Category Archives: business ideas

The Power of the Pitch

Image from Black Enterprise Magazine

Image from Black Enterprise Magazine

The elevator pitch remains relevant. If you are aren’t familiar with it, the elevator pitch is a 30 to 60-second summary of your business, product or message. The premise being that you should be able to describe value to someone in less time than an elevator ride. If they are interested, the conversation may extend beyond that elevator ride. Meaning, the elevator pitch needs to be tight and on point to hit the key elements of your message.

The elevator pitch is also helpful in summarizing your business goals and objectives. In the fast-paced, changing world of social media, a lot of information moves along a continuum, and people need to quickly know the value of the information and what’s in it for them. An elevator pitch is especially useful for meeting people at networking events and business conferences, and is most effective when prepared and practiced in advance.

And while you’re practicing, here’s a great opportunity. For the past 20 years, Black Enterprise Magazine has been sponsoring its annual Entrepreneur’s Summit and one of the highlights is the elevator pitch competition in which $10,000 is awarded to the winning pitch to help build and grow a winning business idea, along with mentorship. The pitch competition is now accepting two to three minute entries through Friday, April 17. Finalists will be invited to participate in a live pitch during the May 2015 Entrepreneur’s Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. For more details, visit here.

Staff at Own Your Idea, LLC have had an opportunity to attend one of Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneur Summit and previewed the pitch competition and can say it is a fun, engaging and educational event.  If your business needs that edge and ready to go to another level, consider entering the pitch competition, if nothing else but for the experience to perfect your elevator pitch.

A SWOT Analysis? But I’m Not Writing a Business Plan…

 

© Brodehl43 | Dreamstime.com - SSWOT Analysis Photo

© Brodehl43 | Dreamstime.com – SSWOT Analysis Photo

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you may feel you don’t have the time to do all the things you can to grow your business.  But one thing that all businesses should do, no matter the size or amount of sales, is to have some form of strategic plan.  This does not have to be an elaborate process, but understand that what you write down (instead of keeping in your head) helps to guide decisions and align business goals.  Here, freelance writer and management analyst, Deron Mundle, associated with consulting firm Riuberg Corp., describes and shares the value of a SWOT Analysis…

Your business is doing well. Revenues are strong, monthly profits are on target and your employees are great at satisfying the clients’ needs. In essence you are in a sweet spot. So, why is a SWOT analysis something to add to an ever growing to-do list? Wasn’t that something created for the business plan when the company needed that loan years ago?

Defining SWOT

Let’s examine the SWOT analysis and its relevance to a business owner.  SWOT is an acronym for the terms Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and is a business development process that can provide a big picture perspective of the overall health and viability of an organization.

When conducting a SWOT analysis, the strengths and weaknesses are usually examined together while the opportunities and threats are paired for analysis.  When the business’ strengths and weaknesses are scrutinized, the focus is on the internal environment of the enterprise, an area that is basically within the purview of the business owner. Factors such as pricing, products, promotions, communication, people, operational processes, etc. are examined and the entrepreneur can make changes to these areas as necessary based on the company’s mission and outlook.

On the other hand, the opportunities and threats that face a business exist within the external environment. In this realm, the business owner has little, if any, control. Some of these factors include political agendas, new regulations and legislation, technological changes, emerging or growing competition, social and cultural shifts, natural disasters and national security challenges, to name a few. While these forces are all external to the business, they can have a significant impact on the operations and viability of the entity.

Companies like Atlanta based Coca-Cola, a multinational beverage company, uses the SWOT analysis to gain insights on how to better position itself against its rivals, such as PepsiCo. But there is value in performing a SWOT for small businesses, too. Dana Griffin describes the SWOT analysis in Chron as a practical tool that an entrepreneur should use to decide if an idea is worth further development.

How to Use SWOT Data

So you decided to perform a SWOT, so now what to do with the data? When the results of the SWOT analysis or SWOT matrix are examined, an action plan should be devised to maintain the strengths identified within the internal environment and reduce the perceived weaknesses. Additionally, the plan should document areas in which the entity may grow and also highlight the significant vulnerabilities.

Engaging in the SWOT analysis process is a useful management planning activity that should be conducted every six months or even once a year. It will be time well spent in the development of your small business or entrepreneurial goals.

Expanding Your Entrepreneurial Expertise With An eBook

Something that is growing in popularity for anyone with any type of expertise is the creation of an eBook, the digital equivalent of a printed book. Even 2016 political hopefuls are turning to this publishing format to engage their constituencies and share stories as they gear up for the campaign trails, according to Politico.  This should not be surprising with the growth of technology and development of digital applications for the increased consumer use of mobile devices.

Image found on Pinterest
Image found on Pinterest

 

Why An eBook?

A business eBook is generally a success guide or how to information written in an easy-to-digest, short format that is read on a computer, e-reader, tablet or even a mobile phone with an e-reader app. E-books are also a very popular lead generation tool for internet marketers who offer eBooks as free download products from their websites.

What makes eBooks so cool is that a) anyone can write one if they have expertise, something of interest to share, or unique idea or concept, and b) with the fast growth rate of self-publishing,  it is simple and cost effective to produce and distribute digitally. Bowkers, a publishing management company and the official ISBN agency in the United States, reported that self-published titles have increased 59% over the past two to three years and credit this growth to the ease of convenience of self-publishing, which can be found with sites such as CreateSpace, Smashwords and Lulu.

The benefit of having an eBook for an entrepreneur is increased visibility, exposure as an expert, and gaining a new title as published author.  Also common with some entrepreneurs is to write a series of eBooks and offer them as a package for a small cost, such as the eBook package on wisdom and insights offered by popular website, Tiny Buddha.

An Easy Process to Begin

An easy way to write an eBook is to use your blog format to serve as the foundation for a larger eBook project.  One idea is to share meaningful information with your audience and then publish most popular posts while expanding on ideas in an eBook format.  This process allows the author to write with a narrow focus and to begin capturing their initial thought process in an online format.

There is no need to fret if writing is not a strong skill, because many published books are produced by a ghostwriter, a writing professional who works with the author or expert subject matter to develop the book concept and write the content. Because self-publishing and eBooks have become so popular, hiring a writer has also become an affordable option, and with a little research and due diligence, there are many traditional (writing services, creative agencies) and non-traditional resources (Elance and Craigslist) for hiring experienced and accomplished writers that will work with all budgets and produce a great product.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????A ghostwriter can draft the entire eBook from scratch or work from an outline or written notes in consultation with the content expert. Another option is to document with a voice recorder, hire a transcriptionist through a virtual assistant service to transcribe your recording, and then an experienced writer/editor to review the written document for structure, context, grammar and spelling.  The key for a successful eBook (besides the marketing) is that the topic is interesting and the content is well-written, informative and engaging.

When Less is Effective and Smart

Lastly, an eBook can be short in nature with as little as 10,000 words. That may not sound like much but in actuality, it equates to a short story and in eBook format may be 20 pages, just enough to capture your audience’s attention and share salient information. This is more doable than it may sound and can be completed in less than 30 days.  A longer eBook project, like say a biography or novel will be more in depth with more than 50,000 words and will take longer to write and finalize, but can still be done within months.

Depending on entrepreneurial and professional goals, an eBook can be an effective marketing tool that helps to build and brand your business and expand reach and influence as an expert in your field, as well as the residual benefit of a passive income stream once the eBook is published and properly marketed.

Solving Your Business Problems Differently in 2015 With Niche Virtual and Personal Assistants

assistantOften when people think of a personal or virtual assistant, they think basic and general administrative work or tasks, like running errands, answering phones and making files. While these are necessary organizational tasks, the world of virtual and personal assistance extends beyond the basics but now includes highly skilled professional workers with intermediate to advance expertise in accounting, finance, legal, public relations, marketing, communications, health care, insurance and real estate.

Who are today’s niche personal or virtual assistants?

They are smart, resourceful, competent and educated individuals (male and female) who may have worked as assistants, specialist and managers in their field at one time. But instead of letting their skill, expertise, and knowledge go to waste, many professionals are packaging their skills and talents to offer niche services to a specific industry or task. Some people sell their skills as consultants and are able to command a higher bill rate. But niche personal and virtual assistants not only are able to consult on a problem and offer a solution, but actually perform the work seamlessly and with little to no direction. And often, while their rates are competitively higher than a basic administrative assistant, the right virtual or personal assistant far exceeds the value for their cost.

Virtual assistant specialists offer the same if not higher level of professionalism as would a regular employee but often have more incentive to prove their value and worth. One great advantage to being a niche virtual assistant is the schedule flexibility for maximizing work performance and creating solutions and results for their clients. There is no secret that many companies may have employees who are faced with downtime but who are still on the clock being paid. With a virtual assistant, the employee is paid only for the hours they work and the time they put in. They are task specific and efficient because if the work doesn’t get done, they don’t get paid, no future work or referrals.

So how can a niche virtual or personal assistant help you?

A good, savvy virtual or personal assistant should have experience in your field and familiarity working with industry type executives and managers, be self-sufficient and easily accessible (during agreed upon hours). They should be set up at home with a phone (mobile is okay), computer, laptop, printer, Microsoft Office or other appropriate software and Internet access to perform work online using, email, Dropbox or a client management dashboard. Many assistants can and will meet on site but preference is offsite to allow more flexibility, with the exception of a personal assistant who may need to travel with their employer or be on site to manage day-to-day operations.  A freelance virtual or personal assistant is also entrepreneurial-minded so they often are proactive and able to think ahead of your needs and offer solutions or ideas.  In many respects, the assistant is your strategic ally in helping you to be successful, so identifying someone with a specific strong skill set that is compatible with your personality is key because the work relationships is about trust and respect.

So if you are struggling to get work done in your business but lack the expertise in certain areas, consider hiring a specialized personal or virtual assistant with a specific niche. This type of service is often very helpful for the entrepreneur and small business owner who needs to offload tasks they don’t have the time or knowledge to complete, allowing them more time to focus on their core business. But even small to mid-sized corporations now are considering how a niche virtual and personal assistant can fulfill critical work needs, solving problems, and adding value.

Finding a Niche Virtual or Personal Assistant

Because this market has grown over the past 10 years, a quick Internet search will help you to identify personal assistant services.  You an also try sites like Elance, Odesk, Fiverr, or post classified ads on Craigslist or Ebay Classifieds if you want to find someone yourself. Or register with an employment agency, who will have already performed a screening and background check. I believe, however, the best way is from word of mouth.  There are talented people available looking for great opportunities.  Let your trusted colleagues know that you are looking and what skills you need.  Everyone knows someone and you’d be surprised at how a referral can be a business or project lifesaver.

N. Ann Hall is the managing director of Own Your Idea, LLC, and a freelance writer and blogger at Diva Nina Writes and business blog, Own Your Idea. She also works as a virtual lifestyle manager/personal assistant with a niche specialty in providing writing, editorial, proofreading, typing, and transcription services to serious-minded authors, entrepreneurs, business executives and VIPs who are using social media marketing tools to build and grow their reputations and brands. She can best be reached at nannhallwrites@gmail.com or 678.310.6573.

Social Media 2015: Don’t get left behind!!!

© Gfadel | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Gfadel | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Want to see how quickly web technology and Internet use is growing? Check out real-time statistics at internetlivestats.com. This is really cool. With just a quick glance at the site, you will see that it is easy to get left behind digitally with just a blink of an eye. I was searching for statistics for a blog story and realized that as soon as I quoted a stat, the information would be different by the time it was read.

As a small business owner, if you are still contemplating your approach to using social media, this site may offer you a depth of perspective to encourage you to become engaged sooner rather than later. Regardless of what direction you decide, ensure that you have a strategy and plan in place to guide you for the most effective results.

If you are a DIYer, I have a one page guide to help you develop a strategy that works for you. Email me at divaninawrites@gmail.com to receive your pdf copy. As I mentioned in another blog post about social media overdrive, your main objective should be to just get started. No need to make it a production for yourself or your business, just pick one and manage it on your schedule. With consistent use, you will begin to see incremental results and be encouraged to go to another level in social media marketing.

Overwhelmed with Social Media? Just Pick One

ID 22108552 © Leigh Prather | Dreamstime.com

© Silverv | Dreamstime.com – Social Network Tag Cloud Photo

If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, you understand the importance of marketing your business on social media, you just don’t have the time because it’s all so overwhelming and you don’t know where to begin.

But the solution is not to dismiss social media but rather to develop a simple strategy that gets you in the game and plays to your strength. You don’t have to be all over social media, just pick one to get started to enhance your business goals or play to your most pressing need. And don’t worry, you will quickly begin to grasp social media lingo as you become more comfortable navigating your platform of choice.

So, if…

Don’t have a lot of time to spend on social media, try Twitter.

You are a visual person who likes pictures and videos, use Instagram and YouTube.

Are already established on Facebook, create and link to a business page.

You are looking for creative inspiration and ideas, Pinterest is your platform.

Are considered an expert or thought leader with a professional message to share, promote yourself on LinkedIn.

The social media platform that I really enjoy using is Twitter. Why? Besides being very dynamic and a fluid method of communication, it is very easy to set up, navigate and build and growing connections.

In 140 characters or less, you can share insight, expertise, information while connecting and developing relationships. Yes, it initially takes time to grow a following if this is your first introduction to social media, but if you never start, then it will never grow, so why not now.

Twitter will guide you in picking your initial contacts to get you started but from there, your strategy should include if you want to follow a particular industry, people, friends, etc. A good start as a businessperson is to follow thought leaders in your field, people you admire, and competitors.

Once you’ve established a base of people – and contrary to popular belief it doesn’t have to be a lot to start – begin engaging by either retweeting a message or sharing information. But here’s the thing, you don’t have to constantly do it or be on it. How about while you’re sitting and waiting for a doctor’s appointment or standing in a long line at the DMV. Use this downtime to connect and engage with the person you met at a conference or business meeting. How about the intriguing speaker from the business meeting. Find the person, follow them and send them a quick note that you enjoyed their presentation. Then see who they follow or follows them, and you in turn can follow, too. Personally, I enjoy getting on Twitter as I wind down for the evening and seeing what’s going on and finding people to follow. It still amazes me that I’ll wake up in the morning and have new followers that I accumulated while I slept from all over the world.

As you engage more with thoughtful, creative and information content or responses, people will begin to follow you and share your message, and in turn you will begin to follow more people. Yes, it will take longer to grow your contacts, but you are no longer running from social media, you are embracing the power of it. And once you are comfortable using Twitter, you can automate messages or outsource to a social media specialist to set up and manage, providing weekly or monthly reports on your growth.

So, what is your one favorite social media platform?

 

Landing Pages Made Simple for Busy Solo- and Entrepreneurs

So you keep hearing about landing pages but don’t how to effectively use it for your business.  Well, a landing page is a web tool that can help you attract leads, sell a product, or make an announcement.  It is a single page website, basically, that gets your message or kick off labsproduct out to your target audience. The primary goal is conversion and creating sales.  We all know that people are pressed for time and will not spend a lot of time on websites unless something really captures their attention.  With a landing page, the focus is narrow and speaks to meeting the customer’s most pressing need while providing a solution.  A customer can relate specifically to this type of messaging, which makes landing pages indispensable. There are many products out there, but I have been using Kick Off Labs for the past few months and have been pleased with the simplicity and ease of use.  Here are is one that I’ve recently created in less than a few hours, if that, and will be using in my latest marketing efforts:

http://write.ownyourideanow.com/

One thing that is very effective about this landing page is it prevents me from having to create an entire website to launch my services. As well, Kick Off Labs just recently launched a new version of its product that allows for even more ease and functionality.

Landing pages by Kick Off Labs is a cost-effective solution that can be done as a “do-it-yourself” project because custom, mobile-friendly templates are available with automatic email response that allows for digital downloads.  Or you can hire a social media specialist to create and manage the landing page for you.  Regardless of which approach you take, just know that it is super easy for anyone to use.  Try it complimentary for the first month and see how it works.  You will view your marketing efforts differently.

Whether you have a contest, a soft product launch, or just looking to increase customers and sales, a landing page can serve as a powerful, yet inexpensive marketing tool for your business that net positive results.

Did You Know That Your Story Matters?

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© Yuryz | Dreamstime.com

For entrepreneurs and small business owners working to establish their professional network, visibility and influence, it is important to consider how you want to project your image and company brand as an expert or niche specialist.  You have probably heard or read repeatedly about creating your elevator pitch, networking, getting a mentor, doing local speaking gigs and putting yourself out there as an expert.  These are all great suggestions and ones that really should be followed.  However, taking the initiative to accomplish these things does not always come naturally.  So where do you really start?

Start with making sure you are relatable. Why?  Because people make connections with people, not obscure objects and things.  When you think of someone who inspires you, it was probably because you connected with them on some level.  And one way you probably connected was through a story that showed humanness, shared a similar experience, or piqued an emotion of empathy.   Have you ever had an experience where you did not quite care for someone but then you learned of a story in which they overcame some adversity, and then you saw the person in a different light and they actually became tolerable or you began to like them?  For me, I like to hear people’s stories.  I like to know what motivates, inspires and encourages them towards success because those stories serve as motivation for me to stay the course and never give up.

The good thing about considering this type of strategy is that we all have a story or aspects of a personal story that can be appropriately shared in a professional manner without over sharing.  Doing so with sincerity can help to build your influence while promoting and growing your business and personal and professional brands.  To provide some context for my point, consider reading this article by Rebecca Goldsmith of C-Level Stories who provides a six-step do-it-yourself process for preparing to share your story.

Remember, you are your first best brand ambassador.  No one can market you better than you can.  Get comfortable with your story of courage, conviction, hustle or failure.  It will be the the little things in your story that show character and humility and that will draw people closer to you.

Does The Company Blog Fit Into The Business Model?

Image: iStockphoto

Image: iStockphoto

If you are a busy executive or even a solopreneur, someone else is probably managing the blogging process for you (hopefully as part of a larger social media strategy).  In a corporate environment, that may be the communications department.  For a small business, it may be a marketing intern. Regardless of who is doing the blogging, what is most essential is to ensure well written, timely and relevant content and ensure that it factors into the company’s image and brand.  The worst thing that could happen is for a story to be posted that is offensive, rude, off topic, or not remotely reflective of the organization’s culture.  So here are a few administrative things to consider:

  • What is Your Approval Process? Will blog posts be made blindly or is there an approval process to review content before posting? Is there a communications plan or strategy in place that aligns to the larger corporate goals.  If so, blog posts should relate to the bigger picture and create value that furthers the business goals.
  • Will the Boss Be Pleased? It’s easy and oftentimes natural for a writer to be clever in their writing, but does the tone of the blog posts reflect the culture of the organization? Would the boss be pleased or embarrassed?  Maybe in a small organization, it is easy to run blog posts by the boss, but in a larger organization, be mindful that what is written about the company is a reflection of the person most visible in the company.
  • Is There Regular and Consistent Content? Whenever you read an article about blogging (or social media period), you will constantly hear about good content.  That’s because you have to give people good information if you want them to visit often.  One way to do that is to publish regularly and consistently.  If your goal is once a week on Friday, make sure you stick to the schedule because your followers become accustomed to reading, especially if the content is good. For instance, I remember looking forward to a newsletter / blog posts from a humorous entertainment update each Friday before I left work.  I had accustomed to reading the stories and winding my day down for the weekend and would purposefully seek it out in my email.  When I couldn’t find it, well, I was a lot disappointed.  You never know when your content is appealing to someone and they are looking forward to the updates.  It’s easier for them when they know when to expect your information.

In conclusion, creating a blog can be a useful tool for sharing company news, marketing a product, or engaging a target audience. But one key factor for blogging is determining whether this type of resource fits into the company’s business model. It is easy to decide to start a blog and even easier to create a professionally designed site that is appealing and informative. The challenge becomes monitoring the activity, frequency and content of the blog to ensure the best value to the company’s bottom line results.

 

Day 1 and 2 at NAMS12

Greg Cesar, Internet millionaire and adword expert, taught his failproof strategy on building a six figure online business.

I have completed two days at NAMS12 Conference hosted by David Perdew in Atlanta, and boy have I learned a lot in 16 hours.  Some of the best and brightest in internet marketing have shared secrets to creating a successful business.  The workshops have been hands on and you walk away with not just information, but real tools to launch an online business. You literally can leave the conference with a business up and running before you make it back home.  Absolutely amazing and THE best conference I have ever attended. But the best part is the NAMs attendees are a family community in which everyone wants to see everyone become successful.  Here are some of my  highlights:

Day 1:  Powerful keynote presenters such as Paul Evans who motivated attended with his 5 Stones success concept and photographer and expert media show creator Tony Laidig, who taught about reinventing your life, and marketing expert Alex Mandossian who told us that “we are not as good as we think we are; we’re better. One of my highlights was the Secrets to Creative and Quick Marketing Videos by Michelle Schoen and learning the true power of using PowerPoint.

NYT best selling author Joel Comm and the NAMS Community book release signing for “So, What Do You Do? Vol 2 – NAMS Edition” Discovering the GENIUS Next Door with One Simple Question

Day 2:  Marketing Strategist Christine Cobb shared list building secrets and Internet millionaire and adwords marketing genius Greg Cesar shared how to build a six figure business from scratch.  And if you’ve never heard him speak or present, this is a definite must do if you plan to have an online business.  Connie Ragen Green shared an inspirational story about expecting miracles and her transformation manifestation.

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Online marketing strategist and marketing mentor Connie Ragen Green shares inspirational story on creating a successful online business.

You really are missing it. I wish you were here with us to experience this exciting and informative conference.  But you can make plans now to join us March 20-22, 2015  in Atlanta for NAMS13.  For a limited time, you can reserve your seat for only $100,  but you must act fast. I promise you won’t be disappointed.  This will be THE best investment in yourself and your online business that you’ll ever make — GUARANTEED!