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  • 3 Ways To Acquire Funding For Your Next Business Idea

    Thursday, July 23, 2015 by
    3 Ways to Acquire Funding for Your Next Business Idea Starting a business based on an idea that you think could improve the lives of others is a very exciting, yet difficult, task to embark on. With several hundred million companies already built by enthusiastic people such as yourself, the question of whether my idea is good enough is definitely a burning one. All questions aside, there is still the need to decide upon the business strategy, and more importantly -- how the new business is going to be funded. Will you have to sell your car? Get a mortgage loan? Invest all your life's savings? None of these would be a first for many other people, but thanks to the rapid growth of industries such as startups, small business, and crowdfunding -- there's now an opportunity for anyone to become a business owner, given that their ideas is good, and could potentially stick. It certainly can save you from a potential disaster, and there are several other advantages of reaching out to other establishments for an investment plan that could get your idea off from the paper and out in the real world.  

    1. Bootstrapping

    This is a classic technique for raising money for a new business idea, and is considered one of the safest ones. The way bootstrapping works is that you mostly do all of the work yourself, so this is the one way of acquriing funding where you actually have to put your skills and knowledge to work for you. Some of these may include:
    • Writing technical content for sites that resonate with your idea.
    • Using your design skills to freelance, help out other businesses.
    • Establishing an early online merchandise store to sell items like shirts, stickers, etc,.
    • Getting heavily involved in social media around the networks that resonate with your idea.
    It's all the basic stuff, it certainly is going to be a lot tougher, but in the end you call feel good about yourself -- knowing that all the funding was acquiring thanks to your own set of skills, and you don't have to answer to anyone about losing some here and there. We recommend that you check out Jon Yongfook's story of bootstrapping his startup, and how he was able to do it. Getting the initial funds is only half the battle, not paying yourself for several months is something completely different. Jon explains that in his report beautifully.  

    2. Crowdfunding

    The second best way of getting that initial funding is by launching your business through a crowdfunding platform such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or Indiegogo. A crowdfunding platform takes away all of the strain of having to raise money through your own skillset, and instead you can focus on promotional and marketing campaigns to make sure that your project does get funded in the end. The biggest advantage here is that you also build a community around the business you're trying to launch, giving you the initial customers without having to do much else -- and we have seen some great success stories with this type of funding before.
    Kickstarter constantly update their data and the amount of completed projects would scare most banks. They are upfront about their fee, it is 5 percent if you are successful.There are many other crowd funding options now that Kickstarter have blazed a trail. They include crowdcube and Seedrs. Transparency and building a community are the main benefits the negatives are that you might have a large number of investors. -- Elaine Thompson

    3. Angel Investors

    These are the guys who have several decades (most often) of experience in a particular field, they've made their money from creating their own businesses in the past, and have moved on to helping others to do the same by funding their projects. Ideally, you want to reach out to an Angel Investor once you've exhausted all your personal resources, such as friends, relatives and other connections.
    Getting funding from angel investors isn’t easy, but it can be done if you take the right approach and are a good match with their interests. And the benefits can beyond the money for your business, but their expertise in both in business operations and your industry niche. -- WSJ
    However, no Angel Investor is going to write you a check just because you ask. You have to come prepared, and by prepared we mean full market research, a strategic business plan, and already established progress on trying to get the business off the ground. And because an Angel Investor is giving you his own money from his own pocket -- expect this process to take several weeks, up to several months to get a clearance for the check; nobody wants to invest in something that won't turn profit at some point of its development.  

    What else?

    Other than what we have looked at already, there are government grants, banking loans, even startup incubators -- which are usually aimed at people who are really up to par with the latest development in their industry, and are willing to invest the next few years of their life in building an idea. Entrepreneur magazine has a special sub-section of their site where they talk all about raising funds, and we highly recommend to indulge in that content as it will be invaluable to getting your idea funded.  
    Alex Ivanovs is an online entrepreneur who has been writing about technology, business and developer topics for over a decade. He currently manages CodeCondo — an aspiring community for designers and developers.
  • The One Thing You Should Do to Get More Out of Your Email List

    Wednesday, July 22, 2015 by
    How to Get More from Your Email List Let’s start off with a tough reality — most business owners aren’t getting as much as they could be from their email list. It’s not that they’re not working hard or seeing good results. In fact, for many, email is already their biggest driver of new and repeat business. But there’s one thing that many small businesses aren’t doing that could help take things to the next level. Luckily, adding that one thing to your email marketing strategy is a lot easier than you might think. It starts with understanding a term you may have heard before — segmentation. Segmentation is the process of organizing your contacts into different groups, so you can target them with content or offers that are relevant to their needs or interests. Rather than sending the same message to your entire list and hoping the right people see it, segmentation makes it easy to create emails that you know specific groups of contacts will be interested in — improving the chances of them opening, clicking, and acting on the content and offers you send out.  

    Why Is Segmentation Important?

    One of the biggest reasons people ignore emails or unsubscribe from email lists is because the content they receive isn’t relevant to them. While you may have people who read and act on every email you send out, if you’re not taking the appropriate steps to segment your audience, it’s likely that you already have potential customers or donors who are tuning you out. Plenty of small businesses and organizations are already using segmentations and have seen some impressive results. See for yourself.   If you’ve never segmented your list — one of the questions you may be asking is “how can I get started?”   Using an email marketing provider like Constant Contact makes it super easy to segment your contacts. You can create separate lists for different groups of contacts, or use a feature called Tags that makes organizing your master list a lot easier. But before you can start organizing contacts into different groups, you’re going to need some information to work with. If you’re like a lot of businesses, the amount of information you have available may be limited to name and email address. But there are also details like: job title, company, address, birthday, interests, and purchase history, which could be used to your advantage. How can you find the information you need? Here are a few quick ideas:
    • Use what you know: Even if you don’t have a ton of information about your contacts, you should be able to quickly scan your list and recognize a handful of names. You can add a tag for VIPs, or create a separate list and send them exclusive offers to reward them for their loyalty.
    • Update your sign-up process: While you may only want to require people to give their name and email address, you can also add optional fields like address or company name.
    • Use a survey: An online surveyis a quick and efficient way to collect information from your email contacts. You can provide multiple choice questions to help gauge people’s interest around a particular product or service, and can also provide open-ended questions for people to fill out their own information.
    • Host an event: Collect information when interacting with attendees face-to-face, and also use an online registration toolto collect important details before the event.
    • Use your reports: Use your email reports to see which contacts are opening your emails each month, and export a list of people who have clicked on a particular link. This is a great way to identify your most active readers, and can also be used to learn more about the content or products your audience is most interested in.
      With the right information, you’ll be ready to start segmenting your list! Take some time to think about the different groups of contacts you have on your list. Consider things like:
    • Location: Do you have groups of contacts that live locally and others that visit from out of state?
    • Customer Status: A lot of the people on your list will be customers, but you may also have a sizeable audience of potential or new customers, as well.
    • Interests: Use your click-through data to create interest-based lists.
    • Questions/Needs: Use survey data or questions you’ve received in-person to group contacts, and follow up with more information.
    • Length of time on your list: Creating a separate list for new contacts, and sending them a few introductory messages, is a great way to engage people right from the start.
      There are plenty of ways you can use segmentation to get more from your list. Remember that growing an effective email list isn’t just about adding names and email addresses to your database. These are people who have opted-in to receive updates from your business. It’s your responsibility to offer an experience that meets their needs and inspires them to take action. Get started today! Constant Contact has the tools you need to manage your growing contact list.
  • How To Make Your Brand Matter

    Tuesday, July 21, 2015 by
    make your brand matter You can either look at branding as a buzzword, or something very valuable for the continued success of your business. For the sake of this post we’re going to investigate the latter definition. Every company has a brand whether they’re aware of it or not. However, not every company has a brand that matters. In this post we’re going to examine what makes brands matter and how to transform your brand from boring to brilliant.  

    What Is A Brand?

    The moment a person thinks about your brand the feelings they feel, or the thoughts they think are the backbone of your brand. Your brand extends way beyond your logo and what font you use on your website. Think of Apple. The moment you think about their company, or hold on of their devices in your hand you automatically think about simplicity, sleek design, attention to detail and beauty. What kind of feelings do you make your customers feel? Sadly, most brands aren’t making their customers feel anything. Most brand are bland and don’t inspire action in one direction or another. The worst feeling your customers can feel when interacting with you is ambivalence. In another way you can think of your brand as the experience you deliver to your users.  

    Make Your Brand Matter

    How do you exactly engineer a brand that makes people stop in their tracks? It takes more than a fancy website and sleek logo. It takes asking the right questions to get to the center of why you do the work you do, and what it looks like. 1. Why Are You Different Different is good. People have more choices than ever. By trying to cater to every style of customer you end up appealing to no one. By taking a stand about what you believe in you can create a brand that others believe in as well. This goes in line with what makes you different. Why would a customer choose you over the competition? 2. Discover Your Values Your company values run deeper than your products and services. Your values are your core reasons for doing business in the first place. Why are you doing what you do? Is it for freedom, for love, or for making a difference in the world? Patagonia has a deep environmental ethic that runs throughout their entire business. As a result, every aspect of their business caters to this ethos. From their website, to their products, to their images and even storefronts. 3. How Will You Communicate This? In what style will you communicate this message? Will you be stylish and clean, or brash and crude? Whatever you choose is up to you. But, it will come across in your web copy, your overall design and how you interact with your customers. Building a brand that people care about takes time. It takes being honest, and it takes brining every aspect of your business into alignment. However, the results are well worth-it. By building a brand that matters you’ll start to cultivate passionate brand evangelists who will do most of your marketing for you.
  • Why Small Businesses Need To Have (and Grow) An Email List

    Wednesday, July 15, 2015 by
    Why Small Businesses Need to Have and Grow Their Email List You already have an audience for your business. When you have events, people show up. When you hold a sale or introduce a new product, people are there to buy. And when you open your doors each morning, you know you won’t be spending the day alone. Your phone rings, your website gets traffic, and over time your business grows. But if you’re not giving this audience a way to stay connected with you when they’re away from your business — you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to build relationships with these customers and accelerate the growth your business can achieve by driving action around the things you’re already doing.  

    Social Media Alone Isn’t Enough

    Sure, you could set up a Facebook Page or get started on Twitter but at the end of the day you don’t really own those contacts — you’re renting them. You can put days, weeks, and months into building a fanbase, but if one day Facebook decides to limit your ability to deliver your message, you’ll be no better off than when you started. On the flipside, by growing your email list, you’ll be able to take control of your message and communicate with your audience on your own terms. You’ll be giving the people who are actually interested in attending your events, buying your products, or signing up for services the ability to opt-in to receive information that’s relevant to them. And because you know the information is delivered to a place where your customers are going everyday — the inbox — you know your message is reaching your target audience. That’s what growing your contact list can do for your small business. And that’s the best case for why small businesses should consider email marketing.  

    Not Sure Where To Start When Growing Your List?

    Growing your list really breaks down to two things: covering your touch points and remembering to ask. Make it easy for people to sign up for your mailing list at all the places people are interacting with your business. This includes:
    • Online: Add a sign-up form to your website to capture new visitors who may not be ready to buy. You should also use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to encourage fans and followers to join your email list.
    • In-store: Place a paper sign-up sheet on your counter and ask people to share their name and email address. Email marketing solutions like Constant Contact also offer integrations with many business management and POS providers to automatically add new customers to your email marketing database.
    • At events: Use a tablet to allow event attendees to join your email list on their own at events and other networking activities.
      Covering your touch points will guarantee your audience will grow and won’t require much heavy lifting from you or your staff.  

    You Also Need To Make Sure You’re Asking People To Sign Up.

    Most of the people who walk through your door, call your business, or connect with you on sites like Facebook or Twitter will be happy to hear more about your business — all you need to do is ask! Make sure people understand what they are signing up for when they join your email list. What type of information will they receive? How often will they hear from you? What have other people enjoyed about receiving your emails? Use this information to set expectations early and make sure you’re following through. To encourage them even further, you can provide an additional incentive for signing up. In some cases, that incentive will be a monetary discount or free giveaway. But you can also use other types of offers like a free download or access to an upcoming event to encourage people to share their email address.  

    Get Started!

    Write down a list of all the places you’re already interacting with current and potential customers. Are you making it easy for people to join your list at all of these touch points? Have you clearly stated the benefits of signing up? With a few simple steps, you’ll be able to capture new email contacts without putting any additional stress on your staff or your budget. Constant Contact has all the tools you need to grow your email list. Start your free 60-day trial today.