|Strategic Planning Information|
Own Your Niche by Building a Niche Community
In 1997, David Steele was making the transition from a professional therapist to relationship coach. Part of his strategy was to become a center of influence and THE Relationship Coach for his community.
David decided to launch his own virtual community as a weekly "Friday Night Social" singles gathering. After a one-month pilot program and some market research, he designed a community for the singles in his area, unlike any other setting available, that would meet their need to meet other singles in a safe, fun setting.
The community also furthered David's mission to provide relationship education and position his firm prominently within his target market.
Almost seven years later, his Friday Night Social continues to be a vibrant singles community that supports the practices of the four coaches who collaborated to make it happen. "It is a lot of fun, and the time and effort needed to make it happen is minimal," says David.
"We feature a guest speaker each week, a local professional who is usually a good referral source. We've become well-known in our community and have a loyal following of singles who sometimes continue to attend with their partners when no longer single!"
From Therapist to Singles Guru of Silicon Valley
Slightly Famous entrepreneurs are learning that in today's world, given that most of us have an unmet need for community, one of the greatest services you can offer your clients and prospects is simply to get them together.
The goodwill, contacts and status David has developed as a leader of a niche community has boosted his business. It has minimized the need to aggressively market his services by transforming into a guru and center of influence and trusted advisor to his target market.
Why does this work? There is a basic human need for community. We survive and thrive in relationships. We are social beings and cannot be fully successful or happy alone. Ever since we lived in caves our social environment largely determines our fate.
In today's world, given that most of us have an unmet need for community, one of the greatest services we can offer the clients and prospects in our niche is simply to get them together.
Think about it. A niche is a group of people that share common situations, needs, and goals. When these people get together, they immediately feel a common bond; they understand each other and can easily provide mutual support.
Targeting The Right Niche with the Message
Like David, you too can establish yourself as a trustworthy resource whose reputation and work is beyond scrutiny. The secret to success is targeting a group of people with specific interests. And that group of people can be your target market!
Examples of groups that would be attracted to, and benefit from, participating in a niche community include:
You get the idea...any niche you can think of for your practice is a candidate for a niche community.
How a Niche Community Can Benefit Your Business
Once you establish a niche community around your business, you can enjoy the following benefits:
Increased visibility. Community participation is a low cost marketing strategy that can yield enormous exposure for your business. Virtual communities provide free or low-cost gatherings that attract more people and create more prospects.
Increased credibility. The success of your niche community reflects upon your abilities as a service professional. It provides a chance for you to "show your stuff" and impress prospects who don't feel like they need to ward off a sales pitch.
Word of mouth. Virtual communities stimulate conversation. They get people talking. Participants tell their friends more readily about your business as a "community resource" than a private service.
Transform a "practice" into a "business". By reaching more people through your virtual community, you will develop a platform to sell more products and services. Your community can open the door to multiple income streams through group mentor programs, information products and other passive revenue streams.
The first consideration is how you will structure your community and bring people together. You have two choices: create a "live" community that meets in a physical location; or establish an online community that meets virtually through telephone and the Internet.
Live communities are straightforward. Taking David's cue, develop a statement of purpose for the group. Then, market the group to niche market prospects within reasonable physical proximity to one another, choose meeting times and a location, and bring them together around a structured agenda.
Whereas live communities are more limited by location, virtual communities offer the possibility of attracting members from all over the world.
Online or virtual communities gather people in an online 'space' where they come, communicate, connect, and get to know each other better over time. The idea is to bring members of your niche together virtually where you combine on-line interaction (e-mail, web forums) with telephone conference calls and classes, as well as information and support services.
Online group interactions do not always 'happen' spontaneously. They require care, nurturing and facilitation.
The core of facilitation and hosting is to serve the group and assist it in reaching its goals or purpose. Some describe this role as a gardener, a conductor, the distributed leadership of jazz improvisers, a teacher, or an innkeeper. It can be this and more.
If you take the plunge, be patient. Online communities don't happen overnight. Often they take time to coalesce and form themselves into something valuable and sustainable. It's crucial that patience is exercised, since it WILL take time for momentum and a critical mass to develop whereby the community becomes solid and established.
About The Author
Steven Van Yoder is the author of Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort. Visit http://www.getslightlyfamous.com to read the book and learn about 'slightly' famous teleclasses, workshops, and marketing materials to help small businesses and solo professionals attract more business. firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Develop a Successful Board of Advisors (...and Why You Should!)
In today's rapidly changing and highly competitive markets, many privately held companies are creating outside advisory boards to give owners and CEOs fresh, knowledgeable advice. Even for small businesses, setting up an advisory board can give you a significant advantage over competitors that are relying solely on internal talent. An experienced and well-connected board of advisors can help your business grow and prosper in ways you've never imagined. What is a Board of Advisors? An advisory board is an outside group that is informally organized to provide business owners and corporate leaders with support, advice and assistance. While formal boards of directors have legally defined responsibilities and fiduciary duties, advisory boards have no formal power or binding legal authority. They serve at the pleasure of the business owner or CEO. Benefits of an Advisory Board There are several advantages that companies with advisory boards have over their competition. A board offers your business: An unbiased outside perspective. Increased corporate accountability and discipline. Enhanced CEO and management effectiveness. Greater credibility with investors, vendors and customers. Help in avoiding costly mistakes. Rounding out skills and expertise lacking in current management team. A sounding board for evaluating new business ideas and opportunities. Enhanced community and public relations. Improved marketing results and effectiveness. Strategic planning assistance and input. Centers of influence for networking introductions. Crisis and transition leadership in the event of the death or resignation of the CEO. Help anticipating market changes and trends. Steps to Creating an Effective Board of Advisors: Analyze the strength and weaknesses of your current management team. Look for critical areas of expertise and knowledge that your company could use help with such as marketing, legal, finance, eCommerce, and research and development or information technology. If your company is planning on going public within the next few years, seek out advisors who have successfully taken companies down that path. Set clear, written goals and objectives for your board of advisors. Getting maximum value from a board of advisors begins with clear objectives and goals. Board members must know why they have been asked to serve and what is expected of them. Before establishing the board, the CEO and senior managers should sit down and ask some of the following questions: 1. What are the main areas we need advice and guidance in? 2. What specifically do we need the board members to do for us? 3. Who are a few potential candidates for board membership? 4. How do we avoid giving away too much control to outsiders? 5. What will be the powers and limitations of the board? 6. What will setting up the board cost initially? Annually? Will it be worth the cost? Determine the size and structure of your board. Advisory boards range in size from two members to over thirty. The right size depends on many factors, such as your company's size, complexity, stage of development and individual skills needed. My experience and research has found that for most small to mid-sized, growing companies or start-ups, a 5 to 7 member advisory board is an ideal size. Smaller firms can start with just one or two members and add new members as they grow. Recruiting Candidates Determining whom you invite to join your board is one of the most critical decisions in setting up a board of advisors. Often a business owner's first instinct is to ask friends, family members or professional advisors to sit on their board. This is usually a mistake. Unless your friend or family member is a recognized authority in an area of expertise lacking by your management team or a highly successful entrepreneur, they are probably not the wisest choice. Another reason to avoid asking family or friends to join your board is lack of objectivity. Often advice from a friend, family member or management insider is sugar coated to protect relationships. An outside advisor can give you a much more objective and honest assessment of the situation. Using professional advisors such as your lawyer, banker or accountant as board members has it's own pitfalls. These advisors are already working for you and may not be as objective as you need, due to having an interest in generating future business from your company. Some critical action steps for recruiting a dynamite board of advisors are: Develop a candidate profile. After you have determined the areas of expertise your company is in need of, create a profile of candidates that successfully fit these needs. Take care to address knowledge and skills that your company will need to meet projected growth and future challenges. Seek out experts. Search online and offline for experts and proven leaders that meet your candidate profiles. Contact them and begin discussions about possible board membership. Ask for recommendations. Solicit recommendations from the experts you speak with that cannot serve on your board, of collogues of theirs that they feel would be a good fit for your needs. Begin networking with your attorney, accountant and other professional advisors. Once you have successfully recruited an advisor, he or she can often lead you to another good candidate. Find your candidates motivation. Most of your candidates are not going to be motivated by money alone. In fact, if money is their primary reason for joining your board, they may not be what you are looking for. The most effective board members are motivated by the challenge and intellectual stimulation of building successful companies. They serve because they are already high achievers and enjoy the challenge. Have variety in your board. Try to include experts and successful entrepreneurs from several different disciplines. Often board members who are successful marketers, CEOs and business owners from different industries can bring a fresh perspective to your business. These individuals can often help you incorporate best practices from other industries, into your own industry, creating revolutionary changes and opportunities. Look for a proven track record. Find the leaders in their field. The best board candidates are successful CEOs, business owners, professionals, university professors and consultants who have achieved success in their own businesses and careers. Clearly communicate your goals and objectives. Invest time in talking to and meeting with potential members. Communicate to them what your goals and objectives are. Let them know that you are not looking for "yes men" and that you want advisors who will challenge you and hold you accountable for your businesses growth. Board Compensation Board members expect and deserve to be compensated for their time, efforts and advice. Typical advisory board compensation includes a stipend from $5,000 to $25,000 per member, per year. Some companies pay their board members per meeting, with payment ranging from $500 to $3,000 per meeting, with a monthly retainer of $500 to $2,500. Companies should also cover transportation, meals and lodging for members when attending meetings. Most successful boards also give or require members to buy stock or some form of equity in the company. This gives the board members equity participation and a vested interest in the growth of the company. Pitfalls to Avoid Some potential problem areas to avoid when setting up or working with your advisory board are: Members missing meetings. Because board members are usually running successful businesses of their own, they may not always be available for every meeting. However, board members should be made aware that attendance of board meetings is important and expected. If a member is chronically absent, the value of their membership on the board should be reviewed. Insecurity of senior managers. Some company insiders may feel intimidated or threatened by the involvement of outsiders. The CEO or owner must make every effort to communicate to his staff the benefits and importance of having a board of advisors. Incompatible personalities. This is a challenging situation, because most members of your board will be strong willed, achiever types, who have gotten where they are by taking charge. Many will have strong convictions about their opinions and may find it hard to defer the leadership of the meetings to the CEO. You must determine when a member's personality is "too strong" and becoming disruptive. Excessive number of board members. Because of their strong personalities, if you have too many members on your board, the more assertive members often dominate the debates, depriving you of the contributions the quieter members may have made. Lack of CEO communication. Withholding company information or not regularly communicating with the members of your board of advisors destroys trust and effectiveness. Regular communication between meetings is essential to maintaining an effective board. Inadequate compensation. As I mentioned, you do not want compensation to be the determining factor in a candidates membership on your advisory board, however successful individuals of the caliber you seek expect to be fairly compensated for their time and knowledge. Keys to Board Effectiveness If you build it, use it. Owners and CEOs who invest the time and money in creating a board should be committed to soliciting and using its advice on important issues and decisions. Value their input, even when they disagree with what you want to do. Sometimes a board is at it's most valuable when it recommends against a course of action the CEO wants to take. If you recruit a good board, often they have already been down the path you are on, and their experience (and past failures) can help you to avoid costly mistakes. Communicate with your advisors. Keep the members of your board informed about what is happening in your company and industry. Counsel with individual members on the phone at least monthly and send them information well in advance of your meetings, to help them prepare and keep the meetings productive. Hold regular meetings. Most boards meet once per quarter. However, boards should meet more often during times of rapid growth or if company needs merit additional oversight and guidance. Have an objective for each meeting. Your board members are busy people and their time is valuable. Make the most out of your meetings with them, by having a clear agenda and objectives for each meeting. Make sure to cover the most important items of business first, in case the discussions take longer than planned or some members have to leave early. Annual assessment of board performance. Periodically assessing the board's effectiveness is a critical factor in ensuring a good return on investment. Each year the board should set performance goals and define their criteria for success. At the end of the year the CEO and the board should assess it's performance, compared to its goals and criteria for success. Over 80 percent of all private companies are operating without a board of advisors or board of directors. Odds are your competitors do not have one. Because of this, developing a board of advisors can give your company a distinct advantage over your competition. This is particularly true for start-ups and family run businesses. There is tremendous value in receiving objective, knowledgeable advice from a board of advisors who share in the financial and equity growth of your business. I encourage you to begin recruiting your advisory board today!
Completing the Annual Planning Process
Imagine an office without a desk, or lights, a computer, or even something as simple as a chair. When the architects and designers started planning a building or office space they knew they would have to make concessions for these items during each of the building activities. As marketers, we take part in many activities, much like a builder or designer does.
In Business Planning, Competition is Good
When developing the competition section of your business plan, companies must define competition correctly, select the appropriate competitors to analyze, and explain its competitive advantages.
Water Conservation and Water Issues for Mobile Car Washers and Auto Detailers
Obviously, there will never be an actual water shortage since two-thirds of our earth's surface is water. The problem is distribution. One problem is getting water to the desert before it evaporates. And why do people plant lawns in Las Vegas? Another problem is that people and plants and animals need fresh water not salt water. Fresh water comes from rain and salt water comes from our oceans. So how do we separate out the salt from the ocean water? The method called desalinization works best. But this isn't free. It costs an average of $3.33 per unit of water. Almost double what you pay from your tap at home. As Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Riverside, etc. expand, we will get into a supply and demand situation. When the price per unit of water reaches $3.00 plus, we will then be able to afford to build adequate infrastructure to handle our water needs through desalinization. The cost of the new infrastructure can be amortized and paid for by us on a unit of water level.
Business Plan: Planning the Operations
Writing a business plan is no easy task, sure you can whip something together in a day or so, but without proper planning you are setting yourself up to fail. Many first time entrepreneurs have a bit of trouble writing a business plan, which will be acceptable to bankers and investors. One easy place to fall down on is the understanding of the daily operations of your chosen business model.
Shortening Product Life Cycle!
The current state of the available technology at the disposal of designer is the most limiting determinant to what is technically and economically feasible to develop, therefore research into metatechnology such as computer science, whereby interdisciplinary spin off provides advances that both directly increase capabilities, and affects other technologies to dramatically improve system performance, is a necessity, the implication being that despite many of the basic principles being relatively static, the technology used is essentially in a state of constant development.
Call in the SWOT Team: Produce More Opportunities to Expand Your Business
Have you ever done a SWOT analysis? No, it's not some dangerous military maneuver. It's actually a fun and incredibly helpful business development exercise that will give your company focused direction and great marketing ideas -- whether your business is brand new or has been around for years. This SWOT exercise will show you where your business is flourishing and where it needs to grow to gain clients and produce more sales. I recommend getting someone else (such as a friend, family member, or trusted business advisor) to brainstorm with you. You'll be determining your strengths and weaknesses, which are *internal* influences on your company. These factors are under your control. Opportunities and threats are *external* influences, things you cannot control, but you can respond to. After you read a short description of each of the four categories, take time to list as many of yours as possible.
Akron OH; A great place to do business
When looking at Akron carefully one cannot help but notice it's brilliant location to rivers, water, large cities and middle class consumer spending populations. With Canton to the South, high-end and growing Fairlawn to the North, Kent State and University of Ohio both a stones throw; the potential for any business is quite apparent. There are 160 trucking companies many of which are located in the area due to its proximity to large markets on a major freeway. Everything you want is there or can be delivered within days.
Corporate Contingency Planning
GOT MEME? How to Attract Your Clients and Customers Attention
No "meme" isn't a typo and Got Milk, the more commonly know phrase, is actually a marketing meme. If you've opened up a magazine or watched TV in the last ten years you've seen the fun and memorable Got Milk ad campaign using celebrities with a milk mustache. Chances are it got your attention and you remember the phrase, "Got Milk".
Have You Identified the Enemy?
One of the most powerful driving forces in human nature is competition. The desire to overcome something or some company, the need to win, the cause, can in many cases be more important than the day-to-day work of the company.
Advice To Manufacturers Creating A Business Plan
If you are a manufacturer wanting to use your business plan to attract investors, then your plan must do two things. It must:
How To Prepare A Business Plan That Guarantees Big Profits
It is always said "If you Fail to Plan, you Plan to Fail"
Bounced Checks in Your Business Location Outlets
The new check cashing instant clearing will take some time to get use to. If checks clear immediately and deposits take a few days then franchise outlets may find more bounced checks in their establishment.
Seasonality: Whats the Big Deal?
Do you work in or own a business that's affected by seasonal cycles? Do you live in a community whose population changes significantly during the year (e.g., tourist influx, students returning to college)? Do you ever feel stressed out or frustrated by the seemingly constant changes or the extreme highs and lows of your life or your business?
Restaurant Startup - Part 1: Market Research ? What are Potential Competitors Doing?
The first step in starting a restaurant is proper planning. One must lay out a plan complete with goals, priorities, and the tasks that he will need to complete in order to achieve these goals. The biggest mistake first time restaurant owners make is improper planning. Ambition, while absolutely required, is simply not enough to succeed in the highly competitive food service industry.
The Impact of Price Popularity on Profits
The goal of almost every business owner is to generate a profit either for themselves or their shareholders. This can be challenging at best. So much thought and effort go into running a business, accounts payable, accounts receivable, dealing with vendors, customers, etc. Because of this people sometimes do not focus on one of the most important factors- pricing. Knowing how much you can charge for your product or service is invaluable information. Businesses typically want to increase volume and prices at the same time. In a perfect world that would be easy to accomplish, yet we do not live in a perfect world. So just how do businesses go about deciding how much to charge for a product or service?
Top 10 Tips to Create A Business Plan! (For People Who Hate Business Plans)
One of the key challenges for any business is to remain focused and invest resources for maximum pay-off. It's said that 80% of a business's activity accounts for only 20% of total profits. In plain language, most of the work we do is unfocused, poorly designed and ineffective. In today's competitive world, no business, whether it's an individual professional or a large manufacturing operation, can survive with that much lost time and wasted effort. A business plan can help, but most small business owners (and some managers/supervisors) hate doing them! In the spirit that any map is better than no map, here are my top ten keys to creating your own map to success:
Under Construction During the Storm ? A Hurricane Guide for Businesses that are Under Construction
As a business owner, you've likely created a hurricane plan for your business and your family, but did you overlook your construction project? Don't worry, you're not alone. Most people don't even think about preparing their construction site because it's not written into their "construction timeline." But when a hurricane threatens, general contractors usually get panicked phone calls asking about potential damage, delays and cost.
Business Plan: The Simplest Business Plan Ever
If you're a solo professional like I am, you know how tough it is to find any time at all to do any business planning. Doing a full business plan is a must if you're planning to seek financing or investors, but most solo professionals don't need anything that complicated.
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