form is on your website you need to get visitors to your website using any means necessary. Social media and paid ads online are great ways to get people to your website.

Step Three - Measure and Convert Your Biggest Fans

In Step One do you remember how we said that each email with have a call-to-action in it? The reason for that is so you can measure who is interested in your product or service. Your email management program will show you detailed measurements about who is doing what in each email. The measurement you want to pay attention to is the “Click Rate” i.e. which prospects want more information. If you pay attention to the click rate you will start to notice which readers have a high level of interest in your products. When you see this pattern then that is marketing gold for you. Take the time to personally email the high interest prospects and offer to set up a phone appointment with them. If you set up your email series the way laid out above you will already know their first name and the products that interest them. If you’d like more information on how to be an internet business rockstar email Patrick today at patrick@allaboutfocus.com, or call (888)-362-8719. You can also click here: http://allaboutfocus.com and we'll be glad to email you a free copy of our workbook “How to Find Your Social Media Mojo”. We create internet rockstars. Want to be one?

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About Patrick Allmond

Patrick Allmond is a 14 year business veteran at Focus Training (http://allaboutfocus.com/), an international online marketing company that is known for “Creating Rockstar Companies on the Internet”. He is also the on-air technology contributor at Fox and KSBI TV. His greatest joy is to teach others and is a seasoned speaker and trainer on the topics of technology and internet marketing. His regular podcast “StopDoingNothing – The Show for High Achievers” is listened by thousands and his YouTube 3in5 series (3 business tips in 5 minutes) is a hit with people that want to learn a new topic fast and get back to work. When not teaching or speaking he loves to fly or spend time with his family.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Build Your Empire With Crowdfunding


Build Your Empire With Crowdfunding


2009 marked the launch of Kickstarter. The media company that brings together artists, filmmakers, musicians, and all sorts of other "creatives" using crowdfunding to collaborate on a massive, global scale. Although it seems like the ultimate rags to riches platform to launch your wildest dreams, crowdfunding has its pros and cons; and you need to be fully informed with a plan for addressing each of them.
 

Does It Support Your Business Prestige?

Your business may not be right for a crowdfunding site if you're looking to build a certain type of professional prestige. For example, if you're a doctor or lawyer looking to start a practice; it's not advised you go seek start-up costs through crowdfunding, the transparency can work against you. Options like a small business loan from your bank or credit union, or use a service tailored to your needs like the American Express Plum Card. Services like these can give you more flexible payment options.
Crowdfunding is more suited to creative endeavors, inventions, or those looking to launch their product. For those looking to start a more traditional business or service, traditional routes of funding are recommended. After all, a doctor wouldn't want a patient to be part owner of his practice.


 

Test Your Idea On Your Network

Before you release your idea on the masses, it's important to lay the framework on social media and with people you know. Early feedback and critique by those opinions you trust can be an invaluable tool for fine-tuning your approach- most people don't get the perfect pitch on the first try.
Test the waters with Twitter, Facebook, and other applicable social media outlets and analyze responses and suggestions, building a web presence for yourself is key to establishing your brand and identity.

 

 Show, Don't Tell

As people, we are visual creatures who like to be shown stories better than told. The same goes for potential investors, which is why an alluring video is such an important part of your crowdfunding presentation. A concise, visually stimulating presentation is worth more than a novel filled with the details of your endeavor, people really respond to the “WOW” factor. It's important to remember that you're selling yourself as a brand, just as much as you're selling your project.

 

Give Your All To Donor Relations

Being in good standing with those who backed you is crucial for success, and it's just in good taste to do so. Make sure your rewards are realistic and pay extra attention to those who invested a decent sum in your endeavor. These people are the ones who got you where you are today, and you should never forget that! Even if you don't believe in Karma, it feels good to give back, and helping one another out is what business networking is all about!

Monday, February 11, 2013

How to Sell to the Federal Government



How to Sell to the Federal Government

For the past two years, I have been on the road coaching contractors and sales executives on how to sell to the government. During this time, I have fielded questions on numerous occasions as to why a small business needs a federal business development plan…and whether or not using a consultant is beneficial.
Well, in reality a federal business development plan does take a considerable amount of time to write, and it requires that you have a tremendous amount of data at your fingertips. Even so, federal business development plans that are one of the most effective tools for the business owner or sales executive who is starting or growing their business within the government marketplace.
Knowing your competition is half the battle.  The knowledge of knowing whom among your competitors is selling to government agencies is important—what prices are they demanding? What advantage can you offer? What agency is involved? What size companies are out there competing in your field?  Having answers to these questions will aid you in competing for government contracts and savvy contractors will plan and analyze the government market with online and (off-line) research to gain every competitive advantage.
In order to establish a presence in the government market, your company needs to have a structured approach using a deliberate and consistent process. Accomplishing this goal requires developing a plan that will outline the steps you need to take to get where they want to be in the future.   
If you combine Market Research along with Analytics to guide your efforts, you will greatly increase your chances of winning government contracts.
Selling to the Federal Government is an appealing market when the economy is in a down turn. However, not knowing the pitfalls can lead to a huge risk, major loses and even possible business closure. Securing a good consultant to navigate the path can be a very wise investment for the following reasons.
  1. Learning Curve. Working for the Federal Government as a contractor can be very challenging. The amount of information that a contractor must learn to be able to be successful is massive. The Federal Government has published rules, regulations, policies, and acronyms for everything. All of these have to be followed to the utmost detail and an inexperienced contractor could lose large amounts of time and money trying to come up to speed. A good consultant should be an expert in the field that you would hire for. Start working with a consultant prior to attempting to secure a contract. The consultant should be able to tweak things and explain what your contracting experience will be prior to engaging in the contract side of things.
  1. Relationship(s). A great majority of Federal Government employees are ex-military or ex-agency employees. These ex-military and ex-agency personnel are used to the structured environment and most like all the policies and rules because everything is black or white. By utilizing a consultant that already knows these employees or how that particular government agency or department works will save you the headache that you will ultimately have without them. A consultant can tell you what to do and not do and keep you from completely getting your contract pulled. If possible find a consultant that retired from the department or agency you are targeting. These consultants will bring you some of the biggest bang for the buck.
  1. Costly Mistakes. Utilizing a consultant can greatly reduce the chance of making procedural errors that will require timely corrections and re-submitting documentation. Having a compliance system in place will reduce or prevent fines and penalties in the event of an audit.  Also, a consultant who understands the nuances and complexities of Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) can provide advantages over companies that do not have a working knowledge or read the FARs.
  1. Support. The last but not least reason to hire a consultant is for flat out support. As the contractor embraces this new path, at times the overall frustration and lack of understanding can be quite the challenge. By the luxury of the consultant's support, the contractor can just plain and simple have somebody to talk to about what is going on and what to do next. It can be similar to having a guide out in the open wilderness because they are familiar with the terrain.
How to Pick the Right One
Choosing reliable and knowledgeable government contract consultants can be very tedious and time-consuming. But once you find the right persons to help you, everything's worth it. Here are some valuable pointers to consider in how to choose the right one:
  1. Dedication: Choose government contract consultants that are fully focused on what they do and use key performance indicators (KPI)s—a fancy way of saying goals that they have to achieve. They have to provide enough time for every situation you present them with.
  2. Education: Of course, extensive knowledge about federal procurement is a must for the government contract consultant that you select. How would they guide you if they lack the necessary information?
  3. Critical thinking: The consultant that you hire should be good at tactically solving problems that you may encounter from proposals to the project's end.
  4. Keeping Current: The person should be constantly updated on the latest trends in the procurement business. Procurement is a dynamic field. They should be very good at keeping current.
  5. Honest: The professional you select should be honest yet polite in letting you know of what your real performance in federal procurement is. They are not your best friends. You need that kind of stable professional relationship that keeps you on your feet so that any errors can be corrected immediately.
Lastly, companies should realize that there is nothing fast about the government contracting market. On average, it takes 18 to 36 months for a business to lay a foundation in the government market. Hiring your own consultant is a reflection of your commitment, and shows you are ready to experience a different level of success. To speak with an experienced professional who can assist you in supporting these goals call 201-850-3782 or email sean@seaninc.biz or support@fedradar.com.

Monday, February 4, 2013

10 Strategies to Raise Capital Effectively


Investment Banking Blog Series – Capital Raise Process (Article 3 of 4)
10 Strategies to Raise Capital Effectively
By: RKJ Partners, LLC (Cyril Jones & Gregory Ficklin)

As investment bankers, RKJ Partners possesses a breadth of knowledge and experience in advising clients that seek growth capital.  In our latest blog installment, we define and outline the key elements involved in the process of raising capital.

Given their title and job description, private company chief financial officers (CFOs) are expected to be able to raise capital for their company, yet many often feel unprepared or under qualified for this challenging task.  By leveraging and utilizing some sound and fundamental guidelines, CFOs from all levels of experience can become efficient and successful at sourcing needed capital that serve the best interests of their company while potentially creating more wealth for owners, shareholders, management as well as themselves.

Strategy 1: Create a Quality Business Plan
In order to secure the best possible financial terms, capital requirements need to be clearly and thoroughly articulated. This is not likely to happen without some detailed projections of income statements, cash flows and balance sheets. Ideally, projections should be completed for a five-year period with the first two to three years projected on a monthly or quarterly basis. Projections should outline how much capital the company will need both now and in the future. The ideal goal is to obtain financing that will work for the company over the next five years. The projections should be optimistic yet achievable. It’s also important to provide a concise description of the business (products/services), growth strategies, company history, industry dynamics and management team.

Strategy 2: Play the Numbers: Solicit Numerous Funding Sources
Bankers typically do not like to compete, but competition can dramatically reduce the overall cost of capital.  Traditional banks tout the value of relationships, yet relationships rarely drive pricing or creativity as much as competition. Professional investors such as buyout firms and equity players know the importance of competition. 

Strategy 3: Consider Financing Sources Beyond the Bank
Beyond the traditional banks there are pension funds, specialty lenders, BDOs and other financial institutions that provide capital.  These groups can offer very innovative rates and structures.  Often these structures have appealing aspects such as fewer covenants and limited or no personal guarantees from the owners.  Given the uniqueness and possible benefits, it’s important to include these institutions in the search for capital.

Strategy 4: Know the Primary Financing Products
With so many potential funding sources and alternative strategies, CFOs can become overwhelmed by the different financing products.  Financial institutions, particularly specialty finance companies, will often combine several products to make them appealing to established businesses.  To be fair, the terms from the bundled product need to be compared against comparable financing for individual/single products from at least two separate sources. 

Strategy 5: Consider Subordinated Debt as an Alternative to Equity
Most CFOs are familiar with the two financing products: senior debt and equity. Probably the most exotic of the instruments is subordinated debt. While not a household name, subordinated debt has been around for over 25 years. Entrepreneurs often shy away from these types of instruments because of the higher interest rates and increased complexity.  The pros, however, use these financial instruments extensively to finance buyouts, growth or acquisitions.  These products are popular with buyout firms because they significantly reduce the amount of equity the buyout firm has to put up in order to buy a company. By buying companies on a predominately debt basis, buyout firms are able to make spectacular returns on their equity. Private companies have the same opportunity.

Strategy 6: Anticipate a Wide Range of Pricing
The main reason for all this effort is because the differences in the cost of capital and financing terms can be dramatic particularly when institutions bid in a competitive situation.  The decision to choose one institution over the other is not always solely dependent on the cost.  The discussion should also include an analysis of the different costs of capital including any added costs for increased asset monitoring or compliance.  While it is true that pricing can vary substantially between the same types of institutions, the structure and covenants differences can be more significant. By shopping all available types and sources of capital, the CFO and entrepreneur are armed with the information necessary to make the best possible decision.

Strategy 8: Address Any Conflicts with Advisors
The benefits of using an advisor or consultant can often far outweigh the costs.  However several common conflicts which buyers should be aware of include:

Investment bankers and advisors are often paid a variable amount based on the amount and type of capital raised. The most common approach to investment banking is for an advisor to be paid more to raise equity than debt.  This compensation structure can encourage advisors to lead clients toward equity rather than debt and needlessly giving away too much ownership because the advisor wanted to maximize his or her fee.

Advisors often take additional compensation in the form of stock or warrants. For those that do, the amount of stock or warrant received is based on the valuation of the company at the time of the investment.  

When working with an advisor, use common sense and make sure that advisor is willing to help the company seek a variety of financing alternatives and ensure that their compensation is not in conflict with the best interests of the company.

Strategy 9: Proactively Seek Ownership Opportunities for Management
Management team members and CFOs are often promised ownership in their company when they join but many owners never formalizes this offer. For companies where the owner has set such an expectation, a major financing event provides the opportunity for management to seek a stake in the business either through options or a small management buyin. For companies with strong growth prospects, an option plan can be good for the owner because it can motivate the management team, increase retention, and minimize equity dilution. For a company where the owner may sell the company in the next five years, a partial management buyin may be attractive. In the case of a buyin, management invests personal capital that is combined with outside capital to allow management to purchase a small stake in the business (say 5% to 20%). For the owner, this can provide some real liquidity and personal financial diversification while locking in management to stay committed to the business.

Strategy 10: Focus on the Long Term Goals
Financing can be time consuming and everyone should celebrate when one is complete.  However, long term success is driven by ensuring management stays focused on the ultimate goal of trying to hit their five year projections.  Unfortunately, companies will often work hard to make a great financing happen only go shelve the business plan and miss their numbers.

Summary
Despite some inherent challenges for private company CFOs, most are in an ideal position to make a strong positive impact on the success and value of their company.  By implementing these 10 Strategies to Raise Capital Effectively, CFOs will have the opportunity to grow their skill set and expertise while serving the best interests of their company.

RKJ Partners, LLC:  Cyril Jones (cyril@rkjparnters.com) and Gregory Ficklin (greg@rkjpartners.com) are Managing Partners with RKJ Partners, LLC.  RKJ is a minority-owned, Atlanta, GA based investment banking firm formed to assist lower middle market growth companies in execute transactions between $2MM and $75MM.  RKJ provides buy-side and sell side M&A advisory services, capital raising services and strategic advisory services.