+=+=+=+= SIM's INSIDER REPORT =+=+=+=+
December 3, 2002
SIM's INSIDER REPORT is a free biweekly newsletter dedicated to helping readers succeed online while saving both time and money with cutting-edge tools, tips and strategies for internet marketing, online advertising and website promotion.
IN THIS ISSUE
==> Tip of the Week
==> Tips, Tools & Resources
==> Affiliate Spotlight
==> SIM's Weekly Reports
==> Feedback & Contributions
==> Food for Thought
I came across an interesting comment made in one of the ezines I subscribe to by Audri and Jim Lanford at WZ.com Inc.
A subscriber asked straight out which would be the best ebooks to purchase when 'starting from scratch' and knowing nothing! I was intrigued with the answer...
I felt the same way with their 3rd choice above. Corey's Insider's Secrets was the first training I invested in when starting up 3 years ago and to this day, feel it was an excellent choice.
I hesitated a little with the 2nd choice however, thinking that I might have answered with Lee Benson's Amazing Ezine Tactics; or Joe Robson's First Website Builder (Newbie Club); or Joe Robson and Ken Evoy's Make Your Words Sell; or Ken's Site BuildIt -these came to mind as I considered choice #2 as they have all been extremely beneficial for me personally.
I reflected for a moment on how one could NOT include offerings by such as Joe Vitale, Jonathan Mizel, Jay Abraham, Dan Kennedy, Terry Dean and Marlon Sanders... These guys' products are all "Top Shelf."
So I went back to my copy of "33 Days to Online Profits" and took another look... having skimmed through it the first time around and not getting back to it like I had intended.
Jim Edwards and Yanik Silver REALLY do an excellent job corroborating on this one. They lay things out in a logical step-by-step manual for launching virtually any online product. To quote Joe Vitale, "It condenses everything you need to know and do into a simple daily action plan ANYONE can implement."
I tip my hat to Audri and Jim Lanford for such an honest and accurate answer to such an important question. An answer that made me pause and reflect on how I might have answered the same question. An answer that may help some of you just starting out. An answer that has brought me back to a wonderful book, again for the first time!
Thanks Audri and Jim.
Your comments are always welcome.
SIM'S TIP OF THE WEEK
Need A Customized Blueprint For A Successful Online Business? Write A Business Plan To Fast-Track Your Profits!
If you're serious about the success of your online business, then you need to find ways to give yourself every advantage you can over your competition. One strategy that I can almost GUARANTEE your competitors haven't tried is building customized blueprints that outline exactly how their businesses will succeed.
The process of writing a business plan for your company can be a crucial step in getting your profits to where you want them to be.
If you're thinking, "But I'm just a one-person business working part-time out of my home... I don't need a business plan," think again! Unless you want your business to stay small and you want to keep your day job, you desperately need a business plan. It's one of the best ways to motivate yourself to DRIVE YOUR BUSINESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL.
And if your business is still just an idea in your head, and you've been wondering for months how to get started, here's your answer: Start planning! Clear your schedule this weekend, print off this article, and get down to business!
What's Your Purpose?
A business plan can serve a couple of main purposes: In the world of banking and venture capital, business plans play a huge role for people who are trying to secure start-up funding from banks or investors. The better the business plan, the better the chances of landing that big initial investment.
For smaller companies, who (luckily) do not need to rely on outside funding to get started, a business plan serves more as a company blueprint. It identifies the company's purpose, products, market, and goals, as well as the steps the company plans to take to reach those goals.
So before you start writing, you'll need to decide what purpose your business plan is going to serve. If you're writing a formal business plan to secure financing, you'll need to be far more concerned about detail and format than if you're just preparing one for your own personal use.
No matter which approach you're taking, though, you need to know that there are 7 main sections that should be included in just about every business plan.
Section 1: The Executive Summary
The executive summary is basically your entire business plan condensed down into a page or two (at the most). If and when you show your business plan to others, this is the only part that 75% of them will actually read. For this reason, you need to MAKE THIS SECTION AS CLEAR, CONCISE, AND EXCITING as possible.
Your executive summary should contain a few key items. You'll want to start out with a brief description of exactly what your business does, who your market is, and what opportunity you've identified as the inspiration for your business. Explain what sets your company apart from others in the same field.
You'll also need to discuss financial information such as projected revenues and, if you'll be using this business plan to secure financing, how much money you need and what you will be using it for. Don't go into too much financial detail in this section. You'll just want to include the most important figures.
Also, be sure to MENTION YOUR COMPANY'S ACHIEVEMENTS, including all of the milestones reached to date. Even if all you've done so far is register a domain name, put together a web site, or file a patent application, be sure to include this information in this section of your business plan.
Section 2: Description of Business
This section will contain an in-depth description of your company, including what products or services you sell, who your customers are, what your operating structure is (Are you a wholesaler? A reseller? A manufacturer?), the legal details of your company (Is it a corporation? A partnership? A sole proprietorship?), and your distribution methods.
This is the section of your business plan where you will identify what makes your company unique and where you'll address the following questions:
Section 3: Market Strategies
Think of this section as your marketing plan. This is where you'll want to go into detail regarding who your target market is and HOW YOU INTEND TO SELL TO THEM. This section will contain information about how big your audience is, how fast it is growing, and how large you expect your market share to be.
Some great sites where you can start this research are:
Nua Internet Surveys -- http://www.nua.ie/surveys
MarketResearch.com -- http://www.marketresearch.com
Be sure to think carefully about which marketing strategies to include here. Don't just list off every single advertising technique you can think of. You need to realistically evaluate all the possibilities, and then focus on the two or three marketing techniques that will produce the biggest return on investment.
If you think this sounds like a lot of work just for a business plan, think again! This is the kind of legwork and research you should be doing anyway! And once you've figured out how much your marketing and advertising is going to cost, you can put together a schedule of how much you can afford to spend on various campaigns each month.
Section 4: Competitive Analysis
The competitive analysis section of your business plan is where you explain, in detail, the strengths and weaknesses of your main competitors. This will allow you to realistically determine where you can position your business in the market in relation to your competition.
Make sure to do an honest appraisal of who your competition is. If your site is selling board games, your main competition is NOT Toys 'R' Us.
Instead, your biggest competitors are other niche sites that focus on selling board games. These are the sites that you can realistically expect to compete with for customers interested in buying your products online.
Nevertheless, you should still pay attention to the "major players" in your competitive analysis. Take a look at how they are marketing to board game buyers, and what areas they are lacking in.
Based on your research, you should be able to capitalize on the weaknesses of others in your market space and SNATCH CUSTOMERS AWAY FROM THEM by positioning your offer to meet a need that everyone else is neglecting.
A great tool for doing competitive analysis is http://www.alexa.com, which allows you to discover how much traffic your competitors are getting in relation to your site and see who they are linking to. Compare your own traffic ranking to your competitors' traffic rankings in Alexa every month or so.
This way, you'll be able to GAUGE YOUR PROGRESS AGAINST YOUR COMPETITION. Spend some time getting familiar with this site -- it will become an invaluable resource tool for you!
Section 5: Development Plan and/or Operational Strategy
If your company is still in the developmental stage (with no product and/or no revenues), this is the section where you will explain how you are going to bring your company into the marketplace. The best way to do this is to write out a development timeline with the projected completion dates for various milestones your company will need to reach before it can start making sales.
This is the section where YOU MUST PLAN TO PROFIT! Failing to do so is one of the most common mistakes made by businesses. All too often, people just set up shop without ever really planning exactly HOW they are going to become profitable!
If your business is already up and running, but is not currently generating a profit (if your revenues are not enough to cover your operating expenses), then this is where you will need to identify how you will make up the shortfall until you become profitable. For many home-based businesses, the difference is drawn from the owner's savings or income from another job.
Regardless of what stage you're at, you should still include a table of projected milestones for your business in this section. Estimate the month and year of the important milestones that you plan to achieve over the next 1 to 2 years. This not only looks great, it also reminds you of your goals every time you refer back to your plan.
Section 6: Management
This section is especially important if you are going to be using your business plan to secure funding. I can guarantee that after a prospective investor reads through your Executive Summary, they will flip directly to your Management section before reading anything else. They'll want to get a clear idea of "who" your company is -- after all, a business idea is only as good as the people behind it!
So this is where you introduce your management team or, if you are the only person involved in your business, explain why you are qualified to be running the company. Focus on your STRENGTHS AND ACHIEVEMENTS from your previous ventures or jobs, and explain in detail how those qualities transfer to your business.
Make sure to go into detail about what makes you uniquely qualified to operate this sort of business. What special skills do you bring to the company? How do your areas of expertise give you a distinct advantage over people operating similar companies?
If you have accountants, lawyers, or consultants advising you in an official (paid) capacity, you can mention their names, duties, and qualifications here as well. However, you need to be sure to get their permission before putting their names in your business plan.
Section 7: Financials
If you've had a chance to look through a few business plans before, you'll have noticed that the last half of these documents are filled with balance sheets, earnings projections, capital requirements, depreciation estimates, and dozens of other highly detailed financial statements.
Don't let all these numbers put you off! If you aren't going to be using your business plan to solicit capital from outside sources, you won't need 90% of this stuff. Instead, focus on your monthly income and monthly expenses. The best way to do this is to put together a simple 12-month cash flow forecast.
HERE'S HOW TO DO IT:
First, estimate how much your business will earn on a monthly basis. Include all your sales, cash you'll be drawing from your savings, or money your business has been loaned. This is your "Total Cash In."
Next, determine what your monthly expenses will be. This should include things like advertising costs, office expenses like phone bills and stationery, the cost of your inventory, equipment purchases, loan repayments, as well as whatever cash you'll be drawing out of the business for your personal living expenses. This will be your "Total Cash Out."
Now, simply subtract your "Total Cash Out" from your "Total Cash In" to get your monthly "Net Cash Flow." If you see that your Net Cash Flow is a negative number, you're losing money!
If that number stays negative for the entire 12 months, you're going to need to re-evaluate your business plan... and figure out a way to increase sales or decrease expenses!
IMPORTANT NOTE: You can see why it is so important to be honest with yourself when writing your business plan! If you exaggerate the sales you think you'll bring in, your whole business model will be damaged when those sales don't materialize. So much for that hefty advertising budget you planned, as well as the generous salary you hoped to pay yourself!
Do-It-Yourself vs. Hiring Out
If you are going to be using your business plan as a tool to attract capital from banks or investors, then your business plan will need to be MUCH more detailed than if you are preparing it for personal use. If you need some extra help preparing a highly detailed plan, you have a few choices. You can:
(A detailed business plan, which can often exceed 100 pages, can easily cost as much as $25,000 -- but these are for companies looking for millions of dollars of start-up capital.)
To locate someone to write your business plan for you, just type "business plans" into any search engine -- you'll find tons of companies that specialize in this sort of thing.
You can also have professional writers bid on your business plan project at http://www.elance.com. The going rate for a business plan here seems to be between $750 and $1,500.
There are quite a few business plan software programs out there. One of the best seems to be Business Plan Pro 2003, available at http://www.bplans.com for $99.95. Other options are PlanWrite, located at http://www.brs-inc.com/pwrite.html for $129.95 and BizPlan Builder, priced at $99.99, at http://www.jian.com.
If you are running a one- or two-person company out of your home or small office, you probably won't need to hire a professional to work on your business plan. This option is really more for people who will be using their business plans to attract investors or secure bank loans. Most small business owners should be able to write their business plans themselves.
And unless you are going to be trying to land big investors, I really don't recommend hiring a professional to write your business plan for you. You'll LEARN SO MUCH ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS and your competitors by doing it yourself that it would be a shame to let someone else go through the process for you!
Business Plan Resources:
I've hand-picked a few of my FAVORITE ONLINE BUSINESS PLAN RESOURCES to share with those readers who might be looking for additional information:
Once you've written your business plan, you'll be amazed at how often you refer to it. It will become your "battle plan," as well as the tool you'll use to measure HOW CLOSE YOU ARE TO MEETING YOUR GOALS -- or by how much you're surpassing them!
You can even show your business plan to prospective joint venture partners, potential employees, or advertisers. Believe me, a professional-looking business plan will give you a TON of credibility simply because most businesses never take the time to prepare one.
If you're thinking about starting a business, but you're not quite sure how, writing out a business plan can be a great way to get things moving. It's also a great way to evaluate how good that idea of yours really is.
For many people, the process of writing a business plan shows them that their business can MAKE EVEN MORE MONEY than they originally thought! Now that's motivation!
If you're already running an online business, the process of writing a business plan can help you decide exactly what aspects of your business are succeeding and which areas could be improved upon. When you do an in-depth analysis of your marketplace, your customers, and your competitors, you'll be amazed by how much you can learn!
And be sure to make your business plan a perpetual "work in progress." Go back and review it every three months, and make changes where necessary. If your sales are twice what you expected, go back and update the figures in your business plan. This ensures that your map to profitability is always right up to date.
. . .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Corey Rudl is the owner of four highly successful online businesses that attract more than 1.8 million visitors per month and generate over $6.6 million each year. He is also the author of the #1 best-selling Internet Marketing course online.
To check out his site that's JAM-PACKED WITH THE EXACT INFORMATION YOU NEED to start, build, and grow your very own profitable Internet business, I highly recommend visiting http://www.marketingtips.com/tipsltr.html
This guy really knows what he's talking about!
SIM's "Tip of the Week" back issues available at... http://www.startupinternetmarketing.com/ezines
TIPS, TOOLS & RESOURCES
A Millionaire's Secret
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This freeware program allows you to scan a single computer or multiple IP addresses for available Windows File & Print Sharing resources. This is probably one of the most dangerous and easily exploitable security holes. This utility will help you to find these resources, so you can secure them with a firewall or by informing your users how to properly configure their shares with tighter security. http://www.rawlogic.com/products.html
KonetUm will read 9 different Mayor News Websites at an amazing speed (in about 12 seconds) and grab the News contents, then it displays them in an cool-looking interface without you having to visit each site. Using Artificial Intelligence Technology to read the web pages as a human would. Konetum is 10 times faster than your regular Internet Browser. So you can have up-to-the-minute news, in seconds and with a click of a mouse. (Freeware) http://www.konetum.com
CornerStone Advanced Bookmark Manager
This easy-to-use, skinable, feature-rich application will manage your bookmark collections. Add comments to each bookmark, organize it into categories, search, print, backup and distribute your bookmarks. http://www.cornerstone.m6.net/csb/index.html
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* Check out SIM's Top "10" Affiliate Review at
SIM's WEEKLY REPORTS
How To Integrate Keywords Into Your Web Site Copy
"Soft" News Programs Offer Hot Opportunity For Free Publicity
Ways to Use All That FREE Stuff
Does Your Website Sell?
FEEDBACK & CONTRIBUTIONS
Six "Life or Death" Factors For Any Website!
Not a week goes by that half a dozen people don't ask me what separates a great, money-making website from a bad one. In response, I surveyed of a number of different websites, large and small, to find what they share in common to make them so successful. With few exceptions, every extraordinarily great website contained the following elements.
** Testimonials **
Every great website has testimonials from satisfied customers. These testimonials help set the potential customer's mind at ease that the products or services sold online will perform as promised.
Truly great testimonials not only endorse the product, but clearly state how the product increased sales, saved money, or benefited previous buyers in very specific and tangible ways. Testimonials should present real benefits others can readily identify with, understand and, more importantly, want those same results for themselves!
** Headlines **
Headlines capture visitors' attention and get them involved in the website. How do you read the newspaper? If you read like most people the headlines first catch your attention and determine whether you'll actually read a story. Similarly headlines on a website determine whether visitors get involved in the information or surf away never to return.
My own experience has shown that the proper headlines can easily and quickly double, triple, or even quadruple a website's sales almost overnight.
** Bullets **
Bullets communicate various and subtle bits of information about a product or service without making readers plow through paragraphs of information to get to the meat of a website's offering. Bullets arouse interest, build excitement, and convey a lot of information very quickly to time-starved web surfers.
** Bonuses **
Every great website offers bonuses to people who buy, apply or fill out a form. Nothing induces someone to do business with you online like offering them something extra for taking the action you want. Offering a bonus report, tape, extended membership, extra quantities of product at a deep discount, coupons, or just about anything makes people more willing to go ahead with the purchase decision.
** Guarantees **
Everyone takes a risk whenever they buy anything from anyone. The risk centers on whether or not the product or service will perform as promised. In a retail store most people feel pretty confident the store will still exist if they need to make a return or exchange in a few days. On the web, however, that risk in making a purchase seems much higher than in the "offline" world.
Every great website makes a point of specifically telling customers about their return policy and truly exceptional sites offer 100%, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantees. People rarely take advantage of such guarantees and I have personally seen a website's sales increase by 45% just by extending the guarantee period an additional 30 days.
** Phone numbers **
Every great website has a phone number with a real live human being on the other end who can answer questions and provide product support.
So there you have it! With few exceptions this represents the formula for creating or identifying a truly great website.
. .; .
Jim Edwards is the co-author of the NEW "eBook Secrets Exposed": How to Make MASSIVE Amounts of Money - In Record Time - With Your Own eBook! WHY are some people getting positively RICH selling ebooks? Click Here Now ==> http://startupinternetmarketing.com/ese
If you have a promotion tip to share (or an affiliate program that would be of interest to the rest of us) or if you have a web design tip, or a specific question, please feel free to post all tips, questions, or answers to posted questions here and I will add your email or URL with it. It's FREE promotion!
Send your tips, questions or answers to:
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.
-- Benjamin Franklin
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